The Real News of the Month

January 2004
Volume 11, Number 1

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
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  -> Washington's New Confederacy
  -> Topical Notes (plus Exclusives to this edition)
  -> A Flawed Life of Oxford
  -> The Grandfather
Nuggets (plus Exclusives to this edition)
List of Columns Reprinted in This Issue


Washington's New Confederacy
(page 1)

{{ Material dropped or changed solely for reasons of 
space appears in double curly brackets. Emphasis is 
indicated by the presence of asterisks around the 
emphasized words.}}

     In the American pantheon of "great presidents," the 
first is still George Washington, even though he has been 
somewhat tarnished by the now-mortal sin of having owned 
slaves. I live near Mount Vernon, and I like to visit it 
now and then to remind myself of what America was once 
like. On my latest outing there, with a foreign visitor, 
I was struck again by the scale of the old slave economy. 
It was truly a different country, more foreign to us than 
England is today.

     The other day I also happened to read a few 
quotations from Washington's letters. They were written 
in an English that is also becoming foreign to us. One of 
the difficulties of reading old documents is that we are 
apt to be misled by familiar words when we don't realize 
they were being used in old senses no longer current. We 
too easily read our ancestors as if they shared our own 
assumptions, when that may be far from the truth.

     Washington wrote the letters in question shortly 
after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, over 
which he had presided in the summer of 1787, and while 
the debate over ratification was raging. He explained to 
Lafayette the following April that under the proposed 
Constitution, the people "retain everything they do not, 
by express terms, give up." This is of course the 
principle that would be enshrined in the Tenth Amendment; 
nobody disputed it, though it is now pretty much 
forgotten. It's still easy to understand, but apparently 
impossible to enforce.

     Washington habitually referred to the U.S. 
Government as a "confederated government" or 
"confederacy." To modern ears this is a bit startling, 
since these terms are now used almost exclusively to mean 
the Southern states that tried to leave the Union in 
Lincoln's time; Lincoln himself sometimes called the 
Union a "confederacy." But he abandoned the term, 
probably because it was still understood to mean a 
*voluntary* union, which he insisted his Union was most 
definitely not.

     Washington clearly didn't share Lincoln's view. In 
June 1788, fearing that the Constitution wouldn't be 
ratified, he wrote to General Henry Knox, "I can not but 
hope that the States which may be disposed to make a 
secession will think often and seriously on the 
consequences." But he didn't suggest that the states had 
no right to "make a secession."

     A few days later Washington wrote to General Charles 
Pinckney that New Hampshire had "acceded to the new 
Confederacy," adding in reference to North Carolina, "I 
should be astonished if that State should withdraw from 
the Union." Again, there is no hint that either state was 
obliged to join the Union, "the new Confederacy." "To 
accede" is the counterpart of "to secede." Washington 
used words precisely. A state with the option to accede 
could also secede.

    {{  The language is quaint, but the Father of Our 
Country unmistakably agreed with Jefferson, not Lincoln, 
that these were "Free and Independent States," united by 
mere confederation. He also called the Constitution 
itself "a compact or treaty," once more taking the 
Jeffersonian rather than the Lincolnian position. }}

     Washington's choice of words is significant; he had 
little formal education and was not an original or even 
especially trenchant thinker. His language merely 
reflects the consensus of America's revolutionary 
generation, and for that reason is a reliable guide to a 
misunderstood period in American history. It also shows 
how completely out of touch Abraham Lincoln was with "the 
fathers" he claimed to speak for.

(page 2)

     Federal spending has grown more under *three* years 
of George W. Bush than under *eight* years of Bill 
Clinton. Bush has yet to veto any act of Congress, which, 
at his urging, has enormously expanded Medicare, the 
signature boondoggle of the Great Society. Such is our 
"compassionate conservative" and "strict constructionist" 
in the White House. He has effectively repudiated every 
conservative principle of limited government. But can 
conservatives bear to return the favor by repudiating 
him? Or does the war in Iraq compensate for everything 
else? Put otherwise, we are about to find out if the 
conservative movement is now under total control of the 
neoconservatives, who have no principles (and only one 

*          *          *

     During Bush's ballyhooed Thanksgiving visit to Iraq, 
he carefully avoided contact with one group: Iraqis. 
Maybe he was afraid they wouldn't be thankful for their 
liberation. If so, he was probably right. During his 
recent trips to England and Asia, he was roundly heckled 
by people he hasn't even bombed yet.

