A Kabul”based United Nations’s guesthouse is the latest target to be hit by Afghani insurgents. Eight people, including an American, were killed.
Three days prior, capital-city Kabul was the scene of a helicopter crash that claimed 14 American lives, in what the Associated Press characterized as “the deadliest day for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in more than four years.”
A day later, eight more American troops were taken out in two separate insurgent attacks, this time in southern Afghanistan.
So far, the Left’s Prince of Peace has beefed-up Bush-era troop levels to 68,000, and is giving a good deal of thought to further deepening American involvement in the Afghan theater. The recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (now that provided some comedic relief) has managed to also sustain his predecessor’s efforts in Baghdad, where streets are slick with fresh blood.
As Dr. Johnson said, “There is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea.” Neoconservative (Bush) or Progressive (Barack); louse or flea”a pest is still a pest.
It’s hard to tell whether B.O. believes his own the blather. Nevertheless, the president has expressed a talismanic faith that if he solves Afghanistan, he”ll solve terrorism: “This is not a war of choice, this is a war of necessity,” he roared. “Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaida would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”
Bush all over again.
Still earlier in October, 300 Taliban warriors stormed an isolated American-cum-NATO outpost in the same Podunk. They swarmed from out of a village and mosque. Curiously, the Afghani soldiers “fighting” alongside our men suffered few casualties. Americans paid the price.
The Taliban were said to have captured 35 of the policemen Americans are fighting to the death to train. My guess is that the “imprisoned” Pashtun (or perhaps they are Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, or Turkmen) are breaking bread with their Taliban “captors.”
Naturally, Afghans (who”re mostly Muslim) have more of an affinity for the Taliban than for the Wilsonians who”re attempting to westernize them. Thus, it is not uncommon to hear of an Afghan policeman opening fire on his American “colleagues” during a joint operation. Just the other day, as Times Online tells it, one battalion lost two soldiers”three were wounded””when an Afghan policeman opened fire on his American colleagues during a joint operation to clear the Taliban from villages around the Nerkh valley.”
The studied ignorance of their leaders can”t inspire much confidence in the army. Thus we learn that “US and Afghan investigators are trying to determine whether the policeman was a covert member of the Taliban or made a mistake. Either way””Times again””the attack fuelled the distrust that many NATO soldiers feel towards the Afghan security forces they are training as part of the coalition’s eventual exit strategy”:
“You don”t trust anybody, especially after an incident like this,” said Specialist Raquime Mercer, 20, whose close friend died in the attack.”
All told, 55 American soldiers died during the month of October.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the 100,000-strong US and NATO force in Afghanistan, knows as much about America’s decades-long, dismal history of nation-building in Afghanistan as he does about discipline, the military chain of command and code of conduct. In an attempt to fortify his fiefdom, this politician in fatigues sojourned to London to lobby for more soldiers. There, McChrystal demanded that his wishes become Obama’s commands”and quick, before public support wanes.
One brave and bright soldier served it straight up. Wrote Jim Sauer, a “retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major and combat veteran with over thirty years of service,” turned blognoscente:
“The real Afghan warriors still have the spirit of the Mongol Horde in their blood. By contrast, the bulk of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) are not fighters, nor are they “true believers.” They are simply cowards—frauds—corrupt to the core by any standard and apostates to their own faith. They are slovenly, drug-addicted, dimwitted, and totally unreliable at any level… They thrive on their petty powers and refuse to shoulder any burden or responsibility. Does this sound too harsh? Not for the Marines and Soldiers who have been killed by the treachery of ANA and ANP who have purposely led them into ambush.”
It has been said that Afghanistan is where empires go to die. True enough. But it is men in the flesh who pay so very dearly.
If we had it to do over, would we send an army into Afghanistan to build a nation?
Would we invade Iraq?
While these two wars have cost 5,200 dead, a trillion dollars and a divided America facing an endless war, what have we won?
Gen. Stanley McChrystal needs 40,000 to 80,000 more troops, or we risk “mission failure” in Afghanistan. At present casualty rates—October was the worst month of the war—thousands more Americans will die before we see any light at the end of this tunnel, if ever we do.
Pakistan, which aided us in Afghanistan, now has a war of its own to fight. Its army is in a battle in South Waziristan, while the country is wracked by terror bombings, the latest in a Peshawar bazaar that specialized in women’s clothing and jewelry and toys for kids. So horrific was the toll even the Taliban and al-Qaida denied any role in it.
The 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are, after almost seven years, to begin pulling out two months after January’s election. But a hitch has developed. Iraq’s parliament missed the deadline for setting the rules. At issue: Will voters be allowed to choose individual candidates, or will they be allowed only to vote for slates of candidates?
Gen. Ray Odierno implies that postponement of the election may mean postponement of U.S. withdrawals.
Ominously, in August, terrorists bombed the foreign and finance ministries in Baghdad, and last week blew up the Justice Ministry and Baghdad Provincial Governorate. And the Kurds are now claiming their control of oil-rich Kirkuk is non-negotiable, which crosses a red line in Baghdad.
Next door, a terror attack by Jundallah (God’s Brigade) in Iran’s southern province of Sistan-Baluchistan killed 40, including two senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guard.
An enraged Tehran pointed the finger at the United States, as there have been charges the CIA has been in contact with Jundallah as part of President Bush’s destabilization program to effect “regime change.”
But Barack Obama has been in office for nine months—and he would never authorize such an attack on the eve of a critical meeting on Iran’s nuclear program. Moreover, the State Department condemned the Jundallah bombing as terrorism and offered public condolences to the families of the victims.
