“There are only two men in America who can fill Yankee Stadium on three weeks’ notice,” a friend instructed me years ago.
“Billy Graham and Louis Farrakhan.”
Indeed, a decade ago, Black Muslim Minister Farrakhan’s “Million Man March” brought a throng of hundreds of thousands to the Capitol.
But, last Saturday, Glenn Beck packed the Mall with a crowd that could have filled Yankee Stadium to overflowing five times over. As it stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, the estimates of its size ran to half a million.
This was twice the size of the crowd that heard Martin Luther King Jr. 47 years ago and matched the antiwar demonstrations of 1969.
Wisely, Beck dropped partisanship to convert his gathering into a God, country and Constitution rally, with speakers honoring the courage and sacrifice of America’s military. Said Sarah Palin, a rally star, “Say what you want to say about me, but I raised a combat vet, and you can’t take that away from me.”
Al Sharpton, who organized a counter-rally that turned out a few hundred folks at Dunbar High, was his usual gracious self. Speaking of the half a million Americans on the Mall, the Rev. Al volunteered, “They want to disgrace this day.”
President Obama, seeing that crowd on the Mall as large as the one that came to celebrate his inaugural, must understand what it portends. His moment may have passed.
For that enthusiastic and energetic assembly is the spear point of an army of millions headed for the polls to throw out the party he leads.
Nevertheless, as Obama raised hopes only to be perceived as having fallen short, so, too, Beck’s believers and the tea party folks are raising hopes and expectations.
But can they succeed?
“We must not fundamentally transform America, as some would want,” said Palin, in one of the direct challenges to Obama. “We must restore America.”
But can we restore America, or is the old America gone forever?
Consider the issue that unites all on the Mall on Saturday—the need for the U.S. government to cut spending, to balance its budget and not to shove an immense burden of debt on our children.
Like last year, we are running a deficit of $1.4 trillion, almost 10 percent of the entire economy. With housing starts and housing sales plunging, jobless claims rising, the stock market sinking and economic growth slowing to a crawl, we will face a new deficit equally large in the fiscal year beginning in October.
Where are the victorious tea party Republicans going to cut?
According to USA Today, 50 million Americans are on Medicaid, and perhaps an equal number on Medicare and Social Security. Which of these three will tea party Republicans cut, when Republicans are already denying Democratic charges that they plan to raise the retirement age for Social Security?
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has a 600-page plan to reform Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the tax code, the work of a conscientious conservative. But only one in 16 House Republicans has signed on as co-sponsor.
Are Republicans going to go after other entitlements—veterans benefits, earned income tax credits, food stamps—which now go to 41 million Americans, or unemployment benefits that run for 99 weeks?
With the racial achievement gap on test scores returning, will the GOP abolish No Child Left Behind or slash federal aid to education?
The big remaining items in the budget are interest on the debt, which must be paid, and war and defense. But Republicans are more likely to be supportive of Obama’s rebuilding a military ravaged by war, and staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, than are Democrats.
Obama’s budget commission will surely come in with tax increases on personal incomes, perhaps also for Social Security and Medicare. But the GOP cannot sign on to these and go home again.
Indeed, how can Republicans cooperate with a president who has spent the campaign blaming them for the Great Recession and telling voters the GOP intends to drag us back to the dark past of Bush II?
And why would a “Party of No” that picks up 40 or 50 House seats by its Alamo defiance become a Kumbaya, “Yes-we-can!” party and work in happy harness with Barack Obama?
Can we really “restore America” as she once was?
According to The New York Times, Orange County, Calif.—birthplace of Richard Nixon, Goldwater Country, bastion of the John Birch Society, land of the “little old ladies in tennis shoes”—is today a place where less than half the population is Anglo and almost half speak a language other than English in the home.
Where Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter three to one in Orange County, Obama ran a near dead heat with McCain. And as Orange County goes, so goes California and so goes America.
Republicans and tea partiers are going to have a glorious fall.
But is this one of the last hurrahs?
The Tillman Story is a documentary about Pat Tillman, the NFL player who, following 9/11, turned down a $3.6 million Arizona Cardinals offer to enlist as a private in the U.S. Army, then died in Afghanistan in 2004. The film has elicited critical praise but not much media hype.
Why not? As Afghanistan evolves into Mr. Obama’s War, antiwar sentiment is at a low ebb among the press.
In reality, The Tillman Story, directed by Amir Bar-Lev and narrated by Josh Brolin, is a lesser example of the documentarian’s art. Yet, it’s worth sitting through because of the light it shines on what’s becoming America’s forever war. It also affords us a glimpse of that mysterious hero who refused to do interviews about why he chose to fight for his country in an era when so few of the noblesse have been obliging.
The Tillman Story is most striking whenever Pat and his giant jaw are on screen. Like an American hero from the pre-Muhammad Ali era, Tillman wanted fame, but he wanted to earn it, and without boasting, without PR.
Following the Spanish-American war, Rudyard Kipling advised America to take up the burdens of empire. Yet, he didn”t understate the costs: “Send forth the best ye breed / Go bind your sons to exile / To serve your captives” need.” Tillman, a thoughtful, eccentric, idealistic badass, was the best we breed.
After getting in trouble with the law in high school for beating up a guy, Pat channeled into more productive directions his ferocious level of testosterone. (Tillman might be the only man to grow a beard to make his jawline look less rugged.) An academic All-American at Arizona St., he wasn”t expected to make it as a rare white defensive back in the NFL, but he did.
Afforded a gloriously outdoorsy Northern California boyhood by their vaguely Sixties-style parents, a lawyer and a teacher, the Tillman brothers decided to repay their country by continuing their soldier grandfathers” tradition of bearing arms, despite their deepening doubts about Iraq. Pat looked forward to meeting foreign policy critic Noam Chomsky after his discharge. It’s not wholly absurd to dream that in, say, 2025″unlike Professor Obama in 2009″a President Tillman would have been man enough, and patriot enough, to stare down the neocons and generals and denounce the invade-the-world mindset.