*          *          *

     But why get indignant at Bush? He is, after all, a 
politician -- that is, a man who submits willingly to the 
time and its pressures. You might as well get mad at a 
barometer. What's really grotesque is the way his 
admirers praise him for having the courage to *defy* 
those pressures -- as if liberals were still ruling 
American politics! Bush defies liberals only when he sees 
that they are weak.

*          *          *

     Today's alleged conservatism seems to be a form of 
despair wearing a mask of optimism. Intelligent 
conservatives will tell you, in a somewhat apologetic 
tone, that Bush is "about the best we can expect." But 
this is what allows Republicans to pose as the polar 
opposite of, and only alternative to, the liberal 
Democrats whose premises they share. And entry-level 
conservatives (such as Limbaugh fans) never learn of the 
large and growing gap between "the best we can expect" 
and the Real Thing.

*          *          *

     The great Paul Scofield, now in his eighties, has 
just recorded a brilliant performance as King Lear on the 
Naxos label (available on CDs and audiotape). He also 
recorded the part in the wonderful Caedmon series of 
Shakespeare recordings forty years ago. Not to mention -- 
and I'd really rather not mention it -- his starring role 
in Peter Brook's misconceived 1970 film (back when 
existentialism was still hot stuff). Scofield's 
incomparable voice only gets richer and subtler with age.

*          *          *

     David Brooks, the latest "conservative" columnist of 
the NEW YORK TIMES, says conservatives should not only 
favor gay marriage, they should *insist* on it. You know, 
encourage stable relationships, and all that. It's such a 
bright idea you have to wonder why it has never occurred 
to, say, a Pope. We await an encyclical proclaiming that 
buggery is strictly illicit outside the context of 
Christian matrimony.

*          *          *

     Following the ordination of an openly homosexual 
Episcopal bishop in the United States, the Vatican has 
suspended talks with the Anglican Church for the time 
being. Several Eastern Orthodox churches have already 
done so; but given Rome's post-Vatican II enthusiasm for 
"dialogue," this is an extraordinary step. Anglicanism 
used to consider itself the Via Media between Catholicism 
and Protestantism. Today it's perhaps the Via Media 
between Unitarianism and -- what? -- Fire Island?.

Exclusive to the electronic version:

     The Justice Department has ordered the deportation 
of another octogenarian, dwelling in New York, for having 
served as a German concentration-camp guard during World 
War II. Fair is fair, so shouldn't we also be hunting 
down the men who guarded the concentration camps for 
Japanese-Americans during that same war? Or were they, to 
borrow a phrase, just following orders?

A Flawed Life of Oxford
(pages 3-5)

{{ Material dropped or changed solely for reasons of 
space appears in double curly brackets. Emphasis is 
indicated by the presence of asterisks around the 
emphasized words.}}

     Since 1920, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, has 
emerged as the favorite candidate of most 
anti-Stratfordians for authorship of the Shakespeare 
works. He has by now eclipsed the chief previous 
challenger, Francis Bacon. Yet professional scholars have 
paid little attention to Oxford, except to ridicule 
claims of his authorship of the greatest plays in English 

17TH EARL OF OXFORD (Liverpool, 527 pp.), by Alan H. 
Nelson, is only the second biography of its subject, the 
first being Bernard M. Ward's 1928 SEVENTEENTH EARL OF 
OXFORD, 1550-1604. Both books are important contributions 
to the Shakespeare authorship debate. Ward was driven by 
the conviction that Oxford was "Shakespeare"; Nelson aims 
to refute, by implication, the Oxfordian thesis.

     Nelson, who teaches English at Berkeley, goes far 
deeper into the documentary records than the amateur 
scholar Ward did. Even Oxford's partisans must be 
grateful for his diligence. One thing is certain: the 
authorship debate will never be the same.

