They get mail…

…but I knew that! We, like a lot of publishers, send lots and lots of books to the New York Times Book Review. In a recent post, their Paper Cuts blog took a look at all the great swag they get. They get hundreds of books per day, but as for the “ephemera,” they get a lot of that too.

There’s nothing like stuffing that special envelope to the Times, and wondering just how much cool stuff they get on an average day.

Well, the reality is pretty humbling!


How did Cold War-era spies get “the goods”?

Just ask Kristie Macrakis. The Washington Times ran a recent story on a books about spying in the era of the Iron Curtain — both sides, in fact. On the East German side, they discuss Seduced by Secrets.

* * *

Joe Goulden

Meanwhile, a third of the world away, the East German spy agency, STASI – formally the Ministry for State Security, or MfS – put together its own tradecraft treasure chest. It was different from CIA in one cardinal respect: much of STASI’s spying was directed at its own citizens, rather than foreign adversaries. Hard and thorough research by Kristie Macrakis isreflected in Seduced by Secrets (Cambridge University Press, $28, 392 pages). Ms. Macrakis teaches espionage at Michigan State University.

Drawing upon declassified documents seized from STASI files (it is now defunct) and interviews with former officers, Ms. Macrakis has produced a first-rate read. The East Germans, predictably, were especially adept with concealed spy cameras – a carved wooden deer grazing in a field, bird houses, a flowerpot. She gives her book a personalistic twist with portraits of former STASI officers.

Perhaps the most interesting – surely the most colorful – of these characters was Werner Stiller, who defected to West Germany and exposed a raft of STASI spies. He told Ms. Macrakis that CIA paid him $250,000 for a debriefing in which he fingered agents in the United States.

Thereafter, he womanized his way through Europe, working for spells at the banking houses of Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs. Ms. Macrakis found him in Hungary, where he ran clothing stores with a girlfriend and drank “a bottle of red wine every night.” He avoids former STASI friends, who consider him still under a death sentence, the demise of East Germany notwithstanding.

Read the full story here!

The Pope, Canon Law, and Survivors

A Response to NYT Front Page Story on Saturday that the Vatican Was Considering Amending the Canon Law Statutes of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse

Marci A. Hamilton

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that Cardinal William J. Levada had floated the idea that the Vatican was considering revising the canon law statutes of limitations (“SOLs”) for child sex abuse. This is rich.

It’s yet another shell game. The Catholic hierarchy is desperately hoping everyone will focus on the Pope’s daily few words about the sexual abuse crisis, his meeting with 5 survivors (handpicked so that none was a leader in the grassroots movement in support of SOL reform), and now the deficiencies of all things, canon law. If everyone can just keep following the bouncing ball, maybe they won’t notice that we have learned a single, crucial lesson from the clergy abuse debacle: the statutes of limitations for child sex abuse are much too short in virtually every state. They shut victims out of court before they are ready to go and they offer the cloak of anonymity so that predators can abuse one child after another.

Levada apparently is hoping that no one will notice that there are two types of statutes of limitations and that the one he is talking about is irrelevant in American courts. Change them all you want, but you won’t aid survivors.

The hierarchy’s lawyers have invoked the civil, secular SOLs against survivors of clergy sex abuse in every conceivable case. Not only have the bishops instructed their lawyers to push the statutes of limitations in civil courts to the hilt, they have paid their lobbyists, the state Catholic Conferences, as well as prestigious independent lobbying firms, untold millions to lobby state legislators against civil SOL reform. As I detail in Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge 2008), they have been a major force in opposition to the growing national grassroots movement to eliminate SOLs for child sex abuse in United States courts.

This is the issue — elimination of SOLs — that survivors and church reformers and other decent citizens have coalesced around in light of the many lessons taught by the clergy abuse scandals. And now Levada would mock that reform movement by suggesting that canon law reform is relevant or helpful.

Continue reading

War Poet Wednesday

While war may rob and subvert language, simplifying the grandest of catastrophes, the political realm can rob poetry of its soul, hijacking poetic language for its own gains. James Winn, author of The Poetry of War shows us how poets strike back.

