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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Back in les États-Unis

First off, I should say that although the Bérubé name is originally from Normandy—Damien Bérubé having come to Québec in 1671 (the whole story is available somewhere on line)—I’ve never been to France in my life.  In fact I’ve been to Europe only once as an adult, to Italy in 1999 for ten days.  Second, I should note that although trips to France, in the current political climate, would seem to be the exclusive preserve of the treasonous, cosmopolitan, moral-relativist, white-wine-sipping liberal cultural elite, it is actually possible for a family of four to visit Paris and the south of France for under one billion Euros, if you’re willing to fly discount (this involves strapping one child to the fuselage of the plane) and stay in hotels into whose rooms one has to be lowered by one’s armpits.

No, really, we had a great time, with our moral relativism and our two preternaturally-patient, champion-traveler kids and our just- barely- able- to- converse- haltingly- with- the- taxi- driver- about- sports- and- automobiles French.  Sure, we underwent what gastroeconomical specialists call a “radical moneyectomy” in our five days in Paris.  But it was worth it.  And Jamie loved the Métro and the zoo, and overcame his fear of heights long enough to accompany me to the top of l’Arc de Triomphe, which, as the plaques at its base will tell you, commemorates French military valor in the Franco-Prussian war, World War I, World War II, la guerre d’Indochine, and that dustup in Algiers. I would say something properly derisive about this, but on the whole, the French were so nice to us that I just don’t have the heart to do the cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys bit.  Apparently they figure that if you’re an American in France who can use French verbs in two tenses, you must not be watching Fox News.  (Besides, I know perfectly well that the Arc was originally all about Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz, and of course it was great to see the French Resistance commemorated.)

I won’t do any serious vacation blogging.  Somehow it feels too self-indulgent, even for a blog, where one always asks oneself, “self-indulgent as compared to what, exactly?” Besides, everything you’ve read about Paris and the south of France is true: no false words have ever been written about these parts of the world.  So consult those words if you want the details about what it’s like to be there.  Here, I’ll confine myself to two light observations about cultural matters.

One: it’s much fun to turn on the TV and see Jacques Derrida debating Régis Debray, and it’s great to see the passages of the Métro festooned with ads for Paul Auster’s novel La Nuit de L’Oracle.  It’s quite true, artists and intellectuals are part of popular media in French life in ways that their American counterparts can only dream about.  But it’s also quite true, on another front, that French popular music sucks.  It actually sucks in so many ways, in so many genres, that I could not keep proper track of its promiscuous modalities of inadequacy.  A friend suggested to me that the French never made the categorical distinction between “rock” and “show tunes” that is fundamental to Anglo-American popular music, so that French pop sounds more or less like Barry Manilow.  But that doesn’t explain the travesty that is French hip-hop.  Nor does it explain the curious fact that although experimental French art and literature have in fact rocked almost continuously for the past 175 years, no French music of any kind has really mattered to the rest of the world since the mid-thirteenth century, when the hot new musical form known as the “motet” took Europe by storm.  I welcome your theories about this.  (Before anybody gets all weird with me about Berlioz and Satie, all I have to say is, two exceptions in 750 years prove the rule.  And the incomparable Django Reinhardt wasn’t French, he was Manouche.)

Two: I have long thought that soccer—known in some parts of the world, namely, everywhere but here, as “football”—is almost the perfect sport.  It involves intense, explosive large-muscle-group strength, incredible cardiovascular stamina, and stunning small-muscle-group finesse and coordination.  It also has nearly-ideal combinations of individual virtuosity with team effort, skill with chance, and synoptic strategy with sudden bursts of impromptu brilliance.  But unfortunately, the sport has deep structural flaws, the most notorious of which is its “offsides” rule, which prevents players from sprinting behind defenses.  And don’t even try to defend the inane “shootout” as a means of deciding games: at the very least, the players should run in from midfield and/or shoot from outside the penalty area.  Shooting from 11m out is a joke.  The main problem, though, is that the scale of soccer is too big.  The way I figure it, if soccer would just reduce the size of its field, reduce the number of players on the field, make the ball smaller and harder and flatten it on both ends, make the goal smaller, put up boards and glass around the boundaries, cover the field in ice, and give everybody sticks, then you’d have the perfect sport. 

