The Papworth principle
"Jesus said love your neighbor. He didn't say love Marks & Spencers." Thus saith John Papworth, a 75-year-old minister in the Church of England, and with that the wrong reverend pronounced for his parishioners a theology of thievery. It's OK, the Rev. Papworth said, to shoplift from large chain stores such as Britain's Marks & Spencers, because they allegedly put small stores out of business, create unemployment, and encourage greed and consumerism. "When you talk about stealing, you can only steal from a person," he explained. "You can only have a moral relationship with a person; you don't have a moral relationship with things. That is a power relationship." Leaving aside that the "neighbor" Jesus spoke of would indeed include the owners and employees of Marks & Spencers--since the assets of that business and the wages it pays belong to persons--Mr. Papworth makes a helpful admission concerning his admonition: "I don't regard it as stealing. I regard it as a badly needed reallocation of economic resources." In other words, what most people regard as common theft, this Christian socialist regards as forcible income redistribution. And because he asserts that Marks & Spencers is exempt from the command to "love your neighbor," Mr. Papworth thus concedes that carrying out this "badly needed reallocation of economic resources" is unloving. It's no more loving to demand the government do it. For those of us on this side of the pond, Mr. Papworth has unwittingly illustrated what's at stake as Congress and the president negotiate the FY 1998 budget.
CIA: Caught In the Act?
The nation's top spy agency revealed a new wrinkle in the White House-Democratic National Committee cash-for-access scandal: CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz announced March 18 he was looking into reports that someone at the DNC--possibly then-DNC chief Don Fowler himself--prevailed on the agency to vouch for a big-dollar donor with a shady record. White House national-security aides in the summer of 1995 recommended the donor, oil financier Roger Tamraz, be barred from White House meetings where he could press for support for his business venture to build an oil pipeline in Russia. The NSC aides had seen a May 1995 CIA report that contained derogatory information on Mr. Tamraz's international business dealings. But in December, another CIA report to the NSC on Mr. Tamraz did not contain the negative references. A Washington Post story March 20 disclosed that the CIA officer who produced both Tamraz reports left the agency to become a consultant and now performs consulting work for Mr. Tamraz. The Post also reported that, according to White House sources, a caller identified as the DNC's Mr. Fowler called the CIA twice, in October and December 1995, to discuss Mr. Tamraz, who had contributed $76,000 to the party. Mr. Fowler denies calling the CIA or ordering anyone to do so; he does not deny discussing with one of the NSC staffers her objections to Mr. Tamraz. Mr. Fowler denies he exerted "pressure" and maintains he did nothing improper. Mr. Tamraz subsequently attended four White House events. Tamraz story, not "political circus" killed Lake nomination. Despite Clinton CIA nominee Anthony Lake's bitter March 17 withdrawal letter complaining that Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee had treated him unfairly, The Wall Street Journal's Tamraz story sealed Mr. Lake's fate, according to committee vice chairman Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.). Mr. Lake headed the NSC at the time Mr. Fowler was discussing Mr. Tamraz with NSC aides. On the morning Mr. Lake withdrew his nomination, he maintained he knew nothing of the Tamraz matter, which raised fresh questions about his ability to handle intelligence information. When he learned the story was about to break, Sen. Kerry met with White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and said Mr. Lake's lack of knowledge was "potentially a disqualifying action." By the time he met with Mr. Lake, Mr. Kerry said, Mr. Lake had decided to withdraw.
