Devil in the Details

Love Boats

What—besides ideological antipathy—do the National Review and the Nation have in common? Sea legs.

Since 1994, the National Review has sponsored six cruises to places like the Caribbean and Alaska, on which subscribers could play shuffleboard with the Family Research Council's Gary Bauer or drink martinis with the ur-conservative himself, William F. Buckley. This summer NR will be hosting a Baltic cruise to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Caspar Wein berger, Alexander Haig, Edwin Meese, and others will regale passengers with the story of how they brought down the Evil Empire.

This sort of thing sounds very, well, National Review–ish. The Nation's Eric Alterman, who reported on the 1997 cruise, observed: "The great thing about being a right-winger, so far as I can tell, is that you get to exploit people and feel good about it. Any self-respecting liberal would feel guilty about being so well served by so many apparent Third Worlders."

Not that guilty, apparently. The Nation itself is just back from an eight-day Caribbean cruise with 400 subscribers affluent enough to pay between $1,800 and $2,900 to set sail on what political commentator Jim Hightower christened "This floatin' palace of populism." Passengers could choose between swimming and a seminar on the global economy, or between sunning on the deck and a panel discussion of the future of the left with Christopher Hitchens, Katha Pollitt, and Alexander Cockburn. (Those hoping for plank-walking were disappointed: the notoriously quarrelsome Nation contributors got along famously, according to the magazine's publisher, Victor Navasky.) Does a lefty magazine like the Nation really have the constituency for a cruise? Yes, says Navasky. "There are a lot of liberals with discretionary funds who've always wanted to go on a cruise but felt guilty about it." Both Navasky and Jack Fowler, associate publisher of the National Review, say that with a loyal constituency and an interesting theme, cruises can offer opportunities for both bonding and fundraising. "There's gold in the sea," Fowler told TAP, sounding piratical. The Nation is already talking about a cruise to Alaska next year.

Hmm. Could someone send us the number of a good cruise operator?

—Kate Cambor

How to Defend a Dictator

Ever since Augusto Pinochet was arrested in November for his role in the murder, torture, and kidnapping of thousands of Chileans, American conservatives have been busily engaging in the sort of historical revisionism that would make the old Soviets proud. Indeed, conservative efforts to justify propping up morally noxious regimes—most notably on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times—have an almost formulaic quality to them. A pro-Pinochet piece in the December 21 issue of the National Review provides a model of the form.

Step 1: Invoke the hoary specter of communism. "In all the talk of British justice, international law, and Chilean sentiment, one word has been missing: Com munism." Actually, it hasn't been missing. Few today would defend the crimes of various communist regimes during this century. But the crimes of brutal and oppressive communist dictatorships hardly mitigate those of brutal and oppressive military dictatorships.

Step 2: Make erroneous historical analogies, then extrapolate wildly. "Like Francisco Franco before him, [Pinochet] saved his country from totalitarian dictatorship. And like Franco, he paved the way for democracy." Yes, Salva dor Allende was a Marx ist who embraced socialist policies. But he was elected president of Chile. This is known as democratic rule.

And saying that Franco "paved the way for democracy" is like saying that Hitler, by waging his war against freedom, paved the way for democracy in postwar Ger many. Franco was a military dictator, a self-described fascist who allied himself with Hitler. It was 30 years after taking power in 1939 that Franco appointed Prince Juan Carlos—a monarch—as his successor, and it was Carlos, not Franco, who steered Spain toward a parliamentary system.

Step 3: Concede the obvious . . . "The thousands of summary executions that accompanied Pino chet's revolt were terrible . . . "

Step 4: . . . and then resort to the "Extremism in the Defense of Liberty" argument. ". . . [and] so was the firebombing of hundreds of thousands of enemy civilians by the Allies in World War II." Correct—which is exactly why philosophers are still debating the ethics of firebombing Dresden and dropping nuclear weapons on Japan. But let's not confuse an antidemocratic military coup with a war.

Step 5: Shrug. ("Hey, coups happen.") "But once war or revolution begins, the Rubicon is crossed." As if international law and military ethics don't recognize distinctions between soldiers and civilians.

Perhaps the most egregious claim is that Pinochet was forced to act to restore "stability" to Chile after Allende. Evidence released by the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C., indicates that the CIA, at Nixon's behest, spent nearly three years and millions of dollars trying to topple Allende. Notes taken by CIA Director Richard Helms at a meeting with Nixon, John Mitchell, and Henry Kissinger reveal that the CIA was instructed to make fomenting a coup "a full-time job" with "the best men we have," and to "make the economy scream." Accordingly, the Nixon administration acted to hold up international aid and loans to Chile—a proximate cause of the economic upheavals that supposedly made Allende's overthrow necessary.

—Nicholas Confessore


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The Left Beer Now

The Coors family has long served as a nemesis of progressive causes. Ever since Joseph Coors helped establish the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1973, various family members have used the Coors brewing fortune to bankroll hundreds of right-wing enterprises, from campaigns against the Equal Rights Amend ment and the Civil Rights Act to fundraising for the Nicar aguan Contras. The Coors family has been a particularly generous supporter of antigay groups such as the Institute for American Values. According to the Village Voice, the Coors Brewing Comp any's PAC has contributed some $40,000 to legislators like Repub lican Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma, who introduced a 1993 bill to ban immigration by HIV-positive people, and New Hamp shire Senator Bob Smith, one of the few senators who voted against the Ryan White AIDS-care act.

For years, Coors Inc. was also notorious for its homophobic and antilabor employment practices, which at one point included lie detector tests asking employees about their sexual orientation. And so for two decades, gay-rights activists, under the umbrella of the Los Angeles–based Coors Boycott Committee, urged concerned citizens not to buy Coors products (whose ad campaign for years was, appropriately enough, "Coors: The Right Beer Now").