But in the course of watching Euro 2004 each night, I learned that (or I should say, Janet pointed out that) “football” does have an indisputable advantage over ice hockey in one key area: soccer players are far more handsome than hockey players—in some cases, astonishingly so.  When France tied Croatia 2-2 two weeks ago, you could have told me that the Louis Vuitton house squad was playing the Dolce and Gabbana office team, and I’d have believed you.  The next night, Italy played Sweden in the rain, which meant that players had to keep sweeping their hands through their hair (and let’s not forget that the international soccer gesture for “I can’t believe I missed” is the hands-through-the-hair, as well), and I’ll be damned if the game didn’t look like a two-hour-long Versace ad.

Ah, well, yes, ahem, I did pay attention to the outcomes of the games, even if Janet had her mind on other matters.  For those of you following the tournament in other English-speaking nations, there’s no question, England was robbed in that game against Portugal.  But then, what do you expect from a sport with such severe structural flaws?

I have to say I loved travelling laptopless.  Still, it’s good to be back.  Today I recover from jetlag, tomorrow I get back to work.  Thanks for sticking around, everyone.

Posted by Michael on 06/29 at 03:44 AM
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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

For a vital center

I read a story in the newspaper this Sunday and felt that I had to comment on it because it was so important.  It was called “A Nation Divided? Who Says?” and it was written by John Tierney.  Here’s how it begins.

WASHINGTON� If you’ve been following the election coverage, you know how angry you’re supposed to be. This has been called the Armageddon election in the 50-50 nation, a civil war between the Blue and the Red states, a clash between churchgoers and secularists hopelessly separated by a values chasm and a culture gap.

That’s true.  I’ve heard all these things, and they just confuse me.  That’s not the world I live in!

But do Americans really despise the beliefs of half of their fellow citizens? Have Americans really changed so much since the day when a candidate with Ronald Reagan’s soothing message could carry 49 of 50 states?

Golly, I hope not.  I remember 1984� we were happy then.  We were unified.  Everything was pretty calm and soothing. There weren’t any unpleasant arguments that I can recall.

To some scholars, the answer is no. They say that our basic differences have actually been shrinking over the past two decades, and that the polarized nation is largely a myth created by people inside the Beltway talking to each another or, more precisely, shouting at each other.

These academics say it’s not the voters but the political elite of both parties who have become more narrow-minded and polarized. As Norma Desmond might put it: We’re still big. It’s the parties that got smaller.

Now this is where I really began to think-- it’s so true.  It was one thing when the GOP was taken over by guys like Tom DeLay, and the White House was run by one of the most far-right crackpots ever to stagger out of Wyoming.  But then when the Democrats started shouting too, I think it turned everybody off.  Take that Waxman fellow� what’s he on about?  He sounds to me like he’s trying to start a fight.  And the way Ted Kennedy was arguing with John Ashcroft the other day, I just had to turn the sound down.

Most voters are still centrists willing to consider a candidate from either party, but they rarely get the chance: It’s become difficult for a centrist to be nominated for president or to Congress or the state legislature, said Morris P. Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

“If the two presidential candidates this year were John McCain and Joe Lieberman, you’d see a lot more crossover and less polarization,” said Professor Fiorina, mentioning the moderate Republican and Democratic senators. He is the co-author, along with Samuel J. Abrams of Harvard and Jeremy C. Pope of Stanford, of the forthcoming book, “Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America.”

“The bulk of the American citizenry is somewhat in the position of the unfortunate citizens of some third-world countries who try to stay out of the cross-fire while Maoist guerrillas and right-wing death squads shoot at each other,” the book concludes. “Reports of a culture war are mostly wishful thinking and useful fund-raising strategies on the part of culture-war guerrillas, abetted by a media driven by the need to make the dull and everyday appear exciting and unprecedented.”

