The Real News of the Month

February 2004
Volume 11, Number 2

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
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  -> Defining Conservatism Down
  -> National Security Notes (plus Exclusives to this
  -> America's Hector
  -> Remembering Hugh Kenner
Nuggets (plus Exclusives to this edition)
List of Columns Reprinted in This Issue


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

Defining Conservatism Down
(page 1)

     {{ "The era of big government is over," said the 
liberal Democrat Bill Clinton, failing to foresee his 
conservative Republican successor. The NEW YORK TIMES 
observes that it's hard to locate the philosophic center 
of the George W. Bush administration. That may be because 
there isn't one, unless trying to please everyone is a 
philosophy. }}

     Conservatives love to imagine that they've won 
("We've Won!" gloated THE WEEKLY STANDARD after Clinton's 
requiem for big government), and liberals are smart 
enough to let them think so. But the {{ NEW YORK TIMES 
also }} purrs that the Republicans, in the Bush era, have 
lost their allergy to big government. Federal spending is 
smashing all records. And you can't blame the Democrats.

     "Please Nominate This Man!" pleads a NATIONAL REVIEW 
cover story on Howard Dean, the Democrats' former 
front-runner. Why? Because Dean, the loopy liberal, would 
be easy for Bush to crush next fall, allowing Bush to 
move even further leftward and capture the middle -- Wait 
a minute! Is this the conservative magazine that sprang 
into existence in 1955 to oppose Eisenhower's 
unprincipled middle-of-the-road Republicanism?

     Yes, it is. Today it will settle happily for a 
Republican landslide on any terms. Beating the Democrats 
is enough now, it seems.

     Another sign of the times: the allegedly 
conservative WASHINGTON TIMES recently ran a rave review 
of Conrad Black's 1,280-page paean, FRANKLIN DELANO 
recall, the American conservative movement, as we now 
know it, arose precisely in opposition to the entire 
Roosevelt legacy: befriending the Soviet Union, crumpling 
the Constitution, building the welfare state, debasing 
the currency, lying us into war, and generally despising 
every principle of limited government.

     So now Roosevelt himself is a conservative icon? Has 
it come to this? Can you remain a conservative in good 
standing if you *don't* admire Roosevelt?

     Well, if conservatism can assimilate Lincoln, maybe 
it can also incorporate Roosevelt. In the real world, it 
keeps changing its mind about what it wants to conserve, 
as well as what it's willing to discard. It's a stance 
vis-a-vis current pressures rather than a timeless 
philosophy, even if "timeless philosophy" sounds like a 
characteristic conservative slogan. This year's timeless 
philosophy, a cynic might say, isn't necessarily 
identical with last year's. After all, noted 
conservatives have rhetorically embraced Harry Truman, 
John Kennedy, and Martin Luther King without being 

     When even "same-sex marriage" can be proposed not as 
a radical but as a *conservative* cause (by David Brooks 
as well as Andrew Sullivan), then both marriage and 
conservatism are being, in Daniel Patrick Moynihan's 
famous phrase, defined downward. Or rather, they aren't 
being defined at all; they are merely being verbally 
associated with arbitrary referents, Humpty Dumpty-style.

     Politics by its nature always has a high tolerance 
for nonsense, but conservatism used to mean, among other 
things, an insistence that even political speech retain 
some responsibility to moral reality. But today 
conservative intellectuals, like nominally conservative 
politicians, and like liberal sophists, can be located 
among the avatars of flux. Like paper money, their words 
have no stable value.

National Security Notes
(page 2)

     The year 2004 began, as all years must, with news of 
Michael Jackson, who denied all charges and displayed 
bruises he accused the police of inflicting during his 
arrest. One doesn't know what to believe, as usual with 
Jacko, but it does seem a pity for a man to suffer such 
ugly marks when he has gone to such lengths to be white.

