Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

 Volume 1.2  Front Page February 18, 2002 

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Recent columns, essays, and news articles

Advice to a Superpower (Margaret Thatcher)
“America will never be the same again. It has proved to itself and to others that it is in truth (not just in name) the only global superpower, indeed a power that enjoys a level of superiority over its actual or potential rivals unmatched by any other nation in modern times. Consequently, the world outside America should never be the same either. There will, of course, arise new threats from new directions. But as long as America works to maintain its technological lead, there is no reason why any challenge to American dominance should succeed. And that in turn will help ensure stability and peace.”

As Good as Doctrine Gets (Michael Kelly)
“Assume that George W. Bush is serious about projecting force around the world to eliminate the threat from states that meet three criteria: institutional hostility to the United States and to a liberal respect for life, liberty and law; support for anti-American terrorists; and a demonstrated hunger for weapons of mass destruction. Is this a good idea? I would argue that Bush’s new doctrine is as good as doctrine generally gets — necessary and workable, although not perfect.”

Violence against Jews escalates in France (Dallas Morning News)
“The vicious conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East has apparently had a startling spillover effect in France, where officials report a sharp rise in the number of attacks on Jewish schools, synagogues and rabbis.”

The new anti-semitism? (Peter Beaumont)
“But the problem with all this talk of a ‘new anti-Semitism’ is that those who argue hardest for its inexorable rise are dangerously conflating two connected but critically separate phenomena. The monster that they have conjured from these parts is not only something that does not yet exist — and I say ‘yet’ with caution — but whose purported existence is being cynically manipulated by some in the Israeli government to try to silence debate about the policies of the Sharon government.”

China Deepens Assault on Faith (WP)
“A religious rights group in the United States has published a set of internal Chinese government documents describing in remarkable detail the suppression of unauthorized religious groups, including efforts to crush underground Catholic churches, use of secret agents to infiltrate illegal Protestant congregations and orders for ‘forceful measures’ against the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.”

Coast Guard focuses on port security (Duluth News Tribune)
“Port security is now ‘Job One’ for the Coast Guard, Adm. James Loy, the agency’s commandant, told reporters at a briefing on his new, expanded budget Wednesday. A 19 percent jump in the service’s operating expenses, the largest increase since World War II, is designed to reduce the alarming vulnerability of America’s 361 ports and 95,000 miles of rivers, lakes and coastlines.”

Security stymied by bureaucracy (WT)
“While the former Pennsylvania governor enjoys President Bush’s personal endorsement and an office close to the chief executive, he does not have the official status of a department secretary or the influence with Congress. And although most of the Cabinet members were somewhat sanguine about the prospect of losing some turf, the agencies directly involved saw Mr. Ridge’s proposal as a major threat to their interests.”

Arab Press Glorifies Bomber as Heroine (NYT)
“The fame of Wafa Idris, identified by Palestinian and Israeli officials as the first female suicide bomber to attack inside Israel, has spread far beyond the West Bank refugee camp that was her home. Ms. Idris, 28, has been hailed in the Arabic-language press as striking a blow not only against Israel but also for woman’s equality by blowing herself up on Jaffa Road here two weeks ago, killing an 81-year-old man and wounding many other people. She has been compared to Joan of Arc, the Mona Lisa and the Virgin Mary.”

America frightens its friends and creates new enemies (Abdeljabbar Adwan in Lebanon Daily Star)
“The driving force of the rapid changes taking place on the international scene is America: President George W. Bush, his administration, the people’s representatives, and the public at large. On the other side stand those leaders, governments, and peoples who find themselves compelled, to varying degrees, to go along with those changes — not because they are convinced of the wisdom of American policy, but out of fear, and in submission to and awe of American might.”

After Saddam: Now What? (Todd Purdum)
“For better or worse, a bipartisan consensus has emerged in the Bush administration and Congress alike that the United States can no longer tolerate an Iraqi regime led by Saddam Hussein. Former Vice President Al Gore, for example, told the Council on Foreign Relations last week, ‘Failure cannot be an option, which means that we must be prepared to go the limit.’ But how and when to replace Saddam Hussein — and with whom — remains a matter of deeply unsettled debate.”

