Saturday, November 24, 2012

C S Lewis deserves his place in Poet's Corner

By Alister McGrath
The Telegraph
21 November 2012

Today it will be announced that a memorial to the poet, literary scholar and novelist C S Lewis (1898-1963) is to be placed in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey next November, 50 years after his death. He joins a select group of poets, playwrights and writers to have been buried or commemorated there, including Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. I would argue that Lewis certainly merits inclusion among these greats of English literature.
Has he secured his place because he was a poet? He certainly had early aspirations in that direction. Born in Belfast, he hoped to become an “Irish voice” in poetry, with W B Yeats as his model. Yet little came of this aspiration. His first slender volume of verse, Spirits in Bondage (1919), was published under the pseudonym “Clive Hamilton” (Hamilton was his mother’s maiden name). Many of these poems were written while he served as a junior officer in the trenches of northern France during the First World War.
The early poems remain a powerful witness to Lewis’s early atheism, railing against an absent and uncaring God who failed to halt the slaughter the author saw around him. But he never achieved recognition as a “war poet”, like Rupert Brooke and Siegfried Sassoon, who are also commemorated in Poets’ Corner. Indeed, not only did he fail to secure recognition for his war poetry, he was not acclaimed as a poet of any kind, as the lack of interest in his second volume of verse – Dymer (1926) – made painfully clear.
He went on to secure his reputation, rather, as a literary critic at Oxford and Cambridge, offering important assessments of the poetry of others, especially Edmund Spenser and John Milton. He excelled at this task. His work on Milton drew attention to an aspect of his poetry that had been neglected – how it sounded to its readers. Lewis became acutely sensitive to the rhythm of the English language, whether poetry or prose. He never used a typewriter, explaining that the clattering of its keys destroyed his “sense of rhythm”. For Lewis, a fountain pen enabled its user to be attuned to the melody of language.
In the end, the poetic vision that Lewis never quite managed to actualise in his verse was found instead in his prose. Here we find one of the keys to his success as a writer – his ability to express complex ideas in simple language, connecting with his audience without losing elegance of expression. Lewis learnt this skill the hard way, partly through lecturing to aircrews during the Second World War. If you could not express something in simple language, Lewis later declared, it was because you had failed to understand it yourself.
Lewis is one of the best examples of a writer who took pleasure in the art of communication, melding simplicity and elegance in a way few could manage. His popular religious writings – such as The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity – combine these qualities, even though they cannot be counted as great literature.
Yet this alone does not explain his inclusion in Poets’ Corner. The real reason he deserves his place is on account of his works of fiction, which captured the imagination of his public, especially in the dark days after the Second World War. Supreme among these are his Chronicles of Narnia, especially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950).
Although he had no children of his own, Lewis produced a work that captured the imagination of a generation of younger readers. The noble lion Aslan, lord of the mysterious world of Narnia, has become one of the most familiar Christ-figures in English literature. Some, understandably, find the Narnia books problematic on account of the “golly-gosh” language of the Pevensie children, or a suspicion that female characters are allocated subsidiary roles in the narrative. Yet they remain a classic in their field, serving as a model for both Lewis’s literary imitators and critics.
It was not simply that Lewis had written children’s stories that captivated their readers. Lewis developed these stories as vehicles of theological exploration, allowing him to explore sophisticated ideas without compromising the pace of his narrative or losing the patience of his readers. Narnia, Lewis later explained, was about “supposals”. Suppose God did become incarnate in a world like Narnia. What would this look like? More importantly, what would it feel like to be part of this world?
Lewis revealed the imaginative capacity of children’s literature to engage and explore the deepest questions of life, to bring a new quality of engagement to the genre. The writer himself was convinced that he would be forgotten within five years of his death; he would have been taken aback by the renewal of interest in his writings since the Eighties. Surveys now regularly identify him as one of the most significant literary voices of the 20th century. Lewis has made what is probably the most difficult transition an author can hope to make – being read by more people a generation after his death than before it.
Lewis died on the day President John F Kennedy was assassinated. In a speech given at Amherst College four weeks before his death, honouring the great American poet Robert Frost, Kennedy paid a typically handsome tribute to the work of poets and writers. “We must never forget,” he declared, “that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” Lewis would agree. He rightly takes his place among those honoured for their enrichment and expansion of our vision of reality.

Why Oliver Stone will not be a happy man this weekend

The New York Times obliterates the filmmaker's recycled Marxist version of history

