The Real News of the Month

July 2004
Volume 11, Number 7

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
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  -> America the Liberator
  -> The Moving Picture (plus electronic Exclusives)
  -> Meet Uncle Joe
  -> The Dudelike Achilles
Nuggets (plus electronic Exclusives)
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 "equals" signs 
around the emphasized words.}}

America the Liberator
(page 1)

     The occupation of Iraq is turning out as badly as 
any pessimist predicted, and the Bush administration has 
been embarrassed not only by events but by revelations. 
Though during the 2000 campaign George W. Bush expressed 
proper scorn for "nation-building," that's exactly what 
he has undertaken in Iraq -- without even a plan except 
to install as puppet leader a shady Iraqi emigre, Ahmad 
Chalabi, who has now been exposed as the huckster the 
State Department had tried to warn Bush against 
embracing. Chalabi, though absent from Iraq for decades, 
also supplied sources for the "inside information" that 
Saddam had an arsenal capable of attacking the United 

     Not that it really depended on Chalabi, a pet of the 
neocons who are now modestly disclaiming full credit for 
the war they not only conceived but clamored for. Several 
books have confirmed that the Bush League wanted war with 
Iraq long before 9/11 and conceived the "war on terror" 
with every intention of turning the war fever against 
Iraq. The dreaded weapons still haven't been found. But 
Bush now conflates die-hard Saddam loyalists with their 
enemies, the Islamic Iraqi resistance, under the 
{{ handy }} heading of "terrorists."

     {{ Only such fraudulent semantics give the endless 
war any seeming consistency. Anyone who shoots at an 
American invader qualifies as a terrorist. }} To bad 
semantics Bush adds weary analogies to World War II, 
which, whatever you think of it, parallels this war about 
as closely as the Kentucky Derby parallels the Trojan 
War. He spent the 60th anniversary of D-Day in France, 
trying to siphon inspiration from the Normandy invasion.

     Bush shamelessly pretends that the United States has 
"transferred sovereignty" to Iraq, whatever that means, 
without removing American troops and even standing ready 
to increase them, should the new prime minister request 
them (or should he not). Bush was genuinely embarrassed, 
though, when it transpired that U.S. soldiers had been 
torturing Iraqi detainees in the very prison Saddam had 
made notorious for diabolical torments. The best defense 
the war's remaining advocates could mount was that the 
American tortures were far less egregious than Saddam's.

     So this is what Iraq's "liberation" has come to: 
kinder, gentler torture. Uday and Qusay have been 
supplanted by Lynndie England, who is now the most famous 
flower of American womanhood in the Middle East. And to 
give our civilization its due, Lynndie merely pointed 
smirkingly at organs Saddam's men would have cut off. 
Think of it: When democracy takes root, complete with 
equality of the sexes (a key item on the Wolfowitz agenda 
for cultural as well as political change), the Arabs may 
produce their own Lynndies.

     In politics, especially during wartime, people 
habitually say things that would be recognized, in any 
other setting, as insane. Bush talks as if, by "staying 
the course," America can still win Arab goodwill, even 
after all the years of supporting Zionism, two Bush wars, 
the mass murder of "sanctions," frequent casual bombings 
(let's not forget Bill Clinton's contributions), 
conquest, occupation, and obscene torture.

     {{ Fred Barnes of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, as you may 
recall, has summed up the Bush-neocon attitude 
definitively: Iraq owes the U.S. "gratitude" for "the 
greatest act of benevolence one country has ever 
performed for another." Has national self-delusion ever 
been expressed in words so stupefying? }}

The Moving Picture
(page 2)

     The death of Ronald Reagan at 93 was sad and moving 
even for those of us who had become disillusioned with 
his politics, as I had. It was painful to imagine that 
wonderful personality destroyed, while he still lived, by 
what we used to call "senility" or "second childhood," as 
if it were an almost harmless affliction, rather than a 
deadly one. The strength of Reagan's conservative legacy 
may be surmised from this fact: congressmen of both 
parties propose to honor him by increasing Federal 
funding for Alzheimer's research.

