- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 1999

Here are some loose ends and points of confusion to carry over into 2000 for clarification or, as they say, "closure."

"1984" lives. "The issue is not innocence or guilt, but racism." This message of declarative illogic, as summarized by The New York Times, serves as a motto for an ad hoc group of more than a dozen Asian-American organizations exercised over the case of Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos scientist indicted on charges of mishandling nuclear weapons secrets. The group is in high dudgeon not because Mr. Lee may actually be guilty, thus potentially tarnishing the reputations of loyal Americans of Asian origin, but because he was charged in the first place. "I liken this to racial profiling," said one member of the group. Here's hoping the courts still consider innocence or guilt "the issue" in the new millennium.

Your trollops will be next. First it was the sack of the House of Lords; then a proposal to ban fox-hunting. Now Tony Blair's Labor Party has renewed its take-no-prisoners campaign to eradicate Britain's past by floating a plan to ban London's men's clubs. It's an old story; in the name of equal opportunities for all which, incidentally, is a ridiculous misnomer in the case of exclusive clubs, single sex or not opportunities for some must be canceled forever. Does the Old Guard have the innards for a fight on principle? Considering one argument making the rounds in defense of the men's club, it doesn't look good. Anthony Lejeune, author of a history of London clubs and a member of White's, one of the oldest, argues that women can't possibly be suffering their exclusion from men's clubs because the clubs' importance has diminished to the point of irrelevance. Pretty pathetic. What better time, then, for Tony Blair to take his progressive wrecking ball to the old heaps?

Democracy lives! You probably thought today was just another end of a millennium. What you didn't know was that it was also to have been the end of Beanie Babies, those bean-bag animals only lately displaced by Pokemon as fad du jour. Having announced four months ago that Beanie Babies would get the ax (sorry), Ty Inc. issued a Christmas Eve reprieve. "After much thought, I am willing to put the fate of Beanie Babies in your hands," company owner Ty Warner wrote on the company web site, prompting many to wonder, according to a news report, "whether he ever intended to discontinue Beanies." Say it ain't so. The "polls" are open through Jan. 2.

He was just following orders. Three weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall, East German Politburo member Egon Krenz took over from ailing strongman Erich Honecker as the leader of communist East Germany. Ten years later, a German court has convicted him for complicity in his government's policy of shooting people who tried to escape to the West. Mr. Krenz maintains otherwise. His defense? East Germany's policies were set in Moscow. "Our highest commander was Mikhail Gorbachev," he told The New York Times. (Maybe someone should bring him to justice, too.) Meanwhile, Mr. Krenz is not exactly remorseful. "I would rather be a hard-liner than a soft egg." He has appealed his conviction to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Getting tough in the NFL. It should come as no surprise that the ever-coarsening public arena also encompasses the professional football stadium. First it was a crude throat-slashing gesture that was all the rage on completing a play; now, the latest in celebratory overkill is an X-rated, pelvic-thrusting little number Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Koy Detmer calls it the "whuppin' stick" that simulates a sexual act. Similar acts of unsportsmanlike self-congratulation on the field abound. In fact,the league is get this planning to send a memo. That'll show 'em.

My Country 'Tis of Thee. One hundred years ago, as the melting pot was heating up, the public school system took it upon itself to inculcate in native-born and immigrant alike a collective sense of identification with America's settlers and founders. No more. Consider a recent newspaper account of a day in a public school English class for (among others) Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Urdu, and Bengali-speaking sixth-graders. Was the English language lesson of the day about George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? Even Paul Bunyan? No, the kids were being tutored with a Chinese folk tale. A Census Bureau study shows that only one-third of recent immigrants have become naturalized citizens, a smaller proportion than at any other time in the past one hundred years. It would seem the melting pot has gone cold. Is a collective identification with anything even within reach? Something to ponder.

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