By Ron Radosh
PJ Media
November 23, 2012

Oliver Stone and his co-author Peter Kuznick are not going to be happy this week. After making scores of media appearances in which he heralded the supposedly great reception for his new TV series Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, which airs each week for 10 episodes on the CBS-owned network Showtime, Stone is finally getting the negative response he feared.
First, Stone was hit hard by Michael Moynihan at Newsweek/The Daily Beast. Declaring Stone and Kuznick’s film “junk history,” Moynihan called Stone’s work “swivel-eyed, ideological history,” based on “dubious quotes and sources,” a veritable “marvel of historical illiteracy.” Coming on the heels of my own debunking of Stone, “A Story Told Before: Oliver Stone’s Recycled History of the United States,” Stone and Kuznick received two substantive critiques in one week.
Stone, of course, completely ignored my own substantive article, alluding to it without naming me as an example of “a few far-right diatribes” that do not warrant response. Stone bragged that “the majority of reviews and articles have been positive” until the piece by Moynihan that he had to answer since it appeared in what he considers a mainstream media venue. Since the original author has the last word, Moynihan hit Stone hard in his own answer, which appears after Stone’s response as an update. Moynihan easily further demolishes Stone and Kuznick, concluding after presenting more evidence that their work “is activism masquerading as history.”
This  Sunday, however, Stone and Kuznick will be even more upset. The New York Times Magazine features a story by editor Andrew Goldman, “Oliver Stone Rewrites History-Again.” Goldman’s story, which summarizes Stone’s theory behind the TV series and has many vignettes based on his own interview with the director, notes among other things that Stone never really took back his incendiary comment that there is “Jewish domination of the media” and that Israel’s “powerful lobby in Washington”  controls U.S. foreign policy. The apology he supposedly made to the Anti-Defamation League was forced on him to avoid cancellation of Untold History, and Stone has now told Goldman that he should not have used the word “Jewish,” but that Israel has “seeming control over American foreign policy” and that AIPAC has “undue influence.” He accuses them of “militating for the war in Iraq,” completely ignoring that, in fact, Israel did not favor the war, considering Iran its major enemy, and that AIPAC in particular never lobbied on its behalf. Each time Stone explains himself, he further puts his foot in his mouth.
When Goldman eventually gets to the new Showtime series, readers learn that Stone’s accolades come mainly when he presents his film to sympathetic viewers from the far-left Nation magazine, as in a forum held in New York after the annual New York Film Festival. Referring to the magazine as “the left’s beloved 147 year-old weekly,” Goldman quotes its editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel as saying that Stone’s film “is what we try to do at The Nation,” which, if anything, is more of a giveaway about its reliability than she imagines. That she sees the film as challenging “the orthodoxy” and the “conformity of our history” is a statement that should, if anything, be very embarrassing to those who think she has any credibility.
Indeed, Goldman goes on to point out that to Stone and Kuznick, “Stalin…still comes off as heroic, as an honest negotiator who, following FDR’s death, was faced at every turn with Truman’s diplomatic perfidy.” Truman is to Stone and Kuznick, Goldman puts it, the “black hat” while the “white hats” belong to FDR, John F. Kennedy, and, most of all, “the man who inspired the whole project: Henry Wallace.”
Readers of my own article will find the real truth about Wallace, who, as I argue, was the very epitome of a communist dupe, a man who, if he had become president, would have enabled Stalin to fulfill his plans for takeover of Eastern Europe and perhaps even the Stalinization of the entire European continent.
What will really irk Stone and Kuznick, however, is that Goldman turns to me as an example of the sharp criticism Stone gets from those who know something about history. He writes the following:
While to his fans Stone’s alternate histories are provocative, his detractors see them as grossly irresponsible cherry-picking. The conservative historian and CUNY emeritus professor Ronald Radosh said he found himself wanting to do harm to his television while watching the first four episodes, which he reviewed for the right-wing Weekly Standard. Radosh had been blogging skeptically about the Stone project since its announcement in 2010, but now that he’d actually seen it, he said, it was the historian rather than the conservative in him who was most offended. “Historians can have different interpretations, but based on evidence,” he said. “What these other guys do is manipulate evidence and ignore evidence that does not fit their predetermined thesis, and that’s why they’re wrong.” According to Radosh, Stone and Kuznick’s take on the United States’ role in the cold war mirrors the argument in “We Can Be Friends,” a book published in 1952 by Carl Marzani, who was convicted of concealing his affiliation to the Communist Party when he joined the O.S.S., the precursor to the C.I.A. This Stone-Kuznick film could have been put out in 1955 as Soviet propaganda,” Radosh said. “They use all the old stuff.”
Moreover, Goldman took my suggestion that Stone’s distortions of history were something that bona fide liberal historians who respect historical truth understand, and that he get in touch with Princeton University’s distinguished historian, Sean Wilentz. Wilentz had e-mailed me that Stone’s book was “misinformation” and that anyone with a respect for history knew it was trash. When Goldman spoke to Wilentz, he stuck to his guns. Goldman writes:
Radosh, who grew up as a Red Diaper baby in Washington Heights and only later turned to the right, thinks of himself as intimately familiar with the “old stuff.” But fearing he might be dismissed as partisan, he insisted I reach out to Sean Wilentz, a Princeton historian who, owing to his strident defense of Bill Clinton during his impeachment hearings and to his 2006 Rolling Stone cover article on George W. Bush, “The Worst President in History?” is regarded as decidedly left-leaning. When I spoke to him, Wilentz said: “You can’t get two historians more unlike each other than me and Ronnie Radosh. But we can agree about this. It’s ridiculous.” Wilentz was in the middle of writing a review of Stone’s book. “Always beware of books that describe themselves as the untold history of anything, because it’s usually been told before,” he said. “It sets up this thing that there is some sort of mysterious force suppressing the true facts, right? Glenn Beck does this all the time. It’s the same thing here, except this is basically a very standard left-wing, C.P., fellow traveler, Wallace-ite vision of what happened in 1945-46.” It’s not, Wilentz continued, that the questions raised aren’t worth raising. “Is there a legitimate argument to be made about the origins of our nuclear diplomacy or the decision to build the H-bomb?” he said. “Of course there is. But it’s so overloaded with ideological distortion that this question doesn’t get raised in an intelligent way. And once a question gets raised in an unintelligent way, then you are off in cloud-cuckoo land.”
There is much I said to Goldman that he left out, obviously because of space concerns from his editors at the magazine. I recommended to him in particular two books on the dropping of the atomic bombs that answer in detail the rehashed revisionist view Stone and Kuznick argue as if nothing has appeared to answer them since Gar Alperovitz’s first statement of the “atomic diplomacy” theory in the 1960s. I told Goldman to consult Wilson D. Miscamble’s new bookThe Most Controversial Decision:Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan, and Robert James Maddox’s earlier collection, Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism.
If he did, there is no indication of it in the article. Both of these books would present chapter and verse on the kind of real evidence that Stone and Kuznick completely ignore. The evidence shows, for example — contrary to the assertion made in the film series — that dropping of the atomic bombs, as horrible as it was, saved not only thousands of American lives that would have been lost, but more Japanese lives than were lost as a result of the atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They also show that contrary to the film’s argument, the Japanese government was not ready to surrender and end the war until after both bombs were used.
Finally, I must note that as pleased as I am that Goldman went to me to counter Stone, and then to Wilentz, he colored (or his editors did) his account by referring to The Weekly Standard as a “right-wing” publication. One could more accurately refer to it as a conservative magazine. The term used is one of opprobrium, meant obviously by the editors of the Times to undercut the possibility that anyone reading it could learn the truth in its pages. And of course, after reading that I a “red-diaper baby” who subsequently turned away from the ideology I once adhered to decades ago, many readers will suspect that a turn-coat like myself can hardly be judged to have anything worthwhile to say about Stone and Kuznick’s film.
Goldman ends his article by referring to Stone and Kuznick’s appearance at a forum at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, where Kuznick again bragged about the “glowing” reviews they were getting and actually said that “nobody’s challenging anything we’re saying.” Stone gestured and said, “Well, it’s early.”
On that point, Oliver Stone is right. Now he has been hit first by me, next by Michael Moynihan, and now by Andrew Goldman. So I publicly challenge Stone and Kuznick. I will gladly appear with both of them in a public forum, along with another historian, such as Miscamble, Maddox, or Wilentz, where we could in detail expose and challenge all the shibboleths they offer as unvarnished truth.
I’m waiting for their answer!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Jill Kelley for Secretary of State

