April 9, 2016

A Call For Soul-Searching

She's an iconic feminist, an atheist, and unreservedly pro-abortion. But Camille Paglia has a message for the pro-choice movement in her latest column at Salon. I am excerpting briefly below, but please go read the whole thing. It's one of the most thoughtful pieces I've read on this divisive topic in recent memory.

... U.S. politics have been entangled and strangled for far too long by the rote histrionics of the abortion wars, which have raged since Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that defined abortion as a woman's constitutional right under the 14th Amendment. While I am firmly pro-choice and support unrestricted access to abortion, I have been disturbed and repelled for decades by the way reproductive rights have become an ideological tool ruthlessly exploited by my own party, the Democrats, to inflame passions, raise money, and drive voting.


Despite my pro-abortion stance (I call the term pro-choice "a cowardly euphemism"), I profoundly respect the pro-life viewpoint, which I think has the moral high ground. I wrote in "No Law in the Arena": "We career women are arguing from expedience: it is personally and professionally inconvenient or onerous to bear an unwanted child. The pro-life movement, in contrast, is arguing that every conception is sacred and that society has a responsibility to protect the defenseless." The silence from second-wave feminists about the ethical ambiguities in their pro-choice belief system has been deafening.


Although I am an atheist who worships only great nature, I recognize the superior moral beauty of religious doctrine that defends the sanctity of life. The quality of idea and language in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example, exceeds anything in grimly utilitarian feminism.


There are abundant contradictions in a liberal feminism that supports abortion yet opposes capital punishment. The violence intrinsic to abortion cannot be wished away by magical thinking.


Progressives need to do some soul-searching about their reflex rhetoric in demeaning the pro-life cause.

Posted by dan at 12:55 PM

April 8, 2016

It's A Scandal When We Say It's A Scandal

I'm pretty sure it was Jonah Goldberg who remarked not long ago that the 'if-Bush-had-done-this' genre of commentary is "the lowest form of punditry". If I recall though, he allowed that this made it no less fun and instructive. So with that as my guidepost, I can't help wondering what the media and public reaction would have been if a generic Republican president had presided over certain events that have been (ever so slightly) in the news during the waning years of the current administration. Call them thought experiments.....


The Russians and the Slush Fund

rsz_uraniumone.jpgLet's begin by imagining the sitting Secretary of State in a Republican administration accepting million dollar donations to the family's private foundation from foreign governments with pending business deals subject to State Department approval. In the most mind-blowing of many examples of this practice under the current White House occupant, the Secretary of State approved the takeover by the Russian atomic energy agency of a Canadian uranium mining group, resulting in Russian control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. If that reality were not disturbing enough by itself, the State Department approval of this transaction coincided with the flow of millions of dollars in cash from the deal's beneficiaries into the private slush fund....I mean, foundation...of the Secretary's family.

The CEO of the uranium company in question conveniently used his own family foundation to funnel $2.35 million into the Secretary's foundation. The Secretary didn't disclose to the White House these and many other donations, despite having promised to do so. And shortly after the Russians agreed to take over the uranium company, the husband of the U.S. Secretary of State gave a speech to the Russian investment bank that was promoting the newly-acquired company's stock. He got $500,000 for the speech...but let's be honest...he's a really good speaker.

The deal was worked out in part by a Canadian mining financier, who happens to be a dear friend of the Secretary's family, and who himself has ponied up nearly $100 million in cash to the foundation over the years, such is his commitment to the charitable work they undertake. What a great family friend to have! (Reportedly, as much as 15% of all foundation dollars go to actual recipients of charity work!)

There have been several other shady deals in which the flows of cash from foreign governments just happened to coincide with important decisions being made by the Secretary. The details are enough to fill a book...and they have...but the point here is that the media coverage of these shenanigans was perfunctory at best. The New York Times had a well-done piece on the uranium company affair, but pulls most every punch by warning that we can't just jump to conclusions. "Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown." Sure it is. As to the Secretary's behavior, the Times allows that this "episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented" by the foundation. Indeed.

Not sure what all this looks like to you. But I've always thought that exploiting political power in order to amass great personal wealth was pretty much the definition of public corruption. And I'm just guessing that if the D's were switched to R's, it would be, to paraphrase Joe Biden, much more of a BFD.


Continue reading "It's A Scandal When We Say It's A Scandal"
Posted by dan at 9:08 PM

June 7, 2015

Cleveland Sports Icons

In 2013, a group of writers at TheClevelandFan.com collaborated on a series of articles profiling the "Top Cleveland Sports Figures, By the Numbers", starting with uniform #1, and going till we ran out of gas, somewhere in the late 30's, I believe. The entire TCF site (which went quiet in early 2014) is now archived here (click on the "Meet the Writers" button in upper right corner to reach individual author archives) but what you'll find below are links to my own contributions to the series.

I was lucky enough to be assigned some of my own favorites of yesteryear, and the writing was a source of great enjoyment for me. Here's hoping some Cleveland sports fans will find them worthwhile too. Others not necessarily involved in our northeast Ohio fanhood are encouraged to check them out as well. From the top...or is it the bottom?...