     Oddly enough, Nelson refuses to admit that he is 
joining battle in the debate. He refers to it in derisive 
quotation marks as the "authorship controversy," as if it 
weren't really a controversy at all, even though he has 
been a vigorous participant in it for many years. I 
myself have debated him twice, in San Francisco and 
Washington, and he reviewed my pro-Oxford book, ALIAS 
obvious that the only reason Oxford merits a biography at 
all is that he has become the most plausible challenger 
for the claim to the Shakespeare works.

     "My main purpose," Nelson assures us in his 
introduction, "is to introduce documents from Oxford's 
life, many of them written in Oxford's own hand. Since 
documents alone do not make a biography, however, I have 
felt duty-bound to point out their significance for an 
accurate estimation of Oxford's character. If I judge 
Oxford harshly from the outset, it is because I neither 
can nor wish to suppress what I have learned along the 
way. True believers will of course spin Oxford's 
reprehensible acts into benevolent gestures, or will 
transfer blame from Oxford to Burghley, Leicester, Queen 
Elizabeth, or even to Oxford's much-abused wife Anne. I 
beg the open-minded reader to join me in holding the 
mature Oxford responsible for his own life, letting the 
documentary evidence speak for itself."

     But already we sense a problem. If the documents 
speak for themselves, why is it necessary to "point out 
their significance"? Is it only "true believers" who 
"spin" the evidence?

     Despite his preemptive charges against these "true 
believers" (who he assumes will not be "open-minded" 
about the facts), Nelson is generous to Oxfordians for 
their efforts to shed light on Oxford's life and he names 
several to whom he is indebted. Oxfordians, for their 
part, now stand in Nelson's debt for breaking much new 
ground in his research, even if it is unflattering to 
(and strongly biased against) their candidate.

     Nelson calls Oxfordian scholars "partisan," which is 
fair enough, but he is hardly impartial himself. His 
clear purpose is to discredit Oxford in almost every 
respect. He portrays him as an "egotist," "thug," 
"sodomite," "atheist," "vulture," traitor, murderer, 
rapist, pederast, adulterer, libeler, fop, playboy, 
truant, tax evader, drunkard, snob, spendthrift, 
deadbeat, cheat, blackmailer, malcontent, hypocrite, 
conspirator, and ingrate. Some of this finds support in 
the records, as even Oxford's admirers usually 
acknowledge, but it hardly proves what Nelson wants it to 
prove: that Oxford couldn't have written the Shakespeare 
works. After all, many great writers have been men of 
dubious character.

     It is true enough that Oxford made plenty of 
enemies; but he also made plenty of loyal friends. 
Impartial, "open-minded" scholarship would hardly accept 
the charges of his enemies with total credulity, while 
ignoring or dismissing the word of his friends. Yet this 
is Nelson's method.

     Nelson seldom misses a chance to disparage Oxford. 
Apparently his years of research have failed to turn up a 
single fact to Oxford's credit. The reader's respect for 
his impressive scholarship soon gives way to weariness at 
his obsessive denigration, which shows him no less biased 
than those who adulate Oxford. He is always ready to 
believe Oxford's most scurrilous foes -- he takes the 
phrase "monstrous adversary" from one of them, who in the 
same sentence says luridly that Oxford "would drink my 
blood" -- but he largely omits the many contemporary 
tributes to Oxford's genius (unless he can ascribe them 
to base motives). About the only thing Nelson is willing 
to credit Oxford with is elegant penmanship.

     Though Nelson belittles Oxford as a poet, a scholar, 
and even a letter-writer, he has oddly little to say 
about his high literary reputation in his own day. Only 
about twenty short lyrics have survived under Oxford's 
name, but they hardly suffice for an evaluation; he must 
have written much more than that to draw such generous 
and copious praise (little of which Nelson cites). And 
though none of Oxford's highly lauded plays have survived 
under his name, Nelson is willing to assume that they 
were of no particular merit. He bases his attacks 
entirely on slight evidence, when he would have been wise 
to heed Richard Whately's dictum: "He who is unaware of 
his ignorance will be only misled by his knowledge." It 
is certain that Oxford produced a substantial body of 
work, whether or not this included the Shakespeare plays 
and poems, and that it commanded great respect. Nelson 
makes his judgment of what is missing on a very 
fragmentary record -- and on his own antipathy to Oxford.

