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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: November 2010

ObamaCare’s unintended consequences continue to grow. A little over a week ago, in a Wall Street Journal article written by reporter Yuliya Chernova, readers learned that “one of the largest union-administered health-insurance funds in New York is dropping coverage for the children of more than 30,000 low-wage home attendants.” Why did this happen? The union and its health fund, that of local 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, an affiliate of the SEIU (Service Employees International Union), “blamed financial problems it said were caused by the state’s health department and new national health-insurance requirements.” (my emphasis)

That last line refers, of course, to the new requirements mandated by the Obama health care law that would, among other things, supposedly guarantee health care for all uninsured children. Now, the SEIU affiliate told its members last month “that their dependents will no longer be covered as of Jan. 1, 2011.” That means 6000 children of the poorest workers covered by this SEIU local will lose their current coverage, which they previously enjoyed as part of the union’s health benefits for its members.

The union’s health provider, a firm called Fidelis Care, would no longer cover employees, since the union had what its officers called a “dramatic shortfall” between employee contributions to the fund and premiums charged by Fidelis Care. The union had pooled contributions from several home-care agencies and then bought insurance from Fidelis.  As union officials explained to its members, the “new federal health-care reform legislation requires plans with dependent coverage to expand that coverage up to age 26,” and that meant the union’s “limited resources” that were evidently already stretched “as far as possible” would now require extended benefits that “would be financially impossible.”

To put the double-speak more plainly, ObamaCare made health care impossible to provide for its members — the poor and the working-class that supposedly the new ObamaCare was meant to benefit. The reality, Mitra Behroozie, executive director of the union’s benefit and pension funds, explained, was that the union fund already faced a $15 million shortfall in 2011 that would only grow larger if workers’ children were to be covered.

Because of ObamaCare, New York State now required the fund to participate in what is called the Family Health Plus Buy-In Program, which since 2008 was supposed to give the poor state assistance to buy health care coverage. But instead, as Behroozie put it, “they raised insurance rate increases without any increase in funding, and then cut Medicaid funding to the same workers nine times in the last three years.”  The State of New York, however, replied that it did not force 1199 to buy into any plan, and that the union’s actions had been its own choice.

Part of the problem, the Fidelis head explained, is that the covered workers who will no longer have insurance for their dependents are home health-care workers and attendants, who get sicker than most people because of where they work. In other words, the insurer loses when he gives these people health care premiums, which is why they raised their rates by 60%! Yet employer contributions remained constant, so the benefit fund responded by cutting the roles of eligible members. So while the big unions like the UAW get special deals to exempt them from new rules that hurt their relatively well–off union members, the ones that lose are the hardest working and lowest paid health-care attendants, whose rates go up and whose children now lose any health insurance.

As we all know, this union, an SEIU affiliate, was among the largest to fight during the election for the agenda of the Obama administration, and in particular, to support the new health care legislation.

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Glenn Beck has done a lot of good; he is a defender of Israel and an opponent of Islamic radicalism, and he has exposed many of the worst far left appointments made by the Obama administration — most notably, that of Van Jones.  He has also unfairly been accused of anti-Semitism, of being a modern day version of Father Coughlin, and much worse.  These charges are so out of whack that even one honest liberal has come to his defense on some of these charges. On the website of the New Republic, writer Peter Duffy explained that despite the charge made by the likes of Al Hunt, Keith Olbermann, NYRB writer Mark Lilla, and Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, “Beck is no Coughlin.” Being a left-liberal, Duffy doesn’t thinks much of what Beck says is defensible, but he writes that “the comparison to Coughlin is not only flawed — it is historically illiterate, denying Coughlin, pastor of the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, his rightful place as one of the most odious characters in American history.” Odious Coughlin was, and as Duffy acknowledges, Beck himself has spent much time letting his viewers know the truth about Coughlin, and why he despises him.