#1 - Bobby Avila - The last Indians player to win the batting title, Avila hit .341 in the pennant year of 1954, and went on to become one of his native Mexico's favorite sons, serving first as mayor of his hometown of Veracruz, and later as president of the Mexican League.

#5 - Lou Boudreau - Tribe player/manager the last time they won the World Series, and later, a longtime Cubs broadcaster...Boudreau's #5 has been retired by the Indians for many years, which cut down on the competition for the coveted TCF honor.

#9 - Fred Glover - The only hockey player in our local pantheon, Glover was a star for the AHL Cleveland Barons, making him easily the best ever hockey player in this town...and it also qualified him as our city's best ever #9, nosing out some names like Bahr and Baerga.

#13 - Frank Ryan - It was close, with Omar Vizquel being so rightly revered in these parts, so I profile them both here, but Ryan gets the nod...because he won it all...and nobody in the last 51 years has pulled that off.

#17 - Brian Sipe - Like Ryan, Sipe is most famous in our town for one particular day...but in Sipe's case, it was a day of infamy. For those old enough to remember the original Kardiac Kids, though, the memories are of Browns football excitement not often seen since.

#24 - Manny Ramirez - By consensus one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time, Manny put up monster numbers helping get the Tribe close to a World Series title...twice, but he grabbed the money when he had the chance, and wound up with two rings in Boston.

#27 - Herb Score - He made the cover of SI in May of his rookie season....that's how fast Herb Score's playing career began. Sadly, it ended almost as suddenly, but his name still became synonymous with Indians baseball for millions of Clevelanders as the team's beloved broadcaster for 34 years.

#32 - Jim Brown - This was my most ambitious undertaking of the series, taking some 7,000 words to pay tribute to one of my own childhood idols. I'll not spend any more setting it up.

#36 - Gaylord Perry - Most famous for being the master of the spitball, Perry won Cy Young Awards in both leagues, including one here in Cleveland, and had an astonishing 303 complete games in his career.

I'm kind of partial to the pieces on Brown, Score, Perry and Ryan, but your mileage may vary. My entire TCF article archive (2008-2014), which consists mostly of Buckeyes coverage, can be found here.

Posted by dan at 4:56 PM

March 20, 2015

Patriotism, Oikophobia and the Roots of Liberal Self-Regard

The issue of the patriotism of the political left, and of Barack Obama in particular, has been raised once again in recent weeks, instigated by the public comments of Rudy Giuliani, and then amplified, first by the outrage of Obama's defenders, and then by conservative pundits in response. These conversations always place leftists in an awkward position, because they wear their "citizens of the world" identities as badges of honor, and sneer at the notion that Americans might subscribe to Orwell's definition of patriotism as "devotion to a particular place and particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world." That people who use the term "flag-waver" as a pejorative might legitimately have their patriotism questioned still elicits in them a sputtering fury.

In private moments with pollsters, as Rich Lowry points out, self-identified "solid liberals" (40%) are significantly less likely than solid conservatives (72%) to "often feel proud to be an American", but it's considered especially bad form for anyone to call them on it. As concerns Obama, I was among many making the observation that a man who loves his country doesn't feel the need to "fundamentally transform" it, as Obama vowed to do on the eve of his first term. As Jonah Goldberg quipped at the time...try that with your wife; "Honey, I love you, I just want to fundamentally transform you".

Questions of another's patriotism are ones "that we are not allowed to ask in polite society," says Kevin Williamson. "Why? Because polite society does not want to hear the answers." Well, at least we are not allowed to ask them of leftists. No progressive batted an unapproving eye when Obama called George Bush unpatriotic for increasing the national debt, or habitually accused the GOP of "putting party over country" when they opposed one or another administration policy. Williamson says asking if Obama loves his country is a fair question ("Call me a rube for saying so..."). In fact, he asks "Why would anybody who sees the world the way Barack Obama does love America?" Another fair question.

For the progressive, there is very little to love about the United States. Washington, Jefferson, Madison? A bunch of rotten slaveholders, hypocrites, and cowards even when their hearts were in the right places. The Declaration of Independence? A manifesto for the propertied classes. The Constitution? An artifact of sexism and white supremacy. The sacrifices in the great wars of the 20th century? Feeding the poor and the disenfranchised into the meat-grinder of imperialism. The gifts of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Astor? Blood money from self-aggrandizing robber barons.

All of this talk put me in mind of an old Goldberg File column called Patriotism Litmus Test. Its 2002 vintage makes it free of Obama references, but generally speaking, Jonah's rule of thumb is that "the more negative your view of America, the more positive your view of the United Nations," a tendency Obama has exhibited in his foreign policy with regard to Israel and Iran...and that's just this week. But Goldberg's main point is that we observe people's statements and behaviors, and draw conclusions about them, and we are free to comment on them publicly...except for patriotism...

