Monday, April 30, 2007

Is Bush Education Secretary Whoring for Coke?

Scott Jaschik reports in Inside Higher Ed that critics of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings efforts to re-design American higher education are pointing to her acceptance of gifts from the Coca-Cola Company:
Asked a series of questions about Coke’s role in the Atlanta meeting (including specific questions about how much money was involved and what it was paying for), the department’s press office responded by sending a copy of a portion of the U.S. Code that says: “The Secretary is authorized to accept, hold, administer, and utilize gifts, bequests and devises of property, both real and personal, and to accept donations of services, for the purpose of aiding or facilitating the work of the Department. Gifts, bequests, and devises of money and proceeds from sales of other property received as gifts, bequests, or devises shall be deposited in the Treasury and shall be available for disbursement upon the order of the Secretary.”

Pressed for details, Chad Colby said that he believed Coke was paying for food for the Atlanta meeting and that the department was paying other expenses. Arrangements for the other regional meetings would each be different, he said.

Critics — most of whom did not want to be quoted by name — said that they viewed the invitations noting Coke’s role as host as further evidence of a corporate tilt by the department. They noted that the invitations were not generally available to rank and file professors and that the Spellings Commission report had a strong business orientation, but has been criticized for ignoring the liberal arts.

“The emphasis in the department’s consultations seems to be primarily on colleges and universities as training grounds for corporate America, rather than as a place for students to explore a variety of perspectives and learn to think critically for themselves,” said John W. Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors, via e-mail. “This was reflected in the inclusion of corporate representatives on the secretary’s commission while faculty were largely excluded. The fact that these follow-up ’summit’ meetings are by invitation only, and appear to have some level of corporate sponsorship, only strengthens this impression.”

Charles Miller, chair of the Spellings Commission, said that the arrangements for the regional meetings were set up to make it relatively easy for people to attend and that many businesses can be helpful in this area.

Miller suggested that some academics “seem to have a problem with the word corporation” and suggested that professors should welcome more business involvement. He said that most business leaders are strong supporters of higher education. “They pay the taxes, they are on the boards, they use the graduates, they know about foreign competition,” he said.

In this context, it makes sense to look for ways to involve business leaders, he said. “It’s wrong-headed to think that the only people who can talk about the academy are the people who are in it.”
More criticism of Spellings on SchoolsMatter, including a link to this brewing scandal over US Department of Education-funded reading programs:
Fueled by a growing list of such complaints, the House Education and Labor Committee is looking into whether the Bush administration steered contracts to its favorite vendors, shutting out Slavin and other competitors.

And the Education Department's inspector general has asked the Justice Department to examine allegations of mismanagement and conflicts of interest that are swirling around the $6 billion federal grant program known as Reading First, a centerpiece of the five-year-old No Child Left Behind law.

Inspector General John Higgins said his office began investigating Reading First in May 2005 after receiving complaints of favoritism. He told the Education and Labor Committee that the law calls for a balanced panel of experts to review grant applications but the department had created a panel that had professional ties to a specific reading program.

Democratic Rep. George Miller of California, the committee's chairman, said three people involved in the reviewing process benefited financially - either directly or indirectly - when the panel distributed grants.

At a committee hearing April 20, three review panel members acknowledged benefiting from the sale of an assessment product called the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Learning Skills. One of the panel members was a co-author of the product, and the company in which he owned a 50 percent share had received more than $1.3 million in royalty and other payments from the sale of DIBELS. Two other review panel members were co-authors of a reading intervention product that was packaged with DIBELS, and they each had received about $150,000 in royalty payments from sales of their product.

All three denied any conflict of interest, saying they didn't review grant proposals that involved their own products. They said their products were selling because of their popularity, not because of any pressure from Washington.

Bush Foreign Aid Chief Resigns in Call-Girl Scandal

From the Indianapolis Star::
WASHINGTON - Ex-State Department official and Indiana native Randall Tobias may be called to testify in the defense of the woman at the center of a Washington sex scandal, her attorney said Monday.

Montgomery Blair Sibley, an attorney for Deborah Jeane Palfrey who is accused of running a prostitution service, said Palfrey has the obligation and the right to compel witnesses like Tobias to testify on her behalf.

"When they are served with a subpoena to appear and testify under oath, we expect them to tell the truth," Sibley said. "And we expect them to show up because nobody is above the law in this country, as this case is rapidly pointing out."
Tobias resigned Friday from a top post in the State Department where he oversaw most U.S. foreign aid.

ABC News reported late Friday that Tobias said in a Thursday interview that he had used the Pamela Martin and Associates escort services for massages, but he said there had been "no sex." Palfrey ran the service and turned its telephone records over to ABC.
Here's a link to the White House biography for Ambassador Tobias. Tobias was ex-CEO of pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly. Interestingly as US aid czar, he had been responsible for US government HIV and sexually transmitted disease initiatives, among other things.

According to an AP report on Yahoo! News:
Tobias submitted his resignation a day after he was interviewed by ABC News for an upcoming program about an alleged prostitution service run by the so-called D.C. Madam.

ABC reported on its Web site late Friday that Tobias confirmed that he had called the Pamela Martin and Associates escort service to have women come to his condo and give him massages. More recently, Tobias told the network, he has been using a service with Central American women.

Tobias, 65, who is married, told ABC News there had been "no sex" during the women's visits to his condo. His name was on a list of clients given to ABC by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who owns the escort service and has been charged with running a prostitution ring in the nation's capital.

U.S. officials would not confirm the information. A message left on Tobias' voice mail seeking comment was not returned.

Tobias held two titles: director of U.S. foreign assistance and administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development. His rank was equivalent to deputy secretary of state.
Your tax dollars at work...

Olga Sobolevskaya on Mstislav Rostropovich

Talent and conscience were his only guides in life. "Solzhenitsyn's suffering earned him the right to speak the truth," he declared in 1970 in an open letter to the press. By supporting the dissident writer, he expressed his own unshakeable credo: be truthful in everything, in art and in life.

He had followed that credo since his youth. In February 1952, Rostropovich performed Prokofiev's Symphony Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, with the pianist Sviatoslav Richter conducting, at the Grand Conservatory Hall. It was a daring act of civil defiance as memories were still fresh of the crackdown on "formalist" composers (including Shostakovich and Prokofiev), who were accused of sacrificing content for the sake of form. In any case, he was "forgiven," just like he would be 10 years later, in the early 60s, when he accompanied his wife's performance of "Satires," a vocal cycle composed by Shostakovich to the words of a "banned" poet, Sasha Cherny. These social send-ups were considered frivolous, but they fell short of being criminal, so the couple were allowed to go on tours, win prizes and put their creative ideas into practice. In 1968, Rostropovich was even able to realize his life-long dream by staging Tchaikovsky's opera "Eugene Onegin" at the Bolshoi with Vishnevskaya, his wife, singing the lead part, Tatyana Larina.

In the 1970s, after the Solzhenitsyn scandal, the authorities tried to cut off Rostropovich's oxygen. They didn't stand a chance. His freedom was personal and total. No ideology could crush it. And no ailment could stop him from creating.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Putin on Yeltsin


Dear members of the Yeltsin family,

Dear friends,

We have just paid our last farewell to Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, a man of true Russian expanse and generosity of spirit. We have paid farewell to a man of resolute will and authentic determination.

I am certain that only such a leader, a leader raised and nurtured by all the energy of our great Russia, could arouse a country such as ours and lead it to such fundamental change.

He became President through the support of millions of our citizens, changed the face of power and broke down the thick wall between the public and the state. He was devoted to his people and served them with courage.

He knew how to and loved speaking with people frankly and openly. He never remained in the shadows or hid behind the backs of others. There were times when he consciously chose to take all the fire on himself, accepting personal responsibility for very tough but necessary decisions. He bravely took upon himself the most difficult role in creating the most important democratic institutions.

President Yeltsin understood that most important of all was the irreversibility of the changes that had taken place and steadfast resolution in pursuing his strategic course.

This kind of political style and instinct distinguishes national leaders who do not think only of the present moment but look far ahead into the future.

At a time when the old mechanisms of power had collapsed and Russia’s statehood was weakened, Boris Yeltsin made the difficult achievement of giving the country a new constitution. He put his health and even perhaps his life on the line during the election of 1996, and he emerged victorious.

Looking back at Boris Nikolayevich, one cannot but remember his openness and love of life. It is not by chance that his amazing ability to build relations of genuine friendship became a real foreign policy advantage for Russia.

Dear friends and colleagues,

It is the destiny of a rare few to have found their own freedom and been followed by millions, to have led their country to truly historical transformation and in so doing change the world itself.

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was able to do this, not once retreating or bowing under the weight of his task, not once betraying the people’s choice and his own conscience.

He will always remain a shining symbol of change, a symbol of the fight against decrepit dogmas and prohibitions.

Figures of this dimension never leave us. They live on in people’s ideas and aspirations, in the achievements and successes of their Motherland.

No matter how difficult it was for him, and no matter how great the challenges facing our country, Boris Nikolayevich always believed in the renaissance and transformation of Russia. He respected the talent and strength of the Russian people and sincerely tried to do all he could to improve the lives of millions of Russians (and he always said this word in his own distinctive way, with that particular ‘Yeltsin intonation’).

