Dear Fellow Sea King…

allen-football.jpgI’m trying to figure out what’s going through Senator George Allen, Jr.’s mind — the Republican senator battling for re-election. 

What’s he trying to pull, denying he used racial epithets?  He knows he did it.  He’d be better off admitting it. He’ll have to eventually — but by then all his supporters who are working overtime claiming Allen is being “smeared” will realize he’s been hanging them out to dry.   

Do his campaign people really think they can convince voters this woman is lying?

Just six weeks before the congressional elections, Virginia’s incumbent senator, George Allen, is now facing more charges that he used racial slurs.

Pat Waring, 75, of Chesterton, Md., first brought her story to MSNBC when she contacted us in a direct phone call.  We then conducted a series of interviews.   Waring says that at a sports match in the late 1970’s, Allen repeatedly use the ‘n’ word to describe blacks.

“I just didn’t think in the late 70’s people would be so ugly and so overt about it and so public,” Waring said.

Waring says that in 1978, she and her then-husband, Robert Michael Schwartz, had just moved to Charlottesville, Va.  Friends from the time confirm that Schwartz was a Ph.d. candidate at the University of Virginia, an avid rugby player and the volunteer coach of the school’s rugby club team.

MSNBC has also confirmed Pat Waring worked in a doctor’s office and came to some of the rugby games.  Waring says there is one game, from either the fall of 1978 or the spring of 1979 that she will never forget.

“I heard to my left, the ‘n’ word, and I heard it again, and I looked around and heard it again,” she said.  “And there was this fellow sitting on the ground.  He was putting on red rugby shoes, it is seared in my brain, believe me. And he was kind of showing off I guess, but he was telling a story about something or other and in the story was a lot of ‘n’ words.  So, I got out of the bleacher and I went over and I said young man, I am the coach’s wife and if you don’t mind, would you please not use that word.  And he in essence told me to buzz off.”

Waring said when she learned the man using the slurs was George Allen, son of the Washington Redskins coach, she was “crestfallen.”

Republican cheerleaders are reacting to stories like this by calling them smears and throwing fits.  They raise questions about the timing of these accusations.  They claim his use of a Tunisian racial slur against a dark-skinned opposing campaign worker was purely coincidental, even though his mother was raised … in Tunisia!

Allen is doing them no favors by letting them defend him like this.  It happens to be true that, at least when he was young, George Allen, Jr. was a racist.  Or, to be extremely charitable, beyond what’s really reasonable, he was perfectly happy to stir up hatred for blacks by whites, and damn the consequences.

My story has been reported before, I think.  In 1969, I was 13 years old and a freshman at Palos Verdes High School.   One Friday morning in autumn, I arrived at school where the buses drop you off, and walked to my locker, a path that took me past the Multi-Purpose Room and then Senior Park, which has a bandstand at its western end. 

The walls of these structures and the rows of classrooms were white stucco.  Every wall was covered with black spray painted graffiti, well-known racial epithets blacks supposedly used to inflame whites back then, along with phrases like “Black Power,” and threats that “Whitey Will Die,” or words to that effect. 

As it happened, the PV Sea Kings varsity football team was in a conference with several teams from predominantly African-American schools, including Centenniel and Morningside.  I forget which one we were playing.  And as it happened, George Allen, Jr., the son of the popular, eccentric and hugely successful coach of the Los Angeles Rams, was our team’s quarterback.

The buzz around the school was that kids from the opposing school must’ve come onto campus overnight and sprayed this foul graffiti.  There was so much of it, it was overwhelming.  But I have to say, there was something bogus about the graffiti.  This was just a few months after the Manson family attacks, where the killers also left behind graffiti, in blood, that was supposed to suggest that blacks were responsible — which Manson hoped would trigger a race war.  But Manson’s graffiti seemed weirdly inauthentic — a white guy’s idea of what a black revolutionary would write.  So did this stuff.