For Outsiders, Worship Is Risk in Saudi Arabia (NYT)
“At a secret location every Sunday evening, a young Catholic priest does a dangerous thing. He says Mass. He arrives in street clothes and retrieves his vestments, liturgies, hymnals, Bibles, crucifix and chalice from a locked cupboard. Discretion is crucial, he says, because the Mutawwain, the street-patrolling morality police employed by the kingdom, has threatened to hunt him down.”

Debate Over Amnesty Legislation Continues After 9/11 (Georgie Anne Geyer)
“After 9/11, the nation was filled with new ‘truths.’ So much change was in the air that no one dared even question the basic assumption. ‘The nation will never be the same again,’echoed from coast to coast. ‘We must rethink all of the propositions on which so much of our actions have been based.’ One of those new truths was the assurance that our out-of-control immigration would finally be addressed; that citizenship would be strengthened and respected; and that, above all, amnesty (and thus, full American citizenship) would not be wantonly given to millions of illegal aliens. Well, wake up, my fellow citizens — it’s now the morning after!”

Churches pay dearly for silence on abuse (CT)
“Despite two decades of warnings that when churches allow pedophiles to remain in their ranks they risk not only grave damage to children but also huge financial liability, many groups still appear more concerned with protecting clergy than stopping the abuse, critics say. Religious organizations as diverse as the Roman Catholic Church and the Hare Krishnas are entangled in costly litigation charging clergy with sexually abusing children.”

Forgive and forget (Portland, Maine, Press Herald)
“Older people are more likely to forgive, while people in their 20s and 30s are prone to view the sexual assaults as a crime so serious that the priests should be removed, said Stacey Daigle, 32, a disc jockey at a Caribou radio station and a member of Audibert's parish. ‘It has shaken a lot of people,’ she said, ‘but some people aren't fazed by it at all.’”

GOP Aims to Broaden Churches’ Politicking (WP)
“Analysts say the bill, sponsored by Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-NC), would allow churches to endorse candidates and spend money to help elect them. Under current law, churches may address political issues and invite politicians to speak, but they risk their tax-exempt status if they specifically call for a candidate’s election or defeat.”

A Misleading Measure of Poverty (Nicholas Eberstadt)
“The original poverty rate calculations were an inventive effort to fashion an index of material want under real data constraints. Today — almost four decades later — no similar excuse for that index exists. The poverty rate misleads the public and our representatives, and it thereby degrades the quality of our social policies. It should be discarded for the broken tool that it is — and a poverty rate worthy of the name should be crafted anew in its place.”

Quiet Global Crossing Board Member: Former Secretary of Defense (Washington Dispatch)
“Global arranged for DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe an investment in company stock that increased 18,000 percent, from $100,000 to $18 million in about a year and a half. The company paid a former justice department lawyer, Anne Bingaman $2.5 million for lobbying efforts. Bingaman was assistant Attorney General under Janet Reno, head of the Anti-trust Division and considered an expert in international monopolies. Global Crossing owns 20 percent of all undersea communications cable and was increasing its ownership. She is also the wife of Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, one of those investigating Enron.”

Political influence for sale (Joseph Perkins)
“Indeed, in practically every news story, every broadcast report on Enron, we are reminded that the fallen energy giant was a big contributor to the Republican Party, and that former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay personally donated $100,000 to President Bush’s Inaugural fund. Yet, no major newspaper and no network newscast has mentioned that Global Crossing has given more to Democrats than Enron gave to Republicans.”

Pro-Family Groups Worry About Effects Of International Court (CNS)
“Just eight more countries must ratify the statute setting up the International Criminal Court for the body to become a reality, and pro-ICC campaigners believe this could happen within just two months. Critics fear the court will infringe on nations’ sovereignty, and could even become a forum for the United Nations to impose pro-abortion and anti-family measures on member-states.”

Would “Deep Throat” play a second time? (Paul Craig Roberts)
“Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, once thought to be an honest man, has called for a special prosecutor to investigate what he alleges was a ‘cash-and-carry government’ run by the Bush administration for Enron, the failed energy company. Mr. Hollings has confused the Bush administration with the Clinton administration.”

