The Real News of the Month

October  2005
Volume 12, Number 10

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
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  -> The Iowa Way
  -> Snapshots (plus electronic Exclusives)
  -> Publisher's Note
  -> What Happened to Hitchens?
  -> Dickens on Film
Nuggets (plus electronic Exclusives)
"Reactionary Utopian" Columns Reprinted in This Issue


The Iowa Way
(page 1)


     During Louis Farrakhan's "Millions More March" in 
mid October, I happened to be reading Tom Wolfe's amazing 
story of the explosion of Silicon Valley, "Two Young Men 
Who Went West," in his collection HOOKING UP. Though it's 
a fairly staid piece, {{ with little of Wolfe's riotous 
humor and few of his orthographic pyrotechnics, it's the 
most impressive display of his wide-ranging knowledge 
I've ever read. But it's also inexpressibly more than 
that. }} I was so engrossed in it that I found myself 
reading until the dawn of the day of the march. And a 
weird connection occurred to me.

     Apart from his sophistication about the electronic 
revolution, Wolfe connects the development of the 
electronics industry to a few geniuses from the Midwest, 
particularly Iowa. And one of the things that allowed 
them to flourish was, surprisingly, their denominational 
background. They were (mostly lapsed) Congregationalists, 
like their legendary leader, Robert Noyce. The 
informality of their church structures, Wolfe notes, 
carried over into the nonhierarchical culture that 
fostered their astounding creativity as they progressed 
from primitive transistors to microchips, 
microprocessors, and even more fantastic refinements, of 
which one byproduct, a few years later, was the personal 

     These men had no use for the archaic corporate style 
of the Northeast, with its business suits, chauffeurs, 
and multi-martini lunches. Everything was informal, dress 
was strictly casual, and lunch was a sandwich while they 
talked shop. Not even parking spaces were assigned; 
everything was first-come-first-served.

     They were just a bunch of white boys, obsessed with 
possibilities of new technologies. But they never thought 
about things like ethnicity. Their minds were on what 
they were =doing.=

     The following day, as I caught radio reports of the 
march, I was suddenly struck by the sheer =quaintness= of 
Farrakhan, not to mention more conventional "civil rights 
leaders." All of them, without knowing it, were basically 
white supremacists.

     These black "leaders" assumed that the reason blacks 
still lag far behind whites in measurable things like 
jobs and income is that whites are holding them back, and 
they thought the gap could be closed by things like cash 

     What a primitive superstition -- shared, of course, 
by most white liberals. Silicon Valley owes absolutely 
=nothing= to slavery or racial segregation. The microchip 
wasn't built on the backs of black men. It was conceived 
and created by people who weren't even thinking about 
race, their own race or anyone else's.

     But of course it never even occurs Farrakhan, much 
less Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, to suggest that their 
followers stop thinking about racial grievances, and 
start thinking innovatively like Noyce and his ilk about 
building a better microchip. They take it for granted 
that the fate of blacks rests with whites and that the 
lot of blacks can be improved only by appropriating the 
"surplus wealth" of whites. {{ Like Marx, they can't get 
beyond the misconceived categories of the exploited and 
the exploiters, victims and victimizers. The same is true 
of "organized labor." }}

     In other words, blacks are still losing because 
their alleged leaders keep them in the habit of thinking 
like losers. Bill Gates makes tens of billions of 
dollars, but he doesn't owe it to minimum-wage laws, any 
more than he owes it to drawing the lucky lottery ticket. 
Or for that matter, to "education."

(page 2)

     The Harriet Miers farce exposed President Bush's 
shortcomings even more starkly than the Iraq war. When he 
said Iraq threatened the United States, it was possible 
to shrug, "Well, with all that top-notch intelligence, he 
may know something we don't." But when he told us that 
Miss Miers had a firm grasp of the Constitution, you 
could only laugh. The farce was compounded by the mutual 
admiration of these two mediocrities, who are unable to 
speak of each other without superlatives nobody else 
would apply to either of them. In a sense I can almost 
understand why he picked her for the Supreme Court; what 
baffles me is why he'd hire her as his personal attorney.

