The Real News of the Month

March 2005
Volume 12, Number 3

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
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  -> War and Etiquette
  -> The Moving Picture
  -> The Spirit and the Screen
  -> The Hypocrisy of Henry V
Nuggets (plus electronic Exclusives)
List of Columns Reprinted in This Issue


War and Etiquette
(page 1)


     When Jim Mattis, a Marine general, caused an uproar 
by saying he found it "a hell of a lot of fun to shoot 
some people," offering as an example Afghan Muslims who 
slap their wives around for neglecting to wear their 
veils, he found ready defenders in the media, 
particularly right-wing talk radio. It wasn't surprising. 
More than ever before, it seems, Americans in high places 
glory in crudity.

     Whether Mattis actually metes out summary death 
penalties for slapping is doubtful -- I'm skeptical 
myself -- but his braggadoccio reflects an attitude 
shared by others: not only President Bush, but Dick 
Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Alberto Gonzales (as well as 
the interrogators of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo). All 
these people seem to regard what used to be called acts 
of torture as minor breaches of etiquette.

     We needn't call Mattis's remarks Nazi, fascist, or 
genocidal -- the overworked thermonuclear epithets of our 
time -- but they do seem a trifle, well, unmannerly. 
Would the women on whose behalf Mattis professed to act 
really thank him for his chivalry when their husbands 
were dead? Would he care? {{ You get the impression that 
he's the sort of man whose dinnertable conversation might 
be overbearing and who would belch loudly while others 
were still eating. And he speaks, and burps, for many.

     We didn't hear such talk from people in positions of 
responsibility during the Vietnam War. Both the Johnson 
and Nixon administrations tried to give the impression 
that their conduct of that war observed the 
internationally accepted rules of warfare. If there were 
violations, we were given to understand, they were rare 
and unauthorized. Robert McNamara, then secretary of 
defense, shared Rumsfeld's arrogance but none of his 
bravado. War was an ugly business, of course, but you 
weren't supposed to be enjoying it. Even if atrocities 
were committed, decorum was publicly respected. }}

     During the Sixties, a lot of Americans chafed at the 
very idea of a "limited" war, just as they chafed at 
court-imposed restriction on police at home. In Hollywood 
terms, the good guys were being handcuffed. The double 
backlash that came in the next decade was naturally 
registered in movies, when Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry 
and Charles Bronson's DEATH WISH series glorified the 
vigilante; soon afterward, Sylvester Stallone, as Rambo, 
did the same for the soldier, showing how the Vietnam war 
=should= have been fought: maniacally. All these films 
had huge visceral appeal to mass audiences.

     Seated in those audiences were young people who 
would soon be presidential speechwriters. I knew several 
of them well. During the Reagan and (first) Bush 
administrations, they delighted in peppering their 
bosses' speeches with the macho rhetoric and postures of 
Dirty Harry and Rambo. "Go ahead: Make my day." "Read my 
lips: No new taxes." The more liberals hated it, the more 
conservatives loved it. That includes me, I confess, 
though it's understandable that others might feel qualms 
about the chief law-enforcement officer of the U.S. 
Government playing the vigilante.

     This recent Republican tradition, abandoned by Bill 
Clinton, has been resumed by the younger Bush. He too 
loves the gestures that thrill his base and enrage 
liberals ("Bring it on!"), even if they also alarm the 
rest of the world. Bush wants it understood that he is 
prepared to act unilaterally, without the approval of 
Europe or the United Nations.

     Bush and his rooters see legal restraints much as 
Dirty Harry sees civil liberties and legality itself: as 
pantywaist politesse that only gets in the way of real 
justice. In their view, America alone knows what needs to 
be done, and to hell with the quavering, quivering Emily 
Posts who would prevent our mission from being 
accomplished. For them, the United States is the global 
vigilante, and they don't worry about where this may yet 
lead us.

The Moving Picture
(page 2)

     Our (and my) old friend and fellow writer Sam 
Francis died in February at 57, two weeks after emergency 
heart surgery. A target of neoconservative smears and 
ostracism, Sam carried on bravely, detached from the 
Republican Party and the apostate conservative movement 
in which he'd never been quite at home. In 1995 he was 
fired from the WASHINGTON TIMES, despite his 
award-winning editorials for that dismal newspaper. May 
he rest in eternal peace.