This was his dream, his goal. And Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin will not just live on in our memories – we will work towards this goal.

May his memory live forever!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Leon Aron on Yeltsin's Legacy

From The
He was rife with authoritarian habits and urges—and bound by self-imposed and self-enforced constraints. He thirsted for power and was zealous to acquire and hold it. Yet both the mode of acquisition of that power (by two free elections) and at least some of the uses to which he put it—greatly weakening the state’s stranglehold over society and the economy, and Moscow’s over Russia—were utterly novel for that country.

The Russia that Yeltsin left behind reflected the contradictions of its founding father. It was a hybrid: a polity still semiauthoritarian, corrupt, and mistrusted by the society, but also one that was governable, in which the elites’ competition for power was arbitrated by popular vote, and in which most of the tools of authoritarian mobilization and coercion appeared to have been significantly dulled. Yeltsin’s legacy is a collection of necessary, although far from sufficient, conditions for a modern capitalist democracy: free elections; freedom of political opposition; demilitarization of state and society; decentralization of the traditionally unitary state; a largely privatized economy; and a still small and weak but increasingly assertive civil society, sustained by civil liberties, freedom of the press from government censorship, and an increasingly independent and assertive judiciary. The political organism that he forged is full of severe defects, both genetic and acquired, yet capable of development and of peacefully thwarting Communist restoration without succumbing to authoritarianism.

Perhaps most important of all, Yeltsin freed Russia from what the great English poet Robert Graves (in an entirely different context) called “the never changing circuit of its fate”—the history that after four centuries appeared to have become destiny: imperialism, militarism, and rigid centralization interrupted by episodes of horrifyingly brutal anarchy. He gave Russia a “peredyshka,” a time to catch its breath. The traditional attributes of the Russian state—authoritarianism, imperialism, militarism, xenophobia—are far from extinguished. Yet more and higher hedges have been erected against their recurrence under Yeltsin’s peredyshka than at any other time in Russian history.

Brutalized—the rulers and the ruled alike—by terror and lies, gnarled by fear and poverty, paralyzed by total dependence on the state, the Russians’ journey from subjects to a free people will be neither easy nor fast. Yet, like a convalescing invalid, Russia under Yeltsin began to hobble away from the prison hospital that the czars and commissars built, with its awful food, stern nurses, short visiting hours, and ugly uniforms.

She is not out of the hospital yard yet. But if she can no longer be stopped, Yeltsin’s name, next to Gorbachev’s, will be inscribed by History among those of the greatest liberators.

Giuliani Speaks on Hamas-US Relations

Hizzoner is for them in principle, on one condition: Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce terrorism.

Sounds good to me. Here's Susan Rosenbluh's report from New Jersey's Jewish Voice and Opinion (ht lgf):
Rudy Giuliani doesn’t care whether the Palestinian government is run by Hamas, which is recognized by the US as a terrorist organization, or Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of Fatah who is regarded by the Bush administration as a moderate.

"Hamas or Abbas, it makes no difference. The ball is in their court, and we just have to show patience and not push any peace process until they do what they have to do," said Mr. Giuliani.

What they have to do, he said, is, at the very minimum, to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to renounce terrorism. Then, he said, Israel and the US should sit back and see if they mean it.

"They don’t just have to say the words. Anyone can say the words. They have to show that they are ending terrorism; they have to show that they are doing what they have to do to end terrorism. I’m a strong proponent of the philosophy that we can trust, but we have to verify," he said. "If all that happens, then it will lead naturally to a peace process, but we have to wait patiently until they are ready to make it happen. And no one should make any concessions to the Palestinians until they take those steps."

Will Bush Education Department Destroy US Higher Education?

Of all the disasters caused by Bush Administration policies, there is one that I have seen up-close and personal--an attempt to bring "outcomes-based education" to US Higher Education through the mechanism of accreditation bodies. The result, as any adjunct faculty member knows, is a morass of bureaucratic goals, objectives, rubrics, boilerplate padding of syllabi, and "training" that seems designed to dumb down higher education until it becomes as disabled as what goes on in the worst American K-12 public schools. I've actually seen the University of Phoenix and Stanley Kaplan test prep courses held up as models for what university courses should become...

Until now, I thought no one was acting to oppose the imposition of an iron cage of accreditation review, an additional layer of bureaucracy championed by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. But according to an article in Inside Higher Education, I'm not alone in thinking that the Bush Administration initiatives are bureaucratic madness:
The accreditation panel is by far the most controversial of the rule making committees, because unlike the others, there have been no recent changes in federal law regarding accreditation, and some college officials have questioned whether the department has the legal grounds to consider some of the changes it is considering — most of which were prompted by the work of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

Over several months, the negotiators — a mix of college administrators, accrediting agency officials and others — have engaged in pointed and at times tense debates about a range of issues, most of which boil down to: how far the federal government should go in demanding that accreditors set minimum standards for the performance of the colleges they oversee, most notably on how much their students learn.

As the department’s various proposals have evolved over the weeks and months, they have become slightly less intrusive at each turn. Most recently, the department issued draft regulatory language — based, its officials repeated again and again, on a proposal that some of the “non-federal” negotiators had suggested — that would no longer require accrediting agencies to dictate to colleges the levels of performance they must achieve in student learning (for non-vocational programs, at least; for vocational programs, all accreditors would still be required to set such standards, which agencies that accredit for-profit career-related colleges already must).

But because the government would still require accrediting agencies to judge whether the standards that colleges set for themselves and their success in meeting those goals are sufficient — and because the accreditors would be doing so knowing that the Education Department can (through its process for recognizing accrediting agencies) punish any accreditor who doesn’t set the bar high enough to satisfy department officials — some members of the negotiating panel argued Tuesday that even the less-aggressive changes amount to federal control of accreditation, and ultimately of higher education.

“We are taking a system of quality review driven by cooperation and replacing it with a parent-child relationship,” where the parent (the accreditor) is “controlled by the federal government,” argued Judith S. Eaton, president of the Council on Higher Education Accreditation, which coordinates accreditation nationally and recognizes 60 accrediting agencies. “When the accreditor stipulates the level of the performance indicators and the performance expectations, the institution has lost the opportunity to set its own direction, and that’s where the problem is ... We should say yes to accountability and to the goals of accountability, but no to this way.”
I'd go even further and ask that university cooperation with this initiative be ended as soon as possible. In the interests of academic freedom and defending the one element of our educational system that is really a model for the world--higher education--I'd ask Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to stop the Bush Administration's accreditation reform madness, before it completely destroys the liberal arts in American colleges and universities...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

David Halberstam Killed By Journalism Student

According to the San Francsico Chronicle:
At the time of Monday morning's accident, Halberstam was being driven to an interview with Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle.

The drivers of the two cars were injured, but not seriously. Halberstam was being driven by a graduate journalism student from the University of California at Berkeley, where he had visited over the weekend. The crash remained under investigation, and the Menlo Park police officer on duty early Tuesday said no further information was available.

Kommersant on the Death of Boris Yeltsin

At the president's residence, it seemed to me that the tragedy had occurred in those very rooms: everyone walked carefully, avoiding each other's eyes, and spoke in whispers, if they spoke at all. People mentioned that Boris Nikolayevich's heart had been bothering him for a week, and then he suddenly improved on Sunday. Just when everyone had breathed a sigh of relief, he suffered cardiac arrest. The doctors did everything they could: they managed to get his heart going again, but it soon stopped, this time forever. His allotted time was simply up. He was so worn out that he just had no chance. No chance, and there was nothing else that could be done.

Vladimir Putin decided to make an announcement about the death of Russia's first president. The text of the statement was his own, and he edited and corrected it several times. He considered the words to be so important for himself personally and for the country as a whole that he waited to write them down until he could gather his thoughts late yesterday evening.

Before then, he met with the president of Turkmenistan, whom he went out to meet in a dark suit and tie. Mr. Berdymukhammedov initially smiled at the Russian president, but as soon as he saw the expression on Mr. Putin's face, the smile slid from his lips. In my opinion, the Turkmen president did not immediately understand what was going on and labored for some time under the impression that Mr. Putin's condition was somehow his fault. The Russian president congratulated Mr. Berdymukhammedov unenthusiastically on his election to the post of president and declared that the relationship between Turkmenistan and Russia is going along "extremely well" and that "we have responded to your recent request to build another branch of the gas pipeline along the Caspian Sea." Then he clammed up.

"Thank you for your respect… We are grateful for your hospitality…" began the Turkmen president. "Our cooperation has historical, uh, roots… We will build our cooperation on, um, mutually beneficial terms…"

Obviously noticing that something was up, he let his voice trail off. It seemed that he was still uninformed about what had happened. When the journalists were leaving, Vladimir Putin quietly informed his colleague, "we suffered a great tragedy today."

The talks with the president of Turkmenistan were also very short, as was dinner with him.

At the same time, it was being decided what would be done with the president's address to the Federation Council, which was scheduled for April 25. When it became known that Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin's family might schedule the funeral for Thursday, April 26, the Kremlin determined to go forward with the speech on Wednesday as planned, with the additional of a few extra phrases that would have the hall on its feet.

But then it was announced that the funeral would be on Wednesday, and the president's speech was immediately rescheduled.