So one has good reason to be suspicious when leftists take after Glenn Beck, and one has to learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Nevertheless, sometimes even a person on the political left can be correct in some of the charges he makes. Such is the case to be made for Beck’s dependence on the views of the late W. Cleon Skousen, a name still rather unfamiliar to many Americans — although thanks to Beck, many Tea Party groups have adopted Skousen’s old books and taken them to heart.

The first writer to most recently take on Skousen in a major way and to criticize Beck’s endorsement of him is a leftist writer from the webzine Salon.com, Alexander Zaitchik. In his columns and his book, Common Nonsense, Zaitchik convincingly reveals the conspiratorial mind of Skousen, and shows in meticulous detail how Beck relies upon his analysis for many of his own theories. Yes, I fully realize that the author is a man of the left, and his book is marred by the invective and nasty tone that he constantly uses against Beck. But his reporting on Skousen is first rate. If you are the type of person who insists on dismissing every argument and analysis offered by someone on the left, and believe that there is absolutely nothing you can learn from a political opponent, you are ignoring his data at your own peril.

Next was conservative writer Mark Hemingway, previously at National Revie, and now a columnist for the Washington Examiner. Writing three years ago in NR, Hemingway pointed out the following:

Skousen had written a book entitled The Naked Communist, which even for 1958 is so irrational in its paranoia that it would have made Whittaker Chambers blush. According to Skousen, The Manchurian Candidate was a documentary — he earnestly believed Communists sought to create “a regimented breed of Pavlovian men whose minds could be triggered into immediate action by signals from their masters.”

Hemingway also points out that Skousen “was active with the John Birch Society throughout the 1960s, even going so far as to write another book titled The Communist Attack on the John Birch Society, accusing those that criticized Birchers as promoting Communism.” Since critics of the Birch Society included none other than William F. Buckley, Jr., you can finish the thought for yourself. Then in the  70s, in an analysis that is eerily similar to Beck’s thoughts on matters today, “Skousen accused the Council on Foreign Relations and the Rockefellers of puppeteering the election of Jimmy Carter to pave the way for One World Government, his new favorite topic. Things got so bad that the Mormon Church eventually issued an official communiqué distancing itself from Skousen’s organization, the Freemen Institute.”

Now, in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, law professor and author Jeffrey Rosen writes about Skousen’s view of the origins of the  U.S. Constitution and how Skousen’s views have been adopted in a full-fledged endorsement by Glenn Beck, and from him to various members of the Tea Party. Rosen writes about the newly elected Republican (and Tea Party) senator from Utah, Mike Lee, who will replace the defeated Democrat, Sen. Bob Bennett. Lee, he argues, “has a truly radical vision of the U.S. Constitution,” one that “sees the document as divinely inspired and views much of what the federal government currently does as unconstitutional.”

Thus Lee proposes getting rid of HUD and the Department of Education, and favors the phasing out of Social Security. As I argued recently at the panel on the future of conservatism at the Restoration Weekend (see the addendum at the blog’s end), conservatives should support a fiscally responsible and necessary safety net that includes Social Security — paid, after all, out of taxpayers’ contributions taken out of their paychecks.  We should be for a less powerful and bureaucratic federal government, but not, as Lee evidently believes, taking away almost all of its powers.

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American Jews who defend Israel, it seems, have much to not be happy about this Thanksgiving Day. In a major Politico article,  writer Ben Smith writes that Z Street, a hawkish pro-Israel group that consciously bills itself as an alternative to the leftist J Street, reveals that the IRS may be targeting pro-Israel groups for seeking a tax exemption, solely on the grounds of their position. Writes Smith about the proposed query of an unnamed religious group that has no expressed position on Israel:

“Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?” IRS agent Tracy Dornette wrote the organization, according to this week’s court filing, as part of its consideration of the organizations application for tax exempt status. “Describe your organization’s religious belief system toward the land of Israel.