Although constructed around his bereaved (and then outraged) family’s search for the truth, The Tillman Story unfortunately gives away the main spoiler”he was shot by his own comrades in arms”before the halfway point.
As best I can piece together what happened, after hearing a detonation and subsequent shooting in the deep canyon engulfing his brother Kevin’s half of the Black Sheep platoon, Pat charged back to the rescue. An Afghan Army trainee spontaneously decided to follow the American alpha male. Sayed Farhad began firing wildly, just like the amped-up American Rangers in the lead Humvee below. Seeing muzzle flashes coming from a bearded local, the Rangers shot him, then turned their fire on his colleague, who turned out to be Tillman.
It wasn”t a fragging, and it wasn”t a Delta Force black ops assassination. It was just Situation Normal for combat. Stephen Hunter described in American Gunfight the impact of adrenaline overload: “You feel nothing, you see only a little bit of what’s ahead of you, you hear nothing … Meanwhile, your fingers inflate like sausages and your IQ drops stunningly.”
Viewers can infer much from The Tillman Story about the futility of what Kipling called “the savage wars of peace.” Since the Gulf War of 1991, a sizable fraction of American fatalities have been due to “friendly fire” because the American advantage in firepower is so overwhelming. (U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan fired in anger an average of about a quarter of a million bullets per day.) And U.S. marksmanship is lethally good. (The Army coroner who autopsied Tillman’s bullet-riddled corpse refused to certify that he”d been killed by hostile fire because the Taliban can”t shoot that straight.)
If two or three insurgents can stampede elite Army Rangers into hosing down the most famous enlisted man since Elvis, how good can they realistically be at judiciously”yet instantaneously”deciding during a firefight whether a bearded, AK-47 toting local is friend or foe? In a Pashtun culture that cherishes vendetta, how can we therefore evade chronic feuds?
The Tillman Story then inquires into the Army’s feckless five-week cover-up of the fratricide. Why did everybody in the chain of command, from the grunts who didn”t tell Kevin Tillman that they had killed his brother to the Pentagon’s PowerPoint warriors, obfuscate? Having been involved in a number of organizations, I can attest that that’s what organizations do: try to dodge blame. The main difference in willingness to acknowledge errors I”ve noticed between the Army and the various marketing corporations I worked for is that marketing mistakes less often kill people and break things.
Plus Nadja (read: a vampire movie that’s actually good), the latest Frank Gehry exhibit, Barcelona’s Fiesta de la Merce, and more cultural must-sees this week
Boardwalk Empire, premieres September 19
Set in Atlantic City with the Prohibition era as backdrop, HBO’s newest series, Boardwalk Empire, takes a visceral look into the life of the city’s undisputed (real-life) gangster-in-chief, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, played by the brilliant Steve Buscemi. The show takes a good look at the time and place in US history when being an influential politician and part-time criminal was an attainable reality—and just before the days when full-time violent criminals were commonplace. With direction from Martin Scorsese and writing from The Soprano’s Terrence Winter; along with a cast of terrific actors—including The Wire’s Michael K. Williams—the show has the makings of a top series. If not for the unrelenting tumult and drama of Prohibition’s early days, the show is worth watching for the pure visual feast: the period details include perfectly tailored three-piece suits, on down.
Der Ring des Nibelungen, The Met Opera, New York, September 27 – April 2
Richard Wagner’s 1876 opera usually evokes visions of Otto Schenk’s panoramas, imposing castles, and glowing crags. This, however, is all about to change—with the Metropolitan Opera’s newest production of Wagner’s opus. Maestro James Levine and director Robert Lepage have created a production that promises to bring this four-part opera into the twenty-first century. The production makes use of projection technology, which captures the actors every movement as well as the musical crescendos, while projecting evocative patterns of light and color onto a screen. Meanwhile, singers emote on a stage that is constantly moving and adapting to the music’s fiery orchestral score. Wagner was thought to be ahead of his time when he outfitted his theatre with a hidden orchestra pit and gaslights. What a comfort to see that today’s opera directors are seeking innovation just like their famous predecessor did in the past.
Fish Forms: Lamps by Frank Gehry, The Jewish Museum, New York, through October 31
This exhibit reunites eight of roughly thirty fish-inspired lamps that architect Frank Gehry created during the early 80s. It’s no secret that many of Gehry’s architectural feats are inspired by the loose and fluid forms of aquatic life—especially those reflective scales in his most ambitious works. The idea for these lamps came when he was asked by the Formica Corporation to create some forms with a new laminate material they had developed named Color Core. After a mishap in which the material shattered, inspiration struck, and Gehry created these spectacular light sources. Why the Jewish Museum? Gehry was actually born Frank Goldberg in Toronto in 1929.
The Traveler’s Collection
While everyone relishes those hard to find objects stumbled upon accidentally while on an exotic vacation, in truth most people simply don”t have the time to go on worldly adventures. Now you can get the souvenirs without having to go the distance. This unique website offers some of the world’s finest artisanal goods, minus the treacherous ten-mile hike or five-hour ride on a hand-crafted boat. The site works because people lucky enough to take these trips call in the items they find abroad. Products range from jewelry and apparel to music and home furnishings. The Traveler’s Collection spans the globe, and you can just as easily pick up a bracelet from Laos as a cowhide from Brazil. This is quite possibly a shopaholic’s dream. The only hitch? the prices aren”t exactly dirt cheap. Then again think of what you save on travel costs.
