Yesterday The American Spectator published my book review,"Bear Market's First Bagged Bear", of former investment banker William D. Cohan's book, House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street.
Author Amity Shlaes, long a writer at the Wall Street Journal, published in 2007 a masterful book on the years 1929 - 1940 in America, covering the disastrous term of Herbert Hoover, FDR's first two terms and the 1940 election that vaulted FDR into uncharted territory with an unprecedented third term (which led to adoption, after the Second World War, of the 22nd Amendment limiting Presidents to two consecutive terms). AS's book, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, centers on the seminal events of America's worst and most protracted economic crisis, which did not fully end until we engaged Japan & Germany in a titanic struggle that unleashed FDR's Arsenal of Democracy. AS could not have known when she published her work that within a matter of months the August 2007 sub-prime mortgage collapse burst the housing bubble, and set in motion the train of events that led to a near-total global financial meltdown in late 2008, elected Barack Obama President and led to a revival of the Depression-era economist John Maynard Keynes and a turn to FDR as the model for rescuing America from economic depression via massive government stimulus and regulatory intervention.
The fact that the book was published before everything hit the fan makes it more persuasive, because no one can plausibly allege that it was written to help one side or another take a policy stand in the midst of the policy debate in 2009. The basic thesis AS offers is this: That while the GD had many causes, the biggest mistake policymakers made, which turned a market crash and recession into a protracted deflationary depression, was lack of faith in private markets. Government spending did some good in some places--bridges to somewhere, in today's parlance; but many bridges to nowhere were built, too.
Herbert Hoover emerges as a personally decent but terminally clueless President, one who simply failed to grasp the fundamental nature of the unfolding crisis, and whose anti-market nostrums--raising taxes, promoting tighter monetary policy and signing the protectionist Smoot-Hawley tariff that ignited an international trade war--destroyed public faith in free market economics. FDR did not grasp much in the way of basic economics, but his policy advisers, endlessly energetic, turned out good and bad ideas in profusion; FDR took nearly all of them. Some were good--the Civilian Conservation Corps that beautified America's public parks--while others were a flop--the National Labor Relations Act, which inflated wages and ignited industrial class warfare. But unlike Hoover, who, behind his crusty reserve, seems a nice person, FDR was, on the author's evidence, a man whose vast personal charm masked a self-righteous, imperious, vindictive, deceptive, manipulative personality. FDR was, in all, a nasty piece of work.
The classic case of FDR's nastiness was when top FDR aide Rexford Tugwell met with President Hoover between the 1932 election and FDR's March 4 inauguration. Hoover asked for FDR's cooperation in staving off an imminent back collapse. Tugwell, speaking for FDR, replied that FDR knew of this, but preferred to let it happen, so that Hoover would get the blame. Hoover assessed the exchange thus:
"When I consider this statement of Professor Tugwell's in connection with the recommendations we have made to the incoming administration, I can say emphatically that he breathes with infamous politics devoid of every atom of patriotism. Mr. Tugwell would project millions of people into hideous losses for a Roman Holiday."
Tugwell was, of course, speaking for FDR.
Enter Wendell Willkie, a top-drawer utility company executive who waged a losing battle against the Tennessee Valley Authority. WW was a lifelong Democrat who switched parties in 1939, and lost not because the New Deal was so popular then, but because with winds of war blowing FDR's experienced hand at the helm was what most voters wanted.
FDR's back and forth experiments with policy created uncertainty that paralyzed markets; his denunciations of big business led to a capital strike by businessmen afraid to invest in a hostile climate. His caprice included, in setting the daily dollar price of gold--the US having in 1933 gone off the gold standard of $20 per ounce, to return in 1934 at $35 per ounce--picking a 21 cent rise one morning because, as FDR told his astonished Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, it was 3 times his lucky number of 7. John Maynard Keynes told FDR that his gold price moves looked like "gold standard on the booze." JMK also said: "It is a mistake to think businessmen any more immoral than politicians."
Of FDR's agricultural wage & price fixing per the National Recovery Act, the poet Odgen Nash penned these lines:
Mumbledy, pumbledy, my red cow,
She's cooperating now.
At first she didn't understand
That milk production must be planned...
...But now the government reports
She's giving pints instead of quarts.
AS contrasts two visions of who exemplifies the "Forgotten Man":
William Graham Sumner of Yale, in 1883, a classical liberal view:
As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X, or in the better case, what A, B, And C shall do for X....What I want to do is look up C. I want to show you what manner of man he is. I call him the Forgotten Man. Perhaps the appellation is not strictly correct. He is the man who never is thought of....
He works, he votes, generally he prays--but he always pays....
The FM was re-invented in 1931 by FDR, then in his second term as Governor of New York:
These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
Thus, writes AS, did FDR re-identify the FM has not C, but X. C is a taxpaying working man, asked to support X. X is a recipient of public--taxpayer--largesse. Thus did Sumner exalt producers, while FDR exalted recipients--to be fair, some former producing workers who lost jobs, but also some who never did produce in the marketplace. Thus was born the Big Government Welfare State. Government spent two percent of GDP in 1933. By 1936 it had doubled, to 4 percent, and for the first time in American history exceeded the share of expenditure provided by states and localities. It doubled again before World War II, to 9 percent. In 2007 the federal government budget was about 20 percent of total Gross Domestic Product. In 2009 it will be more like 35 to 40 percent of GDP, a level typical in Europe.
Amity Shlaes has written a must-read, riveting account of the Great Depression Years, told with acuity of historical perspective, keen analysis, wit, and fairness to all sides. It is, simply, a must-read.
BTW, among those who has not forgotten FDR is...Hugo Chavez. Yes, THAT Hugo Chavez. He told Venezuelan voters who yesterday were voting on a referendum to abolish term limits and let President Chavez run for life, that FDR has served four terms as President. (Apparently, Chavez omitted saying that the 22nd Amendment imposed term limits because of FDR's precedent-breaking terms. Hmmm....)
As Christmas and family time approach, here is Chopin's greatest melody--in the opinion of the composer himself--in two classical renditions and a pair of song creations by 20th century lyricists using the first theme's magnificent melody, nicknamed (not by Chopin) Tristesse--French for sadness. Late-20th century super virtuoso Maurizio Pollini, recorded an audio version with stills (3:41); he is without peer on the Chopin Etudes (the later word is French for "study," as in technical exercise; in the Wiki entry linked here, on the right side of the Composition paragraph are depicted Chopin's opening 3 bars of Tristesse). Ignace Padereski's audio version (4:27) gives a feel for what a pianist of the late-19th to early 20th century played like. For modern adaptations there are two songs created on the first theme. Here is "So Deep is the Night" (3:45) featuring an Irish tenor; and here is "No Other Love" by legendary mid-20th century songstress Jo Stafford.
2008 has been truly annus horribilis. This bewitching melody is appropriate as a coda to 2008. But its glorious soaring melody for the ages and exquisite chordal accompaniment give the listener hope for better times.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all.
Last Wednesday Jo Stafford, whose three-decade singing career spanned the mid-'30s to the mid-'60s, passed on, age 90. A New York Times obit offers many fascinating nuggets. Her apex was her World War II singing with the Tommy Dorsey band, and her sterling sweet voice made her "GI Jo" to her soldier fans. Stafford was cited by Frank Sinatra, then also with Dorsey, as a major influence on the phrasing style developed by Ol' Blue Eyes. Asked why she resisted comebacks like Rosemary Clooney & Patti Page, Staford quipped: "For the same reason that Lana Turner is not posing in bathing suits anymore."
Two wartime Staford classics were "Long Ago & Far Away" (2:57, by Jerome Kern) & "I'll Be Seeing You" (3:21, by Sammy Fain). A bonus: "You Belong to Me" (3:16, by Chilton Price & two helpers), which in my youth I thought a doo-wop song--though composed in 1952, it belongs to the Great American Songbook. Courtesy of YouTube, you now can hear why Jo sold 25 million records. Now, listen to a 1940 recording of Sinatra singing "There Are Such Things" (3:37--3:00 without the credits,Stanley Adams, Abel Baer & George Meyer) backed by the Pied Pipers, of whom Jo was the leading singer; the clip has a video still montage in which you will see lovely Jo as she looked then.
Lest you think everything the Dorsey band did was ballads, try this: Dorsey's other young rising male superstar was drummer Buddy Rich. In a 1942 film featuring the band, Rich, though not yet in his prime, sizzles with "Hawaiian War Chant" (3:20), a Dorsey chart number composed to feature Rich and trumpeter Ziggy Elman, with a generous dollop of The Sentimental Gentleman (TD) himself, plus, near the end, a bonus finale with Eleanor "Lady Taps" Powell sashaying sexily in a grass skirt and halter top.
Jo, farewell from a no-longer young fan, as you take with you one of the last pieces of America's Golden Age of great homegrown music and performance. "Long Ago and Far Away" you may have been but like many fans "I'll Be Seeing (& Listening to) You" in my musical memory until the end.
Take a trip down memory lane with the text of Ronald Reagan's legendary "Men of Point du Hoc" speech at Normandy, at the 40th anniversary commemoration of D-Day. And remember the heroes whose sacrifice saved France, and the civilized world, from the ascendancy of barbarism. We face a new barbarism today.
My last month's trip made its last stop in Casablanca. Rick's Cafe (yes, there is one) opened in the city on March 1, 2004, with $1 million raised from American and Moroccan investors by the owner, an ex-US diplomat named Kathy Kriger. I became the second visitor to play the piano there, playing (naturally) As Time Goes By. The proprietor, who goes by Madame Rick, jealously guards her 1930s vintage Pleyel grand. Pleyel was one of France's two hallowed piano manufacturing names, the other being Erard. In the Paris salon of the 1830 and 1840s, Liszt preferred Erard, Chopin Pleyel. (To my surprise, it turns out that the firm is still around. Pleyel's website tells the enchanting story of the firm's history, and is well worth a visit. (For the history of now-defunct Erard, see this website).
The Casablanca epic begins with the song, written by long forgotten Herman Hupfeld (1984 - 1951), for a 1931 play entitled Everybody's Welcome, which ran over 100 performances, long enough to repay its backers. Hupfeld wrote two other songs which sold better in the 1930s, but after the movie ATGB surpassed everything he ever wrote, and supported him for the last eight years of his life. It surfaced next in 1940, in the unproduced play Everybody Comes to Rick's, the original title of the movie.
Music director Max Steiner was a prodigy who had completed an eight-year music curriculum at the Vienna Imperial Academy of Music in a single year, to graduate at age 13. Already a major force in Hollywood, Steiner had composed Tara's Theme for Gone With the Wind, and scored the music for King Kong. Steiner hated ATGB, and planned to compose his own ballad, but was thwarted by circumstance: Ingrid Bergman (1915 - 1982), whose presence in one scene was essential if a new song was to be substituted, had already cut her hair short to prepare for the movie part she wanted far more than any other, that of the peasant girl in the film version Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, compared to which she regarded Casablanca as mere trifle. Thus, her scene asking Sam to play her favorite song could not be re-shot.
Ironically, Bergman was second choice for Ilsa, getting the part because Warner could pay her $25,000, instead of playing first choice Michelle Morgan the $55,000 she demanded. (Morgan would make but three films, but did co-star with Bogart in 1944's Passage to Marseille.) Bergman was apolitical (her mother was German); her only satisfaction was escaping Rochester, New York, where her first husband was in medical school.
The movie was made in 1942, starting May 25 and finishing stage work August 3; the script lacked an ending and a precise resolution for Rick and Ilsa until near the end of shooting. The original play had the sacrifice ending of Ilsa leaving with her husband for Lisbon, but the motive was unclear. The war provided the larger cause, and the Production Code morality rules provided another reason Ilsa could not run off with Rick. To allow that, she would have to have been single, which would have entailed revising the Paris flashback, as to why Ilsa leaves Rick. Also, in the play, Rick is arrested after the couple flees, a finale not conceivable with the war on.
Casablanca opened Thanksgiving Day, November 26, to take advantage of the November 1942 invasion of North Africa, with the city all over the news. It was nominated for 8 Oscars in 1943--its Oscar eligibility was dated by its initial Los Angeles opening, in January 1943. Seventh in box office receipts in 1943, it won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. This happened despite having at least six screenwriters, with a script half done before shooting started, and one day ahead of shooting for the last third of production. Humphrey Bogart (1899 - 1957) was the choice of producer Hal Wallis, winning out over Jack Warner's favorite, George Raft. Raft could have played Rick Blaine's cynical side, but the tender side would, for him, have been a stretch.
The movie made Bogart a sex symbol, which he laughed off, saying: "Anytime that Ingrid Bergman looks at a man, he has sex appeal." Bogey and Ingrid Bergman, far from being lovers, were cool to each other; Bergman wasn't chummy with anyone.
Want more? Arthur "Dooley" Wilson (1894-1953)--his "Dooley" moniker came from his having, early in his career, sung Irish songs in whiteface--could not play the piano; he was a singer who could play a little drums. Incredibly, the part was nearly turned into a female role, then to be offered to either singer Lena Horne or singer-pianist Hazel Scott. Wilson's piano part was played, without credit, by Elliot Carpenter (1984 - 1961); Wilson imitated Carpenter, who played a piano off-camera. (Among those fooled was a nightclub owner who later hired Wilson for a gig, only to discover that Wilson needed a pianist.)
Conrad Veidt (1893 - 1943), who so convincingly played the sinister Nazi Major Strasser, was in fact an ardent anti-Nazi, and married then to his second wife, a Jew. A British citizen, he donated most of his Hollywood income to British war relief. Veidt, tragically, was the first major cast member to die, collapsing on the golf course months after the film opened. He had begun his career as a silent-film romantic lead. Of Strasser, Veidt said: "This role epitomizes the cruelty and the criminal instincts and murderous trickery of the typical Nazis. I know this man well. He is the reason I gave up Germany many years ago. He is a man who turned fanatic and betrayed his friends, his homeland, and himself in his lust to be somebody and to get something for nothing."
Paul Henreid (1908 - 1992) had an Austrian aristocratic heritage--his father had been knighted by Emperor Franz Joseph--that fit perfectly his role as the Czech anti-Nazi resistance leader. Yet Henried was second choice, behind Austrian actor Philip Dorn, who could not take the part because he was committed to make Random Harvest. Henreid (whose anti-Nazi credentials were also impeccable) disliked his role and the film, whose plot he thought a "ridiculous fairy tale," and also disliked Bogart, whom he thought a mediocre actor and crybaby. Henreid won co-star billing, but the movie did not do for him what it did for Bogey & Bergman. His romantic image was tarnished by playing the noble hero, while Bogey's soared due to his being the cynical hero of the film. He was persuaded to take the role by his agent, the legendary Lew Wasserman, who said that it would cement Henreid's anti-Nazi credentials which, as an Austrian refugee but technically a German citizen, he needed in wartime America.
Peter Lorre (1904 - 1964), a Hungarian Jew, spoke less than 400 words as the sinister Signor Ugarte; his first big American success was as the movie detective, Mr. Moto, a role hardly in character with Lorre's main screen persona. Sydney Greenstreet (1879 - 1954), who made his screen debut at age 61 in The Maltese Falcon (1941) injected intrigue as Signor Ferrari, the black-marketeer and rival owner. But Greenstreet had enjoyed a forty-year stage career, prominently featuring Shakespearean roles and comedy, before creating his unique brand of screen menace. Claude Rains (1889 - 1967), as "poor corrupt official" Captain Louis Renault, had been a versatile actor of screen and stage. Like Henreid, he was fresh from the finish of the Bette Davis tear-jerker, Now, Voyager. Lorre, Greenstreet and Rains were the off-camera pals of Bogey.
More than six writers (the exact tally is unclear) worked on the script. Most of the credit would go not to the play's co-creator, Murray Burnett, whose 1938 trip to Vienna, where he saw anti-Semitism in full ugly flower, and visited a nightclub in southern France that provided him with a setting for his play (as well as a Paris nightclub named, yes...La Belle Aurore). His co-author, Joan Allison, wanted a Clark Gable type, not Bogey, whom she called "a common drunk." Howard Koch, last to work on it, would take the lion's share of the credit (more, he eventually came to admit, then he deserved). But the sizzling dialogue was mostly provided by the irreverent Epstein brothers, Philip and Julie, with whom Koch shared the screenplay Oscar. While in Washington making documentaries, they wrote the studio and suggested: "[T]ry to get a foreign girl for the part. An American girl with big tits will do." Asked by the studio to fill out a wartime loyalty form, their answer to a question asking if they had ever been members of a subversive organization, "yes," and put down as its name "Warner Brothers." Koch provided most of the film's political slant. (The Epsteins got their job because the studio's first choice, author Dashiell Hammett, who had done the script for The Maltese Falcon, was unavailable, having signed on for another Warner movie, Watch on the Rhine (1943); its star, Paul Lukas, would beat Bogey out for Best Actor in 1943. Yet another writer at Warner, Casey Robinson, was brought in to refine the love triangle plot among the three main stars; he shaped Ilsa hoping that a Russian actress named Tamara Toumanova would get the role. She did not, but later became Robinson's wife. Producer Hal Wallis wrote the last line, which Bogey recorded in a voice-over after shooting ended.
Director Michael Curtiz (1886 - 1962) was second choice, after William Wyler. Curtiz was a vulgar slave-driver on the set, hating and bullying actors, save those too big a star for him to do so, like Bogey. Curtiz, a Hungarian expatriate, barely spoke English, and his malapropisms were legendary. On one set Curtiz, angered that it had taken too long for a Coa-Cola to be brought to him, said: "Next time I send some dumb son-of-a-bitch for Coca-Cola, I go myself." But he could be bitingly funny, as with a starlet who was put into a film because she was the producer's lady love. Her scene flubs ran shooting past midnight, causing Curtiz to explode: "Goddamn it, Rene, you fuck to get in my picture and now you fuck my picture." But Curtiz treated Bergman regally. And his camera work was regarded in the industry as tops.
Only two of the original cast remain alive today: Joy Page, the step-daughter of studio co-head Jack Warner, and who at age 17 landed the role of the Bulgarian bride whose husband (played by the late Helmut Dantine) Rick lets win at roulette, so she needn't "Go back to Bulgaria!"; and Madeliene LeBeau, barely past her teens (her exact age is in dispute), who played the French girl Rick jilts, as who was married to Marcel Dalio (1900 - 1983), the celebrated pre-war French actor running the roulette table at Rick's; he filed for a divorce during filming. The "vignte-deux twice" roulette scene had a real-life precursor: Two months before shooting began, Philip Epstein's wife had lost 25 cents (yes, a quarter) at a roulette table in Palm Springs, California. She cried so much that the croupier told her to put her money on 22. She won, and the croupier told her to leave and never return. Other small but notable roles went to comrades. Leonid Kinskey (1903 - 1998), the Russian bartender Sascha, was a drinking buddy of Bogey's; S. Z. ("Cuddles") Sakall (1884 - 1955), as Carl the maitre d', was a childhood chum of Curtiz's.
For added color, singer Corinna Mura (1909 - 1965), an exotic belle, did a pair of mood-setting songs in the movie, strumming her guitar; she had performed for FDR at the White House three times, and had her own radio show. Most roles in the film went to refugees, with only three credited American-born players: Bogey, Dooley Wilson and Joy Page. This imparted a flavor of mystery to the film American actors couldn't have done. (In all, counting behind-scenes staff, 34 nationalities were represented in the production--even Australia, via celebrated costume designer Orry-Kelly.)