But if we didn’t authorize this, who did?
Was the timing of this attack coincidental? Were these just freelance secessionists on an operation unrelated to the U.S.-Iran talks? Or is someone trying to torpedo the talks and push Iran and the United States into military collision?
For this was a provocation. And whoever carried it out and whoever authorized or abetted it wishes to dynamite the U.S.-Iran negotiations, abort a rapprochement and put us on a road to war.
Speculation is focusing on the Saudis, the Gulf Arabs and the Israelis, who have been accused, as has the United States, of aiding PJAK, a Kurdish faction that has conducted raids in northern Iran.
If we have any control of these organizations, we should shut them down. With U.S. armies tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, and America conducting Predator and cross-border attacks in Pakistan, provoking a war with Iran would be an act of madness.
Looking back, how has all this fighting advanced U.S. national interests? We have a “democratic” Iraq that is Shia-dominated and tilting to Iran. We have an open-ended war in Afghanistan that will likely do for Obama what Iraq did for Bush. But we can’t pull out, it is said, for if we do, Kabul falls and Afghanistan becomes the sanctuary for an Islamist war to take over Pakistan and its nuclear weapons.
And if that should happen, it would indeed be a crisis.
And so, how has all this intervention availed us?
We ran Saddam out of Kuwait and put U.S. troops into Saudi Arabia. And we got Osama bin Laden’s 9-11. We responded by taking down the Taliban and taking over Afghanistan. And we got an eight-year war with no victory and no end in sight. Now Pakistan is burning. We took down Saddam and got a seven-year war and an ungrateful Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Turks, who shared a border with Saddam, have done no fighting. Iran has watched as we destroyed its two greatest enemies, the Taliban and Saddam. China, which has a border with both Pakistan and Afghanistan, has sat back. India, which has a border with Pakistan and fought three wars with that country, has stayed aloof.
The United States, on the other side of the world, plunged in. And now we face an elongated military presence in Iraq, an escalating war in Afghanistan and potential disaster in Pakistan, and are being pushed from behind into a war with Iran.
“America rejects the false comfort of isolationism,” said George W. Bush in his 2006 State of the Union. And we did reject that false comfort. And now we can enjoy the fruits of interventionism.
I don’t know much about economics. What I do know is that so many so-called “experts,” including politicians and economists, are wrong far more often than they are right. They’re wrong about virtually everything, and yet shamelessly keep selling the same old fairy tales. They are liars. They are cheats. They are whores.
As Congress plots government healthcare, Americans should remember how incredibly wrong Washington leaders were about the cost of programs like Medicare. Bush and Obama have already been proven irrevocably wrong about TARP and stimulus, and yet both claim it’s working. Months ago in South Carolina, Gov. Mark Sanford stood firm in refusing to sign off on extending unemployment benefits, demanding that that department be overhauled so that any future crisis might be averted. This week, a less aggressive, post-scandal Sanford signed off on allowing federal stimulus dollars to keep SC’s unemployed propped up for a few more weeks. Problem not solved, just prolonged. Sanford was right the first time.
And despite his apology, so was Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson when he called Federal Reserve adviser Linda Robertson a “K Street Whore.” During an appearance on the Alex Jones radio show, Grayson said “this lobbyist, this K street whore, is trying to teach me about economics.” Robertson had attacked Grayson for his efforts, along with Republicans like Congressman Ron Paul, Sen. Jim DeMint and others, to audit the Federal Reserve.
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Probably most famous for saying Republicans who opposed Obama’s healthcare plan simply want Americans to “die quickly,” Grayson has quickly established himself as an outspoken congressman who pulls no punches.
When I heard conservative critics attacking Grayson this week for daring to call Robertson a “K Street Whore,” I had to laugh. Was the Right simply going after Grayson for his earlier attack on anti-government healthcare Republicans, or were they really upset that he would refer to a representative of the Federal Reserve as a whore? Is it not a primary function of conservatives, especially rightwing talk radio, to lambaste and lampoon the whoring politicians who run Capitol Hill? Hell, conservative humorist PJ O’Rourke’s 1991 take on the entire US government was a book entitled “Parliament of Whores.” If Robertson were a man, would there have been any controversy?
If anyone deserves to be called whores or worse it’s the criminals who run the Federal Reserve, a secretive institution that continues to steal from the American people by printing as much money as it sees fit. Before becoming a top lobbyist for the Fed, Robertson was, appropriately enough, a top lobbyist for Enron. Notes Grayson spokesman Todd Jurkowski, Robertson “attacked the Congressman and his efforts to promote a Republican bill to audit the Federal Reserve… She’s a career lobbyist who used to work for Enron and advocates for whatever she gets paid to promote.” What Robertson has been paid to promote during her lobbying career are institutions primarily in the business of theft, and the Fed adviser has long worked the K Street strip like no other.
Obama’s massive healthcare agenda, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, our vast domestic welfare state, “stimulus” packages – every bit of big government imaginable – could not be afforded if the Federal Reserve did not allow the United States to live far beyond its means. The US borrows from China and prints more money. That’s how we get by. That’s how we get debt. Our leaders on Capitol Hill, from men like Tim Geithner and Bernanke to women like Robertson and Nancy Pelosi are liars, cheats, and yes, whores – and then some.
And more people should say so. One need not agree with Grayson’s opinions on everything to admire his blunt language about one of the US’s most destructive institutions and those who run it. If Republican Congressman Joe Wilson shouting “you lie!” at President Obama was arguably this year’s best summation of our Washington rulers, Democrat Congressman Alan Grayson calling the Federal Reserve’s head lobbyist a “K Street Whore” was a close second. But like Wilson, Grayson’s greatest mistake was in limiting his criticism to just one bureaucrat.