Marshall Street Leisure Center, London
After a thirteen-year renovation, costing roughly £11 million, the Marshall Street Leisure Center is finally reopening its doors to the public. The site was a bath house during the 1850s; though its present structure wasn”t completed until 1931, when it served the local community with public swimming facilities. The main draw is still its 30-meter swimming pool, lined with luscious Swiss and Sicilian marble. The pool is housed beneath a barrel-vaulted ceiling sleek enough to transport one to the days when Britain was known for its notions of comportment, class, and empire. Sadly this new West End “leisure center” is likely to attract the sort of crowd that makes the England of yesteryear seem as long gone as it actually is.
Not Biodegradable, White Space Gallery, Atlanta, through September 14
In a rare gesture, the Whitespace Gallery has opened its doors to not one, but six, Los Angeles-based artists. The Atlanta art scene has a long—and largely successful—reputation for only featuring artists based in Georgia, but in this case opening their doors to outsiders was a smart move. Not Biodegradable is focused on plastic and petroleum-based products, which the artists used to create odd shapes and molds that are at once bulbous and precise. The idea behind such weird art? That these products come as close to lasting forever as anything else in the world and are too often discarded as waste. Eco-friendly and fun.
TechnoCRAFT, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, through October 3
Across the country, this exhibit also explores a new design trend—the so-called “open platform,” in which designers place objects in states that are never static, but rather in a constant state of change as a result of user input. To wit: an Eames chair that was “hacked” to create a baby’s high chair, and an “incomplete” box of metal into which the viewer smashes a sledge hammer, thereby creating a chair. Industrial designer Yves BÃ©har and the center’s executive designer Kenneth Foster combined their visions to create an exhibit specifically focused on how mass consumerism and design need not be enemies—a theme which feels particularly significant at a time when conversations about “open” versus “closed” technological platforms are too wildly debated.
Nadja, BAM, New York, August 31 only
Now that a certain ubiquitous crop of vampire novels, television shows, and movies have shaped an unfortunate generational view of vampires, it’s nice to be reminded that an actually clever film about said demons can also exist. Nadja, directed by Michael Almereyda and produced by David Lynch, is a remake of the 1936 Dracula’s Daughter; the titular character is dispatched to unite an old clan of vampires to fulfill her father’s dying wish. The remake takes place in the beautiful shadows of New York City, offering a film that is at once outrageously styled and self-referential in its absurdity (Peter Fonda plays the aging Van Helsing). It’s a walk down Gen-X’s memory lane, with a soundtrack that includes My Bloody Valentine and Portishead. A Q&A with the director after the screening promises to be especially intriguing.
Fiesta de la Merce, Barcelona, September 23 – 26
Easily Barcelona’s biggest festival of the year, La Fiesta de Merce celebrates the Roman Catholic feast of Our Lady of Mercy. While the festival has long been known for its firework displays (complemented by music conducted at the base of Montujic mountain), its paper mache giants known as gegantes i capgrossos, and perhaps, most famously, its human tower contest—in which men combine to create colossal towers that a child must climb, and takes place in the beautiful Placa de Jaume. This year’s festival promises to be the most passionate ever—thanks to the recent outlawing of bullfighting in Catalonia, thus signaling the strong sense of nationalism that oftentimes compels the region to part ways from the Spanish culture that many think was imposed on them. What is essentially a three-day party with activities that would be illegal in most other cities, this year’s Fiesta de la Merce will surely be one that will leave an imprint on the collective memory of Catalonia and its visitors.
Berlin Music Week, September 6 – 12
Borrowing a page from South by South West’s playbook, the first annual Berlin Music Week will open its door to more than thirty of Berlin’s most beloved clubs for six days of music—and more than likely, debauchery. Make sure to purchase a ticket that allows you to go to a variety of venues; the music ranges from well-known pop acts like The Editors and Hot Chip, jazz acts to Brazilian funk and even the London philharmonic, who will be appearing in a show conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. It’s rare that a music festival actually tries to encompass every genre that fits under musical week, so, if nothing else, the Berlin Music Week is off to a good start.
In 21st century America, institutional racism and sexism remain great twin evils to be eradicated on our long journey to the wonderful world where, at last, all are equal.
What are we to make, then, of a profession that rewards workers with fame and fortune, yet discriminates ruthlessly against women; an institution where Hispanics and Asians, 20 percent of the U.S. population, are neither sought after nor widely seen.
In this profession, white males, a third of the population, retain a third of the jobs. But black males, 6.5 percent of the U.S. population, have 67 percent of the coveted positions—10 times their fair share.
We are talking of the NFL.
In figures reported by columnist Walter Williams, not only are black males 77 percent of the National Basketball Association, they are 67 percent of the players in the NFL.
Yet no one objects that women are not permitted to compete in the NFL. Nor do many object to the paucity of Asian and Mexicans, or the over-representation of blacks, even as white males dominate the National Hockey League and the PGA.
When it comes to sports—high school, collegiate or professional—Americans are intolerant of lectures about diversity and inclusiveness. They want the best—the best in the NFL, the best in the NBA, the best at Augusta, the best at Wimbledon, the best in the Olympics, the best in the All-Star Game, the World Series, the Super Bowl.
When it comes to artistic ability, musical ability, acting ability, athletic ability, Americans accept the reality of inequality. We are not all born equal, other than in our God-given and constitutional rights.
We are not all equally gifted. There are prodigies like pianist Van Cliburn, chess wizard Bobby Fischer, actress Shirley Temple. Every kid halfway through first grade knows who can spell and sing and who cannot, and who is bright and talented and athletic, and who is not.
What most Americans seek is a level playing field on which all compete equally, for what we ultimately seek is excellence, not equality.
Why, then, cannot our elites accept that, be it by nature, nurture, attitude or aptitude, we are not all equal in academic ability?
What raises this issue is the anguish evident in New York over the latest state test scores of public school students, which reveal that the ballyhooed progress in closing the racial achievement gap never happened.
