The Society Page

By Gene Mahoney

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Hello, and welcome to another issue of The Herald. Not the San Francisco Herald. The California Herald. Yes, after seven and a half years of publishing this rag, I’ve decided to expand the circulation to Los Angeles as well. I’m conquering the Golden State. Hang on a minute. Let me laugh fiendishly while I rub my hands together.

Okay, I’m back. You may have noticed that the Herald is now a thrice-yearly publication. That’s because I’ve been busy with my other business, plus I’ve been putting this thing out since 1998 so I got the seven-year itch. The Herald used to come out every other month, then monthly, then every other month, then I figured it would be a quarterly, then I thought, Hey – I’m having such a great time NOT publishing this thing that I’ll put it out three times a year.

It’s really tempting just to put the Herald out as a web site that’s updated monthly. I started selling ads again, and that’s very laborious. Maybe I should have everyone who reads the Herald mail me a dollar each time it comes out instead of having advertising support it. That would be an interesting concept. Let’s see if it works. If you like this issue, send me a dollar. Actually, even if you think it sucks, send me a dollar. No more, no less. If you’re under 18 it’s on the house because I don’t want to end up like Soupy Sales when he had that kids’ show and said something like:

“Hey kids, last night was New Year’s Eve, and your mother and dad were out having a great time. They are probably still sleeping and what I want you to do is tiptoe in their bedroom and go in your mom’s pocketbook and your dad’s pants, which are probably on the floor. You’ll see a lot of green pieces of paper with pictures of guys in beards. Put them in an envelope and send them to me at Soupy Sales, Channel 5, New York, New York. And you know what I’m going to send you? A postcard from Puerto Rico!”

Soupy was suspended and only got a few dollars, but you never know.

Yeah, let’s see if this gets a decent response. If it does, who knows, maybe I’ll start publishing six times a year again. Selling ads requires a lot of time. Once again, if you send in money, please limit it to a dollar. Just pay for yourself. Don’t send in money for anyone else. Send a green piece of paper with George Washington’s picture on it to:

Gene Mahoney, California Herald, 815 Geary, PMB #115, San Francisco, CA 94109. Checks should be made payable to: Gene Mahoney. (If the IRS is reading this, yes, I will report everything to you.)

All right, on with the issue…

*****

“I don’t own a single share of stock!” filmmaker Michael Moore has proudly proclaimed.

Technically, he’s not lying. He doesn’t own a single share. He owns tens of thousands of shares. His portfolio has included nearly 1,000 shares of Sonoco, more than 4,000 of Best Foods, more than 3,000 of Eli Lilly, and more than 8,000 of Bank One.

Moore has also owned over 2,000 shares of Halliburton, the company he vilified in Fahrenheit 9/11.

You’ll find Moore’s own signed Schedule D, declaring his capital gains and losses where his stock ownership is listed, emblazoned on the back cover of Peter Schweizer’s new book, Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy.
We’re all a little hypocritical, but the subjects of Schweizer’s book give new meaning to the word “phony”.

Despite the presence of Moore’s IRS records proving he owned Halliburton and other stock, the filmmaker/author continues to deny it. At the Paul Wellstone Dinner in November, Moore called Schweizer’s book “crazy” and added: “Michael Moore own Halliburton stock? See, that’s like a great comedy line. I know it’s not true - I mean, I’ve never owned a share of stock in my life.”

Moore continued: “Anybody who knows me knows that, you know - who’s gonna believe that? Just crazy people are going to believe it - crazy people who tune-in to the Fox News Channel.”

Or “crazy” people who can read IRS records.

Writes Schweizer: “the year Moore claimed in Stupid White Men that he didn’t own any stock, he reported to the IRS that his foundation had more than $280,000 in corporate stock and close to $100,000 in corporate bonds.”

“And in perhaps the ultimate irony,” writes Schweizer, “he also has owned shares in Halliburton. According to IRS filings, Moore sold Halliburton for a 15 percent profit and bought shares in Noble, Ford, General Electric” and other corporations he claims to despise.


Michael Moore

Moore is currently working on a documentary attacking big pharmaceutical companies. But Schweizer discovered that Moore’s foundation holdings have “included such evil pharmaceutical and medical companies as Pfizer, Merck, Genzyme, Elan PLC, Eli Lilly, Becton Dickinson and Boston Scientific.”

Notes Schweizer:

“Moore’s supposedly nonexistent portfolio also includes big bad energy giants like Sunoco, Noble Energy, Schlumberger, Williams Companies, Transocean Sedco Forex and Anadarko, all firms that “deplete irreplaceable fossil fuels in the name of profit” as he put it in Dude, Where’s My Country?

“Also on Moore’s investment menu: defense contractors Honeywell, Boeing and Loral.”

Does Moore share the stock proceeds of his “foundation” with charitable causes?

Schweizer found that “for a man who by 2002 had a net worth in eight figures, he gave away a modest $36,000 through the foundation, much of it to his friends in the film business or tony cultural organizations that later provided him with venues to promote his books and film.”

Michael Moore has been an outspoken supporter of affirmative action, and has complained that only 5 percent of journalists are black. In Stupid White Men he proclaimed his plans to “hire only black people.”

