Tuesday, September 17, 2002

They Must be the Same

Lowell Ponte’s “The Greening of McKinney” in today’s FrontPage is a truly bizarre document that works primarily as an expression Ponte’s dislike for anyone in the Democratic Party or further left and his inability to distinguish between people in that very broad category.

It begins with the usual Cynthia McKinney bashing. I don’t agree with all of it but, for the most part, critics stick to the facts about her record and don’t engage in wild conspiracy theories. Ponte, however, does go into that terrain.

In an attempt to illustrate an alliance between the Green Party and McKinney, Ponte writes:

    …her [McKinney] wacky Left radicalism and position on the executive board of the congressional “Progressive (i.e., socialist) Caucus” (honored here on the website of the Democratic Socialists of America) brought “more than 50 Green Party activists from across the nation…to Georgia,” reported Associated Press, “to help McKinney in the final days of her primary campaign.”

There appears to be a missing word or two but the AP story Ponte links to doesn’t say that McKinney brought in Green Party activists. Rather it just says they came to campaign for McKinney, making it unclear if McKinney knew about their party affiliation at all or if it was a coordinated effort. Maybe the congresswoman knew and maybe it was an organized effort but the evidence is not presented by Ponte.

Probably unaware of his lack of understanding of the article, Ponte uses it as the basis for the following revelation:

    Reading this AP story, I suddenly felt stunned at the obvious truth I had so long overlooked about the real nature of the Green Party.

    Who was its Presidential candidate in 2000? He was Ralph Nader, who beneath his anti-capitalist political costume is a proud Arab-American of Lebanese ancestry.

Say what you will about Nader and his 2000 presidential campaign but this passage is very strange and does not mesh with the facts.

What exactly is Nader’s “anti-capitalist political costume”? The most logical explanation is that Ponte doesn’t believe Nader actually believes in the positions he has taken over the last 40 or so years but Ponte provides no reason to believe this.

Nader does take pride in his Arab ancestry but he does not make a very big deal out of in his public profile nor does it appear to have greatly influenced his politics, as this excerpt from an interview conducted by David Barsamian shows:

    DB: Few people know of your Arab heritage. Your parents were born in Lebanon. You rarely mention this. I was wondering how that background influenced you.

    RN: It was a very civically responsible upbringing. My parents said to the children, The other side of freedom is civic responsibility. My father said that when he sailed past the Statue of Liberty. He took it seriously. So we were always encouraged to participate and try to improve our community and not be passive onlookers or bystanders. Our parents would take us to town meetings in my hometown, which were often pretty robust displays of discussion between the citizenry and the selectmen and mayor. I think it was also a time when children had some solitude. They weren't glued to video games and television thirty or forty hours a week. We played in the backyard instead of sitting on a couch gaining weight, getting out of shape, munching potato chips and watching some violent cartoon show.

    DB: What about the heritage of Arab culture?

    RN: We grew up learning the language. The proverbs were always a part of encouragement and admonition in the household. It was a very nurturing type of cultural upbringing.

If we know that Nader is takes pride in his heritage then it can be safely assumed that his comments about that heritage's effect on him are accurate.

Most importantly, Ponte implies that Nader’s ancestry reveals something inherent about Nader and/or the “nature” of the Green Party. Yet Ponte never says what that is. No doubt many people would read that passage and conclude Ponte is racist. (I’m not sure if that is the correct assessment or not because it is unclear to me what Ponte is getting at.)

Ponte goes on to write:

    What is the color green? Yes, it is the color of trees — except as we head into autumn — and is the symbolic color camouflaging the watermelon-red-inside-green-outside environmental movement.

    But the flags of Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim nations are also mostly or at least partly green. Why? Because green is the symbolic color of the Prophet Muhammad, the legendary color of the cloak he wore, as well as the color of Muslim heaven envisioned as a lush oasis amid desert sands.

    And now the Greens are courting Cynthia McKinney, strange bedfellow with a proven family history of hating Jews and prostituting her political office to Muslim radicals willing to heap lots of green upon her.

    Is this mere coincidence? Are the Greens willing to embrace anyone or any group that both hates America and is willing to provide millions in cash to finance this party’s political ambitions?

    Are the Greens really mere Gaia-worshipping pagans, pantheists and latter-day Wiccans, as they are widely perceived? Or could this party have secret, or even not-so-secret, alliances with radical Arabs, Islamists and the Muslim faith?

Leaving aside the issue of the Green Party’s religious preference or lack thereof, the Green Party's hedging on whether it is pro-capitalist or not and the matter how a political party could form an alliance with a religious faith, Ponte seems unable to grasp that many people –Democrats, Greens and others- do not see McKinney the same way he does. Many of her supporters no doubt do not believe that she is a beholden to “radical Arabs, Islamists and the Muslim faith.” Rather they see her as a strong woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and criticize the powerful. Ponte doesn’t have to agree with this assessment to not recognize that it exists if only in the minds of evil idiots.

Ponte goes on to say that he’s happy Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election because:

    Imagine what might have happened if this Gorebot had been Commander-in-Chief on September 11, 2001, as an ally of Ralph Nader and fellow “Progressive” Democrats like Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. Thank God Ralph Nader ran for President in 2000.

Gore and Nader are allies? When exactly did this alliance form?

And for the record, I am unsure how Gore would have reacted to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. I find it perfectly plausible that he would have reacted just the same as Bush did and would like to know how Ponte thinks he would have reacted.