Springtime, Taxes, and the Attack on Iraq (Richard Muller)
“In the next few months, spring will return, we will pay our taxes, and the United States will attack Iraq. The seasons have always returned, with perhaps a few exceptions when asteroids and comets slammed into the Earth. Taxes are often listed among those things considered ‘inevitable.’ Why do I put the U.S. attack on Iraq on the same list? Because it is also going to happen, and happen soon.”

Academic cheating is on the rise, researchers say (Kansas City Star)
“High school students cheat. Not all of them, of course, but many. And those who do think it’s no big deal. That’s what a national researcher found, and that’s what former biology teacher Christine Pelton says she saw when 28 of her 118 sophomores plagiarized on a botany project at Piper High School in western Kansas City, Kan.”

Take Back Valentine’s Day (Wendy McElroy)
“Politically correct feminists want Valentine’s Day to become V-Day, standing for Vagina, Violence (committed by men against women) and Victory.... The stated purpose is to raise awareness. In reality, V-Day embodies the same double standard and dishonesty that has characterized most feminist pronouncements for decades.”

Musicians fear “sound of silence” (BBC)
“Orchestras might be forced by European law to play music more quietly, according to a leading British musicians body. The Association of British Orchestras (ABO) is fighting to be exempted from a European directive under consideration that would place limits on noise in the workplace.”

“We were paranoid of everyone” (Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune)
“The Kesslers had been thrust into the rapidly growing group of Americans victimized every year by identity thieves. Police seldom investigate cases like the Kesslers’ unless officers think a ring is responsible or they detect large financial losses. Although banks, credit agencies and insurance companies reimburse victims for most of the money, victims spend an average of 175 hours and $800 to straighten out their finances, a privacy-rights group found.”

To me, with love (Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Courier Times)
“Many single, working women will create the illusion in their workplaces today [Feb. 14] that they are romantically involved by sending themselves Valentine’s Day flowers, say area florists.”

Worldwide cocoa shortage may curtail chocolate lovers’ treats (Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune)
“A world without chocolate would be barren indeed, but there is that grim prospect if scientists can’t find a cure for diseases and pests that already destroy a third of the world’s annual cocoa bean crop and are threatening to spread, with devastating consequences.”

Let’s roll right into court (Cory Farley)
“I don’t want to take anything away from the Beamer Foundation, nor from its namesake, who apparently was one of the leaders of the passengers’ attempt to take that plane back. We’ll never know how many lives they saved. Still… copyright protection for ‘Let’s roll’? If they get it, I’m going to register ‘Hurry up,’ ‘Pick up your socks’ and ‘Why didn’t you go before we left home?’ Use my phrase, pay my fees.”

Articles of more permanent interest

Parsing out grammar (Linda Chavez)
“I learned how to diagram sentences in elementary school — or what we used to call, appropriately, grammar school.... Progressive teachers and their professional associations, especially the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), believe diagramming sentences is make-work that bores students and turns them off to writing. So they banished diagramming from the classroom years ago, along with most grammar instruction. ”

Slouching Toward Bias: A Neo-Conservative Critiques the Media (Poynter)
“‘The media, notably certain powerful big city dailies and the network news divisions that generally follow their lead, reflect a worldview that is not only distinctly liberal in character, but hostile to those who hold alternative views.”

The Education of Abraham Lincoln (Eric Foner)
“He read incessantly, beginning as a youth with the Bible and Shakespeare. During his single term in the House of Representatives, his colleagues considered it humorous that Lincoln spent his spare time poring over books in the Library of Congress. The result of this ‘stunning work of self-education’ was the ‘intellectual power’ revealed in Lincoln’s writings and speeches.”

Ten Days in September (WP)
“This series is based on interviews with President Bush, Vice President Cheney and many other key officials inside the administration and out. The interviews were supplemented by notes of National Security Council meetings made available to The Washington Post, along with notes taken by several participants.”

Lost Boys (Amy Benfer)
“Suddenly, the debate among researchers is focused on the boys: Are they behind because of the girl empowerment movement? Are they being shortchanged in the classroom simply because they are boys?”