It’s about time somebody had the courage to say this.  The media have been fanning the flames of discontent ever since John Kerry called for the collectivization of American farms and mandatory abortions for all pregnant women.  If only Joe Lieberman had been the nominee!  But no, Democrats with their manic hate-Bush rhetoric have hitched their wagon to a guy who advocates arranged gay marriages, nationalized day care, a $12/hr minimum wage and a 100 percent inheritance tax.  It�s like living in someplace like, I don�t know, El Guataragua or Panador, with all the guerrillas and the death squads.

And then what’s all this squabbling about “torture memos”?  Republicans want torture.  Democrats want no torture.  Where in this debate is there any place for a good decent centrist who can split the difference and bring the nation together over the principle of some torture?

Alan Wolfe, a political scientist at Boston College, reached similar conclusions in his 1998 book, “One Nation, After All,” which called the culture war largely a product of intellectuals.

“Compared to earlier periods - the Civil War, the 1930’s, the 1960’s - our disagreements now are not that deep,” Professor Wolfe said last week. “Indeed, it is only because we agree so much on so many things that we can allow ourselves the luxury of thinking we are having a culture war. When one of society’s deepest divisions is over stem cells, that society is pretty unified.”

I have a friend who insists that Alan Wolfe can be counted on, in articles like this, to say the most annoying, triangulating, Liebermanesque things you can possibly imagine.  But in this case, I think Professor Wolfe is right: when 98 percent of the country supports stem-cell research, and it’s blocked by a tiny handful of fundamentalist Christians who grant nine-day embryos the moral status of living humans, that’s really quite a luxury.  We should be happy that we agree on so much, down deep.  Besides, stem cells are really very tiny things.  You can hardly see them!  We’re really quite lucky we are to live in a society that “sweats the small stuff.”

If only those Democrats weren’t such a bunch of loudmouthed extremists.  They’re just as bad as the Republicans, if you ask me.  It’s about time somebody spoke up for the rest of us. 

Posted by Michael on 06/15 at 03:30 AM
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Saturday, June 12, 2004

The morning after

I do hope Ronald Reagan rests in peace.  And I have great sympathy and admiration for anyone who cares for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, though I also think that George Williams has just about the right take on this.  As we reflect on Reagan’s mortality and ours, I thought it might be useful to suggest that while we in the disability community have good reason to support anyone with a degenerative, debilitating illness (and his or her caregivers), we also have an obligation to all our fellow humans.

With that, I turn you over to James W. Trent, Jr., author of the remarkable book, Inventing the Feeble Mind:  A History of Mental Retardation in the United States:

“In January 1967, Ronald W. Reagan, the newly elected California governor, ordered all state agencies to eliminate 10 percent of what he characterized as ‘fat’ from their budgets.  More specifically, he insisted that state hospitals and institutions for the retarded cut their budgets by $17 million.  This cut, Reagan insisted, would eliminate 3,700 state jobs, close fourteen state-operated outpatient clinics, and begin a process of community-based care, with communities taking greater responsibility for the guardianship of their ‘mental patients.’ Angered by reaction to his proposals, Reagan remarked that state hospitals (and prisons) constituted the ‘biggest hotel chain in the state.’

“Nine months later, Niels Erik Bank-Mikkelsen, the director of the Danish national services for mental retardation, visited the Sonoma State Hospital, a large institution for the retarded in California.  Even before Reagan’s proposed cuts had fully taken effect, Bank-Mikkelsen found conditions in the institution dreadful.  He told a reporter:  ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was worse than any institution I have seen in visits to a dozen foreign countries. . . .  In our country, we would not be allowed to treat cattle like that.’ What he had found were wards of naked adults sleeping on cement floors often in their own excrement or wandering in open dayrooms.  Not uncommon were ‘head bangers.’ Many residents were heavily medicated, existing in a pharmacological daze, a daze exacerbated by the constant shouting and screaming around them.  In its defense, the California commissioner of health and welfare insisted that the state’s treatment of the retarded was ‘the most advanced in the nation.’ Bank-Mikkelsen feared he might be right.” (256)