     He even argues, from a few minor grammatical errors 
in casual letters, that Oxford's Latin was poor, in spite 
of the testimony of a hostile witness (whom he does 
quote) that Oxford "spoke Latin and Italian well." He 
also neglects to mention that Oxford wrote an elegant 
Latin preface to a translation of Castiglione's BOOK OF 
THE COURTIER and that Oxford, during a two-week visit to 
the noted scholar Johann Sturmius, evidently conversed 
with Sturmius entirely in Latin. Since Nelson eagerly 
presents (and amplifies) every detail he can find that 
seems damaging to Oxford, it is suspicious that he 
suppresses so much that is favorable to him.

     In short, Nelson argues that Oxford was a scoundrel, 
ergo he couldn't have been "Shakespeare." This non 
sequitur informs the whole book. The same argument was 
advanced by the late A.L. Rowse, who offered as 
conclusive proof the fact that Oxford was accused of 
being, as Rowse put it, a "homo." Of course this fact may 
tell the other way: the Shakespeare Sonnets, or at least 
the first 126, are now widely recognized as being 
homosexual love poems (as I contended in my own book). 
Beyond that, a major theme of the Sonnets is the poet's 
recurrent lament that he is "in disgrace" -- something 
Oxford had reason to complain of, though William of 
Stratford apparently didn't.

     Because Nelson ostensibly excludes the "authorship 
controversy" from consideration, he doesn't feel he must 
confront the seeming links between Oxford and 
"Shakespeare." Thus, for example, he says hardly anything 
of the young Earl of Southampton, whom Lord Burghley, 
Oxford's father-in-law, tried to marry off to Oxford's 
daughter in the early 1590s, the same time, it appears, 
that "Shakespeare" was urging Southampton (or someone 
remarkably like him) to marry and beget a son.

     In fact, the earls of Southampton, Pembroke, and 
Montgomery -- the three dedicatees of the Shakespeare 
works -- were all, at various times, candidates for the 
hands of Oxford's three daughters. An interesting 
coincidence, at least, but Nelson's biographical strategy 
allows him to avoid mentioning it. The same strategy 
allows him to deal only glancingly, if at all, with other 
interesting coincidences. Two of the chief literary 
influences on "Shakespeare," Henry Howard (Earl of 
Surrey) and Arthur Golding (translator of Ovid), were 
Oxford's uncles. Many details of Oxford's 1575-76 Italian 
journey pop up in the Shakespeare works. Phrases from 
Oxford's letters frequently appear in those works too. 
{{ Burghley himself, as many orthodox Stratfordian 
scholars have discerned, is clearly the model for the 
snooping Polonius. }} Oxford, like Hamlet, was captured 
by pirates in the English Channel.

     All this is missing from Nelson's biography. He does 
mention that those "true believers" think Oxford was 
Shakespeare, but he leaves the impression that he has no 
idea *why* they think so, just as he has no idea *why* 
Edmund Spenser, George Puttenham, Francis Meres, and many 
other Elizabethan writers called Oxford a poet and 
playwright of great distinction -- except that they 
somehow thought it worth their while to curry favor with 
the most impecunious patron in England. For Oxford 
received his most lavish praise after he had wasted his 
huge family fortune and was reduced to wheedling for 
money himself. From a cynic's point of view, he was no 
longer worth flattering. He was truly "in disgrace with 
fortune and men's eyes." Yet some men loved and admired 

     Agreeing with Oxford's enemies, Nelson, in spite of 
his own intent, makes this "monstrous adversary" a man of 
dimension, an abundant personality, too energetic and 
colorful to be dismissed by moralistic censure. The book 
reads like a Puritan American parson's biography of 
Falstaff. All the author can see in his subject is pure 
vice. That is all he is equipped to perceive. But the 
subject escapes the biographer's categories. Sinful as he 
no doubt is, he is *alive.* Everything you can say 
against him may be true, in a narrow and literal sense. 
"Use every man after his desert, and who shall 'scape 
whipping?" But beware of being "right" about such a man.