*          *          *

     Columnist George Will assures us that "the welfare 
state is here to stay," and nobody can doubt that 
George W. Bush is doing his best to make it so. Those who 
doubt it, Will says, aren't "serious," and the task 
facing our rulers now is to figure out how to handle the 
77 million Baby Boomers who are near retirement age. 
Indeed. The realists, the presumably Serious People, have 
overloaded a system that is not only unconstitutional and 
immoral, but unworkable. Hilaire Belloc saw it coming 
long ago; he called it the Servile State.

*          *          *

     By the way, how "serious" is a president who has 
never vetoed a spending bill?

*          *          *

     Serious People agree that the government has a duty 
to protect us. From what? Well, from criminals and 
foreign aggressors (that is, other governments). But 
that's just the beginning. The Modern State also protects 
us from, let's see, "discrimination" (that is, other 
people's free choices not to associate with us); tobacco; 
market forces in general (through farm subsidies, for 
example, including tobacco-farm subsidies); terrorism; 
unsafe autos; and on and on, without limit. It protects 
labor from management, consumers from manufacturers, the 
earth itself -- the "environment" -- from property 
owners. It protects the arts from philistines (that is, 
from market decisions to support other arts). It protects 
women from men, children from parents, animals from 
humans (and, to be fair, humans from animals). It 
protects us from evils our ancestors never even heard of, 
such as "homophobia." It protects us from the food we 
eat, the water we drink, the very air we breathe. Through 
Social Security (which no Serious Person thinks of 
eliminating), it even protects us from our own 
improvidence! In other words, it protects us from 
ourselves. Nobody knows what else it will be protecting 
us from in the future, but it will surely think of 
something -- many things, in fact.

*          *          *

     Bush, with the help of the Department of Homeland 
Security, has protected us from the Axis of Evil, even as 
his predecessors protected us from Communism. Franklin 
Roosevelt protected us from Nazis and Japs (adding to our 
security by developing nuclear weapons); Woodrow Wilson 
protected us from the Kaiser (making the world "safe" for 
democracy); Lincoln protected us from Jefferson Davis. At 
home, the Federal Government protected us from the Robber 
Barons, and Prohibition protected us from alcohol. 
Meanwhile, overseas, Churchill protected England from 
Hitler, who was in turn protecting Germans from Jews. And 
a new state was created to protect Jews from 
anti-Semitism, while communism protected the working 
classes in much of the world from capitalism. By now, the 
world should be pretty secure.

*          *          *

     Oh, there's one thing the government doesn't protect 
us from, as old Juvenal pointed out millennia ago. When 
the Internal Revenue Service presents you with the bill 
for all this protection, you're on your own. But who 
needs protection from what is, after all, a "service"?

Exclusive to the electronic version:

     Howard Dean's nonstop embarrassing blurts are 
alarming his fellow Democrats. I especially like James 
Carville's comment about the garrulous front-runner: "He 
seems to not appreciate the glory of the unspoken 

America's Hector
(pages 3-4)

     The Civil War is often called America's Iliad. If 
the story were told by a Homer, I suppose Lincoln would 
be its Achilles and Jefferson Davis would be its Hector, 
the noble but doomed hero.

     According to one familiar myth, at every crisis in 
American history a great leader will miraculously emerge 
to rise to the occasion. During the secession crisis, we 
are told, it was Abraham Lincoln. Perish the thought that 
it might have been Davis!

     I often reread Davis's long, dry memoir, THE RISE 
print, in a Da Capo two-volume paperback edition with a 
foreword by the Princeton historian James M. McPherson. 
McPherson begins by observing, "History has not been kind 
to Jefferson Davis," and he, McPherson, evidently means 
to keep it that way, for he immediately continues, "As 
head of a rebellion to preserve slavery, he led his 
people to a disastrous defeat that destroyed their 
society and left the South in poverty for generations."