There was no real doubt where final goodbyes would be said to Russia's first president: the Church of Christ the Savior, in the portion of the church dedicated to events of exceptional importance in the life of the church and of the country. Boris Yeltsin will be laid to rest in Novodevichy Cemetery.

An hour after the Turkmen president left, Vladimir Putin said his first words of farewell to Boris Yeltsin. In a televised speech to the nation, he also designated April 25 a national day of mourning.

"We knew Boris Nikolayevich as a courageous and also warm-hearted, sincere man," said Mr. Putin. "This was a straightforward and brave national leader… Boris Yeltsin took full responsibility on himself for everything that he advocated and strove for. For what he tried to do and did – for the sake of the country, for the sake of millions of Russians. All of Russia's woes and hardships, people's difficulties and woes, he unceasingly channeled through himself… And today I express my sincerest and deepest sympathies to [Yeltsin's widow] Naina Iosifovna and to Boris Nikolayevich's friends and relatives. We grieve together with you. We will do everything in our power to ensure that the memory of Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, his noble designs, his words 'take care of Russia' always serve as our moral and political compass… The person who brought an entire era into being has gone. A new democratic Russia was born – a free nation open to the world. Thanks to the will and direct initiative of Boris Yeltsin, a new constitution was adopted that acclaimed human rights as the highest value. It gave the people the opportunity to freely express their thoughts, to freely choose the powers-that-be in the country…"

Vladimir Putin's words oblige him to do the same.

The Accomplices: A Review

It seems fitting to review Bernard Weinraub's The Accomplices around the time of Israel's 59th Independence Day. I saw Ian Morgan's impressive New Group production at The Acorn theatre on 42nd Street last Saturday. The actors were uniformly excellent, direction intelligent, sets and costumes true to the 1940s period. Weinraub's play is a serious work about an important subject, and even if were not as well-written as it is, one that merits sober consideration. It is not for everyone, just for sensitive and intelligent audiences who like old-fashioned plays that help them think as well as feel. In a word--highbrow.

It is necessary to note that The Accomplices is a work of metaphorical rather than literal truth. Don't look to the play for an account of what actually happened day-by-day. It is not a documentary--although reminiscent of work by Clifford Odets, Arthur Miller, or the WPA Federal Theatre Project's Living Newspaper. Rather, it reflects a personal re-imagining of history in order to illuminate, explore, and challenge the complacency of an audience. The pacing is slow and deliberate, it takes concentration and attention to understand what is happening on stage--it is a difficult play, intended for intelligent audiences. If you don't get it, then it's not for you. But if you do, you will think about it for a while. It sticks.

The conflicts between characters are symbolic incarnations of forces, such as love, fear, bigotry, assimilation, political expediency, calculation, determination, well-intentioned caution, and regret, that loom bigger than the individuals on stage, bigger than the story itself. For example, Daniel Sauli's Peter Bergson and David Margulies' Rabbi Stephen Wise act not as individuals alone, but as archetypal figures, representing the New Hebrew--the Israeli--in conflict with the Diaspora Jew--in the person of the "Pope" of the American Reform movement.

Bergson, arrived from Palestine, sees America with the eyes of a foreigner, so does not understand Wise. Wise, likewise, does not understand Bergson. What they say to each other on stage, they did not say in real life. But through their actions, they illuminate a Father-Son conflict at the roots of tensions in the relationship between Israel and American Jewry. Zionist leaders like Rabbi Wise helped create the state of Israel. That young Israel pursued a truly independent national course inevitably led to a strained relationship. The conflict between Bergson and Wise is the conflict between the Diaspora and Israel.

This conflict is nested within other sets of dramatic conflicts--between "Our Crowd" members like Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and "street Jews" like speechwriter Samuel Rosenman, between Hollywood representatives like Ben Hecht and Establishment pillars, between Eleanor and Franklin, between the Treasury Department and the State Department. between Congress and the President. It's not just a play about Peter Bergson--it's a play about human nature in times of crisis, as acted out in the American system of government.

In brilliantly acted scenes starring John DeVries as FDR and Robert Hogan as a very Princetonian Breckenridge Long, Weinraub illuminates FDR's Machiavellian genius in holding together a Democratic Party coalition that united Southern racists and union leaders alongside liberal Northerners. In the character of Breckenridge Long, the State Deparment functionary responsible for keeping immigrants out of the USA in the wake of the Depression. When Rosenman finally asks Long to let up and permit more refugees to enter the USA, Long tells Samuel Rosenman that they both work for the same man--FDR.

Even Bergson's relationship with his wife Betty is symbolic of a conflict between political commitment and personal growth--Betty is portrayed as a dancer more interested in Bergson as a man, than in his cause.

Which is to say that The Accomplices is complex and intricate, operating on a series of different levels that require a certain degree of sophistication. It is a subtle work--not The Lion King nor Angels in America.

I must admit a personal interest, in that the author credited my film with stimulating an interest in the subject, and credited me generously in his program notes. Weinraub has gone well beyond what I attempted, and taken his story in a different and interesting direction. In his dramatizations of character and action, he both intensifed and crystallized the underlying personal and philosophical dramas of the conflict in a way that my documentary could not.

And he does it very well. I attended the play with the man who paid for the production of my film, a professor of political science and editor of a journal of international relations--and he was more enthusiastic than I, saying that the depiction of the FDR-Breckenridge Long-Morgenthau relationship was exactlly how political scientists understand presidential decision-making. Perhaps it might be staged at next year's American Political Science Association convention?

In any case, The Accomplices runs in New York until May 5th. You can buy tickets online, here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sarkozy Next French President

That's the gist of today's post-election analysis in today's International Herald Tribune.

Leon Aron Remembers Boris Yeltsin, 76

In a statement released by the American Enterprise Institute:
Today, Boris Yeltsin, the first democratically elected leader in Russia's thousand-year history, died.

As AEI resident scholar Leon Aron explains in his book, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life, Yeltsin oversaw the transformation of the Russian political system from stark totalitarianism to free market-based democracy. He institutionalized the vital liberties that Gorbachev had granted only provisionally and often by default, including freedom of speech and free and multicandidate elections. His eight and a half years as president were by far the freest, most tolerant, and open period Russia had ever known.

The Russia that Yeltsin left behind reflected the contradictions of its founding father. It was a hybrid: a polity still semiauthoritarian, corrupt, and mistrusted by the society, but also one that was governable, in which the elites' competition for power was arbitrated by popular vote, and in which most of the tools of authoritarian mobilization and coercion appeared to have been significantly dulled.

Leon Aron, author of Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life, the definitive biography of Yeltsin, is available for comment. He can be contacted at or through his assistant, Igor Khrestin, at 202.828.6025 or

For additional media inquiries, please contact Veronique Rodman at 202.862.4870 or

Blame De-Institutionalization for School Massacres

Dr. Jonathan Kellerman tells it like it is about the Virginia Tech massacre, in today's Wall Street Journal:
The basic premise of Community Psych--that severely mentally ill people could be depended on to show up for treatment voluntarily--never made sense to me. The core of the most common and debilitating psychosis, schizophrenia, is degradation of thought and reason. So the idea that people with fractured minds could and would make rational, often complex decisions about self-care seemed preposterous.

One day, I voiced that opinion in class, questioning if any mechanisms were being set in place to prevent a flood of schizophrenics from ending up on the streets, homeless, helpless, victims of crime and, in some cases, victimizers. The Community Psych professor--one of the liberationists--responded with a patronizing smile and a folksy account of the success of a program in rural Belgium or some such place, where humble working folk created a therapeutic milieu by volunteering to house psychotics in their humble homes and everything ended up peachy.

I didn't challenge what amounted to flimsy anecdotal data, but I did question its relevance to the plight of thousands of severely mentally disabled individuals set loose in vast urban centers. The professor's smile tightened and he changed the subject; and I resolved to get through this joke of a prerequisite and concentrate on becoming the best psychologist possible.

By the time I received my doctorate in 1974, the doors to many of the locked wards had been flung open and the much vaunted community mental health centers were being built--predominately in low-rent neighborhoods. A few years later, government funding for these allegedly humane treatment outposts had been cut, as yet more fiscal belt-tightening was inspired by findings that they didn't work.

Because crazy people rarely showed up for treatment voluntarily, and when they did, the treatment milieu consisted of queuing up interminably at Thorazine Kiosks.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

William Easterly on Paul Wolfowitz

In today's Washington Post:
Pity Paul Wolfowitz: Every time he tries regime change, he triggers an insurrection.

The latest revolt was launched by World Bank staffers and Western aid leaders in response to the revelation that Wolfowitz -- who had made a crusade against corruption the hallmark of his bumpy tenure as president of the World Bank -- may have awarded his companion a $60,000 pay increase. A staff that had always hated working for the intellectual architect of the Iraq war was now quite literally shouting for his resignation, and Wolfowitz was left wandering the corridors of the bank looking for a Green Zone in which to hide.

The root cause of his debacle at the bank was pretty much the same as the reason for the fiasco in Iraq: intellectual hubris at the top that disdained the messy realities at the bottom. He imagined it would be as easy to clean up the pathologies of foreign aid as he had thought it would be to create democracy in the Middle East.