One day before the House was slated to vote on a funding request for a probe of President Clinton's fundraising practices, the head of the investigating committee suffered an embarrassing disclosure. A former lobbyist for the government of Pakistan complained that he had been "shaken down" by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) to do campaign fundraising among Pakistani-Americans in 1995. When he failed to deliver, the lobbyist said, Mr. Burton complained to the Pakistani ambassador, who then prevailed upon a top aide to the prime minister to fire off a fax expressing that the episode was "most upsetting." Rep. Burton did not deny the basic facts that he was angry with the lobbyist and that he expressed his anger to the ambassador, but he protested the characterization of a shakedown and suggestions that he backed Pakistani causes in exchange for money. The congressman also noted that the lobbyist, Mark Siegel, is a longtime Democratic activist and that Mr. Siegel's correspondence on the matter was conveniently leaked to The Washington Post by a Democrat on Capitol Hill. On March 20, Mr. Burton's committee's funding suffered a procedural setback, but that had little to do with the Pakistan controversy; a vote against increased funding for all House committees attracted Democrats angry over the Burton probe and conservative Republicans eager to punish Speaker Newt Gingrich for shelving tax cuts. Funding for the Burton probe will be broken out and voted on separately, according to GOP leaders.
Left at the altar
President Clinton presented House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, scheduled to be married March 22, a wedding gift during newly reopened budget talks at the White House March 19. The talks resumed because House Speaker Newt Gingrich March 17 agreed to set aside a Republican campaign promise to deliver tax relief to families. Congressional conservatives felt left at the altar. Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.), leader of 28 disenchanted Republicans who vow to block any budget deal that does not include tax cuts, predicted: "You'll see members strike out on their own because they've lost confidence in what the leadership stands for." Attempting to stop defections, GOP leaders like Mr. Kasich insisted the Speaker's retreat was merely tactical: "Don't mistake procedure for what our policy objectives are."
"Do the right thing"
After the House again approved a ban on partial-birth abortions March 20, Senate leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said he hoped the wide margin of victory would provide some momentum for a Senate vote. "We need a little more steam to build up," Mr. Lott said, lamenting that he still lacks a veto-proof majority. Pro-life congressmen removed all amendments from the House partial-birth abortion bill and approved 295-136 the identical measure President Clinton vetoed last year. Abortion enthusiast Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) complained that the congressional majority "chose to invite another veto rather than meeting the president's criteria." Rep. Gerald Soloman (R-N.Y.), chairman of the committee that stripped the amendments, reasoned that in light of the changing facts, Mr. Clinton should get "another chance to do the right thing, because the only reason he vetoed it was because of those lies by Ron Fitzsimmons." The abortion lobbyist admitted last month he lied about how many partial-birth abortions are done in the United States annually and how early in pregnancy they occur.
At the Supreme Court
Arguments over Internet porn law heard. The Supreme Court March 19 took up the government's appeal of a ruling that blocked enforcement of a law that makes unlawful the transmission of sexually explicit material over the Internet to kids under 18. A federal three-judge panel in Philadelphia last year struck down the law as unconstitutional. The Clinton administration asked the high court to reverse the ruling and reinstate the anti-porn law. Deputy solicitor general Seth Waxman told the justices an unregulated Internet "threatens to give every child with access to a computer a free pass to the equivalent of every adult bookstore and theater in the country." A lawyer for the ACLU and free-speech groups noted that 40 percent of the sexually explicit postings on the Internet come from foreign countries and thus are beyond the reach of federal law. Unanimous court says landowners harmed by Endangered Species Act can sue. Property-rights advocates hailed the ruling in a case from Oregon in which farmers and ranchers sought to recover millions in damages from a federal government decision to deny them irrigation water from a nearby river during the drought of 1992. The government under the Endangered Species Act said diversion of river water might harm the Lost River sucker and the shortnose sucker. Without the irrigation water, cattle and crops suffered. The Endangered Species Act gives "any person" the right to sue to enforce its provisions, which also allow recourse for overzealous enforcement. A federal court ruled the "any person" provision meant persons could sue only to increase enforcement, not lessen it. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the unanimous court that the statute means what it says and ordered lower courts to hear the lawsuits.
Face-to-face in Finland
An apparently hale and hearty Russian President Boris Yeltsin--almost fully recovered from heart surgery and pneumonia--welcomed a wheelchair-bound President Clinton to Helsinki for what Mr. Yeltsin described as "difficult and serious talks" on arms control and on the post-Cold War role of NATO. The United States backs expanding the NATO defense alliance by adding several former Soviet bloc nations, such as Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Moscow sees such an expansion--which would bring the alliance right up to Russia's borders--as a security threat. Under the original NATO charter, aggression against any member of the NATO alliance is considered aggression against all.