NEW YORK—Something’s bothering me about the Polanski business. No, unlike Harvey Weinstein and Bernard-Henri Lévy—not to mention that Mitterrand paedophile—I will not defend Roman’s actions with a 13-year-old, but I will say that, with friends like his making fools of themselves defending him, it will be a miracle if he gets off with a slap on the wrist. Although this may sound pompous, I doubt if any of his defenders have known Polanski as long as I have—40 years and counting—but let’s take it from the top.
What Hugo Rifkind wrote about him and his defenders in these pages on 3 October is spot-on. Hollywood has a lot to answer for, and mixing up global warming, Darfur, HIV and Roman’s case is not exactly kosher. I particularly liked what he said about Mel Gibson, who was nearly hounded out of Tinseltown for a drunken anti-Semitic outburst, one for which he has apologized more times than I’ve had hangovers. “But Polanski shags an actual child and they love him.” Ironically, the four people who failed to sign the petition for Roman were Woody Allen, Robert Blake, O.J. Simpson and Phil Spector, the last two being in the pokey as I write.
Yes, there are a lot of jokes about Polanski making the rounds, but in the meantime he is having a very bad time in a Swiss jail. Psychologically, that is. Let’s face it, it does smell a bit of Inspector Javert, 32 years on. I first met Roman when he walked into my bedroom in Gstaad uninvited and insisted on watching me punch and kick a tiny piece of paper hanging from a string. (It was to speed up one’s kicks and punches for an upcoming karate tournament.) We began hanging out together after that, and he even flew Bruce Lee over and I trained with him. Yes, we did have a falling-out after the events in Los Angeles, and I did write some mean things about him, but we have made up and only he knows the price he has paid for that one moment—or hour—of madness. Roman now has children, is happily married, and, as his good friend the wonderful Ronnie Harwood has said to me, no child, especially one as talented and as delightful as his boy Elvis, deserves this.
I will not try the line that phonies like Bernard-Henri Lévy have used, that artists are above the law and that then 13 was the new 18. Or that grotesque Whoopi Goldberg’s that it wasn’t ‘rape-rape’. The one I will try is this: what in Heaven’s name has happened to compassion? Polanski has been on the run for 32 years, has never come close to repeating his crime, and has rehabilitated himself in spades. What kind of society are we that in order to further the political career of an obscure California district attorney we use the full power of two states to punish a man who was born punished. First by the Nazis and then by the Manson gang. No wonder poor Roman feels hard done by.
And speaking of forgiveness, I don’t remember Menachem Begin, a ferocious terrorist, ever apologising for murdering 91 people when he blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, 28 of whom were British. He didn’t even apologise for that while receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet the world forgave and forgot once Israel became a big-time player thanks to Uncle Sam. The cold-blooded murderer Magee is received by those whose parents and families he killed, and he certainly hasn’t apologised. The only one who got it right on this was, of course, the magnificent Norman Tebbit, whose wife, the brave Margaret, is living proof that those Irish animals should rot in jail instead of hanging out with polite society. I don’t remember the egregious Ted Kennedy asking for Sirhan Sirhan to be set free after 41 years in a very tough jail.So where’s Catholic and Irish compassion where the Palestinian is concerned?
The world is just one big double standard. So before anyone accuses me of defending child molestation, what about Jeffrey Epstein, a man who was tried and convicted of paying underage women to give him sexual rubdowns, but who served less than 13 months of a ridiculously soft sentence of 18 months? Epstein had the following going for him. He is a billionaire, despite the fact that no one knows how he made his pile, as he trained and worked as a maths researcher. Epstein also had letters recommending his character to the judge in Palm Beach from Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Bill Clinton, whom Epstein flew all over the world in his private plane and who is a close friend of his.
So, a crime committed 32 years ago and paid for in full as far as I’m concerned by a man who has known more suffering than most of us is to be pursued to the bitter end, whereas Jeffrey Epstein, friend of the powerful and a billionaire, does only 12 months in a country-club jail in Palm Beach. If that’s true justice, then the law is an ass — but I always knew that. Why don’t we try compassion and forgiveness for a change, but not for truly bad guys, just for poor Roman Polanski.
In the latest issue of Quadrant, Peter Kocan complains about my “sourness” in depicting the paleoconservative persuasion in my autobiography, Encounters. Peter is shocked that someone who is described as “America’s leading paleoconservative intellectual” would be “sawing off the branch on which [he] sits,” by treating his movement as a collection of has-beens. Peter compares my “weird” behavior to that of an imaginary David Crockett, who “had survived the Alamo only to declare the fight a stupid fiasco and the defenders a bunch of jerks.” The review contrasts my bitter disenchantment about my erstwhile companions in arms with the spirited tropes of Clyde Wilson “addressing his fellow Southerners battered by culture-wars attacks on their whole history and identity.” Unlike Gottfried the mocker, Professor Wilson has exhorted his listeners to take heart: “Don”t be discouraged. So powerful and beautiful is our heritage that it has taken them decades to cut away as much as they have.”
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This quotation from my Southern friend of many years has nothing to do with what Peter scolds me for not interpreting more charitably. Given its institutions and cultural-ethnic identity going back centuries, the American South has been far more of an historical reality than paleoconservatism, a fading movement of which I”m believed to be the most venerable living theorist.