So I was not terribly surprised when my first period class was interrupted by the principal with a special announcement that the other high school had nothing to do with the vandalism — our own students did it in a twisted attempt to inspire “school spirit.” The next voice we heard was George Allen Jr.’s, confessing that he was the guilty party. I think Allen was suspended for one game, and his family had to pay to clean up the spray paint. 

Now:  This happened.  Anyone who attended PV High in 1969, which is at least a thousand kids, witnessed it.  Allen, Jr. was the varsity quarterback.  His father was a celebrity.  This is not something you forget.  It seemed bizarre, especially because his father coached a team whose most famous players, Deacon Jones and Rosie Grier, were outspoken, politically involved African Americans.  And his son was a racist?

The stories that you’ve been reading lately about Allen, including the MSNBC story, take place only a few years after the incident at PV High.  Given what I witnessed, I think they are entirely credible.  Since Allen emerged as a political figure, I’ve been wondering whether there were other episodes like it, and apparently there were. As a public figure,  how would he deal with it, I wondered.   

And yet, here’s his campaign, in full denial mode:

Senator Allen’s campaign manager says this is all just another false accusation, and that it’s not true.

When asked how he knows it’s not true, the campaign manager simply said, “It’s not true.”

Hello? Hello?  


Clinton as a Tragic Figure

Like most political junkies nowadays, I knew about ex-President Clinton’s appearance on Fox News Sunday from what bloggers were saying about it before I ever got to see it for myself.

I don’t have all the links at hand anymore, but suffice to say it broke down very predictably along party/ideological lines. To leftists, it was all about Clinton “smacking down” Fox . One site thought Clinton’s assault on Fox was so devastating, Fox might edit those parts out — a remarkably inept bit of paranoid speculation, given that Fox’s real objective is to make money. On TV, conflict equals ratings. “If it bleeds, it leads.”

To conservatives, Clinton’s blowup, combined with his supporters’ misguided attempt to pressure Disney/ABC to pull “The Path to 9/11” miniseries off the air, meant it’s now open season to say what they’ve always wanted to say: The blood of 9/11 is on Clinton’s hands. Many right-wing bloggers patted themselves on the back for having held their tongues all these years (ha!), but said that the blame game is now fair game, since Clinton decided to make an issue of his culpability.

My view is a little different. When I finally saw the interview, my reaction was, “How remarkable that he’s held this inside him for so long.”

Both right and left agreed that his rant was an example of Clinton’s famous temper, his “purple-faced rage,” that aides saw frequently but the public saw rarely.

I didn’t see that much anger. I saw grief.

The key exchange, copied here from Fox’s transcript, was this:


CLINTON: No, no. I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him.

The CIA, which was run by George Tenet, that President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to, he said, “He did a good job setting up all these counterterrorism things.”

The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came there.

Now, if you want to criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: After the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden.

But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan, which we got after 9/11.

The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would’ve had to send a few hundred Special Forces in helicopters and refuel at night.

Even the 9/11 Commission didn’t do that. Now, the 9/11 Commission was a political document, too. All I’m asking is, anybody who wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book.

WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir?

CLINTON: No, because I didn’t get him.


CLINTON: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.

So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted.


Some of this is incoherent. Some of this has been challenged factually. But what remains is this almost plaintive, and undeniably honest, confession: “I tried and failed.”

Now, any chief executive realizes quickly after assuming office that for most of what you try to do, failure is the most likely outcome. You can only follow so many initiatives with the degree of attention required to ensure success. You are at the mercy of events that will throw you off track. Your subordinates are not uniformly competent, and even the best ones can have egos that poison their minds and lead to time-wasting, soul-sucking turf wars.

If you’re both very good and very lucky, you will get some of the big things right. Your most important accomplishments might be invisible, even to you: The decisions that averted crises that no one could foresee. Maybe in time, someone will notice and give you credit. But by that time, you might be dead and forgotten.

