Archives For April 2001

ZERO TOLERANCE WATCH

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 25 2001 @ 5:55pm

The Wall Street Journal Online has a splendid series of webnotes tracking stupid zero-tolerance efforts against normal school-kid shenanigans across the country, like playing with toy guns and the crime of playing while male. But they should add a new item from their own news pages. The Journal reports today (sorry, there’s no free link) that the Bush administration has decided to rigorously enforce a provision in a 1998 education spending authorization bill that denies any federal education aid for anyone with a prior drug conviction. Mere possession of tiny amounts of weed will bar you from any federal aid for college. Now, you can commit any other sort of crime and still qualify. You can even murder someone and still get some federal aid in prison for rehabilitative education. But recreational drug use? Nuh-uh. This strikes me as particularly stupid even if you like the ‘war on drugs,’ since it actually prevents rehabilitation. Former drug-users who want to remake their lives are barred from federal help. Is this a good signal? Even the original sponsor of the provision wants it reversed. “The last thing I want to do is reach back and punish” applicants with prior records, Rep. Mark Souder told the Journal. “That’s like saying, ‘Once a criminal, always a criminal.'” Amen. But does the former drug-user who is now president of the United States care about this? Or is he the only one to get federal help in his rehabilitation?

CORRECTIONS AND AMPLIFICATIONS DEPT: The great thing about the web is that your thinking can change or alter and it’s ok to admit this. I’m especially grateful to all of you who keep telling me I’m full of it by email. Every now and then, you’re even right. Three small things: I think it’s pretty clear that grade inflation, while a long-term phenomenon, went into warp drive in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and although affirmative action might have something to do with it, the Vietnam War is almost certainly the biggest factor. No professor wanted to flunk students into the draft. Similarly, a small clarification on gay pride events. I shouldn’t have been so dismissive. There’s a legitimate reason for gays, especially in beleaguered towns and cities, to want to march in public – to demonstrate pride, freedom, self-respect. What concerns me is that the exhibitionism inherent in any march focused on sexual orientation tends to make what should be private public and do more harm than good. I’d defend any drag queen or leather-dyke marching down the high street, but to turn around and then ask civil protection on the grounds of our interchangeability with straights is surely a confused message. Mercifully, many such parades are morphing into less exhibitionist displays, featuring church groups, parents’ groups, charity organizations and the like. And some more generic carnival-type parades, in which sexual exhibitionism, gay and straight, is celebrated, have taken over some of the functions of the old gay pride marches. So things are improving. The point is that cultural celebration and political advocacy are two separate enterprises. And mixing them may do harm to both. One last point. My loose phrasing of the term “anti-Semitic Gospels” was unfortunate. There’s little doubt that some of the Gospel writers were keen to distinguish Christians from other Jews in the battle for legitimacy in the Roman empire. But this effort was later interpreted for more curdely anti-Semitic ends. To speak of anti-Semitism in terms of the earliest Christian church is an anachronism. I thought I was being cute. I was, in fact, being careless.

TAKING BUSH SERIOUSLY

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 24 2001 @ 11:53pm

I just read the Washington Post interview with the president. Go read it. Tell me when you’ve read it if you still think, as many of you tell me in emails, that he’s a bumbling fool who doesn’t have a clue what’s really going on in his administration. I was also gratified to see that he backed my own interpretation of his absence in Washington State for the return of Hainan detainees and his decision not to speak out on the Cincinnati riots. “I’m a person that believes – I believe in sharing credit, and I do not believe in stepping on somebody else’s story,” Bush says. “I believe if somebody is in charge of the situation and is doing a fine job, that person ought to deserve the credit. And your question is more than just, obviously, race relations. It’s how I’m going to handle myself for the next four years in terms of when I show up. And the answer’s going to be if I think it’s appropriate. And I may think it’s less appropriate than other presidents, frankly. It’s the same question that came up about why if I’m so strong on the military, why didn’t I show up when the troops came back from China. You can make the same exact connection between the issue and my appearance.” Two other points: he doesn’t back down in drilling in the ANWR and he makes a lot of sense. Ditto on Kyoto. There’s also a refreshing candor about his remarks and a clear confidence in his own judgment. I hope I’ve not been completely suckered – and I may be basking in post-Clinton euphoria – but this guy is impressive. Impressive in his delegation, in his humor, in his grasp of what he is trying to do. So sue me for saying so. At the eve of his first hundred days, I’m glad I endorsed him – and gladder still he’s president.