A house, a homeland
Bulldozers began clearing land for construction of 6,500 Jewish homes on a barren hilltop in East Jerusalem, angering Palestinians who claim East Jerusalem rightfully belongs to them. Palestinians say the project will further solidify Israel's hold on the area, making it all the more difficult to reach their goal of establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to go ahead with the housing development--despite widespread international opposition--prompted a series of hastily called meetings of Arab leaders in Cairo. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak predicted a "new era of violence" if the construction isn't stopped.
Who will rule Britannia?
Britain's Conservative Party, in power since Margaret Thatcher was named prime minister in 1979, may be headed for minority status. Forced to call for a national election within the next two months, England's current conservative prime minister, John Major, set a date of May 1. It's an election his Tory party is widely expected to lose to a reinvigorated Labor party led by Tony Blair. In a Sunday Times popularity poll, Labor leads the Tories 52 percent to 27 percent. A third party, the Liberal Democrats, is backed by 13 percent of Britons. Taking a page from the campaign playbook of President Clinton, the telegenic Mr. Blair has sought to dump Labor's longtime leftist rhetoric, if not its leftist policies, and appeal to voters who traditionally have voted Conservative.
Up in smoke?
In an action that could have repercussions for the entire tobacco industry, the maker of Chesterfield and L&M cigarettes admitted March 20 that smoking causes cancer and that nicotine is addictive. The Liggett Group, the smallest of America's major tobacco companies, also conceded the industry targets underage smokers. The admissions came as part of settlement with 22 state governments that are suing tobacco companies for recovery of state funds spent on smoking-related illnesses. For the next quarter-century Liggett will pay the 22 states 25 percent of its pretax profits. The company also promised to release thousands of pages of internal documents that could provide evidence in lawsuits pending against other cigarette makers. Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods said the documents will "break the back of [the tobacco companies'] conspiracy of lies and deception." Liggett's competitors vowed to fight release of the documents.
Two Southern California boys playing in a dirt lot discovered a cardboard box containing the remains of six aborted children. Checking out the area, San Bernardino County investigators found the remains of 24 more children nearby. Authorities theorized that the remains came from an area abortion clinic and had fallen off a truck when the driver pulled into the dirt lot to turn around. Under state law, aborted children are to be either interred or incinerated. Massachusetts teenagers who want an abortion no longer have to get permission from both parents--just one will do. Voting 4-2, the state Supreme Court struck down a 16-year-old law that required both parents' permission, saying it created too heavy a burden. Copping a plea The Army settled for a plea bargain in its case against the highest-ranking officer charged in the Aberdeen Proving Ground sex scandal. Prosecutors dropped a rape charge against Capt. Derrick Robertson in exchange for his guilty plea to charges that he had consensual sex with a female trainee, also considered a serious violation of the Army's code of conduct. He faces four months in prison and dismissal from the service. Charges against Capt. Robertson and seven other Aberdeen staffers prompted an Army inquiry into sexual harassment and assault at Army bases worldwide. The Army also is reexamining its policy on sex-integrated training.
A week after devastating floods inundated cities and claimed 20 lives in the Ohio River Valley, flooding and mudslides hit Washington state--the result of torrential rain and melting snow. The National Weather Service warned more floods are on the way. The most likely flood locations: the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountains, where soil is saturated by rain and springtime weather is melting heavy snow.
Conservatives in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) welcomed final passage of a "Fidelity and Chastity Amendment" to the denomination's Book of Order. The amendment, proposed after a three-year churchwide study of sexuality, requires that all unmarried ministers, deacons, and elders be sexually celibate--a requirement that Presbyterians for Gay and Lesbian Concerns characterized as "a club ... to beat up gay and lesbian people in the Presbyterian Church."