Ponte also writes:

    For the record, I hope Cynthia McKinney becomes the Green Party’s Presidential candidate in 2004. This would educate millions of idealistic young Americans as to the real nature and agenda of this extremist political party. And it would siphon votes away from the Democratic Party’s candidate who will be pretending to be more centrist than McKinney.

Yep, everybody knows that the Democratic nominee will be “pretending” to not have the same positions as McKinney because all Democrats are the same or something.

In another section, Ponte writes:

    What remains to be seen is how many African-Americans, women, and principled Leftists the McKinney’s [Cynthia and her father Bill] can also inspire to leave the Democratic Party, the traditional party of the slave owners, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow, Bull Connor and today’s most racist politicians.

Given all else that Ponte believes about McKinney, it is bit strange to think he sees anybody who is “principled” as following McKinney. And how does this jive with his hope that McKinney as the Green’s nominee will “educate millions of idealistic young Americans as to the real nature and agenda of this extremist political party”?

There aren’t any logical answers to these questions because, as this article indicates, Ponte doesn’t seem to recognize any differences amongst Democrats or between Democrats and those to their left. Sure Nader repeatedly bashed Gore and the Democratic Party, but if Gore had been elected Nader would have been in the cabinet. Yes many Democrats preferred another candidate to McKinney but in two years they will nominate someone who has the exact same ideology as McKinney. The Green Party may have a very different platform than the Democratic Party but it doesn’t represent a different political movement.

There are of course many Democrats and leftists, not necessarily mutually exclusive groups, who view all Republicans and conservatives in the same way, that is they view them as being all the same. Whichever side it comes from, such reductionism is not an intelligent means of understanding politics. It leads to all sorts of conspiracy theories and will rarely, if ever, lead a person to understand those he or she disagrees with.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Support Unlimited War or Become a Traitor

    When your country is attacked there can be no such thing as an "anti-war" movement. Protesters against America's war on terror, are not peaceniks, they are America-haters and saboteurs, and they should be treated as such.

Horowitz then goes on to label Jessica Quindel, president of the Graduate Assembly at UC Berkeley, “a traitor of the heart” for merely acknowledging that Old Glory has become a symbol of U.S. military aggression to many people around the world and perhaps believing, although it isn’t clear from what Horowitz quotes of her, that they are right. Horowitz also names Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn as being traitors and says that these three and those like them “would aid and abet any enemy, [Osama] Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein -- it really doesn't matter -- before she would embrace her own country.”

The piece, entitled “Editorial: America Haters,” makes it very clear that Horowitz doesn’t view their as being any legitimate criticisms of U.S. foreign policy that question the use of force. Horowitz is clear that he isn’t saying such people should be censored but there is a problem with this statement that is at least as large.

By including Hussein –the Iraqi dictator who has not been shown to have any intentions of doing harm to the U.S. since at least 1993- in this list, Horowitz implies that the White House should have free reign to go to war with anybody that it wants and that questioning the merits of any military action amounts to treason. In other words, there should be no constraints on the power of President Bush –and his successors?- to make war.

Section 8 of the Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the exclusive authority “To declare war.” Horowitz has previously defended the U.S. Constitution but perhaps, much like the rights of criminal defendants, limits on Presidential war making are on aspect of the Constitution he wants to get rid of.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Frontpage Blog

Mr. Horowitz posted the following item this past Monday on his Frontpage Blog (3rd item down):

    If you want to measure the lack of security in this country as we face the terrorist threat, note that Sami Al-Arian, who on the evidence is a leader of Islamic Jihad and a professor at the University of Southern Florida is 1) a free man 2) a hero of the American left and 3) defended by the leading professional organization of "scholars" of the Middle East -- which is to say the people who train the best young minds of those Americans who have an interest in the Middle East and can provide us with intelligence about it.

As I am a member of the American left, I figured I should know about this supposed 'hero' of mine, a Mr. Sami Al-Arian. I consulted my wallet for my pocket sized, standard issue list of lefty heroes and found that nowhere between Atrios and Zappa could I find the gentleman in question. So it was off, once again, to Google where I found the information I was seeking.

Oh, it's that guy. I remember him from his television appearances after 9/11. But wait a minute, I seem to remember that I was cursing and throwing things at my television whenever he opened his mouth. I remember, in fact, that I thought he was perhaps one of the most idiotic people I had ever seen warm the seat of a television talkshow. So... Why does Mr. Horowitz believe him to be one of my heroes, and if Mr. Al-Arian is a leader of Islamic Jihad, why were the FBI not dragging him off the set instead of letting him chat with Bill Mahr?

Well, I followed quite a few of those Google links and found the answers to my questions.

First of all, as can be quite clearly understood from an article in Salon, Mr. Al-Arian is, in fact, not a leader of Islamic Jihad. FBI and INS investigations dating back to 1995 concluded that he was not so affiliated. He had raised money through a charity that sent funds to a branch of Hamas, but he did so before the 1996 law that made such transactions illegal. The Salon piece is a harsh indictment of the way in which the media, led by Bill O'Reilly, MSNBC's Steve Emerson, and a Florida DJ named Bubba the Love Sponge (yes, I'm serious) tried and convicted Mr. Al-Arian on the airwaves, and eventually exerted enough pressure on his employer to have him fired.