Clinton was, to me, a president whose grade point average was a C, but he accomplished that by scoring a lot of A’s and a lot of F’s. (Kind of like my son.) History shows he was prescient about Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda. I believe him when he says he tried to kill Bin Laden. But what is apparently haunting him, and came out in this interview, was whether he tried hard enough.

Every office in America, there is some put-upon exec with a sign on his desk saying “How can I soar like an eagle when I’m surrounded by turkeys?” And: “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” Clinton let the bastards get him down. He envisioned the kind of threat Bin Laden posed, but he let the legalistic mind of his Justice Department, the pinhead intellectuals of the CIA and the feckless leaders of the military back him down. He didn’t quite have the courage of his convictions; and he was surrounded by unimpressive advisers like Sandy Berger and Madeleine Albright who sapped his confidence.

When Clinton left office, the unfinished business with Al Queda was just one item on the list that he didn’t complete. All executives know dozens of these disappointments upon leaving office. But the polls on his presidency were high, the economy was still pretty strong, the deficit was down, Hilary was in the Senate, the impeachment battle had been won — I’m sure Clinton felt pretty good, overall. Then 9/11 happened.

From that day to this one, I’m sure he has replayed in his mind all the meetings where he got talked out of taking the next aggressive step. But, the debate was mostly inside his head. In the political world, I don’t think 9/11 damaged Clinton significantly — otherwise, why would his wife have been considered the shoo-in for the presidential nomination in 2008 until very recently? For every right-winger who said “Clinton didn’t do enough,” you had many more voices like Richard Clarke saying he did a lot more than anyone thought, and that Bush’s neglect of terrorism in the first eight months of his reign was just as decisive.

But surviving politically and surviving your own doubts are two different things.

Because Clinton is so smart, his critics see every move he makes as calculating. It’s a myth. What I saw on Sunday’s show was not Clinton the politician trying to score points. I saw Clinton the human being trying to convince himself that he really did all he could, that his attempts to stop Bin Laden were noble and his failure forgivable.

The political implications seem petty compared to the drama of a once-powerful leader stirring the ashes of his conscience. The burden he must carry now! It was an episode worthy of Shakespeare.

Mintz Meat

My popular Elliot Mintz post has also generated some of the most entertaining comments from people who lived in LA when Mintz was on the radio or TV and remember him fondly, or laughingly, or…  Even though I wrote the post back in February, I still get comments.  One of the best arrived yesterday, from Jon Monday:

I worked in record promotion from 1970 to 1982 – at first with a small label – Takoma Records – that had artists like Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Robbie Basho. Then after Chrysalis bought Takoma in 1979, I became head of marketing for Chrysalis working with Billy Idol, Huey Lewis, and Blondie. KPPC and later KROQ were very influential stations that supported alternative music of the time.

In 1972 I got Fahey a spot on Elliot’s TV show, which was a very big deal for us. Fahey was supposed to finger-sync to a recording – and although the show was taped, they ran it as if it was a live show, so they wouldn’t have to edit it.

After a spot with Joan Baez, Elliot introduced Fahey by saying, “Here’s John Fahey to sing his new song…” Fahey went nuts, stopped the taping and bellowed, “This guy doesn’t even know who I am. I DON’T SING!”

They had to reset everything and re-introduce Fahey, but then Fahey wouldn’t even fake the guitar playing. He swung his arms around like Pete Townsend, etc.

Fahey, if you’re not familiar with the name, was an incredibly gifted guitarist who played in a folk style, but pushed the boundaries of the form.  Before he died, he wrote a great memoir, How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life.

Monday is an archivist of spoken word, music and film.  His company is about to release, for example, the final poetry reading by Charles Bukowksi (whose work is the basis for the current film “Factotum”), and he sells a 1955 lecture by Aldous Huxley.  He finished his comment with a request, that I thought it might be nice to highlight in case anyone can help him.