*          *          *

     Ah, the Reagan years! Supply-side economics, David 
Stockman, John Hinckley, enterprise zones, gender gap, 
Star Wars, James Watt, Robert Bork, original intent, 
Iran-Contra, Ollie North, Mario Cuomo, Bitburg, bracket 
creep, AIDS, war on the poor, Hymietown, Geraldine 
Ferraro, Joan Quigley ...

*          *          *

     The prosaic Richard Nixon, of all people, said it 
best: "Politics is poetry, not prose." Watching Reagan, 
you knew what that meant. He was the most seductive 
politician of the late twentieth century.

*          *          *

     I vividly remember my old friend Peggy Noonan's 
elation at landing a job as a Reagan speechwriter. (That 
was more than 20 years ago!) She was, of course, a 
smashing success, and she both loved Reagan himself and 
rejoiced in her work. She knew how her own eloquence 
would be enhanced by Reagan's delivery, as Verdi might 
enjoy writing arias for a particularly brilliant tenor. 
Pity those who write speeches for the incumbent, and who 
must carefully avoid writing over the poor dunce's head.

*          *          *

     Another nice memory: Reagan speaking at a National 
Review dinner, where he and Bill Buckley traded witty 
barbs. Hope and Crosby were never so hilarious.

*          *          *

     In his genially triumphal way, Reagan managed to 
convince conservatives that they had conquered. I fell 
for this myself. It finally dawned on me that liberalism 
was still in charge; and that far from defeating it, 
Reagan had merely come to terms with it, going along with 
most of the features of the monstrous welfare state 
(while expanding the warfare state). What he did achieve, 
though misleading, was not contemptible: a change in the 
rhetoric of American politics. Even Bill Clinton felt 
obliged to say that "the era of big government is over," 
and even Bush claims to be a conservative.

*          *          *

     Neoconservatives -- or, as I like to call them, the 
Learned Juniors of Zion -- are comparing Reagan to their 
heroes, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Most 
unfair. Reagan never did a fraction of the harm these two 
supreme opportunists did.

*          *          *

     A judge in (where else?) Massachusetts has ruled 
(you've read less than half the sentence, and already 
your muscles have tensed up, haven't they?) that it's not 
libelous to call someone a homosexual, on the perfectly 
reasonable grounds (you can guess the rest) that to deem 
it libelous would be to perpetuate the benighted and 
bigoted stereotype that there's something wrong with 
sodomy. Soon the courts may have to decide if it's 
libelous to accuse Barney Frank of chasing women.

Exclusive to electronic media:

     Democrats are bewailing the nasty partisanship of 
the Republicans in Congress and on the Bush team, not 
without reason. At the same time, a bit of proportion is 
in order. It suddenly occurs to me that I haven't heard 
one name mentioned in years: that of Jim Wright, the 
House majority leader during the Reagan years, when the 
Democrats ruled Congress. They didn't come much nastier, 
this side of Jack the Ripper. Wright was finally forced 
out of Congress for unethical conduct.

Meet Uncle Joe
(pages 3-5)

     Joseph Stalin's crimes are so staggering in scale 
that they defy calculation. We naturally assume that such 
a man must have been thoroughly demented. But without 
palliating his horrible career in the least, a British 
author offers a startling new view that makes him at 
least comprehensible as a man.

     What was Stalin like personally? Well, here's an 
intimate glimpse. At the height of his power in the 
Soviet Union, he asked his aged mother, "Why did you beat 
me so hard?" Her tart reply: "That's why you turned out 
so well." (So that explains it!) She then asked 
curiously, "Joseph, what are you now?" "Well," he 
explained, "remember the tsar? I'm something like a 
tsar." Unimpressed, the pious old woman commented, "You'd 
have done better to become a priest." This answer 
delighted him. He always enjoyed a good laugh.