Now, let’s be clear about one thing:  Reagan did not create those conditions.  In fact, you could argue that under such conditions, policies of “de-institutionalization” and “community-based care” are thoroughly humane-- but then, you’d have to argue that Reagan actually provided the resources for humane de-institutionalization and community-based care, and you shouldn’t try, because you’d hurt yourself with the strain.  No, the only thing Reagan is liable for here is that brutal and quite gratuitous crack likening the state’s prisons and mental hospitals to a “hotel chain"-- and the insistence that the “fat” in the state mental health budget had to go.

That was almost 40 years ago-- but then again, it was a few years after New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s 1965 attack on the inhuman conditions of the Rome and Willowbrook State Schools.  Draw from this what lessons you will, and let’s hope we all learn to do better by those with cognitive and developmental disabilities from here on in.

Posted by Michael on 06/12 at 05:29 AM
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Reversal of stereotypes

My heartwarming tale of “Dinesh and me” has generated lots of interest over the past two days, and I continue to be amazed that blogs are read by approximately 1000 times more people than the number who read my discussions of D’Souza in Public Access and Transition magazine in the 1990s.  But one friend has written to me privately to say hold the phone-- how can you discuss The End of Racism on your blog without mentioning D’Souza’s theory of “rational discrimination,” which underlies the whole thing? Fair question.  Here’s how the theory works, in D’Souza’s own words:

Only because group traits have an empirical basis in shared experience can we invoke them without fear of contradiction.  Think of how people would react if someone said that “Koreans
are lazy” or that “Hispanics are constantly trying to find ways to make money.” Despite the prevalence of anti-Semitism, Jews are rarely accused of stupidity.  Blacks are never accused of being tight with a dollar, or of conspiring to take over the world.  By reversing stereotypes we can see how their persistence relies, not simply on the assumptions of the viewer, but also on the characteristics of the group being described.

Here’s what I said about this in Transition:  “This, perhaps, is right-wing sociology’s finest moment:  reversal of stereotypes! why didn’t we think of that?  OK, now let’s get this straight.  Koreans are not lazy, Hispanics do not try to make money, Blacks are spendthrifts, and . . . hey!  wait a minute!  those tightfisted clever Jews really are trying to take over the world!”

A creative misreading, yes, but you get the point.  All right, that’s enough of that.  I have to shower too, you know.

Posted by Michael on 06/12 at 05:09 AM
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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Dinesh and me

On Tuesday, Media Matters for America reported that Dinesh D’Souza has been hired by CNN.  They duly noted a 1995 Washington Post article which mentioned some of D’Souza’s Krazy Kollege Hijinx with the Dartmouth Review, but they didn’t note that one of the gay undergraduates who was “outed” by D’Souza at Dartmouth actually became depressed and suicidal as a result. 

How do I know this?  Well, I didn’t go to Dartmouth, but I did have an extended textual run-in with D’Souza in 1991, just after he’d published Illiberal Education, the book that catapulted him from wingnut obscurity (his first book was a hagiography of Jerry Falwell, which concluded, “listening to Falwell speak, one gets a sense that something is right about America, after all").  I told some of the story in my second book, Public Access (1994), which I’m happy to reprise here for the benefit of CNN-watchers and D’Souza fans everywhere.

___________

On May 13, 1991, David Corn reported in the Nation that D’Souza had maliciously “outed” some gay students at Dartmouth, and that he had later gloated over having done so at the New York Athletic Club.  Corn was right about item one, and wrong on item two; D’Souza wrote to the Nation asking for a full retraction, and got a partial retraction instead.  This prompted a second letter from D’Souza, who by now had grown nasty:  “My friends tell me not to waste my time because I should expect lies from the ‘loony left,’” he wrote.  “I hope I am not naive in holding you to a higher standard."[1] He sent Corn faxes of documents he believed would clear his name, and also wrote to the Village Voice, in more measured tones:

Michael Bérubé, in a June 18 article, alleged that while I was the editor of the Dartmouth Review, I “proudly published the stolen private correspondence of Dartmouth’s gay and lesbian students.” This claim, which was first printed by the Nation, is false.  Indeed, when presented with the facts, The Nation retracted the claim.