...in American politics you can flagrantly indict someone's racial tolerance, their love of children, their charity, and so forth -- Democrats do it all the time to Republicans -- but if you "question" someone's patriotism you're an ogre, a bully, an (always ill-defined) "McCarthyite." Questioning an opponent's patriotism isn't necessarily nice or appropriate, but I don't know why it's any worse than Jesse Jackson suggesting Republicans are Nazis or Ralph Nader categorically asserting that businessmen are greedy.

The double standard for political rhetoric is something conservatives are used to, but it points up how conflicted, and therefore touchy, leftists are about patriotism and its cousin, the notion of American exceptionalism.

It's Not Superior, It's Unique (which kind of makes it superior, if you don't mind my saying so)

When the term "American exceptionalism" is employed, people seem to come to two quite different interpretations of it, and I think that drives much of the disagreement. If it were taken to mean purely American superiority, rejecting it as hubris, or as an unhealthy nationalism distinct from patriotism would be understandable, and one could see how people in other countries might well disagree. Obama's well known response to a 2009 question about it..."I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism" is fairly well balanced by the context of that remark, and many others statements of his acknowledging the good that America has done.

Still it falls short of recognizing the other, quite different interpretation of the term....that of American uniqueness, in other words, as an "exception" to the general rule of nations. Can there really be an argument that America, created as it was on the basis of the dual values of individual liberty and limited government, is unique in world history in that regard? Granted, much more is glommed onto the notion of exceptionalism than just those two concepts, among them the idea that because of our uniqueness, we have responsibilities in the world...to promote freedom and self-government and human rights abroad, for example. But all that is quite different from a simple assertion of superiority.

Continue reading "Patriotism, Oikophobia and the Roots of Liberal Self-Regard"
Posted by dan at 1:06 AM

February 1, 2015

Looking Back at '14

What was originally conceived as a personal Top Ten articles of 2014 post morphed into something considerably less exclusive than that. What results is just a sampling of the links I saved during the year after a review of my archive at delicious.com, loosely organized into categories where possible. 


Media - Had I actually limited this to ten articles, both of these important pieces by Matti Friedman on media treatment of Israel and the Palestinian issue would have made the list. The first at Tablet, the second at The Atlantic, both are worth your time, even if you go no further. 

An Insider's Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth

Continue reading "Looking Back at '14"
Posted by dan at 11:09 AM

June 22, 2014

Who's Progressive?

I'm far from the first to note how the political left in this country has increasingly become the party of defense of the status quo, while conservatives take on the role of proponents and agents of radical change...but it's worth doing. From education to entitlements and tax policy, a political movement that labels itself "progressive" refuses to budge from failed or failing policy positions. Meanwhile, the push for something resembling actual progress in these important areas of public policy is coming mostly from the right.

It's almost as if the "progressive" movement has less to do with societal progress, and more to do with the expansion and consolidation of their own political power. Labeling has been a problem for leftists for decades, and they are nowadays reduced to recycling old ones. The word "liberal" has been largely abandoned as their self-identification, without acknowledging that it was policy outcomes and not faulty messaging that dragged the label into disrepute. (Besides, it had that troubling association with its root word "liberty")

Of course the word "progressive" has its own set of troubling associations, but those things are so 20th Century, and most Americans contentedly basking in the label today are unaware of its intellectual DNA. It is quite enough for most of them to hear the word "progress" in the handle, and infer that anyone in opposition to their preferred policies must be against progress...and as such, a reactionary and self-evidently wrong.

In practice though, the left's professed fealty to reason, empiricism and progress often conflicts with its love of power, and in those battles, power tends to trump practical results. The ever-expanding State often appears to be less interested in providing services for citizens than in assuring its self-preservation. (see: Veterans Administration)

Baby boomer leftists who cut their teeth in (often romanticized) opposition to The Man, now find that in the Obama Era, they are The Man....and they like it just fine, thank you. The Tea Party infuriates them because one of its guiding principles is respect for the constitutional limits on state power. There seems to be something of a cognitive dissonance to their anti-Tea Party fury as well. The political left has a hard time dealing with the idea of a genuine grassroots populism afoot in the land without them as its vanguard. Remember guys....you're The Man now.

Nowhere is the disconnect between actual progress and statist policy more striking than in public K-12 education. Preservation of the one-size-fits-all public education cartel takes priority over positive outcomes for students, especially the poor and minority students for whom the left poses as champions. Teachers unions remain bitterly opposed to charter schools and homeschooling programs, even as those modest reforms have taken shape in response to the manifest failures of public school systems.

Kevin Williamson's provocative 2013 book has a particularly strong chapter on education, suggesting as one of its themes that the public education cartel mistakes its customers for its product.

