Rabinowitz, Have you no shame?

Dorothy Rabinowitz was responsible for a dishonest and misleading attack on Ann Coulter’s book “Treason”, which appeared in today’s Wall St. Journal. I just finished reading the Coulter book the other day. Ann is pretty busy throwing punches in that book. She is really mean to a lot of people. But so what? She is mean to the people who need being mean to. The main thing here is that Rabinowitz fails entirely to respond to the core of Coulter’s book, which can be summed up in one sentence: The decrypted Venona messages prove that there were hundreds of Soviet agents in the United States government, that McCarthy was absolutely right to demand that they be exposed and investigated, and that liberals opposed him not because they were innocent, but because they were complicit, and guilty, so they “fought like animals.”

Rabinowitz talks about peoples lives being ruined. OK. What about Soviet spies working in the U. S. Government? There were plenty of them. More than most people ever were willing to admit. They were helping Stalin. Stalin destroyed a lot more lives than McCarthy. And no lives would have been destroyed if the commie bastards had confessed what they knew. No, they fought like animals, and maybe some people got hurt who probably shouldn’t have. Well, purging Soviet spies from the U.S. Government was necessary at the height of the Cold War, and collateral damage is how the cookie crumbles. Anyway, Rabinowitz talks only in vague generalities about people who suffered these supposedly horrible atrocities due to McCarthy. Why no names, why no pathos-filled details of innocent victims? Because there aren’t any.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan discussed this in his book Secrecy, which Coulter refers to. Moynihan says, yeah, there were a Hell of a lot of Soviet spies, making essentially the same case as Coulter. Coulter however, puts two and two together — these people were spies for Stalin’s Russia, the worst tyranny ever (top 3, anyway), their liberal friends knew it, and lied for them and protected them. Not treason? OK, what then?

Rabinowitz refers to the Annie Lee Moss episode, in which a purportedly poor and ignorant woman claimed to be mystified at the suggestion that she was a Soviet agent. This vaudeville act appealed to liberals who think that black people are wise and good, yet somehow also stupid and needing their help. My mother saw that hearing and thought Moss was lying. Coulter’s discussion of the matter is much stronger than the dishonest version Rabinowitz presents, and much more convincing.

Rabinowitz fails completely to come to grips with Coulter’s case, for reasons which make no sense to me. Maybe she is put off by the sheer bloody-minded hatred which exudes from every page, the gobs of spit and flailing fists. Why? People who betrayed their country to Stalin, or who lied to protect spies for Stalin, and continued to lie about it for decades, and who have now been smoked out and continue to lie, don’t merit hatred? Why? If not, who does?

Rabinowitz’s title is also wrong. Coulter is not the Maureen Dowd of the Conservatives. She is our Johnny Rotten. She doesn’t care what anybody thinks is appropriate behavior, or which topics are just not talked about, or about the liberal pieties, she snarls right back. And if she is over the top, she is at worst doing what one of her villains Dean Acheson admitted to be doing — speaking more plainly than the truth in order that the truth will be heard. And evil should be called evil, in season and out of season.

I was not an Ann Coulter fan until I read this book. Now I am. I hadn’t paid much attention to Rabinowitz until today. I now know she is dishonest and can’t be trusted. I’ll never read another word she writes after this.

(I await with very great eagerness the forthcoming book Ann Coulter mentions by M. Stanton Evans about McCarthy. That will be a scholarly tome which will help to set the record straight on these major events.)

Not So Bright, Not So Liberal II: The Attack of the Atheists

One of our valued readers left, in part, the following as a comment to Jonathan’s earlier post:

Wouldn’t atheists find the assertion from religious people that they are plugged into some cosmic truth through their faith to be smug, arrogant and insulting? But I suppose it’s only a sin if the other side does it. If you do it it’s just asserting the obvious.