Why does Casablanca work? First, because Rick is finally able to resolve the conflict between his love for Ilsa and his sympathy for the anti-Nazi cause when Ilsa offers to go with him and leave her resistance leader husband. Ilsa's offer salves Rick's wounded pride--never had he lost the affections of a lady to anyone. Claude Rains supplies realpolitik spice to the mix, and others (notably Lorre and Greenstreet) add incomparable embellishment. Top talent took minor roles. Marcel Dalio starred in two of the most famous films ever made, Jean Renoir's art-film classics, Grand Illusion (1937) and Rules of the Game (1939), but had to re-start his career after emigrating to America, where he was unknown.
The other major factors in the film's super success were its felicitous timing, and the studio system that produced it. Autocratic in the extreme, even exploitative, the studios used their power to keep actors, directors and theaters in line. The seven-year contract enabled studios to make actors toe the line, or be suspended. Films rolled out on or near schedule. Theaters were made to take films they did not want, in order to get those they coveted. This practice of "block booking" was broken by the federal government in 1948, on antitrust grounds. The studio contract was challenged by Olivia De Havilland, and broken by 1954. Power devolved to the stars and their whims. Control was thus fragmented. No integrated artistic product is made at its best with production control sundered.
Since the 1960s, a picture generally gets made only if Big Star wants to do it. If not, no matter how good the material, it dies. Hollywood nearly died in the 1970s. It was rescued by the astounding growth of secondary outlets: cable television, VCRs, DVDs and huge foreign markets. Today, $7 of $8 in revenue earned by films comes from secondary markets. In 1982, the original script, re-typed and given its original title of Everybody Comes to Rick's, was sent by writer Chuck Ross to 217 agencies; 85 read it, with only 33 recognizing what it really was; 38 rejected it outright.
At times, the film has been egregiously bowdlerized, too. In postwar Germany and Sweden all references to Nazis were removed. In 1976 I watched movies on WPIX (NYC's Channel 11) during the 1976 Democratic Convention. Casablanca was one of the films aired, without the Paris flashback, so that 5-minute reports on the progress of the Convention could be shown. Trading Bogey for Jimmy Carter was not what I and other viewers had in mind then.
Sam never did "Play it again, Sam" as in the title of Woody Allen's movie (which holds up well--enjoy especially Jerry Lacey's Bogie impression). But all in all, it's still the same old story. "Sam, "Play It!" At Madame Rick's cafe!!!
References: Howard Koch's Casablanca: Script and Legend (1973) has the full script, plus essays, including Koch's own recollections (later revised, as noted above) plus some comments from college-age fans of the early 1970s. Frank Miller's Casablanca: As Time Goes By (Turner Publishing 1993) is the lavishly illustrated 50th anniversary edition, and adds delectable nuggets. Aljean Harmetz's Round Up The Usual Suspects (Hyperion 1992) is the most comprehensive account of the film, with abundant detail on its creation, production and shooting, and its aftermath. Jazz critic Will Friedwald's superb Stardust Melodies: A Biography of Twelve of America's Most Popular Songs (Pantheon Books 2002) tells the improbable saga of As Time Goes By.
In 204, just in time for the elections, a CIA analyst named Michael Sheuer published Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror, doing so under the pseudonym "Anonymous" because at the time he was still with the CIA. The book is a slashing critique of the Bush Administration's conduct of the war on terror. The author maintains that even the Afghan campaign was a disaster, that Afghanistan is, in the end, ungovernable and will revert to tribalism no matter what we do, and that bin Laden and al-Qaeda are doing just fine and getting stronger by the day, all the while laughing at our ineptitude. Further, he argues that the reason behind bin Laden's war has nothing whatever to do with a desire to destroy America and the West, or even Israel, let alone to create a global caliphate. Rather, he says that the problem is US Mideast policy, and thus the solution is for the US to stop supporting nasty Mideast regimes and to lean on Israel to settle the Palestinian issue once and for all.
But that is not what is most intriguing about the book. Set aside that there are a number of al-Qaeda missives calling for establishment of the very caliphate the author denies bin Laden desires. Also set aside that bin Laden's fatwas do not seek implementation of UN security Council 242, but rather the expulsion of the US and the "Zionist Crusader state" from the Mideast. Ending our dependence on Persian Gulf oil is key to our disengaging. Bin Laden's reasons for desiring this are religiously inspired: Crusaders and Zionists in his Holy Land. To be fair, the author also says we should have struck instantly after 9/11 with a massive barrage that might have killed more al-Qaeda, including bin Laden; yet later he says that key leaders left the camps days before 9/11. And elsewhere in the book the author chides us for lack of ruthlessness; we should, he says, be willing to inflict many more collateral casualties, without compunction.
But what really makes Scheuer's book interesting is what he has to say about Osama.
First, the author compares Osama to Robin Hood (p. 18) and Errol Flynn (p. 18) and (not making this up) Robert E. Lee (p. 19). (Re Flynn, one thinks of the title of his 1959 autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways; Osama sure has those, and far worse vices than Flynn's.) But the topper is this passage on p. 168, speaking of Osama's "person and character":
"There is no reason, based on the information at hand, to believe bin Laden is anything other than what he appears: a pious, charismatic, gentle, generous, talented, and personally courageous Muslim who is blessed with sound strategic and tactical judgment, able lieutenants, a reluctant but indispensable bloody-mindedness, and extraordinary patience." I wonder which adjective--"gentle," "generous" or courageous"--best describes ordering the slitting of flight attendants' throats, crashing planes filled with jet fuel burning at the temperatures of the ovens of Auschwitz, beheading captives, sending juvenile suicide bombers? In the event, one finds references to gentility and courage in the Boy Scout law and to reverence in both the law and the Scout Oath (scroll down). Osama did do better than we as to the Scout Motto (scroll down): "Be prepared." But Osama is not too swift on the Scout Slogan (scroll down): "Do a good turn daily." Even Hillary gets it, having called Osama "evil" while campaigning in Iowa.
One wonders how many analysts in the bowels of CIA and State share this view of Osama. Keep in mind that this book was cleared by the CIA before its release. (Then again, as writer David Frum notes in a piece on Syrian intelligence, the CIA relies on it, despite evidence of its dubious value.) One also wonders if any of the media folks who lionized the author bothered to read the book. More likely, it was just another way to bash the President in an election year. This is not to say that the author may not be proven right about Afghanistan. The jury is still out. But it would be interesting to see how widely his view of OBL is shared inside our government. Do not expect any Administration to investigate this, however. We wouldn't want another "witch hunt," would we?
A slim volume published this year is heftier in content than the vast majority of 500-page doorstops masquerading as books that are sold today to customers who assume that a short book means few things to say. Arms control expert (one of the very best ever) Fred Ikle's Annihilation From Within (Columbia University Press 2006) is both deeply depressing and deeply brilliant. He writes:
"The greatest threat to the world order in this century will be the next Hitler or Lenin, a charismatic leader who combines utter ruthlessness with a brilliant strategic sense, cunning, and boundless ambition--and who gains control over just a few weapons of mass destruction."
Ikle begins by pointing to a cultural split that was opened during the Enlightenment and has been widening ever since. He writes: "This widening split is ominous. It might impair the social cohesion of societies, and of nations, by drawing the human psyche in two directions: to the personal and national identity that resides in acquired beliefs, memories and traditions of the past; and to the promise of greater wealth and power offered by untrammeled technological progress."
Technology may create in but a generation computers more powerful than the human brain. This will exacerbate the cultural split. While in civilized countries ethical and religious concerns will limit the research done, in other places no such limits apply. Synthetic bio-agents may make natural ones seem like a stroll in the park.
Ikle distills five lessons from the nuclear age: (1) benevolence is not enough; (2) deterrence was oversold; (3) we were lucky--so far; (4) nuclear accidents remain a grave danger; (5) beware of "peaceful use." The last point is most salient. The greatest impetus to nuclear proliferation was the spectacularly idealistic--and even more spectacularly dumb--Atoms for Peace program instituted by President Eisenhower in 1953. Intended to spur commercial nuclear power, it wound up diffusing nuclear know-how--for weapons and well as power plants--far more rapidly than otherwise would have been the case.
Ikle warns: "The ineluctable dissemination of technology and scientific discoveries will make nuclear and biological weapons accessible to merciless insurgent movements, small terrorist gangs, secretive anarchist groups, and genocidal doomsday cults." In event of an attack, our government may not be able to trace it (the 2001 anthrax attacks in the US remain unsolved), and in the emergency after a WMD attack governments must rely on procedures already in place. Dumb bureaucrats are a big problem: After the US victory in Afghanistan a Taliban Afghan won permission to emigrate to the UK, because he feared (so he said, at least) persecution by the new, democratic government!!
Survival demands, Ikle writes: (1) continuity of government measures in place; (2) a path to resume nuclear non-use after a nuclear attack; (3) global economy focus; and (4) a spiritual restoration. Ikle's closing note is that our "common emotional bond" with the American Constitution is a vital assets to rely on. This last point is true only if the Constitution does not become a suicide pact in tying our hands so we cannot head-off a catastrophic WMD strike.
Still, this book still says more in 107 pages than most authors today can say in 1,070.
Courtesy of a dearest friend I was given a book that combines three things hard to put together in one volume: one that is informative, delightful and compact--an increasingly rare trifecta in an era of books that are uninformative, boring and as massive as an aircraft carrier. Author Lynne Truss is aptly named for a "punctuation Nazi": she wraps us up in a stylistic truss the better to support clear writing. Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Gotham Books 2003) takes its title from a panda joke: a panda enters a bar, eats some victuals, fires a gun and departs. The joke is that without a comma the panda's meal fare is properly displayed; with it, mayhem results.
We learn that punctuation was invented by the ancient Greeks (who else?) to guide actors in breathing while speaking their lines; credit is given to one Aristophanes of Byzantium, ensconced at the Library of Alexandria, around 200 BC. For the next 16 centuries or so punctuation rules were virtually non-existent and surely non-standard. Came along then the author's hero, Venetian printer Aldus Manutius the Elder (1450-1515). The closest thing to a Punctuation Lawgiver, Aldus gave us the first elegant typeface, italics, and also the semi-colon. Aldus and his identically-named grandson also reformed the ancient virgule, lowering and curving it to create our modern comma. But Truss says that the critical change made was put in place by Aldus the Younger in 1566. As books read by the masses were not training for actors speaking lines, breathing took second place to syntax; punctuation's primary purpose since then has been to clarify syntax.
Truss beings with the "tractable apostrophe." Exploring its many uses, she gives us the Law of Conservation of Apostrophes: "For every apostrophe omitted from an "it's'' there is an extra one put into an "its.'" Thus the number of apostrophes in circulation at any given time is constant. She introduces us to an English columnist's marvelous fictive creation: the Apostropher Royal (for Queen Elizabeth I), Comparing the period ("full stop" to the English) to the apostrophe,Truss archly theorizes: "In fact one might dare to say that the full stop is the lumpen male of the punctuation world (do one job at a time; do it well; forget about it instantly) the apostrophe is the frantically multi-tasking female, dotting hither and yon, and succumbing to burnout from all the thankless effort."
We learn that the English rule for non-possessive apostrophes used with calendar decades is not to use one (1980s) while in America the rule is to insert one (1980's); to me the English are right here, as neither possession nor elision (the Greek root of "apostrophe") is needed and hence the apostrophe can be safely omitted--I can do so whilst being secure that somewhere else one is being needlessly inserted to keep the universe total constant. Possessive case usage of apostrophes does get a tad pedantic, Truss acknowledges, giving us from Fowler's Modern English Usage the serial gem; use ''s" after modern names and also after foreign names which end with an unpronounced final "s"; use "s'" after ancient names, after names ending in "s" whose last syllable is pronounced "iz" and, last but surely not least, after "Jesus." To which one can only say: "Sweet Jesus!"
"The fun of commas," she writes "is of course the semantic havoc they can create when either wrongly inserted or carelessly omitted." She tells of a hapless reader at a Macbeth reading who reads King Duncan's Act I line to a fallen soldier as "Go get him, surgeons!" instead of "Go, get him surgeons." (Given medical care in Shakespeare's time the reader may have been wiser than Truss thinks.) An even better example is found in Theodore M. Bernstein's Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage (Times Books 1977). There the author cites Professor Maxwell Nurnberg's paired sentences: "What's the latest dope?" and "What's the latest, dope?" After meandering around the disputations among grammarians concerning spliced comma versus semi-colon and "defining clause" commas Truss adds a simple rule, borne of exasperation: avoid "stupid" use of commas, by which she means those that confound the meaning. Of course, there are no less than 17 uses of the infernal squiggles.
A chapter entitled "Air and Graces" covers colons and semi-colons, much of their usage being one of aesthetic judgment. Some writers hated them; others made promiscuous use of them. Readers of LFTC know on which side of this argument I stand. Let a thousand semi-colons bloom! Re the exclamation point, Truss writes: ""In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semi-colon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark (b. 15th c.) is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly." To her eagle eye the question mark (b. punctus interrogativus 8th c.; current name given 19th c.) has an "elegant seahorse profile." Italics are partly "a confession of stylistic failure" (do not tell her about LFTC!). She blithely instructs us that quotation marks (b. 18th c. as inverted commas) mean that "'double or single' is a question applicable not only to beds, tennis and cream.'" As for the four types of brackets and the differences between the English and American rules, be grateful you are not studying Arabic. Saith Truss: " When a bracket opens halfway down a left-hand page and the closing bracket is, giddyingly, nowhere in sight, it's like being in a play by Jean-Paul Sartre." She terms the ellipsis "the black hole of the universe, surely, into which no right-minded person would willingly be sucked, for three years, with no guarantee of a job at the end." As for the lowly, perhaps soon-to-be-extinct hyphen (hated by Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill, who did not agree on much else), Truss reminds us that extra marital sex is not the same as extra-marital sex. (Honey! the hyphen strayed, not me!!)
Truss gives us her take on the impact of the Internet: "[B]y tragic historical coincidence a period of abysmal understanding in literacy has coincided with this unexpected explosion in global self-publishing. Thus people who don't know their apostrophe from their elbow are positively invited to disseminate their writings to anyone on the planet stupid enough to double-click and scroll." But she gives the Net some credit, calling the emoticon "the greatest (or most desperate, depending how you look at it) advance in punctuation since the question mark in the reign of Charlemagne." Truss looks at it this way: She hates emoticons.
At closing, author Truss is passionate in her core conviction: "We have a language that is full of ambiguities; we have a way of expressing ourselves that is often complex and allusive, poetic and modulated; all our thoughts can be rendered with absolute clarity if we bother to put the right dots and squiggles between the words in the right places. Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking. If it goes, the degree of intellectual impoverishment we face is unimaginable."
All of which brings to mind the classic Johnny Mercer lyrics to Accentuate the Positive; with Lynn Truss, writers had best not be Mr. In-Between. Oh, and junk those stupid commas.
PNESFS--Post-9/11 Swamp Fever Syndrome, is this war's equivalent of Vietnam's Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS). PNESFS (pronounced pin-ness-fiss) victims exhibit several telltale symptoms, readily detectable even by lay folk: (1) a belief in the super-competence of government conspirators, domestic and foreign, notwithstanding substantial evidence that multiple government agencies cannot conspire successfully to make a ham sandwich; (2) a belief that the government conspirators can keep mega-scale plots completely secret from the American and world press--though not secret from PNESFS champions, despite evidence that the press knows everything, including the color of unmentionables, about public figures; (3) a talent for confecting superficially plausible alternative explanations whose rebuttal entails enlisting experts to explain to lay persons the hidden fallacies; and (4) the brass to dismiss refutations as further evidence of an ongoing cover-up in support of the conspiracy.
It is tempting to dismiss the conspiracy literature with a "Who believes this stuff?" wave-off. But in 2002 a French author published a book claiming that the Pentagon did 9/11 to create a justification for launching future wars. Thus did Popular Mechanics assemble 300 experts to sort out the various explanations given by PNESFS types as what what "really happened" on 9/11. The results made for a 2005 article whose online posting has had 850,000 print-out hits. Comes now the paperback edition, Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theorists Can't Stand Up To The Facts (Hearst Books 2006). Senator John McCain provides a crisp Forward to the slim volume.
Some of the theories are laughable--claiming the the US government secretly forced the planes to land, loaded all passengers onto United Flight 93 and then dumped the other three planes over the Atlantic while it staged the attacks. Others rely on superficially plausible arguments, such as those as to why the Twin Towers collapsed, though apparently far more massive than the pencil-shaped Empire State Building that survived a 1945 air crash; or those arguing that steel's melting point is higher than that for burning commercial jet fuel, and that explosive discharge out of windows indicate explosions from within.
We learn that the Empire State Building survived because the B-25 bomber that hit the structure in 1931 was one-tenth the mass of the 767s that hit the towers, traveled at less than half the speed of the 2001 planes and hit a structure that had roughly four times the density of the Towers, which used a revolutionary, feathery steel truss design that actually had a density less than that for balsa wood. New York's classic 1931 landmark is a masonry fortress by comparison.
We further learn that while steel's 2,750 Fahrenheit melting point exceeds the 2,220 degree maximum burning temperature for commercial jet fuel, that steel begins to weaken at 750 degrees; the jet fuel inferno combined with massive structural damage caused the collapse of the Towers. Explosives planted inside? Hardly. When a building "pancakes" the force of falling upper floors forces air outside, carrying debris with it. The Towers collapsed in 12 seconds, with the top floors ultimately attaining 125 mph velocity (183 feet per second); hence the lateral expulsion of massive amounts of material.
Fans of conspiracy should sit back and crack open Robert Ludlum's 1983 classic, The Matarese Circle, and learn how a shepherd-boy in pre-World War I Italy rises to become head of a global conspiracy that runs the world's governments, all in just two generations. If you believe in the shepherd-boy, feel free to believe that 4,000 Jews stayed home on 9/11, tipped off by the Mossad as to the impending attacks. Better yet, if you are looking for a truly diabolical anti-US conspiracy, why not start with France, which is at least a plausible suspect?
"Who was it that had called it the day of the guns? It was back again. You can't win with scared diplomacy, but a bullet on the way to somebody's gut doesn't know any fear at all and moves too fast to be stopped. It has a power all its own of changing the shape of things instantly and instituting a propaganda factor that sticks in a person's mind all his life. They could stand up to words and would hold down a gun themselves, but what they did when the big hole in the end was pointed at them and they saw the hammer go back was a different story entirely and if ever there was a moment of truth it was then, and not in a bull ring."
Mickey Spillane, Day of the Guns, p. 119 (Signet 1964)
On July 17, 2006 best-selling author Mickey Spillane went to his reward at age 88. After Mickey Mouse and Mickey Mantle, Spillane was arguably the top "Mickey" of the 20th century. OK, he was not Shakespeare. So who else was? Spillane's enduring appeal--he sold more than 100 million books--came from his honesty, directness and what today we would call his political incorrectness. Imagine the delicious punishment of making the harpies at NOW sit in a room and being forced to read his novels out loud! Spillane is, above all, very politically incorrect. Yet while he promotes stereotypical views of male and female roles, his female heroines are in fact quite self-reliant and assertive, if more than a little too much Hollywood for real life. Which is why they are fictional creations.