On another note, in April 1968 there was a benefit concert at the Kaleidoscope Theater for KPPC. I was there and it was incredible – Canned Heat, Bo Diddley, Traffic, and the Doors. For years I’ve been looking for a poster of the event for my collection. Anyone got any ideas?  

If you can help, you can post here, or email him directly at

Thanks to everyone who has commented on the Mintz post.  If you haven’t gone to that post in awhile, check it out again to read the comments. It helps bring back the sense of that fascinating period in LA; fascinating to me, obviously because I was a teenager, but also rather amazing culturally.

Mars Attacks!, the sequel

professor.jpgThere are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think the zany Tim Burton movie Mars Attacks! is incredibly stupid, and those who laugh their heads off through the whole thing.  I’m in category #2. 

The best thing about Mars Attacks! is the clueless president played by Jack Nicholson, his pretentious foreign policy advisor, played by Pierce Brosnan, and his gung-ho military advisor, played by Rod Steiger, debating what to do about the Martian invaders. 

Puffing on a long pipe, Brosnan’s character advises the president that the world will laud him if he greets the Martians as friends.  The First Lady isn’t convinced:

First Lady: I’m not allowing that thing in my house.
President Dale: Sweetie, we may have to. The people expect me to meet with them.
First Lady: Well they’re not going to eat off the Van Buren china.   

mars_attacks-alien.jpgThe leader of the Martians arrives and delivers a speech that is translated as “We come in peace!  We come in peace!” At almost the same moment, the Martians start firing powerful ray guns that kill everyone.  But the Brosnan character is undeterred, continuing to press the president to offer peace, saying the Martians need to be understood. Repeatedly, the Martians say things like “Don’t run from us! We are your friends,” which always turns out to be a trick.

This op-ed from today’s Wall Street Journal reminded me of Mars Attacks! Even though it’s serious, it makes the diplomatic maneuverings around Iran’s nuclear plans seem just as laughably futile as Jack Nicholson’s attempts to mollify the Martians.   The essay’s author, Michael Rubin, says that as the West tries to negotiate a deal to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, keep in mind that Iran has a tendency to lie rather brazenly.  His article documents a number of Iranian switcheroos since the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979:

In 1986, former U.S. national security advisor Robert McFarlane’s traveled to Tehran. While the Iran-Contra Affair is remembered today for the Reagan administration’s attempts to circumvent Congressional prohibition of funding of the Nicaraguan resistance, it also illustrates the inadvisability of trusting Tehran. President Reagan sought to win the release of American hostages in Lebanon but, as soon as Washington compensated Tehran for its bad behavior, its militias accelerated hostage seizure. Diplomatic enticement–bribery by another name–backfired. But diplomacy is not just about incentives; it is also about trust. What could have been just a failed initiative turned to scandal when, on the seventh anniversary of the embassy seizure, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, today the chairman of the Expediency Council, broke a pledge of secrecy and revealed the meetings to the international press.

Iranian authorities showed diplomatic duplicity once again after Khomeini issued a declaration calling for author Salman Rushdie’s death. Four months before Khomeini’s death, then-president Khamenei demanded that Mr. Rushdie apologize in exchange for cancellation of a religious edict ordering his murder. Mr. Rushdie apologized, but the Iranian government nevertheless kept the bounty in place. President Khamenei was insincere, his diplomacy was a tactic. By winning an apology, he confirmed Mr. Rushdie’s guilt.

Would such a religious group be okay with lying?  Indeed they would, according to Rubin:

During his long exile in Najaf, Khomeini endorsed taqiya, religiously sanctioned dissembling. From his perspective and that of his followers, the ends justify the means. Hence, Khomeini saw nothing wrong when he told the Guardian newspaper, just months before his return to Iran, “I don’t want to have the power of government in my hand; I am not interested in personal power.” Tehran may still conduct diplomacy to fish for incentive and reward but, at its core, Iranian diplomacy is insincere. The Iranian leadership will say anything and do anything to buy the time necessary to acquire nuclear capability.

