The Hiss Conviction Turns 65

By 1.30.15

Sixty-five years ago last week, Alger Hiss—the protégé of Oliver Wendell Holmes, a rising star in the State Department, and a Soviet agent code-named “Ales”—was convicted of perjury for denying any involvement in Soviet espionage. This should have forever closed the case. For, as Sam Tanenhaus, the biographer of Hiss’s main accuser, Whittaker Chambers, stated, every mystery had been answered. There was compelling evidence, in the form of documents Chambers said had been given to him by Hiss, which were in Hiss’s handwriting, and those summarized by typing them had matched the “type” of the machine. This was enough to sway juries.

But not all mysteries had been answered. There was the question of motive. Whittaker Chambers was never able to supply this, for he was friends with Hiss well after Hiss joined Soviet intelligence. The most Chambers could offer involved tantalizing tidbits about Hiss’s personality, such as Hiss being a rather “romantic communist.” But his other offerings showed a cold blooded figure: mocking FDR’s polio as symbolic of democracy decaying, and reacting to Stalin’s Purge Trials by stating “that Joe Stalin plays for keeps.”


At Least He’s Consistent — Eric Cantor Urges Timidity

By 1.7.15

After he left the ring, the late, great Sugar Ray Robinson became a hoofer. A reporter asked him once which he liked best, fighting or song and dance. The great one replied, with a smile befitting a champion, “I’ve found my métier.”

You can hardly blame him. Robinson probably drew much smaller crowds as a dancer. But he didn’t need a cut man. And he didn’t have Jake LaMotta or Gene Fullmer blowing their nasty breath in his face.

Former House Majority Leader, Eric “K-Street” Cantor, has apparently found his métier as well. And it’s yet another form of song and dance.

Defeated last June for nomination for a 13th term in Congress by conservative David Brat, Cantor is now a Wall Street investment banker. It would probably have been better for Cantor, for his Virginia congressional district, and for the republic if Cantor had gone into this fitting line of work earlier. He surely takes to it.


When the UN Apes Al Sharpton

By 12.12.14

Among the familiar hucksters who sought to capitalize on the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri, came a new face: Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and self-styled heir to the non-existent royal houses of Iraq and Syria.

“I am deeply concerned,” Prince Zeid said in a press release, about “institutionalized discrimination” in America, and “I urge the U.S. authorities” to conduct “in-depth examinations” of racial justice. Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence that Michael Brown’s death resulted from the criminal acts he engaged in before and during his encounter with officer Darren Wilson, Zeid’s Human Rights Council invited the Brown family to testify before a hearing and afterwards issued a 14-page condemnation of America’s record on race.

Self-awareness, it’s safe to say, is neither Prince Zeid’s nor the Human Rights Council’s strongpoint. Far from representing “the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,” the Council includes many of the poster-children for abuse: Pakistan, Venezuela, China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Russia and Cuba.


Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Judgment Day

By 11.21.14

Bill Cosby raped me.

Sorry, it just seemed like the “in” thing to say. Okay. So I have never met the man. But I feel like I’ve known him all these years. And to know him is to be known by him. At least cable news imparts this notion.

Joan Tarshis, in 1969 a nineteen-year-old comedy writer, thought she knew the Bill Cosby she knew on television. He broke character by allegedly plying her with flattery, booze, and drugs before plying her with him.

“The next thing I remember was coming to on his couch while being undressed,” Tarshis recalls of a 45-year-old encounter. “Through the haze I thought I was being clever when I told him I had an infection and he would catch it and his wife would know he had sex with someone. But he just found another orifice to use. I was sickened by what was happening to me and shocked that this man I had idolized was now raping me. Of course I told no one.”


What Makes Jon Stewart More Insufferable Than Bill Maher

By 10.3.14

Recently four members of that least-recognized Indian tribe “Redskins Nation” agreed to participate in a Daily Show segment discussing the controversy surrounding their team name. Their conversation with comedian Jason Jones was stretching into its third hour when eight Native American activists were suddenly brought out. The newcomers became vitriolic and one fan left the set crying, saying later that she’d felt threatened.

The Washingtonians told the Washington Post that they would have gladly agreed to debate a group of the Indians, but the show had said no such confrontation would occur. The producers lied, sprang an ambush, and laughed at the acrimony that followed.


Bradley Manning Is Not a Victim of Cruel and Unusual Punishment

By 8.14.14

Is Bradley Manning suffering from vaginal dryness? Is his hair thinning out? Are his breasts getting smaller while his tummy swells like a gourd? How regular are his periods? What about his personality: is he behaving shrewishly toward his jailers at Fort Leavenworth, haranguing them about the toilet seat? The world wants to know. Or at least I do.


The Unimportance of Being Earnest

By 8.8.14

I don’t mean to josh; I mean this in earnest. I think it is time to eliminate the office of White House press secretary. There is no point in having a permanent Commender-in-Chief to tell us how great a job the President is doing, without regard to reality, actuality, verity or accuracy.

This musing overtook me earlier this week as I watched the presiding plenipotentiary of the podium, Josh Earnest (I promise I am not making this name up), field a query about a contradiction between Second Term Obama and his popular predecessor, First Term Obama. Apparently old First Term was recorded saying he could not go about changing immigration law on his own because that power was reserved to Congress by the Constitution. However, Second Term has been saying that since Congress won’t do their job because they are busy trying to stop him from doing his job he must stop doing his job and do their job for them instead. For the uninitiated, this is the translation into Flapdoodle of promising to change immigration law by his lonesome.


Irreconcilable Similarities

By 5.6.14

News of the impending divorce of retired Episcopal Church Bishop Gene Robinson from Husband Mark Andrew swept into the papers this past weekend. In what was no doubt a pre-planned rollout, a statement was released to Robinson’s former diocese on a Saturday, followed by a guest column in the Daily Beast in which Robinson opined about the concluding relationship, which only became a legally recognized marriage in 2011.

“The details of our situation will remain appropriately private,” Robinson wrote in what is surely wishful thinking — apparently believing that his announcement justifies a column in a major online daily, but that it will go no further. Robinson is a public figure, his same-sex marriage a central part of his public ministry (and his book released last year). Episcopalians as a bunch love to talk, and all will eventually be made known.


Last of the Mohicans, First of the Cantabrigians

By 4.18.14

Turning the tables remains the first refuge of liars called on their mendacity.

“I was hurt,” Elizabeth Warren relays in her new autobiography, “and I was angry.” The second-year senator speaks of her 2012 political opponent using her claims of Native American ancestry against her during the campaign. Elizabeth Warren could pass for Bull Connor’s sister. She couldn’t pass for Sitting Bull’s second cousin five times removed.

So when the 2012 debate descended into genealogists arguing over whether Warren’s great-great-great grandmother was or wasn’t partly Cherokee, the law-professor-turned-candidate winning the question meant that she had already lost it. How would American Indian blood running through such a distant forebear justify her touting herself as Harvard Law’s first tenured female minority?