A functional market-based education system would properly recognize that its customers are students, and that its products are various kinds of education, ranging from classical liberal arts studies to forms of specific occupational training. Being political institutions, schools operate under the theory that their customer is the state - or "society" at large - and that the product is a national workforce tailored to meet national needs - which is to say, political needs.
Continue reading "Who's Progressive?"
Posted by dan at 5:24 PM

May 25, 2014

Duke Revisited

Just when you think you have a disgraced prosecutor safely disbarred, and innocent young men exonerated and getting their lives back, along comes a new book by William D. Cohan to suggest, in the absence of any new evidence, that those Duke lacrosse players may have been guilty after all, and to imply that their wealthy families bought them out of trouble. The academic left at Duke and elsewhere were shamed but unrepentant when the truth of the 2006 Duke rape hoax finally came out. The case had seemed to fit their preferred template so perfectly, what with the rich white frat boys and the poor black stripper and all. Cohan has received mostly glowing reviews for his supposedly balanced and rigorous book, and is out on a promotional tour, doing C-SPAN and such. Along the way, Cohan may soothe the consciences of people who jumped to early conclusions, and would like to be hinted to, if not persuaded, that they were something other than embarrassingly wrong. But mostly he wants to sell books to them.

Outside of the principals in the case, no one knows the Duke lacrosse team rape hoax better than KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. Johnson is an instructor in history at Brooklyn College, and authors to this day the definitive blog on the case, Durham in Wonderland. Taylor is a distinguished journalist, whose name is nearly synonymous with National Journal, a scrupulously non-partisan publication. Their 2008 book Until Proven Innocent, is the definitive account of the mad rush toward injustice in Durham, NC in 2006, and now Johnson and Taylor have been moved to respond to the credulous media treatment of Cohan's book tour. The fawning reviews for Cohan have come...

..despite the fact that the 621-page book, "The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities," adds not a single scrap of new evidence that undermines the well-founded consensus that -- as North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper found in April 2007 -- no Duke lacrosse player committed any crime against the mentally imbalanced accuser, Crystal Mangum.

Since the early hours of March 14, 2006, Mangum has provided more than a dozen dramatically varying versions of her story of being sexually assaulted in a bathroom by (variously) three, four, five, and 20 members of the Duke lacrosse team, who had paid her and another woman to strip at a spring-break team drinking party.

Cohan's main additions to the record are long, tiresome interview transcripts uncritically presenting the self-serving ruminations of disbarred District Attorney Mike Nifong, a convicted liar. Cohan added a jailhouse chat with Mangum, who is now serving an 18-year prison sentence for murdering her boyfriend. Cohan deemed her "rational, thoughtful, articulate" even though her newest story contradicted each of her prior accounts.

From these two discredited and highly compromised sources, Cohan advances two aggressively revisionist theses. First, he contends that "something happened in that bathroom that none of us would be proud of," citing the Nifong-Mangum claim that a sexual assault in fact occurred despite all the DNA, photographic, physical, medical, and other credible evidence and witness accounts to the contrary.

In our opinion, Cohan has veered into potential slander by speculating in one broadcast interview that the falsely accused former students might have been "very successful at covering it up," thanks to the "deep pockets" of their parents and attorneys.

Johnson and Taylor point to the list of people Cohan didn't see fit to interview in compiling his exhaustive 621-page treatment of the case:

Portraying Nifong as a courageous hero "crucified" for a few forgivable "mistakes," the "even-handed" Cohan did not even attempt to give most of the people he helps Nifong smear a chance to respond.

This list includes the judge who sentenced Nifong to a night in jail for lying in court; the wrongly indicted players' five principal defense lawyers; the two North Carolina State Bar prosecutors who presented the case against Nifong; and the three bar disciplinary panel members who did disbar him for egregious prosecutorial misconduct after a five-day public trial in which he had a full opportunity to defend himself. The panel concluded that Nifong hid highly exculpatory DNA evidence and made inflammatory, race-baiting attacks on the accused in the media to help win the black vote in a tight primary election.

Do read the whole thing here.

Taylor was granted time on C-SPAN (video approx 45 min.) to react to the Cohan interview, and to the treatment the Cohan book has received. I'm guessing this is about as agitated and animated as the veteran journalist Taylor gets.

Also well worth reading on the attempted revisionist history practiced by Cohan is last week's WSJ op-ed by Dorothy Rabinowitz. Ms Rabinowitz knows a thing or two about prosecutorial misconduct and the trauma of being falsely accused, having won the Pulitzer Prize for her work on the famous Amirault day care case. She leaves a few tattered pages of Cohan's book intact by the time she's finished. At the blog, KC Johnson remarks of the Rabinowitz piece:

Given how thoroughly Rabinowitz eviscerates Cohan's work, a reader might be tempted to show a smidgen of sympathy for the embattled author. Might be tempted, that is, until the reader recalls that Cohan wrote a book, and has spent the last month-plus on a publicity tour, seeking to cast aspersions on falsely accused people as he aggressively attempted to rehabilitate the reputation of a prosecutor whose ethical misconduct was notorious.

Browse Durham in Wonderland regularly for ongoing commentary.

Update 5/31/14:

As negative reviews for his book pile up, Cohan takes to HuffPo to ask, "How Much Freedom of Speech is Too Much?" Cohan's answer appears to be that freedom of speech is fine, as long as his book sales remain unaffected by it.