Unlike Southerners, Frenchmen, English, Italians, Jews, etc., paleoconservatives do not constitute a long-standing community. They were a reaction to the rise of the neoconservatives as the dominant force in the American conservative movement. Spirited rebels who fought on against a more powerful enemy determined to crush them, the paleoconservatives reached the zenith of their influence in the late 1980s and early 1990s; thereafter they descended rapidly into becoming no more than an historical footnote. It is now hard to find even references to paleoconservatism in accounts of the postwar conservative movement. Recent historians of the movement have ceased to view paleos as even an interesting sideshow.
In his recently published anthology Reappraising the Right (2009), historian of the conservative movement George Nash devotes no more than a few sentences in 450 pages of text to the Old Right opposition to the neoconservatives. But in the second edition of Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America (1996), the paleoconservatives were a major theme in the long concluding chapter. This indicates how thorough the rout has been, seeing that Nash is chronicling the interaction of significant forces within today’s American Right. Although I”m thought to be the main chronicler of the paleoconservative side, nowhere is my name even mentioned in Nash’s text”and for good reason. What I”ve chronicled can no longer be located within the present constellation of movement conservative players. (When, by the way, was the last time that a paleo appeared on FOX or that his name came up in the New York Times or Washington Post?) The feuding among veteran paleos, a tendency that I”ve often noted, may reflect growing frustration. The cause for which they once fought has been so marginalized that they can only attract attention by attacking each other.
But this effort at sober assessment does not mean that I”ve thrown up my hands and left the battlefield to our enemies. What I”m suggesting is that whoever (God willing!) brings down the neoconservatives and their mercenary empire, it will not be my generation. The Soviet tyranny eventually fell, but the ones who accomplished this were not the Russian Whites who fought the Reds after the Bolshevik Revolution. The Soviet empire came down because of a generation of adversaries who were not around in 1919 and 1920. While I”m not declaring that the battle against our enemies is irreversibly lost, I”m definitely saying that paleoconservatives will not win the battle they began. It will be left to a younger generation to carry on that struggle.
I”m also not sure that the side to which Professor Wilson appeals has a brighter future than do the paleoconservatives. The black population of the South, to put it mildly, is hardly on Professor Wilson’s side; and those white people who voted for the outspokenly anti-Confederate McCain, whose revulsion for the white South except as a reliable voting base, could not have been more clear, are not about to rally to the Cause. I”ve no idea (speaking as a passionate admirer of Stonewall Jackson) how the onetime reverence for the South as a culture of gallantry and aristocratic virtues can ever be revived, after the multicultural Left and the neoconservatives have combined to slander anything resembling a white Southern heritage. It’s also not the case that the transformation of the Old South in the public imagination from the opening scenes of Gone With The Wind to something even more hideous than Ausschwitz took place over a long period of time. This government- and media-sponsored metamorphosis took place entirely within my adult lifetime.
Still it is much easier for me to feel sympathy for Professor Wilson’s neo-Confederates than it is to weep over the fate of paleoconservatism. The neo-Confederates are a pleasanter lot than most paleos of my acquaintance, and they can point to an intergenerational pedigree. But they also face insurmountable problems. After the damage that its embattled opponents and demographic trends have inflicted on the Southern heritage, it is doubtful this tradition can make a comeback, except as a theme park. But the war against the neoconservatives is in fact winnable. It will only take lots of time and the acquisition of resources; and more than one generation will be needed to make significant dents in the enemy’s fortifications.
Allow me to make one final point about Peter Kocan’s fond references to the Jacobites and to other lost reactionary causes. This doting is fine as an aesthetic diversion, but can do nothing to change the cultural Marxist power structure that has taken over through most of the Western world. The relevant response to this situation is “political,” in the sense in which Carl Schmitt understood that term. One must identify ones enemy and then bring to bear all available forces to counter its power. Devoting one’s life to a search for the Cavalier origins of the Old South or hanging on the wall a portrait of Stonewall Jackson, in the case of one of my acquaintances, near a campaign sign for John McCain, is what Schmitt characterized as a “cultural activity,” as opposed to a political act. Peter may enjoy the aesthetic poses of some of the paleoconservatives, but that attraction should not hide the fact that this group has been politically insignificant for the last fifteen years. Needless to say, I would not level this charge against Carl Gustav Mannerheim or Francisco Franco—or most other historical actors of the Right who hindered the progress of the Left in the twentieth century. I”m criticizing what Schmitt called the “romantic imagination” that has turned in upon itself. That has, not incidentally, been the fate of the paleoconservative mind that has outlived its historical value.
The cable period drama Mad Men attempts to answer the question: What would have Cary Grant’s stylish advertising executive in Hitchcock’s 1959 barnburner North by Northwest gotten up to if”instead of getting chased by spies all the way to Abraham Lincoln’s nose on Mt. Rushmore”he and his superb suits had simply stayed on Madison Avenue during the advertising industry’s storied golden age?
After the Tom Cruise generation of boyish, small, and energetic stars, it’s refreshing to see a Golden Age of Hollywoodish leading man like tall, dark, and handsome Jon Hamm, who plays creative director Don Draper as the strong, silent type. Granted, the concept of a reticent copywriter doesn”t make much sense, but the show has become a huge hit with media folks, more than a few of whom are married to people in the ad business.
Mad Men is the latest of this decade’s extended plotline dramas to rivet the attention of the higher end of the TV-viewing audience.
We constantly hear that long-form TV dramas are better than ever. That’s probably true, but few of today’s fans can remember how quickly we all tend to forget past serial dramas that once seemed indelibly memorable.
In contrast to serial shows like Mad Men, Lost, and 24, most television sit-coms and some dramas “reset” at the end of each episode: no matter what zany antics transpired during tonight’s episode, Homer Simpson will be right back at the nuclear power plant next week, unchanged except for the vaguest of memories.
