public education – “tools of perversion”, road, hemingway accused of working for kgb

The Devil Had a Public Education -Texas Governor Rick “secessionist” Perry’s proposed new appointment to the Texas State School Board does not hold public education, to put it mildly, in high regard – “Knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend”

Gov. Rick Perry is reportedly considering appointing the chair of that state’s school board. Dunbar wants to destroy public schools, which she regards as “tyrannical” and a “tool of perversion.”

Let me repeat that: Gov. Rick Perry of Texas wants to put in charge of his state’s public schools a woman who wants to destroy those schools.

Perry doesn’t just want to hire the giggling firebug, he wants to make her the fire chief. This makes Gov. Perry the second craziest person in this story.

The craziest, of course, is Cynthia Dunbar who is — even by Texas Republican standards — barking mad.
In a book published last year, Dunbar argued the country’s founding fathers created “an emphatically Christian government” and that government should be guided by a “biblical litmus test.” She endorses a belief system that requires “any person desiring to govern have a sincere knowledge and appreciation for the Word of God in order to rightly govern.”

Dunbar — who is, astonishingly, an attorney — takes as her first principle of government an illegal and flagrantly unconstitutional religious test. “Unconstitutional” isn’t strong enough a description of Dunbar’s views on this point, actually, she’s anti-constitutional. Her idea of “an emphatically Christian government” ruled by a “biblical litmus test” douses the Constitution in kerosene and sets it ablaze, then pisses on its ashes.

Dunbar graduated from that well of Constitutional knowledge founded by Pat ‘ let’s all pray for the death of some Supreme Court Justices’ Robertson, Regent University School of Law ( if Regent sounds familiar it is the Alma mater of Monica Goodling who was involved in the Department of Justice Attorneygate scandal). There is more at the link and some of the more interesting comments get into a little of the history of the separation of church and state, in addition to speculation about why so many fundamentalist hate public education.

update: Perry decided to appoint someone with about one percent less nugget nuttiness. Its an anomaly that so much of the Texas economy is increasingly driven by science and advanced technology and yet has a large political element with an antipathy toward reason and science driven facts.

It’s disappointing that instead of choosing a mainstream conservative who could heal the divisions on the board, the governor once again appointed someone who repeatedly has put political agendas ahead of the education of Texas schoolchildren. Ms. Lowe has marched in lockstep with a faction of board members who believe that their personal beliefs are more important than the experience and expertise of teachers and academics who have dedicated their careers to educating our children and helping them succeed.


Hemingway revealed as failed KGB spy

Last week, however, saw the publication of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press), which reveals the Nobel prize-winning novelist was for a while on the KGB’s list of its agents in America. Co-written by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, the book is based on notes that Vassiliev, a former KGB officer, made when he was given access in the 90s to Stalin-era intelligence archives in Moscow.

Its section on the author’s secret life as a “dilettante spy” draws on his KGB file in saying he was recruited in 1941 before making a trip to China, given the cover name “Argo”, and “repeatedly expressed his desire and willingness to help us” when he met Soviet agents in Havana and London in the 40s.

This gets a certain instant plausibility because Hemingway fought with the communists against the fascists in Spain and later had a home in Cuba and had something of a friendship with Castro. Not to be an apologist for communists of that era, but alliances had not quite aliened themselves the way they eventually did during the Cold War ( mid 1940s to mid 90s). Still, to accuse an American literary legend of being a spy for the KGB is very serious stuff. The Cold War might be over, but many are still fighting it. According to the authors of this book KGB recruits were practically crawling out of the wood work. Of course Alger Hiss comes up. Hiss, who died in prison in 1996, is still controversial. Many people still think he was unfairly convicted, or perhaps guilty of something, but not to the degree that he deserved to spend out his life in prison. While others are certain he was a KGB agent. Add Hemingway and Hiss together, and toss in accusations against journalist I.F. Stone for good measure and I wondered about what kind of reputation the authors had by way of credibility. It turns out there have been problems with Alexander Vassiliev’s ‘notes’, Did Allen Weinstein Get the Alger Hiss Story Wrong?

That they fail to do so was shown by John Lowenthal in 2000. A Hiss supporter whose documentary film “The Trials of Alger Hiss” (1979) won international acclaim, Lowenthal documented how The Haunted Wood misinterpreted sources, ignored exculpatory evidence, and arbitrarily substituted “Hiss” in place of KGB and Venona code and covernames. In “excerpts of KGB documents from which they have selectively replaced covernames with their own notion of the real names, the reader can not even tell what covernames have been deleted, because the co-authors assign two or three different covernames to the same person, for example, two for Hiss, ‘Lawyer’ and ‘Ales’.” Moreover, “the co-authors’ references and … statements cannot be checked or verified by anyone else,” wrote Lowenthal. “Because they derive from excerpts ‘quoted’ out of context from KGB files closed to other researchers, the[y] offer no credible support for the proposition . . . that Hiss was [an] espionage agent.”

There is also some issues taken with the evidence or lack of evidence concerning Hiss here, Allen Weinstein’s Docudrama and some questions about Hiss’s guilt and the translation of Vassiliev’s notes, ANATOLY GORSKY’S LESSONS or In Search of a Path Through “The Haunted Wood”

According to Dr. David Lowenthal, London “trial testimony reveals that Vassiliev himself doubted that identification and sought, unsuccessfully, to avoid its being used in The Haunted Wood. ‘I never saw a document where Hiss would be called Ales or Ales may be called Hiss. I made a point of that to Allen.’ Indeed, trial materials showed the co-authors in frequent conflict. Tellingly, a few years earlier, Vassiliev accused Weinstein of being “sloppy almost every time he quoted documents relating to Alger Hiss.” [Alexander Vassiliev to Victor Navasky, October 17, 1999. Courtesy of David Lowenthal]

Anne Applebaum, with whom I might not always agree, but whose professionalism I respect thinks the authors nailed Alger Hiss. She also thinks the evidence against Stone is inconclusive. At the end of her extensive review she writes,

The historical context also matters because it enables us to make useful distinctions. The story of Hiss differs from the story of Oppenheimer, which differs from the story of Stone. Lumping them all together as “traitors,” in a coarse Coulter-like manner, makes it impossible to understand their motivations as well as the culture in which they lived. Refusing to discuss the uneven but fascinating evidence available, as Navasky would have us do, also does them a disservice. If one is writing a history of the Manhattan Project, it is important to know that no, the boss did not sell the secrets. If one is writing about the culture of Cold War America, it is important to know that yes, Hiss was a spy. Besides, the biographies of these men read like airport thrillers. Why shouldn’t we keep on investigating them?

The truth, of course, is that neither Coulter nor Navasky, nor any of the many others who have joined this particular battle, is really interested in history. They and their respective allies instead wish to score points about contemporary politics–points that bear only a tendentious relationship to the events of the 1930s and the 1940s. Coulter and her ilk want modern liberals to be identified with the CPUSA: Hiss = Obama. Navasky and his friends suspect that anyone who investigates Hiss is covertly promoting “the wholesale suspension of liberties”: historical research = Guantanamo. There is something dim and lifeless about this kind of apologetic argument, which is why wading though the writings of the Coulters and the Navaskys is a torment, like watching an endless episode of Crossfire.

Too many people have drained this particular chapter of history of interest by manipulating it for partisan purposes–as, once upon a time, Senator McCarthy did.


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