That gap approached closure only by lowering the pass-fail score and by using similar tests, year-after-year, so teachers could prepare the kids to take them.
After a new, tougher state test was used in 2010, where 51 correct answers, not 37, meant achieving the desired grade, the old gaps between Hispanics, blacks, whites and Asians reappeared as wide as they were when Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city schools chief Joel Klein set out to close them.
“We are closing the shameful achievement gap faster than ever,” blared Bloomberg in 2009, in the euphoria of what The New York Times now calls “the test score bubble.”
“Among the students in the city’s third through eighth grades, 40 percent of black students and 46 percent of Hispanic students met state standards in math, compared with 75 percent of white students and 83 recent of Asian students. In English, 33 percent of black students and 34 percent of Hispanic students are now proficient, compared with 64 percent of whites and Asians.”
Appalling, when one considers New York City usually ranks first or second in the nation in per-pupil expenditures.
Nor has George W. Bush’s vaunted No Child Left Behind program fared better. Results of national tests conducted in 2009 make New York students look like the Whiz Kids.
“Forty-nine percent of white students and 17 percent of black students showed proficiency on the fourth-grade English test, up from 45 percent of white students and 14 percent of black students in 2003.”
One in six African-American fourth-grade kids is making the grade.
How many scores of billions did this pathetic gain cost us?
Since 1965, America has invested trillions in education with a primary goal of equalizing test scores among the races and genders. Measured by U.S. test scores, it has been a waste—an immense transfer of wealth from private citizens to an education industry that has grown bloated while failing us again and again.
Perhaps it is time to abandon the goal of educational equality as utopian—i.e. unattainable—and to focus, as we do in sports and art, on excellence.
Teach all kids to the limit of their ability, while recognizing that all are not equal in their ability to read, write, learn, compute or debate, any more than they are equally able to play in a band or excel on a ball field. For an indeterminate future, Mexican kids are not going to match Asian kids in math.
The beginning of wisdom is to recognize this world as it is, not as what we would wish it to be.
Forget Chelsea Clinton. The most glamorous wedding of the year was between Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Tatiana Blatnik which took place this week on the Greek island of Spetses. The bride, an events planner for Diane von Furstenberg’s label in London, arrived in a horse-drawn carriage wearing a stunning gown by Angel Sanchez. Among the royal attendees were Princess Letizia and Prince Felipe, Princess Mary of Denmark, and newlyweds Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel. Queen Sofia of Spain, the sister of Nikolaos’s father, Constantine II, also attended the traditional Greek Orthodox nuptials.
As one marriage begins, another ends: Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren were officially divorced this week, and the Swedish stunner celebrated by giving her first official interview to People. “I feel stronger than I ever have,” she said. “I have confidence in my beliefs, my decisions, and myself.” She reportedly received $100 million to $500 million from the settlement. At a golf tournament this week, Tiger spoke out about the divorce: “It was a lot more difficult than I was letting on.” Don’t think he’s going to take a break and mope. “This is my job,” he said. “This is what I do.”
Meanwhile, Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin are butting heads again. After their two-minute reunion, Levi is saying he’s never going back, and the only thing he regrets is apologizing to Sarah Palin and her family, “‘Cause it kind of makes me sound like a liar. And I’ve never lied about anything.” He says he backtracked only to make Bristol happy. He’s running for mayor of Wasilla with a big splashy reality show documenting the whole thing. Bristol, however, is aiming a little higher: she’s reportedly been cast on the next season of Dancing with the Stars. One question: who’s watching their kid?
The Emmys air this Sunday and all anyone wants to know is—how low with Coco go? His version of the Tonight Show got an Emmy nom, but should Conan O’Brien win, his acceptance speech will be shackled by a non-disparagement agreement, which unfortunately ends only three days after the Emmys air. (After that, anything and anyone—including the much-loathed Jeff Zucker—is fair game.) But there could be one loophole—he’s only restricted from saying anything that’s “false”—and given the high drama that surrounded his acrimonious split from NBC, there’s plenty of truth he could work with. Everyone’s praying for a win to give the usually long ceremony a bit of drama.
Oh, look! Tinsley Mortimer is coming to a Barnes & Noble near you. The socialite has signed a deal with Simon & Schuster to write a novel. Expect plenty of the material to come from her juicy personal life. After High Society was canceled, it’s good to see another opportunity come her way.
After a month of prison and rehab, Lindsay Lohan is back on the streets and actually behaving herself. The 24-year-old, who’s seemingly lived a thousand lives already, jumped back on Twitter immediately after her release from UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Hospital earlier this week, blasting the photographers hounding her. She’s reportedly throwing her energy into getting her career back on track.
Will Forte‘s been one of Saturday Night Live‘s go-to funny guys since he arrived in 2002, but now he’s quitting the late-night show. Most recently famous for MacGruber (which flopped at the box office), Forte is leaving to pursue new opportunities.
Huffington Post had better watch out because John Mayer is mad as hell. The website posted a rumor that the crooner had rekindled his romance with Jennifer Aniston, forcing Mayer to publish a scathing response to the “Internet Death Star” on his Tumblr. “This is reporting? How do you pay your writers now, in Silly Bandz? Do you meet your sources in a malt shoppe? This is equal parts fabricated, cobbled together and misleading,” he wrote. So, does this mean he’s still single? Jennifer hasn’t commented, but may be appearing topless for the first time in a racy upcoming film, so, there’s that. And it couldn’t possibly perform worse than The Switch, right?
Paris Hilton had a nasty scare when a knife-wielding intruder tried to break into her home this week. Luckily, her boyfriend, Las Vegas nightclub owner Cy Waits, was there and had a gun (just like in the movies!). He pointed it at the suspect, who found Hilton’s home with the help of a star map, until cops arrived. Paris has hired two bodyguards to protect her around the clock.