Let me reiterate that my personal feelings about Mr. Al-Arian are anything but kind and charitable. I despise the man and everything that he stands for. But to my knowledge, he has never done anything illegal during the more than 25 years he has been in the United States. The FBI and the INS seem to be of the same opinion. Last time I checked, being a dickhead wasn't against the law.

Sami Al-Arian is a militant Palestinian Nationalist, and was a tenured professor at the University of South Florida, but he is not a member of Islamic Jihad, much less a leader of that organization, and during his repellant appearances on talkshows he was always careful to repudiate the actions of the 9/11 terrorists. Mr. Horowitz, I assume, was posting based on information from the O'Reilly program, which would account for his error in identifying Mr. Al-Arian, but I should think that a simple Google search would be in order before calling someone a leader of a terrorist organization and suggesting that they should be imprisoned. It took me less than three minutes to get the correct information.

As to Mr. Horowitz's assertion that Sami Al-Arian is a hero of the American left, I was unable to find any evidence in support of this idea. Every defense of Mr. Al-Arian that I could find was based on the issues of academic freedom and First Amendment protections of free speech. Not a single article that I could find expressed support for his politics. Even the Socialist Worker Online based it's defense of Mr. Al-Arian on the First Amendment, and frankly, I would suggest that Mr. Horowitz has more in common with the SWO than any of the lefties I know.

Now that I know the facts, I defend Mr. Al-Arian's right to free speech just as I and many on the left defended the rights of the Skokie Nazis back in the 1980's. Would Mr. Horowitz have you believe that Hitler is a hero of the Left as well? Actually, by Mr. Horowitz's logic, David Duke should be regarded as a hero of the conservatives since some right-wing extremists regard him as such. Perhaps Mr. Horowitz has forgotten that the most important tests of free speech come when the speech in question is unpopular and offensive. Mr. Horowitz might also be reminded of the fact that since Mr. Al-Arian's speech is political, it is all the more important that it be protected.

It is certainly likely that Mr. Al-Arian may be a hero to Americans who are also Palestinian Nationalists, but if that is the case, Mr. Horowitz should state it in those terms rather than taking a cheap shot at smearing the entire American Left. If Mr. Horowitz, as he seems to indicate, has evidence of Sami Al-Arian's guilt then he should back up his post with links to that information and inform the FBI. If he can point to any non-extremist on the left who holds Al-Arian up as a hero, then he should provide the links. That's what we do here on our blogs. We link to information to back up our posts. But, Mr. Horowitz is new to the whole blog thingy, so maybe he hasn't figured that part out.

With actual facts in hand, it would appear that rather than being a leader of Islamic Jihad, a terrorist in our midst, and a personal hero of mine, Sami Al-Arian is actually just an asshole with repellant political ideas and a big mouth. Kind of like someone else that comes to mind...

[Note to Mr. Horowitz: Brian Linse is my real name. My personal blog is AintNoBadDude, where I also post under my real name, and my e-mail is havona2-at-hotmail.com. I also live in LA and would be happy to buy you a cup of coffee and disagree with you in person. We met once in the mid-90's, and I found you to be an intelligent, interesting, and kind man. What happened? I've always been a prick, so there's nothing new here.]

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Babble On: Renaissance and Reformation

Horowitz maintains that he "never was in alliance with the racial right," and refers to "the attacks on me in American Renaissance by [radical paleocon and syndicated columnist] Samuel Francis and others." I concede this point to Horowitz; since my use of the term "allies" was the result of his cross-publishing articles and authors from AmRen, he can fairly say that doesn't rise to the level of an alliance. Since the facts have been stipulated to, terms are of little importance. Besides, Horowitz's idiosyncratic attitudes on race are indeed anathema to Euro-supremacists.
Insofar as Imperium is concerned, it's no more than a particularly turgid1 vulgar Spenglerian simplification, spread over some 600 pages, and dedicated "To the hero of the Second World War" (yes, him). Amongst other things, it calls blacks "primitive and childlike," and lambasts Jews as "[t]he most tragic example of Culture-parasitism for the West." Neo-Nazi and professional Holocaust denier Willis Carto's Noontide Press has published Imperium for forty years (the book was self-published by its author in 1948), as well as works by Jared Taylor, the aforementioned Samuel Francis, and numerous other contributers to the fount of intellectualist racism. The views of Taylor and AmRen's contributors are simply part of a long chain of hatred that far outstrips the equally absurd but far less dangerous Quebeckery of the left.
I'd advise Horowitz to stay away from Imperium, unless he is truly curious, or else has a high tolerance for pain. It's the literary equivalent of Speer's architecture: grand, gothic, sterile, malignant.
Finally, DH brings up the question of the "Wichita Massacre" article (parenthetically, I don't think my "hope" that DH would review and possibly retract the article rose to the level of a demand). Although I don't agree with the article as published in FrontPage, it is the ten paragraphs excised from that version (or never submitted in the first place), but printed in AmRen that truly reveal the article as an exercise in the virulent and twisted logic of racism. (The following paragraphs are taken in part from an earlier post on the subject.)
First, Webster attacks Christianity, intimating that it essentially emasculated the "five young whites" so they would not fight back against a black aggressor:
To what extent does this turn-the-other-cheek mentality [of Christianity] explain why five whites failed to fight back against two attackers? Three of the whites were young men, surely capable of serious resistance, and there must have been several opportunities for it. ... Why ... did five young whites ... kneel obediently in the snow to be shot one by one? ... [H]ad they simply been denatured by the anti-white zeitgeist of guilt that implies whites deserve whatever they get? One does not wish to think ill of the dead, but these three men showed little manliness.
The article ends with an attempt to herd its readers into one of two conclusions: if the murders weren't hate crimes, then they were evidence that blacks are "so depraved they can commit on a whim" the most terrible crimes. They are, it is implied, barely human at all.
It is natural for whites to assume that behavior so vicious and odious must have been driven by consuming hatred. Most whites cannot imagine treating another human being the way the Carrs treated their victims unless there were some terrible underlying animus. ... However, it may be a mistake to project white sensibilities onto blacks. ... It may ... be that the Carr brothers are incapable of analyzing and describing their own motives with enough intelligence to make it possible for others to judge them. The angry whites do not seem to realize that what happened on the night of Dec. 14 may be only a particularly brutal expression of the savagery that finds daily expression in American crime statistics and African tribal wars. It may very well be that the Carr brothers are so depraved they can commit on a whim brutalities that whites can imagine only as the culmination of the most profound and sustained hatred.
Philosophies do have power. and concepts consequences; as they enter and influence (small-c) culture, they become part of the toolbox with which we interpret the world. The philosophy described by those few paragraphs is far more than anything written by a Charles Taylor or Susan Wolf, a menace to the American project. I would hope that we see Horowitz continue to defend that grand experiment in liberty from racism and injustice with the same vigor he brings to his assaults on the far left.

