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Battle of the Bosses

From the Scrapbook.

Apr 18, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 30 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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We yield to no one in our admiration for Chris Christie, even though he’s from New Jersey. The candor and plain speaking that have made him a YouTube matinee idol have made him a Scrapbook favorite too. So it’s only with the greatest reluctance that we draw your attention to an incident in which, perhaps for understandable reasons, his gift for voicing uncomfortable truths failed him.

Chris Christie, Bruce Springsteen

New Jerseyans Chris Christie and Bruce Springsteen

Newscom / AP Photo-Craig Ruttle

Christie calls himself Bruce Springsteen’s number one fan. Again, we forgive him. But when Diane Sawyer interviewed the governor last week and quoted a letter that Springsteen had published critical of Christie’s fiscal policies, the governor put on the kid gloves.

“I mean, you know, Bruce is liberal,” the governor said. “Doesn’t mean I like him any less. But you know, Bruce believes that we should be raising taxes all the time on -everyone to do all the things that he’d like to see government do. That’s fine, it’s his point of view and he’s absolutely welcome to it, and I have great respect for it, because he speaks out.”

That’s it? This is the response of a number one fan, not of a governor—and certainly not of a governor who has stared down the teachers’ union and infuriated liberals by insisting on calling things by their proper names. Why not continue the candor with Bruce? If Springsteen wants to play politics instead of music, we feel free—and so should Christie—to talk music instead of politics, by pointing out (for example) that Bruce Springsteen hasn’t had a fresh musical idea since his album The River, released 30 years ago, and that his lyrics have become as predictable as the sunrise. You know it, governor, and Bruce knows it. Go ahead: Speak truth to power.

The Perfidious Liquor Lobby?

The Scrapbook is always on the prowl for evidence that newspaper editorial staffs live in a parallel universe, and the sad fact is that it usually doesn’t have to prowl very hard. 

Last week, for example, a delightfully loony editorial in the Washington Post fell in our lap, entitled “Standing up to the Liquor Lobby.” Nobody likes lobbyists, of course—and The Scrapbook assumed that “liquor lobby” must have meant hard-faced men in dark suits who travel around carrying armloads of money for politicians to defend drunkenness, or promote those cocktails with the little umbrellas stuck in the glass. But the editorial’s subhed tipped us off that this was different: “In Maryland, a higher tax on alcohol—at long last.” 

It turns out that the terrible thing the “liquor lobby” has been doing in Maryland is keeping taxes low on liquor, which of course is a service—and no doubt a service greatly appreciated by Marylanders—that has prevented the (elected) government of Maryland from spending money that the Washington Post thinks it should spend. So, you see, in the Post’s view, it is a good thing that the “liquor lobby” has been thwarted and that taxes are going up “at long last.” 

But proof that you and I don’t reside on the same planet as Post writers comes in the editorial’s opening sentences: 

Four decades is a long time to wait, but at last Marylanders can be hopeful that the state’s politicians are prepared to stand up to the alcohol lobby. .  .  . [L]awmakers in Annapolis seem poised to raise the tax on alcohol specifically, which is so low that Maryland might as well change its official nickname from the Free State to the Cheap Drunk State.

The rest is a Carrie Nation-style jeremiad against the evils of demon rum, combined with a list of dubious causes Maryland taxpayers should be subsidizing. We’ll spare you the details. But The Scrapbook has to ask: Does the Post genuinely believe that the taxpayers of Maryland—especially those taxpayers who take a drink now and then—are “hopeful” that their taxes, which are already among the highest in America, will be raised? Or are pleased that their legislators are “standing up” against those who seek to keep their taxes at reasonable levels? 

Obviously, Maryland is a resolutely blue state, and the Washington Post believes that taxation is next to godliness. But The Scrapbook suspects that even Marylanders groan when their taxes go up—especially when applied to things they enjoy—and that you have to subsist in a really insulated, well-sealed, oblivious community to believe that anyone anywhere would be celebrating higher taxes. 

 

The Guilt of the Rosenbergs (cont.)