An increasing number of prime-time dramas, however, tease audience interest by ramifying a single complicated plot over the life of the show. By not reaching a conclusion, they leave audiences asking each week, “And then what happens?” This gives fans plenty to chew over with each other until the next episode. (Here, for example, is Slate’s 59-part [!] discussion of the current third season of Mad Men.)
Fans like to call serials “novelistic” (although the unkind term “soap operaish” can also be apt).
Novelists have given up publishing their works in installments, even though that was hugely profitable for numerous 19th Century novelists, such as Charles Dickens. His books were typically serialized in 20 monthly installments of 32 pages of text and 16 pages of advertising. The protracted death of Little Nell in Dickens” serialization of The Old Curiosity Shop turned into an ongoing international tragedy. At New York’s piers in 1841, American fans would shout out to docking boats from England, “Is Little Nell alive?”
Tom Wolfe, who had long denounced 20th-century literary fiction for not showing us The Way We Live Now (an Anthony Trollope novel that was, of course, serialized), published his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, in 27 installments in Rolling Stone in 1984-1985. Jan Wenner paid him $200,000 for the rights, and the pressure forced the vastly ambitious Wolfe past the writer’s block he had developed after spending years hinting broadly that one of these days he was going to show all living novelists how fiction should be written.
Unfortunately, Bonfire didn”t make much of a splash in Rolling Stone … because it wasn”t very good. It was a first draft, and Wolfe’s first drafts turned out not to be as good as Dickens’s had been. Moreover, there are obvious problems inherent in going public with the beginning before you”ve written the ending. (This has been a particular conundrum for American TV serial dramas because the writers don”t even know how many years the show will run. Thus, they tend to start strong and peter out. In Britain, however, fixed durations serials are more common.)
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Wolfe then rewrote Bonfire after doing the additional research necessary to change his protagonist’s career from Wolfe’s lazy initial choice”writer”to a much more timely and under-publicized one”bond-trader. Revised, Bonfire became a huge bestseller. A long string of subsequent real-life incidents all the way up through the Duke lacrosse rape hoax that seem like plot twists out of Wolfe’s tale of the hunt for “the Great White Defendant” has cemented its status as the Great American Novel of the 1980s.
Movies remain a troublesome format for Dickensian storytellers. Adapting big novels to fit within the limited length of a film remains difficult. Even at 238 minutes, Gone With The Wind‘s screenplay had to be a miracle of concision. The 125-minute Brian De Palma version of Bonfire of the Vanities was a notorious flop.
With 1967’s Forsyte Saga (a 26-episode adaptation of five books by Nobel laureate John Galsworthy) and 1971’s Upstairs, Downstairs, the Brits pioneered high-class soap operas that galvanized audiences by artfully following an ensemble of characters through intersecting nested plots in a carefully detailed time and place.
The American equivalent came along in 1987, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herkovitz’s thirtysomething, which artfully portrayed an ensemble of old college friends centered around a yuppie advertising man, Michael Steadman, an undersexed Don Draper for the feminist era.
In its time, thirtysomething was probably the best written and certainly the most realistic show on television (my twentysomething new bride and I watched it wide-eyed as we learned what was in store for us). For a few years, it had a limited but lucrative yupscale demographic enthralled over whether Michael and Hope would be able to make their marriage work and other questions that seemed a lot more interesting at the time than they do now. (At this point, I can mostly just remember Miles Drentell, the ruthless Sun Tzu-quoting CEO of the trendy ad agency where Michael worked.)
The downside of “And then what happens?” is that the answer usually turns out to be “A whole bunch of stuff.” While satisfying at the time, serials tend to be consumable only once. For example, although thirtysomething was immediately influential within the entertainment industry, it was almost forgotten by the public once its run was over in 1991. (It wasn”t even released on DVD until this year).
On the other hand, Seinfeld (something of a comic version of thirtysomething, but also a classic reset show in which not even, say, the sudden death of a fiancÃ© has any discernible emotional impact on a character) remains a money machine in syndication.
Another chronic problem with shows that don”t reset is creeping soap operaization. Female fascination with relationships tends to crowd out every other subject over time. Even House, with the wonderful Hugh Laurie as a Sherlock Holmes-like genius/misanthrope solving one medical mystery per week, has become more of a soap opera over the years.
Similarly, Mad Men underexploits its setting in the advertising industry, always a fun business to portray, in favor of emphasizing relationships. In the pilot episode set in 1960, for instance, Don Draper is proclaimed a genius by his clients and colleagues for dreaming up a new slogan for Lucky Strike cigarettes: “It’s Toasted.” In reality, a lame phrase like that would have been laughed at in 1960. Lucky Strike’s “It’s Toasted” slogan actually dates to 1917.
Of course, the advertising business isn”t really what Mad Men is about.
So, what do I think the show is about?
Well, in the spirit of today’s serials, you”ll just have to wait until next Wednesday to find out.
I will mention one thing: the show relentlessly exposes the sexism of pre-feminism men like Don Draper, seemingly for today’s women to cluck over. Instead, they gasp and squeal. Why?
Because women find sexism sexy.
Evidence that the U.S. is a failed state is piling up faster than I can record it.
One conclusive hallmark of a failed state is that the crooks are inside the government, using government to protect and advance their private interests.
Another conclusive hallmark is rising income inequality, as the insiders manipulate economic policy for their enrichment at the expense of everyone else.