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
November 23, 2012

Let us turn from the post-Thanksgiving scenes of inflamed mobs clubbing each other to the ground for a discounted television set to the comparatively placid boulevards of the Middle East. In Cairo, no sooner had Hillary Clinton's plane cleared Egyptian air space then Mohammed Morsi issued one-man constitutional amendments declaring himself and his Muslim Brotherhood buddies free from judicial oversight and announced that his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, would be retried for all the stuff he was acquitted of in the previous trial. Morsi now wields total control over Parliament, the Judiciary, and the military to a degree Mubarak in his jail cell can only marvel at. Old CIA wisdom: He may be an SOB but he's our SOB. New post-Arab Spring CIA wisdom: He may be an SOB but at least he's not our SOB.
But don't worry. As America's Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, assured the House Intelligence Committee at the time of Mubarak's fall, the Muslim Brotherhood is a "largely secular" organization. The name's just for show, same as the Episcopal Church.
Which brings us to Intelligence Director Clapper's fellow Intelligence Director, Gen. David Petraeus. Don't ask me why there's a Director of National Intelligence and a Director of Central Intelligence. Something to do with 9/11, after which the government decided it could use more intelligence. Instead, it wound up with more Directors of Intelligence, which is the way it usually goes in Washington. Anyway, I blow hot and cold on the Petraeus sex scandal. Initially, it seemed the best shot at getting a largely uninterested public to take notice of the national humiliation and subsequent cover-up over the deaths of American diplomats and the sacking of our consulate in Benghazi. On the other hand, everyone involved in this sorry excuse for a sex scandal seems to have been too busy emailing each other to have had any sex. The FBI was initially reported to have printed out 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails and other communications between Gen. John Allen, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Jill Kelley of Tampa, one-half of a pair of identical twins dressed like understudies for the CENTCOM mess hall production of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." Thirty thousand pages! The complete works of Shakespeare come to about three-and-a-half-thousand pages, but American officials can't even have a sex scandal without getting bogged down in the paperwork.


For the cost of running those FBI documents off the photocopier, you could fly some broad to the Bahamas and have a real sex scandal. Instead, we'll "investigate" it for a year or three, as we're doing with Benghazi itself. At her press conference the other day, soon-to-be Secretary of State Susan Rice explained that she would be misspeaking if she were to explain why she misspoke about Benghazi until something called the Accountability Review Board has finished "conducting investigations" into "all aspects" of the investigations being conducted, which should be completed by roughly midway through Joe Biden's second term.
Pending that "definitive accounting," one or two aspects stand out. Paula Broadwell had access to Gen. Petraeus because she was supposedly writing his biography. As it turns out, she can't write, so her publisher was obliged to hire a ghostwriter from The Washington Post. Some years ago, at a low point in my career, I was asked to ghostwrite a book for a supermodel. That's usually the type of "writer" who requires a ghost: models, singers, athletes, celebrities. When a first-time biographer requires a ghostwriter, that person is not a biographer but something else. Yet she had classified documents at her home – and yes, as the president suggested, they're probably not that classified, not the real top-secret stuff. But in a speech at the University of Denver, Mrs. Broadwell appeared to reveal accidentally that she is privy to operational knowledge of illegal CIA interrogation chambers in Benghazi.
Now let us move from Gen. Petraeus' mistress to Gen. Allen's non-mistress, Tampa socialite and identical twin Jill Kelley. Mrs. Kelley had clearance for all parts of MacDill Air Force Base, near Tampa, Fla., and was given some kind of commemorative certificate as "honorary ambassador" to CENTCOM, on the basis of which, in a recent 911 call, she claimed the right to "diplomatic protection." Yeah, that's what Chris Stevens thought in Benghazi. As appears to be well known, the Kelleys have financial problems, and their luxury home faces foreclosure. For awhile they ran a charity, the Doctor Kelley Cancer Foundation, which makes terminal cancer patients' final wishes come true. In 2007, they took in $157,284 in donations, and ran up expenses of $81,927 on dining, entertainment and travel. So, if you've got cancer, and your dying wish is for Jill Kelley to party, this is the charity for you.
In other words, neither of these women passes the smell test. Which is a problem insofar as Petraeus, as CIA Director, is supposed to be head of the national smell test, and Gen. Allen, as Petraeus' successor in Kabul, is supposed to be head of the smell test in Afghanistan. In the Gaza "peace agreement" signed last week, they flew in Hillary Clinton to give the impression that she had something to do with it, where as, in reality, she was entirely peripheral to the deal. But Jill Kelley is apparently essential to anything that matters in CENTCOM: When Pastor Terry Jones was threatening to burn a Koran, Gen. Allen asked Mrs. Kelley to mediate. When radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge was threatening to "deep-fat fry" a Koran, Gen. Allen recommended the mayor of Tampa ask Mrs. Kelley to intervene. The U.S. government is responsible for 43 percent of the planet's military spending, and apparently all that gets you is that, when the feces hits the fan, the four-star brass start emailing Jill Kelley of Tampa. If only she'd been hosting a champagne reception at the Sigonella air base in southern Italy, maybe we could have parachuted her into Benghazi to defuse the situation. Jill is the woman Hillary can only dream of being – at the confluence of all the great geostrategic currents of the age. Why didn't we fly Jill Kelley to broker the Gaza deal? Instead of a patsy peddling risible talking-points like Susan Rice, why can't we have Jill Kelley as Secretary of State?
As far as I can tell, our enemies in Afghanistan don't go in for Soviet-style honey traps. Which is just as well, considering the ease with which, say, a pretend biographer can wind up sitting next to the U.S. commander on his personal Gulfstream. In different ways, Director Petraeus' judgment and Director Clapper's obtuseness testify to the problems of America's vast, sprawling, over-bureaucratized intelligence community. If Director Petraeus can't see the obvious under his nose in his interventions in the Kelley twins' various difficulties, why would you expect Director Clapper to have any greater grasp of what's happening in Cairo or Damascus?
Having consolidated his grip in Egypt, Morsi is now looking beyond. His "peace deal" legitimizes the Muslim Brotherhood's affiliate in Gaza, and increases the likelihood of the Brothers advancing to power in Syria and elsewhere. As on that night in Benghazi, when the most lavishly funded military/intelligence operation on the planet watched for eight hours as a mob devoured America's emissaries, America in a broader sense is a spectator in its own fate. As for Afghanistan, it seems a fitting comment on America's longest unwon war that the last two U.S. commanders exit in a Benny Hill finale, trousers round their ankles, pursued to speeded-up chase music by bunny-boiling mistresses, stalker socialites, identical twins and Bubba the Love Sponge.