Three weeks ago in these pages, historians Ronald Radosh and Steven T. Usdin reported on the surprising confession to Usdin by Morton Sobell, a collaborator with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in atomic-era espionage for the Soviet Union. -Sobell had previously admitted to New York Times reporter Sam Roberts in 2008 that he had been a spy, while downplaying the seriousness of the secrets he passed along. To Usdin, he admitted, as the two historians put it, that he was “a key participant in an espionage operation that provided an enormous amount of classified data to the KGB, information that was extremely useful to the Soviet military.” He also admitted that he “did it for the Soviet Union,” to which he had been ideologically devoted his whole life (his parents were both Communist party members). 

Last week, Roberts reported in the New York Times on the response to the Sobell story from the Rosenbergs’ son, Robert Meeropol, who has spent a lifetime defending his parents. Writes Roberts:

Responding to recent revelations in The Weekly Standard by Morton Sobell, a co-defendant in the 1951 trial, Mr. Meeropol wrote: “I’d be less than honest if I did not admit that the latest news that Morton Sobell, my father and two others provided aeronautical information to the Soviet Union in 1948 gives me pause. My parents wrote in their last letter to me and my brother: ‘Always remember that we were innocent and could not wrong our conscience.’ My father, at least, doesn’t seem quite so innocent anymore.”

In a column for Pajamas Media, Radosh parses the significance of  Meeropol’s concession. Radosh, by the way, with coauthor Joyce Milton, wrote the definitive book on the case, The Rosenberg File (1983). Their account of the 1948 espionage case, which has now been confirmed by Morton Sobell, was denounced as an FBI fabrication by Robert Meeropol and his older brother Michael in their 1986 memoir, We Are Your Sons. Writes Radosh:

The significance of the younger Meeropol’s admission was well stated by Tablet magazine’s Marc Tracy, who writes that this is “perhaps the final wall of denial to fall in a case that has obsessed the American Jewish community for six decades,” and, I would add, that has been a linchpin of the American left’s argument that the United States government was not only evil during the Cold War years, but was ready to kill regular American citizens because they were against the Truman administration’s anti-Soviet policies. 

[Nonetheless, Meeropol wants] to still honor his parents while now acknowledging what he calls their “uncritical support for the USSR,” which actually was .   .  . espionage on Stalin’s behalf. He still confuses what his parents did with what he calls a “more humane and just society.” .  .  . I now wait for comments from Robert’s older brother Michael. In the past few years, it has become obvious they both look at their parents’ espionage somewhat differently, although they have often appeared together on panels. What does Michael Meeropol think, and will he too make his thoughts public? .  .  .

Time will tell. I never thought that one of the Rosenbergs’ children, despite all of his confusion, would ever admit publicly that his father was guilty. It is a good sign that finally, it has become hard for the truth to be ignored after so much evidence has been accumulated about the Rosenbergs’ guilt. There is still a long way to go for their many apologists, but at least a first step has been taken.

What’s in an Acronym?

They’re tough and heroic. They ride around in shiny red trucks. Every little boy dreams of becoming one. They are .  .  . FEMS.

 We refer, of course, to the courageous men and women of the Washington, D.C., Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. For many years the capital city’s firemen wore uniforms emblazoned with the acronym “DCFD”—District of Columbia Fire Department. But that was before Chief Kenneth Ellerbe decided the old uniforms discriminated against ambulance drivers and medical technicians. 

Now Ellerbe and new D.C. mayor Vincent “Quid Pro Quo” Gray want to forbid firemen from wearing gear that isn’t labeled FEMS. And who would’ve guessed? The manly firemen strongly object.

Firefighters union president Ed Smith told a local TV news crew, “Citizens I talked to think the insignia means FEMA, which could jeopardize their work.” Chief Ellerbe has agreed to a 120-day “cooling off” -period so everyone can calm down and work out a solution. 

Here’s a suggestion: Go back to the old uniforms. Or make a deal—the firefighters will wear FEMS equipment as long as Ellerbe’s clothes bear the acronym for Firefighters’ Official Office Lackey.

Correction

Joseph A. Bosco, author of an article in last week’s issue on the military threat from China (“A Really Inconvenient Truth”), was China desk officer in the office of the secretary of defense from 2005 to 2006, not from 2005 to 2010. We apologize to him for the error.


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