     This story comes from a new book by Simon Sebag 
Montefiore, a British journalist, STALIN: THE COURT OF 
THE RED TSAR (Knopf). Drawn from unpublished memoirs and 
interviews with Stalin's surviving intimates and their 
families, this 785-page tome is the richest family 
portrait, as it were, of the tyrant and his inner circle 
we are ever likely to see.

     Who was this man who ran one of history's most 
colossal reigns of terror? Montefiore's most fascinating 
revelation is that Stalin was by no means a full-time 
monster. As Lenin's successor, he was, so to speak, a 
monster ex officio. But as a man, he also had his 
sentimental and even tender side. True, this kinder, 
gentler Stalin was somewhat unreliable, but it was there, 
somewhere, even if it was buried by the crimes of what I 
suppose we must call his mature years. It would be absurd 
to speak of his redeeming qualities. But it would also be 
misleading to imagine him as a purely pathological demon. 
He was far from the affable "Uncle Joe" beloved of 
Churchill and Roosevelt, but he was recognizably human.

     The book begins with an account of the suicide of 
Stalin's second wife, Nadya Alleluyeva Stalin, in 1932. 
She apparently left a bitter note, now lost, blaming 
Stalin for her misery, then shot herself. He was 
shattered. He had loved her, in his way, and had 
apparently been faithful to her; he was "no womanizer," 
Montefiore says, and he never remarried. In fact, he was 
somewhat prudish (many Hollywood films, tame by today's 
measure, offended him). Like many of his bloody inner 
ring, he could be a doting father as well. At any rate, 
he talked emotionally about Nadya for the rest of his 

     Born in a shack in rural Georgia in 1878, Joseph 
Vissarionovich Djugashvili grew up in "a poor 
priest-ridden household," where his drunken father as 
well as his mother beat him severely. Actually, there is 
some doubt about his paternity; Stalin himself once said 
his real father was a priest. His mother's fidelity seems 
to have been erratic.

     Soon after entering a seminary, he became an atheist 
and embraced Marxism. After his expulsion he joined a 
revolutionary group, adopted the name "Koba," and was 
arrested and sent to Siberia seven times. The tsarist 
penal system was so easy-going that these were "almost 
reading holidays," says Montefiore, and Stalin escaped 
six times without finishing his terms. He chose the name 
"Stalin" in 1913, partly because it was similar to 

     During this period he married his first wife -- whom 
he also loved passionately -- and had a son, as well as 
two sons by other women. He rose quickly within the 
movement and caught Lenin's eye as a reliable Communist. 
Stalin is often thought to have been more cynic than true 
believer, and he was later accused of "betraying the 
Revolution," but Montefiore argues plausibly that he was 
always, from the start, a fanatical Communist. He merely 
equated the Revolution with himself. The rest followed.

     Montefiore quotes Stalin's "creed of Terror": "The 
further we move forward, the more success we have, the 
more embittered will the remnants of the destroyed 
exploiter classes become, the sooner they will resort to 
extreme forms of struggle." The maxim "Better safe than 
sorry" has never been applied with more rigor. Stalin 
defined the class enemies very broadly, eventually 
including among them old Party cronies he suspected as 
potential rivals, however orthodox their Communism. They 
must have been shocked to hear themselves accused of 
heterodoxy, but for Stalin the only true Communist was 
one who was utterly devoted to the actual Revolution -- 
that is to say, himself. Dialectically, you can almost 
see his point.

     Stalin was too realistic to assume that his equation 
of himself with the Revolution would come easily to 
everyone who believed abstractly in Marxism. That would 
have been the sheerest vanity, and vanity was not among 
his vices. On the contrary. A Communist who went by the 
book, he knew, might have difficulty swallowing one-man 
rule and seeing in one pock-marked little Georgian the 
personification of the Russian proletariat. It would be a 
tough sell, but over time Stalin would prove to be an 
able high-pressure salesman.