Was Virgnia Tech Gunman Taught to Hate?

James Lewis says Virginia Tech's curriculum is full of crazy ideas that may have set the stage for Cho Seung-Hui's violent rampage:
Yes, I know. Tens of thousands of ordinary college students are lonely, full of rage, lost and frustrated. A few percent are psychotically disturbed, and some of them can kill. Our big factory colleges are alienating. Take millions of adolescents, and at any time there are bound to be quite a few confused and seething souls walking loose. Just visit downtown in any American or European city, and you can see all the lost and disturbed living in their private hells. And no, that doesn't excuse executing thirty-two innocents.

Still, I wonder --- was Cho taught to hate? Whatever he learned in his classes --- did it enable him to rage at his host country, to hate the students he envied so murderously? Was he subtly encouraged to aggrandize himself by destroying others? Was his pathology enabled by the PC university? Or to ask the question differently --- was Cho ever taught to respect others, to admire the good things about his host country, and to discipline himself to build a positive life?

And that answer is readily available on the websites of Cho's English Department at Virginia Tech. This is a wonder world of PC weirdness. English studies at VT are a post-modern Disney World in which nihilism, moral and sexual boundary breaking, and fantasies of Marxist revolutionary violence are celebrated. They show up in a lot of faculty writing. Not by all the faculty, but probably by more than half...

...The question I have is: Are university faculty doing their jobs? At one time college teachers were understood to have a parental role. Take a look at the hiring and promotion criteria for English at VT, and you see what their current values are. Acting in loco parentis, with the care, protectiveness, and alertness for trouble among young people is the last thing on their minds. They are there to do "research," to act like fake revolutionaries, and to stir up young people to go out and revolt against society. Well, somebody just did.

I'm sorry but VT English doesn't look like a place that gives lost and angry adolescents the essential boundaries for civilized behavior. In fact, in this perversely disorienting PoMo world, the very words "civilized behavior" are ridiculed --- at least until somebody starts to shoot students, and then it's too late. A young culture-shocked adolescent can expect no firm guidance here. But we know that already.

John Loftus on the Muslim Brotherhood's Nazi Roots

Melanie Phillips' article on Saddam's WMD led me to Google "John Loftus", which led to this item he published on the history of the Muslim Brotherhood:
Let me give you an example. This year a friend of mine from the CIA, named Bob Baer wrote a very good book about Saudi Arabia and terrorism, it's called “Sleeping with the Devil.” I read the book and I got about a third of the way through and I stopped. Bob was writing how when he worked for the CIA how bad the files were.

He said, for example, the files for the Muslim Brotherhood were almost nothing. There were just a few newspaper clippings. I called Bob up and said, “Bob, that's wrong. The CIA has enormous files on the Muslim Brotherhood, volumes of them. I know because I read them a quarter of a century ago.” He said, “What do you mean?”

Here's how you can find all of the missing secrets about the Muslim Brotherhood -- and you can do this too. I said, “Bob, go to your computer and type in two words into the search part. Type the word “banna,” b-a-n-n-a. He said, “Yeah.” Type in “Nazi.” Bob typed the two words in, and out came (now tens of) thousands of articles from around the world. He read them and called me back and said, “Oh my God, what have we done?”

What I'm doing today is doing what I'm doing now: I'm educating a new generation in the CIA that the Muslim Brotherhood was a fascist organization that was hired by Western Intelligence that evolved over time into what we today know as al Qaeda.

Here's how the story began. In the 1920's there was a young Egyptian named al Banna. And al Banna formed this nationalist group called the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Bana was a devout admirer of Adolph Hitler and wrote to him frequently. So persistent was he in his admiration of the new Nazi Party that in the 1930's, al Bana and the Muslim Brotherhood became a secret arm of Nazi Intelligence.

The Arab Nazis had much in common with the new Nazi doctrines. They hated Jews; they hated democracy; and they hated the Western culture. It became the official policy of the Third Reich to secretly develop the Muslim Brotherhood as the fifth Parliament, an army inside Egypt.

When war broke out, the Muslim Brotherhood promised in writing that they would rise up and help General Rommell and make sure that no English or American soldier was left alive in Cairo or Alexandria.

The Muslim Brotherhood began to expand in scope and influence during World War II. They even had a Palestinian section headed by the grand Mufti of Jerusalem, one of the great bigots of all time. Here, too, was a man - - The grand Mufti of Jerusalem was the Muslim Brotherhood representative for Palestine. These were undoubtedly Arab Nazis. The Grand Mufti, for example, went to Germany during the war and helped recruit an international SS division of Arab Nazis. They based it in Croatia and called it the “Handjar” Muslim Division, but it was to become the core of Hitler's new army of Arab fascists that would conquer the Arab peninsula from then on to Africa -- grand dreams.

At the end of World War II, the Muslim Brotherhood was wanted for war crimes. Their German intelligence handlers were captured in Cairo. The whole net was rolled up by the British Secret Service. Then a horrible thing happened.

Instead of prosecuting the Nazis - - the Muslim Brotherhood - - the British government hired them. They brought all the fugitive Nazi war criminals of Arab and Muslim descent into Egypt, and for three years they were trained on a special mission. The British Secret Service wanted to use the fascists of the Muslim Brotherhood to strike down the infant state of Israel in 1948. Only a few people in the Mossad know this, but many of the members of the Arab Armies and terrorist groups that tried to strangle the infant State of Israel were the Arab Nazis of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Britain was not alone. The French Intelligence service cooperated by releasing the Grand Mufti and smuggling him to Egypt, so all of the Arab Nazis came together. So, from 1945 to 1948, the British Secret Service protected every Arab Nazi they could, but they failed to quash the State of Israel.

What the British did then, they sold the Arab Nazis to the predecessor of what became the CIA. It may sound stupid; it may sound evil, but it did happen. The idea was that we were going to use the Arab Nazis in the Middle East as a counterweight to the Arab communists. Just as the Soviet Union was funding Arab communists, we would fund the Arab Nazis to fight against. And lots of secret classes took place. We kept the Muslim Brotherhood on our payroll.

But the Egyptians became nervous. Nasser ordered all of the Muslim Brotherhood out of Egypt or be imprisoned, and we would execute them all. During the 1950's, the CIA evacuated the Nazis of the Muslim Brotherhood to Saudi Arabia. Now when they arrived in Saudi Arabia, some of the leading lights of the Muslim Brotherhood like Azzam, became the teachers in the Madrasas, the religious schools. And there they combined the doctrines of Nazism with this weird Islamic cult, Wahhabiism.

Everyone thinks that Islam is this fanatical religion, but it is not. They think that Islam -- the Saudi version of Islam - -is typical, but it's not. The Wahhabi cult was condemned as a heresy more than 60 times by the Muslim nations. But when the Saudis got wealthy, they bought a lot of silence. This is a very harsh cult. The Wahhabiism was only practiced by two nations, the Taliban and Saudi Arabia. That's how extreme it is. It really has nothing to do with Islam. Islam is a very peaceful and tolerant religion. It has always had good relationships with the Jews for the first thousand years of its existence.

For the Saudis, there was a ruler in charge of Saudi Arabia, and they were the new home of the Muslim Brotherhood, and fascism and extremism were mingled in these schools. And there was a young student who paid attention - - and Azzam's student was named Osama Bin Ladin. Osama Bin Ladin was taught by the Nazis of the Muslim Brotherhood who had emigrated to Saudi Arabia.

In 1979 the CIA decided to take the Arab Nazis out of cold storage. The Russians had invaded Afghanistan, so we told the Saudis that we would fund them if they would bring all of the Arab Nazis together and ship them off to Afghanistan to fight the Russians. We had to rename them. We couldn't call them the Muslim Brotherhood because that was too sensitive a name. Its Nazi cast was too known. So we called them the Maktab al Khidimat il Mujahideen, the MAK.

And the CIA lied to Congress and said they didn't know who was on the payroll in Afghanistan, except the Saudis. But it was not true. A small section CIA knew perfectly well that we had once again hired the Arab Nazis and that we were using them to fight our secret wars.

Azzam and his assistant, Osama Bin Ladin, rose to some prominence from 1979 to '89, and they won the war. They drove the Russians out of Afghanistan. Our CIA said, “We won, let's go home!” and we left this army of Arab fascists in the field of Afghanistan.

Saudis didn't want to come back. Saudis started paying bribes to Osama Bin Ladin and his followers to stay out of Saudi Arabia. Now the MAK split in half. Azzam was mysteriously assassinated apparently by Osama Bin Ladin himself. The radical group -- the most radical of the merge of the Arab fascists and religious extremists -- Osama called that al Qaeda. But to this day there are branches of the Muslim Brotherhood all through al Qaeda.

Osama Bin Ladin's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, came from the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the results of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

There are many flavors and branches, but they are all Muslim Brotherhoods. There is one in Israel. The organization you know as “Hamas” is actually a secret chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. When Israel assassinated Sheik Yassin, the Muslim Brotherhood published his obituary in a Cairo newspaper in Arabic and revealed that he was actually the secret leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza.

So the Muslim Brotherhood became this poison that spread throughout the Middle East and on 9/11, it began to spread around the world.

Where is Saddam's WMD?

