Family breakdown

John McCaslin
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Posted: Aug 23, 2005 12:00 AM

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, says "the destruction of the black family" today can be traced to a single man from England who purposely paid a visit to Virginia during the early 18th century.

"In 1712, British slave owner Willie Lynch was invited to the colony of Virginia to teach his methods of keeping slaves under control to American slave owners," Rangel says. "Almost 300 years later, the techniques that he prescribed seem to have not only been successful in controlling slaves, but lasting as a means of weakening and destroying the black family."

Rangel explains that in slavery, "families were purposely divided, with husband and wives separated from each other and their children. Black males were humiliated and whipped in front of their wives and children. Stripped of their power and pride, black men were seen as weak, and black women had to be the strength of the household, distorting the traditional family structure."

'ABSOLUTELY FAKE'

As it turns out, however, the "Willie Lynch" cited by Rangel in the preceding item is an urban legend based on a document widely circulated via the Internet in recent years. "There are many problems with this document - not the least of which is the fact that it is absolutely fake," explains Jelani Cobb, a professor of history at Atlanta's Spelman College.

"In the few years since the speech on how to train slaves first appeared, it has been cited by countless college students, a black member of the House of Representatives and become the essential verbal footnote in barbershop analysis of what's wrong with black people," the historian writes on his Web site.

Detailing evidence of the Lynch letter's falsehood, Cobb notes that this document was unknown to historians before its appearance on the Web: "Considering the limited number of extant sources from the 18th century, if this speech had been 'discovered' it would've been the subject of incessant historical panels, scholarly articles and debates. It would literally be a career-making find. But the letter was never 'discovered,' but rather it 'appeared' - bypassing the official historical circuits and making its way via Internet directly into the canon of American racial (conspiracy theories)."

STILL IN USE

It was back in 1984 that Ross Perot purchased one of the few remaining originals of the 1297 Magna Carta, the foundation document of English common law.

Since then, this rare document, in which King Edward I confirmed King John's grant of rights and liberties "to all freemen of our kingdom," has been on indefinite loan to the National Archives.

Starting Sept. 16, the Magna Carta, which American patriots and law students like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson turned to for inspiration - for that matter, the U.S. Supreme Court has cited the document in numerous cases - will go on display at the Archives, the only Magna Carta permanently housed in the United States.

Perot's purchase price more than 20 years ago: $1.5 million.

OUTER LIMITS

What better place than Hollywood to convene the 2005 National UFO Conference?

Master of ceremonies for this gathering of UFO believers is former CNN news anchor Cheryll Jones, who we assume is among the two-thirds of Americans who, according to one Roper poll, believe Uncle Sam is withholding information on UFOs and the beings flying them - whether they are top-secret military pilots or little green men.

"The government has insisted that UFOs do not constitute a national-security threat, while refusing to formally deny an extraterrestrial explanation and stubbornly keeping most UFO-related information hidden from the public," conference organizers note. The conference, set for Sept. 2-4, will feature journalists, investigators, authors, even medical doctors who will present "case evidence, documentation and current status" of what the organizers call "the greatest mystery of our time."

UFO specialist Grant Cameron says he will demonstrate to conference-goers how the U.S. government has hidden evidence of UFOs ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt ruled the roost.

GENERAL'S ADMIRERS

Deborah Norville is coming to town to be master of ceremonies for the USO world headquarters annual fundraising gala, which this year will honor Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers for his patriotism and leadership.

And talk about an all-star cast on hand to salute the general: John Elway, Shaquille O'Neal, Wayne Newton and Miss USA 2005 Chelsea Cooley, among others.

The banquet will be held at the Washington Hilton on Sept. 14.

PICKLE AND PECANS

Congress is paying last respects to one of its long-serving members who had a most intriguing surname - J.J. "Jake" Pickle.

The 16-term Texas Democrat, who retired in 1995, passed away earlier this summer in Austin.

Fellow Democratic Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York said he "got the privilege of sitting next to Jake" during his entire career in the House, and said he will remember his close friend, not just for his accomplishments, but his ability to make people laugh.

"What an experience it was," recalled Rangel. "He squeaked green plastic pickles at me - from deep in his pocket - and taught me how to de-shell two pecans with one hand in a single squeeze and then eat them and throw the hulls under our desks with no one knowing."

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

"That's my job. I'm a newsman. That's what I try to do, is make news. And you try to avoid news. That's your job." - CNN's Wolf Blitzer's response to former President Bill Clinton during a recent broadcast of CNN's "The Situation Room," after Clinton accused the popular TV newsman of trying to get him to say something he didn't intend to say.