Film Review: 'Hitchock'

Id, Ego and I: Gervasi’s Hitchcock Opens a Rear Window Into the Madman Behind Psycho

Hopkins is well within his range as the terrifyingly brilliant and unabashedly selfish director
The stars of Hitchcock.
There are many reasons why Alfred Hitchcock is the most famous and instantly recognizable film director of all time, and all of them are reliably, artistically realized in Hitchcock. With so much year-end junk polluting the market, it’s easy to see why this is one of the best movies of 2012. With rich performances, a riveting and articulate screenplay, meticulous direction and enough grounded emotional intensity to keep your pulse pounding, Hitchcock grabs you by the lapels like a suspense classic by Hitch himself—a knockout from start to finish.
This is turning into a Hitchcock year. In the recent, hugely disappointing HBO special The Girl,the Master of Thrills came off as a pompous, cruel, sex-obsessed and egomaniacal bully who inflicted physical and emotional pain on everyone around him during the filming of The Birds—especially his frosty blond star, Tippi Hedren. In the vastly superior and much more carefully researched Hitchcock, the action centers on the making of Psycho—his 47th feature andthe most controversial and successful film of his career—and the personal, professional and financial obstacles he faced to get it made at all. With blazing performances by Anthony Hopkins—who is no stranger to the dark side of human behavior—as the conflicted director, and the great Helen Mirren as his long-suffering, patient but quietly powerful wife Alma Reville, the creative faces of the complex man are neatly balanced with the driving forces of his private marriage and personal obsessions. The frustrations began as early as the 1959 Chicago premiere of North by Northwest, where one reporter stung him to the core asking “You’re the most famous director in the world, but you’re 60 years old—don’t you think you should quit while you’re ahead?” That was the flint that ignited the flame that led to Psycho.
Looking for something more shocking than anything he had ever attempted before, the Icon of Angst came across a novel by Robert Bloch called Psycho that was nasty, brutal, violent, fiendish and an assault on the senses—entirely original. Everyone objected, from agent Lew Wasserman and studio executive Barney Balaban, who opposed him every step of the way, to Alma herself. Paramount refused to finance it; the director used his own money, giving the studio only the distribution rights. He mortgaged his house. He bought up every copy of the book on the market so that nobody would know the ending. He hired an unproven scriptwriter named Joseph Stefano to pen the screenplay because he had problems with his own mother, like Norman Bates. He perversely chose lanky, all-American Tony Perkins (here in a sensitive, subtle performance by James D’Arcy) over hundreds of applicants with more of an edge to play Norman, the fictional mama’s-boy psycho, because of Perkins’ own real-life duplicity in hiding the fact that he was gay. It was Hitchcock’s biggest career gamble, and six decades later, the money is still rolling in. Psycho is the horror flick hundreds of others have imitated, none with anything close to the same terrifying flair.
The first half of the Hitchcock is concerned with the myriad details of how Hitch got this movie off the ground, and it overflows with the kind of gossip and information that give hardcore film buffs delirium tremens. Anthony Hopkins laces Hitch’s brittle sarcasm with droll asides destined to keep you entertained. The director, on first introductions: “You may call me Hitch—hold the cock!” Hitch on leading man John Gavin: “Good-looking chap—but plywood is more expressive.” To the Paramount production chief who warns the studio is not required to releasePsycho if it turns out to be embarrassing, Hitch bitingly retorts:“Unlike the last five Martin and Lewis films you’re so proud of?” He made the cast and crew swear not to divulge any of the film’s secrets. He kept scenes from the actors so they would react with horror, controlled the editing, the cutting of Bernard Herrmann’s music, and the personal lives of the participants behind the camera, and went so far as to write a manual addressed to theater managers and marketing directors that propelled the picture into a headline-making sensation. Based on an exhaustively researched book by Stephen Rebello, the movie never runs out of surprises. One is the way in which screenwriter John J. McLaughlin and director Sacha Gervasi introduce Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the twisted 1950s Wisconsin grave robber and serial killer who inspired the characters of both Norman Bates in Psycho and Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Then there’s the director’s relationships with his leading ladies. There was always a blonde around on every Hitchcock set to pick on. They were all victims, but they all came back for more (except Doris Day, who still considers The Man Who Knew Too Much one of the unhappiest experiences of her career). On Psycho, there were two. Hostility toward Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) began with her decision to drop out of Vertigo at the last minute to have a baby. Hitchcock was also enraged by her resistance to his sexual advances and his domineering, control-freak directing style. Meanwhile, Janet Leigh (wonderfully, amusingly played by Scarlett Johansson), happily married to Tony Curtis, was a total professional, and too adored by everyone on the set to antagonize. The shower scene brought more insight into Hitchcock’s demented visions.
Director Gervasi cleverly blends the shooting of a difficult film with insights into the director’s unconventional marriage and habits after hours: midnight raids on the fridge, ice cream binges, his jealousy of everyone Alma knew, and his dependence on her help, opinion and approval, even though he never applauds anyone but himself. Alma kept a low profile, riding him about his weight, even counting the calories in his cocktails, and from the iron fist Helen Mirren uses to play her, it’s clear who always got the last word. Alma was the wife-mother-scriptwriter-editor-companion he never made a move without for 54 years of marriage. She put up with his flirtations, betrayals and sarcasm, but she knew the definition of long-term commitment better than any wife in Hollywood. She was the wind beneath his wings, and Helen Mirren plays her with a centrifugal force that is hypnotic. She and Anthony Hopkins are perfect bookends. When his egomania explodes, she uses her own brand of spit and paste to put the ceramics back together again. Some critics have groused that Hitchcock lapses occasionally into sentimentality and melodrama, but I can find evidence of neither. As a rare peek through the keyhole at some of the screen’s most durable legends, it’s a high-water mark in the annals of wit, charm and entertainment value.
Running Time 98 minutes
Written by John J. McLaughlin
(screenplay) and Stephen Rebello (book)
Directed by Sacha Gervasi
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren
and Scarlett Johansson