Income inequality in the U.S. is now the most extreme of all countries. The 2008 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report, “Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries,” concludes that the U.S. is the country with the highest inequality and poverty rate across the OECD and that, since 2000, nowhere has there been such a stark rise in income inequality as in the U.S.
The OECD finds that in the U.S. the distribution of wealth is even more unequal than the distribution of income.
On Oct. 21, 2009, BusinessWeek reported that a new report from the United Nations Development Program concluded that the U.S. ranked third among states with the worst income inequality. As number one and number two, Hong Kong and Singapore, are both essentially city-states, not countries, the U.S. actually has the shame of being the country with the most inequality in the distribution of income.
The stark increase in U.S. income inequality in the 21st century coincides with the offshoring of U.S. jobs, which enriched executives with “performance bonuses” while impoverishing the middle class, and with the rapid rise of unregulated over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives, which enriched Wall Street and the financial sector at the expense of everyone else.
Millions of Americans have lost their homes and half of their retirement savings while being loaded up with government debt to bail out the banksters who created the derivative crisis.
“Frontline’s” Oct. 21 broadcast, “The Warning,” documents how Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt blocked Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), from performing her statutory duties and regulating OTC derivatives.
After the worst crisis in U.S. financial history struck, just as Brooksley Born said it would, a disgraced Greenspan was summoned out of retirement to explain to Congress his unequivocal assurances that no regulation of derivatives was necessary. Greenspan had even told Congress that regulation of derivatives would be harmful. A pathetic Greenspan had to admit that the free market ideology on which he had relied turned out to have a flaw.
Greenspan may have bet our country on his free market ideology, but does anyone believe that Rubin and Summers were doing anything other than protecting the enormous fraud-based profits that derivatives were bringing Wall Street? As Born stressed, OTC derivatives are a “dark market.” There is no transparency. Regulators have no information on them and neither do purchasers.
Even after Long Term Capital Management blew up in 1998 and had to be bailed out, Greenspan, Rubin and Summers stuck to their guns. Greenspan, Rubin and Summers, and a roped-in gullible Arthur Levitt who now regrets that he was the banksters’ dupe, succeeded in manipulating a totally ignorant Congress into blocking the CFTC from doing its mandated job.
Born, prevented by the public’s elected representatives from protecting the public, resigned. Wall Street money simply shoved facts and honest regulators aside, guaranteeing government inaction and the financial crisis that hit in 2008 and continues to plague our economy today.
The financial insiders running the Treasury, White House and Federal Reserve shifted to taxpayers the cost of the catastrophe that they had created. When the crisis hit, Henry Paulson, appointed by President Bush as Rubin’s replacement as the Goldman Sachs representative running the U.S. Treasury, hyped fear to obtain from “our” representatives in Congress with no questions asked hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars (TARP money) to bail out Goldman Sachs and the other malefactors of unregulated derivatives.
When Goldman Sachs recently announced that it was paying massive six and seven figure bonuses to every employee, public outrage erupted. In defense of banksters, saved with the public’s money, paying themselves bonuses in excess of most people’s lifetime earnings, Lord Griffiths, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, said that the public must learn to “tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity for all.”
In other words, “Let them eat cake.”
According to the U.N. report cited above, Great Britain has the seventh-most unequal income distribution in the world. After the Goldman Sachs bonuses, the British will move up in distinction, perhaps rivaling Israel for the fourth spot in the hierarchy.
Despite the total insanity of unregulated derivatives, the high level of public anger and Greenspan’s confession to Congress, still nothing has been done to regulate derivatives. One of Rubin’s assistant treasury secretaries, Gary Gensler, has replaced Born as head of the CFTC. Larry Summers is the head of President Obama’s National Economic Council. Former Federal Reserve official Timothy Geithner, a Paulson protege, runs the Obama Treasury. A Goldman Sachs vice president, Adam Storch, has been appointed the chief operating officer of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Banksters are still in charge.
Is there another country in which in full public view so few so blatantly use government for the enrichment of private interests, with a coterie of “free market” economists available to justify plunder on the grounds that “the market knows best”? A narco-state is bad enough. The U.S. surpasses this horror with its financo-state.
As Brooksley Born says, if nothing is done, “it’ll happen again.”
But nothing can be done. The crooks have the government.
Note: The OECD report shows that despite the Ronald Reagan tax rate reduction, the rate of increase in U.S. income inequality declined during the Reagan years. During the mid-1990s, the Gini coefficient (the measure of income inequality) actually fell. Beginning in 2000 with the New Economy (essentially financial fraud and offshoring of U.S. jobs), the Gini coefficient shot up sharply.
When openly gay college student Matthew Shepard was targeted, tortured and murdered in 1998 the story made national headlines. Soon after, MTV sent a camera crew down to Charleston, South Carolina searching for a redneck or two who might offer some insensitive remarks about homosexuals for their “True Life” series. They found one. Me.
I was a student at the College of Charleston and as the lone conservative writer at the school paper, was asked to participate in the television tapings. I remember telling MTV I believed Shepard’s murderers should receive the death penalty. I also told them, when prodded, that I believed homosexuality was “against God.”
It’s a comment I’ve regretted ever since.
My first regret stems from the blasphemous assumption that I could know the mind of God and secondly, that I had portrayed gay men and women as somehow lesser children of that God. Despite my youthful ignorance, there is nothing more obvious to me today than the fact that the overwhelming majority of homosexuals are born gay. It is nature, not nurture and certainly no choice.