The Dishonest and Dissembling David Horowitz

David Horowitz and his minions are foaming at the mouth about the alleged anonymity of the contributors to this site.

This is sheer dishonesty on his part.

For the record, the contributors to this site -- in Horowitz's words, the ‘post-modern commies,’ the ‘brain[-]dead leftists,’ and the ‘post-modern nitwits of the extreme leftist persuasion’ -- include:

James M. Capozzola from The Rittenhouse Review started this site (as Horowitz has known from the very beginning) and posts here as “Horowitz Watch.” A quick trip over to his site would make that abundantly clear.

Scoobie Davis, who publishes here and at his own site under his own name. Surely Horowitz is familiar with this name.

Yuval Rubinstein, who publishes here and at Groupthink Central under his own name.

Adam Magazine, who publishes here and at his own web site using his own name.

Micah Holmquist, who publishes here and at his own web site using his own name.

That leaves the Watchful Babbler who, for reasons known only to him, has chosen to publish anonymously here and at his site, Doxagora. We respect his decision.

Links to all of the contributors’ web sites are provided on the home page here.

So what’s Horowitz so rabid about?

Babble On: The side of the angels

I am not, it must be admitted, entirely displeased to see that the uneasy alliance between David Horowitz and the racist American Renaissance seems to have come to an end, as evinced by a recent article on the FrontPage site. Horowitz critically engages the AmRen philosophy, contending that it is "culture that is crucial in shaping the American identity, not an ethnicity or race. ... America is ... a multi-ethnic and multi-racial experiment, and Jared Taylor and the Euro-racialists are wrong in contending that it is not." [Emphasis original]

While I applaud Horowitz's volte-face on those I called his "racist, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic allies" who "dra[w] conclusions that should appall Horowitz as much as anyone," this wouldn't be much of a HorowitzWatch article if I didn't take issue with some part of his article, so ....

In the article, Horowitz again brings out the particular devil of his general theory, the "'multicultural' left" hard at work "deconstruct[ing] ... America’s national identity and culture, [and] the American narrative of inclusion and freedom." What is particularly striking is not that the far left rears its head again -- Horowitz has a penchant for elevating radical pedagogues like Gary Leupp and his CRS cronies into a secret cabal of vast if unspecified powers -- but that he somehow comes to the conclusion that paleocon racism is derived from the left, and that Jared Taylor (of AmRen) and his fellow-believers "have fallen into a trap set by the ... left."

Without spending too much time on this topic (it now being 1 AM here in Texas), while Horowitz is certainly correct that the extreme paleocon narrative of America is "the racist nightmare of leftist fantasy" in which "[r]acism ... is just the American creed," it's stretching a point too far to suggest that Taylor gave in to leftist pressure, when his creed predates multiculturalism and its defenders by decades, if not centuries. The bible of American intellectualist racists is Imperium, published by the neo-fascist Noontide Press and formerly1 sold by the magazine. Imperium, itself only a synthesis of racist ideas long in corrupt bloom by the time Francis Parker Yockey began writing it, was published well before Brown v. Board was a file in Thurgood Marshall's attache, and at far remove from the development of radical culturalism that marks the far left today. Were one to judge solely by the timeline of development, one would be forced to the opposite conclusion: that leftist multiculturalism is a reactionary attempt to absorb the worst of white supremacist beliefs regarding America, much as the development of negritude amongst Francophone Africans was no more than an attempt to take the worst colonial stereotypes and turn them into a sheaf of quite dubious "virtues."

Having provided that particular caveat, Horowitz's attack on the AmRen racists is a good move, and one that contains some rather eloquent defenses of American pluralism. (Should you trust Horowitz less than I do, you'll find them to be sugar coatings for the poisonous social policy he intends to force-feed America. Your mileage, I suppose, may vary.)

What I would hope to see is one further step: a repudiation of the "Wichita Massacre" article, not so much for its subject, but for the fact that its entire line of argument is designed to force the reader into a corner from which the only escape is assent, agreeing that either the attack was a hate crime, or else that blacks are no more than subhuman. This intent on the part of the writer suggests that either the entire article should be at the least carefully reviewed.