However, when Schweizer checked the senior credits for Moore’s latest film Fahrenheit 911, he found that of the movie’s 14 producers, three editors, production manager and production coordinator, all 19 were white. So were all three cameramen and the two people who did the original music.

On Bowling for Columbine, 13 of the 14 producers were white, as were the two executives in charge of production, the cameramen, the film editor and the music composer.

His show TV Nation had 13 producers, four film editors and 10 writers – but not a single black person among them.
Moore has managed to employ only 3 black people out of a work force of 135 working on his books, television shows and radio projects. That’s far below the 5 percent figure he claims to be so upset about.

One shouldn’t be surprised, though. According to the 2000 Census for the wealthy town of Central Lake, Michigan (where “average Joe” Moore owns a 10 acre retreat with a private beach), the number of black persons living there is zero.

Moore also owns a penthouse apartment in New York City, which was his official residence until 2003 when he changed it to Michigan. That just happened to coincide with the financial success of Bowling for Columbine, which brought him millions of dollars in profits. Those profits would have been taxed at a rate of 7.7 percent in New York as opposed to 3.9 percent in Michigan, saving Moore, who claims the wealthy don’t pay enough taxes, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As for Moore passing himself off as “working class”, Schweizer recounts this anecdote:

“When Moore flew to London to visit people at the BBC or promote a film, he took the Concorde and stayed at the Ritz. But he also allegedly booked a room at a cheap hotel down the street where he could meet with journalists and pose as a ‘man of humble circumstances.’”

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media has never picked up on these stories. It never shies away from reporting about hypocritical conservatives (the right-wing talk show host who has a drug problem, etc.) but I’m sure you’ve never heard any of the following stories Schweizer has uncovered:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, known for being an outspoken supporter of unions, is the part-owner of a luxury resort, a vineyard and some restaurants- all strictly non-union. The exclusive country club she partly owns failed to comply with existing environmental regulations for the past eight years- including a failure to protect endangered species. Meanwhile she advocates tough new environmental regulations on the private sector.

Outspoken environmentalist Barbra Streisand drives an SUV, lives in a mansion and has a $22,000 annual water bill. In the past, she has driven to appointments in Beverly Hills in a motor home because of her aversion to using public bathrooms. Wait until you read how this outspoken union supporter treats her help.

Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate supposedly uninterested in wealth and materialism, claims to live in a modest apartment. In fact, he lives in a fancy house registered in the names of his siblings. A stock market enthusiast, he has invested millions of dollars in corporations, including car manufacturers, oil companies, and defense contractors. Nader also has a habit of campaigning for government recalls of certain products while buying stock in their competition. Pro-Labor Ralph also fired employees of his who were in the process of starting a union to alleviate their miserable working conditions.
Air America radio host Al Franken says conservatives are racist because they lack diversity and oppose affirmative action. Yet less than 1 percent of the people he has hired over the past 15 years have been black.

Billionaire George Soros, who funds numerous liberal causes, says the wealthy should pay higher, more progressive tax rates. But he holds the bulk of his money in tax-free overseas accounts in Curacao, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Professor Cornel West, a Marxist black militant activist, chides blacks who move out of the ghetto, yet he owns luxurious homes in two lily-white enclaves.

The Kennedys (Senator Ted and all) have been staunch advocates of alternative energy. Their enthusiasm for it diminished, however, when they discovered a plan to build wind turbines off the coast where they have their compound in Hyannis Port. Robert Kennedy Jr., who had been tirelessly demanding that America adopt alternate energy sources for more than a decade, complained the project would be built in one of the family’s favorite sailing and yachting areas.


Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, cited as the world’s top intellectual in a recent poll (and worshipped by movie stars including Ben Affleck and rock groups such as Pearl Jam), has called America a police state and branded the Pentagon “the most hideous institution on earth.” Yet his entire academic career has been subsidized by the U.S. military.

Chomsky says he opposes the very concept of private property, yet he owns an $850,000 house in an exclusive Boston suburb and a $1.2-million vacation home in Wellfleet, Mass.

Chomsky has lashed out against the “massive use of tax havens to shift the burden to the general population and away from the rich” and criticized the concentration of wealth in “trusts” by the wealthiest one percent. The American tax code is rigged with “complicated devices for ensuring that the poor -- like eighty percent of the population -- pay off the rich.”

But Chomsky, with a net worth over $2,000,000, decided to create a “trust” for himself. With the help of a tax attorney, he set up an irrevocable trust to protect his assets from the taxman. He named his tax attorney and a daughter as trustees.
Chomsky supports massive income redistribution -- just not the redistribution of his income. When Schweizer challenged him on this, he responded with “I don’t apologize for putting aside money for my children and grandchildren.” Chomsky offered no explanation for why he condemns others for doing the same thing.

Chomsky gives speeches on college campuses around the country at $12,000 a pop. You can go online and download clips from earlier speeches-for a fee. You can hear Chomsky talk for one minute about “Property Rights”; it will cost you seventy-nine cents. You can also buy a CD with clips from previous speeches for $12.99. The most recent volumes of Chomsky’s books are mainly just transcriptions of speeches, or interviews that he has conducted over the years. 