I started typing a comment in reply, which had a hostile tone. I deleted it. Then I decided to just leave it there, move on. Then on third thought I decided I would respond. But that comment got out of hand. I then had a fourth thought, the old saying about never arguing with the guy who buys ink by the barrel — “hey, this is my blog, I’ll just put MY response out in the open”. So here it is:

The tone, sir, the tone. The gratuitously insulting tone. We must work on that. Civility is a virtue which we all should have. It is the mortar holding together our pluralistic society. It is the foundation of our priceless civil peace, which is the envy and wonder of the world. So, starting out assuming that someone who disagrees with you has various moral failings is bad form socially and bad citizenship, as well as being intellectually unsound.

I will tell you that the Roman Catholic religion is true. I assert that. I assume the burdens of that assertion. I try to live up to the standards imposed on me by that assertion. This necessarily means that I also assert that contradictory statements are not true. (Incidentally, I certainly don’t think this is an “obvious” truth, so you are wrong about that. It takes some prayer, reflection, experience and study to get there. I’ll also assert that it is worth the effort.)

OK, I did it. I have made a “truth” statement. Pause. Look around. The sky has fallen on neither of us. Nor does that mean I cannot remain friends with people who do not make this assertion, or who aren’t sure, or who don’t want to think about it. There is no inconsistency between my assertion of the truth of Roman Catholicism and my genuine friendship with and respect and affection for those who do not do so. You have a poor, and false, idea of Roman Catholicism if you think otherwise.

We all live, function, act and think based on what we believe to be true. All human conduct is necessarily rooted in some set of premises about what is true. These premises may be well thought out, not thought out, or incoherent, but these premises are there. So, making an assertion that something is true does not present any problem in itself. We all do that all day long, in deed if not in word.

Now, some people may say, “if you cannot show me empirically or by means of scientific, quantifiable measurements, that your religious belief is true, then you may not speak about it.” I reject this. I reject the proposition that someone may engage me on a life or death matter, in fact a life-after-death matter, and say that I must accept that person’s truncated and false view of the world and of humanity and of what constitutes relevant evidence, all as some kind of ground rule for having a conversation. That strikes me as smug and arrogant, to use your adjectives. Someone initiates a conversation with me and insists that certain relevant matter is off limits, ab initio? Sorry, dude, Lex don’t play that.

Now, if the tone of religious believers whom you have met has been “smug, arrogant and insulting” that is a bad thing. That is not how it is supposed to be done. Christianity is supposed to be about love, charity, patience, understanding, service, humility, etc. It’s in the New Testament in a bunch of places. You can look it up. Also, many people down the centuries have actually approached this ideal, some of whom we know as saints, most of whom are known only to God. I have found that this approach is far more common among sincere believers, even among those Christians who think my Catholicism will damn me to Hell, than anything like what you describe. But, hey, you had some bad experiences. Sorry about that. But I repudiate your judgement of me based on your experience with some unknown third parties. I refuse to be included in whatever group of people you had a bad experience with. And I reject your categorical lumping of religious believers into some pejorative category. And I am mystified that you think anyone with any self-respect would just knuckle under to such overbroad and, frankly, bigoted statements.

Anyway, we believe in open and even hard-hitting free speech on this blog. But let’s treat each other with respect. Our model should be the old Victorians like Lord Acton, Cardinal Newman, Mill, James Fitzjames Stephen, Gladstone, all of whom were engaged from time to time in debates pertaining to religion in one way or another, and all of whom fought hard for their causes, all of whom threw hard oratorical punches, but who did not sink to personal rancor or insult the intentions of their opponents — whom they assumed to be serious men seriously engaged with serious matters, at least as an initial presumption.

In closing, I will say that the truth or falsity of Catholicism or Christianity or Islam or religion generally is NOT what I particularly want to discuss in this forum — though I have decided and I daresay well-founded views on these questions. My fellow ChicagoBoyz have their own divergent opinions and I don’t want to use this blog as a soapbox for my views on these issues, which are very serious ones, where their views may differ to a major degree. We have enough to talk about on this blog where we either agree, or might have a shared interest, or where we will have grounds for constructive disagreement. But if someone insults me or my religion, I may choose to respond, depending on what I deem appropriate under the specific circumstances.