The document emerged in the course of a lawsuit filed in August by Z Street, a hawkish group that casts itself as the Zionist answer to the liberal J Street. Z Street claims that a different IRS agent reviewing its application for tax exempt status said the agency is “carefully scrutinizing organizations that are in any way connected with Israel” and that “a special unit” is determining whether its activities “contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

Let us pause at that last line — does the organization’s work “contradict the Administration’s public policies”? Imagine if the Reagan administration had scrutinized an anti-apartheid group because its demands for the economic boycott of South Africa contradicted the administration’s preference for quiet diplomacy? Frank Rich would be yelling his head off in the Sunday New York Times, Peter Beinart would be writing about the administration’s perfidy in The Daily Beast, and Hendrik Hertzberg would be pontificating loudly in the “Talk of the Town” lead column in next week’s New Yorker. I suspect that next week we will see nothing about this at all in their future contributions.

The IRS, of course, is supposed to investigate tax evasion — not to use its powers to punish groups or individuals who dissent from administration policy. And what is this so-called “special unit”? In my previous blog post, I wrote about how leftist think tanks are advising the Obama administration to use its executive powers to advance their agenda by bypassing Congress and ignoring the people’s will. Is this an example of this suggestion being put to use in a novel way?

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With the shellacking of Barack Obama in the recent election, the left wing of the Democratic Party is getting ready to advance their agenda, despite all the evidence that the American people reject big government and big programs, especially ObamaCare. They are fully aware, however, that the time is hardly ripe for them to achieve their ends by scoring any more legislative victories in the House of Representatives. How, then, do they intend to gain victory for what they call the “progressive agenda,” or as Katrina vanden Heuvel and Robert L. Borosage call it in The Nation, the “progressive game plan”?

The first thing to note is that these self-proclaimed “progressive” intellectuals know they have been shellacked, along with the Obama administration. As the two Nation writers observe, it was “the worst rout in postwar history.” So they present their twisted answer. Obama didn’t do too much; nor was he “too liberal.” The reality is that he “wasn’t radical enough.” For example, instead of ObamaCare, which ceded a role to the insurance companies, the administration should have supported socialized medicine developed through a single-payer program, which, as we all know, Obama himself originally supported. This didn’t happen because there was no “independent progressive mobilization,” and hence the right tapped “into the populist temper.” In their eyes, Obama “chose not to level a searing critique of conservatism” — a leftist equivalent of what Ronald Reagan did to liberalism when he took office.

But, in their narrative, “voters provided no mandate for conservative ideas.” In other words, they believe, as Marxists always do, that the people voted against their own real interests — what Marx called “false consciousness,” since only the radical intellectuals really represent the people’s interests. The writer Thomas Frank put it this way in the title of his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? There is always something the matter when the people vote in another way than the radicals think they should vote.

So what is their next step? The answer, to put it in a way these authors and others try to hide, is to bypass democracy by ignoring Congress and urging the president to put through his entire program by executive fiat. Vanden Heuvel and Borosage write that Obama would “be wise to focus on governing and invoke his executive authority to further progressive reform and strengthen allies.” He should use his “formidable powers on his own.” He must not support any kind of Social Security reform; must lay out a “bold” program — meaning a radical one, or as they call it, enact “progressive reform.” Hence they call for an “inside-out strategy,” using the defeat of the Blue Dog Democrats as a sign that now the most liberal Democrats have complete power in their party.

This should also by reinforced by “movement protests.”  In other words, taking the fight to the streets through “outside organizing,” calling out the ACORN troops and the radical youth for the kind of action, I assume, we saw in Seattle a few years ago.  They want nothing less than a “poor people’s campaign” for “immigration reform,” a fight to “recruit true progressive champions” who can “challenge those who stand in the way.”

Joining them in calling for implementation of their program while ignoring Congress is John Podesta and the Center for American Progress, whose strategy is outlined in their new report, “The Power of the President: Recommendations to Advance Progressive Change.” Noting that debate will take place over whether or not the president should “tack to the left or to the center or compromise with or confront the new House leadership,” John Podesta issues the following rather  shocking agenda for what Obama should do:

Obama’s ability to govern the country as chief executive presents an opportunity to demonstrate strength, resolve, and a capacity to get things done on a host of pressing challenges of importance to the public and our economy. Progress, not positioning, is what the public wants and deserves.