Throughout the Western diplomatic community, there is a strong yearning to change Iran’s course diplomatically. No one wants more war in the Middle East.  The fear we should have, however, is that we might be lulled into a false sense of security by such an agreement.  If we sign one, we shouldn’t kid ourselves.  Whatever we gain from a deal with Iran will be very temporary, and must be monitored just as closely as if the agreement didn’t exist. 

Part of the joke of Mars Attacks! is the hopelessness of Earth’s situation.  Nothing can really stop the Martians’ gleeful killing spree.  The general who rages at “Intellectuals! Liberals! Peacemongers! Idiots!” and wants to bomb the invaders’ spaceships is, in the end, no more effective against the Martians than is the naive Brosnan. The Martians are just too powerful.  Their only vulnerability?   It is discovered by accident that Slim Whitman music makes their heads explode. 

Oh well, there’s only so much foreign policy guidance you can expect from a Tim Burton movie.

Going to Extremes (*updated)

I hope Brendan Nyhan is wrong when he says this:

Today, online politics has come to be dominated by two warring camps, just like offline politics. And while many critics complain about the polarization of the blogosphere and its effect on elections, how blogs will affect the economics of opinion journalism is less well understood. In particular, partisan blogs have become so popular that they are threatening the business model — and the independence — of center-left opinion magazines, which may be forced to toe the party line to ensure their survival.

He illustrates this point with his own experience. A founder of the now-defunct Spinsanity, Nyhan was invited to blog on The American Prospect’s TAPPED site. The American Prospect is a liberal publication, but like The New Republic, it was not monolithic and could be contrarian from time to time, in keeping with the open-mindedness long associated with liberals. But after Nyhan posted a couple of items criticizing other liberal bloggers, TAP’s editor asked him to limit his attacks to conservatives. This diktat caused Nyhan to quit.

Is TAPPED afraid of dissenting viewpoints? Not editorially. But according to Nyhan, it is afraid of popular left-wing bloggers’ Moses-like effect on the flow of liberal click-throughs:

One important factor shaping TAP’s decision may have been the popularity of Democratic bloggers like Atrios, who pump out a stream of pre-filtered news and commentary. Before the rise of online competition, opinion magazines had some freedom to be idiosyncratic and less partisan than their readers. The initial incarnation of the Prospect, for example, had a thoughtful, academic tone. But the availability of more points of view online (while laudable in many ways) has paradoxically increased the pressure on ideological publications to pander to readers, who have the option of seeking out exclusively partisan blogs instead.

In addition, the huge audiences of the partisan bloggers make them a key source of online traffic for opinion magazines if they supply ideologically favorable content. (At Spinsanity, we quickly learned that it was virtually impossible to get links from liberals when we criticized a liberal, and vice versa for conservatives.) Similarly, the risk of not getting links means that few commentators are willing to criticize the gatekeepers.

In some cases, the threat may be existential. Opinion magazines lose money — a lot of money — and are vulnerable to further financial losses. Atrios, Kos, and other liberal bloggers have attacked The New Republic for years, helping to undermine the center-left magazine’s lagging popularity among liberals. If TNR’s subscriber base were to shrink as a result of these attacks, the viability of the magazine could be threatened.

Nyhan points out that conservative journals of opinion were always less prone to ideological divergence, but the same syndrome exists on the right as the left. Although it does seem to me there are a number of bloggers that get called conservative but are really more libertarian, like Instapundit, Ann Althouse and The Volokh Conspiracy, who provide lots of links, but rarely to right-wing mags.

I like a battle of ideas, not a march of talking points. My advice to TAPPED and The New Republic is to take more risks, not fewer. I can’t help but think that when Bush is truly a lame duck and there is fresh soil being plowed in both political parties, the lock-steppers on both the right and the left will seem a bit marginal–dull and shrill.