     This sentence does its author little credit as a 
historian. For one thing, it begs the question whether 
secession was "rebellion" and ignores Davis's careful 
argument that it was not. Nor is it fair to say that its 
purpose was simply to "preserve slavery," since "the 
abolition of slavery," contrary to McPherson's 
implication, was neither the intent nor the effect of 
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which merely sought 
to emancipate slaves within the Confederacy as a military 
measure. Lincoln consistently said that his sole aim was 
to "preserve the Union," and that anything he did with 
respect to slavery was merely a means toward that end.

     As for the main body of the sentence, Davis was 
hardly responsible for the South's "disastrous defeat" 
and subsequent suffering. Whatever his faults as a 
wartime leader, the South faced overwhelming odds from 
the beginning, which is why Davis had actually urged the 
Southern states *not* to secede. To be sure, he believed 
that secession was the right of any state; but as a 
former secretary of war (under Franklin Pierce), he knew 
in concrete terms that if war came, the North held 
crushing advantages in numbers, wealth, geography, and 
sheer power. Nevertheless, when the South seceded, he 
loyally stayed with the side he knew was doomed to lose.

     McPherson, however, is relentlessly belittling, 
derisive, sarcastic. Davis had an "oversized sense of 
honor," was "legalistic," "repetitious," self-righteous, 
self-contradictory, incompetent, even dishonest. In 
essence the historian merely repeats Northern propaganda 
and can't find any redeeming or admirable qualities in 
his subject. Worse yet, he fails to acknowledge the 
logic, force, and merit of Davis's argument. The South 
was in rebellion, its motives were simple and evil, and 
there's an end on't.

     Pretty sorry stuff. The historian's first duty is to 
understand the past as it understood itself, and any 
candid historian would recognize all this as mere 
partisan caricature. After all, Davis's views on state 
sovereignty were so widely shared in the North that 
Lincoln found it necessary to abolish freedom of speech 
and press *within the North itself* for the duration of 
the war. Under Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson's views on 
secession would have gotten him arrested (and probably 
summarily punished by a military court) for treason, and 
Davis's memoirs are in large part a careful elaboration 
of what Jefferson wrote in the Kentucky Resolutions of 

     But there is more to the story. Davis was too modest 
to say it, or perhaps even to be aware of it, but his 
life was marked by a heroic pathos. The more I read of 
him, the more deeply I find myself impressed by it.

     Like Lincoln, Davis was born in Kentucky in 1809. 
Unlike Lincoln, he had a happy boyhood and received an 
excellent education. His father and older brothers 
cherished him. He went to West Point, where he was a 
surprisingly prankish youth (and undistinguished 
student), narrowly escaping expulsion. Upon graduation, 
he became a military officer and served with distinction; 
it's likely that he personally swore Lincoln in during 
the 1832 Black Hawk war. He was also a romantic young 
man, who fell in love with a young woman and married her 
against her father's wishes. Her father was an older army 
officer, Zachary Taylor, who would later become president 
of the United States; but neither Davis nor Taylor could 
have suspected what the future held for them.

     Davis's bride died suddenly only months after their 
marriage. He grieved for ten years before marrying again. 
This second marriage, a happy one, lasted the rest of his 
life. Meanwhile he served with distinction in the Mexican 
War, as Taylor did. Taylor's famous role in the war led 
to his election as president; but he died after two years 
in office. (Lincoln admired and eulogized him.)

     Davis too went on to political success after the 
war, as secretary of war under Franklin Pierce, then as 
senator from Mississippi. When his state seceded upon 
Lincoln's election in 1860, Davis delivered a powerful 
farewell address and wept as the Senate applauded 
thunderously. In spite of his misgivings, he accepted the 
presidency of the Confederacy.