The U.S. Constitution and the laws of our nation grant the president significant authority to make and implement policy. These authorities can be used to ensure positive progress on many of the key issues facing the country through (my  emphasis):

• Executive orders

• Rulemaking

• Agency management

• Convening and creating public-private partnerships

• Commanding the armed forces

• Diplomacy

You can read the entire report for yourself. But what is important is not the specific proposals, but the assumption again that the president could and should ignore the message the people gave in the recent election, and do what he and the “progressives” want without going to Congress and exclusively through use of executive power.

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Writing today in Tablet Magazine, Gil Troy presents a new analysis of the case of Jonathan Pollard, the Jewish American who was arrested for espionage on behalf of Israel and convicted in 1987. Pollard is now facing his 24th year in prison, and as Troy writes, “has earned the dubious record of serving the longest prison term in American history for spying for an ally.”

The Pollard case inevitably brings up the comparison with the espionage case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed for the crime of “conspiracy to commit espionage” in June of 1953.  Troy offers the following comments about the supposed similarities in the cases:

American Jews had been here before. Three decades before Pollard made headlines, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s [5] arrest, trial, and conviction as Soviet spies for stealing atomic secrets rendered the American Jews’ nightmare scenario in pinkish hues. But in the 1950s, American Jews were greener, more marginal. Julius Rosenberg represented the intellectual, foreign-born, New York Jew as Communist, at a time when Communism was disproportionately popular among Jews.

With the Rosenbergs—as with the Pollards—the rightness of finding them guilty was often confused with the wrongness of their punishment. The zeal with which they were prosecuted, the way Judge Irving Kaufman presided over their trial, and Ethel Rosenberg’s unjust execution along with her husband, all suggested something deeper in both the American Jewish psyche and the larger American political culture. The American legal establishment particularly enjoyed prosecuting these treasonous Jews, while many American Jews leapt to prove their own loyalty—at the Rosenbergs’ expense.

Just as in the Rosenberg case, the judge presiding over Pollard’s sentencing was swayed to render too harsh a punishment—a decision that kicked up new waves of suspicion and anxiety.

My first response is that I disagree with some of Troy’s judgments. In fact, aside from his personal reasons for giving the Rosenbergs the death sentence- which even J. Edgar Hoover did not want for Ethel- Judge Kaufman did not run an unfair trial. The main claim for this charge is that Kaufman insisted that the issue of Communism was relevant as a motive for their espionage. The couple, despite the fact they were facing a death sentence for their acts, refused to testify about their political beliefs and invoked the 5th Amendment as a reason for not doing so. The Rosenberg defense immediately argued that this proved it was a civil liberties and not an espionage case- since their personal politics were irrelevant. Indeed, they went on to argue that all the Rosenbergs did is work for peace between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and that was their real crime. Remember that in this period, the far pro-Communist Left believed that the Truman Administration had ushered in fascism to America, and that the Rosenbergs’ indictment and trial proved this.

All of Kaufman’s excesses were not visible at the trial. His main offense was his famous ex parte communication with prosecution counsel Roy Cohn, to discuss the possible sentence he would give. While not illegal at the time, it was highly irregular and almost never engaged in.  It proved that on the issue of the sentence, Kaufman was grandstanding- as were some of his statements after the trial- and on a personal level, probably thought that giving the Rosenbergs the death penalty would lead him to a seat on the Supreme Court. If anything, his actions discredited him, and all but eliminated him from consideration for ever being promoted in the US court system.

I also think that little evidence exists that the “American legal establishment particularly enjoyed prosecuting these treasonous Jews,” as Troy writes. In fact, Julius Rosenberg had set up a major espionage network for old Joe Stalin, and over the years, that ring did major harm to American national security. On this account, I highly recommend reading some of the recent articles by science reporter Steven Usdin, as well as his timeline of the case.