And in happier news, Michael Jackson’s adorable children, 13-year-old Prince Michael and 12-year-old Paris, started school for the first time in California this week. Michael’s mother, Katherine Jackson, has had custody of the three children since her son’s sudden death last summer. Prince wanted to go to school for the “social experience” and their chosen private school is certainly friendly to Hollywood types: Matthew Perry, Nicole Richie, Laura Dern, and Paris Hilton all attended.
Last week, the Belgian magazine Knack published an article with the explosive title “Hitler was related to Somalis, Berbers and Jews.” The news involved a study conducted by journalist Jean-Paul Mulders and customs official Marc Vermereen, who claim to have taken DNA samples from 39 of Adolf Hitler’s relatives through such seemingly dubious sources as a discarded napkin, used cigarette butts, and envelopes from thirty-year-old letters. Several samples allegedly revealed genetic material peculiar to Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardic Jews, and African Berbers. The story quotes “a genetics expert” who says that “Hitler would not have been happy” with the test results.
Another article quotes Mulders as saying that the DNA samples he and Vermereen retrieved from Hitler’s purported relatives matched samples from “DNA of Hitler that we keep in a sealed, armoured chest.” If Mulders indeed said that, pardon me ever so much for thinking he’s a wee bit wacky.
The test subject who appears most closely related to Hitler was an Austrian cousin named “Norbert H.,” although it was not specified whether Mr. H. was a first or a fourteenth cousin. But even if he had been a first cousin and was not the direct product of inbreeding, someone not related to Hitler was also involved in creating Norbert’s DNA. I know nearly nothing about genetics, but at least I know that much.
Despite all this, and although the study’s results have not been independently verified, several major news outlets pounced joyously upon the story as if the matter had been settled beyond the shadow of a feather of a whisper of a twinkling of doubt. “New Research Shows That Hitler Had Jewish Roots,” bellowed the TIME magazine headline. One article declared that the Belgian study established an “irrefutable link” between Hitler and his Jewish ancestry.
Regardless of one’s feelings about Adolf Hitler”and it’s safe to assume that nearly everyone outside of the Islamic world feels negatively toward him”it’s difficult to deny that he has an enduring star power unmatched by anyone else from his generation. You could pull a dozen scruffy teenagers out of any graffiti-bombed skatepark in the USA, and it’s likely that very few of them would have an inkling of who Joe DiMaggio, Winston Churchill, or W. C. Fields were, but it’s hard to conceive that you”d find a single young soul who’s unaware of Hitler.
What’s intergalactically ironic is the fact that it isn”t neo-Nazis who are primarily responsible for keeping Hitler’s memory alive, because at last count, slightly fewer than three dozen neo-Nazis still exist.
Winners write the history books, but Hitler didn”t win. The unmitigated barrage of information the public is force-fed about him is so uniform in its tone and so cartoonishly negative in its content, one wouldn”t exactly be crazy to suggest that it may be orchestrated to advance a specific ideological agenda, although one will automatically be labeled crazy merely for suggesting such a thing.
In a way, anyone who suggests such a thing is “crazy,” but not necessarily in the sense that they”re illogical. These days, for anyone to so much as hint that Hitler may not have been a Two-Dimensional Fire-Breathing Devil Monster is to risk one’s career, personal safety, and membership in the human race. It matters not whether you believe the very idea of “evil” is silly and primitive”if you don”t toe the party line about Hitler being evil incarnate, you”re almost certain to face a bloody social beatdown. Since most sane people want to remain safely inside the herd, risking such a thing is sheer craziness.
For better or worse, I”m crazy like that. The truth has always been insanely more important to me than social acceptance. One truism I stumbled upon accidentally is that the people who yammer most loudly about all living humans” fundamental equality never seem to count dead bodies equally, or they”d be far more vicious toward Stalin and Mao than they are toward Hitler.
Speculation that Hitler was Jewish is not new, nor are allegations that he had one testicle, was gay, conducted a prolonged sexual relationship with his niece, and could only reach orgasm when someone defecated on his face.
But whether true or false, the idea that Hitler was genetically Jewish is fascinating, at least to this here goy.
If true, it would constitute the most egregious example of guilt-projection in world history. If Hitler had African as well as Jewish genes, it would undermine the notion that Caucasians are uniquely disposed toward waging genocidal wars. If the Holocaust had been overseen by a crazed, mixed-race monster, some ne”er-do-wells might construe that as an argument against race-mixing. And perhaps most uncomfortably for the professional Hitler-haters, it would hammer home the idea that race is more than an imaginary “social construct” and can be quantified through DNA testing.
If false, the story instantly becomes even more fascinating to me. What is one to make of an emotional need to discredit Hitler that is so strong, one wades through used napkins, cigarette butts, and envelopes? Why the rush to judgment among the mainstream press? Why the rampaging urge to paint Hitler as a self-loathing hypocrite? Sixty-five years after his death, there are a lot of people who spare no effort to ensure that Hitler remains unhappy. They spend so much time defecating on his long-dead face, you’d think he was still a threat.
Such people are control freaks, just like der FÃ¼hrer.
The afternoon has gently passed me by
The evening spreads it’s sail against the sky
Waiting for tomorrow, just another day
God bid yesterday good-bye
Bring on the night
I couldn’t spend another hour of daylight
Bring on the night
I couldn’t stand another hour of daylight
I play Bring on the Night sometimes when I am getting dressed in the evening, a night out ahead of me. It gets me excited. It fuels the anticipation for what awaits, it reminds me that I love the nighttime, and how it will only end too soon. Not everybody loves the night as much as I do. Many live by day, they cannot live by day and by night. But I can, because the real fun happens when it’s dark, new alliances are forged. I can be my wildest self, and its okay.