What really happened was this:  the Review’s article concerned the Gay Students Association [sic] as a college-recognized and college-funded group.  The article named the five officers of the group who were listed with the college’s Committee on Student Organizations.  Such listing is a requirement for funding and the names are open to public scrutiny.  No other names or identities were revealed and all the information in the article came from the public file.

Later, one of the officers named claimed he was not affiliated with the group and had been erroneously named.  Apparently, the young man was not openly gay, but made the error of accepting an officers’ position with the group, thus putting his name on the public record.  The Review was in no position to know this and regretted in print having named the young man.[2]

By the time the Voice apprised me of D’Souza’s letter, I had gotten in touch with both David Corn and Victor Navasky of the Nation, wanting to know the status of their initial report and what they called its subsequent “clarification and amplication.” Corn sent me copies of the documents D’Souza sent him, and I dug up an old story I recalled having been published in the New York Times about the time I graduated from college.  And here’s where the story gets weird.

D’Souza’s third paragraph to the Voice was gratuitous, since I had written nothing about any subsequent exchange between the Dartmouth Review and the Gay Student Alliance.  But stranger still, his entire letter was contradicted by the very documents he had sent to Corn, which clearly showed that the Review, in an article under D’Souza’s name, had in fact published excerpts from students’ correspondence—as well as facsimiles of official and unofficial GSA documents, whose legal-pad scrawls revealed the name and official position of the student who had requested that the Review not associate him with the GSA.  I then made a few phone calls to Dartmouth, and soon I had the text of my reply to D’Souza, which ran as follows:

What really happened was this:  D’Souza’s May 18, 1981 Review article also included anonymous excerpts from what he called “personal letters from students confessing their gay sentiments.” The New York Times revealed D’Souza’s source in 1982, when it reported that some “membership and correspondence files of the Gay Student Alliance disappeared from the College Center, and . . . were printed in The Review.” Dolores Johnson, former director of Dartmouth’s Council on Student Organizations, confirmed to me that none of D’Souza’s information could have come from a “public file,” because “no administrative office keeps lists of the membership of, or letters to, any student organization.” (The July 8 Nation has retracted its previous retraction.) As for D’Souza’s last paragraph:  what can he possibly mean by saying that the Review “regretted in print having named the young man”?  D’Souza offered no apology; on the contrary, he intensified his previous allegation? by publishing facsimiles of the stolen GSA documents.  His only sentence of “regret” was “we are sorry that it has come to this.” I cannot guess why D’Souza has now chosen to heap one substantial distortion atop another.  But I fail to see how any responsible person can continue to take D’Souza seriously; conservatives should begin shopping around for a more credible representative.

Because of the Voice’s strict space limitations (dang those space limitations!), I could not go on to say that the 1982 Times article had also reported that “one student named, according to his friends, became severely depressed and talked repeatedly of suicide.  The grandfather of another who had not found the courage to tell his family of his homosexuality learned about his grandson when he got his copy of The Review in the mail.” [3] Nor could I explain that, for whatever reason, D’Souza himself had provided David Corn with precisely the material I needed to contradict the extraneous claim in his third paragraph.

So first, let it be noted that D’Souza, however unwittingly, drove a fellow student to contemplate suicide because of his article on the Gay Student Alliance.  (To put this in terms that craven cable news organizations will understand, Michael Savage merely told a gay caller to die; D’Souza in his youth was somewhat more, shall we say, proactive.) Second, let us acknowledge that in the ten years between that event and his exchanges with the Voice and the Nation, D’Souza learned that his behavior in 1981 was a political liability, and would have to be met with nothing less than complete denial.  Third, let us marvel at the cockiness with which D’Souza demanded a retraction from the Nation, proclaiming his knowledge that he would meet with “lies from the loony left.” Fourth, let us wonder what the Sam Hill is going on with a character who sends his critics the evidence that convicts him, presumably in the belief that it exonerates him.