Melanie Phillips claims that Saddam' Hussein's WMD was moved to Syria after discovery by Iraq Survey Group inspector Dave Gaubatz, due to American incompetence during the Iraq war--and that the CIA is involved in a CYA operation that requires denying that fact, while destroying relevant evidence:
‘The problem was that the ISG were concentrating their efforts in looking for WMD in northern Iraq and this was in the south’, says Mr Gaubatz. ‘They were just swept up by reports of WMD in so many different locations. But we told them if they didn’t excavate these sites, others would’.

That, he says, is precisely what happened. He subsequently learned from Iraqi, CIA and British intelligence that the WMD buried in the four sites were excavated by Iraqis and Syrians, with help from the Russians, and moved to Syria. The location in Syria of this material, he says, is also known to these intelligence agencies. The worst-case scenario has now come about. Saddam’s nuclear, biological and chemical material is in the hands of a rogue terrorist state — and one with close links to Iran.

When Mr Gaubatz returned to the US, he tried to bring all this to light. Two congressmen, Peter Hoekstra, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Curt Weldon, were keen to follow up his account. To his horror, however, when they tried to access his classified intelligence reports they were told that all 60 of them —which, in the routine way, he had sent in 2003 to the computer clearing-house at a US air base in Saudi Arabia —had mysteriously gone missing. These written reports had never even been seen by the ISG.

One theory is that they were inadvertently destroyed when the computer’s data base was accidentally erased in the subsequent US evacuation of the air base. Mr Gaubatz, however, suspects dirty work at the crossroads. It is unlikely, he says, that no copies were made of his intelligence. And he says that all attempts by Messrs Hoekstra and Weldon to extract information from the Defence Department and CIA have been relentlessly stonewalled.

In 2005, the CIA held a belated inquiry into the disappearance of this intelligence. Only then did its agents visit the sites — to report that they had indeed been looted.

Mr Gaubatz’s claims remain largely unpublicised. Last year, the New York Times dismissed him as one of a group of WMD diehard obsessives. The New York Sun produced a more balanced report, but after that the coverage died. According to Mr Gaubatz, the reason is a concerted effort by the US intelligence and political world to stifle such an explosive revelation of their own lethal incompetence.

After he and an Iraqi colleague spoke at last month’s Florida meeting of the Intelligence Summit, an annual conference of the intelligence world, they were interviewed for two hours by a US TV show — only for the interview to be junked after the FBI repeatedly rang Mr Gaubatz and his colleague to say they would stop the interview from being broadcast.

The problem the US authorities have is that they can’t dismiss Mr Gaubatz as a rogue agent — because they have repeatedly decorated him for his work in the field. In 2003, he received awards for his ‘courage and resolve in saving lives and being critical for information flow’. In 2001, he was decorated for being the ‘lead agent in a classified investigation, arguably the most sensitive counter-intelligence investigation currently in the entire Department of Defence’ and because his ‘reports were such high quality, many were published in the Air Force’s daily threat product for senior USAF leaders or re-transmitted at the national level to all security agencies in US government’.

The organiser of the Intelligence Summit, John Loftus — himself a formidably well-informed former attorney to the intelligence world —has now sent a memorandum to Congress asking it to investigate Mr Gaubatz’s claims. He has also hit a brick wall. The reason is not hard to grasp.

The Republicans won’t touch this because it would reveal the incompetence of the Bush administration in failing to neutralise the danger of Iraqi WMD . The Democrats won’t touch it because it would show President Bush was right to invade Iraq in the first place. It is an axis of embarrassment.

Mr Loftus goes further. Saddam’s nuclear research, scientists and equipment, he says, have all been relocated to Syria, where US satellite intelligence confirms that uranium centrifuges are now operating — in a country which is not supposed to have any nuclear programme. There is now a nuclear axis, he says, between Iran, Syria and North Korea — with Russia and China helping build an Islamic bomb against the west. And of course, with assistance from American negligence.

‘Apparently Saddam had the last laugh and donated his secret stockpile to benefit Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. With a little technical advice from Beijing, Syria is now enriching the uranium, Iran is making the missiles, North Korea is testing the warheads, and the White House is hiding its head in the sand.’

France Awaits Election Returns

CNN coverage here.
Too close to call in advance, says Sky News:
A new opinion poll shows centre-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy still leading with 29%, ahead of the Socialist Segolene Royal on 25%.

The BVA poll has the centrist candidate Francois Bayrou slipping to 15%.

But at least one-third of voters are still undecided ahead of Sunday's first round.
Writing in Slate, Christopher Hitchens predicts they will vote for Jean Le Pen:
Le Pen may still be proven wrong next weekend in his overconfident assertion that people will vote for the real thing rather than a surrogate. Sarkozy, and others, may draw his fangs by stealing his voters. But some of us can remember a time when—as someone once put it—if you heard people discussing La Revolution in a French cafe, you realized that they were talking not about the last one, but the next one. I don't think it is sufficiently appreciated that France has now become the most conservative major country in Europe, where different defenses of the status quo are at war only with different forms of nostalgia and even outright reaction.

Friday, April 20, 2007

LGF: PBS's "Insane Bias"

In an episode of its multipart series on Islamism:
Here’s a very good look at the insane bias of the PBS series “America At a Crossroads,” as they go to the most notorious extremist front group in America for quotes about “moderation,” and brush aside CAIR’s many, well-documented connections to terrorist groups. With an extended section about “soaring hate crimes” against Muslims, this is nothing but a public relations presentation for CAIR. Saudi money sure can buy some PBS love...

...And just for the record, in the 2001 FBI hate crime report, they list 481 anti-Islamic incidents: in 2002, 155; in 2003, 149; and in 2004, there were 156. That’s how much they have “soared.”

Ken Burns's and PBS's New "Separate But Equal" Hispanic Veteran Deal...

That's the strong implication of Paul Farhi's Washington Post story from April 18th:
A PBS official said yesterday that filmmaker Ken Burns will not re-cut his documentary on World War II -- a statement that disappointed and angered minority-group activists who on Tuesday said they believed Burns and PBS had committed to reediting the film to address their concerns about its content.

Programming chief John Wilson, seeking to clarify PBS's earlier statements, said yesterday that Burns's 14 1/2 -hour documentary, "The War," is complete. That statement, however, leaves unresolved the complaints from some Latino and American Indian organizations, which have been pressing Burns and PBS for months to incorporate into the film material about Latino and American Indian service members.

Burns has resisted any suggestion that he is changing "The War," despite his agreement to film additional material to try to address advocates' concerns. A spokesman for Burns insisted yesterday that the filmmaker isn't "reediting" his work, as The Washington Post reported yesterday....

...Some of the disagreement over Burns's -- and PBS's -- intentions turns on small but critical semantic distinctions, particularly whether the unproduced new material will be a "part" of "The War," or instead air as a supplement.

Latino advocates are wary that the additional content that Burns has promised will appear during breaks in the film, or otherwise outside the main story arc. They insist that the new material should be part of the story itself, which focuses on the wartime experiences of four towns or cities in different regions of the country.

But that will not be the case, according to Burns's representative and Wilson.

"It does not satisfy our concerns to be an amendment or some kind of addendum" to the documentary, said Raul Tapia, a spokesman for the American G.I. Forum, a Latino veterans organization. Latinos "who contributed so much to winning the war deserve better. They are not an addendum. They stood up for their country, and we are standing up for them."

Joshua Foust on Irshad Manji

Joshua Foust writes about Irshad Manji, on his blog The Conjecturer, about an episode of the PBS series America at a Crossroads:
The first hour was the debut documentary of Irshad Manji, the self-styled Muslim Refusenik. It basically follows her as she visits Yemen, Amsterdam, and her mother in Canada, discussing her objections to modern, extremist Islam. As always, it is mesmerizing to watch a devout lesbian feminist battle the regressive, fundamentalist men destroying her faith. I can relate, though obviously not to the same degree...

In Memoriam, Liviu Librescu

A link to Liviu Librescu's Virginia Tech website.

Wall Street Journal: Wolfowitz Scandal Payback for Anti-Corruption Drive at World Bank

Robert B. Holland, III, the US representative to the World Bank, writes that there's more to the Wolfowitz scandal than an appearance of nepotism, self-dealing, and cover-up by a former defense department official--it's about entrenched corruption among World Bank permanent staff:
Those interested in the success of the World Bank should be under no illusion as to what is really motivating the staff revolt now playing out and what the consequences are likely to be. Many are opposed to Mr. Wolfowitz's anti-corruption emphasis, some on the good faith basis that he is placing disproportionate emphasis on the issue at the expense of other development priorities. Others, however, are opposed on the selfish basis that elevating anticorruption and governance considerations will result in lower lending levels and more difficult negotiations with borrowing governments. Still others may fear exposure of corruption among staff itself and possible adverse donor reaction if widespread corruption appears to plague Bank operations.

Regardless of the fates of Mr. Wolfowitz and the anticorruption initiative, the Bank faces an existential financial problem because of the combined effect of its declining relevance and attractiveness as a funding source for many middle-income countries like China, India, Mexico and Russia, and an annual administrative budget exceeding $1 billion. It's a positive development that many countries no longer are dependent on Bank lending, but the income consequences to the Bank need to be addressed because the administrative budget is a serious burden on the world's poor and donor taxpayers.