     Rarely has an author so nakedly loathed his subject. 
I have read more dispassionate biographies of Hitler and 
Stalin. Nelson's disapproval of Oxford recalls Tolstoy's 
detestation of Shakespeare.

     Having relieved himself of the duty of facing 
evidence in favor of Oxford's authorship, Nelson simply 
pretends it doesn't exist. Yet in his review of my own 
book, he had no choice but to confront it, since I spent 
thirty pages on the Sonnets alone. Far from treating the 
argument as absurd, Nelson could only offer the weak 
rejoinder that the poet's self-portrait might, if only we 
had more data, match William Shakspere as closely as it 
matches Oxford. "The Sonnets," he wrote, "may bear a 
distinct relationship to what we do not know [about 
Shakspere] (which must be vastly more than what we know); 
nor are they by any means impossible to reconcile with 
the little that is known [about Shakspere]."

     But Nelson failed to explain how any new information 
could possibly make Shakspere appear as an aging man of 
high social rank who had fallen into disrepute by the 
1590s. The best he could offer was the risible suggestion 
that Shakspere might have "felt" older than he actually 
was because he was "prematurely balding" -- a desperate 
guess based solely on the Folio portrait, since we have 
no reason to assume that Shakspere's or the poet's 
hairline had receded "prematurely," {{ and the poet 
refers to his "lines and wrinkles," but not his hair 
loss. }} And early baldness, however unwelcome, would 
hardly give its victim a sense of impending death.

     The poet also twice speaks of himself as "lame" -- 
the very word Oxford used of himself in several letters 
he wrote in the 1590s. (We have no indication that 
Shakspere was lame.) He mysteriously hopes his "name" 
will be "buried" and "forgotten" after his death, which 
he would hardly do if he were putting his real name on 
his published works (which he expects to outlive him). He 
uses about two hundred legal terms, some fifty of which 
also appear in Oxford's private letters; the Sonnets also 
use dozens of the same words, images, metaphors, and 
arguments we find in Oxford's 1573 published letter to 
Thomas Bedingfield. In his review, as in his book, Nelson 
has nothing to say about all these coincidences. He 
merely adopts an air of assumed authority to evidence 
which many readers have found overwhelming.

     The Sonnets offer perhaps the strongest evidence in 
favor of Oxford's authorship. {{ They have always made 
Stratfordian scholars uneasy, because what they tell us 
is so hard to square with even "the little that is known" 
about Stratford's William. }} The very fact that they are 
often described as "fictional" tells us how feeble any 
biographical nexus with William is. If he had written 
them, surely they would be the strongest and most 
irrefutable proof of his authorship, and there would be 
no need to place them in the category of mere inventions 
or pure "literary exercises," as so many orthodox 
scholars do.

     We may state the point even more forcefully. If 
William had written the Sonnets, their contents would 
naturally be the starting point for all Shakespeare 
biography. After all, they would have the status of the 
poet's unquestionable self-revelations, and all other 
biographical data would have to be organized around them. 
In that case, the Sonnets alone would have ruled out any 
doubt of their author's identity, and no "authorship 
controversy" would have been possible.

     Instead, the biographers have had to organize their 
data around the dubious Folio testimony of William's 
authorship, consigning the Sonnets to a marginal place in 
the sketchy story of William's life. Only because we do 
know so little about his life is it barely possible to 
imagine the Sonnets as his own account of himself, and 
even at that they present baffling difficulties. But if 
we accept Oxford as their author, the puzzles evaporate 
and they make excellent sense. This is why Nelson could 
claim no more than that if we knew enough about William, 
they might make as much sense as they do if read as 
Oxford's self-disclosures. In effect, he conceded that 
our present knowledge favors, and does nothing to 
disprove, Oxford's authorship of the Sonnets.

     The Shakespeare works also display their author's 
familiarity with contemporary Italy, as Ernesto Grillo 
showed in his book SHAKESPEARE AND ITALY. In the same 
review, Nelson {{ could only suggest }} that it was "not 
impossible" that Shakspere had visited Italy too, 
"perhaps" in a company of traveling actors (though again 
there is no evidence whatever for this improbable 
surmise). In his book he altogether fails to mention 
striking links between Oxford's letters from Italy and 
Shakespeare's Italian plays.