*          *          *

     To nobody's great surprise, North Korea has 
announced that it has nukes, making it official that Kim 
Jong Il is now de facto head of the Axis of Evil. He's 
not averse to selling nuclear materials abroad, either, 
and Osama bin Laden is ready to bid. There's no telling 
how many other countries will soon have these weapons of 
mass murder, and this is a good time to remind ourselves 
that they're another legacy of Franklin Roosevelt. (Harry 
Truman, the first man to use them, didn't even know of 
the Manhattan Project until he became president.) FDR 
either never stopped to think or, more likely, didn't 
really care that he was launching an age of terror 
without precedent in the world's history. May his name be 

*          *          *

     Adding yet another mite to the horrors of Communism, 
ex-smoker Fidel Castro has imposed U.S.-style limits on 
the public consumption of tobacco. If he's now emulating 
America, is this country still the Land of the Free, or 
has it become the Socialist Motherland?

*          *          *

     At home, meanwhile, the Federal Government continues 
to grow. George Will captures a symptom with this fine 
observation: "Today's president, the first since John 
Adams to serve a full term without vetoing anything, last 
week announced the limit of his tolerance: He vowed to 
veto a spending decrease. That is the unmistakable 
meaning of his statement that he would brook no changes 
in his prescription drug entitlement that by itself has 
an unfunded liability twice as large as the entire Social 
Security deficit."

*          *          *

     So it has come to this. The Archbishop of Canterbury 
has given Prince Charles permission to wed Camilla Parker 
Bowles. This apparently means that the next head of the 
Church of England will be married to a divorced Catholic 
woman. It all started when Henry VIII couldn't even get a 
lousy annulment.

*          *          *

     Obituaries for playwright Arthur Miller, 89, and 
actor Ossie Davis, 87, stressed their courage in opposing 
"McCarthyism," but (natch) glossed over their Communist 
affiliations during Stalin's rule. Obituaries for boxer 
Max Schmeling, 99, dwelt at length on his relations with 

*          *          *

     The daughter of conservative pundit, orator, and 
recent Illinois Senate candidate Alan Keyes has come 
forth as a lesbian activist, precipitating a painful 
break with her parents -- and, of course, gaining 
solicitous attention in the NEW YORK TIMES and the 
WASHINGTON POST. Do you notice a pattern? Conservatives 
seem to merit media coverage only when their children 
announce themselves as homosexuals.

The Spirit and the Screen
(pages 3-4)


     Religion, which concerns invisible realities, has 
always posed special difficulties for the movies, a 
medium of the visible. Hollywood has often met this 
challenge head-on: with eye-popping spectacle. It has 
made (and, in the sound era, sometimes remade) such huge 
and THE BIBLE, but by the Sixties the genre, which peaked 
in the Fifties, suddenly seemed to have run its course.

     Crowds drew crowds. One of these movies' selling 
points was their staggering crowd scenes: "With a cast of 
thousands!" The computer-generated crowd still lay in the 
remote future. Roman and Egyptian armies and mobs had to 
be played by real people. (The fiercely anti-religious 
Ayn Rand once worked as an extra in the silent version of 
one of these epics.)

     Most of these movies were hardly religious at all. 
God was used as a sort of plot device, like what Alfred 
Hitchcock called the "McGuffin" -- the unexplained spring 
of the story (the secret formula for a bomb, say) whose 
value is posited just to make things happen. In QUO 
VADIS? the biggest box-office hit of 1951, Robert Taylor 
and Deborah Kerr play early Christians facing the 
prospect of becoming Roman catfood. But any spirituality 
is easily upstaged by the lions and by Peter Ustinov's 
corpulent, whining, funny, scary Nero. Ustinov, Charles 
Laughton, and Robert Morley doubtless inspired Jimmy 
Cannon's observation, "England has the best fat actors." 
That was before Orson Welles and Marlon Brando reached 
middle age.

     It's surprising to recall that Brando himself 
appeared in one film with religious overtones: ON THE 
WATERFRONT featured him as Terry Malloy, a young 
dockworker in moral and spiritual turmoil, with a tough 
priest (Karl Malden) speaking for his better angel. In 
those days religion, especially Catholicism, was a 
reliable symbol and source of virtue in movies. Brando 
won an Oscar for that performance, and another for a 
later movie that also made use of Catholic symbolism, THE 

     Charlton Heston made dozens of films, chiefly 
Westerns, but he'll be remembered forever for two roles: 
Moses and Ben-Hur. Admittedly he didn't exactly radiate 
holiness; still, when he was made up to look like 
Michelangelo's statue, you could accept him as the 
Almighty's go-to guy.