     It was of course Davis who ordered that Fort Sumter 
be fired upon in April 1861. The war was on. Davis would 
complain that the South had been deliberately misled 
during negotiations by Lincoln's secretary of state, 
William Seward; and he always suspected that this had had 
to be done with Lincoln's connivance. In his memoirs he 
would argue that Lincoln was morally and legally 
responsible for what Seward did, pointing out that 
Lincoln never disowned, fired, or even disciplined Seward 
for his role in bringing on the war. It was hard to 
believe that Seward had acted against Lincoln's wishes.

     The long and frustrating war damaged Davis's health, 
costing him his sight in one eye. After the war he was 
captured, charged with treason, and held in harsh 
solitary confinement for two years. His treatment was 
carefully designed to humiliate him. At all times a light 
burned in his cell and he was allowed no privacy. The 
only book he was permitted was a Bible, his only visitor 
his wife (and she was permitted to see him only when he 
had already been confined for a year). His captivity 
itself was meant as punishment. If there was such a thing 
as Northern chivalry, he saw very little of it.

     Facing trial for a capital offense, Davis, refusing 
an offer of clemency because accepting it would imply his 
guilt, was nevertheless eager for his day in court. But 
it never came. With Lincoln gone, the Johnson 
administration's lawyers feared that if it came to a 
public trial, Davis would refute the charge of treason by 
making a powerful constitutional case for secession. This 
would be a disastrous propaganda defeat for the North. If 
he was acquitted, the country would be rocked. But once 
he'd had his say, even his conviction and execution might 
backfire. His courage had created a no-win situation for 
the victors. So the charge was dropped and Davis was 

     During his cruel imprisonment, Davis had attracted 
widespread sympathy and admiration, even in the North and 
Europe. The abolitionist editor Horace Greeley offered to 
put up $100,000 to bail Davis out of prison. Pope Pius IX 
sent a crown of thorns, made with his own hands, as a 
gesture of compassion.

     Ten years later, Davis was still determined to 
vindicate the Southern cause. He began work on his 
massive memoirs, which were finally published in 1881. 
When he died in New Orleans in 1888, even his former 
slaves made the journey from Mississippi to join the 
hundreds of thousands of mourners who turned out to honor 

     Most Americans still think of Lincoln as both the 
hero and the martyr of the Civil War. But Davis was more 
nearly a true martyr. He had been willing to die in order 
to bear witness to the truth. When I read his memoirs I 
can't help remembering that however abstract the words, 
the flesh-and-blood man who wrote them had already defied 
death, a fact which he himself never mentions.

     Davis's memoirs have an implicit sense of 
desperation. He hardly expects to reach an unprejudiced 
audience. The court of public opinion in which he makes 
his case is already rigged. The cause he pleads for is 
defeated and discredited; popular history and official 
propaganda have cast him in the role of villain, enemy of 
Progress. His enemies have triumphed, Lincoln has been 
canonized, and his country has mistaken its most tragic 
error for its greatest victory.

     For all that, Davis insists that the Confederate 
cause was, and is, no mere "Southern" cause, but the 
cause of America's deepest principles. And he assumes, if 
only because he can't bear to assume anything else, that 
his country will still listen to him with an open mind. 
For his country is not just the South, but America.

     More than a century later, the "impartial history" 
Davis appealed to for final judgment remains a little 
tardy in putting in its appearance, while his reputation 
is still in the hands of highly partisan historians like 
James McPherson. In that sense Lincoln, with his 
undoubted rhetorical genius, remains history's darling, 
whereas Davis's patient logic and his austere belief in 
the nobility of his reader may sound "legalistic." I can 
only say that to me it does seem almost miraculous that, 
at such a moment of crisis, even part of America should 
produce such a leader as Jefferson Davis.

Remembering Hugh Kenner
(pages 5-6)

     Hugh Kenner, who died this past November at 80, had 
the most fascinating mind I've ever encountered. He was 
best known as a literary critic, author of the 
magisterial THE POUND ERA (1971), but even that 
magisterial book didn't begin to exhaust his gifts.