Writes Schweizer:

Over the years, Chomsky has been particularly critical of private property rights, which he considers simply a tool of the rich, of no benefit to ordinary people. “When property rights are granted to power and privilege, it can be expected to be harmful to most,” Chomsky wrote on a discussion board for the Washington Post. Intellectual property rights are equally despicable. According to Chomsky, for example, drug companies who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing drugs shouldn’t have ownership rights to patents. Intellectual property rights, he argues, “have to do with protectionism.”
Protectionism is a bad thing -- especially when it relates to other people. But when it comes to Chomsky’s own published work, this advocate of open intellectual property suddenly becomes very selfish. It would not be advisable to download the audio from one of his speeches without paying the fee, warns his record company, Alternative Tentacles. (Did Andrei Sakharov have a licensing agreement with a record company?) And when it comes to his articles, you’d better keep your hands off. Go to the official Noam Chomsky website and the warning is clear: “Material on this site is copyrighted by Noam Chomsky and/or Noam Chomsky and his collaborators. No material on this site may be reprinted or posted on other web sites without written permission.” However, the website does give you the opportunity to “sublicense” the material if you are interested.

Radicals used to think of their ideas as weapons; Chomsky sees them as a licensing opportunity.
In a recent interview, Schweizer summed up his book: “It’s another reminder that the ideas the left want to impose on the rest of us are so fundamentally bad that they don’t even try to live by them.”

*****

Berlin, featuring Terri Nunn, has a new CD out titled 4Play, with covers of songs originally recorded by David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Marilyn Manson, Buffalo Springfield, and others. Order it at berlinpage.com….


Terri Nunn

He brings a propulsive rhythmic avalanche of guitar noise welded to a maelstrom of feedback and shuddering dissonance that demands epileptic movement in response.

This Rorschach of sonic disruption evokes images of horses in rut, televisions being thrown down a staircase, and rusted machinery being flogged into motion long after having seized.

That’s how Max’s guitar playing is described in the press kit for San Francisco Industrial/ Goth/Techno band D.I.E. (Digital Intelligence Extreme), which I saw for the first time the day after I typed this piece about them (deadlines are deadlines), so I can’t tell you how they sounded. This trio is made up of the aforementioned Max, the lovely Simone, and her lover from Italy, Davide (who happens to be a renowned computer wiz). I saw them play at the Cat Club for a black and fetish attire party called Hybrid. A fan I talked to described them as “Front 242 meets Killing Joke with a female singer.” Check out tekrah.com for more info….

I fell asleep early on Christmas and woke up at 2:30am, which was 2 and a half hours into Hanukkah, and came across a radio program called the Rock and Roll Jew Show, which was playing heavy metal music from Israel, among other things. I had inadvertently tuned into KYCY (1550 AM on the San Francisco Bay Area dial). Despite a talk radio roster that included Don Imus and Tom Leykis, KYCY had such low ratings that Infinity Broadcasting, which owns it, made it the first station in the world to switch to an all Podcast format. That happened in May; I don’t know if the station has taken off since then because I listened to it for hours without hearing any commercials. 90% of KYCY’s programming can be heard on the Internet, and if you’d like to send in a program for consideration go to KYOURADIO.com….

A quick shout-out to Dale’s Auto Service (376 Utah in San Francisco, 415-861-3253). If you want honest work done at a reasonable price, give Dale a call. I’ve been going to him for years. Hell, even if you’re a new reader in Los Angeles, hop on Interstate 5 or Highway 101 and see Dale if you’re having car troubles.

*****

(London Telegraph, September 29, 2005) An imam who wrote a book on how to beat your wife without leaving marks on her body has been ordered by a judge in Spain to study the country’s constitution.

Mohamed Kamal Mustafa was sentenced to 15 months in jail and fined £1,500 last year after being found guilty of inciting violence against women. However, despite objections from Spain’s socialist government, a judge released him after 22 days in jail on condition that he undertake a re-education course.

In his book Women in Islam, published four years ago, Kamal wrote that according to Islamic law, a disobedient wife could be beaten.

“The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body,’’ he wrote.

I’ll bet this guy becomes a guest speaker at the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center in Palo Alto. Maybe he’ll speak at the Unity Church there, too. Admission will be a “Love Offering”.

*****

Time out for fun: Dave Robison, a San Jose native and former motorcycle racer in Europe, opened his Go-Kart Racer track in Burlingame two years ago. Since then 49,000 different people (including Paul Newman) have driven it. “One thousand tracks have opened in Europe since 1990,” Dave says. “The first track in the U.S. opened in ’96 or ’97. There are now sixty tracks in America, seven of which are in California. Car racing has been popular in Europe longer than here, but now with NASCAR it’s becoming big in the U.S., too.” My cousin Mark is crazy about this place; when he’s not working or sleeping he’s driving around that track. Visit Go-Kart Racer at 1541 Adrian Road in Burlingame (about a half hour south of San Francisco; less than a mile from the Millbrae Bart Station). Log on to GoKartRacer.com.

*****

As I recall, it took two weeks for the San Francisco Chronicle to move coverage of the Paris riots from, like page 72, to its rightful spot on the front page. Even then the stories focused on frustrated, discriminated-against youth trapped in an uncaring society that won’t give them jobs and social justice, yadda yadda yadda. At about the same time, Mark Steyn (marksteyn.com) wrote a great piece for the London Telegraph with a slightly different take:

The political class and the media seem to serve as mutual reinforcers of their obsolete illusions. Or as the Washington Post’s headline put it: “Rage of French youth is a fight for recognition”.