So when the conservative Family Research Council—the folks behind "National Coming Out of Homo sexuality Day"—recently named Coors one of the "Twelve Top Corporate Spon sors of Homo sexuality," we wondered if maybe the folks at the council hadn't polished off a few too many six packs.

It turns out that in recent years the Coors company has transformed itself into one of the most gay-friendly companies in the nation. Coors is now among a growing number of firms that offer their employees domestic-partner benefits, and its discrimination policy encompasses sexual orientation and HIV status. The company has even made a $110,000 donation to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against De famation, which will underwrite a "sexual orientation in the workplace" program—one of many reasons why the organizers of the Coors boycott recently ended it.

—NC

Third Way, Take Ten

At some point, certain catchphrases become by their sheer ubiquity completely meaningless. The "Third Way," which Robert Reich writes about on page 46, risks becoming one of them. One of those malleable terms that can mean whatever the person using it wants it to mean, it has been used to describe the philosophy of such disparate phenomena as the New Deal under FDR, European fascism in the 1930s, military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s, and Venezuelan political candidates today.

But the Third Way doesn't stop with politics; it offers something for everyone. Third Wayers looking for a philosophical grounding for their new manifesto might consult A Third Way: Conversations about Anabaptist Faith or The Third Way: New Directions in Platonic Studies. For congressional Republicans (or others in terminal situations), there's The Third and Only Way: Reflections on Staying Alive. Catholic conservatives will surely be interested in The Third Way: Economic Justice according to John Paul II. And finally, those trying to fix the exact positions of capitalism, socialism, and communism along the political spectrum can choose among National Com munism in Western Europe: A Third Way to Socialism?, Peace Process in the Holy Land and the Third Way Between Capitalism and Communism, and finally—when exasperation sets in—Continuity and Change in Austrian Socialism: The Eternal Quest for the Third Way. Of course, when "eternal questers" for the Third Way are about to collapse from exhaustion—and who wouldn't be, after reading all this?—they can take a well-deserved respite and snuggle up with a copy of Third Way: A Sarah Calloway Mystery.

—Tara Zahra

Worked Up

Only a week after winning his party's endorsement as speaker of the House (and two weeks before being outed as a longtime philanderer), Bob Livingston was already generating controversy. Sixty-five GOP members circulated a petition opposing Livingston's proposal that the House expand its workweek from three days to five. Livingston defended his position by pointing out that the House failed this year to complete its most basic work—passing the 13 spending bills needed to keep the government running—because there simply wasn't enough time.

Representative Jack Kingston, the Georgia Republican who drafted the petition against the extra working days, complained that such a long workweek would prevent members from spending time in their districts with their families and constituents. He included with the petition the results of a survey of members after the hectic first 100 days of the 104th Congress, when Repub licans pushed through their "Contract with America." Four freshmen in that Congress ended up divorced, and many others reported family problems that they blamed on the long legislative sessions.

But Kingston's concern for family problems does not extend to the bills produced in those long sessions. House Republicans like Kingston voted against the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employers to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical or family reasons, and voted to eliminate the 30 percent cap on rent for public housing for low-income families. Kingston's track record on labor protection isn't much better—he and his cohorts voted to slash $4.3 million from the Employment Standards Administration, the government agency that investigates and enforces labor laws such as the minimum wage and child-labor and anti-sweat shop regulations. They also successfully prevented expanding aid for dislocated worker training, summer youth jobs, Head Start, and student loans. King ston was also a vocal critic of the minimum-wage increase. For this voting record, Kingston was recently made a "zero" on the Americans for Democratic Action's "Heroes and Zeroes of 1998."

Members of Congress work very hard; there is no doubt that the strain of travel and long workweeks can place a burden on family life. But you would think this would generate sympathy for the everyday burdens shouldered by working families. If Kingston is any example, this is not the case. Which is why his petition has so much merit—if Kingston can do this much to American families in only three days a week, we'd hate to think what he could do in five.

—KC

Hot Air

In our last issue, John Judis reported on how corporate interests have been aggressively lobbying to squelch an international agreement on global warming, sometimes even going so far as to create putative "environmental organizations" that argue that pollution is not all that bad [see "Global Warming and the Big Shill," January-February 1999]. Well, here's another one.

In April, the Western Fuels Association, a cooperative that provides coal to member electric utilities, created the Green ing Earth Society (GES) to "spread the good news about the beneficial impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) on earth's biosphere to the American people!" Carbon dioxide, according to GES, has been unfairly labeled a "pollutant" by a biased media, bloodthirsty liberal activists, and poor scientific research. GES claims that in fact rising CO2 levels will benefit mankind by increasing crop production and plant growth. As their website cheerily puts it: "Nature is growing stronger—bigger, greener and more resilient—as a result of what we humans are doing to promote our own growth."

In a special November 4 report, GES science advisor Robert C. Balling concluded that there are no statistically significant trends from 1950 to 1995 that support allegations of global warming. Like many of the other anti-green environmental groups that Judis reported on, the GES dismisses charges of impending environmental doom due to the emission of man-made greenhouse gases as political hot air.

Maybe the GES will turn out to be right. Not likely, though. According to Darren Goetze, staff scientist at the Union of Con cerned Scientists, there is a general consensus in the scientific community that humans do play a role in climate change. As to the positive effects of increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, Michael Oppenheimer, chief scientist of the Environmental Defense Fund, warns that rising CO2 levels will benefit different plants differently. More importantly, since all ecosystems are adapted to their habitats, climate change of any kind can have a dangerous, fragmenting impact on fragile ecosystems. For Goetze, the GES brand of corporate environmentalism is nothing more than astroturf—it appears to be green, but it's not.

—KC

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