Yet we can learn from Spillane's creations. Easily distracted, we can learn focus and commitment from the last paragraphs of Spillane's first mega-hit, I the Jury:
"'No, Charlotte, I'm the jury now, and the judge, and I have a promise to keep. Beautiful as you are, as much as I almost loved you, I sentence you to death....' [Hammer shoots her.] 'How c-could [sic] you?' she gasped. I only had a moment before talking to a corpse, but I got it in. 'It was easy,' I said.'"
I, the Jury (E.P. Dutton & Co 1947)
In One Lonely Night, Mike Hammer's sole foray into the Cold War, the hero ascends the stairs of a warehouse, carrying a Thompson submachine gun, enters a room and sprays it, killing the Commie thugs whilst leaving untouched his sexy secretary, Velda, who was strung up in her birthday suit, shall we say, in the center of the room. Not bad shooting, even absent distraction.
Yes, the plots were formulaic: (1) the hero chances upon a scene of mayhem or a damsel in distress or both; (2) he embarks upon a search for the truth; (3) he is opposed by the powers that be, either due to political cowardice, corruption or ideological animus; (4) he perseveres and goes through Hell to achieve his noble goal--albeit by often ignoble means; (5) he relies upon a trusted friend he meets; (6) near the end he has a premonition that something is seriously awry; (7) he learns that the friend he trusted--often female and, if so, always gorgeous--betrays him; (8) he confronts the guilty party; (9) the guilty party tries to buy or bluff his or her way out; (10) the hero executes the betrayer. About half the time the baddie is a babe the hero loved, and she disrobes while telling him he cannot really mean to kill her. Yet he does. That's focus.
OK, as noted above Spillane is fiction. Spray a room with automatic weapon fire and the hostage escapes unscathed. We have no super-hero to win the war against Islamic fascism. No Mike Hammer. No Tiger Mann (the Hammeresque hero of four 1960 Cold War potboilers, including Day of the Guns, noted above). But Spillane has a message for us: the certitude that imperfect good deserves to triumph over perfect evil, and that, in the mess world of reality, the choice often is between winning ugly or losing pretty If this seems fanciful, ask yourself how we won World War II, pretty or ugly--think Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Omaha Beach, Iwo Jima, Okinawa.
We are midway through what Mickey might have called the Decade of the Guns, perhaps the first of many in the 21st century. Moral certitude--not as to our own purity, a kind of certitude only the other side has--but confidence as to our right, though imperfect, to prevail despite our myriad imperfections--will be needed if we are to survive these decades. We can learn not to be paralyzed by P.C. And yes, we will need focus, lots of it, if we are to prevail.
It is already clear that at best Iraq will produce for the Bush Administration a middling result, with disaster still possible and the "Iraq the Model" jump-starting Mideast renaissance long gone. Mideast democracy may yet succeed, but it will be a medium- to long-haul process, and what it produces may be, if not the travesty of Islamist democracies akin to Hamas, not chummy with us either. Two important books on Iraq reveal much about what went wrong and why. They each show flaws at the highest levels, with no one--from the White House to State to Defense to CIA to Congress to the media--exempt from some measure of responsibility.
The books are (1) Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, by NY Times military correspondent Michael R. Gordon & retired Marine General Bernard E.Trainor, authors of a superb book on the 1991 Gulf War (The Generals' War); (2) No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah, by decorated Vietnam Marine & ex-Reagan Defense official Bing West.
To fully flesh out your Iraq picture it is helpful to read three others which I briefly first note: (1) The Generals' War (1995), noted above; (2) The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Crisis of Global Security (2003) by Richard Butler, the Australian head of UNSCOM 1997-1998; (3) One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer (2005), by Nathaniel Flick. The earlier Gordon/Trainor book shows how snafus in a divided command almost scotched the quick victory of the Coalition (it offers nuggets, too, such as how a Saudi F-15 pilot prevented, by a margin of seconds, destruction of a major oil facility). Butler's book explains why inspections could never provide assurance that Saddam was clean, and recounts how Kofi Annan helped Saddam sink the inspections regime by abolishing UNSCOM in order to curb inspection powers and by sabotaging cooperation between US intelligence and the UN--which helps explain why our 2003 WMD intel was so awful. Flick's book is a moving narrative of a Dartmouth student who joined the Marines in 1999 to do something important, found himself in Afghanistan and then as a commander in Iraq; it provides a bird's eye view of the training and education of a soldier and a ground's eye view of Afghanistan and Iraq at war. A point-by-point recapitulation of these works is beyond my scope, so I urge you to read them for perspective on Iraq II. Now on to the two books on Iraq II.
The authors draw five grand lessons from Iraq II, to explain why our goals have not been realized: (1) misreading the foe; (2) over-reliance on technological advancement; (3) failure to adapt to battlefield developments; (4) dysfunction of US military structures; (5) disdain of Bush Administration for nation-building. Specifically 43's folks thought: (1) Iraq II would replay the Gulf War, thus missing Saddam's Fedayeen guerrillas; (2) tried to substitute technology and speed for gross troop deployment; (3) did not re-calibrate their plan adequately when guerrilla resistance surfaced (though Saddam did not plan the Fedayeen strategy in advance, being more worried about domestic unrest than a war with the US); (4) used White House and Defense top-liners to circumvent State & Defense mid-level players, and (5) thus failed to prepare for the postwar period.
16 noteworthy nuggets: (1) Rumsfeld imposed his will on planners to shrink force (Rumsfeld, for his part, denies this and says he was prepared to send 400,000 troops, but that Franks declined his offer); (2) Zalmay Khalilzad, now our Ambassador to Iraq, told Iraqi exiles US would run Iraq for one year; (3) the CIA's main WMD intel source, "Curveball," came via German intelligence; (4) the Democrats saw the National Intelligence estimates (NIEs) & said little, although the NIEs, closely read, showed flaws in intel; (5) Joe Wilson's Niger intel re uranium was not a factor, despite Spy Gal Valerie Plame playing a role in producing the CIA's deeply flawed WMD intel; (6) the opening decapitation strike aimed at Saddam struck a site that Saddam had not visited since 1995; (7) none of the top 200 Iraqi leaders was killed by air-strike during the war; (8) on 3/27/03 an Iraqi missile was intercepted 2 miles from a direct hit on our Kuwait HQ, where all top local war brass were meeting; (9) a 4/11/03 air strike (two days after Baghdad fell) missed Saddam and his two sons by one house; (10) the erroneous announcement that "Chemical Ali" had been killed in an air-strike hastened the capitulation of Basra; (11) when Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1, it was at the urging of Tommy Franks. And then came the post-May 1, 2003 phase.
(12) Paul Bremer, proconsul of the Coalition Provisional Authority, froze out Zalmay Khalilzad, the Administration senior official most knowledgeable about Iraq, based upon ZK's extensive prior dealings with them, so as to consolidate his own absolute power; (13) Bremer first disbanded the Iraqi Army, then relented but would not pay them. (14) That was one crucial mistake Bremer made, according to Marine warrior-Gen. James Mattis, the other being that Bremer nullified early local elections for fear his preferred candidates wouldn't prevail. (15) Baghdad streets were safer in 2003 than in 2004 and later. (16) Hilariously symbolic of the top leadership's cultural disconnect re Iraq's postwar was Rumsfeld's proposed New Iraqi Corps--NIC for short; it was never made clear to Rummy that "NIC" pronounced in Arabic sounds like the Arabic word for--yep, you guessed it--"fuck."
No True Glory
Bing West's book neatly complements Cobra II, giving a ground-eye view, with periodic zoom-out to see the larger picture, of the titanic and pivotal struggle for Fallujah in 2004, which featured two major battles: April and November. Fallujah I was halted days short of victory because mendacious propaganda aired by pseudo-news network al-Jazeera caused Iraqi leaders to demand a pullback and Western leaders to buckle under intense political pressure generated by the inflammatory, often false, coverage. Fallujah II went to the Marines, because the Iraqi government saw that dealing with terrorist and radical Islamic leaders was not working, and because the Iraqis had closed down al-Jazeera in August. The second battle was far more destructive in terms of loss of life and property than was the first, but with few cameras it did not create pressure for the Marines to stand down once again.
The author identifies four phases in the Fallujah campaign: (1) counter-insurgency, April 2003 - March 2004; (2) siege, April - May 2004; (3) reversal, May - October 2004; (4) attack, November - December 2004. On July 17, 2003 General John Abizaid, overall CENTCOM force commander for the Mideast, informed his superiors that a "classic insurgency" had begun, but SecDef Rumsfeld continued to see disturbances as nothing but "dead-enders." Fallujah forced the senior civilian leadership to face up to the fact that there was an insurgency. The first battle ended with the Marines an estimated 48-72 hours from victory; that battlefield command assessment was not passed to the White House by senior military leaders. The interregnum between the first and second battles saw corrupt and traitorous elements turn the city over to the insurgents and allowing it to be a transmission belt for spreading terror throughout Iraq. In all, the US lost over 150 killed and over 1,000 wounded in the two battles (about 1/8 our total Iraq II losses up to that time). Only 4 of 600 Iraqi volunteers joined us in the second battle.
Mattis summed things up perfectly, saying that the Iraqis had never won a battle or lost a negotiation. West summed up by saying that the US political leadership imprudently committed the Marines to take Fallujah before laying proper groundwork with the Iraqis, failed to allow for Arab media lies and Western media bias and failed to psychologically defeat the Sunnis who, thus emboldened, intimidated families into not cooperating with the Americans. West informs us that no counter-insurgency has ever been won by an occupying force alone.
Neither author covers the disastrous decision by Bremer (oft-noted in LFTC) to adopt a nationwide party-list proportional electoral system, which unlike a first-past-the-post federal system confers more power upon minorities than their share of the popular vote would entitle them to wield; this is how radical thug Moqtada al-Sadr is a legitimated power broker in Iraq. Add to that allowing terrorist Islamist factions to keep bullets while trolling for ballots is another grave mistake. Add to this the blunders chronicled credibly in these two magnificent books and it is a miracle that the US is even in the game in Iraq, and not already licking the wounds of a catastrophic defeat like Vietnam or Somalia. Scarily, this could still happen. On the evidence here, it needn't have.
Ten Lessons for Future American Quasi-Imperial Adventures
Iraq may yet end so badly that no further American quasi-imperial enterprise will be possible for a generation. In the hope that still it turns out tolerably and we do not simply fold, here are 10 key lessons for the future:
(1) Never "bet the company"--American position & prestige--on a best-case outcome;
(2) Never "bet the company" on the cheap--send more troops & spend more money than leaders guess we need, & do not count on allies committing blood and/or treasure;
(3) Listen to local commanders and be prepared to adjust, even at the expense of sacred cows (e.g, re insurgency)--"humint" (human intelligence) tops "sigint" (signals intelligence) in many local situations, the "Revolution in Military Affairs" (high-technology) notwithstanding;
(4) Win decisively enough to psychologically disarm adversaries--in rough neighborhoods, too soft is worse than too hard;
(5) Establish post-combat order rapidly--if necessary by prompt use of overwhelming force;
(6) Establish unified command for military & civilian operations ASAP after initial combat triumph--whether military or civilian supremacy is preferable depends upon security status;
(7) transfer political power to locals rapidly, building from local levels, adapting structures with rules that favor moderates & freeze out radicals (e.g., no bullets + ballots--one or the other; no national party lists), i.e, the end goal is liberal, not illiberal, democracy;
(8) embed media where helpful & freeze them out when harmful (i.e., try to stay as close as possible to WW-II practice--do not hesitate to prosecute egregious, unlawful media abuses);
(9) communicate globally & domestically, clearly & often--against weak adversaries, anticipate media compensation favoring underdogs, plus enemy exploitation of media as a conduit;
(10) distinguish between opportunistic & serious critics, listening with an open mind to the latter, whether they favor or oppose your position--you may still reject their recommendations, but your positions will be vetted more thoroughly as a result.
Make no mistake about our peril. Hudson Institute President Herb London argues persuasively that our war against Islamism is in its 1940 phase and that we either rally or will suffer defeat. The assault on Bush, at home and abroad, has so weakened him that his Mideast democracy program is in retreat everywhere, with attendant diminishing of US prestige. At this parlous time, enter nonpareil Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. Her newest book, The Force of Reason, warns in the fiery, non-P.C. language that is her hallmark that Islam is on the march and bids fair to prevail over a West in retreat.
Fallaci's book, recently published in English, has attracted a fusillade from the usual gaggle of Leftists, Islamists and the like. Writing in NRO, Mike Ledeen rises to defend Oriana Fallaci by saying that critics of The Force of Reason miss the forest for the trees. Her broad thesis, that the West is too cowed to prevail in a struggle against militant Islam, is chillingly plausible. Wesley Pruden writes that we fight an ideology at war with centuries 12 through 21. (Actually, they are at war with centuries 7 through 21, but WP is close enough for government work.) WP also doubts that we have the nerve to fight on against the "madness" that grips radical Islam.
Fallaci's book is as bracing as was her 2002 philippic, The Rage and the Pride--equally rashly politically incorrect, at times over the top but mostly "right on" as an antidote to the "Religion of Peace" bromides from the White House and European ministries. Fallaci begins this time with a warning calculatedly drawn from Winston Churchill's celebrated 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech at Fulton, Missouri ("From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent."--text: "The Sinews of Peace"--March 5, 1946 ):
"From the Strait of Gibraltar to the fjords of Soroy, from the cliffs of Dover to the beaches of Lampedusa, from the steppes of Volgograd to the valleys of the Loire and the hills of Tuscany, a fire is spreading. In each one of our cities there is a second city. A city superimposed and equal to the one that in the Seventies thousands and thousands of Palestinians set up in Beirut installing a State within the State. A government within the government. A Muslim city, a city ruled by the Koran. An Islamic expansionism's stage. The expansionism that no-one has ever managed to overcome. No-one. Not even the armies of Napoleon. Because it is the only art in which the sons of Allah have always excelled, the art of invading and conquering. Their most coveted prey has always been Europe, the Christian world...." (p.35.)
She then harks bark to a boast made in 1974 by an Islamist leader: In 1974 Algerian strongman Hoari Boumedienne baldly stated his view of Islam's jihad strategy: "One day millions of men will leave the southern hemisphere of this planet to burst into the northern one. But not as friends. Because they will burst in to conquer, and they will conquer by populating it with their children. Victory will come to us from the wombs of our women." (p. 56.)
And finally she quotes Dr. George Habash, one of the founders of the modern Palestinian terrorist movement, on the scope of Islamism's struggle:
"The Palestinian problem is not an aside problem. A problem separated from the Arab Nation's realities. Palestinians are part of the Arab Nation. Therefore the entire Arab Nation must go to war against Europe and America. It must unleash a war against the West. And it will. America and Europe don't know that we Arabs are just at the beginning of the beginning. That the best has yet to come. That from now on there will be no peace for the West.....To advance step by step. Millimetre by millimetre. Year after year. Decade after decade. Determined, stubborn, patient. This is our strategy. A strategy that we shall expand throughout the whole planet." ( pp.131-132, emphasis in original.)
Fallaci, for all her gloom, thinks we will somehow prevail. But to do so we must understand the war we are fighting. Placating Islam by apologizing for cartoons, Crusades and the like is a loser. Islam has more to apologize for if the historical scorecard between Islam and Christendom is honestly tallied. We will not win by letting Islamists lie about us while being reluctant to defend our values--free speech, etc.--in the face of Islamist intimidation.
Three aspects of our war with militant Islam are of particular relevance at this juncture in our struggle: (1) It is not a war for ideology. (2) Co-opting terror groups into democratic processes is highly likely to fail. (3) The global elite media are the biggest assets the terrorists have, which the Administration grasps but cannot effectively counter.
1. Radical Islam aims neither for hearts nor minds, but for nether parts--it aims to compel rather than persuade. By contrast the USSR, while using those weapons, had as well an ideology with genuine world appeal for most of the 20th century. Well into the late twentieth century communism posed a formidable competitive threat, seducing many millions. Italy flirted as late as 1977 with an "historic compromise" coalition including Communists. It was only when the US economy took off and America re-armed during the Reagan years, and a charismatic Pope energized Eastern Europe's revolt that the weakness of totalitarian systems was exposed definitively.
2. We cannot allow terror parties to combine bullets & ballots: This is the classic political co-optation trap--made also in Lebanon. Terrorists who are invited into the democratic process can accept any gains legitimately made and when denied power can return to the gun.
3. We face a hostile media that denies us clandestine tools of great value and in the sacred name of "our values" holds our sins high whilst minimizing those of our adversary, more often than not; and the Administration cannot cope with this, nor might its successor manage to do so. Thus we cannot reprise the CIA's 1947 triumph in Italy. But Iran merrily works the other side. The raid last weekend by Iraqi security forces that angered many Shi'a was portrayed as a raid on a mosque, when in fact it was not; a minaret was found inside, but there were not advance indications. We will not be cut slack for such misunderstandings. We will be impeded by multiculuralist P.C. from telling the truth about Islam and Islamic countries, while Islamists can lie about us with impunity.
Fallaci is wrong: We can lose. We can lose by failing to vigorously defend ourselves. Mark Steyn, with his sharp stiletto, calls timidity in the face of assertive pan-Islamism the "Aretha Franklin Doctrine: R-E-S-P-E-C-T"; how right he is. He quotes UK PM Jack Straw, whose constituency includes many Muslims and who responds accordingly:
"Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, gave a typical Western government official's speech the other day explaining that 'a large number of Muslims in this country were -- understandably -- upset by those cartoons being reprinted across Europe and at their deeply held beliefs being insulted. They expressed their hurt and outrage but did so in a way which epitomized the learned, peaceful religion of Islam.'
"'The learned, peaceful religion of Islam'? And that would be the guys marching through London with placards reading 'BEHEAD THE ENEMIES OF ISLAM' and 'FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS WESTERN TERRORISM' and promising to rain down a new Holocaust on Europe? This is geopolitics as the Aretha Franklin Doctrine: The more the world professes its R-E-S-P-E-C-T, the more the Islamists sock it to us."
Compare this to Australian PM John Howard,, who said after 9/11: "This is not time to be an 80 percent ally." Continues Howard: You can't find any
equivalent in Italian or Greek or Lebanese or Chinese or Baltic
immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of raving on about
jihad. There is really not much point in
pretending it doesn't exist." Says Aussie Foreign Minister Alexander Downer: " "Multilateralism is a
synonym for an ineffective and unfocused policy involving
internationalism of the lowest common denominator." Aussie Treasurer told Aussie Muslims tha tif they want to live under Sha'ria law they can try Saudi Arabia or Iran, not Australia.
Islamists interpret whiny statements from Western leaders professing "respect" for "peaceful Islam" as code words for graduated retreat, and they will advance accordingly. Osama's famous quote should haunt us: "People prefer a strong horse to a weak horse." Right now the portents are not auspicious.
OK, I have not--and will not--see Steven Spielberg's "Munich"; moral equivalence between terrorists and defenders, let alone child-diplomacy, never appealed to me. So last night instead I screened at home John Frankenheimer's 1977 film, "Black Sunday." I remembered it as one of the better thrillers of the 1970s. It was. And still gives 143 minutes that pace like 93. Robert Shaw stars as an Israeli commando. Bruce Dern is a Navy pilot and torture-damaged POW gone psycho-bad. (OK, apologies to Vietnam vets, the vast majority of whom did not have P.T.S.S.--the movie does not imply that such pathology was the norm.) And best of all is Swiss actress Marthe Keller.