     Though he's not greatly respected as an actor, 
Heston deserves credit for a screen presence 
authoritative enough to make these Biblical epics 
convincing. It's a pitiful oddity of film history that 
this great star's last appearance in a movie was as the 
target of Michael Moore's taunting interview in BOWLING 
FOR COLUMBINE. (I wince to recall that when I first met 
him I told him how much I'd enjoyed the thrilling chariot 
race, not reflecting that I'd mostly been watching a 
stunt man; but Heston accepted this goofy compliment 
graciously. He must have heard it a thousand times, poor 

     The supreme difficulty for movies, of course, is to 
portray Christ plausibly. In KING OF KINGS (1962) Jeffrey 
Hunter, a fine, handsome actor who died young, never has 
a chance against the pseudo-Jamesian (that's King James, 
not Henry) dialogue. Even the superb Max von Sydow, in 
THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965), doesn't begin to 
convey Jesus' personality; his looks are all wrong, and 
his portrayal of the Son of God suggests a decent 
Scandinavian clergyman, probably Unitarian. Robert 
Powell, in Franco Zefferelli's 1977 made-for-TV JESUS OF 
NAZARETH, never offends, but he lacks real force. (Willem 
Dafoe, in Martin Scorsese's misconceived 1988 film of THE 
LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, manages to turn Jesus into a 
nonentity nobody would bother crucifying.)

     But the role would probably defeat any actor, and 
Mel Gibson, in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, avoided the 
difficulty by concentrating on Calvary and showing Jesus 
(Jim Caviezel) chiefly in the passive role of victim, 
with little dialogue (and even that in Aramaic). The 
critics outdid the mob in frenzied screaming, accusing 
Gibson of "sadism" and "masochism" and using these terms, 
for once, with disapproval. To Hollywood's dismay, the 
film reached an enormous audience, who found it a 
powerful depiction of what the Savior endured for us.

     By sticking closely to the Gospel accounts and using 
ancient tongues, Gibson spared himself the hopeless task 
of creating worthy dialogue. He also avoided conventional 
cliches of movie piety: upturned eyes, angelic soundtrack 
choirs, jaw-dropping miracles, quasi-liturgical diction. 
He simply showed, as faithfully as possible, how the 
Romans put a criminal to death. When people in New 
Testament times heard the word "crucified," they didn't 
have to ask for an explanation. The word hadn't yet been 
dignified by association with anything holy: It meant the 
very opposite of holiness -- a death too grim to imagine. 
Gibson, using all the resources of film, has renewed the 
word. Now we've seen what it meant.

     Before Hollywood became antagonistic to 
Christianity, and when it wasn't budgeting for thousands 
of extras, it also made more modest exercises in piety. 
THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943), with Jennifer Jones as the 
saint of Lourdes, and THE MIRACLE OF OUR LADY OF FATIMA 
(1952) both deal with Marian apparitions -- a subject 
remote from today's Hollywood, to say the least. Both, 
though flawed by naivete, hold up surprisingly well. 
Their most dramatic and moving moments occur when the 
characters who have seen visions of the Virgin meet 
skepticism and even hostility within the Church itself.

     Robert Bresson's 1950 film THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY 
PRIEST, based on Georges Bernanos's novel, is an 
acknowledged classic of French cinema. Using unknown 
actors and an almost documentary style, Bresson, film's 
greatest Catholic director, shows the sickly young 
priest's spiritual struggle with an uncompromising 
bleakness that has been described as Jansenist. Devout as 
he is, the priest can never feel that he is serving God 
worthily. Is he a saint? To me, at least, he seems too 
self-absorbed to be truly holy. But Bresson doesn't ask 
or even invite our opinions, let alone disclose answers. 
This is a powerful film, but not a pleasant one. Yet the 
severe movie critic David Thomson is positively rapturous 
about Bresson's genius.