The most important cost drivers are staff salaries and headcount, and it is here where some of the most pernicious effects of the staff association's union characteristics are felt. Over the years, the Bank's legal department has constructed a complex set of rules and procedures governing employment practices, particularly terminations, designed to avoid a court of law somewhere imposing something more onerous in the name of "due process."

The unfortunate result is a system of such Dickensian complexity that virtually all bank managers have concluded that no one can be fired. This, and the tendency of many Board members to intervene in individual cases to protect or promote their nationals, has resulted in far too many employees, many of whom are widely viewed as incompetent, and costly salaries and severance packages (compared to which Ms. Riza's package is a pittance).

Other unfortunate results are an unreasonably low mandatory retirement age of 60 and the retention of an army of consultants nearly as large as the Bank's regular workforce. Many consultants are former Bank staff. The permanent nature of Bank employment also complicates needed reform of its whistleblower policies, which are frequently abused as another tool of entrenchment.

All of these and other factors have added up to a bloated budget in which an unusually honest and candid senior budget official , who met with Mr. Wolfowitz in my home pending board approval of his nomination to avoid detection by more senior Bank staff, identified specific examples of wasteful spending adding up to about $300 million annually. Mr. Wolfowitz's first steps to rein in the Bank's unsustainable cost structure are another important reason many staff and their board allies want him gone. Unless he and his successors and the board address the cost structure, the Bank will be in danger of collapse.
After reading this, it seems that the US Congress might need to conduct an in-depth investigation of what's really going on at the World Bank. Obviously Wolfowitz didn't have the management skills needed for his job. And, after all, those huge tax-free salaries at the World Bank are paid by US taxpayer dollars...

Perhaps it may be time for Congress to shut down the World Bank gravy train altogether?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nancy Pelosi's Father Helped Peter Bergson Rescue Jews During WWII

My father sent me this link, to Rafael Medoff's Jerusalem Post article about Nancy Pelosi's father--who supported Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook)--protagonist of Bernard Weinraub's new play, "The Accomplices," as well as my documentary (just out on DVD from Kino), "Who Shall LIve and Who Shall Die?"--in Congress:
Speaker Pelosi's father, the late US congressman Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., of Maryland, was known as a Roosevelt Democrat. What is not widely known is that D'Alesandro broke ranks with president Franklin D. Roosevelt on the issues of rescuing Jews from Hitler and creating a Jewish State.

D'Alesandro was one of the congressional supporters of the Bergson Group, a maverick Jewish political action committee that challenged the Roosevelt administration's policies on the Jewish refugee issue during the Holocaust, and later lobbied against British control of Palestine.

The Bergson activists used unconventional tactics to draw attention to the plight of Europe's Jews, including staging theatrical pageants, organizing a march by 400 rabbis to the White House, and placing more than 200 full-page advertisements in newspapers around the country. Some of those ads featured lists of celebrities, prominent intellectuals, and members of Congress who supported the group - including D'Alesandro.

D'Alesandro's involvement with the Bergson Group was remarkable because he was a Democrat who was choosing to support a group that was publicly challenging a Democratic president. And D'Alesandro was not one of the conservative Southern "Dixiecrat" Democrats who sometimes tangled with FDR over various issues; he was a staunch supporter of Roosevelt and the New Deal. He even named his first son Franklin Roosevelt D'Alesandro.

UNTIL LATE in the Holocaust, the Roosevelt administration's position was that nothing could be done to rescue Jews from the Nazis except to win the war. The Bergson Group was convinced that there were many steps the US could take to rescue refugees, without impeding the war effort.

Bergson's strategy for changing US policy was anchored in the hope that humanitarian-minded Democrats like D'Alesandro would break ranks with the White House over the plight of the Jews. Rallying Congress was a way to put pressure on the president.

The Bergson Group's Holocaust campaign culminated in the introduction of a Congressional resolution, in late 1943, urging creation of a government agency to rescue refugees. Senator Tom Connally of Texas, a loyal FDR supporter and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blocked the committee's consideration of the resolution. But when Connally was out sick one day, his replacement, Senator Elbert Thomas (D-Utah) quickly ushered the resolution through. In the House of Representatives, too, there was growing support for the rescue resolution.

This Congressional pressure helped influence President Roosevelt to do what the resolution urged - in early 1944, he established the War Refugee Board. Despite its small staff and meager funding, the Board played a key role in the rescue of more than 200,000 Jews from the Holocaust. Its many accomplishments included sponsoring the heroic life-saving activities of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg in Nazi-occupied Budapest.

AFTER THE war, D'Alesandro continued supporting the Bergson Group as it campaigned for the establishment of a Jewish State in Mandatory Palestine. That sometimes meant clashing with the Truman administration, which wavered back and forth on the issue of Jewish statehood...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Killer Had History of Mental Illness

From The Telegraph (UK):
The South Korean student who shot 32 people at Virginia Tech university was held in a mental health unit after two women students complained about his behaviour in autumn 2005, according to the university police chief.

Virginia Tech university officials were also warned repeatedly about Cho Seung-hui more than a year ago, a university teacher said.

Cho Seung-hui railed against ‘rich kids’and ‘debauchery’

Lucinda Roy, a former chairwoman of Virginia Tech’s English Department, told CNN she warned officials about Cho Seung-hui, 23, in 2005 after seeing how disturbing his creative writing essays were.

But she said the warnings were not taken seriously enough. The university has not yet responded to her comments.

Ms Roy said that she was so disturbed by what she found that she decided to take him out of the classroom for one-to-one tutoring.

“I was so uncomfortable that I didn’t feel that I could leave him in the classroom,” she said.

Queens College Conference on World Jewry

It's called: Is It 1938 Again?. Speakers include: Professor Irving Louis Horowitz,Hannah Arendt University Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Political Science, Rutgers University;Professor Michael Walzer,Center for Advanced Study, Princeton, Editor, Dissent;Professor Alan Dershowitz
Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; and Norman Podhoretz, Editor-at-Large, Commentary Magazine . From the program:
In 1938, German Nazi totalitarianism, under the charismatic and mad leadership of Adolf Hitler, began its march toward world conquest and the destruction of the Jews. In an act of willful blindness, Western democratic leaders chose to negotiate and appease Nazism. Many Jewish leaders also downplayed the danger by convincing themselves that Nazi ideology was merely for domestic political consumption. Seven years later, over 50 million people, including six million European Jews, were dead: victims of World War II.

In 2007, extreme Islamist forces have spawned global Jihad, a state-sponsored terrorist war against the West as well as moderate Islamic states and their leaders, a war in which they openly proclaim their intention to destroy the Jewish State of Israel and its seven million inhabitants. This time, the chief peril emanates from radical Islamist Iran, whose President Ahmadinejad openly pursues nuclear weapons capability while brazenly declaring, “The accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible.”

“IS IT 1938 AGAIN? A Major Conference on the State of World Jewry” presents an international array of scholars, writers, intellectuals and activists who will assess, debate and discuss today’s threat against the West and the Jewish people and identify options for meeting dangers to Jewish survival. Ample time will be allocated for Q&A.

Scotland Remembers Dunblane Massacre

From Scotland's Daily Record:
THE shootings brought back horrific memories to two fathers whose daughters were killed in the Dunblane massacre 11 years ago.

Five-year-olds Sophie North and Victoria Clydesdale were among the 16 children and a teacher murdered by gunman Thomas Hamilton at a primary school in the Perthshire town on March 13, 1996. Sophie's dad Dr Mick North said: "I am still shaken after hearing the news of more young lives lost.

"And the number of those killed is horrifying." Dr North, who campaigns for tighter gun control in Britain, revealed he had previously visited Virginia Tech on an academic trip.

He said: "To know the place brings it more in to focus for me. Thoughts of my Sophie are always with me. It would be impossible to lose a daughter in any circumstances and for that not to be the case.

"But in those horrific circumstances, to see something like this happen again, it jolts you back to where you were 11 years ago."

Victoria Clydesdale's dad, Charlie, said: "I feel angry that, after the pain we went through, these things still happen. And I feel so sad for those families who have lost sons and daughters.

E. Fuller Torrey: Not Treating Mental Illness is Dangerous & Deadly

E. Fuller Torrey's article from the October 27, 2000 Orlando Sentinel seems relevant to the Virginia Tech massacre:
...» About 16 percent of state jail and prison inmates, roughly 16,000 people, are severely mentally ill.

» People with untreated severe mental illness are nearly three times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime.

» Ten to 15 times more suicides occur among those people with untreated, severe mental illness.

» More than 1,000 homicides in the United States are committed each year by people who have untreated mental illness.

These statistics can be attributed to the insidious nature of these illnesses.

Half of those suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder don't realize that they are sick and in need of treatment because of a biologically based symptom, anosognosia. These individuals don't realize that the hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and withdrawal they're experiencing are symptoms. Because they don't know that they are sick, they refuse treatment....

In other words, an individual must have a finger on the trigger of a gun before medical intervention will be permitted.
And this:

SUMMARY: It is well known that the two major demographic predictors of violent behavior are male sex and younger age. It is also known that the two major clinical predictors of violent behavior are past history of violence and substance abuse (alcohol and/or drug). Recent studies have established that being severely mentally ill and not taking medication is a third major clinical predictor of violent behavior.