Shaw is his usual taciturn, rugged self; Dern shines in what must be one of his best roles. But the scene-stealer is Keller, in a glittering role. As Palestinian terrorist Dahlia Iyad, Keller gives a riveting performance, married, so to speak, to her cause. She is icy cool, with a (Swiss) girl-next-door beauty--not a sexpot, but still sexy. But it is her acting that carries a difficult role to play convincingly.
The plot revolves around mass murder at the Super Bowl, using the famed Goodyear blimp to fire thousands of darts into the crowd; a pre-dawn raid in Beirut, smuggled explosives in a California harbor, a terrorist shootout in Miami, and several kills by Keller--it's all a treat. And the Israelis are the good guys, too. Keller plays the Palestinian role sympathetically, but no one will leave the picture feeling soft on stopping her real-life counterparts. In all, give it a solid ***1/2. And there is no feel-good talk of negotiation, either.
As for Keller, her career has followed a different trajectory than the typical Hollywood actress. "Black Sunday" was one of her few American films. In 2001 she appeared on Broadway in "Judgment at Nuremberg." Since 1999 she has been directing operas; in 2004 she mounted a new production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" for the Metropolitan Opera. Can anyone see "Bennifer" or "Brangelina" doing that? They would make of it artistic terrorism--to be sure, as is--at least, in moral terms--"Munich."
Jazz master Bill Charlap's trio (bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington) recently gave a recital at the Kennedy Center, as part of the Center's Art Tatum Piano Panorama series. Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein works figured prominently--Who Cares?, Nice Work If You Can Get It from the brothers Gershwin, Somewhere and Cool from Bernstein's West Side Story. Cole Porter's In the Still of the Night and Harold Arlen's Last Night When We Were Young were also featured. Hoagy Carmichael's Stardust was the one encore. Charlap's style is lyrical, with modernist chords and right-hand embellishment evocative of Andre Previn.
The golden age of jazz is a generation gone, leaving today's artists with an impossible task: meet audience expectations distorted by unconsciously-altered distant memory and studio-created recording perfection. Against those hazy memories is the immediacy and (in great halls) the bigger, richer sound of of live performance. The trio is the fundamental music unit of jazz, its chamber ensemble. The heyday of solo and orchestral jazz was the 1930s and 1940s--the big swing bands and the stride players, whose bravura Liszt-style rococo embellishments enthralled listeners. Economics killed large jazz orchestras; physiology limits stride piano.
Few pianists are blessed with hands huge enough to play jet-speed striding unbroken tenth chords in the bass (a tenth is two steps past an octave). Playing super-fast requires absolute fluidity, which entails the ability to easily encompass a given span of notes; such a span is 1-1/2 steps--even 2--short of what a player's hand can reach by stretching. Reaching causes hand tension, which kills the prospect of sustained speed. Stride died because, besides style shifts, few players possess the raw physical equipment to easily encompass a tenth span, which means being able to reach 1-1/2 octaves. (Pianists cherish large hands: Rachmaninoff's reputed last words were "Goodbye, beloved hands"; his were famously huge.)
So jazz trios soldier on. Charlap's is a smooth one, in the tradition of 1950s "cool" rather than 1940s "hot." His CDs are well worth getting. Try Somewhere and Stardust for openers. In 2005 Charlap released a pair of Gershwin CDs: Bill Charlap Plays George Gershwin and Love Is Here To Stay, the latter with his mother, Sandy Stewart, on vocal; she once sang with Benny Goodman. Oh, by the way, Charlap's father wrote the score for Peter Pan. In the event, there is still some pretty piano playing being sent our way.
Author Joel Kotkin has penned an elegant summary of the city in history, remarkable for its brevity (160 p.) in an age of 500-page monstrosities clogging bookstore shelves. Kotkin also applied his thinking to the New Orleans mess. His thesis: Over 5,500 years of human history since the dawn of the first urban communities, great cities have possessed one or more of three foundation attributes: They are places that are (1) sacred, (2) safe and (3) busy. The sacred is the power of the spirit--religious, commercial or imperial. Safe means security, from both outside invasion and internal crime. Busy means economic power--trade, finance, services, manufacturing. Cities possessing these attributes in one or another form succeed; those that do not, fail.
Kotkin's elegant survey covers many storied places: city-states from Ur to Singapore; commercial cities from Tyre to London; mega-cities from Imperial Rome to squalid Karachi; cultural icons from Athens to New York. Kotkin traces global civilizations, including many neglected in Western education, such as Chang'An, the great T'ang Dynasty (618-907 AD), and Islamic urban glories as well--cities whose inhabitants were far more civilized than the Islamo-fascists we face today. Like all over-arching intellectual frameworks, quibbles are inevitable. But Kotkin's structure is robust and flexible enough to represent a powerful contribution to urban history.
After his book was published Kotkin released a pair of essays in the January/February 2006 The American Enterprise on the persistence of underclass in American cities, including a comparison of upwardly-mobile, compassionate--Houston, with downward-mired, jungle-ethics New Orleans. His conclusion: attitude matters--a lot. A solid read.
Kotkin: Attitudes Determine Urban Destiny
Kotkin, Joel E, The City: A Global History (The Modern Library 2005)
VACATION POST 4 of 5. Dick Morris's book on 2008, Condi v. Hillary, does not qualify as a true literary classic, but is a classic for chutzpah and contains enough nuggets of plausible political analysis to merit a look. Morris asserts that the only Republican who can beat Hillary for the Presidency in 2008 is Condolezza Rice. Half of his premise seems beyond cavil: Barring catastrophe, Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the standard-bearer for the Democratic Party come 2008. Her assets are without equal in her party: (1) 100 percent name recognition; (2) burning ambition linked to martial discipline; (3) unmatched access to massive funds; (4) a sufficient resume--law partner and major-state Senator, lit up by her status as former First Lady and aided by her rock-star ex-President husband; (5) a core cadre of 24/7 dedicated supporters who combine great skill with immense political savvy; and (6) mainstream media fawning decorated with an iconic aura given her by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. No other Democrat can come close to this. Yes, she has liabilities, leftover from the Clinton years, but by 2008 these will be ancient history, save in the hearts and minds of those long-opposed to her under any circumstances.
Who among current probable Republicans can match this? Forget about Chuck Hagel, MSM darling but unable to win the GOP nod, adn Bill Frist, even if he avoids legal troubles over his stock sale. Senator and ex-Governor George Allen of Virginia and Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts are both attractive figures, with Allen's record as Virginia Governor (1994 - 1998) impreesive--crime reduction, welfare and education reform and economic growth. Which brings us to the two front-runners among probable aspirants: John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. McCain has been elevated by MSM to near-iconic status via his deserting Republicans on key issues (campaign finance reform and global warming) and, above all, his genuine war-hero status. But in 2008 McCain will be 72, one year younger than was Ronald Reagan when he ran for re-election in 1984, when in his first debate with Walter Mondale he took his closing drive down the San Bernadino Freeway. And Reagan did not spend 5-plus years at the Hanoi Hilton. In the event, McCain's dissing Republicans will cost him any reasonable shot at the 2008 GOP nomination.
Which leaves Rudy Giuliani among declared candidates, and Condi Rice among those who say they will neither run nor accept nomination. Morris believes that Rudy has two fatal liabilities that will cost him any chance of winning the 2008 GOP nomination: (1) his social liberalism--abortion, gay rights, gun control & pro-immigration; (2) the extreme antipathy that black voters, a group Republicans ardently court, feel towards him.
Morris then turns to Condi. His case rests on three pillars: (1) Condi's own iconic status; (2) Condi's superior appeal to three key voter groups--white women, blacks and Hispanics; (3) the ability of those who would draft Condi to use the Internet as did Howard Dean's supporters in 2004. Morris believes, based upon conversations with several top black political figures, that Condi can win 40 to 60 percent of black votes. He sees Condi doing fairly well with Hispanics, and very well with white women. Morris doubts that any other Republican who might win the nomination can reach these groups nearly as well.
Here are his numbers. Start with the strongest Democratic groups: minorities. In 2004 Bush carried 9 percent of black voters, up from 7 percent in 2000; blacks were 10 percent of voters in 2000 and 12 percent in 2004. Bush beat Kerry by 9 points among Hispanics, having lost them 62-35 to Al Gore in 2000; Hispanics were 6 percent of the 200 vote and 8 percent in 2004. But Morris believes that the key group, which in 2008 will decide the election, are white women. In 2004 Bush won white women 55-44, versus 49-48 over Gore in 2000; white women were 51 percent of 2000 voters and 54 percent of 2004 voters. Women are now 54 percent of the total voting electorate.
In 2008 Morris sees Hispanics casting 10 percent of the vote, and Hillary winning them 65-35. Hillary will win over 90 percent of the black vote, and every one point increase in black turnout is one million more Democratic votes. Which leaves white women. Before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, constitutionalizing abortion rights, women and men voted much the same. Not after. Twice the "gender gap" favored Democrats by more than ten points--Clinton by 16 in 1996 and Gore by 11 in 2000. Bush beat Kerry 51-48 in 2004. But there is a sharp difference in the vote patterns of single and married white women. Single white women vote liberal; married white women vote conservative. In 2004 Bush won married white women by 8 points but lost single white women 64-36. Single women have a lower turnout, 50 percent in 2004 versus an overall 60 percent turnout.
So, Morris adds up as follows. Bush by Kerry by 3 million votes (62M to 59M) in 2004. Against any male GOP candidate, he sees Hillary adding 7.2 million votes: 1 million blacks, 2.7 million Hispanics and 3.5 million white women. Morris believes that Condi can hold her own with black and white women voters, and thus prevail. The two key issues that women focus on are abortion and education, on which Rice, pro-choice and super-educated, is strong.
Beyond the numbers, Morris a vast distance between Hillary and Condi: Hillary's ascent has been derivative, piggybacking on the rise of a powerful man, without which she would be practicing law somewhere. Condi, by contrast, climbed largely on her own, coming from a family with a deep tradition of self-help and commitment to excellence. At age 8, Condi saw the White House (1962), and said that someday she would make it there. Yes, some element of affirmative action may have played a role, but Morris says, rightly, that Condi was the fast track anyway.
Morris devotes a chapter to metrics on how the Internet aided Howard Dean's insurgent run. But with only one such campaign on record his metrics are soft. The chapter reads well. On drafting, Morris notes that it was not until January 1952 that Eisenhower agreed to accept a draft. For Condi supporters, some states require that a candidate affirmatively declare to be listed on the ballot, but many do not.
So, is he right? His chief flaw is underestimating the appeal of Rudy. Women want to be made safe; Rudy's security resume, with his crime reduction and post-9/11 Churchillian performance, tops all other candidates. He is not Mr. Warmth, but if security concerns are high on voters' minds Rudy will run well; if not Allen--who is Mr. Warmth--might be front and center. As for a Condi draft, Rice does a "Sherman" ("If nominated I will not run; if elected I will not serve"); she prefers NFL Commissioner. Morris sees a draft gathering steam, but this assumes that no Republican winner emerges in the early primaries. There is another Rice route: Cheney's health prevents his finishing his term, and 43 prevails upon Condi to step in. She will not refuse 43. If that happens, she will be the candidate in 2008. But if not, bet on Rudy or a dark horse--other than co-favorite John McCain. Stay tuned.
VACATION POST 3 of 5 (4 & 5 Mon. & Tues. next week). Audrey Meadows, Alice on The Honeymooners, died in 1996, 5 days shy of what would have been her 70th birthday. Before leaving us she left a delicious memoir for us to savor: Love, Alice (Crown Publishers 1994). The book says little about Audrey's non-show life. (I will be presumptuous and use the familiar form of address, based upon a TV-viewer kinship with a golden show, neither wanting to refer to her as "Meadows" nor by her "Alice" fictitious name.) Born in 1926 the child of missionaries, her first language was Chinese. It is a good thing she left that out of her Brooklyn housewife character.
The book abounds with amusing lines, such as this from legendary bartender and restaurant owner Toots Shor, whose watering hole ruled Manhattan's east-40s for several decades, with regulars including show biz luminaries like Gleason and sports stars like DiMaggio. One couple told Shor of their steaks: "We have much better steaks than this in Omaha." To which Shor replied: "So what? When you're through eating, you're still in Omaha!"
Audrey gave up a set role in a touring Phil Silvers production to take her chances with the show. The rest, as they say, is history. Gleason emerges as a pleasure to work with, not the tyrannical boss the media frequently made of him, fair to everyone, low-key and completely professional. Except that The Great One loathed rehearsals, so that his cast (including that week's guest stars) would rehearse without him. When the performance came on Saturday night, he would force last-minute line of joke changes. Yet he stuck to the script. The players learned to anticipate his stage moves during rehearsal. Off stage his appetite for food drink was justly legendary. Audrey recounts one evening when to wash down acres of scotch Gleason orders four lobsters, six orders each of clams casino and French fries, a chocolate cake, and a salad.
Along the way, she tosses us amusing tales, plus one touching tale. Fans of the show, in that simpler time, were so upset that Alice Kramden's kitchen apron, curtains, etc. were so shabby that they sent in thousands of replacements, which were duly donated to charities. Gleason liked to play a special gag for folks coming to hotel rooms. He would place two naked beauties as lamp stands, each wearing a lampshade over her head. 'Twould liven up many an abode.
And there are tales of star turns as well. Elvis does an appearance, one of his first on TV, and resists Gleason's importuning to do a re-take, displeasing The Great One. It took Colonel Tom Parker to bribe Elvis with the promise of a candy bar to get him to do the take. Afterward, Gleason was so annoyed that he passed up and offer from Parker to buy 50 percent of Elvis, for $25,000. Marilyn Monroe emerges as classy as she was gorgeous, and at one point has a splinter removed from her prize tush in the ladies room. Cary Grant tries to wangle a spot on the show as a guest, asking Audrey, but how does an impossible debonair Englishman meet up with a Brooklyn bus driver?
Audrey was smart enough to negotiate a lifetime residuals contract--the only cast member to have done so. WPIX ran episodes--the 39 classics from 1955-56, for 25 consecutive years; in 1992, on the air again, it outdrew Johnny Carson and Arsenio Hall. Audrey did other TV work, but marriage took precedence in the 1960s. Notable were two one-time gigs: (a) she once burned $1 million in old bills at the Chicago Federal Reserve bank--throwing shredded greenbacks into a furnace; (b) after being interviewed by Edward R. Murrow for Person To Person, she once substituted for him as interviewer. The obvious intelligence and common sense revealed in her memoir suggests she was successful in that venture.
Alice, we miss you. We are stuck in a generational time warp with a pack of grotesquely self-absorbed entertainers, the vast majority with but a pale fraction of your talent. They are loud, vulgar, ludicrously overpaid for producing mostly trash; you were gracious, classy, and ridiculously underpaid for producing a gem for the ages--before a live audience, no retakes. Come back--not just via DVD, but for real. We could send Eminem and 2 Live Crew "to the moon" where they belong, along with smart-ass pseudo-comics like Bill Maher, and savor instead a Ralph + Alice + Ed + Trixie retake.
Audrey Meadows Official Website
Audrey Meadows Mini-Bio
VACATION POST 2 of 5. I had the good fortune to attend two Super Bowl games, each with seats between the 45- and 50-yard lines. One benefit of attending the University of Miami from September 1965 to June 1969 was that Super Bowls II & III were played at the Orange Bowl. Friends of my father got tickets for me. I went with a college chum to see the Green Bay Packers whip the Oakland Raiders, 33-14 in II, and in III I joined a friend of my father's to see Broadway Joe Namath lead the New York Jets to the biggest Super Bowl upset in history, 16-7 over the 18-point favorite Baltimore Colts. The gracious gentleman who took me to III was a publicity agent named Alan Meltzer, who was the model for the Norman Paperman protagonist in Herman Wouk's best-seller, Don't Stop The Carnival.
Sportswriter Mark Kriegel's bio, Namath (Penguin Books 2004), paints a vivid portrait of the highs (Super Bowl win, big bucks, fame and thousands of gorgeous female conquests) and lows (chronic pain from football injuries--not just knees-from college and early pro days, battles with alcohol and depression) that this mill worker's son from a Pennsylvania mining town (Beaver Falls) experienced. Namath's capacity to play after a night consuming a bottle of vodka or scotch leads one to conclude that if his knees were as sturdy as his liver, he would run like a deer. Most poignant: He finally marries in 1984, a lady who does not want to be Mrs. Joe Namath, but has career (acting) ambitions of her own; after more than a decade she runs off with an LA (from where else?) plastic surgeon, leaving Joe with two kids, who a few years later ask him if they can live with mom. Joe, Mr. Mom from the start, consents. The good news: he sees the kids now. But the few years separation from his kids sent him into depression.
The Story of Joe is a tale the classical Greeks would easily recognize. Achilles knew that if he went to Troy he would win eternal glory but die young, despite his being invulnerable save for his heel. He went, to die in glory rather than live in shame for reneging on his pledge to King Menelaus to come to his aid should Helen be taken. Namath, conqueror of countless Helens, chose battlefield glory too, giving not his life per se, but what we in today's debased coinage call "life quality." Yet it is not just his knees that trouble Namath; he has severe osteo-arthritis in his spine and hands--he cannot even make a fist today. Namath's courage is awesome: He endures late hits and worse from monster linemen who shove his face into mud, nearly suffocating him, and break parts of his face. Namath says nary a word, and keeps on playing. His relationship with teammates is awkward: The rules differ for him but his box-office draw helps pay their salaries.
The author does a great job showing how the AFL was saved. Namath was the catalyst, but David (Sonny) Werblin, second at MCA to Hollywood legend Lew Wasserman, was the showbiz genius who raised TV money to save the AFL by enabling it to sign top players. Parity was a few years away: no TV dough, no great draft picks, no league. It was that simple. Werblin, BTW, got back the $427,000 he paid Namath (spread over several years) by selling 2,500 additional season tickets within weeks of signing Broadway Joe.
Of the many portraits Kriegel paints, those of Namath's family--blue-collar, Hungarian, old school--and of Paul (Bear) Bryant, whose practices sound like Stalag 17, are the most vivid. Bryant went for Namath knowing he would have to change his offense. Surprisingly, Namath turns out to have been great at both basketball and baseball in his high-school days. Namath has his humorous side, too. Upon his pro contract signing a smart-ass sportswriter asked if he, Namath, had studied underwater basket-weaving at the University of Alabama. Namath shot back that he had found that subject too hard, and instead had majored in journalism.
Chronic pain and crippled movements in tandem with a sex life Hugh Hefner would envy, plus money and fame: How many males think this a good trade?
VACATION POST 1 of 5. With smart bombs and terrorist human bombs, naval warfare seem mostly an anachronism. It has been 23 years since the last sinking of a major warship. In June 1982 the British nuclear attack sub HMS Conqueror sank the Argentine heavy cruiser General Belgrano, when the ship entered the exclusion zone established by the Royal Navy; Argentina claimed the destroyer HMS Sheffield as a victim, via an air-launched French (naturally) Exocet missile. There were several air skirmishes, with Prince Andrew one of the carrier-based UK pilots. Perhaps the best memorial nuggets from that conflict over possession of island with more sheep than people was the tart comeback of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when asked what if the UK's effort failed. Maggie missed nary a beat, quoting Queen Victoria of sainted memory: "The possibility of failure does not exist!"