KC Johnson reviews the Cohan book for Commentary: The Hazards of Duke

Posted by dan at 7:03 PM

April 27, 2014

Sweden a Model For....What?

Confronted with their spotty resume of roughly 80 million dead innocents under collectivist regimes in the 20th Century, leftists seem to reflexively resort to the example of Sweden when challenged to put forth an example of a well-functioning socialist state in the history of...ever. The problem for them is that while they weren't looking, Sweden has become a model all right, but rather one of privatization, lower taxes, deregulation, school choice and pension reform. We should be so right-wing in America.

Obama and the Democrats insist on directing the U.S. toward a European ideal of the social democratic welfare state from which Europe itself has been in retreat for several years...electing more conservative political leadership, bucking the EU, and otherwise beginning to come to grips with the unsustainability of it all.

Sweden leads the reform movement, and is becoming a different kind of model for the rest of Europe. Their successes should be held up as examples by American conservatives because it's now easy to turn the "Look at Sweden" argument against a Democratic Party that is bereft of ideas beyond name-calling. Consider...

Sweden's turnabout has been in the making for two decades now, and a partial listing of accomplishments reads like an American free-market advocate's (if not always Republican) agenda.

The Swedes have deregulated their market for electricity, and allow private competition in distribution markets and private foreign ownership in generation facilities, including nuclear plants. As this 2007 summary details further, markets including telecommunications, postal service and public transportation have also been deregulated.

The Swedes have implemented a school voucher system allowing parents broadly based school choice. They have moved toward privatization of the retirement pension system, allowing individuals to make their own investment decisions. The Swedish healthcare system has been increasingly privatized.

Income taxes have been cut, wealth taxes eliminated. Farm subsidies were abolished for a time, before EU membership forced them to re-regulate. Corporate tax rates are low by U.S. standards, and there are few restriction on foreign trade, and relatively few obstacles to business creation. The results have been economic growth averaging about 4% in recent years, more twice the growth rate of our own sluggish recovery.

How much we can learn from a country with a population just 3% the size of ours, and one more homogeneous culturally and ethnically than the U.S., is a matter for good faith debate. But by all means, conservatives should encourage people to look at Sweden...and to take note that it is conservatives who for years have been advocating similar reforms.

UPDATE 10/22/15:

It's no surprise that Socialist/Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders thinks we can learn a great deal from Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark, and his statements in recent days have prompted a spate of reality therapy sessions for the gentleman from Vermont. He's right...just not in the way he thinks.

Hot Air's Taylor Millard says Sander's contention that "Sweden's model works" is true only in the sense that the necessary free market reforms they have implemented have turned that model around since the 90's. Several good links to click on there. And Sweden is far from out of the woods, says Ingrid Carlqvist at the Gatestone Institute site, due to the tremendous burden put on the welfare state by the crush of new immigrants that much of Europe is going through.

Bernie loves Denmark too, because he apparently hasn't looked up from his government job in the last few years to see what's going on there either. Two recent Corner posts from Kevin Williamson get to the heart of it, starting with "Something's Awesome in Denmark"

Bernie Sanders's Denmark love is another reminder that our Democratic friends, who imagine themselves to be worldly cosmopolitans more at ease with sophisticated European ways, don't actually know a damned thing about what's going on overseas.

For those of you who are keeping score, the Heritage Foundation, which literally keeps score, rates Denmark's economy as slightly more free - slightly more capitalistic -- than that of the United States. Denmark is in a rough spot just lately, but it has been undergoing a series of deep and intelligent reforms to its welfare state (as have many of the other Northern European countries) to counteract the ill effects of earlier excesses.

Its corporate-income tax is much lower than that of the United States. Its regulatory environment is in many ways more free. It is very free-trade oriented.

What Denmark does have -- what all the Nordic countries have -- is relatively high taxes on the middle class, which gets double-whammied with income taxes and a value-added tax. Is that what Sanders et al. are proposing for the United States, to make it more Danish? A big, heavy tax increase on the middle class? Maybe it should be -- the Danes have a big welfare state and they pay for it - but no Democrat walking this Earth has the intellectual honesty to say as much.

Strong property rights, low corruption, openness to trade and investment, low public debt: Bring it on.

More here from Williamson on Sanders debate remarks...

Posted by dan at 5:07 PM

April 26, 2014

Madison Revisited

At the "Continue reading" link below, I have recreated an old article from The Cleveland Fan...a little photo-essay from my trip to Madison, Wisconsin in 2010, for a night game between the then No. 1 Buckeyes and the Badgers. It didn't end well for the good guys, and the original article didn't survive the shift to the new home of the TCF archives, so it lives here, if only for my own reference...

Continue reading "Madison Revisited"
Posted by dan at 6:13 PM

Renewing the Cold War

No, this is not about Putin's expansionism and the U.S. reaction to it. It's much less weighty than that.