Democrats Missing the Point

Just saw Terry McAuliffe on CNBC. He was carping about Bush, saying we should wait for evidence, not go it alone against Iraq (unless we have no choice — nice out), but that we should do something about North Korea which already does have nuclear weapons.

All I could think was: You jerk. You’re out of your depth and talking nonsense. You and the rest of the Democratic leadership might do better politically to be more cooperative with the Administration on national security. Sure, you’ll be playing second fiddle, but so what? It’s the right thing to do, and there are plenty of domestic issues where you could legitimately advance your own and the national interest by opposing Bush. As it is, the public distrusts the Democrats on foreign policy because it perceives correctly that they aren’t serious about it and are mainly motivated by domestic political considerations.

This isn’t a game, and leadership requires making important distinctions and difficult choices. That’s what Bush is doing, for example, in recognizing that Iraq requires quick action so that it doesn’t become nuclear-armed like North Korea. Meanwhile, we have to handle North Korea with great finesse, in part because Democrats were in charge, and did nothing, when North Korea was at the pre-nuclear stage that Iraq is at now.

Time to Drub Reno Again

That political genius Janet Reno is apparently considering running for the Senate in Florida. My pure beef Republican heart overrunneth with joy. Her elective political career is a sinkhole for Donk dollars. Go Janet, get that hat in the ring. Shovel that hard-earned liberal Democrat money into the furnace. Then if you get the nomination, we get to watch the elephants trample you into the sand. Fabulous.