Why was there war in Gaza?

By , Published: November 22
The Washington Post

Why was there an Israel-Gaza war in the first place? Resistance to the occupation, say Hamas and many in the international media.
What occupation? Seven years ago, in front of the world, Israel pulled out of Gaza. It dismantled every settlement, withdrew every soldier, evacuated every Jew, leaving nothing and no one behind. Except for the greenhouses in which the settlers had grown fruit and flowers for export. These were left intact to help Gaza’s economy — only to be trashed when the Palestinians took over.
Israel then declared its border with Gaza to be an international frontier, meaning that it renounced any claim to the territory and considered it an independent entity.
In effect, Israel had created the first Palestinian state ever, something never granted by fellow Muslims — neither the Ottoman Turks nor the Egyptians who brutally occupied Gaza for two decades before being driven out by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israel wanted nothing more than to live in peace with this independent Palestinian entity. After all, the world had incessantly demanded that Israel give up land for peace.
It gave the land. It got no peace.
The Gaza Palestinians did not reciprocate. They voted in Hamas, who then took over in a military putsch and turned the newly freed Palestine into an armed camp from which to war against Israel. It has been war ever since.
Interrupted by the occasional truce, to be sure. But for Hamas a truce — hudna — is simply a tactic for building strength for the next round. It is never meant to be enduring, never meant to offer peace.
But why, given that there is no occupation of Gaza anymore? Because Hamas considers all of Israel occupied, illegitimate, a cancer, a crime against humanity, to quote the leaders of Iran, Hamas’s chief patron and arms supplier. Hamas’s objective, openly declared, is to “liberate” — i.e., destroy — Tel Aviv and the rest of pre-1967 Israel. Indeed, it is Hamas’s raison d’etre.
Hamas first killed Jews with campaigns of suicide bombings. After Israel built a nearly impenetrable fence, it went to rockets fired indiscriminately at civilians in populated areas.
What did Hamas hope to gain from this latest round of fighting, which it started with a barrage of about 150 rockets into Israel? To formally translate Hamas’s recent strategic gains into a new, more favorable status quo with Israel. It works like this:
Hamas’s new strength comes from two sources.
First, its new rocketry, especially the Fajr-5, smuggled in from Iran, that can now reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, putting 50 percent of Israel’s population under its guns.
Second, Hamas has gained strategic strength from changes in the regional environment. It has acquired the patronage and protection of important Middle Eastern states as a result of the Arab Spring and the Islamist reversal in Turkey.
For 60 years, non-Arab Turkey had been a reliable ally of Israel. The vicious turnaround instituted by its Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reached its apogee on Monday when he called Israel a terrorist state.
Egypt is now run by Hamas’s own mother organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is simply the Palestinian wing. And the emir of Qatar recently visited Gaza, leaving behind a promise of a cool $400 million.
Hamas’s objective was to guarantee no further attacks on its leaders or on its weaponry, launch sites and other terror and rocket infrastructure. And the lifting of Israel’s military blockade, which would allow a flood of new and even more deadly weapons. In other words, immunity and inviolability during which time Hamas could build unmolested its arsenal of missiles — until it is ready to restart the war on more favorable terms.
Yet another hudna, this one brokered and guaranteed by Egypt and Turkey, regional powers Israel has to be careful not to offend. A respite for rebuilding, until Hamas’s Gaza becomes Hezbollah South, counterpart to the terror group to Israel’s north, with 50,000 Iranian- and Syrian-supplied rockets that effectively deter any Israeli preemptive attack.
With the declaration of a cease-fire Wednesday, Israel seems to have successfully resisted these demands, although there may be some cosmetic changes to the embargo. Which means that in any future fighting, Israel will retain the upper hand.
Israel has once again succeeded in defending itself. But, yet again, only until the next round, which, as the night follows the day, will come. Hamas will see to that.
Read more on this debate: The Post’s View: Israel-Hamas fight highlights role for U.S. David Ignatius: The never-ending war in the Middle East Richard Cohen: The callousness of Hamas