     Complicating the ideological situation were the 
bitter enmities among the early Communists themselves. 
When they came to power in 1918, the charismatic Leon 
Trotsky had already earned the hatred of most of his 
peers, including, fatally, Stalin. Lenin came to distrust 
Stalin in his last years, but by then it was too late to 
prevent his succession. Trotsky was forced into exile, 
whence he bedeviled Stalin until 1940, when one of 
Stalin's agents penetrated his lair in Mexico and put an 
ax in his skull. (Ordering assassinations abroad was one 
of Stalin's specialties. He even contemplated having John 
Wayne murdered when he learned that the actor, previously 
one of his favorites, was vocally anti-Communist.)

     The last thing Stalin wanted was a successor. When, 
after Lenin's death in 1924, he became, after a brief 
power struggle, the unrivaled Soviet dictator, he set 
about making sure he wouldn't have a successor any time 
soon by doing away with all potential claimants to his 
throne. His treachery to those closest to him was 
terrifying -- and effective. As Montefiore says, "His 
antennae were supersensitive."

     One early prospective successor was Sergei Kirov, a 
golden boy of the Revolution, murdered in 1934. Kirov 
(born Kostrikov) loved opera and mountain-climbing, had 
good looks and great charm, and made friends easily. He 
and Stalin became close, and there is no doubt of 
Stalin's real affection for him for some years. 
Montefiore suggests it was a case of love turning into 
envy and hatred; in any case, the companionship began 
promisingly. The two men played billiards together, went 
to the beach, swapped dirty jokes, teased each other, and 
once attended a puppet show put on by Stalin's daughter. 
After Nadya's suicide, they became even closer; Kirov 
"cared for me like a child," Stalin recalled.

     Kirov was a faithful Bolshevik who (for instance) 
once ordered a bourgeois shot for hiding his own 
furniture. He was loyal to Stalin; he resisted an effort 
within the Party to supplant Stalin with him, and even 
warned Stalin about it. "Thank you," Stalin said. "I 
won't forget what I owe you." He probably didn't. Nor did 
he forget that Kirov might still supplant him. Frictions 
developed between the two, and at times harsh words were 
exchanged; it was noted that nobody else dared speak so 
freely to Stalin, and they were, said one witness, like 
"equal brothers."

     One day the workaholic Kirov, arriving at his 
office, was shot in the back of the neck. His assassin, 
captured on the spot, said he was sent by the Party. 
Stalin at once ordered an investigation but made sure it 
didn't get far. He arranged an elaborate funeral and 
praised Kirov generously. At the same time, he took 
advantage of the moment by pinning the murder on Gregory 
Zinoviev (born Apfelbaum) and Lev Kamenev (born 
Rosenfeld), Lenin's two closest comrades. They had saved 
Stalin's career in 1925, and he obviously never forgot 
what he owed them either. The purge of the Old Bolsheviks 
had begun.

     Stalin's hand in Kirov's death has always been 
suspected, but never proved. We do know that it was all 
very fishy; that he recovered from the loss of his old 
friend resiliently, making the most of the opportunity it 
presented; and that his old cronies believed he was 
behind it. His guilt can hardly be ruled out in 
principle, especially considering his decided lack of 
zeal in finding the real killer or killers (apart from 
the minor functionary who pulled the trigger). In 
addition, just before his death Stalin had become 
"suffocatingly friendly" to Kirov, seeming to put aside 
their differences -- and Stalin's sudden seeming 
forgiveness was always a danger sign.

     In view of all this, the judgment that Stalin was 
"paranoid" misses the mark. In his way, he was quite 
rational. It makes a certain sense to get rid of a 
million people too many rather than one too few. His 
essential sanity is evident in his sense of humor; a 
somewhat rough humor, to be sure, but shrewd, witty, and 
even aphoristic. Some of his sayings are famous: "One 
death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." 
"The Pope? How many divisions does the Pope have?" When 
he quarreled with Lenin's revered widow, Krupskaya, he 
threatened to appoint someone else as Lenin's widow.