* * *
1. Severely mentally ill individuals who ARE taking their medication are NOT more dangerous than the general population.
The three-site MacArthur Foundation Study of violence and mental illness reported that discharged psychiatric patients without substance abuse had approximately the same incidence of violent behavior as other individuals living in the same neighborhoods. These patients were being followed closely for a year and most were taking their medications. The reported results were weakened by the fact that the patients with the most violent past histories were excluded from the study and the fact that the Pittsburgh neighborhoods used as controls were "disproportionately impoverished and had higher violent crime rates through the city as a whole."
Steadman HJ, Mulvey EP, Monahan J, et. al. Violence by people discharged from acute psychiatric impatient facilities and by others in the same neighborhoods. Archives of General Psychiatry 55:393-401, 1998.

2. Severely mentally ill individuals who are NOT taking their medication ARE more dangerous than the general population.
Several early studies in the 1970s suggested this fact but were not well controlled. For example, a 6-year follow-up of 301 patients discharged between 1972 and 1975 from a California state hospital reported that their arrest rate for "violent crimes" was 10 times the rate for the general population.

Israeli Professor Saved His Students

From the NY Daily News story on Virginia Tech University Prof. Liviu Librescu:
The students in the class dropped to the floor and started overturning desks to hide behind as about a dozen shots rang out, he said.

Then the gunfire started coming closer. Librescu, 77, fearlessly braced himself against the door, holding it shut against the gunman in the hall, while students darted to the windows of the second-floor classroom to escape the slaughter, survivors said.
Mallalieu and most of his classmates hung out of the windows and dropped about 10 feet to bushes and grass below - but Librescu stayed behind to hold off the crazed gunman.

Alec Calhoun, 20, said the last thing he saw before he jumped from the window was Librescu, blocking the door against the madman in the hallway.

He died trying to protect the students.
More here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where's the Outrage?

From a comment on the Chicago Sun-Times website in response to President Bush's speech at Virginia Tech:
As a Virginia Tech Alumni I am disgusted that politicians are showing their faces and speaking at this event.
I'm disgusted at the event, period. President Bush should have visited at the hospital with the wounded survivors, then fired the FBI agents responsible for the federal role in this massacre--not one policeman, sheriff, or FBI agent was wounded or attempted to stop the killing. A beserk gunman is not a hostage situation, Mr. President...

Virginia Tech Timeline

From Channel Four (UK):
Monday April 16

7.15am - Virginia Tech Police Department receives an emergency call to go to a dormitory room at West Ambler Johnston Residence Hall at the Virginia Tech University.

Officers and members of the Virginia Tech rescue squad arrive to find two people, a man and a woman, have been shot dead in a dormitory.

The hall is closed off, students are asked to remain in their rooms and police begin collecting evidence and identifying witnesses.

The university authorities believe the deaths are "an isolated incident, domestic in nature."

7.30am - Officers begin following leads about a "person of interest" regarding the double murder.

8.25am - The Virginia Tech Leadership Team, including the University president, meet to assess the situation and to decide how to notify students of what has happened.

9am - The Leadership Team is briefed by Virginia Tech police chief Wendell Flinchum on the ongoing investigation.

9.26am - All university staff and students are sent an email informing them of the murders and asking them to report any suspicious activity. An emergency recording and a telephone message are also transmitted.

9.45am - The police receive a second emergency call to go to Norris Hall, an engineering building containing faculty offices, classrooms and laboratories.

Officers arrive to find the front doors chained shut from the inside. They break down the barricades and hear gunshots as they enter the building.

They follow the sounds to the second floor. As they reach it, the gunshots stop. Officers then discover the gunman, who has taken his own life.

9.55am - Staff and students are notified by email again about the second shootings.

Virginia Tech President Was Major Bush Campaign Donor

The crime scene at Virginia Tech was so incompetently handled, the response by Steger such an outrageous CYA bureaucratic bungle, I suspected the Virginia Tech president may have been a Bushie...

So I checked it out on the FEC database and learned that indeed, in 2004, Virginia Tech president Charles Steger gave $2000 (the maximum) to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign. In 2006, he gave $1000 to George Allen's Senate campaign.

Heck of a job, Steger...

Presented by the Federal Election Commission

Individual Contributions Arranged By Type, Giver, Then Recipient

Contributions to Political Committees


09/05/2003 2000.00 23992060756

Total Contributions: 2000.00

Joint Fundraising Contributions

These are contributions to committees who are raising funds to be distributed to other committees. The breakdown of these contributions to their final recipients may appear below


10/18/2006 1000.00 26940557549

Total Joint Fundraising: 1000.00

Recipient of Joint Fundraiser Contributions

These are the Final Recipients of Joint Fundraising Contributions


10/18/2006 1000.00 26020940597

Recipient Total: 1000.00

Dennis Prager: You're Dead, I'm Healing

Someone I know sent me Rabbi Dennis Prager's column on the Virginia Tech massacre:
Within hours of the massacre of more than 30 people at Virginia Tech University, the president of the university issued his first statement on the evil that had just engulfed the college campus and concluded with this:

"We're making plans for a convocation tomorrow at noon in Cassell Coliseum for the university to come together to begin the healing process from this terrible tragedy."

Other university officials also spoke about beginning the healing process and about bringing in counselors to help students heal.

I believe that this early healing talk is both foolish and immoral.

It is foolish because one does not speak about healing the same day (or week or perhaps even month) that one is traumatized -- especially by evil. One must be allowed time for anger and grief. To speak of healing and "closure" before one goes through those other emotions is to speak not of healing but of suppression.

Not to allow people time to experience their natural, and noble, instincts to feel rage and grief actually deprives them of the ability to heal in the long run. After all, if there is no rage and grief, what is there to heal from?

The Jewish tradition, still observed even by non-Orthodox Jews, is to sit "shiva" (seven) days and do nothing but mourn and receive visitors after the death of an immediate relative. One does not have to be a religious Jew or even a Jew to appreciate this ancient wisdom.

It is not good for people to feign normalcy immediately after the loss of a loved one. People who have not been allowed, or not allowed themselves, time to grieve suffer later on. Any child who loses a parent and is "protected" from grieving by a well-intentioned parent who tries to act "normal" right after the other parent's death is likely to pay a steep psychological price.

Personally, I don't want to heal now. I want to feel rage at the monster who slaughtered all those young innocent people at Virginia Tech. And I want to grieve over those innocents' deaths.

This whole notion of instant healing (like its twin, instant forgiveness) is also morally wrong.

First, it is narcissistic. It focuses on me and my pain, not on the murderer and the murdered.

Second, it is almost obscene to talk of our healing when the bodies of the murdered are still lying in their blood on the very spot they were slaughtered. Our entire focus of attention must be on them and on the unspeakable suffering of their loved ones, not on the pain of the student body and the Virginia Tech "community."

Virginia Tech Parents: Fire University President

The tragedy at Virginia Tech is horrible, and as someone I know said to me last night, the question that needs to be asked is not "Why?" but "How?".

Virginia Tech parents have suggested a first step towards fixing things:
Parents of a Virginia Tech student expressed outrage Monday at what they call an inadequate response by college brass to the worst mass-murder shooting in American history.

John and Jennifer Shourds of Lovettsville, Va. demanded the immediate firings of University President Charles Steger and Virginia Tech Campus Police Chief W.R. Flinchum who he said "screwed up" the handling of separate shooting incidents that left 33 students dead, including the shooter.

“My God, if someone shoots somebody there should be an immediate lockdown of the campus,” said John Shourds. “They totally blew it. The president blew it, campus police blew it.”

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Financial Times: Wolfowitz Must Go

What then do we see here? The answer is: an apparent violation of Bank rules; favouritism that borders on nepotism; and a possible cover-up. It is true Mr Wolfowitz and Ms Riza were put in a difficult position. Even so, what has come out would be bad in any institution. In an institution that spear-heads the cause of good governance in the developing world, it is lethal.

The World Bank has moved from being a self-proclaimed exemplar of best practice in corporate governance to an example of shoddiness. As long as Mr Wolfowitz stays, this can be neither repaired nor forgotten, be it outside the Bank or inside it. In the interests of the Bank itself, he should resign. If he does not, the board must ask him to go.

Investor's Business Daily: Wolfowitz Must Go

Wolfowitz was a visible symbol of U.S. control of the World Bank with this finger-pointing. Corrupt states have often reacted with routine anti-Americanism. Now with clear ethics violations at the top, they have a new excuse for their resentment — and their corruption.

As countries like Tajikistan, Iraq and Haiti see this spectacle unfold, they'll have new reasons to resist outside efforts to clean up.

Then there's those who fund the World Bank — mainly U.S. taxpayers who provide cash and billions in loan guarantees to fund the Bank's $23 billion annual lending.

They come from a world where bank officers, business executives, stock traders and even journalists must carefully follow complex ethics rules or be paraded off before TV cameras in handcuffs as criminals. They aren't fooled by claims of ignorance.
While the White House says it still has full confidence in Wolfowitz, staying on is unlikely to encourage taxpayers of dozens of countries to provide more capital for its $23 billion in annual lending.