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A vast moral difference

By Jeff Jacoby
November 22, 2012

Palestinians have a fierce new song to accompany their intensified conflict with Israel. "Strike a Blow at Tel Aviv," recorded by Shadi al-Bourini and Qassem al-Najjar, was posted last week on various Palestinian websites, including the Facebook page of the TV show Fenjan Al-Balad, which describes its mission as "trying to influence young Palestinian society for the better." The video, which features images of wounded Israelis and massed Qassam artillery rockets, opens with these lines:

Strike a blow at Tel Aviv.
Strike a blow at Tel Aviv.
Strike a blow at Tel Aviv and frighten the Zionists.
The more you build it, the more we will destroy it.
Strike a blow at Tel Aviv.

Over a driving beat, the lyrics (translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute) grow increasingly bellicose. "We don't want no truce or bargain," they proclaim. They exhort the missiles to "explode in the Knesset" and "terrorize Tel Aviv," while mocking the Israelis in bomb shelters who "cower with fear."
There have been many Israeli war songs over the years. Indeed, the endless conflict with the Arabs has engendered some of Israel's most enduring music. But most of it revolves around a longing for peace and the desire for normality. An Israeli equivalent of "Strike a Blow at Tel Aviv," ecstatic at the prospect of killing the enemy, is virtually unthinkable.
Other Palestinian videos have also been getting attention this week. Al-Aqsa TV, the official Hamas-run television channel, has been airing messages that extol suicide bombings and advise Israelis to get ready for more of them. "We've missed the suicide attacks," one video jeers. "Expect us soon at bus stations and in cafés." A second, along with video of rockets being fired into Israel, warns "the Zionists" not to go to bed: "We may get you in your sleep." In still another, Hamas reiterates the oft-repeated boast of murderous jihadists everywhere: "[We] love death more than you love life."
Media coverage of the hostilities in Gaza tends to focus on rockets and casualties and diplomatic maneuvering. Not emphasized nearly enough is the vast moral distance that separates Israel from its terrorist enemy. Israel and Hamas are not at war over territory. What divides them is an unbridgeable cultural abyss. On one side is a Jewish state that seeks peace with its neighbors and has repeatedly offered deep concessions to achieve it; on the other, a fanatic regime of jihadists who glorify death,abominate Jews – and are obsessed with eradicating that solitary Jewish state.
"Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave," avows the hate-drenchedHamas charter. Success will not come, declares Article 7, "until Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: 'O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him!'"
By now it shouldn't come as news that Hamas means what it says. By now it should be obvious even to the congenitally naïve that so long as Hamas rules Gaza – a de facto Palestinian state, no matter what anyone calls it – it will never end its quest for Israel's annihilation. To Western eyes that may seem an improbable objective, given Israel's enormous military edge. But Hamas understands the value of terror. When it can send hundreds of rockets slamming over the border, when it can force Israelis to listen constantly for the siren that means they have just 15 seconds to find shelter, Hamas inches toward its goal. And when Israel finally retaliates and only then does an international uproar ensue, Hamas inches closer still.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed to the Middle East on Tuesday. The UN secretary-generalcalled for a cease-fire. President Obama's spokesman insisted that "the best way to solve this is through diplomacy." But what can diplomacy achieve with an enemy that rejects the basic norms of international behavior? That is not only indifferent to the suffering of its own people, but welcomes it for its propaganda value? That rejoices in suicide terrorism, and runs TV spots promising more of it?
Any cease-fire now means a win for Hamas, which will go on fomenting violence, hatred, and death. Diplomacy cannot solve the problem of terrorist regimes. Neither can unilateral concessions or UN resolutions. The only solution is to deprive the terrorists of power. So long as Gaza remains a Hamas-ruled tyranny, peace will remain but a dream.

Orwell's struggle may be over

By Ed Kaitz
November 22, 2012

By his own admission George Orwell was a committed socialist. About a year before his death in 1950 Orwell responded to the leftist charge that his recently published novel 1984 represented a direct attack on both socialism and the British Labour Party. Orwell calmed the fears of his progressive friends with the following response:

"My recent novel [1984] is NOT intended as an attack on Socialism or on the British Labour Party (of which I am a supporter) but as a show-up of the perversions to which a centralized economy is liable and which have already been partly realized in Communism and Fascism."

In other words, Orwell tirelessly promoted a kind of socialism that promised "political democracy, social equality, internationalism" and most importantly "freedom of thought and speech." Orwell was under the impression that a "humanized" collectivist society was possible.
Indeed, those of us who have read and thoroughly enjoyed Orwell's Animal Farm1984, and other great books and essays understand that Orwell truly hated despotism. But a more complex portrait of Orwell has to account for Orwell's distaste for what he calls a "particular kind" of economic despotism -- capitalism. Writing in the magazine Politics and Letters in 1948 Orwell said the following:

"Until well-within living memory the forces of the Left in all countries were fighting against a tyranny which appeared to be invincible, and it was easy to assume that if only that particular tyranny -- capitalism -- could be overthrown, Socialism would follow."