1. Perhaps currently. Far-right websites and message boards cite AmRen as a source for Imperium, but I have been unable to verify that they currently sell the book.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Babble On: Nitwit in Hiding

"The first clue to the callous and shallow nitwit psyche is their reluctance to use real names.  These courageous chest-thumping paragons of character don’t have the strength of conviction, let alone reason, for honest political discourse." So reads a letter sent to David Horowitz, and reprinted in today's blog. Asks Horowitz, "How about it, HorowitzWatch bloggers. Ready to come out of hiding?"
As the only pseudonymous contributor, I suppose it's incumbent upon me to reply.
Blogs have revived a once-great practice of Western political discourse: the anon- or pseudonymous tract. For centuries, religious, philosophical, economic and political debates centered around anonymous pamphlets that served as incubators for fully-developed ideas. Such pamphlets sparked off revolutions both terrible -- anarchism, Marxism, even the more violent uprisings in Reformation-era Germany -- and great, including America's.
Anonymous pamphlets held a critical place in the development of the United States, from Ben Franklin's innumerable tracts (which led to the creation of the University of Pennsylvania and the adoption of paper currency in Philadelphia, amongst other things.) The most famous anonymous publishers in American history must surely be those of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, "Publius," and "Brutus," respectively. Of course, we know the identities of the former's authors, and are pretty sure we know the writer of the latter, but the main purpose -- to focus attention on the arguments, not the authors -- remains intact.
I certainly can't hope to match the above authors, but I appreciate their methods, and can only hope that we'll see a greater attention to close argumentation, not character assassination, in blogdom (or, as only I prefer to call it, the "doxagora"), especially inasmuch as the mass media, with its menagerie of coma-inducing leftists and trauma-inflicting conservatives, has failed to do so. Indeed, the best we seem to do is the typical "two-head" piece consisting of "representative figures" from "both sides" of an issue; hardly a substitute for real and sustained debate. Since, like most people, I don't maintain a weblog for personal aggrandizement, there's no reason not to adopt a (hopefully memorable) nom de blog for public use.
Of course, I suppose I could always call myself "TRB."

A Blast From the Past How did I miss this?

Recently I found myself browsing through the poorly tended web site of the Richard Mellon Scaife-funded Center for the Study of Popular Culture, an apparently nearly defunct outfit operated by David Horowitz and Peter Collier, albeit one that still maintains a posh West Los Angeles address, and possibly even office space, for everyone’s favorite sandals-and-suit-clad red-diaper baby.

During my visit I ran across a notice advertising a past event sponsored by something called the “Wednesday Morning Club” that I am very sorry to have missed: “Political Satire and the Clinton White House.”

According to the alluring invitation for the event, “Political satire and the Clinton White House is the subject of our next luncheon featuring two powerful [sic] Washington insiders from opposite sides of the political spectrum, former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers, and conservative [sic] columnist Arianna Huffington, author of a new book, Greetings from the Lincoln Bedroom.”

Sounds captivating, doesn’t it?

But you haven’t heard the whole story.

The real draw for the event was neither Myers nor Huffington, but TONY DANZA!

“We are pleased to announce that Tony Danza will be moderating the event. Join us for a lively discussion and book signing -- our last event before the summer break,” Horowitz’s invitation breathlessly brags.

Yes, Tony Danza! Yes, that Tony Danza! The savvy political satirist and former star of “Who’s the Boss?” and “Taxi.”

The event was held on Thursday, May 21, 1998, and began at 11:00 a.m. Tickets for the luncheon were priced at $50, with an extra $30 required for the one-half hour “photo reception,” presumably with Danza and Horowitz hugging and mugging for the camera.

Location? The very heart of the “real” America, of course: The Sunset Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills, California.

If anyone has a transcript of this historic event, please let me know.

Babble On: The Ten Percent Solution

It's worth spending a few minutes to consider Horowitz's comments on the economic aspects of slavery, since they appear to have touched off a minor firestorm, both from Scoobie Davis' post below, and Horowitz's response.

I should begin by saying that I don't believe Horowitz is a racist, unless you care to use the expanded CRS definition of racism. I also find no small proportion of his work to be thoughtful and well-done (as well as congenial to my political prejudices, so you may take my opinion with a copious helping of salt). However, he is ideologically, or at least emotionally, blinkered on many issues of race, which can lead, on one hand, to terrible misalliances or, on the other, to a tendency to demonize his opponents, no matter their sincerity (his attacks on Randall Robinson being one example). What made his statement on Crossfire so distasteful to many on the left is that it was offered with no context, no doubt misleading many into believing that Horowitz, as he put it sardonically, thinks "slaves should be grateful because food, housing and clothing were provided to them." I don't doubt that Crossfire is not the place to provide nuance or complexity, but Horowitz tried to condense two and a half pages of argument -- already rather condensed -- from his book Uncivil Wars into a single sound bite; an ill-advised tactic.

As for his response: leaving aside for the moment Horowitz's characterization of the contributors here as "post-modern nitwits" (though I don't find any here to be the latter, and neither Scoobie Davis nor the Rittenhouse Review are in any way the former), I should firstly defend the provenance of the quote. It was taken from the CNN transcript of the Crossfire Mr. Horowitz appeared on, and there is no question that Mr. Davis read the entire exchange between Horowitz and reparations advocate Ron Walters. The quote in question reads,

    [T]wo economotricians[sic] won the Nobel Prize for studying slavery and they came up with the figure of 10 percent of a slave's wages were unpaid labor because the slave, after all, got food, clothing and housing.