     One of the finest films ever made about a saint is 
another French one, MONSIEUR VINCENT (1947). The 
excellent Pierre Fresnay, best known here as an army 
officer in Jean Renoir's GRAND ILLUSION, plays St. 
Vincent de Paul, the great seventeenth-century champion 
of the poor. Vincent is neither a martyr nor a miracle 
worker, merely a priest trying to serve Jesus. He arrives 
in a small town that hasn't seen a priest in ten years 
and saves a little girl (whose mother has just died) from 
starving; at her mother's burial, he chastises the gaping 
townspeople for their neglect. This is the beginning of 
his mission. Soon he is serving bread and soup to 
thousands of poor people in Paris, hectoring the 
reluctant rich to help. One wealthy matron asks whether 
the poor babies abandoned on church steps in the winter 
are even worth saving; after all, they are the fruits of 

     Vincent is a practical man with a job to do. He 
finally faces death feeling he has done far too little. 
His severe self-judgment is no pose; if he has a halo, we 
never see it and he is unaware of it. The film has no 
saccharine piety; the poor can be as selfish and 
ungrateful as the rich. That doesn't change Vincent's 
duty, as he sees it. Near the end of the film he tells a 
young nun, with a last fading twinkle in his eye, "We 
must serve the poor with love. If we don't love them, 
they'll never forgive us for giving them bread."

     Fresnay makes you love Vincent without acting 
lovable. He expresses affection sparingly, imparting a 
powerful personality without visible histrionics. The 
film wisely concentrates on a few episodes in Vincent's 
life; it doesn't try to cover the entire, awesome career 
of its historical subject, a titan of organized charity 
who enlisted popes and kings in his work. Instead it 
shows his personal charity, a quiet persistent energy 
that refuses to be discouraged.

     This modest focus gives the film a power that would 
have been dissipated by an epic treatment of Vincent's 
epic works. MONSIEUR VINCENT succeeds because it =avoids= 
spectacle. It shows less of its subject's inner life than 
THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST does, but Vincent is a 
transparent man who doesn't need to be revealed in 
soliloquies. We get to know him through his actions.

     It's a commonplace of criticism that wicked 
characters are easier to create, and believe, than holy 
ones, because we understand their motives better. This 
may be a comment on our fallen nature; Milton's Satan is 
notoriously more convincing than Milton's Christ. Still, 
it's a pity that films have so rarely tried to portray 
saints. Real saints, after all, are usually vivid, even 
fiery personalities: think of St. Francis of Assisi, St. 
Teresa of Avila, and Padre Pio, whose lives abounded in 
drama and colorful incident. Saints have more personality 
than most of us; only in the movies do they have less.

     One of the few saints to be the subject of a popular 
film is St. Thomas More, played by Paul Scofield in Fred 
Zinneman's 1967 treatment of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. 
Despite Scofield's subtle intelligence in the role, I've 
always felt that the film turns More into a champion of a 
liberal cause -- freedom of conscience. The real More was 
quite willing to punish heresy with death. The film's 
hero, in Robert Bolt's script, is more preoccupied with 
his own conscience than with his faith. In the end his 
martyrdom seems rather flat. It would be a stretch even 
to call this a religious movie.

     Apart from Gibson, few if any of today's filmmakers 
have the faintest interest in groping with religious 
themes; even the colossal success of THE PASSION OF THE 
CHRIST doesn't seem to have started a trend. A handful of 
great films have shown what movies can achieve. But we 
may wait a long time before somebody makes the attempt 

The Hypocrisy of Henry V
(pages 5-6)


     In the churches I attend, both Catholic, we pray 
briefly every Sunday for the American troops in Iraq. For 
some reason we don't pray for the Iraqis. I suspect 
others in the pews notice this omission too.

     Throughout the Iraq war I've longed to hear 
Americans (other than opponents of the war) express 
concern for the people on the other side, the ones who 
are allegedly being liberated by the American forces. 
Tens of thousands of them -- we don't get real numbers or 
even official estimates -- have been killed or maimed.

     Americans typically keep their psychic distance from 
the countries where "our boys" (or, as we now say, "our 
brave men and women") are fighting. They rarely 
acknowledge that our boys are doing anything but 
defending us, or defending freedom, however inapplicable 
these formulas may be to the situation at hand. When 
forced to confront "civilian casualties," now known (even 
more euphemistically) as "collateral damage," they tend 
to shrug them off as regrettable but inevitable effects 
of any war, accidental and guilt-free. War just happens; 
it always has. The conscience needn't be seriously 
disturbed about it.

     As it happens, Shakespeare has something to say 
about this. In the first act of HENRY V, the new king -- 
a playboy turned serious monarch, to everyone's 
wonderment -- reveals that he is contemplating war with 
France. The reason is neither defense nor freedom; France 
poses no threat at all to England. But Henry claims that 
=he= is the rightful king of France, and he appeals to 
the Archbishop of Canterbury to judge his title.

