Betsy McCaughey and Big Tobacco

by Henry on September 28, 2009

More evidence that the discovery trove from the tobacco litigation is one of the major sources for information on the political economy of late 20th century America. “James Fallows”:http://jamesfallows.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/09/ok_info_about_b_mccaughey_that.php on notorious hack Betsy McCaughey.

the real news is the evidence that tobacco lobbyists secretly worked with McCaughey to prepare her infamous New Republic article “No Exit.” As I argued back in 1995 in “A Triumph of Misinformation,” everything about McCaughey’s role in the debate depended on her pose as a scrupulous, impartial, independent scholar who, after leafing through the endless pages of the Clinton health proposals, had been shocked by what she found. If it had been known at the time that she was secretly collaborating with one of the main interest-group enemies of the plan, perhaps the article would never had been published; at a minimum, her standing to speak would have been different.

Ms. McCaughey was apparently unwilling to be interviewed for the “Rolling Stone article”:http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/30219673/the_lie_machine that Fallows is riffing off. This is a pity. It would have been interesting to have found out a little more about the precise role that tobacco lobbyists played in helping draft McCaughey’s notoriously mendacious piece (since the proposed reforms would have been partly bankrolled by a tobacco tax, they clearly had a considerable interest in influencing debate).

Update: The “Manhattan Institute appears to be denying”:http://jamesfallows.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/09/manhattan_institute_replies_re.php that McCaughey ‘worked with’ Philip Morris.

bq. Is this a question of a lobbyist grossly exaggerating his “influence” to impress bosses and funders? That’s a very familiar pattern in Washington. On the other hand, the lobbyist’s detailed knowledge of Betsy McCaughey’s writing plans suggests some interaction. I don’t know the underlying truth here. It would be valuable if Ms. McCaughey, who has specialized in detailed textual analysis, would address in specific what these documents contend.

That politely acidulous ‘has specialized in detailed textual analysis’ is quite nice. I suspect that all this turns on the precise definition of what the term ‘worked with’ means or can be taken to imply.

They call it Theory Monday

by Michael Bérubé on September 28, 2009

I’ve decided to take the Great Cultural Studies Debate (Round CXLVIII) over to CT in the hopes of running it by a more international and interdisciplinary readership.  Hi, more international and interdisciplinary readers!  Here’s what’s been going on in my little world lately.

I recently published an <a href=”http://chronicle.com/article/Whats-the-Matter-With/48334/”>essay</a> in the <i>Chronicle of Higher Education</i>.   People responded.  The brief recap is <a href=”http://www.thevalve.org/go/valve/article/cultural_studies_fandango/”>here</a>, though you should also check out <a href=”http://www.thevalve.org/go/valve/article/the_lo/”>this post</a> from Andrew Seal, <a href=”http://www.pmgentry.net/blog/2009/09/whither-cultural-studies.html”>this one</a> from Philip Gentry, and <a href=”http://rsa.cwrl.utexas.edu/node/3128#comment-3986″>this comment</a> by Josh Gunn, who helpfully kicks things off by explaining that my essay is “bullshit.”

My general reaction to the response is: good.  I wanted to provoke discussion, and I got it.  And, begging your indulgence, I’d like to carry on that discussion here, by picking up where <a href=”http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php/weblog/comments/1342/”>my blog’s last comment thread</a> leaves off.

<i>Warning: Clicking “click to continue” will lead you to a two-part, Internets-straining essay.</i>
[click to continue…]

Perspective

by Belle Waring on September 28, 2009

I decided just to boost this comment I made in the thread below about Dr. Kealey’s failed attempt at humor. (My sexism. Let me show you it.) I considered removing the bad words, but then decided, fuck it. If Panera bread is banning CT from its wireless for you right now, sorry hypothetical Panera-eating CT readers. Who can’t read this apology.