Actually, they’re very easy to “recognise”: just look out the window, they’re the ones torching your Renault 5. I’d wager the “French” “youth” find that headline as hilarious as the Jets in West Side Story half a century ago, when they taunted Officer Krupke with “society’s” attempts to “understand” them: we’re depraved on account of we’re deprived. Perhaps some enterprising Paris impresario will mount a production of West Eid Story with choreographed gangs of North African Muslims sashaying through the Place de la Republique, incinerating as they go.

Steyn goes on to write:

As to the “French” “youth”, a reader in Antibes cautions me against characterising the disaffected as “Islamist”. “Look at the pictures of the youths,” he advises. “They look like LA gangsters, not beturbaned prophet-monkeys.”

Leaving aside what I’m told are more than a few cries of “Allahu Akhbar!” on the streets, my correspondent is correct. But that’s the point. The first country formally to embrace “multiculturalism” - to the extent of giving it a cabinet post - was Canada, where it was sold as a form of benign cultural cross-pollination: the best of all worlds. But just as often it gives us the worst of all worlds. More than three years ago, I wrote about the “tournante” or “take your turn” - the gang rape that’s become an adolescent rite of passage in the Muslim quarters of French cities - and similar phenomena throughout the West: “Multiculturalism means that the worst attributes of Muslim culture - the subjugation of women - combine with the worst attributes of Western culture - licence and self-gratification. Tattooed, pierced Pakistani skinhead gangs swaggering down the streets of northern England areas are as much a product of multiculturalism as the turban-wearing Sikh Mountie in the vice-regal escort.” Islamofascism itself is what it says: a fusion of Islamic identity with old-school European totalitarianism. But, whether in turbans or gangsta threads, just as Communism was in its day, so Islam is today’s ideology of choice for the world’s disaffected.

Some of us believe this is an early skirmish in the Eurabian civil war. If the insurgents emerge emboldened, what next? In five years’ time, there will be even more of them, and even less resolve on the part of the French state. That, in turn, is likely to accelerate the demographic decline. Europe could face a continent-wide version of the “white flight” phenomenon seen in crime-ridden American cities during the 1970s, as Danes and Dutch scram to America, Australia or anywhere else that will have them.

And, as Stein points out, contrary to what many Europeans think regarding the impending tragic fall of Europe – yes, they will be around to see it. Over here we’ll read about it, though don’t expect it to be on the front page.

Hey, Jacques. The next time this happens send in the French Foreign Legion. I’m sure they’ll have a quick solution to the problem.

*****

I stumbled upon the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa a few months ago. “Sparky” is what Charles Schulz’s friends called him, and he really had quite a life for himself there. He played hockey every week at the ice rink he built next to his studio, ate lunch every day at the restaurant he built next to his studio, built a baseball field for the kids in town to play on next to his studio -- a nice life, rated G. (Someday when there’s an R. Crumb Museum I’ll bet it will be a little different.) If you walk around downtown Santa Rosa there are statues of Snoopy, Lucy Van Pelt, and other characters Schulz created for Peanuts. It was well known how much Sparky lived for drawing his comic strip. In late 1999 he announced that due to declining health he would be retiring, and that the final Peanuts strip would appear on February 13, 2000. It did, and Schulz died in his sleep on February 12, the night before it was published. Take the wife and kids to the museum at 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, CA. For info call 707.579.4452.

*****

Just about everything that people think they know about labor unions and wage rates is wrong.

The standard tale that practically every student hears over the course of his education is that before the emergence of labor unions, American workers were terribly exploited and their wages were consistently falling. The improvement in labor’s condition was due entirely or at least in large part to labor unionism and favorable federal legislation. In the absence of these, it is widely assumed, people would still be working 80-hour weeks and children would still be working in mines.
This oft-heard tale is, however, almost entirely false, and those parts of it that are true (the low standard of living that people enjoyed in the nineteenth century, for example) are true for reasons other than those alleged by pro-union historians, who see in them only confirmation of their prejudices against the market economy.

Thomas Woods, adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, opens his essay Labor Union Myths with the above three paragraphs. I highly recommend you read it by logging on to LewRockwell.com, clicking on “Columnists”, then clicking on the author’s name, and finally the article. Mr. Woods makes a very persuasive case against the standard belief that unions benefit workers and ends it with these seven paragraphs below:
The empirical evidence simply does not bear out the conventional wisdom regarding unions. If employers were really in a position to impose whatever wage rate they wished, then why in the decades prior to large-scale labor unionism did wages not diminish to near zero? (In fact, as we shall see below, real wages skyrocketed in the decades before modern labor law took shape.) For that matter, why did skilled workers earn more than unskilled workers? If firms were really in a position to tell workers to take or leave whatever pathetic wage they might choose to offer, why would they have felt a need to pay skilled workers more than unskilled workers? Why not just pay them both the same pittance?