     That title, musty, obscure, and legalistic, hardly 
seems an urgent reason for bloodletting. Moreover, Henry 
knows very well what horrors a war would mean for the 
French, and he solemnly urges Canterbury to keep the 
innocents in mind as he delivers his verdict:

       For God doth know how many now in health
       Shall drop their blood in approbation
       Of what your reverence shall incite us to.
       Therefore take heed how you impawn our person,
       How you awake the sleeping sword of war;
       We charge you, in the name of God, take heed;
       For never two such kingdoms did contend
       Without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops
       Are every one a woe, a sore complaint
       'Gainst him whose wrongs give edge unto the swords
       That make such waste in brief mortality.

And so on, with pious eloquence. An unjustified war means 
=mass murder,= so Henry wants the justice of his cause 
certified by the authority of the Church. It's hard to 
imagine a modern ruler, particularly an American 
president, showing such sensitivity to the innocent 
victims of a prospective war. We've certainly heard 
nothing like this lately.

     {{ It would be nice to leave the matter here, with 
an edifying contrast between the good old days of 
chivalrous warfare and our own decadent age. Imagine a 
time when a king's decision about war could depend on a 
churchman's conscientious judgment! If only it were so 
simple. }}

     Unfortunately, Henry has already made up his mind -- 
and the corrupt Canterbury, who is in a weak position to 
oppose the king anyway, well knows this as he supports 
Henry's flimsy claim to the French crown. He explains, at 
tedious length, that the French king's title has 
descended through the female line and is thus somehow 
invalid, whereas Henry's title ... Well, Harold Goddard, 
one of the few scholars who has closely studied 
Canterbury's argument, says it's self-contradictory.

     In any case, it's hardly a reason for unleashing the 
dogs of war on the peaceful French. But Henry also has 
designs on the Church's wealth in England, so Canterbury 
has already offered to help pay for war in the hope of 
buying him off. Now Canterbury officially assures him 
that his claim to France is good. {{ The fix is in; the 
war is on. }}

     Still, Henry has given himself a moral escape hatch: 
By cautioning Canterbury to be careful of what he shall 
"incite us to," he subtly shifts responsibility for the 
war to the churchman.

     At this point, the French ambassador arrives with a 
gift for Henry from the Dauphin (France's crown prince): 
tennis balls! A mock at his wild youth. Enraged, Henry 
threatens to avenge the insult by ravaging France:

       And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his
       Hath turn'd his balls to gun-stones; and his soul
       Shall stand sore charged for the wasteful 
       That shall fly with them; for many a thousand 
       Shall this his mock mock out of their dear 
       Mock mothers from their sons; mock castles down;
       And some are yet ungotten and unborn
       That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin's 

     Henry is so furious about this tweak that he forgets 
all about his supposed title. Now a few tennis balls are 
the casus belli. But this time the responsibility lies 
not with the archbishop, but with the Dauphin.

     Suddenly Henry remembers himself, calms down, and 
gets back into his sanctimonious vein:

       But this lies all within the will of God,
       To whom I do appeal; and in whose name
       Tell you the Dauphin I am coming on,
       To venge me as I may and to put forth
       My rightful hand in a well-hallow'd cause.

     God, widows, bereaved mothers, vengeance -- a 
well-hallowed cause, all right. This war will have nearly 
as many reasons as victims.

     A few scenes later, before Harfleur, Henry warns the 
city's governor to surrender "Whiles yet my soldiers are 
in my command":

       If not, why, in a moment look to see
       The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
       Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking 
       Your fathers taken by the silver beards
       And their most reverend heads dash'd to the walls,
       Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
       Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confus'd
       Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
       At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
       What say you? Will you yield, and this avoid,
       Or, guilty in defense, be thus destroy'd?

"Guilty in defense." Just as those widows would all be 
charged to the Dauphin's soul, now the violated girls and 
skewered babies will be the fault of those who refused to 
surrender. Henry's French title is indeed a well-hallowed 
cause. (And once again the awful violence against the 
innocent is blamed on someone else.)