The leftist bias in the media is a fact of life that irritates conservatives even as we become somewhat inured to it. Often blatant, it is sometimes subtle, and it is an example of the latter I describe here.

Some months ago, I downloaded the Encyclopedia Britannica app for my iPhone, and did a quick search to see what the entries look like. The app is free, but for anything beyond the first sentence or two from the article, a subscription fee is charged. Most users (like me) don't spring for the detail, so all we get on our smartphones is the quickie summary. On the Web (see links) the full article is available free.

Off the top of my head, I did my first search on Whittaker Chambers...the abbreviated entry read as follows:

Whittaker Chambers - original name Jay Vivian Chambers (born April 1, 1901, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.--died July 9, 1961, near Westminster, Md.)

American journalist, Communist Party member, Soviet agent, and a principal figure in the Alger Hiss case, one of the most publicized espionage incidents of the Cold War.

Okay...nothing factually untrue there, although the defining feature of Chambers' biography surely was his renunciation of his communism, along with his authorship of his memoir "Witness", which features the soul-baring account of his apostasy, and that of his famous testimony against Hiss. His work in the service of the Soviet empire ran from 1932 until 1938, and he worked for several years after that as a respected journalist and an editor at Time magazine. He was eventually awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Of how many Communist Party members and Soviet agents can that be said?

Curiosity then led me to the entry for Hiss:

Alger Hiss - (born Nov. 11, 1904, Baltimore, MD - died Nov. 15, 1996, New York, NY)

former U.S. State Department official who was convicted in January 1950 of perjury concerning his dealings with Whittaker Chambers, who accused him of membership in a communist espionage ring. His case, which came at a time of growing apprehension about the domestic influence of communism, seemed to lend substance to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's sensational charges of communist infiltration...( into the State Department.)

Again...no factual untruths...just a subtle twisting of the historical realities. Because Hiss was certainly no less a "Soviet agent", and arguably more so than Chambers, as he remained defiant until his death, persisting in the lie that he never betrayed his country. His perjury conviction, described here as "concerning his dealings with Whittaker Chambers", was in fact about his work as a spy for the Soviet Union from within the U.S. State Department.

In 1948, it "seemed to lend substance to" McCarthy's charges of communist infiltration. In 2014 however, this is no longer simply an "accusation" by Chambers, but a fact documented by the Venona transcripts and other material from the Soviet archives. The very last sentence of the Hiss entry in the Web version nods to this reality when it says, "In 1996 the release of secret Soviet cables that had been intercepted by U.S. intelligence during World War II provided strong evidence for Hiss's guilt." One man's strong evidence is, I suppose, another man's definitive proof. Based on what we know today, if the bio of Alger Hiss had to be reduced to two words, they would have to be "Soviet spy"...or maybe "treasonous bureaucrat"...take your pick.

But if you read nothing more than the first few sentences of these entries in the smartphone encyclopedia, you see one guy was a journalist, but also a Communist and a Soviet agent, while the other guy was a State Department official who was accused of being involved in espionage, and who by the way, was convicted of perjury.

Like I said....subtle.

Posted by dan at 5:46 PM

February 22, 2014

Best of Krauthammer

It has been a treat to read Charles Krauthammer's best-seller "Things That Matter" over the last few days. It's a compilation of 30 years of columns and essays, mostly of the 2-3 page variety from the Washington Post, where he is an institution. The format lends itself to short bursts of consumption, with no loss of continuity, but my preference was to plow right through it as steadily as possible.

Much of it was familiar to this longtime Krauthammer reader, but I was struck most by the timelessness of so many of his insights. Columns that are 20 years old could just as well have been written last week, in terms of their relevance to the social and political questions of today. A lot of the material is available online, so I'll link where I can...the last 15 years or so of syndicated columns can be found at his JWR article archive, and the longer essays, from The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, and Time, are accessible online as well, but the pre-1998 stuff is harder to come by. 

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my positions on so many issues track closely with his, and I'm not sure to what degree there's a cause and effect relationship there. Reproducing memorable lines here would fail for lack of time and space, as there are gems in every column, but please indulge me in a few as we go. Krauthammer has never shrunk from the difficult and divisive issues over the years, and his thoughts on affirmative action, global warming, gay marriage, polygamy, research cloning, stem cell politics, the Ground Zero mosque controversy, and social security reform are all included in this volume, accompanied by enlightening forays into such less weighty matters as baseball, dogs and his chess club. 

Speaking of timelessness, Krauthammer is especially trenchant and persuasive on the matter of what he calls "the Jewish Question"...Zionism and the Palestinians. Three "keeper" articles on the topic are included in the book: "Those Troublesome Jews" (2010); "Judging Israel" (Time;1990), and "At Last, Zion" (The Weekly Standard;1998)

Continue reading "Best of Krauthammer"
Posted by dan at 6:59 PM

March 27, 2012

"Joy Unrestrained" - A New Home on the Heights

ADWandNewHomeR.jpg100 years ago, my grandfather wasn't just the happiest man in Cleveland. To hear him tell it, he was the happiest man on earth. Winning a new house the same week he becomes a father for the first time can do that for a man.