Moreover, while Pollard was engaging in espionage for an American ally- which some would argue necessitates a more reasonable sentence- Julius Rosenberg began his spying during the years of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, when Stalin was an ally of Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, and continued his espionage until his arrest, during the early years of the Cold War, when the US was not an ally of the Soviets. Pollard considered himself a Jew and a Zionist—while Rosenberg’s identification as a Jew was something he used to gain sympathy after his arrest. The truth is that he was a secular Jew who used his ethnic identity for political reasons, and his only loyalty was to the USSR and to Communism. He was a classic “non-Jewish Jew,” who like Trotsky, repudiated Judaism as a religion as well as an identification in place of a belief in the universal cause of liberation of the working-class, who had no religion. The way in which the Rosenberg defense used their failure to gain a last minute stay of execution, and to raise holy hell that the couple would be executed during the Sabbath, was a cheap ploy to make the US appear anti-Semitic. The Justice Department responded by putting off their execution until after sundown, so as not be charged with the offense of being anti-Semitic, then became a focus of new claims about how hard-hearted and anti-Semitic the Eisenhower administration was.

The irony is that the American Left- I refer here to the Communists and their fellow-travelers-actually used the argument that while the Jewish Communists arrested for treason in Communist Czechoslovakia during the infamous Slansky purge trials that occurred in the same period as the Rosenberg arrest and trial- were guilty of being Zionist and American spies against the Czech People’s Republic- and most of whom were hung- the Rosenbergs were innocent and were being tried because they were Jews who fought for peace.  Here is what the CP historian, the late Herbert Aptheker, wrote at the time, in a dialogue (if you can call it that) with the anti-Communist social-democrat, Sidney Hook:

Most certainly the Czechoslovak trials carry no anti-Jewish aspect. In that country, unlike our own, the display of anti-Semitism is a serious crime…You are certain the trials in Czechoslovkia were ‘framed,’ but that the Rosenbergs are really guilty….In one trial defendants charged with specific acts of treason, sabotage and murder…confess their guilt- but you are sure they were ‘framed’; in the other case the defendants, though offered their lives if they confess, refuse the offer and persist in maintaining their innocence, but you are sure they are guilty.  In one case dozens of witnesses and scores of documents demonstrating the defendants’ guilt are introduced, but you know they are ‘framed’; in the other case there is one decisive witness and his testimony, denied by both defendants, is ridiculed by scientists throughout the country as absurd….
What is the ‘most heinous crime’ charged against the Rosenbergs? The passing of information- known and never secret- to a war-time ally….anti-Semitism played and plays a part in this case…Is it not a fact that this Nazi-like sadism is present in connection with the unprecedented death sentence meted out…?

I can do no more than quote the response to arguments like that- Aptheker was just one of many who used these- from I.F. Stone, whom we all know was at times himself something of an apologist for the Soviets, and who years earlier, had himself been a KGB operative. Stone commented:

The Communists also have cause for shame. The false cry of anti-Semitism, the eagerness abroad to use the Rosenbergs to equate the U.S.A. of Truman with the Germany of Hitler, the wild cries of frame-up, sacrificed calm consideration of the Rosenberg case to the needs of world Communist propaganda. After all, no picket lines circled the Kremlin to protests the executions of Jewish writers and artists; they did not even have a day in court; they just disappeared. Slansky was executed overnight without appeal in Prague. How the same people could excuse Slansky and the ‘doctor’s plot’ and at the same time carry on the Rosenberg campaign as they did call for political psychiatry.

So whether or not at this time Pollard should be freed as a matter of justice, as Troy argues, is something to debate on the merit of the argument for his freedom. But let us leave out of it spurious comparisons to the 1950’s trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

Ted Koppel’s Delusions About TV News

November 14th, 2010 - 5:23 pm

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Ted Koppel, the eminent TV newsman and former anchor of ABC’s Nightline when it was in its heyday, had an op-ed about “the death of real news” and the role played in what he thinks is its decline by the likes of Bill O’Reilly on Fox and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.