Horowitz is referring to Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman, who wrote Time on the Cross, a controversial study of slavery that concluded that the "peculiar institution" was not, as popularly asserted, an economically moribund tradition, but a very efficient (albeit morally repugnant) enterprise.1

In their afterword to the 1989 edition of the book, Fogel and Engerman said they regretted not providing more than a pro forma moral indictment of slavery in TotC, choosing instead to emphasize the purely econometric aspects of their analyses. Horowitz would do well to heed those words; when we seek to change the frame of a debate, it is incumbent upon us to where our views, and those of our intellectual opponents, lie on the new ground. Else, we leave ourselves open to charges of mendacious ommission.

Fogel and Engerman concluded that ~12% of an enslaved American's "wages" (one of the more controversial aspects of Fogel and Engerman's analysis, as noted by such critics as economist Richard Sutch, is the nature and extent of the underlying data used) were expropriated by the slaveholder, with most of the remainder going to subsidize the costs of slave management, and a small percentage appearing as cash or kind payments to slaves (such as artisans). This amounted to an exploitation of around $750 (2002 dollars) over the life of an individual, on a lifetime "income" of around $9000. Fogel and Engerman's analysis and conclusions are far from universally accepted by their peers, but it does no harm in this context to accept them as settled.

When Horowitz quotes TotC but maintains that "slavery was not a very profitable economic system (this is one of the reasons it is no longer with us)," he is either genuinely mistaken, or is being disingenuous. Pace Horowitz, a 10% margin above the cost of free labor -- especially since, as Fogel and Engerman show, slaves were hard workers with an efficiency well above that of small tenant farmers -- is a huge competitive advantage, large enough to keep the moral nightmare of slavery alive well into the life of a nation that was founded on principles utterly opposed to that practice.2

According to the 1860 census, there were approximately four million enslaved Americans. At an average lifetime exploitation of $36 (1860 dollars) per slave, that comes to a total expropriation of $144,000,000, or $2,727,630,589 in current dollars. Of course, there were far more than four million Americans who lived in slavery, and not all of them were enslaved for all their lives due to Emancipation, but this suggests that the amount of money under discussion is not, as Horowitz seems to suggest, a trivial value. An Economist article from earlier this year provided these numbers:

    Robert Fogel ... estimates that from 1780 to 1860 slaves in America were paid (in food, shelter and other basics) about 10 percent less than free workers got for similar jobs. He calculates that slaves' expropriated wages would have totalled US$24 billion in 1860. Compound interest over 142 years at an interest rate of three percent a year would take the total bill for reparations to US$1.6 trillion. At six percent, the bill would balloon to US$97 trillion, nine times the size of the US economy.

There are many reasons to assume that these figures should be amended over the long term -- for example, roughly half of the value of Southern investments was lost during and immediately after the Civil War -- but no matter how we slice the numbers, there are some very large dollar values at stake. As well, the ~12% figure doesn't take into account other losses, such as the potential economic loss of income suffered by individuals who are unable to receive training, choose their occupation, change locations, or bargain for their wages.

It's not my intention to debate reparations in this space and, were I to do so, I would be arguing against N'COBRA, not Horowitz, but there are certainly some serious objections to be raised against his selective use of TotC.

During Crossfire, Horowitz also went on to say the following:

    Now, you and I ... pay -- 30 percent or 40 percent of our labor is unpaid because it goes to the federal government.

This argument was tendentious and unconvincing when Fogel and Engerman first advanced it, and they did so with qualifications that Horowitz did not provide. Such a statement implies a moral equivalence between the economic exploitation of slavery and the tax system of a free nation. There are two primary arguments against this statement.

First, taxes are not appropriated for personal use by government agents, but for provision of public services, including, of course, the common defense. The ~12% expropriation over free wages suffered by enslaved Americans went to subsidize the European consumers of Southern cotton and tobacco and, to a lesser degree, the lifestyles of slaveowning planters.3

Second, though none of us enjoy paying taxes, and virtually everyone disagrees with at least some small part of government expenditures, the point remains that, as a democracy, we have recourse to the polls to lower our taxes and change our national spending. Taxes are, at a very high level, a voluntary enterprise. Slaves had no such freedom, of course, and one doubts that anyone would take slavery with a 10% expropriation over freedom with a 30% tax rate.


Footnotes:
1 Fogel was awarded the Nobel Prize with Douglass North; Engerman is not a Nobel laureate. This does not in any way minimize Engerman's contributions; he is a respected and prolific member of the Academy, most recently co-editing a sourcebook on slavery for Oxford University Press.
2 This is in stark contrast to the British slave system in the West Indies, which was an economic failure by the British emancipation in the 1830s. The British system suffered from extremely high slave mortality rates, necessitating constant importation of slaves from Africa (unlike the American system -- most enslaved Americans were, in fact, Americans, not forced immigrants). The production of sugar cane in the Louisiana Purchase states also drove down the import of sugar, molassas, and rum from the islands, crippling the plantations' export revenues. Slaveholders and their investors were losing money, and emancipation was seen as a way to recoup some of their investments.