Recently England marked the bicentennial of its most famous naval battle, Trafalgar, the climax of several months of maneuvering, in which hero-for-the-ages Admiral Horatio Nelson gave his life, but defeated the French off the Spanish coast and relegated Napoleon to adventures on land. World War I saw one great, anti-climactic battle, in May 1916 off Jutland; it was said of British Admiral Sir John Jellicoe and his Grand Fleet that he was the only man in England who could lose the war in a single afternoon. Thus his risk-averse conduct of the main engagement despite superior firepower--preserve the British Fleet, the Sceptred Isle's lifeline, at all costs. British losses were greater, but the Kaiser's High Seas Fleet was bottled up for the rest of the war.
American naval history is marked--at least, for earlier generations of students, by several pithy quotes, rather than grand battles: "I have just begun to fight!" "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" "We have met the enemy and they are ours!" "You may fire when ready, Gridley!" (Answers at the end of this article.) The most famous US naval battles were the 1862 Monitor-Merrimac ironclad draw, and the smashing destruction of four Japanese carriers in June 1942 off Midway Island. Both engagements were relatively brief, nothing like Trafalgar. But there is a Trafalgar-style balletof battles in American naval history. It was the last grand naval battle in world history, with a sacrificial charge as heroic as any in military annals; it was named after a place few Americans, even of my generation, know about: The Battle of Leyte Gulf, Oct.23 - 26, 1944. That is the title of a magnificent book by Naval War College historian and professor of strategy and policy, Thomas J. Cutler (Bluejacket Books 2001). The story, in a nutshell:
To set the stage, in 1942, 6 months almost to the day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the US Navy won a smashing victory at Midway Island, sinking four Japanese carriers. But thousands of miles away, 1942 saw the humiliating defeat of American and Filipino forces at Bataan and Corregidor, with tens of thousands marched off the confinement (so harsh that 1/3 of prisoners died in Japanese camps, more than ten times the fatality rate in Nazi prison camps). The Commander of the Philippine garrison, General Douglas MacArthur, was ordered by FDR to evacuate; MacArthur was such a prestigious figure that FDR feared the General's capture might be calamitous for Allied morale in the Pacific War. Famously, MacArthur vowed upon departing Corregidor: "I shall return."
After Midway, America began a twin-pronged "island-hopping" campaign across the Pacific, headed for the Japanese homeland. The better-known prong was in the open Pacific, starting with the Solomon islands at Guadalcanal; the second prong, led by MacArthur, now based in Australia, sent American and Australian troops into the vast New Guinea jungles. (New Guinea is an island second only to Australia in size; its length would stretch from America's east coast to the foothills of the Rockies.)
By 1944 the Allies had made great progress, approaching the Marianas Islands, from whose perch US B-29 bombers could launch the massive air assault against the Japanese homeland. In June 1944 Admiral Raymond Spruance smashed a Japanese carrier force in the famed "Marianas Turkey Shoot," but chose not to chase the remaining ships, lest he leave forces on land unprotected. His decision split senior US leaders, and would have fateful consequences for the upcoming battle at Leyte.
The Allies faced a strategic choice: drive in a straighter line towards the Japanese homeland to possibly accelerate termination of the air, via Formosa (Taiwan today) and China, or detour off of a straight line and liberate the Philippines. Proponents of the first course, including the formidable Admiral Ernest King, US Fleet Commander, made purely military arguments to Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific, and FDR. MacArthur's case was more political: He argued that bypassing the Philippines and thus leaving tens of thousands of Americans and loyal Filipinos dying in hideous prison conditions was immoral, and would alienate public opinion at home and in the Philippines. MacArthur's view prevailed.
The Japanese High Command knew after the Marianas debacle that time was running short. A successful American landing in the Philippines would spell certain doom. They decided to send their entire remaining fleet in a desperate attempt to stave off defeat. Admiral Takeo Kurita was told to spare nothing. The Japanese faced vastly superior forces, especially as to aircraft carriers, but inflicting a morale-deflating defeat was within the realm of possibility. They resolved to try to use a strategy of complex maneuver and deception to defeat the Americans (and Australians). The Japanese had few surviving flat-tops, plus several battleships, featuring the two largest dreadnoughts ever built, the super-battleships Yamato and Musashi, displacing 72,800 tons fully loaded. These behemoths sported nine 18.1-inch guns, which could fire their 3,200 pound projectiles up to 27 miles; the three main-gun turrets, at nearly 2,800 tons, each weighed more than a destroyer. A few feet shorter than the US Iowa-class ships (America's largest, with nine 16-inch guns firing 2,700-pound shells up to 25 miles), the Japanese monsters were much wider, that being necessary to absorb the recoil of their largest-ever naval batteries. US ships were limited by the need to pass through the Panama Canal, 110 feet wide; thus the Iowa class ships were 108"6' wide. Yamato and Musashi were 135 feet wide. But these super-dreadnoughts were ideal for a World War I battle, when no planes darkened the skies.
Leyte Gulf was mainly fought in 4 battles, each with its own signature: (1) Sibuyan Sea, Oct. 24; (2) Surigao Strait, Oct. 24-25; (3) Cape Engano, Oct. 24; (4) Samar, Oct. 25. (On Oct. 23 , as prelude, two US submarines sank several Japanese ships on the way to the battle area.) Sibuyan Sea saw US air power sink the Musashi and several other ships in Admiral Kurita's main fleet. This proved once again that air power trumped battleships, as earlier wartime sinkings had shown (Bismarck, Prince of Wales and Repulse in 1941). But Yamato would have its chance, soon.
Before that day, however, Surigao Strait saw the last "crossing the T" in naval history, with US battleships--some repaired after damage suffered at Pearl Harbor, sinking two Japanese battleships (older ones) in a night engagement; the "T" is crossed when ships line up broadside against approaching ships in single file, allowing the broadside ships to concentrate all their firepower against ships limited to forward guns.
The most critical battles were those at Engano and Samar. The Japanese sent their four remaining aircraft carriers, with few airplanes, as decoys to the north of the main Philippine island, Luzon, waiting off a Cape whose Spanish name means "trick," "deceit" or "fraud." The trick worked, Admiral William F. ("Bull") Halsey, mindful of Spruance's decision not to pursue at Marianas, sent his entire carrier and battleship force north. They did indeed inflict great damage upon engaging the fleet. But they left the other strait, San Bernadino, that led to Samar, where a beachhead had been established a few days earlier (when MacArthur fulfilled his pledge to return, wading ashore under fire). Into this opening Admiral Kurita's fleet, less damaged than Halsey imagined, went sailing.
Kurita's fleet emerged in late morning Oct. 25 off Samar. Between his surviving battleships, including mega-ship Yamato, were 16 escort carriers and several destroyers and destroyer-escorts, all lightly-armed. Escort carriers were small flat-tops that carried, as did destroyer escorts, small planes used for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare. Regular destroyers had only guns, the largest being 5-inchers. Against them were several battleships besides Yamato, plus cruisers also vastly more powerful. Admiral Raymond Sprague ordered his destroyers and destroyer-escorts to charge the Japanese capital ships, trying desperately to buy time. Admiral Halsey had by then realized he had been snookered; Halsey had ordered the nearest carrier group to steam towards Samar; the carrier force was headed by none other than Senator John McCain's grandfather, John Sr. But it would not get to Samar in time to affect the battle.
Four small ships, USS Samuel B. Roberts, USS Johnston, USS Hoel and USS Heerman, armed with small guns and torpedoes, charged the Japanese ships, sending up smoke screen to assist their advance. It was a real-life replay of a charge that, in an astounding calendar coincidence, had taken place exactly 90 years earlier to the day: the charge of British cavalry against Russian artillery at Sevastopol, immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his Charge of the Light Brigade. Except that the first charge was a blunder, made in vain; not so the second, an inspired masterstroke that saved the day. And so into the Valley of Death rode 1944's valiant 600--about the same number of sailors. Three ships were sunk; USS Heerman survived, badly damaged. The Yamato was forced to break off the attack to evade torpedoes. Admiral Kurita, seeing US planes approaching on the horizon, elected to depart, rather than sacrifice his fleet as he had been ordered to do; his reasons for doing so are unclear to this day.
Admiral Kurita saved the remnants of his fleet, to no avail. No significant naval battle took place thereafter. On April 6, 1945, the Japanese High command sent Yamato on a lone-ship suicide mission, the kind first used in the war by airplanes at Leyte Gulf, on Oct. 25, against US ships. This kamikaze attack, time by ship instead of plane, would be launched against the American fleet supporting the landing at Okinawa, last and bloodiest of the island campaigns. (Kamikaze means "Divine Wind," and refers to two storms, in 1274 and 1281, that spared Japan conquest by the Mongols, whose fleets were sunk by typhoons.) Yamato never got close enough to engage ships; she was sunk by 400 carrier planes on April 7, 1945.
Yamato met an ignominious end, virtually helpless under air assault. Not so the sailors who in small ships of Samar, on October 25, 1944 charged the biggest guns ever mounted at sea, galloping, as it were, into "the Valley of Death." They well fit the poet Stephen Spender's words:
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.
Quiz Answers: (a) John Paul Jones, Revolutionary War-1779; (b) David Farragut, Civil War--1863; (c) Oliver Hazard Perry, War of 1812--in 1813; (d) Commodore Dewey, Manila Bay, May 1898, Spanish-American War.
Map: Battle of Leyte Gulf
Stephen Spender: "I Think continually of Those Who Were Truly Great
Lord Tennyson: "Charge of the Light Brigade"
VACATION POST 5 of 5 (regular posts resume Mon. 11/14). Nonpareil urban historian Fred Siegel's latest book, The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life (Encounter Books 2005) recounts Rudy Giuliani's rescue of the Big Apple from a chaos produced by liberal social engineering that began with the mayoralty of central casting's John Lindsay and concluded with Giuliani's immediate predecessor, the hapless David Dinkins. Lindsay's idealism was perhaps best symbolized by his tolerance of an aide's underwriting of a book authored by Youth International Party ("Yippie") Abbie Hoffman, one of the prime leaders of the late-1960s student radical movement, entitled (hey, it's printed in the book) Fuck the System. The aide declared of the book that it was "everything I expected and more." Of this Robert Moses, prime architect of New York's infrastructure growth (steamrollering neighborhoods in the process), remarked: "If you elect a matinee-idol Mayor, you're going to get a musical comedy administration."
The city Giuliani inherited was the product of sixty years guided by the "Little Flower," Fiorello LaGuardia, whose twelve years in City Hall (1933-45) followed legendary party-pol Jimmy Walker. LaGuardia was an aggressive populist who fought business by entrenching government bureaucrats and unions. Progressives followed, and then with Lindsay problems metastasized. Specifically, Lindsay presided over an explosion in the welfare rolls, imposition of ruinous taxes, freeing institutionalized patients to roam the streets and a sharp pullback in attempts to suppress violent street crime. Successor Abe Beame was pathetic as the city slid to the brink of bankruptcy; then came Ed Koch, described by Siegel as a Borscht Belt tummler (one who entertains the crowd between acts), who fought a better rhetorical battle but could not reverse the slide, despite a boost from Reagan-era Wall Street.
David Dinkins, NYC's first black mayor, edged Rudy in 1989. Under his listless mayoralty crime soared to record levels. Dinkins' take on the three-day 1991 Crown Heights pogrom of Jews by blacks was to let the rioters vent--a venting that included murder of an Australian rabbinical student in retaliation for an accidental run-down of a black child by a Hasidic driver; it took Deputy Police chief Ray Kelly (now NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's police chief) to stop matters on his own initiative. When in 1990 a young tourist from Utah, on his way to the US Open with his family, was stabbed to death in a subway station trying to defend his mother against gang marauders, the New York Post put up its famous deadline: Dave: Do Something. Dinkins did little, and Rudy edged him out in 1993, but not on the crime issue--too many disenchanted voters had fled the city rather than wait for a Rudy.
Siegel cites as decisive an arcane issue: the discontent of Staten Island voters who lost power to black voters in a City Council re-balancing of seats mandated by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Dinkins was hoist by his own petard--a racial tribalism that replaced the traditional melting-pot of individuals from diverse ethnics with a multicultural "gorgeous mosaic" of discrete ethnic groups with their own perceived group interests. In a post-election address astonishing for its ill-grace, Dinkins called upon the City Council to block changes proposed by the new mayor: "Now more than ever New Yorkers will look to their Council to protect the MOST PROUDLY PROGRESSIVE GOVERNMENT ON GOD'S EARTH." (Emphasis in original.) Dinkins' tenure was best marked by a huge bubble in murders: 1,904 in 1989, the year before Dinkins began his term, then it soared to 2,245 in 1990, 2,154 in 1991, 1,995 in 1992 and 1,946 in 1993--8,340 in four years. The 4,491 murder total in Rudy's first four years was slightly above the 4,399 murders in Dinkins' first two.
Rudy's best known twin achievements were drastic crime reduction and welfare-roll paring. The former was achieved by embracing "broken windows" policing--stopping minor offenses that signaled lack of order--plus computerized management (CompStat), which enabled monitoring of crime flows and targeting hot spots plus anticipating shifts. Cops were backed to the hilt. Rudy rejected the "hard times explanation"--the 1930s Great Depression, America's worst economic crisis ever, featured its lowest 20th century crime rates; the 1960s and 1980s were prosperous and crime-ridden. The citywide metrics Rudy racked up are simply awesome: (1) a decline from 430,000 felonies per year to 180,000--58 percent; (2) a decline in murders from 1,946 to 714--63 percent. In 1996 murders fell below 1,000 for the first time since 1968. In East Harlem there had been 110 murders in 1994, 37 in 1998 and zero in 1999. In 2001, under chief Bernie Kerik, there were fewer murders in Manhattan (105) than there had been in a single Manhattan district, Washington Heights (119) in 1991. Kerik ran Rikers Island before succeeding Howard Safir as police chief, bringing order to the notoriously violent hellhole, reducing stabbings from 115 in August 1995 to 3--yes, that's 3--in August 1998. For a quarter-century, courtesy of activist groups and judges, inmates ran the prison and preyed upon the weaker ones, hiding behind the shield of prisoners' rights. How much, asks Siegel, of this was income and demography? He answers by comparing the Bronx's 1.3 million people with Philadelphia's 1.5 million. Although Bronx residents under Rudy had incomes on average 15 percent lower, the murder rate was a fat 57 percent lower than that for Philly. Seems there was more brotherly love in the Bronx than in the Quaker-founded city of that name.
Welfare reform featured attitude adjustment best summed up poignantly by a 29-year old welfare mom with four kids, who went to work cleaning parks: "They should have done this a long time ago. If they had there wouldn't be children having children." Stricter rules might have made her, the mom said, "think twice" about her life choices. Citywide there were 650,000 single-parent families with at least one child under age 18. As Pat Moynihan once said: "Liberalism faltered when it turned out it could not cope with truth." Giuliani slashed welfare rolls by more than the population of Buffalo. Rudy slashed the rolls 60 percent and ran the program better; his second term featured Wisconsin star manager Jason Turner, who captained Governor Tommy Thompson's top-rated welfare reform. The result was that the $317 the city in 1993, the last year of Dinkins. could spare to help place welfare recipients into jobs blossomed into nearly $3,000 by 2001. Harsh? In 2001 Rudy spent more per capita on childcare for welfare parents than Dinkins spent on all supplemental services, thanks to smaller rolls. Even Mark Green, the ex-Nader raider and failed 2001 mayoral candidate, who once had dismissed welfare reform as making recipients "dance for their supper" came around, conceding: "I was wrong."
Less well known was Rudy's mastery of the budget, and first real spending curbs since WW-II. Rudy learned the numbers inside out; he backed Mario Cuomo's fourth-term bid because he needed Albany's help to close a yawning budget gap. But he cut seriously, and ignored howls of pain from the usual suspects. In this, Rudy was lucky he lost in 1989. He spent four years becoming vastly more knowledgeable about the intricacies of city governance and accounts, and thus vastly more prepared to deal with the immense task of turning around an aircraft carrier. He was helped, of course, by the Wall Street boom from 1994 - 2000; the financial sector contributed roughly one-fifth of city tax revenues by 2000. However, Rudy failed to break what Siegel calls "the political culture of spending"--he could neither trim the city payroll nor make city workers more productive; as a result the city's debt in 2001 stood at a record 19 percent of the budget.
Incredibly, Rudy broke the iron control of organized crime over the Fulton Fish market, city sanitation and the infamous Javits Convention Center (named after the late NY Republican Senator); the first two hammerlocks dated back six decades. He broke the Port Authority's unfair contract on the World Trade Center, and merged NYPD with the Housing Authority Police and the Transit Police; to free the transit cops from the MTA control Rudy threatened to withhold NYC funds to pay its share of MTA cop salaries.
Housing was another surprise success story. Rudy's Commissioner, Deborah Wright, a holdover from the Dinkins era, spearheaded a privatization that ignited Harlem's economic renaissance--made possible in the first instance by curbing crime (1994 saw one block become the site of 54 murders). In 1994, when Rudy took office, Harlem, with a population larger than Atlanta, did not have a single supermarket or movie theater. Illegitimacy ran 80 percent, two-thirds of residents shopped elsewhere, unemployment was thrice and median income less than half the city average. Between 1970 and 1994 Harlem lost one-third of its population and the city came to own almost one-third of housing. Wright outmaneuvered liberal activists by going directly to tenants at local meetings and asking if they wanted landlords other than the city; they did. New York City, at 30 percent home ownership, stood well below the typical urban figure of 50 percent and was less than half the national average of 66 percent. But in the late 1990s the price of a single-family home in NYC's ten poorest neighborhoods grew 39 percent; two of NYC's poorer sections saw median income jumpy 39 and 47 percent. Siegel calls this perhaps the largest successful privatization of any US city.
Yet Rudy was a Rodney Dangerfield ("I don't get no respect!") mayor in minority areas. His crime-busting and economic resurgence won him few friends in polls. Most minority residents told pollsters that they thought times had been better under Dinkins. Attacked for cutting funding (from $8 yo $6 billion) for education, despite no discernible adverse impact, Giuliani was reduced to retorting: 'If you're happy with them [the schools], then go ahead and leave them the way they are." Aided by ex-Yale Dean Benno Schmidt and the heroic Herman Badillo, City University of New York was pulled back from the brink of collapse, away from open admissions to minimum standards of genuine academic merit. CUNY teachers were so bad at one point that the NY Daily News said: "[T]o paraphrase the old cliche, teachers who can teach, do and those who can't were trained at the City University." Badillo, a Puerto-Rican immigrant who rose to graduate at the top of his Brooklyn Law School class and be elected to Congress, was a stalwart who, as a minority himself, was immune to the race-baiting attacks of his opponents.
Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel, vanquisher a generation ago of the notorious Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, seems to have learned the wrong ways from his predecessor; Rangel wanted everything funneled through public sector organizations he controlled, development be damned. Giuliani outmaneuvered him some of the time, and Harlem began its recovery. His Commissioner of Business services, gutsy Rudy Washington, who had helped break the Fulton Fish market choke-hold, went after 125th Street, where the locals were even more dangerous. Said Washington: "The mob guys were semi-rational, but some of the knuckleheads on 125th Street were crazy, You could never know when you'd run into one of them toting a gun on the subway or in the streets."