Skewed News: Fair and balanced coverage requires diversity of opinion (Cathy Young)
“Neither Goldberg nor McGowan allege a deliberate vast left-wing conspiracy to distort the news. Rather, they convincingly argue that news coverage is often influenced by a knee-jerk bias stemming from the journalists’ own views on political and social issues.”

Faith and Diversity in American Religion (Alan Wolfe)
“No aspect of life is considered so important to Americans outside higher education, yet deemed so unimportant by the majority of those inside, as religion. The relative indifference to religion in higher education may be changing, however, as a wide variety of social and intellectual trends converge.”

The Trouble With Self-Esteem (Lauren Slater)
“‘There is absolutely no evidence that low self-esteem is particularly harmful,’ Emler says. ‘It’s not at all a cause of poor academic performance; people with low self-esteem seem to do just as well in life as people with high self-esteem. In fact, they may do better, because they often try harder.’”

Why We Don’t Marry (James Q. Wilson)
“Marriage was once a sacrament, then it became a contract, and now it is an arrangement. Once religion provided the sacrament, then the law enforced the contract, and now personal preferences define the arrangement.”

Managing Us: We’re So Easy (Fred Reed)
“First, people will watch any television rather than no television. Second, sooner or later they will begin to imitate what they see on the screen. Third, while you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, you can fool enough of them enough of the time, especially if you are a lot smarter than they are, and do it patiently, calculatedly, over time, like water eroding stone. And that is all it takes.”

Wrong Turn (Roger Kimball)
“The most delicious news to emerge from the art world this year [2001] came in October, courtesy of the BBC. Under the gratifying headline ‘Cleaner Dumps Hirst Installation,’ the world read that ‘A cleaner at a London gallery cleared away an installation by artist Damien Hirst having mistaken it for rubbish. Emmanuel Asare came across a pile of beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays and cleared them away at the Eyestorm Gallery on Wednesday morning.’ I hope that Mr. Asare was immediately given a large raise. Someone who can make mistakes like that is an immensely useful chap to have about.”

Losing our religion (Theo Hobson)
“It has become unthinkable for a Church leader, or any public figure who is a Christian, to speak as if the gospel of Jesus Christ is superior to other creeds; to talk about Christianity as an exceptionally, uniquely good thing. In public, at least, such talk is taboo. Some of the bishops might still say this sort of thing in their pulpits; maybe the Blairs tell their children. But it is not for public hearing.”

This View’s Column

Campaign Finance Reform and Connect the Dots

It’s that time of the year. If I told you I woke up with a headache this morning, and I’m so dizzy today that I can hardly stand without falling, you’d probably commiserate and say, “Got that nasty flu bug?”

Nope. I’m just following the news about Campaign Finance Reform (CFR) and trying to figure out what’s really going on.

Some members of Congress, and of the mainstream media, have somehow seized on the Enron business debacle as a springboard from which to launch another attempt at CFR. The previous attempt, March 2001, was known as McCain-Feingold, after the senators (John McCain, R-Arizona, and Russell Feingold, D-Wisconsin) who sponsored the legislation in the Senate. This time around, we have a couple of other names tacked onto legislation in the House: Shays-Meehan, after the representatives who sponsored the bill (Christopher Shays, R-Connecticut, and Martin Meehan, D-Massachusetts).

As far as I know, any CFR legislation sent to the president would have to be a compromise between McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan. Would that be McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan? Gotta get in those precious names, don’t they, for the history books and the interviews during the next campaign?

Anyway, Enron and its employees had thrown their campaign contributions around broadcast, to both Republicans and Democrats. Then, Enron went bust, and many people were cast adrift who had thought their futures were planted securely.

Now, some conservatives are in a tizzy because Enron’s political largesse has become the pretext for the latest attempt at CFR. Enron’s political contributions, they say, bought no favors from the White House: the Bush administration did nothing to stave off the corporation’s bankruptcy. (As I understand it, Enron’s execs tried to get the White House to influence Enron’s creditors to cut them some slack. No go. Some Democrats then took the tack, for a very short while, that the White House should have intervened, for the sake of “the little guy”: but that would merely have allowed Enron’s scam to live a little longer, no?)