As Koppel sees it, the good old days existed when someone giving campaign contributions who was part of a news team would have meant immediate suspension, if not outright being fired. As he writes, it was a time “when the networks considered the collection and dissemination of substantive and unbiased news to be a public trust.”  In those years, the networks “aimed to avoid even the appearance of partisanship.”

That, indeed, is the key sentence, although Koppel does not seem to realize it. He thinks there really was a time when the networks “considered the collection and dissemination of substantive and unbiased news to be a public trust.”  Is that like the years when the late Peter Jennings, his colleague he cites as one who earned the public trust, demonstrated hostility to Israel and a pro-Palestinian point of view that was apparent to most anyone who watched his broadcasts? The same Jennings whose prime-time ABC special on the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima endorsed entirely and uncritically Gar Alperovitz’s discredited thesis that the U.S. dropped the bomb only to pressure the Soviets, and that its use was completely unnecessary?

Or perhaps he is thinking of those golden years when the entire nation watched Walter Cronkite, whose famous judgment that the U.S. had lost the Vietnam War led Lyndon Johnson to say “if we’ve lost Walter Cronkite, we’ve lost the country.” Does Koppel not realize that the U.S. had not lost when Cronkite claimed it had and that the CBS TV anchor was himself on the anti-war side in the debate and was hardly objective?

It was true that back then, the networks tried to pretend to be non-partisan and objective. They forbade their employees, for example, to attend anti-war marches even if they were completely partisan and on the movement’s side. An old friend of mine was a top producer in those years for 60 Minutes, and she recently told me of her conversations with the president of CBS News in which she argued with him that the entire news division should be allowed to protest the war and attend rallies if they wished. He turned her down, but her partisanship — and that of her colleagues — was apparent, and readily visible in the stories they put on the air.

Then there were the numerous TV reports on both ABC and CBS about Cuba, and how wonderful Castro’s revolution was, and how the people fully supported it. I recall both of Dan Rather’s trips to Cuba, as well as those of Barbara Walters on ABC, and before her, those of the late TV newswoman for ABC (whose name now escapes me) who was a firm left-wing activist privately and who began the coverage of Cuba for the network. In fact, CBS was so partisan that when they had a major story about Cuba, they invoked the aid and help — as did 60 Minutes — of our country’s top Castro apologist, Saul Landau, who arranged the trip, got credit for producing the segment, and was shown on the air reporting for them. True non-partisan objectivity, Ted!

The only difference is that today, the networks have all given up what was always fiction — that TV news people had no opinions and just told the facts. Now the feft has MSNBC and Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and the rest of their crew, and the right has Fox and O’Reilly and Hannity and Beck.

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Time for Some Democrats to Become Republicans

November 10th, 2010 - 12:59 am

No one, I think, captured the illusions about Barack Obama better than Walter Russell Mead. Writing at the website of The American Interest, Mead proclaims that

A significant chunk of the American liberal intelligentsia completely lost its head over Barack Obama.  They mistook hopes and fantasies for reality.  Worse, the disease spread to at least members of the White House team.  An administration elected with a mandate to stabilize the country misread the political situation and came to the belief that the country wanted the kinds of serious and deep changes that liberals have wanted for decades.  It was 1933, and President Obama was the new FDR.

That illusion explains perfectly the great shock-wave felt by liberals and the media over the results of last week’s unprecedented election. As Mead puts it, “They were fundamentally misreading the mood of the country.” Their great arrogance, however, prevents them from comprehending this reality. As Mead writes:

They did not perceive just how wrong they were; nor did they understand how the error undermined the logical case they wanted to make in favor of a bigger role for government guided by smart, well-credentialed liberal wonks.  Give us more power because we understand the world better than you do, was the message.  We are so smart, so well-credentialed, so careful to read all the best papers by all the certified experts that the recommendations we make and the regulations we write, however outlandish and burdensome they look to all you non-experts out there, are certain to work.  Trust us because we are always right, and only fools and charlatans would be so stupid as to disagree.