     The only reason Nelson wrote this book -- and the 
only reason anyone will read it -- is the "authorship 
controversy" Nelson both deprecates and dodges. Though 
MONSTROUS ADVERSARY is beyond question an important 
addition to that debate, readers can draw their own 
conclusions from the fact that Oxford's detractors 
continue to find it necessary to deal with the evidence 
so disingenuously.

The Grandfather
(page 6) 

{{ Material dropped or changed solely for reasons of 
space appears in double curly brackets. Emphasis is 
indicated by the presence of asterisks around the 
emphasized words.}}

     Like countless others, including Saddam Hussein, I'm 
a GODFATHER junkie; I've been one ever since the day the 
first film was released in April 1972, progressing from 
the paperback to the new four-disc DVD set. The latter 
features lengthy commentaries on all three films by the 
director, Francis Ford Coppola. 

     I might add that I'm also fond of Coppola's other 
gangster film, THE COTTON CLUB (1984); I agree with most 
of the critics about its flaws, but for my money it has 
enough magic to redeem them. It's nowhere nearly equal to 
THE GODFATHER, but it has a similar variety, energy, and 
plenitude. I love the music, the period spectacle, and 
several of the acting performances, particularly Bob 
Hoskins as Ownie Madden and James Remar as Dutch Schultz. 

     It's now customary to credit the director for a 
movie's success, but most really great films overflow 
with talents that seem almost beyond the director's 
control. THE THIRD MAN, for example, is superbly directed 
by Carol Reed, but what would it be without the acting 
(Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard, Alida 
Valli), the script (Graham Greene), the music (Anton 
Karas), and the cinematography (Robert Krasker)? 
Olivier's HENRY V features Olivier's imaginative 
direction and thrilling star turn, but we also marvel at 
the lovely cinematography (Krasker again), the music 
(William Walton), and of course the script (the Earl of 

     {{ Hitchcock never made a really resonant film, 
because we always feel the master pulling the strings; 
though he used the best actors, including Olivier, Cary 
Grant, James Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Sean Connery, his 
characters rarely seem to have a life of their own. Even 
Welles's CITIZEN KANE, often ranked the greatest movie 
ever made, seems, for all its brilliance, a little too 
much a one-man show. }}

     Coppola deserves all the praise he won for THE 
GODFATHER, but we never feel the director's hand 
dominating the film too much. And, in fact, the 
production was never quite under his control. He was 
hired to direct it, he says, in large part because he was 
young and the studio, Paramount, thought he could be 
"pushed around." He still sounds bitter about it, and he 
remembers making the film as an unhappy and often 
humiliating experience. He got only a limited budget and 
was nearly fired several times before he finished the 

     Despite his employers' bullying, Coppola had the 
courage to insist on making the film his way. He went far 
over his budget by adhering to the novel and setting the 
story in the late 1940s; Paramount had wanted to save 
money by making it contemporary, complete with hippies, 
thereby eliminating the need for period costumes and old 
cars. He also fought to include in the cast Marlon Brando 
(whom Paramount considered washed up) and such 
near-unknowns as Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, 
and Diane Keaton, all of whom the movie turned into major 
stars. Don Vito Corleone, of course, proved to be by far 
Brando's most famous role, eclipsing Stanley Kowalski and 
Terry Malloy (of ON THE WATERFRONT). 

     Mario Puzo's novel may be the WAR AND PEACE of pulp 
fiction. But Coppola, working with Puzo on the script, 
gave the story a depth and gravitas the novel lacks. The 
sleazier episodes of the book were cut out; the plot was 
tightened with great skill. The movie's opening sequence 
is a masterpiece of atmosphere and exposition: all the 
hugger-mugger during the wedding reception, the dark 
chamber of secrecy alternating with the brilliant sunlit 
festivity, prepares us for everything that is to follow 
without a single wasted moment. 