But the race hustling set lay in wait for Rudy. Al Sharpton fomented a riot in front of Freddy's' Market on 125th Street, and a black gunman shot and killed four, then set a fire that killed another seven. Sharpton was never held to account for what his anti-Semitic propaganda against the place's Jewish proprietor had set in motion. Less then three months before Rudy easily won re-election the first of three infamous racial incidents involving police occurred. Out-of-control cops from the dismal 70th precinct retaliated against a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, but forcibly sodomizing him. Giuliani immediately fired the captain and started an investigation that led to vigorous prosecution. The race hustlers could have cared less. For his part, Louima invented a fable that as he was attacked the cops taunted him with: "This is Giuliani time." Never happened, but it entered Apple folklore as an urban legend.
Then, in February 1999, came what the race crowd had prayed for: the accidental shooting, by four rookie cops, of Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea who was a peddler of stolen goods and had lied on his application for asylum, claiming persecution in Mauritania. Inexperienced officers had been introduced bu Bratton's successor, Howard Safir, when he nearly tripled the number of Street Crime Unit cops, from 138 to 380; the SCU had seized 40 percent of street guns with one percent of manpower. Safir failed to tone down police tactics after Bratton's success, and as tactics remained aggressive more innocent people were assailed. Simply put, Rudy and Safir did not see what Bratton, given his superior savvy, would have seen: that success required adjusting tactics, lessening in-your-face policing. Al Sharpton got it. The result was a racialist firestorm, aided by a press frenzy, that blazed for more than a year. Rudy tried to dampen the uproar with statistics, but they did not even register; feelings trumped numbers. As Siegel notes, the level of policing in a neighborhood must balance crime reduction with levels of intrusion locals are willing to accept. Dinkins, asked about the drop in crime, replied: "[T]here was no crime in Nazi Germany." Apparently, Kristallnacht and the Holocaust did not loom large in what passed for the former mayor's mind. Police in Detroit and Washington, with black chiefs and predominately black cops, killed seven times as many people per capita as did NYC; Maryland's Prince George's County racked up a nine-fold margin over the Apple, with half those killed unarmed. Not a peep from the public. Life, as JFK famously said, is unfair.
Ignoring great ridicule, Giuliani and his ace security chief, Jerry Hauer, laboriously prepared the city for future terror attacks. They saw what the Clinton Administration refused to see: that the 1993 WTC bombing was prelude to more terror. The public was asleep, lulled by a press that in 1995 relegated the trial of blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, whose oratory fueled Islamism in NYC, to the middle pages, while the O.J. farce dominated page one. When in late 1999 Y2K had everyone poised for disaster, Rudy and Hueir were ready; they drilled everyone to monotony.
By 2000 Gotham was back in stride: the fastest job growth since 1951, with all jobs lost under Mayor Dingbat Hauer now recovered, more working New Yorkers than since Lindsay began NYC's downhill slide, and 54 percent of New Yorkers participating in the workforce, the best number since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping score in 1978 (below the 64 percent national average). Yet instead of basking in his spectacular success Rudy's Year 2000 proved a nightmare, with two racial/police incidents in the Spring reviving the usual race rap, and cancer plus a nasty divorce forcing him to withdraw from a Senate race against Hillary Clinton. The last proved a blessing in disguise, as Gore's 25-point margin over Bush would have pulled Hillary in against anyone. Siegel notes, however, one event that reminded New Yorkers of what their embattled mayor had done in six years: the June 11, 2000 "wilding" by Puerto Rican youths during the annual Puerto Rican Day parade down Fifth Avenue, during which more than fifty women were sexually assaulted in Central Park.
With Rudy term-limited, the Democratic primary to choose who would oppose Michael Bloomberg was held on a sunny Tuesday morning, September 11. 'Twas not to be a day for which pols named Vallone, Hevesi, Ferrer and Green (nor Bloomberg) were remembered. Richard Sheirer, Rudy's new head of the Office of Emergency Management, had set September 12 for a biological terrorism exercise on Hudson River Pier 92; instead it became the makeshift crisis center after the one Rudy built was destroyed when the Towers collapsed. If the 2,800 lives lost on 9/11 were the highest ever for a single-day foreign attack on US soil, the 25,000 saved from the Towers set a record for safe evacuation. The New York Fire Department had lost 778 men since its formation in 1865, and now added 343 in a single horrific morning. Rudy, in his Churchillian finest hour, remained cool and kept his city cool. Despite manifestly possible further attacks that day; he directed all his subordinates crisply and wisely. Americans were reminded how special Rudy's performance was when treated in 2005 to the pathetic spectacle of New Orleans whiner-mayor Ray "Fakin'" Nagin, finger-pointing from 80 miles away in his State's capital.
Rudy for President in 2008? But he was only a mayor? He governed a city more populous than 42 states (still true as to 40 states) and with a Gross Domestic Product greater than that of Belgium--16th in the world. If terror & homeland security top the public issues list, he has a real shot. His weakest issue is immigration, but student that he is it is reasonable to believe he will adjust his sights given political trends in his party.
What about his lack of appeal to blacks? Their attitude towards the mayor who did more for them than any mayor, perhaps anywhere at any time, reminds one of Austria's Prince Schwartzenberg's quip, when asked about Austria's response towards those who helped her quell the 1848 Hungarian insurrection: "Austria will astound the world with the magnitude of her ingratitude." In a way, urban blacks have become America's Palestinians: they refuse to take "yes" for an answer. Rudy + Rice (set aside whether Condi would do it) might temper their anger, but not much. AEI poll maven Karlyn Bowman has published results re blacks and Republicans. Bush has an 81 percent negative rating--Rudy's surely would be even higher--but Condi rates 63-25 percent positive.
Rudy's temperament is viewed as a liability, but the other leading candidate, John McCain, has all Rudy's personality flaws without Rudy's keen intellect and encyclopedic knowledge. True, McCain is a war hero extraordinaire, but Rudy's Churchillian post-9/11 performance counters this--it was his city that al-Qai'da trashed, and his friends at many funerals that followed.
Rudy's campaign theme? Borrow from the NYC master, David Garth, who got Bloomberg elected--his eighth win in ten mayoral races, and who in the 1977 mayoral race gave winner Ed Koch the following slogan: "After eight years of charisma (Lindsay) and four years of the clubhouse (Beame), why not try competence?" Charisma was eight years of Clinton, the clubhouse is eight years of 43 (putting up a cipher-chum for the Supreme Court). Ready for competence?
Siegel misses very little. My favorite nugget not mentioned was Rudy's harpooning of Hillary in 2000, after she claimed she had always been a Yankee fan--having grown up in a suburb of Chicago and lived most of her adult life in Arkansas and having never attended a Yankee game. Rudy went to Little Rock and proclaimed impishly: "I've always been a Razorback." Meanwhile, read the book and savor it in full. It is loaded with rich anecdotes and data; you will never find a better one on the subject. And support Rudy/Rice in 2008. If they lose, Rice can be NFL Commissioner, a post she has said is her dream job; and Rudy can be baseball commissioner, in which case all those jocks popping steroids had better turn over a new leaf.
Bowman: Despite Outreach, Bush Lost Black Goodwill even Before Katrina
The recent death of legendary Get Smart star Don Adams brings to mind a trio of spy shows that picked up where 007 left off--albeit, for mid-1960s TV, tamer: 1964's The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and the 1965 shows Get Smart and I Spy. Alas, only one of the three (I Spy) is in DVD (apparently, HBO is releasing Get Smart on DVD in 2006). A viewing of several I Spy episodes reminds me how superb I Spy was, and I can look forward to savoring it from my Elliptical Runner (all 21 discs, each with four episodes.) (1965 also marked the single season for the ill-fated first female private eye vehicle, starring seriously sexy Anne Francis as "Honey West"; not much of a show, but Anne in her prime was a honey indeed--she made the stars of Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives look like tomboys. Don't believe me? See the page link below.)
U.N.C.L.E. stood for United Network Command for Law Enforcement, a UN-type organization that battled the deadly THRUSH: Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity. (Its low-tech modern counterpart is, I guess, al-Qai'da--just substitute Theological.) Robert Vaughan's Napoleon Solo and David McCallum's Ilya Kuryakin (US & USSR--get it?--detente before Presidents Nixon and Ford) worked for urbane bureaucrat Alexander Waverly (UK's Leo G. Carroll, much more efficient than Kofi). U.N.C.L.E. was straight adventure leavened only by the pretty female guest stars.
Get Smart, of course, was all for laughs, with Barbara Feldon's Agent 99 (Smart was Agent 86) and Ed Platt's perpetually exasperated chief of CONTROL, battling KAOS. Most of the chaos came, naturally, from Agent 86. "Chief, I'm surrounded by twelve enemy agents!" "Would you believe five?" "Would you believe a French poodle and an old lady with a parasol?"
But if you wanted laughs plus adventure, your show was I Spy. Beginning with jazz composer Earle Hagen's bouncy theme, Robert Culp (Kelly Robinson) and Bill Cosby (Alexander Scott) traveled to exotic locales under cover as tennis pro and trainer. The first show to be filmed overseas, and first with an African-American star, I Spy was vastly entertaining--and still is. Amazingly, the funny man of the two was not rising comedian Cosby, but dry wit Culp. The show worked because the chemistry between the two stars was perfect, plus scripts suitably crisp--lots of atomic stuff, and oh, those fab gardens of paradise as mis-en-scene. Stellar guest stars helped. I Spy avoided the slapstick of Get Smart and the one-world hyper-earnestness of U.N.C.L.E. (One wonders, should U.N.C.L.E. be released on DVD, if after the UN follies of recent years a UN-type law enforcement agency will get more guffaws than did Get Smart at its apogee.)
Cosby wound up with three straight Emmy awards--all richly deserved, and went on to his legendary career. Culp, who had as much to do with the success of the series as Cosby and equally deserved Emmy award recognition, got none, and is largely forgotten. But not to fans of I Spy. Nostalgia buffs of a certain age, you can't spend all your TV time watching Lucy Ricardo and Ralph Kramden.
"The Man From U.N.C.L.E." Page
"Get Smart" Page
"I Spy" Page
"Honey West" Page
I spent parts of Sunday and Monday reading 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, by reporters Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn (Times Books 2005). It is a riveting account of that terrible day, one that defies summary, in that its value is the cumulation of vivid individual stories. In a tale with much sorrow and much heroism, there is, on page 175, a rare light moment--a quick exchange you would expect in a Hollywood blockbuster. Steve Charest, a May Davis Group broker, was descending the stairs from their 87th floor office in the North Tower (the plane hit floors 93-98) carrying a golf club. On his way down he passed an unnamed fireman ascending. The fireman, passing, now surely gone, quipped to the broker: "Hey, I saw your ball, a few flights down." As was said after Pearl Harbor, "Lest we forget...."
Top-drawer oil-trader Raymond J. Learsy's absorbing book, Over a Barrel (Nelson Current 2005), chronicles the appalling exploitation of rich and poor alike by the oil-producing countries and companies, aided by collaborating Western leaders and a fawning mass media. It is not for nothing that Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, the Venezuelan petroleum minister who in 1960 conceived OPEC, called oil "the devil's excrement." Thus Nigeria, despite reaping $350 billion in oil revenues in the past 40 years, saw in the same period its poverty rate double (from 36 to 70 percent). Vast unearned wealth saps the desire of people to work, breeds massive corruption and is seized by insiders who eliminate enemies and enjoy royal privileges--the author estimates that Nigeria's kleptocrat-thugs have lined their pockets to the tune of $100 billion.
Even the Mideast OPEC nations suffer. Writes Learsy: "The West may yearn to end its dependence on OPEC oil, but, in many ways, the OPEC countries are even more destructively dependent. The terrible irony is that countries seemingly blessed with underground wealth can become so completely addicted to a resource-based economy as to end up impoverishing their cultures and their people."
Royalty? Which brings us to the Gulf states plus Iraq and Iran,. In his introduction Learsy aptly pegs the Mideast oil giants: "In countries where life is touched by fanaticism and virtually everything is for sale, the combination of limitless wealth, seething hatred, and weapons of mass destruction is more than frightening; it can be deadly." He begins by exploding the "myth of scarcity": oil reserves at any foreseeable price (the higher the price, the greater the recoverable reserves) vastly exceed our potential consumption. Meanwhile, OPEC exploits our hysteria, alternately claiming that shortage is imminent when prices drop, and then assuring the world that more capacity can come on line if prices spike sharply.
One estimate is that Saudi reserves pegged at 266 billion barrels may actually be more like 466 billion. OPEC produced 31 million barrels daily in 1970, and produces 27 to 29 million daily today, 35 years later. Learsy pegs total production at 300 billion barrels. (Do the arithmetic: Use 22 million barrels per day, as OPEC quota cutbacks went below 20 million at times, viv-a-vis the 31 billion barrel open-spigot benchmark. Result: about 8 billion barrels per year--280 billion barrels since 1970 .) Yet OPEC reserves are still officially around 250 billion barrels. And OPEC tells a fawning press and gullible leaders that its price moves are aimed at stabilizing the market, not yielding oligopoly prices. The true cost of Gulf oil is $1 to $2 per barrel. Learsy estimates that OPEC countries have taken in some $7 trillion since the 1973 oil embargo.
Learsy recounts the roller coaster ride oil prices and OPEC took in the dozen years dating from King Faisal's imposition of the oil embargo (actually, a 5 % per month cut, administered unevenly, with the US targeted for greater cuts (which did not work, because oil is a fungible commodity). At first, OPEC price hawks gloried in raising prices, ignoring warnings from the Saudi sage-cum-petroleum minister, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, who predicted that the market would find new sources of oil if prices were forced too high. President Nixon's Pentagon prepared a contingency plan for the 82nd Airborne to seize the Saudi fields; the plan was scuttled by both media exposure and Secretary of State Kissinger's belief that overthrowing the Saudi royals would open the way for more radical governments to take power. This epitomized the widespread view that the Saudis were moderates, rather than in thrall to Wahhabi fanatics; that bill came due on 9/11.
In October 1973 the Saudis raised the posted (official) price to $5.12/barrel, up from $2.08/b three years earlier; that December the Shah of Iran pushed it to $11.65/b. Oil peaked at $34/b posted price in early 1981, pushed up by the second shock (1979). New supplies--like America's North Slope (Alaska) and Britain's North Sea--came on line. Revolution brought an Islamo-Fascist Shi'a regime to Iran, while Algeria was roiled by civil war. In Iraq, a ruthless officer named Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti seized total power. OPEC attained its 20th century apogee in 1981.
Oil price regulation, plus new sources of supply undermined the cartel. (Learsy maintains that true cartel status did not pertain until 1982, for want of coordination among producers.) By Summer 1986 the oil posted price had collapsed to $8--in real dollars 14 percent higher than 1970's $2.08 and 74 percent lower than the end-1973 price. OPEC was ripe for taking.
And then Uncle Sucker saved the cartel. By 1986 the posted price was under $10/b; Saudi GDP fell from $119 billion in 1981 to $26 billion in 1985, a 78 percent plunge. Enter one (V-P) George H. W. Bush. Fearing that the collapse of the OPEC oligopoly would undermine "stability" in the Gulf region and kill domestic US production (which depended upon high-cost oil). H.W. negotiated with the Saudis and struck a bargain: a posted price of $18/b, high enough for producer stability and low enough to be affordable for consumers. Iran wanted high oil prices to pay for its part of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War (started by Saddam); in the process, Sheikh Yamani, leading advocate of low-price oil to perpetuate Western dependence, was ousted.
Saddam further complicated matters when in 1990 he swallowed Kuwait, but the US led the 1991 Gulf War coalition rescue and thus avoided the catastrophe of Saddam's controlling the Mideast oil market. By 1993 OPEC revenues had fallen two-thirds, with oil at $16/b. By 1998 oil had plummeted to $10.38/b. (In real dollars, 1970's $2.08/b price would have been $9.05/b in 1998.)
1998 saw another milestone: Major Western countries began to coordinate their production levels (and hence pricing) with OPEC; Russia, Norway and Mexico joined the cartel parade. To enforce price guidelines, Saudi Arabia "found" another 3 billion barrels of daily capacity. Lack of transparency impedes getting firm data on OPEC capacity, which suits producers just fine.) OPEC's comeback was effected by the March 21, 1999 Vienna Pact, which re-established price collusion. At that landmark meeting Qatar's oil minister dropped a hint at what the true free market per-barrel price of oil is: "1998 was a very hard year for everybody. Everybody learned the lesson, and nobody wants to see oil at $10 a barrel again."
The second Iraq War offered another opportunity to break OPEC: All we had to do was tell the Iraqis that our soldiers did not die to perpetuate a cartel. 43, partly due to familial pedigree and partly due to fear of a "war for oil" backlash, refused to do anything. Now he gets the accusation anyway, without cheap oil. Frankly, a war fought in part to break OPEC, which is extorting excess profits of about 1/4-trillion $ per year now, would have been not at all unreasonable. Prices even continued to soar when China's domestic oil demand dropped 13 percent--so much for the fiction that rising demand is pushing prices into the stratosphere.
Learsy likens Western government passivity in the face of OPEC's extortioners to the Stockholm Syndrome--identifying with one's captors. OPEC, he adds, thinks like drug dealers: The customer is always wrong. As a remedy, Learsy suggests steps to break the cartel and move the US to energy independence; (1) force transparency on OPEC production and reserve figures; (2) tap the SPR to tamp down price spikes; (3) implement alternative energy programs--first via nuclear power; (4) begin a voucher-based gas distribution program; (5) take action to get the World Trade Organization to sue OPEC for market-rigging.
Learsy is on weaker ground when he touts alternative energy programs proposed by Amory Lovins, a longtime Green whose ideas are solidly discredited by Peter Huber and Mark Mills in their superb book, The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy ( Basic Books 2005, reviewed by me April 16). Learsy's voucher program would work by having consumers issued a magnetic debit card each quarter, with a gasoline allocation. Trading allotments would be permitted. Someone who wants more gas could buy an allotment from a seller willing to use less, at a market-clearing price.
Learsy asks why for so long the oil cartel has been tolerated. If oil is a necessity of modern life, food is a necessity of life itself. A grain cartel of America, Australia, Canada, Brazil and Argentina would not last five nanoseconds without global outrage. (Where is self-appointed world-nanny UN on how oil prices are killing prospects for poor nations to grow? Do not even think of asking.) Using the $10/b market level let slip by Qatar's oil minister as a guide for the true market price of a barrel of oil, and given that each dollar per barrel adds $7 billion annually to America's oil bill, you'd think something might be going on. Think: At $70, America's annual oil bill is $490 billion, versus $70 billion at $10. We are paying at current levels a $420 billion annual tax to a cartel that uses some of the profits to support the terrorists we are fighting. (N.B. Usama's money does not really come from construction; his dad was paid in petrodollars for most of his work to amass the family fortune.)
Worse, of course, is that we (the West--chiefly America and Britain) found the black gold, dug it up, refined it and sold it, then took the sons of tribal princes and educated them in our best schools. They repaid us by expropriating our property. (A revision of "participation" terms in the early 1970s plus a future market-price buyout would have been reasonable, as the relative contributions of the parties had shifted over time.) They then invested much of the surplus profit in sybaritic indulgence on a grand scale, weapons, war, terrorism (some protection money, some happily financed) and spreading hate and fanaticism around the world--all directed at the countries that helped them exploit the oil (plus Israel).