A good warning to them from a top-notch liberal intellectual, albeit one who gets it. How come there are so few of these rare liberal intellectuals like Mead and William Galston? These men stand alone as among the small number who so easily comprehend what the public at large knows from their own experience — that you cannot trust our future to those in power who believe they alone have the right and the duty to orchestrate the American economy because of what they think is their superior wisdom. Just yesterday I sat at dinner with a man in a big city government office who is likely to be the next mayor of this major American center. I listened as he told us how Paul Krugman is right, and that we need a major new government stimulus because the one that failed simply wasn’t large enough. I felt like thrusting Mead’s comments in his hand.

Perhaps the problem is that, as Stanley Kurtz suggests in his new book, Barack Obama is ideologically a socialist. One liberal who evidently thinks this might be the case is none other than the former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch. Writing on his blog the other day,  Koch asks the following question:

Will the Democratic Party learn from the drubbing and loss of one house? Probably not, but hope springs eternal. Maybe Democrats will take a hint and begin moving to a moderate left position, pulling back from their heretofore more radical left position which they prefer to call “progressive.”

Koch has been around for a long time, and he remembers when that term was the euphemism used by Communist fellow-travelers to define themselves.  Thus he explains that to him, it means “several degrees to the left of liberal.” He calls himself a “liberal with sanity,” a term he created to try and put himself apart from those other far leftists who pretended to be old fashioned liberals. Referring to the late Congresswoman Bella Abzug, a person who single-handedly defined what a fellow-traveler or a secret CP member was, Koch calls her a “person who came from a radical left background” and dubbed herself a “progressive” to try and make her politics both seem reasonable and to “convey that they were the cutting edge.”

Then, Koch writes a most striking paragraph, which I find most revealing. He writes the following, soon after the passage in which he brings up Abzug as a Democrat whom he believes personifies the worst elements in his own political home:

Above all else, the president should make clear to the public that he sees the Democratic Party not as a vehicle for socialism(my emphasis), but as a vehicle to implement fairness and justice in the mold of social democrats who believe in our capitalist economic system, with rigorous but not onerous regulations to protect the public in all spheres of public intercourse and commerce, allowing people to rise in our society according to their abilities and at the same time provide a safety net for those who need a helping hand.

To that I give a hearty amen, with one proviso: This is the position of a moderate centrist Republican, and not that of any Democrat who is active in today’s world. It is quite akin to that of the senator-elect from West Virginia, outgoing governor of that state, Joe Manchin. A man who ran opposing ObamaCare, cap and trade, and virtually the entire Obama agenda, he, like Koch, is actually closer to what most Republicans favor than most Democrats today. Manchin is thus reportedly being urged by his Republican colleagues in the Senate to consider switching parties after he is inaugurated as senator next week, a rumor that Manchin fervently denies.  According to Roll Call, some Republicans “speculated that Manchin could be floating this rumor to send a message to the Senate Democratic leadership that he will not be able to vote with the Conference on key issues, as well as to attempt to scare off any potential top-tier Republican challengers.”

Whatever his reasons, everyone in his state knows that the only reason he won is that Manchin moved away from past Democratic positions he once held, such as support for Obama’s health care agenda, and echoed mainstream Republican criticisms of it. He and Ed Koch can persist in calling themselves the real Democrats, liberals with sanity, but even they must realize how isolated they are, and how far removed they remain from their brethren.

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You have to hand it to the  New York Times. Its editors know their audience. Hence the little would-be humor column about informing its readers “Where Marxists make Merry” detailing where the unrepentant NYC communists of all sects evidently go to get their fill of propaganda combined with evening poker games. Harmless and funny, right?

But not so fast. Just pause a moment and re-write the same column substituting “fascist” for Marxist, as in “Where Fascists make Merry.” Readers would respond in fury. How dare their beloved daily paper trivialize the crimes of the fascists, who supported Hitler’s death camps, the attempt to make war on the world and take over Western and Eastern Europe, the Russian empire, and even Great Britain — upon which it regularly bombarded London with Werner Von Braun’s new rocket bombs.