The case for labor unionism does possess a superficial plausibility, but it is in fact entirely fallacious. Real wages rise not because of union activity but because of the process that George Reisman describes in his productivity theory of wages. In short, business investment in machinery increases the productivity of labor and therefore the output that the economy is capable of producing, and this greater supply puts downward pressure on prices.

As Reisman explains, “It is the productivity of labor that determines the supply of consumers’ goods relative to the supply of labor, and thus the prices of consumers’ goods relative to wage rates.” This phenomenon is not always easy to see in an inflationary economy such as ours, in which prices of most goods seem to go up consistently. But the point remains: prices become lower than they would otherwise be, and all real incomes (wages included) increase.

This is why taxes on business and capital are so foolish and counterproductive. Such taxes hamper business investment, which is precisely what raises our standard of living. The vast bulk of high school teachers and college professors spend their time condemning the wickedness of businessmen and the wealthy, and describe taxation as a righteous method for redistributing the supposedly ill-gotten gains of the wealthy to the oppressed poor. To put it kindly, such people have not the faintest idea of how wealth is created, and their envy-driven policy proposals inevitably make society poorer than it would otherwise be.

The vast bulk of the existing scholarship on American labor history is essentially unreadable. It takes for granted all the economic myths of unionism, the essential righteousness of the union cause, and the moral perversity of anyone who would dare to oppose it. Major incidents in the history of American unionism, as with the Haymarket incident of 1886 and the Homestead Strike of 1892, are often misleadingly described in order to conform to the ideological demands of this one-dimensional morality play.

Labor historians and activists would doubtless be at a loss to explain why, at a time when unionism was numerically negligible (a whopping three percent of the American labor force was unionized by 1900) and federal regulation all but nonexistent, real wages in manufacturing climbed an incredible 50 percent in the United States from 1860-1890, and another 37 percent from 1890-1914, or why American workers were so much better off than their much more heavily unionized counterparts in Europe. Most of them seem to cope with these inconvenient facts by neglecting to mention them at all.
Labor economist W.H. Hutt referred to the Norris-La Guardia and Wagner Acts in 1973 as “economic blunders of the first magnitude.” Economists Vedder and Gallaway find that New Deal labor legislation played a significant role in aggravating the unemployment problem. Both theory and history reveal the same conclusion: a society that genuinely wishes to become wealthier, to enjoy more leisure time, and to live longer will simply repeal all taxation on business and capital. That would do more for the material well-being of American workers than did all the storied episodes of labor’s “struggle” – labor historians’ favorite word – put together.

Thank you, Mr. Woods. Hey, remember when the air traffic controllers had that illegal strike so Reagan fired them all? Man, that was great. Too bad those New York transit workers who had a strike just before Christmas didn’t get canned.

After you’re done reading Mr. Woods’ essay on labor unions, at the same site you can read another piece of his that I highly recommend titled The Flat Earth Myth. As it turns out, contrary to what we were taught in school, no one in the Middle Ages thought that the earth was flat.

According to Woods, the two figures routinely cited by the flat earth myth peddlers are Lactantius (c. 245–325) and the early sixth-century Greek traveler and geographer Cosmas Indicopleustes. Lactantius was a Christian heretic who believed that the pagans had no good arguments in favor of the earth as a sphere, and that since the Bible took no position one way or the other the issue was unimportant. Much of his contrarianism in positing a flat earth can be attributed to his misplaced enthusiasm as an ex-pagan to contradict everything the pagans said. But early Christian thinkers didn’t think the way he did and weren’t influenced by him.

Cosmas constructed an odd model of the physical universe that portrayed the earth as flat, but he didn’t intend it to be taken literally. He thought in terms of its spiritual meaning, rather in the way that Dante would in literature.

Notes Woods:

European monarchs’ initial hesitation to support Columbus’s proposed expedition had nothing to do with the idea that the world was flat and Columbus might fall off the edge. It was precisely the accuracy of their knowledge of the earth that made them skeptical: they correctly concluded that Columbus had drastically underestimated the size of the earth, and that therefore he and his men would starve to death before they made it to the Indies. (Thankfully for them, of course, the Americas, which no one knew about, fortuitously appeared in between.)

The origins and story of the myth can be found in a useful little book (exclusive of notes and index, it is only 77 pages long) by Jeffrey Burton Russell called Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians (New York: Praeger, 1991).

*****

For months I’ve had Barry Manilow’s “I Made it Through the Rain” playing in my head virtually nonstop. Ironically, I was looking for an old Ace Backwords cartoon to run in this issue and came across one of the music reviews he wrote for the old Twisted Image newspaper he put out in the 80s. It’s a review of Manilow’s album Barry:

Yes, the King of Schmooze is back. Barry oozes his way through 10 offerings in this hitstained platter. Not content with his mastery of the pop medium, Barry stretches out with this Sgt. Pepper- like concept album. Just dig on the metaphysical implications of “Bermuda Triangle” when Barry sings, “Don’t go near/ You’ll disappear/ I feel so sad/ Bermuda Triangle is bad.” It’s sort of like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” if Lennon hadn’t taken any LSD and had a steel pipe implanted in his ear all the way to mid-cranium. Barry may not be as big as Jesus Christ but he’s certainly had more hit records. And no one to date has ever nailed Barry up to a cross. And besides, they’re both Jewish. “I got a hurtin’ heart/ Ain’t it true how love’s a hurtin’ game?” It most certainly is, Barry. And Barry breaks his old record by sustaining a note for 27.4 seconds on “I Made it Through the Rain” when he sings, “I made it through/ I kept my point of view/ woooooooooooooooooo.” Wow, you did it, Barry!