One point that I have never seen brought up by either side in the reparations debate is that America, unlike other nations, did not compensate slaveowners for their freed "property." Indeed, had the debate in America gone the way it had in Britain, it's possible that Emancipation would have been held a violation of the takings clause.
3 The Southern commodities trade was a competitive business, and any lowered margin due to slavery primarily went to benefit the consumers. In a sense, the long history of slavery was a coordination game; no slaveowner could free his slaves without suffering lowered competitiveness in the marketplace but, had emancipation been carried out peacefully, the slaveholders, as primary providers of their products to the world, would have suffered a much slighter dislocation.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Recent Evidence that Horowitz Has Lost It

David Horowitz is getting weirder and weirder. First, on the August 19th Crossfire, DH said, “Ten percent of a slave’s wages were unpaid labor because the slave, after all, got food, clothing, and housing.” Ugh. Thanks to Jim Capozzola for alerting me to this.

I’m also flummoxed by the fact that DH would link to the recent profile of Ann Coulter in the New York Observer. The teaser line for the link is a quote by Coulter: "It is a good thing, not a bad thing, to be attacked by the enemy." The quotation actually starts with Coulter saying, “Excellent. Excellent. “ (In my mind’s eye, I see Coulter rubbing her hands together like Mr. Burns on The Simpsons while she said it).

Although the article is sympathetic to Coulter, it doesn’t make Coulter look good—namely because it uses Coulter’s own words. First, it has the already notorious quote: "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." This is a depraved, moronic statement. It’s one thing for a foo-foo babe from New Canaan to go native and develop militia chic, but when she expresses sympathy for the activities of racist criminals like Randy Weaver, the mass-murdering Branch Davidians, and McVeigh, it should raise serious questions to her advocates. As far as I know, it hasn’t.

As the Daily Howler notes, the author of the Observer piece, like many reviewers of Slander, has footnote fetish:

There are 780 footnotes in the back of Slander, and so far, Ms. Coulter said, only two minor, irrelevant errors have surfaced. "‘Do you realize what this means?’" she said she told her agent. "This means the rest of this book is true! This is scandalous!"

Well not so fast. I don’t know what two minor, irrelevant errors she’s referring to, but there are many errors, none of which are minor or irrelevant. I started fact checking and found several just in the first few pages (other criticisms of the book can be found on my web site between June and August). The Daily Howler found many others (click here, here, here, here, here, and here). Dr. Limerick has a good comprehensive list of over 100 errors in the book. In fact, a major newspaper interviewed me about Coulter’s lies; I’ll let you know when the article is published.

8/26 UPDATE: Here is the article.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Cleaning Up After Coulter . . . A Dirty Job, But Someone Has to Do It

Just a quick observation today.

One of David Horowitz’s most beloved commentators, Ann Coulter, who was asked to join FrontPage Magazine after she was fired from National Review Online, is out with a new column today.

At FrontPage Magazine, the column is awkwardly entitled, “Deploying the Marines for Social Uplift.”

There’s nothing particularly interesting about the article itself. It’s just the usual fare from Coulter, who seems to be engaged in a contest with fellow FrontPage Magazine contributor Camille Paglia that will determine who can write the most incoherent essays for fringe publications.

What’s interesting is that closer to home, at AnnCoulter.org, the very same article carries the even stranger headline, “Deploying [t]he Marines [f]or Gay Rights, Feminism [a]nd Peacekeeping.”

This title was chosen for reasons that are completely unclear, since nowhere in the article does Coulter refer to gays or feminism, or to using the military to advance the interests of gays or feminists of any stripe.

So did Coulter lose her train of thought? Perhaps one too many glasses of the white wine David Brock has informed us at times constitutes the entirety of her diet?

Did Horowitz, or whoever actually edits FrontPage Magazine notice this lapse and recast the headline so that it made just slightly more sense?

Or was Horowitz, who has emphasized in the past how “comfortable” he is with gays, embarrassed by Coulter’s brazen attempt to draw in readers with a swipe at two of the far right’s favorite targets?

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Comrade Horowitz and his Right-Wing Fellow-Travellers Channel the Spirit of Mickey Kaus...and Fail Miserably

A few days ago, DH launched into a predictable tirade against the NY Times:

    The irresponsibility of the Times can be traced to events that happened a generation ago during the war in Vietnam. In particular, its editors should have been found guilty of violating the Espionage Act when they leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Nixon Administration. Instead they and their political allies succeeded in toppling a President in the midst of not one, but two wars (Vietnam and the Middle East) with deadly consequences for millions of people.

Now, aside from the sheer absurdity of Horowitz accusing the NYT of violating the Espionage Act (if you don't already realize the hilarious irony of this charge, just look here and here), let's focus on this issue. Indeed, Comrade Dave has been on the front lines of the reactionary right's campaign to portray the NYT as deliberately working to sabatoge the Bush administration's plans for invading Iraq. Fortunately, Josh Marshall has just provided a succinct demolition of this canard:

    Now another point: when I talked with Kurtz yesterday for his article I said I thought the Times was doing a good thing by reporting on all the downsides of going to war with Iraq. Frankly, no one else is. Tucker Carlson got himself in an embarrassing moment yesterday on Crossfire when he got out-argued by the editor of the Village Voice on this Kissinger question. But recently he's been saying that elected Democrats have abdicated their responsibility by basically sitting out the debate over Iraq policy. And on this I'm sad to say I think he's right. By and large they're just not saying anything. That's too bad. Because the Democrats could help themselves and their country by outlining a policy for regime change which is not as amateurish and ill-considered as the one the administration is currently pursuing.