For over a century, the opinion magazines have played a role as idea labs for the candidates. If all they’re doing is saluting Kos and Hugh Hewitt all day with predictable rants, that will just drive the stuff of politics, the intra-party policy debates, out of the public eye and into realms accessible only to insiders. That’s not what the Internet promised.

*UPDATE:  Here is Nyhan’s blog post about the reaction to his column.  Extremely interesting comments. although it seems as if no one got his point.  The question isn’t whether the right and left blogs enforce conformity.   Some do, some don’t.  The question is whether the right and left blogs are causing the traditional opinion journals to mute contrarian points of view or self-criticism for economic reasons — to keep the referral clicks coming from the more popular blogs.

This is really an economic issue.  A political blog starts out as a labor of love, done for free.  If it catches on, it can sell ads, but the ad revenue need only “pay for” the time the bloggers spend working on it, and the small amount of overhead needed for web hosting.

However, the New Republic and The American Prospect (and National Review, and Weekly Standard) have the enormous additional cost of maintaining a paid staff of writers, editors, graphic artists, circulation managers, ad managers, etc., plus paper, ink, postage and rent. They are hoping their web site advertising will offset some of those costs.

And, if Nyhan is correct, the editors of those sites have noticed that traffic goes up or down based on whether these sites give reliable reinforcement to their ideological fellow-travelers.  This tendency exerts pressure on editors of these magazine-based websites to enforce comformity, he believes.

So the real question on the floor is: Do we lose anything if these magazines are forced by the marketplace into becoming more orthodox?

NomaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhH!!!!!! (updated*)

 nomar-9-18-06.jpgIf you’re into baseball, it was a great night for Los Angeles.  Comebacks do happen!!!

LA Dodgers 11, San Diego 10, 10 innings

LA Dodgers 11, San Diego 10, 10 innings
PreviewBox ScoreRecap
By JOHN NADEL, AP Sports Writer
September 19, 2006


LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers hit four consecutive homers in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and Nomar Garciaparra‘s two-run homer in the 10th lifted Los Angeles to an 11-10 victory over the San Diego Padres on Monday night.

The Dodgers moved back into first place in the NL West, a half-game ahead of the Padres.

After Los Angeles tied it in the ninth with four straight homers — just the fourth time that’s happened in major league history — the Padres took a 10-9 lead in the top of the 10th on Josh Bard‘s RBI single off Aaron Sele (8-6).

But Rudy Seanez (1-2) walked Kenny Lofton to begin the bottom half, and Garciaparra followed by hitting his 18th homer deep into the left field pavilion.

The capacity crowd of 55,831 at Dodger Stadium stood and cheered for several minutes afterward.

*Update:  Josh Rawitch’s in-house Dodger blog, Inside the Dodgers — which is surprisingly independent given that Rawitch works for the McCourts — added this perspective on the game…and perhaps an alibi for those who left the Stadium early, or who, like me, gave up on the game in the 8th inning, and was lucky to flip back to it at a crucial moment in the ninth. 

The fact is, your 2006 Los Angeles Dodgers do a lot of things well, but not comebacks:

This is a team that hadn’t erased a four-run deficit to win a single time this year. Not once. Only once had they erased a three-run deficit to win. And yet, they erased two four-run deficits in the game, one in the ninth inning.

This is a team that is last in the league in homers and they hit seven on the night. Four in an inning. Four in a row. Three on consecutive. Off the game’s best closer ever.

This was a team in a must-win game. Not a “it’d be nice if we took this game from the Padres.” Players before the game were calling it must-win. And falling behind 4-0 isn’t a great way to come out the gate. But in a must-win situation, this team won in arguably the best game anyone here has ever seen. Greg Maddux just told me he’s never seen anything like it. Same with Grady Little, Dave Jauss, Derek Lowe and just about anyone you could talk to downstairs.