*          *          *

     The Iraqis who bothered to vote approved the 
constitution drafted under the eyes of the American 
occupation. That same week, Saddam Hussein finally went 
on trial for "crimes against humanity," insisting that 
that same occupation makes the proceedings illegitimate. 
He has a point, of course, but it's not likely to stand 
up in =this= court. He may as well ask clemency in 
consideration of his long career in public service. My 
son Mike has hit on his one chance for acquittal: get a 
change of venue to California, where no jury has ever 
convicted a celebrity.

*          *          *

     Oh no! Not =another= threat! According to the 
WASHINGTON TIMES, the Bush administration believes that 
Venezuela's Castroite president Hugo Chavez is trying to 
acquire nuclear weapons. Furthermore, Venezuela 
"maintains increasingly close ties" with Iran, a member 
of the Axis of Evil. So far, though, there seem to be no 
specific plans for another pre-emptive war.

Exclusive to electronic media:

     The most unjustly unsung observer of America today, 
as far as I know, is E. Michael Jones, editor of the 
Catholic monthly CULTURE WARS (most of which he writes 
himself) and author of several wonderfully trenchant 
books. Among the latter are LIBIDO DOMINANDI: SEXUAL 
of which tell the story of the cultural subversion 
practiced by America's elites, especially such seemingly 
respectable institutions as the Ford and Rockefeller 
Foundations. Jones is as profound as he is prolific. He's 
also versatile, original, combative, and fearless, naming 
names and drawing blood. If you think of liberals as 
well-meaning bumblers, guilty of nothing worse than 
"unintended consequences," you need to read Jones.

*          *          *

     A new James Bond has been chosen to star in the 
latest remake of CASINO ROYALE! This has to be the 
biggest news in the world of entertainment since Katie 
Holmes's pregnancy, or Jerry Lewis's hemorrhoids. Wait! 
Don't you even want to know his name? It's Craig ... 
Craig ... Craig =something.= Kind of an ugly fellow, 
looks like a minor thug in one of the Roger Moore Bond 
flicks. Daniel Craig! That's it! Maybe the best indicator 
of how weary and formulaic the Bond films have become is 
that roughly 150,000 rounds of ammunition have been fired 
at 007 since his 1961 debut in DOCTOR NO, and he's never 
even been nicked.

Publisher's Note
(page 2)

     In the mailing for our September issue, the 
printshop inadvertentedly omitted the reply form for our 
upcoming Charter Subscribers' luncheon on December 3. 
Both the invitation and reply are enclosed this time -- 
and we also mailed just the invitation and the reply form 
in a separate envelope a few weeks ago.

     [The brochure and the reply form are also available 
on our website at ---RNN]

     This is our only fundraiser of the year and it helps 
us keep the doors open and the editor writing. I hope you 
will consider a donation to SOBRAN'S at this time.

     And I hope you will consider becoming a 
Charter/Benefactor to SOBRAN'S (or signing up a friend or 
colleague) and joining us in Virginia on December 3!

                                          -- Fran Griffin

P.S. The deadline to make a reservation for our Charter 
Subscribers' luncheon has been extended to November 28. 
Please contact us as soon as possible if you wish to 
attend. See the reply form for more information.

What Happened to Hitchens?
(pages 3-4)


     I've had a mixed personal experience with 
Christopher Hitchens. After forming a dislike of him from 
his leftist writings some years ago, I found him 
startlingly pleasant when I met him on the eve of a 
debate we were scheduled to have in Williamsburg, 
Virginia. In subsequent conversations he was always just 
as opinionated as in his writings, but always engaging to 
talk to. He once genially invited me into his apartment, 
where I met his first wife and small son, enjoyed a nip 
with him, and marveled at the range of his library.