Although I disagree with Marshall on this last sentence, I think his overall point is valid. How does pointing out the (very real) dangers of invading Iraq constitute "bias"? How is accurately reflecting the opinion of Henry Kissinger, who clearly opposes an imminent regime change in Iraq, an example of "partisan journalism"? Again, here's Marshall:

    If you read the Kissinger piece and the Times article and you understand the terms of the debate you cannot help but conclude that the Times characterization of what Kissinger said is vastly more accurate than the characterization being peddled by conservative Iraq-hawks. In the Iraq debate, the attitude toward inspections is fundamental. The administration line -- emanating from the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President -- doesn't believe in them at all. Neither tactically nor strategically. The fact that Kissinger says we should start by "propos[ing] a stringent inspection system that achieves substantial transparency of Iraqi institutions" makes him, by definition, a critic of administration policy on a fundamental point.

    What you have here is the fun-house episode in which Charles Krauthammer and others are tendentiously misconstruing what Kissinger said and then simultaneously falsely accusing Times writers of doing what he has in fact himself just done.

    At the end of the day, Kissinger dissents from Bush's policy while Krauthammer says he supports it. If there's a contest for distortions here Krauthammer wins easily.

If David the ex-Red and his right-wing comrades are going to convince the public that the New York Times is a nefarious propaganda organ for all the Fifth Column "Hussein apologists", they'll have to come up with better material than this tripe.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Dave's Deafening Silence...

    Throughout the past few weeks, a number of prominent conservatives have publicly voiced their opposition to an invasion of Iraq. Given Comrade Dave's predictable loathing for those on the left who oppose such an operation ("Hussein apologists" in Horowitz parlance), you would think that everyone's favorite unindicted traitor would express the same indignation against Richard Armitage, Brent Scowcroft, and Jack Kemp for holding the same position. That's exactly what one of Dave's ideological comrades, Bill Kristol, did in a recent editorial. Alas, Dave has been entirely silent on the issue. Perhaps Comrade Horowitz is trying to prove to his fellow Scaife-bankrolled fellow-travellers what a "team player" he is. On the other hand, maybe Dave simply hasn't been able to pay attention to the news, what with his hobnobbing with 43 and all. Whatever the case may be, Dave's steadfast devotion to the party line (trash liberals at every opportunity, speak no evil of fellow right-wingers) would make "Uncle Joe" Stalin himself proud. Right, Comrade?
    posted by Yuval Rubinstein / 8:59 PM

    In Bush Country, Nothing but a Potemkin Village

    David Horowitz was summoned to George W. Bush’s presence—and those of us who love to mock Horowitz were not disappointed. Horowitz’s tribute to Bush and his personal Potemkin village--Crawford, Texas—should be a gas not only to Horowitz-mockers like me but also to anyone who knows the straight dope on Bush. DH’s cloying praise is not as unintentionally funny as Peggy Noonan’s hagiographies, but his syrupy post reminds me of the western intellectuals who visited the early Soviet Union (and later Cuba and Nicaragua) and announced that they found Utopia (author Paul Hollander calls such people “political pilgrims”). In Crawford (Bush's elaborate prop), DH finds the common people, the volk, and their supposed representative, George W. Bush. Excuse me while I laugh.

    Here is what DH said about Crawford: “It's a fitting home for a President who likes to return, as he puts it, ‘to remind myself what the real world is like outside of Washington.’”

    Reality: Bush wouldn’t understand the real world if his life depended on it. The man’s entire biography consists of getting ahead through Daddykins’ connections. (Why isn’t the press asking about a possible quid pro quo?)

    Other howlers:

    DH speaks of Bush's “common touch and compassionate outreach”

    Give me a friggin’ break. It is true that Bush does a good cracker-barrel routine. This is probably due to his being able to practice it because of his not having to work in college (let’s just say that if Bush’s college career were a song, it would be “With a little help from my friends”).

    The following is a spectacular example of asskissing by Horowitz:

    It was a short down home speech and he broke its flow frequently for off-the-cuff jokes, which the crowd roundly enjoyed. But its combination of levity, warmth and moral seriousness showed why his popularity has stayed so high so many months after 9/11 -- higher than any president's in history including Roosevelt's after Pearl Harbor. The more Americans get to know this man, the deeper and broader his support will become.

    And what I thought was particularly funny was when the admitted traitor who is still subject to criminal prosecution got his chance to speak with the Usurper In Chief: “So what I said to him was this: ‘Your heart is where America is. Trust it and you'll be right.’ Which he knows anyway, and which is why we have trusted him with our fates.”

    Get real, David. The American people didn’t trust Bush. Not only did the other guy receive more votes but also the evidence shows that if the votes were properly counted—something that Bush used force to prevent--Bush would not be in the White House. This is the opposite of “where America is.” Because of this, I especially don’t trust Bush. He is not my President.

    Update on Friday’s post: Some people were amazed that Horowitz would be allowed to meet with Bush even though he is still subject to prosecution for crimes that he confessed he committed—in addition to Horowitz’s recent sucking up to a revolting white supremacist. People are wondering why the media hasn’t reported this. Your guess is as good as mine. I e-mailed several media outlets and received no responses. It’s up to someone else to step up and alert the mainstream media to this. Also, the Secret Service might want this information.