That's him in the front yard, pointing to the new bungalow he had just won as first prize in a local newspaper contest. He was grateful for his good fortune, but then again, they say luck is where preparedness and opportunity meet.

In June of 1912, Albert D. ("Bert") Wismar was a married 29-year old, and the proud father of a newborn baby girl. He worked as an accountant at the Struthers Furnace company in their downtown Cleveland offices. By all accounts, Wismar was a hard worker, and he and his wife Sadie tried to save all they could, with an eye toward eventually buying a home of their own.

Wismar had moved to Cleveland from the family farm near Bowling Green, Ohio. The small town of Custar was the location his grandfather had chosen to buy land when he came to America from Germany in 1866. Bert's dad Fred was a teenager when the family arrived from the old country to farm in Ohio, and Bert was the fifth of Fred's ten children.

Uphill Both Ways

Bert was the only one of Fred Wismar's kids to pursue higher education, and to do it he had to regularly bicycle the 80 miles from Custar to Tri-State University in Angola, Indiana for his teacher training. After working as a teacher in Wood County for a couple years, Bert came to the big city around the turn of the century, and took up accounting, eventually working his way into a lead accounting position with the furnace company.

The family shared a double house on Preston Rd. in East Cleveland, but the baby meant they needed more room, and the couple talked often of their dream house, maybe even one "on the Heights". In what spare time he did have, Wismar was an avid participant in contests of all sorts. He and an uncle in Detroit engaged in a friendly competition, taking each other on in ventures like the "booklovers' contest" sponsored that year by The Cleveland News

Continue reading ""Joy Unrestrained" - A New Home on the Heights"
Posted by dan at 8:49 PM

June 12, 2011

The Tressel File

Since I started covering OSU sports for TheClevelandFan.com more than three years ago, writing about the Buckeyes (and pretty much all sports) on the blog has dried up almost completely. Once you crank out a couple thousand words about a game...or about a scandal...over there...and say anything else that's left to say at the TCF message boards...the urge to say what you think is pretty much sated.

Genuinely curious and sincere friends and acquaintances of mine who know I cover the Buckeyes will ask what I think about the ongoing turmoil in Columbus, and I always have to resist the urge to say "go read the 12,000 words I've written about it over the last three months and then if you still have any questions, come talk to me". And that's mostly because I can't do justice to the issue in a 2-minute conversation, (even though I suspect what they want is the 2-minute version)

What I've been missing to this point is one link I can send to people who really want to read what I've written on the subject without sifting through links at my TCF archive to find what they want...and now I'll have one. Here's a summary of my related TCF articles since December when the players' violations were disclosed...most recent first...

(Updated 6/18) - Buckeye Leaves - 6/18 - How heavy will The Hammer be when it finally falls on OSU?

Buckeye Leaves - 6/11/11 - Fickell in, Pryor gone, and questions about who'll be coaching the offense.

OSU: Reaching For the Bottom - 6/4/11 - Tressel resigns and OSU fans wait to bottom out.

Buckeye Leaves - 5/28/11 - on the undisguised glee of the national media, and my errant prediction, two days before the resignation, that Tressel will fight on.

Buckeye Leaves - 5/1/11 - after the NCAA "notice of allegations" went public and the media feeding frenzy got restarted.

Buckeye Leaves 4/9/11
- thoughts on the impact of Tressel's 5-game suspension.

The Tainting of Tressel - 3/10/11 - my first article following the OSU press conference...contains links at the end to other reaction from various writers and pundits.

Sugar Bowl Preview - 1/4/11 - first coverage of the Tat5 player suspensions.

Continue reading "The Tressel File"
Posted by dan at 11:16 AM


I'm feeling the urge to fire up this blog after keeping it in cyber-mothballs for about nine months. That's far and away the longest stretch of inactivity in its eight-year existence, and it's explainable by some combination of the laws of motion (once at rest, it tends to stay at rest), procrastination, laziness, Twitter-addiction, and perhaps frustration with writing it for no one. In any event, I'm going to get back to it as an outlet for taking note of things I find important, funny, outrageous or interesting. Feel free to join in with the spambots in the comments if you like.

Posted by dan at 10:49 AM

December 6, 2010

The Fall of Bobby Lowder

My article on Bobby Lowder and Auburn athletics has been up just over 24 hours, and it's already one of the most widely read pieces ever at TheClevelandFan.com...

...and counting. We assume what we're experiencing is a Twitter-lanche.

UPDATE 12/9: Allen Barra quotes yours truly, and plugs TCF in his Wall Street Journal article today. My fifteen minutes counting down....

A week after the original article, I address the feedback: Reaction on Lowder and Auburn

Another follow-up piece: Auburn Revisited - 2/20/11

Update 5/26/14: The links to the Terry Bowden interview with journalists Paul Davis and Randy Kennedy in two of the articles above are broken. Another transcript of that interview can be seen here.

