Ashcroft Chases Grandma

America can now sleep easier knowing that John Ashcroft is hot on Lynne Stewart’s trail. Having failed last year to prosecute Ms. Stewart, the Attorney General has now brought new charges and, if he gets his way, Ms. Stewart will face five to 15 years in jail. Just who is this dangerous woman, and why is John Ashcroft spending time and taxpayer money to see that she gets locked up?

Ms. Stewart is a 64-year-old criminal-defense lawyer in the lefty, liberal tradition familiar to all New Yorkers: the type of lawyer who wears baggy sweaters, never combs her hair, reads The Nation , takes on unpopular clients and hangs out with the ACLU. One may not agree with her politics-in the 1980’s she defended the Weather Underground, and recently has said she believes Muslim fundamentalists are “forces of national liberation” -but New York has always been a city which thrives on the diversity of its characters, where so-called troublemakers like Ms. Stewart or the late William Kunstler argue their way into the tabloids and are part of the city’s raucous charm. But in the bizarre brain of our nation’s chief law-enforcement officer, Ms. Stewart, the grandmother of seven, is a danger to democracy.

The new charges involve her conduct with her client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence after being convicted in 1994 of plotting to blow up New York landmarks. Mr. Ashcroft and James Comey, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, accuse her of helping Sheik Rahman pass messages from prison. When Mr. Ashcroft first brought the charges last year, Ms. Stewart was led in handcuffs from her Brooklyn home, and the Attorney General flew to New York to announce the indictment. Her office was searched, and client records and computer files were seized. This July, however, a federal judge in New York, John Koeltl, found the charges to be on shaky constitutional ground and dismissed them. Mr. Ashcroft’s prosecutorial overreach was temporarily thwarted. Now he’s come back with new charges, which Ms. Stewart accurately describes as “a pretty vindictive act on the part of the government.”

Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein may be roaming freely, American troops may be murdered daily in Iraq, but George W. Bush and John Ashcroft are determined that Lynne Stewart not get away. Apparently, busting a Brooklyn grandmother on spurious charges is far easier than finding the real villains.

John Ashcroft is the wrong man in the wrong job at the wrong time.

A Smart Move Against Indian Point

The Indian Point nuclear-power plant in Westchester County uses 2.5 billion gallons of water a day, and kills millions of fish every year. The state, to its credit, believes this is completely unnecessary and is demanding that the plant’s operators install a new cooling system.

Not surprisingly, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which owns the plant, says the new system would be too expensive-more than $1 billion. If the state persists, the plant’s operators say, they’ll have to close down the facility.

You don’t suppose they mean this as a threat, do you?

The Indian Point plant ought to be shut down. In this terrible new era of global terrorism, even Entergy’s executives know that New York City is a main target of militant Islam’s unholy warriors. They would stop at nothing to use Indian Point as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. A catastrophe there would kill millions, and delight jihadists all over the world. Even absent the threat of terrorism, Indian Point is a disaster waiting to happen: It has the worst safety record of any nuclear plant in the country, and it’s just 35 miles from midtown Manhattan.

Anything that makes Indian Point less attractive as a business is a step in the right direction. Even on its own merits, the state’s demands are reasonable. The power plant is an environmental nightmare, a throwback to the days when the Hudson River was treated like New York’s public sewer. That era, luckily, is over. But the mess at Indian Point remains.

The state wants Entergy to install a cooling system that would rely on recycled water. Such a plan would reduce by 97 percent the number of fish killed because of the plant’s operations. Entergy says the state’s plan could cost as much as $1.6 billion. Environmentalists put the price tag at a more reasonable $200 million to $360 million.

But it’s not just the money. Why do we continue to operate a nuclear-power plant in one of the nation’s most crowded metropolitan areas? This is a matter of national security, not of energy policy.

So if Entergy makes good on its threat to close the plant rather than build a new cooling system, millions of people will be safer.

And they call that a threat? It would be a wonderful outcome for all New Yorkers.

The New Yorker and John Updike Have A ‘Rich Jew’ Problem

Is The New Yorker implicitly endorsing anti-Semitism in its pages? It certainly appeared so in the magazine’s Nov. 24 issue: In a review of Peter Carey’s novel, My Life as a Fake , John Updike refers to one of the characters, David Weiss, as “a rich Jew.” Note that Mr. Updike was not quoting a passage from the book, or referring to how another character viewed David Weiss. The “rich Jew” phrase is his own. For the editors of The New Yorker to have signed off on this is insensitive at best.

To say that the expression “rich Jew” is loaded with historical anti-Semitism is an understatement. Would Mr. Updike describe someone as “a rich Catholic” or “a rich Protestant”? It is disappointing that an author of Mr. Updike’s talent and position would put his name on a piece of writing that furthers the stereotype. Anti-Semitism is no less harmful when it appears in a highbrow publication than when it is scrawled by thugs on a storefront or a synagogue. Perhaps even more so, since the offense is more subtle and calls less attention to itself.

At a time when anti-Semitism has been documented to be on the rise on the country’s college campuses-so much so that Harvard University president Lawrence Summers gave a speech addressing this toxic trend-it is frankly outrageous that David Remnick and the editors of The New Yorker allowed Mr. Updike’s “rich Jew” to appear.