Thanks, Ace! I’ve been exorcised. Oh wait, here’s an email I just got from Ace after I wrote him that I would be reprinting his review of Barry:

I do feel a little guilty about the Barry Manilow piece.  I read his autobiography last year and he really came off as a very cool guy, very self-effacing and humble.  Down to earth.  Imagine a celebrity superstar who actually treats “the little people” like human beings.  Manilow seemed a lot more real than so many of the counterculture hipsters who I thought were so real back then. Everything is the opposite of what it seems, isn’t it.  Barry Manilow was the man all along.

Also in this issue (amongst reviews of albums by Jesus and Mary Chain, Seven Seconds, and Helen Reddy) is Ace’s critique of Sound Magazine by The Partridge Family:

Like wow, I mean when Davey sings “Baby, baby, hold my hand and we’ll be free” it like makes me want to give my love to him. And there’s more! Why, the background “woo-woo-woos” were enough to send shivers down my spine. Not to mention the “dit-dit-dits”. Superb. And in fact, rumor has it that Davey actually wrote that part himself. And then there’s Davey’s brilliant statement on modern existential alienation on “One Night Stand” when he wishes he “could be two people then I’d never be alone.” Imagine writing a love song about how you long to fuck yourself. What talent! “Went to sleep with you on my mind/ Huggin’ and kissin’ my pillow.” Whatta happenin’ dude.

Who needs Lester Bangs or Dave Marsh when you’ve got stuff like that?

*****

I finally walked into this Vietnamese restaurant I’ve been meaning to check out. It’s very classy, but they let me in anyway; and for what it’s worth, I was impressed. It’s actually more than just a fancy restaurant. Paintings from seven Vietnamese artists adorn the walls, and there’s a semi-annual exhibit with a cocktail event to auction the art. Profits generated from the auction will be donated to The Vietnam Friendship Village Project; “an organization dedicated to cultivating reconciliation and healing the wounds of the Vietnam War.” Tamarine is at 546 University Avenue in Palo Alto and there’s a new one opening in March near the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Log on to tamarinerestaurant.com.

*****


Johnny Hott (left) and Bryan Harvey made up House of Freaks.

Recently I found a crate of cassettes in my closet and decided to play one of my all-time favorites. It’s a 1991 release called Cakewalk by a duo from Virginia known as House of Freaks. Everyone I played this album for loved it and turned all their friends on to it. So you can imagine my horror when, on January 6th, I read this news story:

Police responding to a call found the bodies of Bryan and Kathryn Harvey and their two daughters, Stella, 9, and Ruby, 4, bound and gagged and their throats cut hours before the family was set to host a New Year’s Day party for friends at their two-story brick residence.

Bryan Harvey, 49, was the ex-guitarist and singer for House of Freaks, an indie band that released a string of albums during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He had just played a New Year’s Eve show with his band NrG Krysys the night before.

Though critically acclaimed, commercial success eluded them, so they left the music scene in Los Angeles and returned to Virginia to raise families and lead normal lives.

According to stories I read Bryan was a nice, humble guy and the family was very popular in the community. One anonymous detective working the case told the Richmond Times-Dispatch the condition of the bodies “left some of our people crying” and said the crime scene was as “horrible” as it gets. This isn’t really the proper place for this story, but it’s the night before deadline and I wanted to get it in for any fans of Bryan who weren’t aware of this tragedy.

*****

“The Soviet Union is going to remain a stable state, with a very stable, conservative, immobile government. We don’t see any collapse or weakening of the Soviet system.”

That’s what Indiana University historian Robert F. Byrnes told an interviewer in 1983, plugging After Brezhnev, his book that consisted of essays from 35 experts (the top names in American academia) on the Soviet Union.

Barely six years later, the Soviet empire began to crumble. By 1991 it had ceased to exist.

During the final days of the 1990 election in Nicaragua, ABC News released the results of a poll that showed the ruling Marxist Sandinista Party ahead by 16 percentage points. “For the Bush Administration and the Reagan Administration before it, the poll hints at a simple truth: After years of trying to get rid of the Sandinistas, there is not much to show for their efforts,” Peter Jennings informed his viewers. But a few days later, the Sandinistas lost -- by 14 percentage points.

The rapid speed that the Soviet Union disintegrated, the repression and poverty worse than imagined that existed there, and the utter contempt its citizens had for their “Communist Paradise” really proved the Noam Chomskys and the Helen Calidicotts of the West wrong. (Though through an ingenious stroke of marketing, pro-Marxist speakers like them have since been able to flourish on college campuses, independent bookstores, and Unitarian-Universalist Churches by preaching the evils of an “American Empire”, which their enlightened followers lap up, never realizing the obvious -- America is now the world’s lone superpower because the Russian people who actually had to live through communism vehemently rejected it).
For a great read, go online to your favorite search engine and type in Fools for Communism: Still apologists after all these years, an article Glenn Garvin wrote for the October 2004 issue of Reason magazine. It’s a review of the book In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage, by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 300 pages, $25.95).