     Stalin even had enough of a conscience to be shocked 
by the "superbarbarity" of using the atomic bomb on 
Japan. But, adapting to the reality of the time as 
always, he set about getting the bomb for himself. If the 
enemy had it, after all, it would be irrational for him 
to forswear it.

     With the annihilation not only of tsardom, but of 
traditional Russian culture and religion, there was no 
safety in law, custom, or even friendship. Only raw power 
remained. The only safety lay in treachery. Lavrenti 
Beria, dreaded head of the secret police (and another 
charming and devoted family man, when he wasn't raping 
and torturing girls), tersely put it, the only rule was: 
"Strike first." Stalin was a voracious reader of 
Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky; his favorite play was 
MACBETH, which he obviously, again in his own way, took 
to heart. Time and again Stalin would assure an old 
comrade of his undying affection hours before having him 

     The lesson sank in quickly. As Stalin "liquidated" 
the founding generation of Communists, nobody lived in 
greater fear than his own courtiers. If Stalin suspected 
you for any reason, even a reason you couldn't fathom, 
you were a goner. It was that simple; and it was inherent 
in the logic of the revolutionary situation. Despite 
Marxist-Leninist iron laws of history, everything 
depended on one man's whim. Stalin understood this 
perfectly and acted accordingly.

     Even flattery might not save you; it only earned 
Stalin's contempt and suspicion. On some occasions, 
oddly, he respected and spared the few who dared stand up 
to him. Not that open defiance was much to be 
recommended. For the most part, only the obsequious 
survived. His cruelty coexisted with a sentimental 
streak, which may surprise us more than it should. He 
often expressed gratitude to people who had befriended 
him in his youth, maybe because only they, in his whole 
life, had shown him real kindness when he was still 
powerless; once he even wrote a thank-you letter to a 
prison guard who had bent the rules for him. He must have 
missed the days when he could trust others.

     The price of being dreaded by everyone is that you 
can't trust anyone. Stalin's notorious "cult of 
personality" amounted to deification. He was so deeply 
feared that when he would mispronounce a word at a Party 
congress, subsequent speakers would take care to 
mispronounce the same word. Stalin also took a keen 
interest in the fine arts, and one musician was so 
frightened in his presence that he soiled his trousers.

     One regular feature of Stalin's court was the 
late-night banquet, at which the Communist haves, 
forgetting the plight of the country's myriad have-nots, 
ate and drank in a splendid opulence the tsars would have 
envied. Stalin, of course, dominated the festivities, 
often amusing himself by tormenting his underlings; he 
also showed off his fine singing voice. Everyone got 
drunk (Stalin made the others taste the wine first as a 
precaution against being poisoned). Once he ordered 
Nikita Khrushchev, his faithful "Butcher of the Ukraine," 
to get down on his haunches and dance the gopak. The fat 
Khrushchev was so awkward that Stalin joked that he 
looked like "a cow dancing on ice."

     Khrushchev never forgot such humiliations; neither, 
it's safe to say, did the others. "A reasonable 
interrogator," Khrushchev later observed, "would not 
behave with a hardened criminal the way Stalin behaved 
with his friends at the table." Given that all Stalin's 
friends at the table =were= hardened criminals, we may 
take this with a grim smile; but we see his point.

     Unfortunately for Stalin's memory, Khrushchev turned 
out to be his successor; and in 1956 Khrushchev delivered 
a secret speech to a Party congress denouncing Stalin's 
crimes, which, when leaked, shocked and amazed the world. 
But the "crimes" Khrushchev had in mind weren't the 
deaths of millions who died in famines, labor camps, and 
the Lubyanka prison; they were the deaths of loyal party 
members Stalin had purged (and maybe the mortification of 
those who'd been forced to play the buffoon for his 

     Many have speculated on why the Soviet elite adopted 
its massive de-Stalinization program. Most of the answers 
have been rather theoretical. But after reading this 
book, I think the real answer is quite simple: After 
living in servile terror of Stalin for decades, incurring 
incalculable guilt while enduring brutal insults for 
their pains, Stalin's hatchet men hated him with all 
their hearts. But they had to wait until he was dead to 
take their revenge, though Beria claimed (probably 
falsely) to have killed him.