What most post-WWII British leftists failed to recognize, said Orwell, was that the material prosperity and rising living standards guaranteed by the socialist representatives in Parliament could not be achieved without continuing the hated policy of British imperialism. Orwell's solution to this dilemma was simple honesty: leftist politicians in power need to be up front with the people and prepare them for "an uncomfortable transition period" the goal of which is a lower standard of living characteristic of what Orwell called "true Socialism at home."
Writing between 1943 and 1945 Orwell was certainly giddy at the prospect of building socialism at home. The war years had, according to Orwell, forced the British people to get by with less, reduced the envy and resentment of class distinctions, and most importantly "habituated [the people] to a planned regimented sort of life in which consumption goods are shared out with reasonable fairness." As Orwell put it:

"What happens in total war is that the acute suffering -- not merely danger and hardship but boredom and homesickness - is pushed on to the armed forces, who may number ten percent of the population, while the rest enjoy a security and a social equality which the never know at other times. Of course there is also the bombing, the break-up of families, anxiety over husbands and sons, overwork and lack of amusements, but these are probably much more tolerable than the haunting dread of unemployment against a backdrop of social competitiveness."

For George Orwell then, bombing, family break-up, and anxiety over the impending death of loved ones is actually more tolerable than the uncertainty and struggle that often accompanies life in the free market. Orwell's perspective here provides a fascinating insight into what partially animates the typical socialist mind, which is a tendency to downplay traditional beliefs in self-reliance, personal struggle, and a strong work ethic.
Orwell's "planned, regimented sort of life" leaves very little room in other words for what theologians and philosophers from ancient times to the present have called individual "soul-making." However, this lack of individuality and diversity makes Orwell's hated centralized and statist "perversions" that much more likely.
Nevertheless, Orwell continued to criticize the lethargic and conservative British public for failing to "imagine anything new" including a secure, state-directed existence. Orwell's frustration mirrored that of fellow socialist intellectual Bertrand Russell, who was fond of charging the typically backward "human race" with an "unwillingness . . . to acquiesce in its own survival." For Orwell and Russell then, choosing socialism translated into choosing national survival over national decline.
In an April 1944 book review for the London Observer, Orwell brought his progressive perspective to bear on F.A. Hayek's recently published The Road to Serfdom. And while Orwell does credit Hayek for outlining the threats to civil liberties that typically accompany collectivist societies, Orwell nevertheless remained highly critical of Hayek:
"[Hayek] does not see, or will not admit, that a return to 'free' competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the State. The trouble with competitions is that somebody wins them. . . [S]ince the vast majority of people would rather have State regimentation than slumps and unemployment, the drift toward collectivism is bound to continue if popular opinion has any say in the matter."
Orwell despised what he called "economic chaos" but for Hayek it was precisely the "blind" nature of an economy practiced without favoritism and underneath formal rules that reflected the refreshingly modern and original nature of justice and in addition provided the very freedom necessary for moral conduct.
Orwell also failed to recognize that "state control" of industry actually tends to produce a more sinister form of inequality than he could have imagined. Indeed, Hayek said in The Road to Serfdom that "inequality is undoubtedly more readily borne, and affects the dignity of the person much less, if it is determined by impersonal forces than when it is due to [state] design."
In his Mirage of Social Justice Hayek pressed the point further: "The great merit of the market order as it has spread during the last two centuries is that it deprived everyone of such power which can be used only in arbitrary fashion. It had indeed brought about the greatest reduction in arbitrary power ever achieved."
In other words, Orwell's biggest mistake may have been failing to appreciate the frightening ability of our so called "competent" government managers to shape society in arbitrary ways that actually produce a more despotic inequality very much detached from any objective basis of morality.
Hayek's point here demands our attention. "The striving for equality by means of a directed economy" said Hayek, "can result only in an officially enforced inequality -- an authoritarian determination of the status of each individual in the new hierarchical order -- and [consequently] most of the humanitarian elements of our morals, the respect for human life, for the weak, and for the individual generally, will disappear."
According to Hayek's argument, the kinds of virtues which "flourish whenever the individualist or commercial type of society prevails" such as kindness, personal modesty, respect for privacy, and a belief in the good intentions of a neighbor are "at the same time eminently social virtues." Once, however, "you admit that the individual is merely the means to serve the ends of the higher entity called society" or the "State" then the objective basis for morality is entirely at an end.
George Orwell may have believed he was advocating "something new," but typical of many leftist intellectuals his was a return to what philosopher Eric Hoffer called the previous "fifty centuries of history" in which the "regimentation and minute regulation" of men was the defining characteristic.
What gave modern America its singular and novel spirit said Hoffer is the "fabulously productive, more or less self-regulating chaos [within which] the masses could show what they could do on their own without masters to push them around."
But for George Orwell, being regimented or pushed around by the state is, in the end, far more preferable than the "tyranny" of free competition. Further, in a 1947 Partisan Review essay Orwell concluded that "capitalism has manifestly no future." What did have a promising future, according to Orwell, was something else entirely: "a powerful Socialist movement might for the first time arise in the United States."
The success of a socialist movement would indicate, as Orwell liked to say, that even Americans could acquiesce in their own survival.
Or, as Orwell said of Winston Smith's embrace of Big Brother at the end of his novel 1984: "everything was all right. The struggle was over."

So what if taxing the rich hurts the economy?

By Larry Elder
November22, 2012

Consider this headline from a Reuters article in The Huffington Post: "Raising Taxes on Rich Won't Hurt Economic Growth, CBO Says."