In his first book, Notes from the Night: A Life After Dark by Broadway Books, my childhood friend, Taylor Plimpton, bravely confesses his exploits and excesses from more than ten years spent reveling in the New York night. Plimpton, son of the late author and editor of the Paris Review, George Plimpton, grew up, like his father and like me, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He spent his summers and weekends on the South Fork of Long Island, the Hamptons, Sagaponack to be exact. The memoir travels back and forth between the two places, and between Lower Manhattan and Uptown.
Notes is at once endearing, insightful, and personal. Capturing aspects of what must be true for most night owls. Themes of youth, friendship, sex, love, booze, drugs, dancing, and the ubiquitous choices that can make or break an evening. Much of the book delights in Zoo, Plimpton’s best friend, an idiosyncratic tall, dark and handsome type who doesn”t do much but look out for his pals, eat (minimum five meals per day), and party. Zoo is Plimpton’s buddy of choice to tool around the city with, not only because they are so close, but because Zoo has the confidence and savoir faire one needs to navigate the scene successfully.
The two have their habits, and routines, and they have their differences, but deep down what they have is an old, solid friendship. They know each other, they love each other, and they have history together. They make good wingmen. What I enjoyed most about their relationship is not so much the camaraderie, but the verbal exchanges. The dialogue is just right. Of course I haven”t lived in New York since the millennium, but the colloquialisms and inside jokes read just like I remember them. The writing is perfectly peppered with the lingo any kid who was born in the mid seventies and went to private school in the city would know and use.
From there comes the brilliance of the book. It is an insider’s voice. A true New York voice. Not a Brooklyn or Queens or Long Island one, but a New York City tongue. A dialect easy to imitate, but harder to own. Nothing peeves me more than when I ask someone where they”re from and they say New York, and it turns out they were actually raised somewhere completely different. If you are from New York, then you were born and raised there. For example, I was born on 71st street, grew up on 71st street, and went to school within twenty blocks of there. Taylor spent his life up until he became a man and moved out, on 72nd street. He went to school on 98th street. This makes you from New York. If you”re from Iowa, damn it, be proud of that! Living in the city does not make you a friggin” New Yorker, it makes you an arriviste! And perhaps a lonely one at that, because no matter how many friends you have in the city, at work and out in clubs and bars, you don”t have the love, the solid, ancient circle of friends you have in your hometown.
Usually too, if one spends so much time out at night, one is, more than anything else, looking for that deeper connection, where the search for the best party is also a search for intimacy and satisfaction. This is, in part, what motivates Taylor and others like him to spend night after night on the town. But it is the dancing, the drinking, the smoking, the timing and simple pursuit of the night that makes it truly worthwhile, because on the dance floor or at a bar, lasting love is elusive. The ultimate seduction, Plimpton says is a true art. One can but agree. Adding only that perhaps the coyest seduction is that of the night itself, drawing us diurnally into its shadow with fleeting promises. Within my favorite passage from Notes, the author examines the concept that so often eludes an unsatisfied man.
This is the way it is with all human beings. It’s engrained in us to lean toward the things that shy away, and retreat from the things that advance. And this is part of the reason that the art of seduction is such a delicate matter, because you are seeking something that resists being sought.
And so to make women the sole focus of your night, your mission and only contentment, you”re already way off-course. In fact, you”re taking a path that somehow leads away from its own destination…
And then one day, after more than fifteen years of nocturnal carousing, it happened to me, when I least expected it, during the most glorious hour of the night. It was just before dawn, and there he was on the dance floor. And I wanted him too.
In the congressional debates on the 1924 Immigration Act, Rep. William N. Vaile of Colorado, one of the most prominent immigration restrictionists, had this to say:
Let me emphasize here that the restrictionists of Congress do not claim that the “Nordic” race, or even the Anglo-Saxon race, is the best race in the world. Let us concede, in all fairness that the Czech is a more sturdy laborer … that the Jew is the best businessman in the world, and that the Italian has … a spiritual exaltation and an artistic creative sense which the Nordic rarely attains. Nordics need not be vain about their own qualifications. It well behooves them to be humble.
What we do claim is that the northern European and particularly Anglo-Saxons made this country. Oh, yes; the others helped. But … [t]hey came to this country because it was already made as an Anglo-Saxon commonwealth. They added to it, they often enriched it, but they did not make it, and they have not yet greatly changed it.
We are determined that they shall not … It is a good country. It suits us. And what we assert is that we are not going to surrender it to somebody else or allow other people, no matter what their merits, to make it something different. If there is any changing to be done, we will do it ourselves.
“ [Cong. Rec., April 8, 1924, 5922]
After forty years of high immigration a great many Americans believed, like Congressman Vaile, that a continuation of the trend would remake the nation into “something different” from what was familiar and agreeable to them. Not wishing this to happen, they made their feelings known to their federal representatives, who accordingly drafted and passed the 1924 Act. The Act severely limited immigrant numbers and distributed them by quotas based on the ethnic composition of the republic in the 1890 census. It excluded nonwhites—Asians and Africans—from settlement altogether; although, oddly from today’s point of view, allowed unlimited settlement from Latin America.
Congressman Vaile’s language grossly violates modern protocols of course. That is not his fault; and taken at face value, with an understanding of the times, the notions he expresses are humane and sensible. They put the lie to arguments—I heard one in conversation just the other day—that the only motive driving the 1924 restrictionists was a determination to keep out inferior peoples. Plainly Rep. Vaile did not believe Czechs, Jews and Italians to be inferior to “Nordics.” He thought they were fine people: but they had their own countries, and we had our own country, and to go on permitting them to move from there to here in great numbers would change our country more than we wished it changed. Perhaps they would be more usefully employed in changing their own countries, if those countries were so unsatisfactory to them.
