Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Reading

Photoshopping — Carl Hiaasen gets the first draft of Speaker John Boehner’s memo to House members who are thinking of showing themselves on the social network.

(Rejected first draft of a memo from House Speaker John Boehner to fellow Republicans following the embarrassing resignation of Rep. Christopher Lee of New York after he sent an inappropriate photo to a woman he met on Craigslist.)

Dear Colleagues,

In light of recent unsavory events, I would like to review conduct guidelines for social conservatives, laboring as we do in the unforgiving glare of public scrutiny.

Needless to say, it is unseemly for any Republican member of Congress, particularly one who’s married, to attempt to “hook up” with strangers on the Internet. That’s what dark hotel bars are for, and I’m told there are many such establishments in the Capitol Hill area.

Remember, we are the party of family values, the party that spent a humongous pile of taxpayer money impeaching Bill Clinton because of his fling with a White House intern. We must not allow ourselves to wander down that same sleazy path – or, at the very least, we must not allow ourselves to get caught.

Rep. Lee did the honorable thing by resigning, yet the damage to our cause has been done. So what lessons can we take from this incident?

First, and most important: Never get anything on Craigslist except patio furniture, golf clubs, Super Bowl tickets, riding mowers or snow globes.

If you belong to a social network such as Facebook, don’t post any information or comments that might be misconstrued by your constituents, or twisted into something sinister by your political enemies.

As a further precaution, I advise you to “de-friend” anyone whose last names you don’t know, especially if they are employed by an unlicensed massage parlor.

In the wake of this recent controversy, several House members have inquired about our policy regarding photographs. I would ask you all to go back and re-read the Brett Favre memorandum that I sent out last fall. Obviously Rep. Lee misplaced his copy.

Let me reiterate that it’s perfectly acceptable to send out pictures of yourself to voters and campaign donors.

However, you must always be careful to pose in a dignified manner – sitting at your desk, for example, or standing on the Capitol steps. Your facial expression should be one of pensive sobriety, as if you’re contemplating how to repeal Obamacare and save this great nation from ruin.

For female members, a conservative dress or suit is fine for photographs; taupe is always safe. For men, the preferred attire is a navy blue coat jacket, a club necktie, and of course your American flag lapel pin (with the stripes positioned horizontally, Rep. Quayle!).

Obviously, all body piercings and tattoos should remain out of sight.

More below the fold.

They Did It — Tom Friedman reflects on the people’s revolution in Egypt.

In the end, President Obama made a hugely important but unintended contribution to the democracy revolution in Egypt. Because the Obama team never found the voice to fully endorse the Tahrir Square revolution until it was over, the people in that square now know one very powerful thing: They did this all by themselves. That is so important. One of the most powerful chants I heard in the square on Friday night was: “The people made the regime step down.”

This sense of self-empowerment and authenticity — we did this for ourselves, by ourselves — is what makes Egypt’s democracy movement such a potential game-changer for the whole region. And in case other autocrats haven’t picked up on that, let me share my second favorite chant from the streets of Cairo after President Hosni Mubarak resigned. It was directed at the dictator next door, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, and it went like this: “We’re not leaving Tahrir until Qaddafi leaves office.” Hello, Tripoli! Cairo calling.

This could get interesting — for all the region’s autocrats. Egypt’s youthful and resourceful democrats are just getting started. Up to now, the democracy movement in the Arab world was largely confined to the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, which, because it was U.S.-led, has not been able to serve as a model for emulation. If, and it remains a big if, Egypt can now make the transition to democracy, led by its own youth and under the protection of its own armed forces, watch out. The message coming out of Cairo will be: We tried Nasserism; we tried Islamism; and now we’re trying democracy. But not democracy imported from Britain or delivered by America — democracy conceived, gestated and born in Tahrir Square. That will resonate among Arabs — and in Iran.

Some people worry, though, that the Egyptian Army will strangle this Egyptian democracy movement in its crib. Personally, I think the army leadership is a little afraid of the Twitter-enabled Tahrir youth. The democracy movement that came out of Tahrir Square is like a tiger that has been living in a tiny cage for 30 years. Having watched it get loose, there are two things I would say about this tiger. One is that anyone who tries to put it back in that little cage will get his head bitten off. And, two, any politician who tries to ride the tiger for his own narrow interests, not for the benefit Egypt, will get eaten by it as well. Iran, the other day, issued a declaration urging the Tahrir youth to make an “Islamic revolution,” and none other than Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood told Tehran to get lost because the democracy movement here is pan-Egyptian and includes Christians and Muslims.

The Apostate — Lawrence Wright of The New Yorker profiles Paul Haggis, the director and screenwriter of “Crash,” and his split with Scientology.

On August 19, 2009, Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International, received a letter from the film director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. “For ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego,” Haggis wrote. Before the 2008 elections, a staff member at Scientology’s San Diego church had signed its name to an online petition supporting Proposition 8, which asserted that the State of California should sanction marriage only “between a man and a woman.” The proposition passed. As Haggis saw it, the San Diego church’s “public sponsorship of Proposition 8, which succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California—rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state—is a stain on the integrity of our organization and a stain on us personally. Our public association with that hate-filled legislation shames us.” Haggis wrote, “Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.” He concluded, “I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.”

Haggis was prominent in both Scientology and Hollywood, two communities that often converge. Although he is less famous than certain other Scientologists, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, he had been in the organization for nearly thirty-five years. Haggis wrote the screenplay for “Million Dollar Baby,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004, and he wrote and directed “Crash,” which won Best Picture the next year—the only time in Academy history that that has happened.

Davis, too, is part of Hollywood society; his mother is Anne Archer, who starred in “Fatal Attraction” and “Patriot Games,” among other films. Before becoming Scientology’s spokesperson, Davis was a senior vice-president of the church’s Celebrity Centre International network.

In previous correspondence with Davis, Haggis had demanded that the church publicly renounce Proposition 8. “I feel strongly about this for a number of reasons,” he wrote. “You and I both know there has been a hidden anti-gay sentiment in the church for a long time. I have been shocked on too many occasions to hear Scientologists make derogatory remarks about gay people, and then quote L.R.H. in their defense.” The initials stand for L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, whose extensive writings and lectures form the church’s scripture. Haggis related a story about Katy, the youngest of three daughters from his first marriage, who lost the friendship of a fellow-Scientologist after revealing that she was gay. The friend began warning others, “Katy is ‘1.1.’ ” The number refers to a sliding Tone Scale of emotional states that Hubbard published in a 1951 book, “The Science of Survival.” A person classified “1.1” was, Hubbard said, “Covertly Hostile”—“the most dangerous and wicked level”—and he noted that people in this state engaged in such things as casual sex, sadism, and homosexual activity. Hubbard’s Tone Scale, Haggis wrote, equated “homosexuality with being a pervert.” (Such remarks don’t appear in recent editions of the book.)

In his resignation letter, Haggis explained to Davis that, for the first time, he had explored outside perspectives on Scientology. He had read a recent exposé in a Florida newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times, which reported, among other things, that senior executives in the church had been subjecting other Scientologists to physical violence. Haggis said that he felt “dumbstruck and horrified,” adding, “Tommy, if only a fraction of these accusations are true, we are talking about serious, indefensible human and civil-rights violations.”

Doonesbury — Try explaining it.