GAY PRIDE AND GAY RIGHTS: A few of us have taken some hits for urging the end of gay pride parades. They’re dated, pointless and often hugely embarrassing. But no-one has yet put the case better than the Onion. Check it out.

WEYRICH, GAHR AND THE KNICKS

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 24 2001 @ 6:10pm

I don’t see why Paul Weyrich had to go out of his way to say that “Christ was crucified by the Jews.” Read the piece from which it is taken and see what you think. I think it was a poke in the eye at people like me who find the Church’s history of anti-Semitism shameful and horrifying. But I don’t think it’s a serious piece of anti-Semitism in itself. It is, after all, a simple and faithful reiteration of what is in the (often anti-Semitic) Gospels. You cannot attend a Good Friday service without this commonplace being uttered, and, as yet, not even the Pope has edited the New Testament to make it less offensive on these grounds. So I think the notion that Weyrich should be hounded for this sentence – in the midst of a longer, theological piece – as Evan Gahr did in the American Spectator and as Joe Conason echoed on Salon. Still, it’s unpleasant and gratuitous. But is it more gratuitous than an almost identical piece of rhetoric which appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine? Eric Konigsberg – an ex-intern at TNR I hired – has a terrific piece on the New York Knicks, in which the conversation at one point turned to Judaism and Christianity. Here’s the relevant passage:

“Then Ward said, “Jews are stubborn, E. But tell me, why did they persecute Jesus unless he knew something they didn’t want to accept?”
“What?”
“They had his blood on their hands.”
Working quickly, Houston indexed a passage on his Palm Pilot. “Matthew 26, verse 67,” he said. “Then they spit in Jesus’s face and hit him with their fists.”‘
“It say anything about who wanted Jesus dead?” Ward asked. “There are Christians getting persecuted by Jews every day. There’s been books written about this — people who are raised Jewish and find Christ, and then their parents stop talking to them.”
“You know, there’s Jews for Jesus, man,” Thomas offered me, running a hand over his cornrows.”

I think in a pinch I’d absolve both the Knicks and Weyrich of outright bigotry, and I guess Weyrich should know better than a professional basketball player. But I have yet to see Joe Conason have a cow about this one. Or even a calf.

CINCINNATI LUNACY

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 24 2001 @ 4:04pm

I won’t repeat John Leo’s excellent column this week on how the elite media simply ignored what was essentially racist violence by young black youths against random white people during the Cincinnati riots. Both Leo and SmarterTimes.com are devastating about how the New York Times and other outlets just won’t report the facts if they seem to be prejudicial to a favored minority (Jesse Dirkhising, anyone?). But it is surely a pivotal moment in our culture when the first hate crime charge is brought from the Cincinnati brouhaha against … a white guy!. Apparently hate crime prosecutions will shortly be brought against some black guys as well – but not until the politically correct prosecution has been announced and instigated. No news yet on whether the thought police have interrogated the 837 other people arrested for what the New York Times politely referred to as “alarming” whites.

BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 24 2001 @ 3:32pm

“Whatever explanations are forthcoming for this terrible incident [the downing of a missionary plane in Peru], Americans are entitled to ask whether this example of so-called ”collateral damage” in the militarized war on drugs is representative of a more generalized US-inspired propensity for pointless violence against innocent people.” – Boston Globe editorial today.

GAFFE OF THE DAY

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 24 2001 @ 2:32pm

“Do You Approve Or Disapprove Of The Way Dick Cheney Is Handling His Job As President?” – the first question in the Washington Post’s new poll.

HUSTLED INTO CAMPS: For the record, National Review’s John Derbyshire supports in principle the forcible internment of Chinese-Americans in the event a conflict with China, defends the internment of Japanese-American citizens in World War II and even posits that, in the event of a war with an African country (go figure), black Americans would support the African country. My favorite quote: “I guarantee that when the first U.S. carrier is sunk by Chinese action, or the first American city is erased by a Chinese ICBM, Chinese nationals, including those who are U.S. Citizens, will be hustled into camps faster than you can say “executive order” and will stay there for the duration, whatever the ACLU– or even the Supreme Court– thinks about it. I hope the camps will not be very uncomfortable, for I shall be there too– the Derbyshires travel as a family. I also hope that I shall be able to maintain sufficient detachment to understand that a responsible U.S. government really has no choice in the matter.” And this is someone William F Buckley is comfortable publishing twice a week?