The Romans would have known (at least, in their prime, from Julius Caesar to Marcus Aurelius) how to deal with such extortion and impertinence. We, alas, are not Romans. So we allow it. We need not emulate the cruelty of Imperial Rome, but at least we ought not continue to play patsies. If someday a nuke goes off in an American city, it may well be funded by petrodollars.
Author Richard Zacks tells in The Pirate Coast (Hyperion 2005) the full story of America's first post-independence foreign war, the clash with the Barbary pirates, 1803-05. The tale would make for a terrific movie, if a non-politicized Hollywood film-maker without a political axe to grind could be found to make it. With today's Tinseltown, do not hold your breath.
The tale has more twists and turns than a brief blog can recount. Suffice it to say that in 1803 Thomas Jefferson decided America should end extortion by Barbary marauders--plying the Mediterranean from their havens in what today are Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Pirates even raided Italian towns to collect slaves. On one such raid in 1798 they collected a pretty 12-year-old girl named Anna Porcile. Her father went from door to door seeking aid in her recovery, whilst her virtue was still intact. He found a caring soul in William Eaton, who in 1801 manned the US consulate in Tunisia. Which led to Jefferson sending a mini-fleet to compel the pasha of Tripoli to give Anna back. Eventually, she was ransomed, her virtue intact.
Then a US ship, sent to coerce Barbary compliance, ran aground, and 300 Americans were taken hostage for what proved to be 19 months. Eaton led an intrepid expedition to free the brother of the piratical pasha. But in the end a diplomat-appeaser, one Tobias Lear, sold America's heroes out, negotiating a treaty with secret provisions calling for an indemnity paid the pasha, plus a sell-out of the pasha's brother, whose family was held several years after the treaty was signed despite assurance from the Americans that such would not happen. President Jefferson, alas, approved the secret cave-in. Not his finest hour.
It remained for Navy legend Stephen Decatur, who burned the captured ship Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor in 1805, to redeem America's honor by thrashing the pirates after his star turn in the War of 1812. Decatur refused ransom for ten Christian captives, collected damages for past wrongs and captured the flagship of the Bey of Algiers.
The author gives two priceless quotes from hero William Eaton. In the first, Eaton neatly contrasts the pasha that Lear capitulated to with the pasha's brother, whom Eaton marched with: "If parricide, fratricide, treason, perfidy...and systematic piracy [give guarantees] of good faith, Mr. Lear has chosen the fittest of the two brothers." Then in a note to the naval commander who evacuated him from Tripoli, Eaton wrote: "In a few minutes more, we shall lose sight of this devoted city,...thrown from proud success and elated prospects into an abyss of hopeless wretchedness.--Six hours ago the enemy were seeking safety from them by flight--this moment we drop them from ours into the hands of this enemy for no other crime but too much confidence in us! The man whose fortune we have accompanied thus far experiences a reverse as striking--He falls from the most flattering prospects of a Kingdom to beggary." Alas, for his troubles Eaton was humiliated upon his return home--by Jefferson, no less; Decatur's vindication of Eaton's view came after Eaton's death from alcoholism.
Touched on in the epilogue are nuggets that tell part of a tale at least as significant, if not more so, than the story the author recounts. Just as America's involvement with Arab and Muslim people was driven by a self-defense against piracy, so was France's 1830 move into Algeria. Not mentioned by the author are two other matters pertinent to today: Britain's involvement with the Gulf states around 1830 was in response to piracy and slavery as well. Oil drilling was not known then. Only in Egypt did Western imperialism raise its ugly head (Napoleon's 1798 invasion, scuppered by Britain, who wished to protect its "Jewel in the Crown," India).
So, 'twas less Western rapacity that led to Western moves into the Mideast, than a desire to curb Mideastern (dare we say Muslim?) rapacity.
Robert Spencer, Director of Jihad Watch and an adjunct fellow with the Free Congress Foundation, has done a public service with Regnery's publication of his 2005 book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). Albeit in parts a tad over the top, it is a healthy corrective to the politically correct baby talk that dominates public discussion of Islam, exemplified best by 43's "Islam is a religion of peace" mantra.
To begin with Islam, from the Arabic aslama, means not "peace" but "submission." In Muhammad's time, since and especially in the jaundiced eye's of today's jihadists, kuffars (non-believers) have three choices: convert, live as a (dhimmi) second-class citizen or be executed. (A fourth, more modern option, living as a first-class non-Muslim citizen in a Muslim society, is what the US is trying to create in Iraq.)
Spencer goes too far in spots. Citing blood-curdling passages from the Qur'an is an easy mark, but any of the great religious texts can be creatively interpreted--Islam, it seems, awaits its Earl Warren to invent convenient, expedient, modernist "interpretations" of its text (with real-world results, one hopes, better than the hash Warren made of the US Constitution). Spencer shows that some of the peace-oriented quotations Islamic advocates float publicly have been carefully edited. Spencer is way off base in attacking the great Orientalist Bernard Lewis for being disingenuous; Lewis is a national treasure and a scholar whose books would help any literate Westerner understand Islam and its history.
But these defects are way outweighed by the book's politically incorrect virtues. The Crusades (seven between 1095 & 1291) spanned 200 years of episodic wars in a thousand-year jihad (632 - 1683) conducted by Islam. Starting with Persia and Byzantium (Eastern Roman Empire) in the 7th century, spreading to Spain in the 8th--they would remain in Andalusia for 781 years (711 - 1492), Islam expanded in its first century faster than any empire since Alexander the Great, reaching Tours in France by the centennial year of Muhammad's death (i.e., 732 AD).
Islam's image of tolerance is drawn from two sources: its advances in the sciences and arts, and Saladin, conqueror of Jerusalem in 1187. The advances, Spencer notes, were heavily dependent upon outsiders--notably, Jews. And yes, Jews did pretty well in the Ottoman Empire while having been expelled from France (1206--pre-Ottoman times), Britain (1394) and Spain (1492, the same year the Muslims were kicked out of Andalusia). But Jews, though "people of the Book" in Muslim eyes, lived under dhimmitude, paying a kuffar tax, their testimony not admissible in court against a Muslim, plus many other deprivations. Not Nazi Germany, but not New York either.
As for Saladin, he was not quite the kinder, gentler leader we know today: He massacred Crusader soldiers in his 1187 victory at Hattin, and only refrained from a second orgy of killing because the Crusaders in Jerusalem threatened to slaughter the Muslims inside its walls before Saladin could enter. A deal was struck and, to his credit, Saladin kept it. Nor did Saladin pine for Jerusalem. The only reason he stirred to take the city was that the foolish Raymond de Chatillon raided Saladin's caravans and forts; Saladin returned to Damascus after taking Jerusalem in 1187, and never returned in the remaining years (five) of his life.
The Crusader massacres of Jews in Germany and Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem during the First Crusade (called 1095; fought 1098 - 1099), and the sacking of Constantinople in the Fourth (1204) are cited by Crusade critics. But the Crusades were launched after 450 years of Islamic wars, and the First Crusade was prompted by the burning of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 1009 and the barring of Christian prayer in the Holy City in 1055. As for mass killing, many Muslim conquerors slaughtered by the carloads--the Mamluk Sultan Baybars at Antioch (1268), Tamerlane (not your "kinder, gentler" poster child) myriad times in the late 14th century, Ottomans Bayezid I at Nicopolis (Bulgaria in 1396, ending the era of chivalric knights)and Mehmed the Conqueror upon entering Constantinople in 1453 (ending the Eastern Roman Empire). Muslims reached the gates of Vienna twice: 1529 (after entering Budapest in 1526) and 1683, where on September 11, 1683 (yes, a 17th century 9/11) the Islamic tide was turned back by Jan III Sobieski's 30,000 Polish hussars.
Put simply, Islam was at least as much sinner as sinned against. And the problem today is not merely a few extremists who "hijacked" Islam. Islam is unreformed--it has not undergone the 17th century Reformation that ended the tradition of religious war (after the Thirty Years' War, 1618 - 1648) and led to separation of church and state. Muhammad was warrior and political leader as well as prophet, unlike Moses and Jesus--or, for that matter, Buddha.
It will take a reformation to end atavisms that persist in Islamic communities--honor killings, failure to resist rape being regarded as adultery, forced child brides, mandatory veiling and confinement to home, denial of education, etc. Thus a "clash of civilizations" within Islam: modernists pushing for open society and free choice, versus barbarians seeking 7th century darkness. It is a long uphill road--with success very iffy. Successful democracies in the Mideast and Asia would help by example.
From our vantage point Western guilt and multicultural baloney based upon anti-Western history--demonizing the Crusades and sanitizing Islam's jihad--will not help. 43 may need to keep up with the "religion of peace" locution to avoid offending moderate Muslims, but Americans and their allies must know better. This book is a handy quick guide--more readily readable than formal histories.
Savor this book--its political incorrectness, its humor and its contrarian zest in rectifying the grotesque and dangerous pro-Arabist/Islamist slant of the received wisdom re Islam and the West, as served up eagerly by the chattering classes, re history and today.
Jihad Watch Website
Much ado has been made since 9/11 on how Saudi Arabia funded Sunni extremism and on the threat Islamists pose to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's regime. Much less has been said and written about the role that Egyptian Islamists played in germinating the jihadist threat. Counter-terror scholar J. Bowyer Bell's A 2003 work, Murders on the Nile: The World Trade Center, not widely noticed, remedies this defect and bears reading.
Bell begins with an encapsulation of Egypt's history under foreign conquest after its ancient empire petered out. The Arabs arrived in 639 under Caliph Omar (the famed mosque that bears his name was built after his death and so named as Omar was first the caliph to enter Jerusalem). Omar was the second (ruled 634-644) of the four" rightly-guided" caliphs (successors) who succeeded Muhammad. From Omar's death until Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 the land was an obscure backwater. The Brits jumped in to stop Bonaparte and passed on leadership to one Muhammad Ali, a freebooter who became khedive; Ali was a Mamluk--the Turkish slave dynasty that ruled Egypt from 1250 until 1882.
The Brits took over stewardship in 1882 after Egypt went bankrupt due to the Suez Canal mega-project. Egypt officially won its independence March 15, 1922. In forty years of British suzerainty the locals chafed under colonialist arrogance and condescension, but administration became markedly less corrupt (a relative term: Egypt's bureaucracy remains one of the world's most corrupt to this day). Rebellious stirrings in that period started in 1906 included assassinations--one victim of which was the grandfather of Kofi Annan's immediate predecessor as UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. The British retaliated ruthlessly each time.
In 1928 Hasan al-Banna, a primary schoolteacher, founded the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimo). In August 1936 the British negotiated the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty to streamline administration and appointed as King Farouk, who ruled with the collaboration of conservative classes and survived by adroit maneuver, all the while living an increasingly sybaritic lifestyle. Meanwhile the colonials lived an insular existence, oblivious to goings-on even in Cairo. Bell states that even a tourist in 1939 knew more than the local residents. Formal routine was all: the Royal Yacht Club in Alexandria in 1934 turned away for improper dress, among others, Noel Coward and...yep, the King of Greece. During WWII the Egyptians were mostly pro-Nazi, including young officers like Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar el-Sadat.
In October 1951 the British abrogated the 1936 treaty and tried to hold on. But February 26, 1952 (eerily, exactly 41 years to the date before the first WTC bombing) saw mobs riot in Cairo on "Black Saturday." On July 25, 1952 the Free officers, with General Muhammad Naguib as a front figure, engineered a bloodless coup. By 1954 Naguib was gone and Nasser was the official head. Egyptians were overjoyed to see colonialism end and cheered Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal and the subsequent humiliation of the British and French. But Islamists were unhappy, seeing Nasserism--what Bell terms Pharaonic rule--as one more form of corruption.
Over the next decade Nasser periodically repressed Islamists, culminating in the 1966 execution of their strongest voice, Sayyid al-Qutb. Meanwhile Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, blind since his birth in a small southern Egyptian village (Fedemin, in 1937) grew into a young radical cleric preaching Islamic society per the shari'a, to be realized by force if necessary. Nasser died in 1970, his prestige permanently tarnished by his humiliating defeat in the 1967 war with Israel. Sadat redeemed that prestige in 1973, but lost favor with Islamists partly due to his refusal to impose Islamist rule, and partly due to his recognizing Israel's right to exist in 1977 and signing Camp David in 1979.
Sadat's Pharaonic rule ended with his assassination October 6, 1981, on the 8th anniversary of his launching the Yom Kippur War. Bell offers a riveting account of how the shooters got close to Sadat and fired while Sadat's security men were paralyzed. The lead assassin was Il-Islambouli, a member of the revolutionary group al-Jihad and whose brother had been arrested in 1977; al-Jihad was even more militant than had been Sayyid Qutb, which is saying a lot. Among those put on trial in early 1982 for Sadat's murder and the associated conspiracy was none other than the blind sheik, who used his testimony at trial to broadcast his inflammatory jihadist message to the Egyptian public. Hosni Mubarak continued the Egyptian pattern of post-0colonial Pharaonic rule. 1982, however, was to prove a watershed year.
Arriving in Cairo in 1982 was a doctor, one Ayman al-Zawahiri, who founded Islamic Jihad. Islamic pressure forced Mubarak to institute more public restrictions on behavior. Meanwhile the Islamists exacted revenge against prior collaborators, hanging a 94-year old man who helped the cops (not the Christian Copts) in 1935! Meanwhile the US aided the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, but the Pakistani ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) directed the money and weapons to the most fanatical Islamists among the fighters. President Reagan had no truck with such groups, calling them "looney tunes," but he wanted the Evil Empire defeated (and accepted CIA advice to defer to the ISI in targeting aid). The US deployment of forces in Lebanon after Israel withdrew from Beirut in 1982 united religious and secular Arab alike against what was seen as a new Western crusade. A key split between UBL and Zawahiri was that UBL wanted global action while Zawahiri focused on Egyptian repression; in 1987 al-Qaida and Islamic Jihad merged.
How backward were these folk? As recently as 1966 a Saudi cleric condemned (not a misprint) the Copernican heresy. Do not ask these guys to build airplanes. In July 1990 Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman landed in New York City. His visa had been granted by a CIA officer at the consulate! In 1992 the sheik got a permanent residency permit.
Much of what follows in NYC has been told elsewhere. Let us conclude Bell's tale with a comment from 1993 WTC bomber mastermind Ramzi Yousef, who later plotted but failed to carry out blowing up 12 airliners over the Pacific. Convicted after the WTC 1993 bombing, Yousef was told by the federal agent accompanying him to prison on an airplane as it passed by the WTC towers, "See, they're still there." To which the terrorist replied: "They would not be if I had enough money and time."
Frank Sinatra's fan club included many great musicians. Two of them are piano greats Oscar Peterson and Monty Alexander, each of whom expressed their admiration in tribute albums, Oscar's 1959 A Jazz Portrait of Frank Sinatra and Monty's 1996 Echoes of Jilly's. Both play with trios and give primarily lyrical, laid-back portraits. Only one song appears on both CDs: the classy You Make Me Feel So Young, played up-tempo by Monty and soaringly by Oscar.
Monty's recording has extra spice because Alexander played at Jilly's from 1963 to 1967 (age 19 when he started in '63), the storied nightclub bistro owned by Frank-pal Jilly Rizzo, whose club's society cachet peaked in the 1960s. Notable on Monty's take is I'm a Fool to Want You, the famed torch-song tribute from Sinatra to second-wife Ava Gardner; his one clinker is the closer, a solo harmonica cut of Strangers in the Night. Peterson recorded with his first (of two) fabulous trios, featuring nonpareil bassist Ray Brown. Top numbers: Learnin' the Blues, It Happened in Monterrey (taken quick tempo) All of Me (dig Oscar's double-time intro) and the closer, a zippy rendition of How About You.
Make it a musical trifecta by hearing the jazz side of Ol' Blue Eyes in Sinatra in Paris, a live 1962 recording from a Paris nightclub, backed by a sextet. In addition to the usual Sinatra standards the album includes songs identified strongly with other singers: Goody Goody (Ella Fitzgerald), Moonlight in Vermont (Sarah Vaughan), Ol' Man River (Paul Robeson), They Can't Take that Away From Me (Fred Astaire) and I Could Have Danced All Night, from My Fair Lady. Listen as Frank sails with At Long Last Love, The Second Time Around, a jazzy treatment of Night and Day (very different from his Tommy Dorsey band recording), and an up-tempo I Love Paris (no, not Paris Hilton).
A political history note: The album came out of a two-month tour with the sextet, launched by Sinatra after JFK yielded to RFK's entreaty and dumped Ol' Blue Eyes over his mob ties (JFK stayed at Bing's rather than at Frank's compound in Palm Springs. CA). Sinatra's brain trust dreamed up a tour to raise funds for hospitals, orphanages, etc. and thus burnish the singer's image; the tour raised over $1 million. (In fairness, Sinatra was famously generous to such causes all his performing life.) In the event, enjoy.
Music legend Andre Previn, one of the towering talents of 20th century music both classical and jazz, shows us in the CD Previn at Sunset how he sounded in 1946, at age 17. That he was headed for grand things is clear from these tracks, which include a surprise fast-tempo rendering of the quintessential ballad Body and Soul. As companion material Previn's 1991 autobiographical memoir of his Hollywood years, No Minor Chords, is a delightful read. The title comes from an edict that movie mogul Irving Thalberg handed down, aiming to keep film scores cheery: "No music in an MGM film is to contain a minor chord." The decree was duly posted on the music department's front door; the music staff ignored it, secure in the knowledge that Thalberg could have heard Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor without knowing it featured minor chords.
Enjoy as well listening to Bill Evans on You're Gonna Hear From Me, a CD whose title song was written by Previn; the tune won a Best Song Oscar in 1966 and was one of the best popular music songs of the 1960s. (The movie, a Natalie Wood & Robert Redford vehicle called Inside Daisy Clover, did not match the song.) Now if PBS will only release a DVD set of Previn's late-1970s TV series, Previn and the Pittsburgh, which includes a brilliant jazz show featuring pianist-legend Oscar Peterson talking and playing jazz--Oscar tops things off with a closing duet with Previn.
Richard Widmark plays a hustling wrestling promoter on the make in Night and the City, a 1950 Jules Dassin B&W film noir masterpiece. Joined by beauteous Gene Tierney (another golden-era babe who makes today's female stars look like tomboys), great character acting and a taut script, this is a true gem that features a dramatic, gritty wrestling fight scene. Widmark plays a would-be promoter a little too clever for his own good, who finds himself in the midst of lethal double-cross, triple-cross and quadruple-cross in the London underworld. Rent it from Netflix.
Ex-CBSer Bernard Goldberg's latest book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, is an amusing summer read. My comments on 6 idiots named ranked from 81 to 100 are in italics. Numero uno is, of course, Michael Moore.
100. Rick & Kathy Hilton, parents of Paris. Goldberg cites them for having raised "the most inane, hollow, vain, tasteless, self-centered, useless twerp in the entire country."
Hard to gainsay BG's Judgment of Paris; as for Judgments of (Ms.) Paris, at least none have started a 10-year war as her (equally "inane....) Trojan male namesake did way back when. (At least, so far.)
98. Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX). Cong. Lee, a member of the Black Caucus, wants hurricane names to include more black names.