     Biography? Biography doesn't explain Hugh, but he 
was born in Ontario in January 1923, his father was a 
schoolmaster who taught the classics, his early friends 
and mentors were Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan, and 
nothing was lost on Hugh, who'd follow a fertile idea 
wherever it led. I suspect that McLuhan, guru of "media," 
didn't imagine what he'd got hold of until he saw what 
Hugh could do with it.

     I met him in 1975, when I was writing a biography 
(never finished) of his friend Bill Buckley and 
interviewed him at his Baltimore home, a large hilltop 
house guarded by daunting dogs (whose patriarch, Thomas, 
had the legs of a grand piano and combined German 
shepherd, malamute, and wolf). I shudder, now, to think 
how callow I was then, but Hugh and his dear wife Mary 
Anne welcomed me genially, and my own friendship with 
them began.

     Those dogs! Hugh loved them tenderly, Thomas above 
all. He had no fear of them. When he'd acquired Thomas, 
he'd turned him over to an expert trainer, a big man of 
Negro and Indian blood, who had quickly taught the 
snarling demi-wolf who was boss by swinging him around by 
the forepaws. The paradox of great Thomas on that 
occasion -- dizzy, limp, and subdued like a puppy -- 
tickled Hugh and Mary Anne. As long as you were their 
friend, Thomas was your friend too. (Thank heaven. 
Thomas's daughter Belle once gave me a low growl I'll not 
forget; Hugh came back into the room just in time. 
Belle's sister had all but severed a woman's arm.) Hugh 
explained how a wolf's psyche -- and jaw muscles -- 
differ from a dog's.

     Bill had been best man at the Kenners' wedding 
(Hugh's first wife had died of cancer) and they both 
loved him. Hugh always spoke fondly of Bill; once in a 
while, especially in later years, permitting himself a 
faintly exasperated "Oh dear!" when he thought Bill had 
done something silly. Once he complained, "Bill doesn't 
*listen* anymore," and he shared the widespread view that 
Bill's prose had gone slack. Which Hugh's prose never 
did. "Verbal energy is the one thing you can't fake," he 
observed, in the days when Bill's sentences still 
crackled. And in those days Bill was almost a match for 
Hugh, who could turn the faintest intuitions into smartly 
articulate formulas, crisply expressing things you 
wouldn't have thought expressible until he said them. He 
was a bit like Shakespeare that way. Witty, yes, and then 

     Politics, a business of monotonous petty patterns, 
didn't interest him much. He and Bill were joined by 
other interests, and Bill must have been troubled by 
Hugh's contempt for Ronald Reagan, another Friend of 
Bill. Unlike many people, Hugh had no awe of Bill's 
intellect, which in a way made his affection for him all 
the more impressive. Even Hugh's gossip was penetrating; 
he was a superb judge of character, and he thought highly 
of Bill. I've written sharply of Bill at times, and I 
hereby retract nothing; but in justice I must record that 
he held the love and esteem of the most discriminating 
man I've yet to meet.

     Hugh was intellectually fearless. Though he made his 
name as a leading explicator of the most challenging 
modernist writers -- Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, 
Samuel Beckett -- he also commanded higher mathematics 
and the sciences, writing books on geodesic math and 
fractal geometry, as well as a magically charming study 
of Buckminster Fuller. As he once put it, "I do not live 
in a box labeled 'Eng. Lit.,' out of which I occasionally 
climb. My subject is the life of the mind in the 
twentieth century." And he tackled the whole thing, 
because he *saw* it as one thing, a dynamically expanding 
whole. He saw a web of relations -- "patterned energies," 
in his phrase -- among literature, physics, technology, 
and pop culture. His grasp of these disparate things was 
both profound and whimsical. Hilarity, for Hugh, was an 
aspect of truth itself, as the derivative "exhilaration" 