Lex’s Predictions for 2003

I may well be totally wrong on everything, but what the Hell, let’s just throw it at the wall and see what sticks. Iraq. The United States will conquer Iraq before March 1, 2003. The war will be brief, a true blitzkreig of stunning speed and force, and marked by the use of many new and massively effective weapons. The utter demolition of the Iraqi state and military will be evident in a matter of hours. Britain and Australia will make substantive contributions, though others may be along for the ride. Most of the world will respond to this smashing victory of American arms with sullen anger or vocal anger. The swift and crushing nature of the victory will make the United States feared and hated more than we are now in foreign countries. This will be most extreme in Europe, less so in poorer countries. Violence against Americans will break out in Western European countries, especially France and Germany. The American public will be ambivalent about the whole thing, though disclosures about the horrendous conditions in Iraq, and the relief if not joy of the liberated Iraqis, will convince a majority in this country that the war was just. As a result of this ambivalence, Bush will not get much political boost from the war. The occupation will last many years, perhaps in perpetuity. The Bush administration has bold plans to bring democracy to the Mideast. But, as yet, it is impossible to say whether these will be successful or a complete disaster, though by the end of 2003 we may have a decent idea of where things are heading. Economics, Finance, Technology. I leave all predictions in these categories for the other ChicagoBoyz, who know much better than I what the Hell they are talking about on such matters. (So Jon, Ralf and Sylvain, let’s get your predictions on the record here.) (And Seth, too, for that matter.) Politics. Wishful news media thinking is predicting that Bill Frist will be difficult for Bush to work with. Wrong. Frist will prove to be an articulate and effective Senate Leader who will work well with Bush. As a physician, he will have credibility when presenting Republican proposals for health care reform, which will be enacted in ’03. His elevation to the SML and the shit-canning of Lott have been a hands-down win for the Republicans. The Democrats will get essentially no benefit from what happened with Lott, and will have much to mourn at the accession of the appealing and tactically adept Frist to a visible, senior position. (An aside – it is a miracle that the whole Trent thing occurred after the election, too late to do the GOP serious harm, but before the new Congress came in, when it would have been much harder to force him out of the SML post. The GOP really dodged a bullet.) The Republicans will introduce a federal partial-birth abortion ban. It will be contentious. Bush will strongly support it. It will pass and be signed into law. The more libertarian (and/or libertine) wing of the GOP won’t like it, and there is some risk involved of alienating suburban voters who are moderately pro-choice. But Bush and Rove know that they need to cement the base prior to the run-up to ’04, and they know that polls consistently show strong support for the ban once people know what is involved. So, they’ll chance it. This will happen before the Summer, to get it out of the way. Hillary Clinton has been picked to respond to W’s State of the Union Speech. This is interesting for several reasons. One, it reflects the Democrat’s ongoing response to their November defeat: turning left. Exhibit A is the appointment of Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader. More significantly, putting Hillary up is a test-run for the 2004 Hillary for President campaign, which I herewith predict. Hillary is the clear Democrat front-runner. (See also Dick Morris on this point: “Notable, too, is how Hillary Clinton blows away all competitors. When she enters the field, she dominates with 40 percent. Way behind are Kerry and Lieberman at 16 percent and 15 percent. Hillary can get the Democratic nomination when she asks for it.) Morris concludes however that “she won’t ask until 2008.” I don’t agree. (And anyway Morris is always wrong lately, and he can’t be objective about Hillary, whom he hates.) The critical fact is that there is a leadership vacuum in the Democratic Party. The time to strike is now. 2008 is too far away. The Clintons are risk-takers and opportunists, and they have political courage. The gang of empty suits which is getting ready to run (Gephardt, Daschle, Kerry, Lieberman, to a lesser extent, Edwards) is so boring and awful that the core liberal Democrat voters whom I know are practically in despair. Two bellwether female liberal Democrats (my wife and mother-in-law) both told me they’d vote for whoever the Green candidate is rather than Lieberman, for example. Voters of this ilk will be elated by a sharply partisan, very left, very feminist Hillary run. These voters will be ecstatic to see the name Clinton on a ticket again. They loved Bill Clinton and wished he could have run a third time. I know Hillary said she won’t run, but Clintons lie and their supporters don’t care, and she’ll come up with some reason why she feels duty-bound to run. Count on it. She’ll run, and we will know it sometime before the leaves turn in ’03. Oh yeah, she will raise monumental amounts of money, clobber all opposition, and get the nomination in a walk. I’ll go out a little farther on a limb and tell you that General Wesley Clark (and here) will be Hillary’s running mate. Clark has been running around in New Hampshire, (and here) not quite running for President, but making it clear that he is not not running, either. With the telegenic General Clark on board, Hillary’s campaign will have instant credibility on military affairs. General Clark will barnstorm the country with a scathing critique of the Bush administration on pre-9/11 security, blaming W and his team for failing to stop the attacks, and criticizing each and every military action Bush et al. have taken. Clark will also attack Bush personally as a chickenhawk son of privilege who sat out Vietnam. Clark’s stripping away of Bush’s “War President” advantage, plus a run to the center by Hillary once she’s got the nomination, will be a very effective campaign. If I had to bet a dollar today, I’d say Clinton/Clark should win solidly over Bush/Cheney. As it dawns on the Bush team that they are going to lose the ’04 presidential election under this scenario, I predict that they will, sometime in ’03, move to ease Cheney out, due to “health problems” to open up the VP slot to someone who can add more to the ticket. They will want to do this early so as not to appear reactive. They may even put in someone as a “placeholder” until the convention. However they play it, I predict that the Republican ticket will be Bush/Rice in ’04. I am certain Condaleeza Rice does not want to do it. She seems to sincerely loathe the political process, which is reasonable. But I think she will do it if Bush asks for her help, because she is a loyalist and a team player. Bush/Rice should be a winner over Clinton/Clark. So, get ready for lots of political excitement in ’03. One other detail – a Hillary run means Terry McAuliffe keeps his job, even though his bad leadership had a lot to do with the Democrat defeat in ’04. He is a handpicked Clintonista who will work against any of her opponents and channel money to Hillary. Culture. We won’t need to reach for our revolvers this year. Some good things will be happening. For one thing, one of our wiser and more learned pundits, James C. Bennett, will publish his long-awaited book in ’03. Bennett is the historian, analyst and prophet of the ancient and ongoing Anglosphere, and its future articulation as a “Network Commonwealth”. Bookmark the link to his columns. They are always good. I and many others await this book eagerly. I predict it will not only be very good, but it will also be a very influential book, whatever its initial sales, which I hope will be substantial. Now, moving, way, way down the cultural and intellectual scale, I reiterate my earlier prediction that The Donnas will be huge in ’03. By “huge” I mean a nation-wide phenomenon. Big. Ubiquitous. My good pal Max strongly disagrees, and he offered these bitter words:

…the Donnas will not be “absolutely huge” by next summer — nor any summer. To think otherwise is to grossly overestimate the high-mindedness of the Keepers of Radio (ClearChannel, et al). Yeah, there are a few stations that will throw us a bone and toss the occasional White Stripes/Hives/Strokes tune into the mix, and yes, they may add the Donnas to their rotation, but “absolutely huge” they will never be (nor will Cat Power, nor will Sleater-Kinney …)
I take his point. But I do not rely on anyone’s high-mindedness for this prediction. To the contrary. It will not be (nonexistent) good taste of the music industry which will drive the Donnas to stardom. It will be greed. The music business has been suffering from a dearth of new talent with the potential for mass appeal and a long-term ability to sell lots of product. The Donnas have commercial appeal. They are reasonably pretty women who can be marketed as “hot babes.” They sing about non-controversial topics like partying, getting high, getting drunk and irresponsible sex. They have some catchy songs, and a killer guitar sound that will jump off the radio. And they are not in any way avant garde, really, the way Sleater Kinney or Cat Power are, to use Max’s examples, so the Donnas’ mass appeal is not compromised by anything “artsy”. Also, the Donnas appear to be a pretty good investment for a record company. They have been a band for eight years, so they are a pretty tightly-knit team, not likely to fly apart under stress too easily. And despite their feigned image as wild party-girls, they are clearly a bunch of committed, ambitious suburban gals with a good work ethic. All reports are that they put on a killer live show. That is the proof of the pudding. You can only do that consistently, year in and year out, if you have discipline and drive. Most importantly, I now have objective corroboration that ’03 is going to be the Donnas’ breakthrough year. They will be one of the featured bands on MTV’s “ Spankin’ New” program. As this article notes record companies are getting desperate over another year of “anemic” sales, and so “[w]ith the music industry slumping, MTV is intent on breaking new bands in 2003.” I hold to my prediction. The Donnas will be blaring out of car radios coast-to-coast this Summer. And we could do a lot worse. They do ROCK. On a more tasteful note, the Muffs‘ long-awaited new album (scroll down) will actually materialize in 2003. It will be a very good record, I predict with confidence. I hope the near-total silence on their website of late is a sign of intense activity putting on the finishing touches on the new masterpiece and not anything dire or worrisome. Commercial success seems a long-shot, for any number of reasons, but I just want the dang thing in the cd player blarin’ — soon. I hope they will tour as far into the heartland as Chicago. Fingers crossed for that. (Also, I just noticed these videos of some super-cool Muffs songs available on the net: “New Love”, “Sad Tomorrow” (what is up with that pancake makeup on Kim in this video, anyway?), and “Lucky Guy”.) (This MP4 site looks pretty decent, generally.) I note with concern that the Five Foot Two website no longer lists a new Lisa Marr Experiment record as forthcoming. Hmmm. I could have sworn that used to be on there. I note with jealousy that something called “Radiosonic”, on “29 June 2002” apparently played five Lisa Marr Experiment songs which are not on the (brilliant) last album, entitled “Shooting Stars”, “Iron Girl”, “Do You Really Wanna Know”, ” Monday Morning Echo Park” and “Slaughter House”. I also note that the very great eddog site (many great photos) has a LMX setlist (typed, even) from a show on September 27, 2002, which cryptically shows two versions(?) of “Donna Lee” as well as five other tunes not on the last album: “Little Red Bird”, “Carolina”, “Lou Reed”, “Niagara” and “Slim”. Hell, that’s ten songs, about enough for a new album right there. So, no prediction on it, but poor old Lex is hoping, nay pining, for a new Lisa Marr record in 2003.