     {{ I was a little worried by his drinking. I'm not 
violating any confidences here; his fondness for the 
bottle has come up often in the polemical brawls he gets 
into, and, far from denying it, he has written about it 
himself. It didn't make him any less agreeable then, or 
in a subsequent meeting we had, with his charming second 
wife, in a bar. Nor did it noticeably impair the rapidity 
of his mind or the remarkable facility of his speech. }}

     On the other hand, he wiped the floor with me in our 
Williamsburg debate. He thought so quickly and spoke so 
well that I didn't have a prayer of besting him. He was 
formidably well read and informed. Later, when he opposed 
the 1991 Gulf War, he crushed Charlton Heston more 
decisively, even cruelly, in a televised debate, 
challenging him to locate Iraq on an unmarked map; and I 
actually felt sorry for the befuddled Heston, though I 
was rooting for Hitchens. Little did I suspect that 
another Iraq war would find us on opposite sides. I 
wonder: Does he now feel that Heston was essentially 
right after all? I doubt it. Even at his most convivial, 
Hitchens =has= to win every argument, and =never= backs 

     Reading him in subsequent years, I've still found 
him a challenge and a puzzle. Despite his assured tone 
and his outspokenness, I often wonder what he's driving 
at. Not that he hides it, exactly: he hates organized 
religion, Catholicism in particular, Pope Pius XII, and 
such associated manifestations as Mother Teresa and Mel 
Gibson. He must be the only reviewer who complained, as 
he did in his VANITY FAIR column, that THE PASSION OF THE 
CHRIST wasn't graphic enough. He called it 
"sadomasochistic," a silly charge, but then added the 
observation that a crucified man would have been totally 
naked and would have involuntarily discharged his bladder 
and bowels. A hard man to satisfy, this Hitchens.

     In fact I know of no writer, past or present, who 
has been so versatile in his disapprovals. These have 
included (to confine myself to the short list) Zionism, 
Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan, Bill and Hillary Clinton, 
Henry Kissinger, T.S. Eliot, and the entire royal family 
of Britain. {{ Immediately after the deaths of Lady Diana 
and her lover Dodi, he pitilessly observed, on 
television, that they had asked for it by speeding 
unconscionably through that Paris tunnel. }} His censures 
are often arbitrary and personal; he often dismisses his 
targets with that curt British epithet, "odious."

     On the other hand, he has lately written admiring 
little books about Orwell and Jefferson. The former 
clearly implied his own claim to Orwell's mantle, though 
he lacks Orwell's relaxed Dickensian affections. He has, 
for better or worse, an intensity all his own.

     For many years Hitchens was twinned with his friend 
Alexander Cockburn; they were both Brit expatriate 
leftists (though Hitchens, at least, is now a U.S. 
citizen) who wrote columns in THE NATION. Both were 
particularly noted for their slashing attacks on the 
state of Israel, which helped get Cockburn fired from THE 
VILLAGE VOICE; and after falling out with Cockburn, 
Hitchens left THE NATION recently, as he became alienated 
from the Left over the Iraq war, which he has supported 
with all his characteristic vehemence and vituperation.

     Has he converted from Left to Right? I wouldn't say 
that, though he now writes for publications like NATIONAL 
which once loathed him as he did them. His old neocon 
enemies have forgiven him his attacks on Israel because 
he backs the Iraq war. He's never retracted his hard 
words for Israel, but he doesn't repeat them now. Instead 
he inveighs against "Islamofascism," whatever that is. 
The entire religion of Islam falls naturally under his 
general loathing of religion. He explained his rejection 
of Christ's teachings in reasonably polite tones for the 
Catholic magazine CRISIS. (He's less inhibited in VANITY 
FAIR, where he has accused the Church of murdering 
millions, as if this were common knowledge for which no 
footnotes are necessary.) If he has abandoned Marxism, he 
disguises the fact with the uninterrupted indignation of 
his style.

     Last year, in THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, Hitchens wrote 
of the "arrested development" of P.G. Wodehouse, whose 
fiction is set in Edwardian England and is free of any 
trace of adult sexual interest. Though he admitted that 
Wodehouse can often be hilarious, he clearly deprecated 
the prudery, all the more so because Wodehouse carried it 
over into his real life.