Posted by dan at 1:01 AM

September 21, 2010

Nobody Wants To Hear About It

(...and what better place for nobody to hear about it than right here at this blog....)

The New Slavery: Sex Trafficking - Hudson New York

The above link is to the transcript of a truly moving speech given by Emma Thompson in New York this June on the ongoing global catastrophe that is human sex-trafficking. Longish, but hard to excerpt....please do RTWT.

More here, here, and here on Thompson and the Journey exhibit.

Posted by dan at 7:42 PM

September 5, 2010

Remembering the Good Times

Iowahawk - Barack, Can We Talk?

Barack, can we, uh, talk for a few minutes?

Oh, nothing. It's just that it just seems we haven't had a chance to talk for a while. I mean, I know we've both been busy for the past year or so. You with your fundraisers and golfing and stuff, and me with all those appointments at the unemployment office. But you know I think it's important in a relationship like ours to keep the lines of communication open.

So anyway, I've been think that... look, this is really hard. God. Do you remember when we met at that big party in Denver back in 08? I mean when I saw you across that crowded convention floor, it was like, Oh My God. I don't think I ever saw anything like you before. I was on the rebound from a bad relationship and you were so tall and articulate and, well hot. And then I couldn't believe that of all the democracies in the room you picked me out.!

Read it all...but remember...nostalgia is not what it used to be.

Posted by dan at 8:57 PM

August 23, 2010

Beyond Parody

From the New York Times editorial on the investigation of Tom Delay:

Mr. DeLay, the Texas Republican who had been the House majority leader, crowed that he had been "found innocent." But many of Mr. DeLay's actions remain legal only because lawmakers have chosen not to criminalize them.

Had those lawmakers known in advance what actions Delay would take, they could have passed laws criminalizing them. Think ahead a little bit next time, Democrats.

UPDATE: Taranto:

By the same logic, the New York Times editorialists are not in the dock only because "criminal stupidity" is a figure of speech and not an actual law.
Posted by dan at 1:22 PM

July 19, 2010

Covering Their Fannie

Jim Geraghty, from Friday's Morning Jolt newsletter...

The fundamental problem with the [financial reform] legislation is that it doesn't address...the underlying problems with the mortgage market. It was the mortgage bubble, instigated by liberal social justice demands placed on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which caused the crisis, not a failure of securities rules and regulations. No mortgage market problems, no mortgage-backed securities problems; no mortgage-backed securities problems, no financial crisis. One of the greatest scams ever is the success of Democrats in distancing their mortgage policies from the financial crisis, and portraying the crisis as simply a matter of Wall Street greed and lack of regulation. . . . Reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac never is going to happen unless Democrats have no other choice. Not at least as long as Barack Obama is President or Democrats control all or part of Congress. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are off limits for Democrats, just as they were when the Bush administration warned of problems.

This was not a problem caused exclusively by one political party, but the ""mess we inherited" rhetoric by the White House necessitates reminding people that the Bush administration did warn of problems...and they did propose reforms...which were shot down and the need for them dismissed by Sens. Frank and Dodd...and as you can see here...

UPDATE 8/23: With an election looming, Barney Frank sees the light.

UPDATE 8/24: The Obama administration fesses up about who their HAMP program was designed to help.

Posted by dan at 2:33 PM

Who's Unserious?

In the course of dismissing Mitt Romney as a viable GOP candidate for 2012, Dr. Zero articulates nicely my biggest concern about Republicans retaking political power...that they won't have the political courage to do what needs to be done...

Serious Human Beings

This election will not be fought over the fine details of a few specific pieces of legislation. It will not be a contest to find someone who can escort an unpopular Barack Obama from the White House, then trot back inside and continue shoveling trillions of dollars into the deficit furnace. We don’t need a national CPA to provide a lecture on deficit reduction during his inauguration, then return for a State of the Union speech in which he explains spending cuts are pretty much impossible, while forklifts roll in with massive new tax packages. We have no use for someone who thinks ObamaCare is an awesome machine that just needs a new transmission and some mag wheels to reach its potential.

We are about to conduct an election about the very philosophy of our government. It is our last chance to avoid the Great Crash which Obama has brought to our doorsteps… but which would have lurked twenty or thirty years in the future even without him. The Obama presidency has begun a fundamental transformation of the relationship between Americans and their government. The groundwork for this transformation was laid over many years, by politicians from both parties. Government bloat has accumulated for decades. The State isn’t really changing all that much under Barack Obama. It’s working to change us.

To reverse this process, we must reach farther back than the administrations of George Bush or Bill Clinton. We are being crushed by engines of regulation, taxation, and corruption that were designed in the first decades of the last century. We’re approaching the end of the story that began during the New Deal. It won’t be good enough to merely rewind the tape a few years. Even such a half-hearted measure, simply returning us to where George Bush left us, would be the most spectacular reduction of State power in our entire history… and it wouldn’t be good enough.

Posted by dan at 2:30 PM