Let us take and re-write, for example, the following paragraph:

But there is also the monthly Game Night, when regulars put down their copies of Das Kapital and immerse themselves in table tennis, football and a complicated Marxist version of Monopoly called, appropriately, Class Struggle. In a city known for cynicism, the Brecht, which survives on donations, is a surprisingly open and idealistic place.

Below is the new version you might have seen had they extolled the happiness of local fascists:

But there is also the monthly Game Night, when regulars put down their copies of Mein Kampf and immerse themselves in table tennis, football and a  Fascist version of Parchesi called, appropriately, Juden Raus. It was a children’s game published in Germany by Günther & Co. in 1936, just one year after the Nuremberg Laws were put into effect. The game was advertised as “entertaining, instructive and solidly constructed. The game’s equipment includes a pair of dice, a game board, and several game piece figurines with large pointed hats meant to represent Jews. Players take turns rolling the dice and moving their “Jews” across the map toward “collection points” outside the city walls for deportation to Palestine. Written on the game board, it says “If you manage to see off 6 Jews, you’ve won a clear victory.”

When British comrades join the merriment, they shift instead to playing Bomber über England (“Bombers over England”) a bagatelle (or pinball) style game that featured a map of England and part of Northern Europe. The map contained holes in the location of key cities such as London, Liverpool, and Newcastle, as well as various points representing targets in the North Sea. Players shot spring-driven balls representing “bombs” at these targets and were awarded various points for hitting the enemy targets. “Players were awarded a maximum 100 points for landing on London, while Liverpool was worth 40. If players bombed locations under the control of Nazi Germany such as Brussels and Amsterdam, players would be deducted points.

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I too watched the entire three-hour Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert rally on Saturday. But unlike my friend and colleague Roger L. Simon, I enjoy both of these comedians, and have at times laughed heartily with them, even when finding I disagree with their political assumptions and perspective. Even at this event, Colbert appropriately skewered NPR for refusing to allow its correspondents to attend, out of fear that had they done so, people would have gained the impression that the network was somehow liberal.

But as most everyone has said — and all the critics are correct about this — either the two ignored or did not pay attention to Yusuf Islam’s positions on the fatwa against  Salman Rushdie or his very evidently fundamentalist view of Islam. The best comment has just appeared today, and is on the blog of Standpoint, the top-notch British magazine.

As the liberal journalist Nick Cohen has written, “What ‘Cat’ ought to have done was apologise to Rushdie and commit himself to the right to criticise  power in whatever form it takes, but he has not and American leftists have yet to learn that they cannot be a little bit liberal. They can’t denounce the idiocy of Fox and ignore the idiocies of religion. Maybe they will never learn.”

I think the problem is Stewart’s inability to comprehend the nature of jihadist ideology and his seeming ignorance of the very existence of a radical Islamic world-view. Indeed, he argues, as he did at the rally, that there are millions of Muslims throughout the world, and only a small group engages in terrorism. He seems to belie the very obvious point that those who do engage in terrorism are motivated by their concept of Islam. To deal with this, as the actor Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci) put it at his “benediction,” more is needed than for both Jews and Muslims to accept their similarity because both faiths forbid the eating of pork. If only it was that easy, Father G.

And here is what Salman Rushdie said about Yusuf Islam in 2007, in a letter to the Telegraph:

Cat Stevens wanted me dead

However much Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam may wish to rewrite his past, he was neither misunderstood nor misquoted over his views on the Khomeini fatwa against The Satanic Verses (Seven, April 29). In an article in The New York Times on May 22, 1989, Craig R Whitney reported Stevens/Islam saying on a British television programme “that rather than go to a demonstration to burn an effigy of the author Salman Rushdie, ‘I would have hoped that it’d be the real thing’.”

He added that “if Mr Rushdie turned up at his doorstep looking for help, ‘I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I’d try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is’.”

In a subsequent interview with The New York Times, Mr Whitney added, Stevens/Islam, who had seen a preview of the programme, said that he “stood by his comments”.

Let’s have no more rubbish about how “green” and innocent this man was.

Salman Rushdie, New York

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