     Well, this time I felt that Hitchens had finally 
gone too far. To accuse Wodehouse of arrested development 
is not to say he didn't develop; it's only to say you 
don't approve of the way he =did= develop. Some would say 
his stories kept getting better as he aged (and I'm one 
of them), even if they never got dirtier; his prudery, or 
rather his affected innocence, was part of the whole joke 
that was his fictional world of the past. It's a world 
that admits drunkenness but not lechery. ("I felt so darn 
sorry for poor Sippy that I hadn't the heart to finish my 
breakfast. I told Jeeves to drink it himself.") Or are 
all writers supposed to develop in the same way?

     Certainly Hitchens has changed in his own way, and I 
wouldn't presume to call it arrested development; I don't 
know if it's development at all. Maybe he has just 
changed his mind in ways I find inexplicable, even 
disappointing. But I still read him for his explosive 
moments, just as I keep reading Wodehouse for his jokes. 
He keeps me turning the page, which is all I ask of any 

     The puzzle of his quasi conversion remains. Nobody 
can put a finger on any positive inconsistency between 
the Old Hitchens and the New Hitchens, but he is now 
taking positions which (1) nobody ever predicted, (2) 
everyone is surprised by (whether in horror or delight), 
and (3) have landed him in strange company. He has 
written a small book, A LONG SHORT WAR, defending the 
Iraq war, which I read in dizzy incomprehension -- he's 
still too fast for me, even on the printed page (though 
he carefully deflects the question of Zionist enthusiasm 
for the war, as the Old Hitchens, surely, would =not= 
have done); and lately he has compressed his argument 
into a dense four-page article in THE WEEKLY STANDARD 
titled "A War to Be Proud Of."

     Nobody, but nobody, argues more aggressively than 
Hitchens. His style, though literate and sophisticated, 
isn't academic; it's vigorously personal and moralistic. 
There is no abstract question of right and wrong to be 
addressed philosophically, only the practical question of 
which side one is on. His opponents -- or at least the 
ones he chooses to focus on -- are "peaceniks," "plain 
frauds and charlatans," "flippant," given to "humorless 
and pseudo-legalistic literalism," {{ "heavy jokes about 
Halliburton," }} a "strategy of deception," "fatuous 
insinuation," "sob-sister tripe pumped out by the Cindy 
Sheehan circus and its surrogates."

     Hitchens deftly combines such rapid-fire invective 
with confusing Bush-bashing. Bush was an "isolationist" 
before 9/11 brought him to his senses; he and Tony Blair 
then "made a hash of a good case," because they 
"preferred to scare people rather than enlighten them or 
reason with them." Even now, Bush falls back on 
"platitude and hollowness."

     Still, despite Hitchens's effort to sound unsparing 
even toward his allies, you can't help noticing that all 
the really nasty and dishonest people seem to be on the 
side of peace and all the decent ones, by another 
coincidence, on the side of war.

     But Saddam's Iraq was a "permanent hell" and a 
"permanent threat" -- in short, the eternal enemy: 
"fascism." Which is never defined. It remains the primal 
dirty word. (All bad things seem to be variants of 
fascism.) "At once, one sees," declares Hitchens, "that 
all the alternatives would have been infinitely worse." 
All? Infinitely? Really? War on Saddam's Iraq was "a 
responsibility ... that no decent person could shirk. The 
only unthinkable policy was one of abstention."

     And what has the war achieved? Hitchens lists a neat 
but nebulous Ten Benefits, with no offsetting moral or 
material costs. (Libya has renounced its nuclear 
ambitions, for instance.) Like a good magician, he keeps 
our eyes on what he wants us to watch, distracting us 
from other, possibly relevant, even possibly crucial 
things. How many innocent lives, for instance, has the 
war claimed? For Hitchens this simple question never even 
comes up.

     Again, I can't help feeling that he has taken sides 
arbitrarily. I can imagine him opposing the war with 
equal agility -- and more conviction. Why didn't he? 
Would that really have been "unthinkable"? He found it 
quite thinkable in 1991.