They are right about Enron, specifically. It does seem, however, that campaign contributions did help, indirectly, to fuel Enron’s eventual collapse. For Enron’s execs would not have been able to keep their scheme going for as long as they did except for the deeds — or misdeeds, or “non-deeds” — of their auditors, Arthur Andersen.

As Dick Morris pointed out in a New York Post article, Jan. 29, Arthur Andersen’s behavior had been encouraged through legislation championed years ago by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut):

It was on account of Dodd’s tireless efforts that Arthur Andersen was able to act as both “independent auditor” and management consultant to Enron for $100 million a year. That role — so fraught with conflict of interest that it makes a joke of the concept of outside auditors protecting shareholders — has been identified as one of the major causes of the debacle. In 1995, it was Dodd who rammed through legislation, overriding President Clinton’s veto, to protect firms like Andersen from lawsuits in cases just like Enron.

Big names in the accounting industry have been especially generous to Dodd’s campaigns, you see, both before and since the legislation.

(Dodd has, of course, disputed Morris’ account of the events. But Morris is sticking by it, in an article in the Jewish World Review, Feb. 13, providing more details and sources.)

So, I think they are wrong who say that campaign contributions had nothing to do with Enron’s collapse. But they are wrong, too, who say that Shays-Meehan will help to prevent a recurrence. Why? Because the contributions that (according to Morris’ story) resulted in legal breaks for the accounting industry were hard-money contributions: Shays-Meehan puts restrictions on soft-money contributions in federal elections, but actually increases the limits on hard-money contributions.

So, those who support this CFR on the basis of wiping out alleged Enron-like political corruption are playing some kind of weird double bait-and-switch: neither contributions from Enron, nor soft-money contributions, were part of the problem supposedly being fixed.

(Hard money? Soft money? No, we’re not talking about the difference between coins and bills. Hard money is that contributed directly to a candidate. Soft money is contributed more generally to a party or is spent by organizations, including corporations and labor unions and other special-interest groups, on election-related issues.)

Another aspect of this hard-money, soft-money tango is referred to quite obliquely in an article in the Washington Post, Feb. 14:

Mixed signals throughout the day from the White House created some uncertainty about the bill’s eventual fate. Bush’s spokesman criticized a last-minute change in the bill, which some Republicans characterized as a Democratic maneuver designed to help pay off party debts from this fall’s campaign.

As reported on the Quinn in the Morning radio program that same day, the “last-minute change” allows soft-money contributions to be used to pay off campaign debts — which is currently illegal. Reportedly, the House’s minority leader, Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri), would be one of the chief beneficiaries of this “last-minute change”. What a shocker. Not.

Shays-Meehan isn’t only about campaign contributions. As the Post reported in the same article:

Another provision, aimed at curbing thinly veiled attack ads by outside groups, would ban corporations, unions and advocacy groups from targeting candidates by name in “issue ads” within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary.

Whoa. The politicians now in office don’t want groups targeting them by name within a month or two of an election. Is this not a brazen attempt at repression of political speech? What kind of reform is that?

True, you might get disgusted (as I do) by the mud-slinging, muck-raking depths to which certain groups will descend in the heat of a campaign battle. But that’s a price we pay for freedom of expression: putting up with expressions we can’t stand.

Now, it seems to me that most folks don’t know or care what’s going on in elections until well into the one- or two-month period before voting day. During that time, incumbent politicians will have, as they always do, ready access to the voting public: press releases, interviews in the mass media, mention in news stories, and taxpayer-funded mailings. But concerned groups, often comprising like-minded individuals who have no effective political voice without pooling their money, will be shut out.

No wonder some pundits are calling the bill the Incumbents’ Protection Act.

Moreover, the power and influence of the mass media would be enhanced considerably: as voting day nears, outside organizations would be largely silenced, while editors and reporters would be free, as always, to pontificate, and to pick-and-choose — or manufacture — whatever “news” stories they like.

So, Shays-Meehan might also be called the Mainstream Media Influence Enhancement Act.