     When I first saw the Godfather's home I thought I 
was back in my immigrant grandfather's house in Detroit: 
I could hear the children shrieking happily and smell the 
cooking. And after all, the Godfather *is* a grandfather. 
If this was "organized crime," it seemed awfully 
familiar. Coppola, who was also born in Detroit, says he 
drew heavily on his Italian family memories. The sense of 
personal associations to which the film owes so much is 
largely due to the vivid yet subtle camera work of Gordon 

     Coppola brought the same team, minus Brando, back 
for THE GODFATHER PART II. Coppola didn't want to make 
it, but the studio made him an offer he couldn't refuse: 
because of the enormous success of the original, he 
enjoyed a huge salary and a free hand. 

     Many critics consider the sequel even greater than 
the original. I don't. Excellent as it is, it lacks the 
original's warmth, humor, generosity, and spaghetti 
sauce. In the earlier film we see Michael wrestling with 
his fate; in the joyless sequel he's already a lost soul 
at the beginning, and he merely compounds his damnation. 
The essence of the drama is gone. When he finally orders 
the murder of his gentle brother Fredo, he seems less 
like a prince of crime than a rat. 

     {{ The third film in the sequence, released in 1990, 
shows Coppola and Puzo exhausted; it might have been the 
work of two hacks doing a lousy imitation of their 
masterpiece. The saga sags sadly. Everything about it is 
implausible, starting with Michael's transformation into 
a "nice" Don who wants to go straight. I think Saddam 
Hussein would agree with me. }}


FLOGGING THE FROGS: Day in, day out, Zionist pundits 
continue to bash the French, who seem to have replaced 
even the Germans as targets of unbridled invective. One 
of the most energetic of these scolds might perhaps 
consider changing his name to Charles Froghammer. 
(page 6)

BIG MISTAKE: Maybe Saddam Hussein's fatal mistake was 
disguising himself to resemble Osama bin Laden. Actually, 
he looked like a pathetic derelict. He had no power, no 
followers, certainly no WMDs, and only as much money as 
he could carry with him. Some threat. (page 7)

DEMOCRATIC OPTIONS: The two-party system offers us a 
choice between one faction that wants to kill people 
before they're born and another that prefers killing them 
afterward. The former now adds killing them *while* 
they're being born. (page 8)

THE ENEMY WITHIN: An Internet assault on anti-war 
conservatives, by Jack Wheeler, goes way over the top, 
accusing them of "hating America." It doesn't occur to 
Wheeler that what such people hate may be not the 
country, but its lawless regime. America's worst enemies 
are ruling it. (page 12)

Exclusive to the electronic version:

SHORT ONE HEAD: The Boston Red Sox have acquired the 
formidable Curt Schilling, giving them one of the 
strongest pitching staffs in baseball. About all they 
should need now to make them a match for the hated New 
York Yankees is to recover the severed head of Ted 
Williams. Surely Ted's son John Henry will make it 
available, if the price is right.

JOE, TAKE HEED! Speaking of great pitching, Warren Spahn 
has died at 82. Spahnie won a modern record 363 games, 
mostly for the Boston-Milwaukee Braves, and he made them 
all look easy. When his fast ball retired, he just 
learned new tricks, in keeping with his great epigram, 
"Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing." And he 
won more than 70 of those victories after he turned 40. 
Maybe his most impressive record is his lifetime 
earned-run average of 3.09, considering that he pitched 
382 complete games (usually on three days' rest).

PIONEER: The self-contradictory concept of same-sex 
marriage has caught on in the decadent West with amazing 
rapidity. About the only precedent I can find for it is 
inauspicious: hostile chroniclers report that the Roman 
emperor Nero "married" a boy (who, however, had been 
surgically, er, altered for the purpose) and in later 
marriage took the role of bride himself (though without 
alteration). Usually dismissed as demented, it appears 
that Nero was merely ahead of his time. 

(pages 7-12)

* The Spirit of Sacrifice (November 4, 2003)

* National Service (November 11, 2003)

* The Neanderthal Creed (November 18, 2003)

* The Era of Bad Feelings (November 20, 2003)

* Master of the Quiet Style (November 25, 2003)

* The Comic Critic (Decenber 2, 2003)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran

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