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But in a free society what people choose to think about homosexuality should be their choice. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act currently being pushed through Congress, which seeks to expand the definition of federal hate crime laws to cover homosexuals, is the criminalization of thought, pure and simple. It’s bad enough that we already have federal laws that cover crimes motivated by racial, ethnic or religious prejudice, which are an affront to free speech that should be abolished. Battery, assault and murder are horrible enough crimes on their own without attaching some special significance to what the perpetrator might think about his victim. Rightly notes South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, there are “fundamental problems with any federal hate crimes legislation. The Rule of Law requires opposition to this idea that we treat crimes differently.”
Not that I don’t understand the rage of homosexuals or racial and religious minorities who sometimes feel like targets of violence. In 2002, my best friend was assaulted for verbally defending the honor of a woman. For his chivalrous deed, my friend, who was far too drunk to defend himself (everyone was intoxicated) had his head mercilessly pounded into the sharp corner of a steel toolbox, coming dangerously close to severely and permanently damaging his eye. The perpetrator was a perennial loser, mad at women, himself and god-knows-what-else, filled with enough “hate” to take on the whole world. At the time, if someone had put a bullet in his head I wouldn’t have lost much sleep over it.
One can only imagine the rage of Mathew Shepard’s family, his friends and particularly those in the gay community who knew him. A loved one was taken by two emotionally-dysfunctional men whose insecurities and personal shortcomings drove them to murder. No doubt, many would like to see Shepard’s killers put to death and it’s an injustice this never happened.
But not because Shepard was gay – because he was an innocent human being who had done nothing to deserve his fate. While murder is certainly worse than assault, is beating up a homosexual a worse crime than beating up my friend? If my friend were homosexual, should his assault take on an entirely new dimension? When violent crimes occur, each born of evil-intentions and producing gruesome results, are some crimes less equal than others? For hate crime law advocates, their answer is an unqualified “yes!” Their logic is repulsive.
Advocates of hate crime laws argue that homosexual and minority members’ particular identities make them especially vulnerable, requiring special legal protection. One could just as easily argue that the colossal disparity between black-on-white violent crime versus white-on-black violent crime makes white Americans especially vulnerable, and yet no one advocates for special legal protection for whites. Some might argue that existing hate crime laws allow for this, but the instances of anti-white hate crimes being prosecuted compared to anti-minority hate crimes, is beyond laughable and no one seems to be clamoring for it.
Most violent crime is born of some sort of hatred and examining motive is certainly crucial in any criminal investigation. But “hate” – for gays, minorities, women, chivalrous men – is still just a thought, and should not be itself, a criminal action. Criminalizing the thought behind a violent act sets dangerous precedent and gives special justice to special groups and lesser justice to victims of similar crimes who do not belong to those groups.
Stupid as it was, what I thought about homosexuality in 1998 should not have been a crime. A few weeks after the MTV special aired, I was standing in a King Street bar when a rather tough lesbian woman violently pushed me from behind, angry over my comments. Looking back, I’m surprised she didn’t punch my lights out. That would have unquestionably been a crime. But not her opinion of me.
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“Sometimes party loyalty asks too much,” said JFK.
For Sarah Palin, party loyalty in New York’s 23rd congressional district asks too much. Going rogue, Palin endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman over Republican Dede Scozzafava.
On Oct. 1, Scozzafava was leading. Today, she trails Democrat Bill Owens and is only a few points ahead of Hoffman, as Empire State conservatives defect to vote their principles, not their party.
Newt Gingrich stayed on the reservation, endorsing Scozzafava, who is pro-choice and pro-gay rights, and hauls water for the unions.
Scourged by the right, Newt accused conservatives of going over the hill in the battle to save the republic, just to get a buzz on. “If we are in the business about feeling good about ourselves while our country gets crushed, then I probably made the wrong decision.” How Scozzafava would prevent America’s being “crushed” was unexplained.
The 23rd recalls a famous Senate race 40 years ago. Rep. Charles Goodell was picked by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to fill the seat of Robert Kennedy in 1968. To hold onto it, Goodell swerved sharp left, emerging as an upstate Xerox copy of Jacob Javits, the most liberal Republican in the Senate.
In 1970, Goodell got both the GOP and Liberal Party nominations, and faced liberal Democrat Richard Ottinger. This left a huge vacuum into which Conservative Party candidate James Buckley, brother of William F., smartly moved.
Assessing the field, the Nixon White House concluded that, with liberals split, Goodell could not win. But Buckley might. Signals were flashed north that loyalty to the president was not inconsistent with voting for Buckley. To send the signal in the clear, Vice President Agnew described Charlie Goodell to a New Orleans newspaper as “the Christine Jorgensen of the Republican Party.”
The former George Jorgensen, Christine had undergone the most radical sex-change operation in recorded history.
Liberals went berserk, calling on New Yorkers to rally to Goodell, who began surging, at Ottinger’s expense. Buckley scooted between them both to win. Hoffman may also. But even if he does not, Palin, a conservative of the heart, did the right thing.
And the GOP has been sent a necessary message.
For, according to Gallup, 40 percent of Americans now identify as conservatives—only 20 percent as Republicans. If the GOP is not the conservative party, it will never be America’s Party.
But what does “conservative” mean in 2009? And where do conservatives come down on the great issues? For what the right is against—any repeal of the Bush tax cuts, the $787 billion stimulus, Obamacare—is much clearer than what the right stands for.
In 2010, this may not matter, as the Obamakins rule the roost and will be held accountable, and Republicans can unite around what they oppose. Year 2012, however, is problematic.
Then the party must declare itself. And the reality is that the GOP remains a house divided.
What, for example, is the conservative view of the war in Iraq and the Bush economic policies that cost the party both Houses of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008?