Nor was it the case that the sentiment for Asian Exclusion was driven by ideas of white superiority. Rather the contrary, as Kevin MacDonald notes in Chapter 7 of The Culture of Critique:
Representatives from the far West were concerned about the competence and competitive threat presented by Japanese immigrants, and their rhetoric suggests they viewed the Japanese as racially equal or superior, not inferior. For example, Senator [Wesley] Jones [of Washington] stated, “We admit that [the Japanese] are as able as we are, that they are as progressive as we are, that they are as honest as we are, that they are as brainy as we are, and that they are equal in all that goes to make a great people and nation.”
The strongest sentiment in play in those 1924 debates seems to have been a desire that the ethnic balance of the country be left alone, even if this meant excluding clever and industrious people. This desire was still widespread forty years later; or at least, Senator Edward Kennedy assumed it was when, moving the 1965 Immigration Act, he told the chamber:
Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same … Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset …
After 1965 the nation soon fell in thrall to the ideology of diversity, possibly the most reality-defying mass delusion ever to afflict a free people. A quick check with any day’s newspapers will confirm that large populations of different ethnies when mixed together produce nothing but trouble. This fact, as obvious as the daily rising of the sun, was somehow mislaid in late-20th-century America.
Could it be that this phase of our history is coming to a close? It seems to me that in the recent arguments over Arizona’s immigration law and the Ground Zero mosque, I detect a whiff of diversity fatigue. Could it be that the mindset of Congressman Vaile is still to be found, in quantity, among the American public? A mindset not of racial superiority or privilege, still less of “hate,” but of satisfaction with one’s country the way it is, with the ethnic balance it has, and a reluctance to countenance the indefinite continuation of headlong demographic change?
Yesterday I got lost near the railroad station of a nearby town, Hicksville. I stopped people to ask directions to the street I wanted. It took four or five tries before I found someone who could both (a) understand me, and (b) reply in plain English. This was not the teeming slums of a port city, or some adobe outpost in the southwastern desert: this was a provincial town in Long Island.
Then this evening I saw Katie Couric on TV saying: “We cannot let fear and rage tear down the towers of our core American values.”
Is massive, never-ending demographic change a “core American value”? Might objections to the Ground Zero mosque—the topic exercising Ms. Couric’s absurd grandiloquence—be inspired by something other than “fear” and “rage”? Perhaps by the beliefs that this is a good country; that it suits us; and that we are not going to surrender it to somebody else or allow other people, no matter what their merits, to make it something different?
Gstaad. It was a balmy June day, Pentecoste Sunday, a major holiday in France. The Casino de la Corniche was a chic and popular establishment on a rocky spur between Saint-Eugene and Pointe Pescade. The beach was the finest in the area, and the young French lieutenant, scion of a ducal family, went for a swim with a friend. After he walked up the hill, with its plush gardens surrounding the casino, where from 4.00 to 8.00 there was a matinee dansante with couples dancing the fox trot and the tango. By all accounts it was an idyllic scene. “The deep blue of the Mediterranean, the cloudless sky, the honey-colored sand, the intense light, the gulls circling, the young men preening, and the girls pretending not to notice—it was all there for the rich, and even the poor.” I’ve lived such a scene many times, with girls walking by giggling and whispering, and casting side glances to see if they were being noticed. But not on this occasion.
In the late afternoon the lieutenant ambled up to the casino garden and sat under an acacia tree eating spicy sausages. He could hear the strains of the nostalgic tango from the dance floor. His friend wondered why everyone loved this land so much. Because of its beauty, came the answer. As they were speaking, an explosion inside the casino ripped away the walls and windows. The two ran inside down a long hall with a red carpet. The bomb had gone off under the bandstand, which had been torn to pieces. The dance floor was littered with body parts, piano keys and mangled saxophones. The roulette tables were shredded, the croupiers, those who were still moving, writhing on the green felt tables. Rien ne vas plus. His friend picked up a woman’s shoe with the foot still in it. All the victims were French colons. Not a single Arab had been killed because of a very simple reason. The matinee dansante was barred to Arabs. This was Algiers, part of metropolitan France, in 1958. The lieutenant was Sanche de Gramont, now known as Ted Morgan, and I am quoting from his wonderful memoir, My Battle of Algiers. Most of the casualties were under the age of 25. The reaction was swift and brutal. We all know the score. An eye for an eye and so on.
I used to read Morgan as Gramont in the old Herald Tribune when I lived in Paris. He was and is an elegant writer who has written more than 25 books, including a terrific biography of Somerset Maugham. His Battle reads like a detective novel but also like the memoir that it is. The mystery involves how the French under the great General Massu and the even greater Colonel Bigeard, broke the Algiers terrorist network by using—what else—torture. He writes how this disgusted him, but he also chronicles its success. One by one they break and talk. Massu wins the first battle of Algiers, and after two years he wins the second. The heads are all dead or in jail. Lieutenant Charbonniere, the chief torturer, welcomes a French underground communist who was helping the rebels: “Ah, here is our client. You’ve heard about it, you’ve written about it, now you’re going to experience it.” He is talking about the “gegene,” the pincers the red beret paras of Massu attached to a person’s genitals.
After the final victory of Algiers, the war was lost back in Paris. Algiers was safe but Algeria was not. The Fourth Republic, headed by dreadful self-satisfied cowards, collapsed and De Gaulle came to power. He betrayed the army but not France. The paras had won a useless victory. I knew and admired Massu—he was mad about tennis—but my hero was and is Bigeard, the idol of Dienbienphu and Algiers, many times wounded but impervious to pain or death. He only died recently.
Morgan’s descriptions of the Casbah and the sweetness of life in Algiers are superb. I visited this miserable country only eight years after independence. The place was a dump, poor and sad, the magic and mystery gone. Many friends of mine, Jean Claude Sauer, Guy de Rougemont, Pascal Busson, Kim d’Estainville and many others had fought there. And won. When the picture The Battle of Algiers was reissued not long ago, Morgan meets the man, Yacef Saadi who gave away the last holdout, Ali la-Pointe. Saadi was never tortured yet took full credit for the film as he helped Pontecorvo give the movie its gritty sense. Bigeard appears as Colonel Mathieu. I highly recommend the book to American military leaders in Afghanistan, better yet to the idiots back home who have sent them there.