As Haynes and Klehr note: “The nostalgic afterlife of communism in the United States has outlived most of the real Communist regimes around the world.... A sizable cadre of American intellectuals now openly applaud and apologize for one of the bloodiest ideologies of human history, and instead of being treated as pariahs, they hold distinguished positions in American higher education and cultural life.”

  • Miami University’s Robert W. Thurston, in his 1996 book Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, rejects the overwhelming evidence that Stalin’s purges took the lives of millions. He concedes only 681,692 executions in the years 1937 and 1938, and merely 2.5 million arrests. Even using those low-ball figures, that means that nearly one of every 20 adult Soviet males went to prison and that more than 900 of them were executed per day. Regardless, Thurston says Stalin has gotten a bad rap: There was no “mass terror...extensive fear did not exist...[and] Stalin was not guilty of mass first-degree murder.”
  • Theodore Von Laue, a professor emeritus of history at Clark University, in a 1999 essay on Stalin in The Historian: “He supervised the near-chaotic transformation of peasant Eurasia into an urban, industrialized superpower under unprecedented adversities. Though his achievements were at the cost of exorbitant sacrifice of human beings and natural resources, they were on a scale commensurate with the cruelty of two world wars. With the heroic help of his uncomprehending people, Stalin provided his country, still highly vulnerable, with a territorial security absent in all history.”
    “The sophisticated design of Soviet totalitarianism has perhaps not been sufficiently appreciated.”
  • Columbia’s Eric Foner, a past president of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians, denounces “the obsessive need to fill in the blank pages in the history of the Soviet era.”
    Foner, Von Laue, and Thurston aren’t just Communist revisionists, they’re actually respected, important historians. But try pointing out the pro-Marxist slant in academia and you’ll be labeled a McCarthyist.

Garvin writes:

The revisionists’ dominion over the domestic side of Cold War history has been even more total. That’s been written as melodrama, with the U.S. Communist Party, or CPUSA -- a collection of amiable folk singers, brave anti-segregationists, and Steinbeckian labor organizers -- trying to rescue the maiden of American democracy from the railroad tracks where McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) had tied her down. The revisionists reluctantly gave some ground on the nature of the Soviet Union as Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost allowed some ugly facts to bubble to the surface, but they were adamant on the U.S. side: The Communist Party was just a lefty variant of the Republicans and Democrats, and people like Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs were innocent martyrs, the victims of a demented witch hunt.

That myth was reduced to rubble by a series of crushing blows in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. First, in 1992, the post-Soviet government of Boris Yeltsin threw open the Communist Party’s records, including the enormous collection of documents held by the Communist International, or Comintern, which directed the affairs of foreign Communist parties during the first half of the century. Two years later, the Russian SVR, the cash-strapped successor to the KGB, allowed brief and limited access to some of its old files to a handful of Western historians in return for a substantial gratuity. And finally, in 1995, the U.S. government released thousands of KGB cables intercepted and decoded in the 1940s in a top-secret operation known as Venona. In all, some 2 million pages of new documents became available, a historical payload of unfathomable proportions and inestimable impact.

The new picture of American Communists that emerged looked nothing like the one painted by the revisionists. The CPUSA was founded in Moscow, funded from Moscow (as late as 1988 Gus Hall was signing receipts for $3 million a year), and directed by Moscow; the Comintern reviewed everything from the party’s printing bills to its public explanations of the nuances of the Hitler-Stalin pact, and the slightest misstep could bring scorching rebukes.

Worse yet, it really was a nest of spies: Hundreds of CPUSA members had infiltrated the American government and were passing information to the KGB. They honeycombed the State Department and the Office of Strategic Services. Virtually all of the revisionists’ martyrs really were spilling secrets to the Kremlin, including Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, and a pair of Roosevelt aides, Harry Dexter White and Laurence Duggan, who died (White of a heart attack, Duggan of a jump or fall from a window) after being questioned by HUAC. The CPUSA would do literally anything for Moscow, even kill: Party members were intimately involved in assassination plots against the heretic Bolshevik Leon Trotsky, and later they would assist in unsuccessful KGB plots to break his murderer out of jail. More than 350 spies, nearly all CPUSA members, are identified in the Venona cable traffic alone. One KGB cable gave Earl Browder, the party chief from 1930 to 1945, credit for personal recruitment of 18 spies. Another wondered how the KGB would ever operate in the United States without the help of the CPUSA.

“Progressive” magazine The Nation offered resistance to these pesky, newly discovered facts which, if brought up, would ruin any cocktail party in Manhattan, Malibu, or Marin. How’s this: then-editor Victor Navasky’s argument that the word espionage was “out of context” when applied to American Communists during the Cold War. It would be more appropriate, he wrote, to say that “there were a lot of exchanges of information among people of good will.”

Garvin writes about FDR aide Alger Hiss:

Ultimately, though, Navasky and The Nation turn from amusing to tendentious to dishonest as they twist and turn to avoid painful truths -- none, apparently, as distressing as the guilt of Alger Hiss, the New Deal aristocrat who pumped State Department secrets to the Soviets for more than a decade. The case against Hiss, the left’s protests notwithstanding, has always been overwhelming. Whittaker Chambers, a courier for a spy ring of Washington Communists that reported to Soviet military intelligence, identified Hiss as his contact.