If you haven’t caught it yet, read Winn’s article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. There’s a link on his site.

Politicians have often made unscrupulous use of poetry, filching the power of verse to make wasteful and greedy policies look noble. In a brilliant act of impersonation, e. e. cummings, a pacifist who had served as an ambulance driver in World War I, produced a vivid parody of a political orator piling up the standard clichés:

“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every languagE. E.ven deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

Speaking as rapidly as he drinks, cummings’s blowhard orator does not bother to finish any of the scraps of patriotic verse he quotes. Fragmented and disjointed, the phrases from national hymns that he slaps together have no more meaning than the bywords that end the recitation: “by gorry / by jingo by gee by gosh by gum.” Although cummings has cunningly shaped the speaker’s regurgitated fragments into a perfectly rhymed Petrarchan sonnet, most of the rhyming words come in the middle of phrases. The formal order clashes with the urgent but pointless rhetorical order of the speech. By treating words as if they were only sounds, cummings expresses his contempt for conventional patriotism, his belief that its formulas are now empty of meaning.

But like a soldier scrawling “Kilroy was here,” he is still concerned to leave his mark on the poem. The poet always signed his name in lower-case letters (“e. e. cummings”), but in this poem, he capitalizes his initials as part of a typographical joke:

in every languagE. E.ven deafanddumb

There is a touching message in this odd-looking line. Politicians and orators may destroy the meaning of language, but poets, even as they record and mock that destruction of meaning, may still contrive to carve their initials into the otherwise meaningless surface. To do so is an assertion of freedom—not the grand, collective Liberty celebrated in empty and dishonest political speeches, but the simple, personal freedom to be, to speak, to make a mark.


e. e. cummings, “next to of course god america i” in Complete Poems, 1904–1962 (New York: Liveright, 1994), 267.

Marci Hamilton in Today’s Post-Gazette

What America Must Do to Protect Its ChildrenMarci has been very busy lately. After her Washington Post chat yesterday, she is now appearing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Expect to hear more from her as she works towards justice for victims of sexual abuse, advocating the elimination of statutes of limitations and allowing victims to make their cases when they are ready.

A number of states have legislation pending like the legislation supported by Chesley that I mention in the following column published by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. He is part of the growing national grassroots movement to open courthouse doors to child sex abuse survivors.

Seeking justice for childhood victims
Al Chesley stands up to admit he’d been sexually abused — and to point out flaws in our laws
Wednesday, April 09, 2008

By Marci A. Hamilton

Al Chesley, a former standout linebacker at the University of Pittsburgh who went on to a notable professional career with the Philadelphia Eagles, broke through several barriers at once when he announced recently that he had been sexually abused as a teenager. At 50 years old and only after the death of his mother, he dramatically made the point that most survivors of childhood sex abuse need decades to come forward, at which time it can be too late to find justice.

Read the rest of the article here.

Marci Hamilton on

Marci Hamilton is chatting on right now.

Texas authorities investigating allegations of abuse and the forced marriage of young teenagers to much older men have taken more than 400 children into custody from a remote ranch owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. authorities said Monday…. [more]

Marci Hamilton is a top expert on church-state relations, and has already written extensively about the FLDS.

Her new book Justice Denied, deals with statutes of limitations, and how we can assure that perpetrators of sexual abuse get prosecuted.

She is LIVE, chatting with visitors to the Washington Post.

Join the discussion HERE.

Check out Marci on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart here. She explains how religion gets all sorts of legal privileges that most people don’t know about.

Friday Link Round-Up

Get a dose of Stasi espionage, and keep up to speed with Zimbabwe.

Jack Lessenberry spoke with Kristie Macrakis of Seduced by Secrets yesterday. Listen here!

Africa Works cited the importance of When Things Fell Apart in a recent blurb, calling it “an excellent companion to those trying to make sense out of Zimbabwe’s farcical elections”.