     Take cartoons. In CHUCK JONES: A FLURRY OF DRAWINGS, 
his little 1993 appreciation of Chuck Jones, creator of 
Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner, Kenner shows how art and 
technology converged in the business (few thought of it 
as Art) of producing funny images of sheer motion, the 
illusion of *energy.* To write a hundred short pages 
about this, Hugh surveyed the economic history of movies, 
technical problems of drawing prowling fauna, practical 
problems of assigning labor (Jones couldn't draw every 
frame himself; he had to integrate the efforts of lesser 
draftsmen), arcane details of production (cel-washing, 
for instance), and analogous functions of computers (one 
of his great loves: he built his own personal computer 
long before you could just buy one at Radio Shack). 
Eliot, Joyce, and Niels Bohr pop into the book too, 
always pertinently. And every witty sentence of this late 
masterpiece shows Kenner's undiminished verbal energy. 
"Critic" hardly seems the word for a mind that could pack 
so much, and so amusingly, into a tiny volume.

     But the reader sees how one gifted cartoonist did 
his bit for the life of the mind in the twentieth 
century. Hugh once proudly showed me some sketches (of a 
stalking mongoose) Jones had given him, explaining how 
they conveyed the illusion of animal motion through 
visual exaggeration. Literal copying wouldn't have 
created the same effect. On the same principle, 
caricature, imitating perception rather than reality, is 
more "recognizable" than photography. Following (and 
surpassing) McLuhan, Hugh explained that the experience 
of a medium was far more basic than any content it 
imparted; the medium was *more* than the message. The 
newspaper itself was more important than the specific 
information it conveyed. Money was more interesting than 
any particular commodity it bought.

     And you thought Bugs Bunny was just an idle 
amusement? Well, so did Chuck Jones, who never thought he 
was creating Art. Nor did most artists, who thought they 
were doing something else. Only posterity would come to 
see something higher in ancestral entertainments.

     My kids loved Hugh too. He was a born teacher, alive 
to a child's delights and interests. His favorite movies 
included KING KONG, STAR WARS, and BLOOD SIMPLE, as well 
as anything with Buster Keaton. "Art" films didn't 
especially interest him, and compiling Top Ten lists just 
wasn't his style, but his attention was arrested by 
movies that did something new with the medium, if only 
with special effects. ("What do you mean *only?*" I can 
imagine him retorting. McLuhan was in his bones.) Those 
dogs terrified me, but to the kids they were part of the 
fun of visiting the Kenners. We all went to an Orioles 
game once, where Hugh slightly shocked me by repeating a 
cliche from the sports pages. I forget what it was, but 
it was the only time I ever heard him say anything trite. 
That in itself was startling.

     Fun? The late hour's drive home from Baltimore to 
northern Virginia was indescribable elation. I'd just 
spent an evening with the world's chief authority on 
Pound and Joyce and countless other topics, feeling as 
privileged as Boswell must have felt on taking leave of 
Dr. Johnson, to spend the rest of the night mentally 
turning over pregnant moments of matchless conversation. 
But Boswell had the good sense to write it all down while 
it was fresh; I, alas, didn't.

     It's impossible to sum up a mind so rich, alert, 
agile, profound, and playful. A mere journalist can offer 
only impressions. But Hugh chiefly taught me one useful 
thing: that the real news isn't to be found in headlines 
of wars, elections, scandals, and business mergers, but 
in deeper patterns that usually pass unobserved. "The 
style of your own period is always invisible," as he put 
it. When computers still seemed a sideshow for nerds, 
Hugh saw that they would change everything -- including 
wars and elections, which are now unthinkable (and 
unwinnable) without them.

     Tall, with unruly hair and thick glasses, Hugh had a 
slight speech impediment (at age six the flu had left him 
partly deaf) that I found oddly charming. But his damaged 
hearing, far from disabling him, forced him to listen to 
others with extraordinary keenness: he learned to read 
lips, but also to intuit what others meant even when he 
heard them imperfectly. This made him preternaturally 
perceptive, and uniquely alive to the elliptical 
qualities of modern poetry that most readers found 
baffling. I never had to explain to him what I was trying 
to say; on the contrary, he often finished my hesitant 
sentences for me, making my intended point with 
surprising concision. He read minds as well as lips.