     For generations HENRY V was taken as a simple 
celebration of an English national hero who had won a 
great victory on the fields of Agincourt. That's what it 
seems to be on the surface. The Chorus keeps praising 
Henry as "the mirror of all Christian kings," and nearly 
everyone in the play seems to agree. The former pal of 
Falstaff and the London lowlifes has astounded everyone 
by casting off his old comrades and achieving a splendid 

     Laurence Olivier fully accepted this conventional 
view of Henry's heroism when he filmed the play in 
splendid color during World War II. He persuaded Winston 
Churchill to support the project with the argument that 
it would serve to bolster wartime morale in England. 
Churchill's government underwrote the movie, which was 
immediately hailed as a classic in England and America. 
"The movies have produced one of their rare great works 
of art," began TIME's cover story, written by James Agee.

     {{ In truth, the movies had produced a beautiful 
monument of jingoism. I grew up loving it myself, chiefly 
for Olivier's clarion-voiced readings of Henry's battle 
speeches. These were available on a long-playing record, 
with excerpts from his Hamlet film on the other side. I 
memorized every syllable of it. }}

     Goddard, whose book THE MEANING OF SHAKESPEARE was 
published posthumously in 1951, was the first commentator 
to see the play's deep irony about its central character. 
The Chorus doesn't speak for the author; he voices 
popular opinion, and his cloying praise is undermined by 
everything Henry actually does -- such as ordering that 
his prisoners' throats be cut. (This and other unheroic 
details were omitted in Olivier's film.) Only his rousing 
speeches suggest heroism; Shakespeare never shows Henry 
doing any fighting (though Olivier does; his battle 
scenes are wonderful cinema, but they aren't in the 

     Goddard stands all earlier criticism on its head. He 
sees Henry not as Shakespeare's ideal ruler, but as 
Machiavelli's. Henry is a consummate manipulator -- of 
law, religion, passion, force, and of course language. He 
can pull the secret wires or stir the blood, as occasion 
demands. He outdoes his conniving father, Henry IV, whose 
dying advice was to "Busy giddy minds With foreign 
quarrels" -- counsel adopted by countless statesmen 
since. One of these was Churchill.

     Shakespeare shows the depths of Henry's self-blind 
hypocrisy in a long soliloquy on the eve of the great 
battle. Henry has just visited his common soldiers in 
disguise, and has found them disenchanted with his war. 
Like his father ("Uneasy lies the head that wears a 
crown"), he reflects on the difficult responsibilities of 
kingship, in contrast to the carefree life of the 

       The slave, a member of the country's peace,
       Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wots
       What watch the king keeps to maintain the 
            peace ...

Consumed with self-pity, Henry forgets where he is. He 
hasn't come to Agincourt to "maintain the peace."

     Here is Shakespeare's most profound study of the 
psychology of rulers. Henry is by no means the last mass 
murderer to congratulate himself on laboring to protect 
the peace of his subjects.



AT LEAST IT'S NOT A SACRAMENT. YET: In keeping with its 
ancient tradition of following the Wave of the Future, 
Britain has legalized same-sex civil unions. That is 
=so= twentieth century, isn't it? If Henry VIII could 
only see -- but I've already said that. (page 7)

REASSURANCE: Visiting Europe to mend fences, President 
Bush ridiculed the suggestion that the United States is 
preparing to attack Iran. But he didn't rule it out, 
either. All our options are "still on the table," he said 
pointedly. (page 9)

DOING THE MATH: We're often told that the average 
American works until May or so to pay his taxes. Query: 
How much of his time does he work to pay interest on the 
national debt? (page 9)

ADIEU: Hunter S. ("Fear and Loathing") Thompson has shot 
himself, cutting off a spectacular journalistic career at 
age 67. He was said to be despondent about his failing 
health and the Republican ascendancy -- understandable 
concerns both, poor fellow. He'd reached the point, as we 
all must, where drugs and booze could no longer ensure 
felicity. I guess that leaves me the last surviving gonzo 
journalist. (page 11)

Exclusive to electronic media:

SO SORRY: As Harvard's president Lawrence Summers 
continues to apologize for suggesting that there are 
"innate differences" between the sexes, the "gay 
community" is demanding to know why Susan Sontag's huge 
obituary in the NEW YORK TIMES made no mention of her 
long-time lesbian "relationship" with photographer Annie 

(pages 7-12)

* America the Frightful (February 8, 2005)

* The Baker Street Shakespeareans (February 10, 2005)

* The Anti-Eulogy: An Apologia (February 15, 2005)

* America, Shouting (February 17, 2005)

* The War on Norms (February 22, 2005)

* Interests and Friendships (February 24, 2005)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran

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