I’d like to share a little anecdote from my college years. I had a Roman History prof who would frequently make comments on my appearance, in front of the gathering class, as I made my way to my seat in the front row (because I was a very diligent student!). And at a gathering of students and faculty I decided to leave and put on my coat, but then got sidetracked into a discussion with him and said I needed to take my coat off. And he said, you can do that but if you do I’m going to stare at your breasts—but you knew that when you got that tattoo there. (The tattoo is like 3 inches below my clavicle anyway, thank you.) He actually said that to me! And then, when I was applying to graduate school, I had to approach my advisor with a problem, because normally I would ask this prominent scholar who gave me an A+ (which, I may say, I thoroughly deserved) in Roman History to write a recommendation, but I knew from previous experience that I didn’t actually want to be alone with him in his office. And so my advisor had to convince another professor, of equal status, to write me a recommendation that was somewhat fictional, on the assurance that when I did have a class with him that term he would find me everything promised, etc. He kindly did so and didn’t regret his decision. So where I’m going with this is, that fucking sucked and was a terrible experience for me, and Dr. Kealy is a fucking asshat who is even now making the lives of his attractive female students needlessly miserable. And just FYI, dsquared’s reliable, not-making-a-big-deal-out-of-it, stand up feminism makes him infinitely more sexually appealing to the leftist ladies of the world. That shit is like catnip. It is only the strict, sex-hating conventions of Crooked Timber, under which fraternization between co-bloggers is totes banned, which keeps us apart right now. And the happily married thing.

Just adding, it was particularly irritating about the grade, because I really did deserve an A+ in that class, but it was impossible to know whether my grade was influenced by my breasts. My boyfriend at the time, for example, questioned it on this basis. I doggedly went on earning the same grade in other classes until at one point my GPA was above 4.0. But the tarnish never really went away. And all of this fell under the look but don’t touch rubric, while still being humiliating and awful.

Particularly humiliating and awful in light of the fact that a teacher at my middle/high school “fell in love with me” on the first day of 7th grade (when I had just turned 13) , and proceeded to have a protracted–I don’t know what you would call it, affair, maybe–which he carefully avoided consummating until four weeks after I reached the age of consent in Washington D.C. The schmuck wrote a book about me, in addition to taking approximately one billion pictures of me (he was the photography teacher, natch.) I mean really, a whole novel. What a pitiful, yet shitty thing to do. And then I finally told my mom about it, and he got fired from the school in my senior year, and then almost all the girls at my (all-girls) school turned uniformly against me and treated me awfully for “ruining his life.” So think how happy I was to get to college, where there would be real scholarship and adults who behave with minimal decency! Hollow laughs ensue. Now I’m not writing this so you can all say, poor Belle, that’s really awful. I’m fine now and that’s not the point. But there’s a reason all those annoying strident feminists go on about how the personal is the political. Kealy doesn’t know the personal histories of the female students he’s ogling. And they deserve to be treated like human beings, not fresh-faced dollies to use as mental props during masturbation.

Roman Polanski

by Kieran Healy on September 28, 2009

What happened is part of the public record, so there’s no reason to be unclear or misinformed about the nature of the crime and subsequent events. This includes the victim’s stated wish — repeatedly, later — that legal action not be continued, but also the actual facts of the crime, which was a one hundred percent real rape of a drugged 13 year-old. So, now. Who’s going to cover themselves in glory?

Thus far, I think Robert Harris is winning with “I am shocked that any man of 76, whether distinguished or not, should have been treated in such a fashion” and “One of the reasons I’m absolutely shocked and stunned by his arrest is that we have worked together extensively in Switzerland, where he has a home … “. (And he dresses so well! And The Pianist is such an affecting film!) Close behind is French Minister of Culture Frederic Mitterrand, who “strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them”. Like Neddy at EOAW I don’t believe there’s anything more to these defenses than “He’s one of us”. But it’s early days yet. For instance, coming up fast now on the outside is Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post, who says the arrest is “outrageous” in part because,

Polanski, who panicked and fled the U.S. during that trial, has been pursued by this case for 30 years, during which time he has never returned to America, has never returned to the United Kingdom, has avoided many other countries and has never been convicted of anything else. He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers’ fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film.

See, you or I might think that not going back to the U.S. or U.K. is an action Polanski took in order to make sure that, having raped a minor and fled the country, he would not be rearrested. But you or I would be wrong. In fact these are punishments that Polanski has suffered. But tiens, it was a long time ago. Puritanical Americans simply do not have the enlightened attitude toward wine at the dinner table, quaaludes, and child rape that the Europeans do. In Ireland, for instance, there are quite a number of seventy-odd year old men (and even older) who spent their youth ministering to children and raping them — some of their victims have been able to forgive them, and many want never to speak of those events again, so why all the legal fuss? Perhaps that’s a bad example. Ireland isn’t really a European country.

In any event, I look forward to more detailed explanations of who the Real Victim is here, and more fine-grained elaboration of the criteria — other than “marvelous dinner guest” — for being issued a Get Out of Child Rape Free card.