     When bored -- as when feminists told him off (why 
had he neglected *female* poets?) -- Hugh was known to 
turn off his hearing aid, deafness being a refuge from 
nonsense. For many years he refused to get a hearing aid; 
but here again Bill Buckley proved a friend. He chewed 
Hugh out after watching him struggle to hear Charlie 
Chaplin explain his comic technique one evening in 
Switzerland. One of the world's great comics trying to 
reveal his secrets to one of the world's great critics -- 
it was *criminal* for Hugh to risk missing a syllable of 
that, Bill scolded. He had a *duty* to get a hearing aid! 
Hugh did so, and years later was still grateful to have 
had one friend candid enough to insist on it. Most people 
were too polite. But Bill needn't have worried: Chaplin's 
insights weren't lost on him, and they showed up in his 
later writings.

     I was immensely flattered that Hugh liked some of my 
own articles and often quoted an epigram of mine, though 
he scolded me sharply for a review of one of his own 
books. He called my praise "excessive." The hell it was. 
Inept, probably; inadequate, no doubt; but not too high. 
Many people praised him; nobody ever overpraised him.

     Hugh died on Bill Buckley's 78th birthday.


MISSION STATEMENT: The affairs of Britney and Jacko are 
hard enough for the NEW YORK POST to keep abreast of, let 
alone SOBRAN'S. But we do our best, in our humble way, to 
keep you up to the minute. In an election year it's 
especially vital that the public be well informed on the 
great issues before us. This is why I buy at least six 
papers every morning. Journalism is the soul of a vibrant 
democracy, you know. (page 7)

CONGRATULA--- SAY WHAT? Faster than you can say, "Britney 
is married!" Britney got an annulment. Wise career move. 
After all, getting hitched on impulse in Vegas at 5 A.M. 
seems a somewhat inauspicious way to start a family. 
Maybe there's something to be said for arranged marriages 
after all. (page 9)

FLASH! In foreign news, it appears that Di was preggers 
by Dodi at the time of the alleged accident now widely 
thought to have been arranged by HRH himself. At least 
this is my general recollection of a radio news item 
summarizing what the London tabloids are saying these 
days. You have to allow for a certain gap, of course, 
between journalism and rigorous epistemology. (page 10)

THE DECLINE OF REALITY: David Brooks, settling right in 
as a NEW YORK TIMES columnist, moans that we now live in 
"the Era of Distortion": "Improvements in information 
technology have not made public debate more realistic. On 
the contrary, anti-Semitism is resurgent. Conspiracy 
theories are prevalent." Et cetera. The Internet, you 
see, allows you to "choose your own reality," however 
wacko. Ah, for the good old days, when the TIMES, soberly 
quoting Official Sources, defined Reality! 
(page 11)

THE BIG QUESTION: The Bush administration is now 
preparing constitutions for both Iraq and Afghanistan. 
Ah, but will they be *living* constitutions? (page 12)

Exclusive to the electronic version:

OSAMA THESE DAYS: Government officials put out another 
holiday terror alert, apparently tipped off that al-Qaeda 
was planning to spoil our Kwanzaa. Nothing happened, and 
we were somewhat confusingly advised, by those same 
officials, to go about our festivities as usual. They 
were only doing their duty, crying "Wolf!" to prevent 
wolf attacks. 

(pages 7-12)

* The War We Are In (December 9, 2003)

* Israel and Rape (December 11, 2003)

* Triumph! (December 16, 2003)

* Scenario for a Comeback (December 18, 2003)

* The Mahdi's Revenge (December 30, 2003)

* Purging the Neocons (January 6, 2004)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran

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