Besides, we already have tons of election-related laws on the books that are inadequately enforced. Michelle Malkin wrote about that in a Creators Syndicate column, Feb. 13: Democrat fund-raiser (“funny money honey”) Maria Hsia was found guilty almost two years ago on five felony counts, and she could have been sentenced to up to 25 years in jail. She was finally sentenced this month to... what? Three months’ house arrest, three years’ probation, and a four-figure fine.

Malkin sums it up neatly:

During the 2000 presidential campaign, the Buddhist temple scandal [of 1996] was repeatedly invoked as a reason to support campaign finance reform. But the proposals by McCain & Feingold & Shays & Meehan would do nothing more to prevent politicians and fund-raisers from hustling cash from foreign nationals under the robes of monks and nuns in tax-exempt temples. It’s already illegal. Piling on new laws while the old ones get broken with impunity is a pointless exercise in Beltway sanctimony. Campaign finance reform is a joke, and fund-raising criminals like Maria Hsia are getting the last laugh.

The cable talk shows are already awash with “experts” who disagree on what actual effects Shays-Meehan would have. Some say Democrats would benefit more than Republicans would; others say that President Bush would benefit greatly in the next election cycle. And all of them have their reasons. Who knows for sure? Nobody. (It may be instructive to point out that this attempt at CFR would allegedly fix the problems produced by previous CFR.) Shays-Meehan is a prime example of a bill that’s a seedbed for the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Connect all the dots, and draw a monstrosity. Let’s see.

  • The pretext for passing Shays-Meehan — supposed political corruption by Enron money — has nothing to do with reality.
  • The kind of campaign contribution that just may have enabled the Enron scam — hard-money contributions influencing legislation and regulation of the accounting industry — would actually be allowed to increase.
  • And, for the purpose of paying off campaign debts, soft money could be converted to hard-money use — a practice now illegal.
  • Outside interest groups would be prohibited from naming candidates — including incumbents, of course — in issue ads in the days immediately preceding an election.
  • But incumbents will, naturally, have their usual access to the voting public.
  • And the mainstream media will be as free as always to editorialize for their candidates of choice — both in opinion pieces and in “news” stories.
  • Election-related laws and regulations already on the books are poorly enforced.
  • And nobody knows for sure what real long-term effects Shays-Meehan would actually have on the political process.

This kind of “reform” should never see the light of day in a representative republic that respects constitutional rights of freedom of assembly and speech.

Depending on which pundit you read, CFR will be DOA in the Senate, or it will breeze through. Time will tell. And shortly, too, I should think.

The legislation that may eventually be presented to the president would be a momentous challenge. I would advise him to rise to that occasion, if need be, as he has done so well before, and to veto this Incumbents’-Protection and Mainstream-Media-Influence-Enhancement Act. And to tell the American people exactly why he is vetoing it.

Easy to do? Certainly not. But George W. Bush has our ear, as few before have had it: let him use it well.

© ELC 2002

On the day the Premier Issue of the View was published (last Monday, February 11, 2002), the Islamic Republic News Agency published an article about Iranian President Mohammad Khatami having addressed “a large crowd of people who had gathered in Azadi (freedom) Square to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of triumph of the Islamic Revolution”.

It may come as a surprise to you, but President Khatami is concerned about Americans’ rights: “The American nation has the right to question their administration to what extent terrorists were responsible for the dreadful terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and to what extent the wrong policies of the United States were responsible”.

Indeed. Here are some questions that I, as an American, have the right to ask:

  1. Did certain wrong policies emigrate to the USA from the Middle East prior to September 11, 2001?
  2. Did any wrong policies buy tickets and get boarding passes for US commercial airliners on September 11?
  3. Did wrong policies board those airplanes on 9/11?
  4. Did wrong policies force their way into the cockpits of those planes on 9/11?
  5. Did wrong policies thereby take over those planes on 9/11?
  6. And did wrong policies then fly those planes into buildings occupied by innocent, unsuspecting civilians?

“No”, President Khatami. The answer to all my questions is “No”. I’m sure you would be glad to see that my rights as an American have been vindicated. Thank you for your support.

© ELC 2002

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