And as I’m writing about books, don’t miss Piers Paul Read’s The Misogynist. I first read Piers back in 1972, in Alive. I knew one of the young men who survived the Andes crash. I’ve read Read ever since and his latest novel is all about modern life—memory, sadness, mourning, self-examination, and forgiveness. It made me feel good after the sadness of reading about Algiers. Reading, of course, is the antidote to seeing shrinks. If someone had told me that reading about how a friend, Andrea von Stumm, overcame the ravages of alcoholism in a mountain clinic, I would have bet my life that I would never read pass the first page. Yet I read One Hell of a Paradise in one sitting, published by Quartet. (My own publisher.) Stumm, whose father fought in Stalingrad, writes like a dream as well as for Takimag. Read on.
Recently, China overtook Germany as the world’s largest exporter. And just the other day, China was calculated to have overtaken Japan as the second largest economy in the world. China is on a roll, or even on a tear, if you prefer. It is unlikely that Dick Nixon and Hank Kissinger foresaw something like this in their wildest dreams back in 1972, when they undertook to play the China Card as a way to poke the Kremlin in the eye. Probably they simply deduced that it was counterproductive to keep such a large, nuclear-armed country in isolation, and that it was better to make contact with Chairman Mao before he exited for the great Red Stockade in the sky.
In any event, here we are. Some foreign policy experts feel that the rise of China as an economic superpower means that it will emerge as a military threat to the U.S. This may seem understandable with the U.S. fast-fading as the world’s lone surviving superpower. Professor John Mearsheimer, of Israel Lobby fame, has cautiously expressed this idea in a recent guest lecture in Australia, at the University of Sidney. He talks in Mahanian terms about China. He posits, for example, that China will feel the need to “protect their sea-lanes and not have to depend on the American navy to handle that mission.” Mearsheimer got me to thinking. Is China going to eventually build a two or three ocean navy, in emulation of the U.S.? Is it going to invade Taiwan to “reunite” it with the mainland? Does China have designs upon Japan?
My feeling is, the rise of China may not pose a genuine problem, despite Professor Mearsheimer’s analysis. What is happening is only natural, brought about by an abnormal set of circumstances which Washington imposed upon the Asian Pacific littoral. I am referring to the obliteration of the Empire of Japan and its replacement by a Japan, which was designed ever-afterward to be a geopolitical midget in the Far East like a truncated Germany was designed to be the same thing in the West.
“Let’s make a concerted effort to stay on good terms with both China and Japan. Let’s avoid confrontation with these two economic colossi in the Far East. At this stage, America really has no other choice.”
Times have changed. Washington and Beijing are in a full, de facto economic alliance, which should continue far into the future. If they are economically joined at the hip, what is the incentive for conflict? They are mutually dependent, but America is clearly in decline. The strength of a nation flows from within and expands outward. The success of its foreign policy will be in close symmetry to that inner strength or lack thereof. A nation as heavily in debt as the United States—while concurrently beset by countless internal economic nightmares, which have long been neglected—cannot continue as a serious, respected power in the world.
There is no rational reason at this point in time for the U.S. to be deploying a fleet of aircraft carriers and other assets on the high seas and on land from Korea to Japan to Australia to India, and back across the Pacific. It is meaningless to do that now, just like it would be meaningless for England to do it, the British Empire having self-destructed decades ago. The geniuses in Whitehall realized too late that they had bankrupted the Empire in two pointless, vainglorious and avoidable world wars, and that they could no longer maintain a presence East of Suez. Washington is still at it, thanks to the force of habit and egocentricity. Of course, there remains Japan, a near-defenseless ally of the U.S. thanks to World War II. But there is no sign China has designs on Japan that I am aware of. In any event, it is inevitable for circumstances to reset to “normal” for lack of a better term.
Post Vietnam, post Mao Tse-tung, and post Cold War, what remains to be done in the Far East and the Pacific is to bring about an amicable dissolution of the U.S.-Japanese defense treaty, which is nothing but a fig leaf for the American sphere of influence in Asia, corresponding to NATO in Europe. The policy of treating Japan like a client-state has been inappropriate, insulting to Japan, counter-productive and is now wildly superannuated. This situation is not in America’s or Japan’s best interest—anymore than President Franklin Roosevelt’s deliberate policy of forcing Japan to embark upon war with America was a good idea for the Far East or the world.
A potential problem may arise after America has faded from the scene, like England before it. Perhaps a rivalry will reignite between Japan and China, leading to conflicts in the Far East, similar to that of the 1920’s and 30’s. On the other hand, it is more likely that leaders in Japan and China have learned from the past, and will not repeat the same mistakes. Moreover, thanks to the implosion of the Soviet Union brought about by Ronald Reagan, and the opening up of China under Nixon, the threat of nuclear Armageddon has 98% been eliminated from both Russia and China. They have been knocked out as threats to world peace and prosperity by globalism and common sense.
Meanwhile, Uncle Sam is being taken for a ride, big time, by the usual suspects back in Washington. Zionism and the Israel-first fanatics, like the Comintern and the Soviets before them, are the real problem confronting America and the world today. The deluded and intellectually dishonest surrogates for Likud—whether it be “the Neocons” or the so-called “liberal Democrats”—are every bit as dangerous as the agents of international Communism were in days gone by. While redirecting our priorities and waking up to reality, let’s make a concerted effort to stay on good terms with both China and Japan. Let’s avoid confrontation with these two economic colossi in the Far East. At this stage, America really has no other choice.