But the first paragraph refutes the headline: "Allowing income tax rates to rise for wealthy Americans would not hurt U.S. economic growthmuch (emphasis added) in 2013 ..." The CBO did not say, as the headline suggests, that raising taxes on the rich has no negative economic effect. In fact, the CBO actually said that extending the Bush-era rates for all would increase economic growth by 1.5 percent. If, however, the Bush era rates expired for the rich -- but were retained for everybody else -- economic growth would still increase, but by 1.25 percent.
In other words, raising taxes would result in less economic activity, not more. Herein lies the key to understanding why the left wants higher taxes for "the rich." To the rich-should-pay-more crowd, the question of whether raising taxes hurts economic growth is less important than the issue of "fairness."
Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, in 2008, was asked why he insisted on pushing a capital gains tax increase given that, historically, higher capital gains rates meant less revenue:
ABC News' Charlie Gibson: "You have, however, said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, 'I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was 28 percent.' It's now 15 percent. That's almost a doubling if you went to 28 percent. But actually Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.
Then-Sen. Obama: "Right."
Gibson: "And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent."
Obama agreed, "Right."
"And in each instance," Gibson continued, "when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?"
Obama explained: "Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness (emphasis added). We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year -- $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That's not fair. And what I want is not oppressive taxation. I want businesses to thrive, and I want people to be rewarded for their success. But what I also want to make sure is that our tax system is fair."
Years earlier, in 1998, the then-state senator told a Loyola University audience: "The trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some (wealth) redistribution -- because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."
The then-Democratic nominee Obama told Fox's Bill O'Reilly that wealth redistribution was the neighborly thing to do. "If I can afford it," said Obama, "what's the big deal for me to say, 'I'm going to pay a little bit more'? That is neighborliness." And a month before the 2008 election, Obama explained to "Joe the Plumber" that "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
In a 2001 Chicago radio interview, then-state Sen. Obama said: "The Supreme Court neverventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth (emphasis added), and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. ... One of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement, was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community-organizing activities on the ground, that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change -- and in some ways we still suffer from that."
Investor's Business Daily says raising taxes on the top 2 percent figures to bring in annually about $34 billion. Others put the number at twice that. Either way, it is a tiny fraction of the $1.1 trillion annual deficit. And an Ernst & Young study says this would cost 700,000 jobs. So raising taxes on the rich a) brings in a small amount of money and b) reduces, not increases, economic activity.
Why increase taxes on the rich at all? Answer: It's a matter of "fairness."
Andy Stern, the former head of the Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing American union, describes the economic philosophy of the left: If raising taxes on "the rich" hurts the economy, that is an acceptable price. "Western Europe," says Stern, "as much as we used to make fun of it, has made different trade-offs which may have ended with a little more unemployment but a lot more equality."
Any questions?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Cease Fire

By Andrew C. McCarthy
November 21, 2012

It’s amusing to read (in Patrick’supdate) that the Israeli government has agreed, as part of the “ceasefire,” to stop the “targeting of individuals.” What moral universe do we live in where Hamas launches hundreds of missiles and sets off bombs the intent of which is the mass homicide of civilians, yet what the world is whipped up about is Israel’s targeted assassination of the jihadist leaders who direct the mass homicide of civilians?
If you’re actually concerned about human rights, Israel’s approach, targeting the terror chiefs in order to minimize civilian casualties (notwithstanding that Palestinian civilians are the ones who voted to put Hamas in charge), compares quite favorably to Hamas’s intentional targeting of civilians and its storage of military assets in and around civilian infrastructure — guaranteeing that there will be Palestinian civilian casualties when Israel inevitably reacts to Hamas’s relentless provocations. If Israel is not going to target the terrorist leaders — who then have license to orchestrate mass-murder attacks with impunity — what is it going to target?
Interesting that Israel is pressured to treat the terrorist leaders as if they were heads of state but the Palestinians are never expected to concede that Israel has a right to exist. In fact, Hamas’s reason for existing is to destroy Israel by violent jihad — as I’ve pointed out here before, that’s not just me saying so; it’s in the Hamas charter. I wonder what, for example, the State Department and our Muslim Brotherhood “allies” in Egypt and Turkey would say were Prime Minister Netanyahu to counter, “No ceasefire, and we’re going to keep targeting individuals, until Hamas repudiates the introductory section of its charter”: 
This is the Charter of the Islamic Resistance (Hamas) which will reveal its face, unveil its identity, state its position, clarify its purpose, discuss its hopes, call for support to its cause and reinforcement, and for joining its ranks. For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails. Thus we shall perceive them approaching in the horizon, and this will be known before long: “Allah has decreed: Lo! I very shall conquer, I and my messenger, lo! Allah is strong, almighty.”
“And the charter’s Article 7″: 
Article Seven: The Universality of Hamas:….  Hamas is one of the links in the Chain of Jihad in the confrontation with the Zionist invasion. It links up with the setting out of the Martyr Izz a-din al-Qassam and his brothers in the Muslim Brotherhood who fought the Holy War in 1936; it further relates to another link of the Palestinian Jihad and the Jihad and efforts of the Muslim Brothers during the 1948 War, and to the Jihad operations of the Muslim Brothers in 1968 and thereafter. But even if the links have become distant from each other, and even if the obstacles erected by those who revolve in the Zionist orbit, aiming at obstructing the road before the Jihad fighters, have rendered the pursuance of Jihad impossible; nevertheless, the Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree. [This is taken directly from authoritative Islamic scripture -- the hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim.]
There are no ceasefires other than in the diplomats’ Islamophilic imaginations. Hamas is at permanent, existential war with the Jewish state. So are the region’s other Islamists. These “ceasefires” are just periodic lulls that allow Islamists to catch their breath and rearm for the jihad’s next round, while the diplomats browbeat Israel into more concessions — assuring the jihadists that their barbarism works. The war will continue until one side decisively wins, meaning the other decisively loses. With all that is stacked against them, with the perverse way the supposedly civilized world averts its eyes from the unabashed savagery of Israel’s enemies, it is a marvel that Israelis remain so strong and so decent.