[1] Dinesh D’Souza, letter to The Nation, July 8, 1991, p. 38.
[2] Dinesh D’Souza, letter to the Village Voice, July 9, 1991, p. 5.
[3] Dudley Clendinen, “Conservative Paper Stirs Dartmouth.” New York Times, May 30, 1982, p. 23.

____________

-- All right, now, does any of this matter 13 years (or 23 years) later?  Not necessarily, save for the fact that D’Souza has never apologized for, or even acknowledged, his conduct in this affair.  But for those of you who are more interested in the Mature D’Souza, here are some highlights from his magnum opus, the D’Souza Moby-Dick, more commonly known as The End of Racism:

-----> “[The Civil Rights Movement] sought to undermine white racism through a protest strategy that emphasized the recognition of basic rights for blacks, without considering that racism might be fortified if blacks were unable to exercise their rights effectively and responsibly.”

-----> “Most African American scholars simply refuse to acknowledge the pathology of violence in the black underclass, apparently convinced that black criminals as well as their targets are both victims:  the real culprit is societal racism.  Activists recommend federal jobs programs and recruitment into the private sector. Yet it seems unrealistic, bordering on the surreal, to imagine underclass blacks with their gold chains, limping walk, obscene language, and arsenal of weapons doing nine-to-five jobs at Procter and Gamble or the State Department.”

-----> “Increasingly it appears that it is liberal antiracism that is based on ignorance and fear:  ignorance of the true nature of racism, and fear that the racist point of view better explains the world than its liberal counterpart.”

-----> “The American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.”

-----> “The popular conception seems to be that American slavery as an institution involved white slaveowners and black slaves.  Consequently, it is easy to view slavery as a racist institution.  But this image is complicated when we discover that most whites did not own slaves, even in the South; that not all blacks were slaves; that several thousand free blacks and American Indians owned black slaves.  An examination of these frequently obscured aspects of American slavery calls into question the facile equation of racism and slavery.”

-----> “If America as a nation owes blacks as a group reparations for slavery, what do blacks as a group owe America for the abolition of slavery?”

-----> “How did [Martin Luther] King succeed, almost single-handedly, in winning support for his agenda?  Why was his Southern opposition virtually silent in making counterarguments?”

Passages like these lead readers like me to believe that the easiest way to slander D’Souza is to quote him directly.  But I don’t want to suggest that this 700-page tome can be summed up in its pull quotes; let’s look at the main argument, too.  It was not long after the book was published that the Wall Street Journal devoted half a page of op-ed space to an excerpt from D’Souza’s concluding chapter-- the part where he finally gets around to delivering his payload, arguing for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

D’Souza’s rationale for repeal is clear:  ever since the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, he claims, the federal government has been “the primary threat to black prospects.” In a truly free market, by contrast, racial discrimination would not exist, since “discrimination is only catastrophic when virtually everyone colludes to enforce it.” D’Souza’s case in point is major league baseball, about which he poses a truly novel thought-experiment:  “Consider what would happen,” he writes, “if every baseball team in America refused to hire blacks.” Lest we are unable to imagine such a thing, D’Souza guides us step by step:

Blacks would suffer most, because they would be denied the opportunity to play professional baseball.  And fans would suffer, because the quality of games would be diminished.  But what if only a few teams—say the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers—refused to hire blacks?  African Americans as a group would suffer hardly at all, because the best black players would offer their services to other teams.  The Yankees and the Dodgers would suffer a great deal, because they would be deprived of the chance to hire talented black players.  Eventually competitive pressure would force the Yankees and Dodgers either to hire blacks, or to suffer losses in games and revenue.

