The Magazine

Boss Dingell, Iraq, Penthouse, and more.

Aug 4, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 45
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Boss Dingell and the Outside Agitator

Ward Connerly sure knows how to get under John Dingell's skin. The point man in passing California's Proposition 209 in 1996, Connerly is supporting a Michigan initiative that would similarly ban race preferences in state hiring and university admissions. This provoked Michigan's famously bullying congressman into writing an astonishing letter that suggests Dingell would be right at home in the Democratic party of George Wallace, circa 1963. Here is Dingell's July 9 letter to Connerly, as posted on the congressman's website, followed by excerpts from Connerly's July 21 response:

Mr. Connerly:

The people of Michigan have a simple message to you: go home and stay there. We do not need you stirring up trouble where none exists.

Michiganders do not take kindly to your ignorant meddling in our affairs. We have no need for itinerant publicity seekers, non-resident troublemakers or self-aggrandizing out-of-state agitators. You have created enough mischief in your own state to last a lifetime.

We reject your "black vs. white" politics that were long ago discarded to the ash heap of history. Your brand of divisive racial politics has no place in Michigan, or in our society. So Mr. Connerly, take your message of hate and fear, division and destruction and leave. Go home and stay there, you're not welcome here.

With every good wish,

Sincerely yours,

John D. Dingell

Member of Congress

Connerly replied as follows:

Congressman Dingell,

Thank you for such a warm and hospitable welcome to Michigan. . . . Ironically, your advice is the echo of southern segregationists who sought the comfort of states' rights to practice their discrimination against black Americans. . . . There is such an eerie similarity between them and you that it bears comment.

-George Wallace, Lester Maddox and others who shared their rabid and abhorrent views believed in treating people differently on the basis of skin color . . . and so do you.

-They wanted to practice their brand of racism free from the interference of "meddling, outside agitators" . . . and so do you.

-They called those who disagreed with them and merely wanted to exercise their right to assemble "carpetbaggers" and "non-resident troublemakers" who were "stirring up trouble where none exists" . . . and so do you.

-They were arrogant and intolerant bullies . . . and so are you.

Your letter is a prime example of why the texture of civil discourse in our nation is so coarse. . . . You ought to be ashamed of telling any American citizen to "go home and stay there." You say that I am not welcome in Michigan and that the "people of Michigan" don't want me there. . . . I must ask whether you have run your "get out of town" sermon by the hundreds of other Michiganders who have called, written and e-mailed me to come to Michigan and assist in the restoration of the principle of "equal protection under the law"?

You have said I am "stirring up trouble where none exists." That certainly isn't what I hear from other prominent people in Michigan or what I have read in the dailies of your state. . . .

It defies credulity that you could be so out of touch with your state as to not recognize the racial tension that lies within, much of which has been engendered by racial preferences at the University of Michigan.

I note with great interest that Reverend Jesse Jackson has announced his intention to open an office of his Rainbow Coalition in Benton Harbor. Would you please be kind enough to send me a copy of your letter to him demanding that he "go home and stay there." I understand that he is also a non-resident of Michigan. . . .

With equally good wishes.

Sincerely,

Ward Connerly

The Iraqis Get It Right

Here are three reasons to be optimistic about the new Iraqi Governing Council, all taken from a transcript of their first news conference, which was broadcast on Al Jazeera TV on July 13.

(1) They understand that the BBC doesn't wish them well. Said Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, in reply to a snotty question from the BBC's James Reynolds: "The BBC always tries to distort Iraq's news. [Applause] During the war, we filed official messages to the British government to protest at the BBC's bias towards the former regime. [Applause] . . . Why [do you] underestimate the [council's] powers and say they are limited?"

(2) They understand that Al Jazeera doesn't wish them well. Said Nasir Kamil Al-Chadirchi, a 70-year-old Sunni Arab lawyer from Baghdad and head of the National Democratic party: "I have an appeal for Al Jazeera and other Arab satellite channels. I tell them: enough incitement of the Iraqi people to carry out acts of [word indistinct] [Applause]. We know our citizens more than you do and we love our people more than you do. Thank you." Then Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, a prominent Shia cleric, chimed in: "We had expected the Arab satellite channels since the first day of the war not to side with the defunct regime. We stood by the Arab nation at all times, but, unfortunately, these satellite channels betrayed us and did not stand by us [Applause]. We have been firewood for their battles [Applause]."

(3) They understand that the Arab League does not wish them well. Said Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i, "We wished that the Arab League had taken a stand towards the crimes of the Saddam regime. The Arab League's stand towards the Iraqi people should demonstrate more sympathy and understanding. The events are clear to all. The Arab League must understand and deal with this step, that is, the formation of the first Iraqi representative authority that enjoys acceptance and credibility. Otherwise, this will lead to uncalled-for isolation, which will not be in the interest of the Iraqi people or the Arab brethren. We want the Arab brothers to understand that the defunct regime is gone for good and that it will never return, and that a new Iraq is being born."

The New York Times's Shoe Confusion

The New York Times devoted a page of its travel section on July 20 to what it described as the Transportation Security Administration's "shoe fetish." This refers to the scrutiny of travelers' shoes at airports ever since shoebomber Richard Reid tried to blow up an airplane with his plastique sneakers.

The Times reporter had lots of complaints: Airport procedures have been "inconsistent." Passengers have "no idea what to expect at the airport." Frequent travelers say that the screening of shoes is "seemingly arbitrary." One traveler points out that "even within the same airport, it's not really consistent." Another complains that screening is "capricious" and "difficult to predict."

In all of this, the reporter and the whiners miss the obvious: If the procedures were consistent, predictable, and passengers knew what to expect, they would be that much more easily evaded and defeated by terrorists. To quote Homer Simpson, "D'oh."

Great Moments in Journalistic Principle

Penthouse magazine may be on the verge of bankruptcy, but "there are some of us who still believe in this magazine," one employee told Newsweek's Seth Mnookin last week. "She asked not to be named because, she said, magazine staffers had been told that speaking publicly could jeopardize their future positions at the magazine. 'Plus, it's not like there's a lot of other jobs out there.'"