A former KGB agent confirmed it.

Numerous witnesses, including maids of both families, reported seeing the men together regularly, and auto registration records supported Chambers’ claim that Hiss gave him a car to aid in his transport of documents filched by the spy ring. Chambers produced dozens of summaries and copies of State Department documents, all either in Hiss’ handwriting or typed on his typewriter. Though the statutes of limitations made it difficult to try Hiss for espionage, he was convicted in 1950 of lying about his relationship to Chambers.

The fall of the Soviet Union has driven even more nails into Hiss’ coffin. A KGB cable in the Venona files identifies a spy code-named “Ales” at the State Department whose biographical details match only Hiss. Meanwhile, an interview with another State Department spy -- Noel Field, who fled behind the Iron Curtain when he fell under suspicion in 1949 -- was discovered in the archives of the Hungarian security police. Field related how his friend Hiss, unaware that Field was already spying for the KGB, had tried to recruit him as a source for Soviet military intelligence. The same story of the encounter between Field and Hiss (which dismayed the Soviets as a security lapse) turned up in KGB files in Moscow.

And get this: If Franklin Roosevelt had died just nine or 10 months earlier, his third-term vice president, Communist sympathizer Henry Wallace, would have become president. Wallace had stated that if he were president he would appoint Harry Dexter White treasury secretary and Laurence Duggan secretary of state. Both of them, we now know from Venona cables, were Soviet spies.


George Clooney

In addition to being a Soviet spy, Lawrence Duggan was also a good friend of legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, whose fight against Red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy was recently portrayed in George Clooney’s film Good Night, and Good Luck. I don’t recall seeing anything about that in the movie.

In Good Night, and Good Luck, Clooney takes on the case of Lt. Milo Radulovich, who’s about to be ousted as a security risk from the Air Force Reserve because two of his relatives were radicals, possibly Communists.

The movie shows Murrow publicizing Radulovich’s plight. Later in the film, we find that he’s been reinstated and the charges dropped. Hence, there’s much rejoicing at CBS.

But in real life Radulovich was never a McCarthy case. As Allan H. Ryskind of Human Events Online points out:

Indeed, the Clooney film—but just barely—acknowledges this far from insignificant fact, yet it suggests that the “ambience” of McCarthy’s Red hunting was somehow responsible. Clooney, it seems, couldn’t discover a single bona fide McCarthy victim, so the closest he gets to it is a “victim” McCarthy had nothing to do with!

Then there are the real-life scenes of Joe McCarthy questioning Annie Lee Moss. I pitied poor Ms. Moss. She looked like a nice, frail, elderly black woman trapped in the racist 1950’s, falsely accused on national television of being a subversive.

Well, I did until I read this, also by Ryskind:

The March 11, 1954, McCarthy hearing, in truth, was a devastating indictment of Army security procedures—and Moss herself. McCarthy’s chief purpose was to find out how Moss, with her Red background, had been promoted from a cafeteria worker to a Pentagon code clerk with access to classified information.

During the hearings, Moss denied she was a Red, but admitted receiving the Daily Worker, the official organ of the Communist Party, at various addresses she had inhabited over the years. She conceded, after some prodding, the paper “might have been addressed to me” (instead of her husband). She acknowledged that Robert Hall, one of three top Washington, D.C., Communists, had visited her home and that she had lived, for a short while, with Hattie Griffin, an active party member who hosted Communist meetings at her house. Standing alone, this information should have been enough to raise questions as to why she had access to classified material.

More damning evidence was produced. Moss, as the hearings revealed, had been identified as a dues-paying member of the Northeast club of the D.C. Communist Party by FBI undercover informant Mary Markward, and the committee’s majority counsel, Roy Cohn, stressed that Markward’s testimony had been “corroborated” in “a sworn statement” by another witness in executive session.

The clincher on Moss came four years later. The Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB), an agency of the federal government, held a hearing on Markward, partly to determine if she had told the truth about Moss. The SACB’s Sept. 19, 1958, verdict, based on board members’ viewing D.C. Communist Party records, such as dues rosters and members’ living residences, was that the exhibits “corroborate Markward’s testimony in the Moss security hearings.” The SACB, in short, found that McCarthy had bagged the right Annie Lee Moss, Murrow to the contrary.

Maybe that’s why Clooney just implies that Moss was innocent.

Clooney has said the reason he made Good Night, and Good Luck was to set the record straight because uber-conservative author Ann Coulter “wrote a book about how great Joe McCarthy was.” The irony is that no matter how much people are turned off by demagogues like Coulter and McCarthy, the cold hard facts support their arguments more than the ones put forth by the charismatic duo of Clooney and Murrow.

Hardly setting the record straight by omitting newly discovered facts revealed by Venona, Clooney’s film is deceitful, and though it was released in 2005 it could have come out 30 years earlier without altering a scene. It’s a new release, yet more outdated than The Way We Were and The Front.

Oh well, gotta go. In the meantime, good night, and good luck.###

Hang on; I forgot this issue’s cover story about that sensitive poet…Michael Madsen

All contents © 2006 by Gene Mahoney