Witness Protection Program
From the Scrapbook
Feb 22, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 22
Writing in National Review two and a half years ago, John J. Miller noted the plight of Pipe Creek Farm in Westminster, Maryland. Pipe Creek was the home of Whittaker Chambers. The farm loomed large in his storied memoir Witness, both as an element in Chambers’s private life and as part of the intrigue that bound Chambers to Alger Hiss, the Soviet spy who was convicted of perjury in 1950 thanks to Chambers’s testimony. It was at his farm that Chambers hid the so-called Pumpkin Papers—micro-fiche proof of Hiss’s espionage, secreted in a carved out pumpkin.
Chambers lived at Pipe Creek until his death in 1961; his wife, Esther, stayed there until she passed away in 1986; and his son, John Chambers, who is now in his early 70s, lives there today.
The only problem is that, as Miller reported beginning in 2007, Carroll County wants to take a 15-acre portion of the farm and flood it as part of the planned Union Mills Reservoir. This project isn’t new—it dates back to the 1960s. In 1988, President Reagan’s Department of the Interior designated Pipe Creek Farm as a National Historic Landmark, but apparently, such distinctions mean little to county officials. After years of threatening to invoke eminent domain to seize the 15 acres, the county finally seems to be moving ahead with its plan.
This isn’t eminent domain abuse, per se—the reservoir is clearly a long-standing public project and the county seems to be acting in good faith. But still. It’s a pity that, in addition to being an important marker in the 20th-century battle between freedom and Communist totalitarianism, Chambers’s farm wasn’t also home to some obscure species of stag beetle. Then it might have been left intact.
In any event, the eminent domain threat to Pipe Creek isn’t the worst of it. A few weeks ago, Miller reported that one of the buildings on the farm—the house where Chambers wrote Witness—burned down. The saddest part may be that in reporting the event, the local paper didn’t even mention the building’s notable past.
Lost in Translation
When it was reported that Detroit airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been a student activist at University College London, the distinguished historian of Irish terrorism Ruth Dudley Edwards published an important piece in the Telegraph, “British universities: seats of learning—and loathing.” Abdulmutallab’s parents, she wrote, must wonder
British universities are in denial, she wrote, about the “increasing support for Islamism on campuses.”
The Scrapbook was reminded of this article by the news last week that Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister of Israel, was greeted during his address to the Oxford Union by a student shouting “kill the Jews” (“Itbah al-yahud,” in Arabic).
That student “clarified” his remarks the following day. As reported by Jessica Elgot of the Jewish Chronicle, second-year St Edmund’s Hall student Noor Rashid
“Innocents,” as those versed in extremist rhetoric well know, is a weasel word—one that doesn’t apply to the Jews of Israel since they are “occupiers.” Shorter version: Rashid perhaps didn’t mean “kill the Jews”—he just meant “slaughter the Israelis.” Charming.
Noor Rashid, by the way, is not just any Oxford student. As the blog Harry’s Place discovered with a Google search, he may not be the president of his university’s Islamic Society, as Abdulmutallab was, but he is the Society’s representative for St Edmund’s Hall.
The Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism in Britain, reacted to Rashid’s clarification as follows: “The police should still continue with their investigation. It is about time incitement was treated as such. We are very quick to charge neo-Nazis with incitement, which is right of course, but there appears to be an increasing distinct double standard.”
Indeed. As Edwards noted in her Telegraph piece, “fearful of being accused of racism and cultural insensitivity, the academic establishment is running scared of Islamic bully-boys. Supporters of the BNP [the far-right British National Party] would be run off campuses where there are no rebukes for proponents of Islamic fascism and murder.”
Palin Derangement Syndrome
The depths of the left’s hatred of Sarah Palin are still being plumbed. As The Scrapbook’s colleague Mary Katharine Ham reported last week on The Weekly Standard Blog, Palin wears an engraved metal bracelet bearing the name of her son, who is deployed to Iraq, “and boy, is the left angry about it. No, really.”
Continued Ham: “The bracelet got a bit of attention thanks to the other Sarah Palin nonscandal of the week. When the former governor of Alaska gave a speech at the tea party convention Saturday, she did it with notes scribbled on her palm, giving the supporters of President TelePrompTer apoplexy and causing them to produce copious close-ups of Sarah Palin’s left hand.
“It was in one of those close-ups that Eric Robinson, writing in the Yale Daily News, stumbled on Palin’s alleged big blunder. Robinson, an Afghan-istan and Iraq vet, pegged Palin’s bracelet as a black, memorial bracelet, reserved for soldiers killed in action”:
As Ham then detailed, the liberal blogosphere went nuts over the allegation. But they were nuts to go nuts. It wasn’t a memorial bracelet. The owner of HeroBracelets.org wrote a post on his site explaining that Palin was wearing a “Deployment Bracelet” that he gave her, which is bronze, not black. Ham noted the most bizarre aspect of this episode: “If you’re going to take Palin on, there is perhaps no ground less advantageous than the service of her son and her genuine love for him.”
The Book You’ve Been Waiting for
It’s not very often that a book comes along that’s a hit with flyfishing, Star Wars, and Marion Barry enthusiasts alike. So it is with an appreciation for his Lady Gaga-like genre transcendence that we celebrate the release of a new book by The Weekly Standard’s very own Matt Labash, Fly Fishing with Darth Vader: and Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys (Matt’s never been one for brevity).
An added treat to a Labash book release is that he emerges from behind the vaguely desk-shaped pile of old newspapers, magazines, and scrap printer paper in his office to do press interviews. Here’s Labash’s summary of the book’s contents from a Q&A with Esquire:
The early reviews are enthusiastic. Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic called Labash’s collection of journalistic hijinks the “funniest book of the year” (while taking pains to note he doesn’t know Labash, personally).
And Mark Lasswell of the Wall Street Journal says, “Mr. Labash inhabits a story so thoroughly that readers feel as if they’re at his side, seeing events with his sharp eye, privy to his wisecracks, savoring moments when he reels in what feels like the truth. Sure, executing long-form journalism at this high level has about it a whiff of the Civil War reenactment—an almost perfect evocation of a bygone era!—but there is also a certain thrilling defiance displayed by . . . the writer [as he] plows ahead, page after page.”
None of this will come as news, of course, to longtime readers of these pages. So feed your Labash habit; go buy Fly Fishing with Darth Vader.
"From time to time I come across Silda and Eliot Spitzer. He is the . . . ” (Richard Cohen, Washington Post, February 9).