There’s something disingenuous about D’Souza’s plans for integration, since D’Souza had argued earlier that Jim Crow laws were “designed to preserve and encourage” black self-esteem.  But let’s assume, for the nonce, that D’Souza is serious here, and let’s assume also that franchises like the Yankees of the 1950s or the Red Sox of the 1980s could not win games without a sizable contingent of black ballplayers.  How precisely is this argument supposed to work in American society at large?  Are we supposed to believe that bankers and realtors don’t discriminate against black clients for fear that their rivals down the street will snap up all those hard-hitting, base-stealing young Negroes?  Or is it that when black motorists are tired of being pulled over in New Jersey they will simply take their business to the more hospitable clime of Hawai’i?

It’s noteworthy that two African-American conservatives (Glenn Loury, Robert Woodson) resigned in protest from the American Enterprise Institute when The End of Racism was published (D’Souza was an AEI fellow at the time).  But it’s even more noteworthy that not a single one of their white colleagues joined them.

More generally, no one has noted that Dinesh D’Souza is himself the most visible contradiction of the Right’s major premise in the academic culture wars—namely, that campus conservatives are persecuted by liberal faculty and intimidated into silence.  For here, after all, is perhaps the most vocal Young Conservative of them all, a founder and editor-in-chief of the Dartmouth Review who’s since gone on to Princeton University, the Reagan Administration, and lucrative fellowships from the Olin Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, and now a gig at CNN.  He is, in short, a phenomenon.  No matter how diligently his critics pore through his work, demonstrating time and again that the stuff doesn’t meet a single known standard for intellectual probity, he is still taken seriously—and rewarded richly—by conservative foundations and the (hack, hack) liberal media.

Of course, you could argue that in the age of semi-literate screechers like Coulter, Hannity, and Savage, Dinesh D’Souza looks almost distinguished and donnish by comparison. But that’s their plan, folks! They’re trying to lull us into “well, at least he’s not as bad as the rest of the lineup,” when in fact any reasonably civilized society would have tuned out any one of these creeps long ago.

Please feel free to get in touch with CNN to see what they think about the work of their new “analyst.” And feel free to excerpt any of the choice D’Souza excerpts provided here.

UPDATE:  D’Souza is still at it, this time via the Washington Post.  Have we had enough yet?

Posted by Michael on 06/10 at 05:45 AM
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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Ashcroft:  are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?

From today’s New York Times, Bush Didn’t Order Any Breach of Torture Laws, Ashcroft Says:

Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose subordinates have written confidential legal memorandums saying the administration is not bound by prohibitions against torture, told a Senate committee on Tuesday that President Bush had “made no order that would require or direct the violation” of either international treaties or domestic laws prohibiting torture.

Mr. Ashcroft refused to provide several of the memorandums, saying they amounted to confidential legal advice given to the president and did not have to be shared with Congress.

Asked by Congressional Democrats about the March 2003 memo in which the President is advised that U.S. and international law prohibiting torture does not apply to him, and in which a key footnote reads that “this view is consistent with that of the Department of Justice,” Ashcroft grew angry.

“That memo is none of your business.  You are tiny men.  The President is a great man,” Ashcroft replied.

Ashcroft insisted that there was no connection between recent legal memorandums authorizing torture, and actual evidence of the torture of U.S. detainees in Guantnamo and Abu Ghraib.

“Let me completely reject the notion that anything this president has done or the Justice Department has done has directly resulted in the kinds of atrocities which were cited,” he said.

“It’s a complete coincidence,” Ashcroft insisted.  “A handful of bad apples brought a lot of Hefty bags with them to Baghdad, that’s all.  We had no idea what was going on.  And it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with anyone advising the President to authorize torture.  It’s just weird.”

“First of all,” Mr. Ashcroft said, “this administration opposes torture,” adding that the “kind of atrocities displayed in the photographs are being prosecuted by this administration.”

Speaking directly to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.- Mass.), Ashcroft concluded:  “You have to understand that the things in those pictures never happened.  Plus, when they did happen, we stopped them.  And finally, they’re all your fault.”

[Passages in italics are direct quotes from the Times and Knight Ridder.]

Posted by Michael on 06/09 at 02:21 AM
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