HARVARD’S GRADE HYPERINFLATION

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 23 2001 @ 11:38pm

The Harvard establishment has finally roused itself to respond to Harvey C. Mansfield’s assertion that grade inflation is an evil and took off in the late 1960s partly because of affirmative action. The dean of the college, one Harry R. Lewis, penned an op-ed in the Harvard Crimson yesterday making the case that grade inflation has been going on for decades and that there’s no correlation between its take-off in the late 1960s and affirmative action. Since Lewis has all the data, and there’s no way to break it down racially, he doesn’t exactly clinch the argument. There’s also a pesky change in the way Harvard grades were computed and averaged in 1967. Nevertheless, the graph Lewis presents does indeed show a general rise from 1920 to 2000, but it is punctuated by what comes close to a vertical line upward in exactly the time period Mansfield suggested: 1966 – 1974. Lewis responds to the racial point by saying that “black students did not appear in significant numbers on the Harvard campus until 1970, and the period from 1970 through 1985 was the only 15-year period in the past 80 years in which there was no increase in grades at Harvard (his emphasis).” Hmmm. I’d like to see the actual numbers of black students at Harvard at that time, and I’d like to see when affirmative action was actually instituted. As to the fact that grades do indeed seem to stabilize after the mid 1970s, it would be hard for them to continue what looks like hyperinflation during the period from 1967 – 1973 (where the average grade increased by some 40 percent). Anyway, check it out for yourself. My view: if this is the best Harvard can do to rebut Mansfield’s charge, they get a B-, which these days is tantamount to an F.

PINK PISTOLS: A few years ago, Jonathan Rauch and I talked about writing a piece arguing that gays should eschew hate crime laws in favor of self-defense. It was almost a jeu d’esprit, but Jonathan took the ball and ran with it. Presto, just a few months later, and there are several “Pink Pistol” groups around the country, training homosexuals and lesbians (and all sorts of others) how to defend themselves with legal handguns. Of course, the gay left establishment is mortified – but finally a real story has been written in, of all places, the Washington Blade, the usually p.c. crib-sheet for leftist activists. It’s a fascinating and uplifting story of people finding a niche for themselves and fighting back victimology with imagination and flair. It’s also an insight into the surprising open-mindedness of some gun-toting rednecks. Check it out.

BIGOTS, ETC: I may have been premature to accept Ian Buruma’s assertion in the New Yorker that David Irving, the Holocaust “minimizer,” referred to the judge in his libel trial as “mein Fuhrer.” A reader sent me the transcript. Here’s the relevant part of Irving’s testimony: “When the off-screen chanting of slogans begins at 18:18:59 I am clearly seen to interrupt my speech, shake my head at them and gesticulate with my left hand to them to stop, and I am clearly heard to say, “You must not”, because they are shouting the “Siegheil” slogans, Mein Fuhrer, and things like, “you must not always be thinking of the past”. I am heard clearly to say: “You must always be thinking of the past. You must not keep coming out with the slogans of the past. We are thinking of the future [voice emphasized] of Germany. We are thinking of the future of the German people. As an Englishman I have to say …”, and so on. So I am quite clearly expressing extreme anger at these people who have come along with their Nazi slogans.” Although the transcript keeps “Mein Fuhrer” out of quotation marks, it seems to me more plausible that Irving was describing the shouts of the crowd, rather than actually addressing the judge. Not as funny – but more accurate. This is not to exculpate Irving’s work or views, but it is to be as scrupulous when discussing him as he is sometimes unscrupulous when addressing others.

BIGOTS, ETC II: For those of you still holding out hope that John Derbyshire is just a nice old English gent with some unpopular but important views, check out his link to a website known as vdare.com. Vdare is an anti-immigration group founded by Peter Brimelow and dedicated to keeping America as white and anglo as possible. It’s named after Virginia Dare, the first white English child born in America. Derbyshire’s main contributions appear to be dark warnings about “Sino-Fascism,” Chinese-American Gore voters, and other versions of the Yellow Peril in our midst. All this is made even weirder by the fact that Derbyshire himself says he has a Chinese wife and two half-Chinese children. I’m beginning to think he’s just plain kooky.