Why did President Bush leave with 27 percent approval? Did Bush policies the GOP once applauded have anything to do with it?
Was Bush free trade responsible for the decline of the dollar and the loss of one in four manufacturing jobs? Is globalization still good for America and NAFTA the deal of the century?
What is the conservative position on reaching out to Russia, as BarackObama has done, on bringing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, and on canceling that anti-missile system Bush planned in Poland?
“We’re all Georgians now!” John McCain declared. Are we?
What is the party position on a “long war” in Afghanistan?
For if America has soured on the war and opposes more troops today, will America be enthusiastic about soldiering on in 2012, after 1,000 or 2,000 more American dead have been shipped home?
Do Republicans support negotiating with Tehran, or cutting off gasoline and starting up the escalator to air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities that are today under U.N. inspection?
Will the GOP propose to stimulate the economy with tax cuts after four straight trillion-dollar deficits? Will the Bush line, “They’ll pay for themselves,” still be credible after Bush’s deficits?
If the largest federal outlays are for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense and interest on the debt, followed by education, housing, homeland security and transportation, where would the GOP use the knife to balance the budget?
According to Gallup, America is moving closer to the Republican position on regulations, abortion, guns and union power. But half of all Americans now favor cuts in legal immigration. Are Republicans willing to call for a moratorium on immigration to tighten the labor market and force wages up? Or does the Chamber of Commerce still call the tune?
Ronald Reagan arrived with new ideas that fit the needs of his time. Where are the Republican ideas that fit the needs of this time?
I’m a fan of economics and of history, as well as politics, a combination that forms some very interesting cycles to research, discuss and argue on. None is so interesting than the death of great nations, for here there is always the self destruction that comes before the final breakups and invasions. As they say: Rome did not fall to the barbarians, all they did was kick in the rotting gates.
It can be safely said, that the last time a great nation destroyed itself through its own hubris and economic folly was the early Soviet Union (though in the end the late Soviet Union still died by the economic hand). Now we get the opportunity to watch the Americans do the exact same thing to themselves. The most amazing thing of course, is that they are just repeating the failed mistakes of the past. One would expect their fellow travelers in suicide, the British, to have spoken up by now, but unfortunately for the British, their education system is now even more of a joke than that of the Americans.
While taking a small breather from mouthing the never ending propaganda of recovery, never mind that every real indicator is pointing to death and destruction, the American Marxists have noticed that the French and Germans are out of recession and that Russia and Italy are heading out at a good clip themselves. Of course these facts have been wrapped up into their mind boggling non stop chant of “recovery” and hope-change-zombification. What is ignored, of course, is that we and the other three great nations all cut our taxes, cut our spending, made life easy for small business…in other words: the exact opposite of the Anglo-Sphere.
That brings us to so-called “Cap and Trade.” Never in the history of humanity has a more idiotic plan been put forward and sold with bigger lies. Energy is the key stone to any and every economy, be it man power, animal power, wood or coal or nuclear. How else does one power industry that makes human life better (unless of course its making the bombs that end that human life, but that’s a different topic). Never in history, with the exception of the Japanese self imposed isolation in the 1600s, did a government actively force its people away from economic activity and industry.
Even the Soviets never created such idiocy. The great famine of the late 1920s was caused by quite the opposite, as the Soviets collectivized farms to force peasants off of their land and into the big new factories. Of course this had disastrous results. So one must ask, are the powers that be in Washington and London degenerates or satanically evil? Where is the opposition? Where are the Republicans in America and Tories in England?
The unfortunate truth here is: the Republicans and Tories are the Menshaviks to the Democrat and Labour Bolsheviks. In other words, they are the slightly less radical fellow travellers who are to stupid to realize that once their usefulness is done, they will go the very camps they will help send the true opposition to. A more deserving lot was rarely born. Of course half of the useful idiots in the Bolshevik groupings will go to those very same camps.
One express idiocy of Cap and Trade in America will be the approximately additional $.19 per liter of gasoline, which is a rather very large increase in taxation, however indirectly. Of course this will not only hit the American working serfs in the pocket at fuel up, but will hit them in everything they buy and do, as America has almost no real rail to even partially off set the cost of transporting goods.
But how will this work itself out? Very simple and the chain of events has been worked out often enough.
First, the serfs will start to scream at the cost of fueling up and the cost of all their goods. The government, ever anxious not to take responsibility, will single out the petroleum factories and oil companies for gauging the people. They will make demands for them to cut prices, which of course means working for a loss. When plants start to close down or move overseas, they will be called racketeers and saboteurs. Their facilities will be nationalized so that the government can show them how to do things properly. Shortages will follow as will show trials and that’s as long as the USD holds up and foreign nations are still willing to sell oil and gasoline for other than gold, silver and other hard resources.
When food goes up, and it surely will, as the diesel the farmer uses goes up as well as his fertilizers, the government will scream that the farmers are hording, thus undermining the efforts of the enlightened. There will be confiscations of all feed crops while the farmers will get production quotas to meet or have their land nationalized again. Do not believe me? Look at the people running your governments and ask yourself: would they rather take some one’s land or admit that they screwed up and ruined everything? After a point, only the corporate farms will remain, food by oligarch, just a like the factory farms. There will be plenty of dissidents to work them.
This will of course spread from industry to industry and within a rather short order, you will be living the new fractional dream, that is a fraction of what you have now. But on the bright side, for once, your children, working for government/oligarch run joint ventures, will be able to compete adequately with the Chinese, to feed the demands of Europe and Latin America. But that will take at least a generation or two first along with a cultural revolution or two.
From Mat Rodina