     A clue to the New Hitchens may lie in his rupture 
with Sidney Blumenthal, a journalist who went to work for 
the Clinton administration and whom Hitchens accused of 
committing perjury for Clinton. Blumenthal retaliated by 
accusing Hitchens of having, during a bibulous dinner, 
=denied the Holocaust!=

     I forget Hitchens's immediate rejoinder to this 
deadly charge, but it wasn't long afterward that I 
noticed that he hadn't written any anti-Zionist polemics 
for a while, much less repeated his odd praise of David 
Irving (in VANITY FAIR, years back) as "a great Fascist 
historian." He now goes out of his way to mention his 
discovery, after his mother's recent death, that she was 
Jewish. And in a recent tribute to Saul Bellow in the 
WALL STREET JOURNAL, he emphasized Bellow's Jewishness -- 
the very source, he implied, of his genius as a novelist. 
(He said nothing of Bellow's Zionism.)

     Are we getting any closer to the heart of the 
mystery of the abrupt change in the fearless Christopher 

Dickens on Film
(pages 5-6)


     I've always felt slightly guilty at my inability to 
love Dickens with all my heart. He's the most big-hearted 
of authors, after all; and you can know his great 
characters without reading his books. No novelist has 
been so well served by the movies and television, and 
those characters are so vivid that they seem to exist 
independently of the medium through which you encounter 
them. In that respect they have been justly called 

     Among the most memorable are Sam Weller, Ebenezer 
Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist, Mr. 
Bumble, Fagin, Jack "the Artful Dodger" Dawkins, Nancy, 
Bill Sikes, David Copperfield, Betsey Trotwood, Wilkins 
Micawber, Mr. Murdstone, Pegotty, Barkis, Mr. Creakle, 
Uriah Heep, Steerforth, Mr. Pecksniff, Mrs. Gamp, Madame 
Defarge, Sydney Carton, Pip, Abel Magwitch, Mrs. 
Havisham, Joe Gargery, Mr. and Mrs. Wackford Squeers, 
Little Nell, Daniel Quilp, and Dick Swiveller. They might 
be remembered for their colorful, evocative names alone. 
to list his characters. Some of the books' settings are 
also familiar: the Pickwick Club, Dotheboys Hall, the Old 
Curiosity Shop, Bleak House, and Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

     Dickens's critical reputation has had its ups and 
downs. Even while he was alive and at the height of his 
popularity and unparalleled celebrity, some readers found 
his unabashed bathos embarrassing; the most famous 
illustration being the fate of Little Nell. Thousands of 
anxious New Yorkers crowded the piers waiting for the 
latest installment of THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP to arrive 
from England, calling out to the ship's crew, "Is Little 
Nell dead?" Decades later Oscar Wilde spoke for refined 
taste when he quipped, "One must have a heart of stone to 
read the death of Little Nell without laughing."

     But G.K. Chesterton defended Dickens's naive appeal 
against this sophisticated reaction to it. We feel, he 
says, that "Dickens is a great writer even if he is not a 
good writer." "Great," he insists, is a word that is 
indispensable precisely because it's indefinable. For 
some men, no other word will do; and Dickens is one of 
these. "There is a great man who makes every man feel 
small. But the real great man is the man who makes every 
man feel great." Compared with this quality of infinite 
inventive power, Dickens's formal defects as a novelist 
-- incredible plots and such -- hardly matter.

    {{ "Dickens," he goes on, "did not write what the 
people wanted. Dickens wanted what the people wanted.... 
Dickens never talked down to the people. He talked up to 
the people." For Chesterton, the essential Dickens 
appears in his first great book, THE PICKWICK PAPERS, a 
happily gigantic, formless, and inexhaustible work of 
comic genius. To the charge that Dickens stole the 
story's general plan from its illustrator, Seymour, 
Chesterton wittily retorts, "Dickens not only did not 
get the general plan from Seymour, he did not get it at 
all." }}

     Today Dickens's classic status is simply a fact 
serious criticism must come to terms with as it can. 
George Orwell's famous long essay makes a trenchant 
survey of his undeniable defects, yet doesn't deny his 
unique literary stature. Even his ferocious satire 
somehow "succeeded in attacking everybody and 
antagonizing nobody." The socialist Orwell complains that 
he never comprehends the social evils he deplores, but 
typically resolves all problems with the deus ex machina 
of a kind-hearted rich man who comes to the rescue -- as 
if, snorts Orwell, a man would devote his life to 
amassing a fortune and then give it all away! For Dickens 
there's nothing wrong with the capitalist system itself. 
(It took Orwell himself quite a while to suspect any 
essential flaw in socialism.)