How about Muslims? Hurricane Ahmed anyone? Would Muslims allow hurricanes named after women? Some 40 to 45 years ago I found myself on Atlantic Beach in Far Rockaway, chatting with a schoolmate of mine who went on to a big news career--Bob Krulwich (a good, creative, entertaining reporter--I may not agree with Bob but he is always honest and interesting). Bob and I were wondering why hurricanes were always named after guys. One of us--I cannot remember whom but I hope it was me--suggested "himicanes." We got half our wish, but "himicanes" remains ahead of our time.
95. Courtney Love.
Yeah, CL is obnoxious. But put her in the second 100, if only for what she did to Al Gore. During the 2000 campaign Gore sidled up to her at a fundraiser and told CL that she was one of his favorite singers. To which CL countered: "Oh yeah? Name a song, Al." Nonplussed Al couldn't name a-one.
91. Barbra Streisand.
BG thinks she's a great singer; In fact, Babs is famous--no, infamous--among musicians for (a) her musical illiteracy and (b) her diva temper. BG, for female vocals, listen to Judy, Ella....
90. Wacko Jacko. "If I have to explain this to you, you shouldn't be reading this book."
You don't, BG, but 10 demerits for inflicting Wacko's ghastly visage on us--on the cover, no less.
81. Tim Robbins. Goldberg put the following words into an Internet search engine and TR came up: "arrogant, know-it-all, whining, windbag".
No wonder Google is such a hit.
81 (tie). Janeanne Garofalo. Sez Ms. Jane: "Our country is founded on a sham: our forefathers were slave-owning rich white guys who wanted it their way. So when I see the American flag, I go, 'Oh my god, you're insulting me.' That you can have a gay parade on Christopher Street in New York, with naked men and women on a float cheering, 'We're here, we're queer!'--that's what makes my heart swell. Not the flag, but a gay naked man or woman burning the flag. I get choked up with pride." (Emphases in original.)
Janeanne, run off with Roseanne or Rosie or Gloria or some other equally demented fem-twit.
BG says he expects that each reader (a) complain about someone he picked and (b) complain about someone he left out. I have already one (a): Courtney Love. Now for (b): BG, how could you leave off the list the following trio: (1) William Jefferson Clinton, for trashing the White House and myriad other inflictions; (2) ex-CNNer Eason Jordan, for deliberately slanting coverage to be favorable to Saddam in order to maintain favored access, and slandering US soldiers as allegedly targeting journalists in Iraq; (3) Louis Farrakhan, for stoking black anti-Semitism and racism? "100 imbeciles on the wall, 100 reasons to jeer; if one of those imbeciles happens to fall, 99 imbeciles still on the the wall."
Hudson Senior Fellow Ronald Radosh and his wife Allis have published a book, Red Star over Hollywood: The Film Colony's Long Romance With The Left (Encounter Books 2005), that blows the cover off of Hollywood's unrepentant Left, whose faithful have written for popular consumption, virtually uncontested, the political history of Hollywood ca. 1920-60.
In Red Hollywood's fable once upon a time there were these young, idealistic movie folk who innocently contributed to left-wing causes out of a sincere desire to aid their less fortunate fellows. They knew nothing of Moscow's machinations, which were in the event exaggerated. They never knew of Stalin's crimes nor did they intend to do their own country any harm. For their idealism they were viciously persecuted by right-wing members of Congress, hounded out of their jobs and blacklisted for exercising their First Amendment rights. 'Twas a dark time in America, when the Red Scare invented a mythical Cold War Communist threat.
The Radoshes present a far more credible story. Yes, many folk were innocent dupes--"useful idiots," in Lenin's tactless but apt phrase. Also true: Joe McCarthy was a drunk and liar who targeted innocent and guilty with equal abandon. But the rest of the myth unravels: the storied Hollywood Ten were hard-core communists--whether or not they carried the card. They duped the Humphrey Bogart types--Bogie could have used Monsieur Rick's cynicism. Real Reds knew of Stalin's crimes and toed the Party line as faithfully as Politburo members. They spread communist propaganda eagerly while clandestinely cooperating with the Party. The Cold War threat was all too real. Don't believe the Radoshes. Or me. Ask Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Natan Sharansky. Check out the revelations from the KGB's Venona intercepts about communist infiltration not only in Hollywood but the highest levels of the American government. McCarthy's worst sin of many? Easy: discrediting anti-communism for a generation.
Some in Hollywood learned from Moscow's twists and turns: (a) 1932-35, FDR as fascist; (b) 1936-39, Popular Front with FDR against Hitler--the apogee being the Spanish Civil War; (c) 1939-41, Nazi-Soviet Pact--if the Party does a 180 so do you; (d) 1941-45, Grand Alliance after Hitler invaded Russia--but no break for "premature anti-Fascists" who opposed the Pact; (e) 1945-89, Cold War after the Iron Curtain descended--another 180. The ever-agile Party executed 4 U-turns in a single decade: 1935, 1939, 1941 and 1945. America's Reds followed.
Dedicated lefties attended Party meetings, did their homework, listened to mind-numbingly dull harangues and created propaganda the American public mostly blithely ignored. Much of their agitprop wound up on the cutting room floor; moviedom's moguls were money-mad, not utopia-smitten. Notably, Melvyn Douglas, a true liberal, wised up and promptly resigned from Communist-front groups. His wife, actress Helen Gahagan, was cruelly smeared as "Red" by Richard Nixon in the infamous 1950 California senatorial race. Reds moved to control unions and front groups with unified minority factions that took advantage of disorganized majorities. Ronald Reagan's experience dealing with Communist-controlled unions woke him up and launched his rightward journey.
But the hardcore were slavish Party servants. Lillian Hellman's North Star portrayed the Ukraine in Stalin's purge-years as an Arcadian paradise when in reality Stalin had deliberately starved millions of kulaks. Communist writers literally gave their draft scripts for vetting by Party apparatchiks. They allowed the Party to instruct them on how to think about every issue imaginable. And many never wavered, not even after Nikita Khrushchev condemned Stalin's crimes (done despite Khrushchev's own massive complicity in Stalin's purges).
When screenwriter Albert Maltz wrote a plea for judging art without reference to politics he was haled before party hacks are bullied into recantation. Writer John Howard Lawson, a Ten ringleader, advocated free speech for those speaking "truth" but not for those speaking "lies"; that the First Amendment's free speech clause includes no such qualifying adjective did not impress him. (Malicious false speech is constitutionally permissible but punishable as the tort of slander.)
The Ten manipulated useful idiots like Lauren Bacall who thought HUAC intended to deny innocent loyal citizens their First Amendment rights; Bacall was so deluded that she even believed her own speeches on behalf of the Ten would launch her on a run for Congress. When the Ten showed their color at their HUAC hearing Bacall and hubby Bogie bailed (along with many prominent Hollywood liberals), realizing ruefully that they had been had.
How slavish were the Ten and their core supporters? After North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, Ten defector Edward Dmytryk (director) was told by Ten writer Albert Maltz that the South had invaded the North first and that the North was merely retaliating. Red writer Paul Jarrico told fellow writer Richard Collins, upon his recantation and in response to a query from Collins, that in event of war between the US & USSR he, Jarrico, would support the USSR. Arthur Miller cold-shouldered director Elia Kazan, a Party member in 1934 who resigned in 1936 over artistic freedom. Not only did Miller oppose aiding South Korea, Miller believed that the Marshall Plan (in which Stalin rejected Russia's participation) was wrong. Marilyn, you married a ditz.
There was little Reds would not do. Writer Ben Barzman and his wife reacted to disclosure of Stalin's crimes by saying that "it was wonderful that the Soviet Union could admit to the dreadful things it had perpetrated." For those crimes they blamed--who else?--the West: "[The USSR] had been pushed into [Stalinism] by the worldwide conspiracy against it." Many blacklist targets lived happily in exile. One writer, Allen Boretz, lived happily in Generalissimo Franco's Spain without any feeling of persecution. The irony of feeling free living in the fascist country whose 1936-39 Civil War galvanized Reds like him worldwide was apparently lost on him.
One of the Ten, Edward Dmytryk, fully recanted. Dalton Trumbo ultimately conceded the crimes of the USSR but thought the US worse; Trumbo also gave a 1970 speech in which he said the HUAC hearings produced "only victims"--i.e., the Reds and those who informed upon them and others were all equally victims of HUAC. Trumbo and others like Albert Maltz still saw communism "on the right side of history" (as Chris Dodd later saw the Sandinistas). Worse of all among the Ten was writer Lester Cole, hardcore Stalinist to the bitter end, who chastised Maltz in response to Maltz's imbecilic labeling as a "blacklist victim" Alexsandr Solzensitsyn, the great Russian dissident writer who served eight years in the Gulag for putting a single derogatory reference to Stalin in a letter to a friend. Cole denied that the Gulag existed, and pointed out those he, Cole, considered the worst human-rights violators on the planet--South Africa, Israel, Chile and Argentina.
But in the end the Ten triumphed in Tinseltown as a new generation of actors, writers and directors adopted uncritically the historical narrative and moral creed preached by leftist author Victor Navasky in his 1980 best-seller, Naming Names. Informing was the great sin; refusing to cooperate the great virtue. And history was given an Orwellian twist, as when in 2003 Dalton Trumbo's son Chris authored a play in which many Broadway luminaries took part, in which the audience never heard of Trumbo's intellectual journey nor of Communist subversion. Communism is mentioned therein only as a system embodying Karl Marx's famed dictum: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences apologized for its role in the blacklist, and when director Elia Kazan was given a 1999 Lifetime Achievement Award some holdouts picketed outside, including Ten writer Abraham Polonsky.
Radosh in the end concludes that the blacklist was wrong. He is too kind. Free to speak, surely; ditto free to run for office (Vito Marcantonio ran in NY in the '40s and got elected to the House of Representatives). But rightly they were not free to insert, as directed by agents of a hostile power, that power's propaganda covertly into films, to pollute American culture. Those who slavishly followed every twist and turn--and lie--of the Moscow line were no better than McCarthy.
Thanks to film moguls whose bottom-line fixation led them to trash most of the Communist tripe that the Ten and their ilk tried vainly to shovel into American films the damage Reds did in Tinseltown was limited. McCarthy's appalling excesses--shooting at innocent and guilty with equal abandon--was a priceless gift to the USSR's cause. Honorable liberals like Melvyn and Helen Gahagan Douglas turned on the Reds while castigating McCarthy's rampage. The dishonorable Ten were illiberal Party loyalists who deliberately served a Party they knew sought to destroy the United States.
The best way to counter claims that Hollywood Reds were heroes? Challenge a supporter to a hero-naming contest. It will go like this: Cole v. Solzhenitsyn; Lawson v. Sharansky; Trumbo v. Sakharov. And so on--leaders in the East like Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, and in the West, Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul II. Ridicule, not serious argument, is the best weapon against complete idiots--useful (think Madonna in her innocent imbecility--a defense the Ten do not have) and useless (think Ten-clone Michael Moore in his savage mendacity). Remember all those lovely pictures of Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution? No thanks to Stalin apologist Lillian Hellman. Let nonpareil artist-for-freedom Havel have the last word, the kind of voice as ignored in Tinseltown today as similar voices were ignored by the Ten back then: "Live the truth."
Listening to the Concord Records CD An Evening with Mel Torme and George Shearing reminds one of what a magical cultural heritage jazz represents and, by comparison, how low our popular music culture has sunk since. The "Velvet Fog," best known for composing The Christmas Song ('chestnuts roasting on an open fire....") is long gone. Keyboard nonpareil Shearing is in his 80s (best known for his quintet and as composer of Lullaby of Birdland). I heard Shearing at Feinstein's (Michael, not Dianne) two summers ago. Shearing played beautifully, but his show was marred by a ghoulish ersatz duet with long-gone Mel, revived via videotape.
This CD is, however, a pure gem. Thrill especially to two tracks: A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square; and Lullaby of Birdland, with Shearing romping in Bach counterpoint mode underneath Torme's jazzy vocal. A must for any jazz/American songbook listener's collection.
No, not Elvis. The real "King "of American music is Louis Armstrong (1900-1971), just as jazz (including the American songbook), not rock 'n' roll, is America's greatest musical art form. Satchmo (contraction of "Satchel Mouth" in jive) ruled the jazz world with his Gabriel-like trumpet for four-plus decades. His passing marked the end of an era (unless one prefers to mark it later, with the passing of Duke Ellington in 1974, or earlier, when Miles Davis released in 1969 his Bitches Brew fusion album that pushed the serious music vanguard away from Golden Age jazz). But in reality there was another King who rose to fame after World War I, equally influential: Paul Whiteman (1890-1967), much derided by two generations of jazz critics and many musicians as well. Unjustly so, says music professor Joshua Berrett, author of a superb dual-bio, Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz (Yale Univ. Press 2004).
Whiteman is, of course, best known for conducting George Gershwin's signature composition, Rhapsody in Blue, the most iconic American musical work of the 20th century. In it Gershwin captured what he called "our metropolitan madness," America's "unduplicated national pep." Three of its four great melodies are jazzy, but the fourth, adopted by Whiteman as his signature theme after the legendary concert (billed as "An Experiment in Modern Music," at New York City's Aeolian Hall on February 12, 1924) at which Rhapsody in Blue was unveiled, was pure Tchaikovsky. America's finest instrumental melody, now rented to United Airlines, became known as the Whiteman Theme. Sounds nicer than the UAL Theme.
Paul Whiteman is best known today by the voices of his detractors, who accuse him of stealing black music and of playing bland, mediocre music to please society types. All unfair and simply wrong. Mediocre? So how come it takes 28 or 29 musicians today to re-create the original performance of the Rhapsody, which was played by 23 Whiteman musicians? Whiteman hired great musicians: clarinetist Ross Gorman improvised the famed glissando opening during rehearsal, a technique few clarinetists of his day could perform; Gershwin loved it, and jettisoned his own opening scale for the gliss. Saxophonist Frank Trumbauer was another jazz immortal. Later in 1924 cornet legend Bix Beiderbeccke joined Whiteman's band; his untimely 1931 death of alcoholism at age 28 deprived Satchmo of one of his most serious competitors. What about stealing music?
Everyone borrowed from everyone, as is true in every great cultural efflorescence. Everyone went to hear counterparts, and phrases were liberally swapped back and forth. Armstrong, who listened a lot to opera, borrowed not only from Whiteman, but also (hold on to your hat) Guy Lombardo, according to the author. The author also notes that Armstrong's wife and fellow Hot Five member, pianist Lil Hardin, exerted a seminal influence on her husband's style, with her classical training; the author credits her with popularizing in jazz play the major seventh chord (in root position, notes 1, 3, 5 & 7 of the major scale), a harmony not used in New Orleans jazz (but used by classical composers like Chopin).
Armstrong and Whiteman first crossed paths in 1922, when trumpet star and Armstrong mentor Joe (King) Oliver took his New Orleans combo to California, where Whiteman had already migrated from his native Denver. Then came historic 1924, when jazz's Golden Age was born: Whiteman's February concert, and Armstrong coming to New York that November to join Fletcher Henderson's band, which he left after 13 months at Lil Hardin's urging, to return to Chicago and establish his legendary Hot Five Group that took jazz to new heights.
Whiteman's star had faded by the 1940s, while Armstrong's shone. Yet Whiteman helped Armstrong--not only musically, but also after Armstrong was busted for smoking pot in 1931, when Whiteman's testimonial helped limit damage to Armstrong's career. Whiteman also told a Chicago nightclub owner who threatened to fire the great pianist Earl Hines (jazz's finest until Art Tatum came along) that the owner was too stupid to realize he had the world's best piano player. Hines griped that Whiteman would not hire him as band pianist; probably because Whiteman realized that Hines's flashy style best fit small combos. (A second consideration was that Hines worked in a club owned by one Alfonso Capone, who took a dim view of his stars leaving--and anyone who would lure them away.)
Ellington was fulsome in his praise for Whiteman's promotion of black talent. Noting Whiteman's patronage at the famed Harlem Cotton Club, the Duke noted that Whiteman "very loudly proclaimed our musical merit." Regarding the "symphonic jazz" label affixed to Whiteman, often as a pejorative, Duke said: "Mr. Whiteman deserves credit for discovering and recognizing ability or genius in composers whose works would not normally be acceptable to dance bands. Whiteman makes it possible to commercialize these works. We confess he has maintained a 'higher level' for many years, and we think there is no doubt but that he has carried jazz to the highest position it ever has enjoyed. He got it in the ears of the serious audience and they liked it. He is still Mr. Whiteman." Not from Ellington would you have heard disparagement of great white figures in jazz, which included Whiteman alumni like vocalists Bing Crosby, trombonist Jack Teagarden (who also played many years with Armstrong) and the great horn players listed above.
Armstrong's star ever rose, with critics complaining only that he catered too much to the audience's taste, a jibe Satchmo laughed off. And what did he think of Whiteman? Enough to invite him onstage when Louis celebrated his 66th birthday (1966, a quarter-century after Whiteman's star went into eclipse). The author points out that in his iconic Hello Dolly! mid-1960s music-making, Armstrong's trumpet "quotes" (musician-speak for using another's musical phrase) from a 1919 Whiteman recording of Japanese Sandman. One king saluting another.
Paul Whiteman never described himself as "the King of Jazz"; the sobriquet was ginned up by a publicist. Asked about it, Whiteman invariably disclaimed it. But he was indeed one. It's time to take jazz history back from the racialists. Jazz is an amalgam of many styles, so much so that even Ellington doubted a satisfactory definition might be found. Rooted in African-American work songs, shouts and spirituals, taking from the great American popular songbook, importing modern harmonies from Russian, French and Spanish modernists, adding Latin rhythms to the African-American root, the list goes on. Jazz was an eclectic music in the finest sense of the term; its every musical element, as George Gershwin observed, predated jazz--including improvisation, done spectacularly by classicists from Bach to Liszt. (Melody in jazz differs from show music melody, which is lyric-driven to advance a plot, and American popular song melody, which is mood-driven and vocal in line; jazz melody is instrumentalized vocal line, i.e., embellishing vocally by applying instrument style--usually horn figuration--to the vocal line.)
Thus, Paul Whiteman earned his place alongside Louis, Duke, Gershwin and other music immortals who presented America's most precious cultural gift to the world. Instead of two kings how about four? Duke and Gershwin pioneered large form compositions, taking the Whiteman symphonic ensemble to new levels, while Armstrong's small groups and countless others gave us jazz as America's chamber music (in its purest form, perhaps as presented by the Modern Jazz Quartet, 1950s-1990s). Berrett's book encapsulates much of the early jazz world's growth through the two giants he writes of. Now, kick back and listen to the music once again.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance (1962)
Sellar cast indeed: Jimmy Stewart, Vera Miles, John Wayne, Edmond O'Brien, Lee Marvin and more still! Elegaic story of the fading of the Old West. A senator goes home to honor the fogotten man who saved him. One of John Ford's finest.
The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy, by Peter Huber & Mark Mills (Basic Books 2005)
The authors will change the way you see all energy issues. We have been asking the wrong questions, let alone what answers we have gotten. It's not about ENERGY; it's about POWER. Nine-tenths of all energy we consume goes into higher-order power. Conservation efforts BOOST consumption. The future is not low-order alternative fuels, which costs little and produces little, but digital power, which costs more and produces much more.