Did Wolfowitz Deal Corrupt US State Department?

Soren Ambrose notes the strange arrangement whereby the US State Department agreed to hire a British subject paid by the World Bank to improve the US image in the Muslim world. He doesn't think it appears kosher for Shaha Riza to be paid by the World Bank to promote US political goals:
An Overlooked Angle in Wolfowitz Scandal?
Isn't it odd that there are no questions being asked about a "secondment" arrangement in which international public funds are used to pay the exorbitant salary of a U.S. State Department staffer (and most recently director of a U.S. State Dept. front group) whose mission is to improve the U.S.'s image in the Muslim world?

I've seen nothing about a balancing of the secondment -- e.g., the State Dept. sends four of its staff to the Bank to balance out Shaha Riza's salary. And a five-year secondment must be rather unusually long.

But the key issue should be: why should international taxpayers be supporting efforts to popularize U.S. policy in the Middle East? Are we all really so cynical about the Bank's supposed status as a U.S. puppet that we don't even blink at such an arrangement?

The idea of a "non-political" World Bank was always a fantasy, but this seems to be pushing it a bit far.
He has a running account of Wolfowitz's problems here.

Paul Wolfowitz's Statement to World Bank Annual Meeting

From the World Bank Website:
... Let me also ask for some understanding. Not only was this a painful personal dilemma, but I also had to deal with it when I was new to this institution and I was trying to navigate in uncharted waters. The situation was unprecedented and exceptional. This was an involuntary reassignment and I believed there was a legal risk if this was not resolved by mutual agreement. I take full responsibility for the details. I did not attempt to hide my actions nor make anyone else responsible.

I proposed to the Board that they establish some mechanism to judge whether the agreement reached was a reasonable outcome. I will accept any remedies they propose.

In the larger scheme of things, we have much more important work to focus on. For those people who disagree with the things that they associate me with in my previous job, I’m not in my previous job. I’m not working for the U.S. government, I’m working for this institution and its 185 shareholders. I believe deeply in the mission of the institution and have a passion for it. I think the challenge of reducing poverty is of enormous importance. I think the opportunities in Africa are potentially historic. We have really been able to call attention to the progress that’s possible in Africa, and not just the despair and misery in the poorest countries. I think together we’ve made some progress in enabling this institution to respond more effectively and rapidly both in poor countries and in middle income countries to carry on the fight against poverty. I also believe—even more strongly now than when I came to this job—that the world needs an effective multilateral institution like this one that can responsibly and credibly manage common funds for common purposes, whether it is fighting poverty or dealing with climate change or responding to avian flu. I ask that I be judged for what I’m doing now and what we can do together moving forward.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Britain Says Wolfowitz Has Damaged World Bank

According to Reuters, the Wolfowitz scandal has embarrassed the UK:
Britain said on Saturday the scandal over World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz's promotion of his girlfriend has damaged his institution and the decision over his fate should now lie with its board.

"While this whole business has damaged the Bank and should not have happened, we should respect the board's process," British development minister Hilary Benn said in a statement released as he arrived in Washington for the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings.

"I am sure these views will be shared by other governors who will also be considering their responses."

Wolfowitz has been under growing pressure to resign after it became known that he approved a big pay rise and new job for his girlfriend -- a World Bank staffer.

The White House has offered its full backing for the former Bush administration stalwart but many other countries have so far remained cautious about prejudging any decision by the World Bank's board.
Here's a typical headline from Australia's Sydney Morning Herald: The banker, his lover and her pay rise of $80,000.

That Wolfowitz appears to be blind to the damage the World Bank scandal is doing to him and the institution he heads is another argument for his swift departure...

NGOs: A ‘New Class’ in International Relations

I've just learned that my latest Orbis article, NGOs: A ‘New Class’ in International Relations, is available online from Science Direct. Unfortunately, Science Direct charges for the full text download unless your library has a subscription. However, the abstract, at least, is available for free:
Nongovernmental organizations have attempted to take control of civil society, displacing traditional governing institutions. This serves the interests of the terrorists, warlords, and mafia dons, who benefit from weak central government, and hinders the West's ability to mobilize allies to participate in the war on terror. NGO leaders who are hostile to the nation-state itself seek to transform a voluntary system of participation in international organizations by sovereign member-states via a “power shift” to an unholy alliance of multinational corporations and NGOs. Since they do not possess the traditional sources of legitimacy enjoyed by nation-states, they seek to impose their will by financial or forceful means—for example, “sanctions” or “humanitarian intervention.” A new class of NGOs has thus emerged that is essentially opposed to the diplomatic, legal, and military measures required for dealing with civilizational conflict.

Banned Filmmaker Blasts PBS Islam Series Censors

In a Washington Times op-ed, producer Frank Gaffney accuses Robin MacNeil of collaboration with PBS censors:
As it happens, I was involved in making a film for the "America at a Crossroads" series that also focused on, among others, several American Muslims. Unlike Mr. MacNeil's, however, this 52-minute documentary titled "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," was selected through the competitive process and was originally designated by CPB to be aired in the first Crossroads increment.

Also unlike Mr. MacNeil's film, "Islam vs. Islamists" focuses on the courageous Muslims in the United States, Canada and Western Europe who are challenging the power structure established in virtually every democracy largely with Saudi money to advance worldwide the insidious ideology known as Islamofascism. In fact, thanks to the MacNeil-Lehrer film, the PBS audience soon will be treated to an apparently fawning portrait of one of the most worrisome manifestations of that Saudi-backed organizational infrastructure in America: the Muslim Student Association (MSA). The MSA's efforts to recruit and radicalize students and suppress dissenting views on American campuses is a matter of record and extremely alarming.

In an exchange with me aired on National Public Radio last week, however, Robert MacNeil explained why he and his team had refused to air "Islam vs. Islamists," describing it as "alarmist" and "extremely one-sided." In other words, a documentary that compellingly portrays what happens to moderate Muslims when they dare to speak up for and participate in democracy, thus defying the Islamists and their champions, is not fit for public airwaves -- even in a series specifically created to bring alternative perspectives to their audience.

The MacNeil criticism was merely the latest of myriad efforts over the last year made by WETA and PBS to suppress the message of "Islam vs. Islamists." These included: insisting yours truly be removed as one of the film's executive producers; allowing a series producer with family ties to a British Islamist to insist on sweeping changes to its "structure and context" that would have assured more favorable treatment of those portrayed vilifying and, in some cases, threatening our anti-Islamist protagonists; and hiring as an adviser to help select the final films an avowed admirer of the Nation of Islam -- an organization whose receipt of a million dollars from the Saudis to open black Wahhabi mosques is a feature of our documentary. The gravity of this conflict of interest was underscored when the latter showed an early version of our film to Nation of Islam representatives, an action that seemed scarcely to trouble those responsible for the "Crossroads" series at WETA and PBS.

At this writing, it remains an open question whether PBS will get away with suppressing this film. The decision rests with the CPB, whose vision and support for "Islam vs. Islamists" in the face of sustained hostility for it exhibited by PBS and its friends has made this documentary possible.

Unless and until a way is found to translate into widespread distribution CPB's stated assessment that ours is a powerful and important film, though, the intention of the "Crossroads" series to diminish, if not end, the tyranny of the public airwaves by the left, will be substantially unfulfilled. And "Islam vs. Islamists" will remain the film PBS does not want you to see -- and can keep you from doing so.

Read This Book Online For Free

UC Press has a new digital publishing feature that has a posted an online edition of BEFORE THE NICKELODEON by Charles Musser, a classic film studies text about Thomas Edison's motion-picture business.

NEH Statement on Ken Burns Scandal

Found this statement from Noel Milan of the National Endowment for the Humanities in my email--his response to an earlier post: Unanswered Questions About NEH Role in Ken Burns Scandal:
Dear Dr. Jarvik:

Thanks for your query.

The National Endowment for the Humanities continuously strives through
its rigorous peer review process to fund excellence in significant
products. As a custodian of taxpayer dollars, we make every effort to
ensure a broad range of views are represented in projects we support,
however we cannot censor or manipulate content. The ultimate
responsibility for any project is that of the creator or author.


Noel Milan
Although Ken Burns has surrendered to Hispanic veterans, I think questions about NEH responsibility--and the precise nature of Ken Burns' relationship with NEH--remain unanswered.

Friday, April 13, 2007

UK Foreign Office Condemns Berezovsky Declaration

According to RIAN Novosti, the British government is distancing itself from Berezovky's call for Putin's ouster--but if actions speak louder than words, the question remains: Will the British continue to give Beresovsky a safe haven?
LONDON, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - Britain's Foreign Office Friday condemned Boris Berezovsky's remarks urging a coup against the Russian president and said it will closely look into this and other statements by the exiled tycoon.

The Foreign Office said it deplores anyone who uses their residence in the U.K. as a

platform to call for the violent overthrow of a sovereign government, but stopped short of promising to extradite the fugitive oligarch - something Moscow has been pushing for ever since the billionaire was granted political asylum in 2003.

On Friday, Moscow renewed its calls for Berezovsky's extradition after he said in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian that he has bankrolled Kremlin insiders conspiring to topple Vladimir Putin.