     After Stalin, Beria is the most fascinating of the 
many Red courtiers Montefiore portrays in detail. Though 
more cruel than Stalin himself, he was a man of great 
intelligence, cultivation, and even charm, warmly admired 
by his own underlings. He loved his wife and children, 
albeit he was also a promiscuous philanderer who 
kidnapped women and even schoolgirls, often having them 
killed after violating them. Shortly after Stalin died in 
1953 (apparently of a stroke, but perhaps poisoned), 
Khrushchev had Beria executed -- not for his hideous 
crimes, but because he favored more liberal policies!

     The startling truth Montefiore exposes, though, is 
that at the heart of this monstrous system were men who, 
while committing the most appalling horrors, remained in 
some ways surprisingly ordinary. In many respects their 
inordinate power dictated their crimes, while they 
managed to retain a portion of their private humanity. 
Maybe that's also the case in states closer to home.

The Dudelike Achilles
(page 6)

     As Homer and Virgil tell it, the gods started all 
the trouble. Wolfgang Peterson's TROY is a colossal new 
film with a novel ambition: to recreate the Trojan War as 
if it were historical fact. As spectacle, it's stunning; 
Peterson handles vast naval convoys, huge crowds, and 
great battles with confidence. But as an addition to the 
Troy mythology, it rings as hollow as the Trojan horse.

     Drawing chiefly on Homer and Virgil, the story 
begins with the elopement of Helen (Diane Kruger) and 
Paris (Orlando Bloom). Since she is married to one of the 
Greek kings, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), this means war, 
with Menelaus's brother, Agamemnon (Brian Cox), seeing 
his chance to unite all the Greeks under his command and 
add Troy to his empire. Paris's father, the Trojan king 
Priam (Peter O'Toole), and his elder brother Hector (Eric 
Bana), are horrified by what he has done, but they are 
sure the Greeks won't be able to penetrate Troy's 
imposing walls. The Greeks, however, have a walking 
weapon of mass destruction: Agamemnon's ace in the hole, 
Achilles (Brad Pitt).

     Pitt, the famous young heartthrob, might have been a 
disaster as the great warrior, an Achilles who would be 
less "godlike," as Homer calls him, than dudelike. But he 
gives it a good try. He has added impressive muscles to 
his frame, and his carriage in combat is swift, 
startling, and deadly, as chillingly aggressive as a 
panther. In that respect, this Achilles lives up to his 
fearsome name.

     One problem, though, is Pitt's renowned face. Nobody 
could look less Greek. His long blond hair makes his 
features look bunched together, with narrow eyes, pug 
nose, large lips, and weak chin. His voice also lacks any 
hint of thunder. Sorry, this just isn't Achilles.

     Bana is a worthy Hector, valiant, but too civilized 
to save a civilization. As Paris, Bloom appears about 
14 years old. As Helen, Kruger shows both touching 
emotion and a radiant face that might well launch, at a 
stingy estimate, a thousand ships. Sean Bean makes a 
charming Odysseus.

     TROY unfortunately tries to fuse the versions of 
Homer and Virgil. They don't mix. The ILIAD tells the 
story of Achilles' rage, first at Agamemnon for insulting 
him, after which he goes into a sulk and refuses to 
fight; then at Hector, for killing his friend Patroclus, 
after which he returns to action, more savage than ever. 
In the second book of the AENEID, Virgil describes the 
subsequent fall of Troy, in which, in the film, Achilles 
is killed.