You can also relive the key moments by reading the Dodgers Thoughts’ game thread, here.  Start at post #553, time-stamped at 10:32 p.m. in which “Steve in Rochester” reaches the depths of despair as the Dodgers fall behind 9-5 in the ninth:

2006-09-18 22:32:30

553.   Steve in Rochester

this is as discouraged as I have been about anything in a long time

Within eight minutes, the four consecutive solo homeruns have occured, including the last one by recent acquisition Marlon Anderson: 

2006-09-18 22:40:30

598.   Vaudeville Villain


Marlon Anderson!!!!

Fourteen minutes later, as Dodger reliever Aaron Sele gives up a run in the top of the 10th inning, despair again: 

2006-09-18 22:54:06

675.   joekings

I think I’m going to be sick.

2006-09-18 22:54:37

676.   underdog

{{cursing quietly to self at home}}

But just eight more minutes later, something obviously has happened.  Poster “confucius” is felled by the vapors:  

2006-09-18 23:04:15

700.   confucius


And finally, 28 seconds later, some clarification:

2006-09-18 23:04:43

701.   Greg Brock

The greatest game ever played.

2006-09-18 23:04:47

702.   KG16

Just in time…

2006-09-18 23:04:51

703.   StolenMonkey86


2006-09-18 23:04:54

704.   Telemachos



2006-09-18 23:04:57

705.   Linkmeister


Read the whole thing, and the next post, too, which has a bunch of aftermath posts. Almost like having these guys in your living room. 

Liberals Who Fear Liberals

Sam Harris, a liberal writer who wrote a provocative book he described as “highly critical of religion,” is now highly critical of liberals, while still trying to be one.  I am familiar with this struggle!

In the wake of my prior post describing the last years of feminist journalist Orianna Fallaci, you must read this op-ed Harris wrote for today’s LA Times.  The response he got from thousands of readers of his last book, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, inspired him to panic.  Here are a few chunks of what Harris has to say:

On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.

This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that “liberals are soft on terrorism.” It is, and they are.


Numerous studies have found that the most radicalized Muslims tend to have better-than-average educations and economic opportunities.

Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb — and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.


The truth is that there is every reason to believe that a terrifying number of the world’s Muslims now view all political and moral questions in terms of their affiliation with Islam. This leads them to rally to the cause of other Muslims no matter how sociopathic their behavior. This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization and yet it is regularly misconstrued, ignored or obfuscated by liberals.


We are entering an age of unchecked nuclear proliferation and, it seems likely, nuclear terrorism. There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.


While liberals should be the ones pointing the way beyond this Iron Age madness, they are rendering themselves increasingly irrelevant. Being generally reasonable and tolerant of diversity, liberals should be especially sensitive to the dangers of religious literalism. But they aren’t.

The same failure of liberalism is evident in Western Europe, where the dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants. The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.

To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for the future of civilization.

There is still time for liberals to find a voice in defense of civilization, but the window is shutting.  It will shut for good in 2008, when they can no longer use “Bush rage” as an excuse for their mindless opposition to waging a war that is being waged against us whether they want to acknowledge it or not.

I’m quite unhappy about a future in which liberalism, the belief system with which I’ve been affliliated for my entire adult life becomes marginalized and irrelevant, and where its adherents are considered unqualified to govern. 

I don’t like the idea of having to choose between candidates with whom I agree on 90 percent of the issues, but who fail to have a supportable position on the single most important issue, and Republicans, who are mostly wrong, but right about the one thing that matters most.

And I’m furiously angry that half-witted partisans who run the left-wing, self-described “netroots” blogs are now seen as arbiters of true liberalism.  They might be speaking for this generation’s liberals, I fear. But they don’t know what liberalism means, historically or intellectually.  They’re so in love with their aggressive tone, they haven’t bothered to notice their positions are incoherent. 

The Democratic Party should look at the liberal netroots like pre-adolescent children. You have to listen to them, because you can’t disown them, and because they’re loud and hard to ignore.  But they shouldn’t be allowed to drive until they grow up.