ALL ABOUT HILLARY

The Beltway Beat has received a nice note from Gregg Birnbaum, political editor of the New York Post, who you might recall reported extensively on Hillary Rodham Clinton's first Senate campaign in 2000.

Now that the New York Democrat is running for re-election - some speculate as a steppingstone to the White House in 2008 - Birnbaum is helping Americans track her every move by creating JustHillary.com to provide comprehensive and up-to-date reports as she hits the campaign trail - from Elmira, N.Y., and beyond.

"It's all about her," says Birnbaum, describing his private venture as "straightforward . . . favorable, critical and everything in between."

SHOCK VALUE

The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance is calling on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to apologize for a recent 12-panel display (part of its "Animal Liberation" tour) that compares animal abuse to the indignities of American slaves in previous centuries.

"The PETA campaign shows images of black people in shackles juxtaposed with chained elephants, and a black civil rights protester being beaten at a lunch counter beside a photo of a seal hunt," the alliance recalls. "The group even went so far as to show a graphic photo of a lynch mob surrounding two black bodies that were hanged in a tree next to a picture of a cow hanging in a slaughterhouse."

The display was put on hold by PETA after criticism by civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Bud Pidgeon, president of the Sportsmen's Alliance, suggests PETA, for publicity's sake, purposely shocks the public and then "feeds off of the controversy."

Still, he says, the animal-rights group "apologized earlier this year for a campaign that compared the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust with animals in agriculture, and hopefully the same will come of this."

GOLF HANDICAP

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft was fined last week for failing to report personal gifts that included two rounds of golf.

Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said the governor, a Republican, failed to report that he went on a pair of golf outings valued at $100 each. Ohio law requires officeholders to report gifts valued above $75.

Even worse, the governor's golfing buddy was coin dealer Tom Noe. A Republican fund-raiser, Noe invested $50 million of the state's money in rare coins, and the resulting scandal revealed the rounds of golf.

Brian Hicks, former chief of staff to the governor, said he didn't know what all the fuss is about. Everybody needs to unwind, he reasoned, and what better way than golf?

That said, the game of golf has long haunted the Taft family.

Grooming Taft's great-grandfather, President William Howard Taft, for the nation's highest office, Theodore Roosevelt sensed that Taft's Democratic opponent, William Jennings Bryan, was gaining steam among voters.

So Roosevelt told his protege to quit playing golf for the duration of the campaign, explaining to his Ohio friend (they later had a falling out, and Roosevelt, as a "Progressive" candidate, opposed Taft and Democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1912) that golf was a sport reserved for the upper crust, and the average voter might get the wrong impression.

ALL ABOUT ROBERTS

No August vacation for Joseph E. Sandler, general counsel to the Democratic National Committee.

In the name of DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Sandler on Monday was to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the Justice Department pertaining to President Bush's nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court.

As Democratic senators sought to no avail, the DNC will seek within 20 working days the files of 16 specific cases Roberts argued before the Supreme Court while working in the solicitor general's office under former President Bush.

"His work on these cases offers the American people a realistic snapshot of his approach to the law and his regard for our fundamental rights and freedoms," says Sandler, who questions whether Roberts "will be a justice for everyone or advance the activist, partisan agenda of a few."

YOU DECIDE

No summer doldrums for Fox News Channel, which, for the 43rd consecutive month, leads all cable news stations.

Nielsen ratings for July have Fox moving even further ahead of rival CNN - a total advantage of 168 percent - with prime-time viewership jumping 85 percent since January 2005.

CNN's prime-time ratings fell 3 percent during the month, although the network's Headline News channel witnessed a big jump - 96 percent - in the same time period.

MSNBC continues its downward spiral, dropping 11 percent in total viewership during the past 12 months.

ANTI-TERROR MAJORS

Roseann Runte, president of Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, successfully has lobbied for a homeland security-related research center for Hampton Roads that will assist state and local governments in preparing for possible terrorist attacks.

Runte told The Beltway Beat during a visit to Washington last week that the Emergency Management Training and Simulation Center (EMTASC) will provide scientific and computer-assisted simulations and structure for emergency-management level training, analysis and decision support.

EMTASC will be housed at an ODU field campus in Suffolk until a new building is completed within two years. Apart from state funding secured by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who officially will open the anti-terror lab next Wednesday, defense contractors that include General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing committed upward of $5 million in startup costs.

Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, both headquartered in Norfolk, also lobbied hard for the new center.

The Joint Forces Command and ODU have a longstanding relationship. Already, the university develops computer simulations for the U.S. military.