     Tempting as it may be to treat all this as one 
story, it doesn't work. Homer confines his narrative to 
one episode, in which Achilles, after ending his feud 
with Agamemnon, slaughters Hector and desecrates his body 
in bottomless revenge for Patroclus. He relents when 
Priam himself, in one of the most tremendous scenes ever 
written, surprises him with a midnight visit and begs for 
his son's corpse. Homer ends his story with Hector's 
funeral, foreshadowing but not showing Troy's 

     In the film, the city's spectacular fall is the 
climax, featuring that famous wooden horse, a brainstorm 
of Odysseus that upstages Achilles' brute force. The vast 
tragedy of the ILIAD is reduced to a mere episode leading 
up to this. Priam's plea loses nearly all its power, as 
if the film just wants to get it over with and move on to 
the "real" action. The wrath of Achilles is no longer of 
independent tragic interest. Homer supplies only a 

     This presents another problem: Why should we care 
about Achilles during the sack of Troy? The film solves 
this one in the time-honored Hollywood way: by giving him 
a love interest. In whom? In Briseis (Rose Byrne), the 
captured Trojan girl who occasioned his quarrel with 
Agamemnon. This is certainly a new twist: Neither Homer 
nor Virgil imagines Achilles as a romantic soul, but the 
film has him seeking out, finding, and passionately 
embracing this drab chick in the midst of the burning 
city, when he should be having fun with the other guys. 
So when Paris, at that very moment, spots him and shoots 
an arrow through (as fate would have it) his Achilles 
tendon, then a couple more through his newly discovered 
heart, he dies neither a Homeric nor a Virgilian but a 
rather Wagnerian death.

     Is there anything missing? Well, yes: those gods. No 
doubt there would be technical difficulties in filming 
them plausibly, but without them the myth of Troy, from 
which the furious passions of the Olympians are 
inseparable, becomes mere alternative history. One 
doesn't wish to encourage polytheism, but this is taking 
secularism too far. Why bother demythologizing a myth? 
The ancient story is flattened into an account of 
Agamemnon's cynical geopolitical strivings, slightly 
spiced up by Achilles' love life. Fun to watch, but 
that's about it.


NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: Gerald Ford recalls that he wanted 
Ronald Reagan to be his running mate in 1976, but his two 
principal advisors told him that Reagan should be put on 
the ticket "under no circumstances." Ford, of course, 
lost the election. The advisors were Dick Cheney and Don 
Rumsfeld. (page 9)

THE FAITH GAP: USA TODAY reports that religion is a 
better predictor of voting habits than race, sex, age, 
and other variables. Churchgoing people tend to vote 
Republican; people who don't attend services are much 
more likely to vote Democratic. (page 10)

Exclusive to electronic media:

LOOK, MA! Over the objections of his wife, former 
President Bush celebrated his 80th birthday by skydiving. 
Can he encourage his son to take up this exciting sport? 
I'm sure many of us would watch with the keenest 
interest. And crossed fingers.

CAREER NOTES: Jennifer Lopez has married for the third 
time. The happy event didn't even make the front pages, 
which were preoccupied with the Reagan funeral. Not long 
ago it would have been the other way around.

published excerpts from the recently discovered memoirs 
of two former slaves. Both somehow acquired literacy from 
other slaves at a time when it was illegal to teach 
slaves to read and write. What is striking about the 
snatches I read is that both were more literate than many 
products of today's public schools.

QUERY: I'm no lawyer, let alone a political scientist, 
but would someone please explain, in simple language, 
just what it means for an invader to "transfer 
sovereignty" to natives of the invaded country? 

(pages 7-12)

* Yankee, Come Home (May 4, 2004)

* The Faithful and the Faithless (May 6, 2004)

* Bush the Infidel (May 13, 2004)

* The Soul of John Kerry (May 25, 2004)

* The Greatest Generation? (June 1, 2004)

* The Great Comedian (June 8, 2004)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran

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