     Dickens fairly demands dramatization, and even in 
his lifetime his works were quickly adapted for the 
theater (often by the author himself, who also performed 
them in hugely popular readings; audiences agreed that he 
would have been a great actor); but they are trickier to 
put on the modern movie or television screen. Their 
uninhibited rhetoric can be too much for the close-up 
camera, which is better suited to naturalism.

     Roman Polanski's new film of OLIVER TWIST is superb 
in many ways, but it has met the curious criticism that 
it's too literally faithful to the novel, with no 
independent life of its own. There is something in this, 
but the real point is that mere fidelity to the letter of 
Dickens misses his uproarious spirit. I found the film 
very moving, but it also reduces myth to mere realism.

     For example, the movie excises a typical Dickensian 
plot device: the final revelation that Oliver is 
Mr. Brownlow's grandson. Coincidental blood relations are 
one of the novelist's favorite tricks for tying up a 
story, but presumably this was too improbable for the 
kind of movie Polanski aimed to make.

     But it was exactly the kind of thing Dickens used 
for the kind of story =he= wanted to tell, one in which 
the design of a benign Providence is finally disclosed. 
The orphan has a family after all. To the secular mind, 
this seems mere outrageous coincidence; but in Dickens, 
it's the sign of a universe ruled by a benevolent God. 
Dickens's religious views are hard to specify beyond 
approximation -- a nondenominational Christianity, more 
emotional than doctrinal -- but his books are informed by 
an ethic of charity, sympathy for the weak, and a fierce 
hatred of cruelty, bullying, and priggishness. His 
funniest villains are hypocrites like Squeers, Pecksniff, 
and even Murdstone and his abominable sister. His most 
beloved and emblematic works are his Christmas stories, 
especially, of course, A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

     The essence of Dickens's art -- and of all art, 
Chesterton would say -- is exaggeration, even caricature. 
This is what makes him embarrassing to modern taste. 
Polanski's OLIVER TWIST is beautiful in many ways, but 
David Lean's 1948 version, with Alec Guinness's hideous 
Fagin, though less meticulous about social conditions of 
nineteenth-century London, had more of the novel's wild 
comedy, especially in its portrayal of the hilariously 
self-important "porochial beadle," Mr. Bumble. (The film 
avoids any mention that Fagin, played by Ben Kingsley, is 
a Jew, or Polanski might have joined Mel Gibson in Abe 
Foxman's Inferno.)

     Six BBC adaptations of Dickens (now available in a 
boxed set of DVDs for $49.99) suffer even worse from 
undue fastidiousness. They are well done, in their way, 
especially GREAT EXPECTATIONS; but their restraint and 
sobriety would be more appropriate to, say, Jane Austen, 
or maybe George Eliot, even Thomas Hardy.

     GREAT EXPECTATIONS (along with the first half of 
DAVID COPPERFIELD) is my own favorite of the Dickens 
novels I've read. In 1946 Lean also made an excellent 
film of it; the stellar cast included Bernard Miles, a 
character actor now unfortunately forgotten, as the 
blacksmith Joe Gargery, and I cannot choose but weep at 
the crushing scene in which he visits Pip (John Mills) in 
London, only to realize that his awkward presence 
mortifies the nouveau riche Pip. Pip, for his part, 
guiltily realizes that he has become not only a 
gentleman, but a snob; and his uneasy maturation, unique 
among Dickens's heroes, sets the stage for one of the 
greatest plot twists in fiction, the shocking 
self-disclosure of his mysterious benefactor.

     Dickens's characters owe their magic to a quality 
most of them share, a gigantic oddity; they are adults as 
seen by a child's eyes, wondrous but bewildering. He 
seldom analyzes them; he is struck by their surfaces, 
their mannerisms, their repetitions, their 
eccentricities, and of course their hypocrisies. Orwell 
marveled at Dickens's ability "to stand both inside and 
outside the child's mind." Dickens's children see the 
world as in a dream, its objects luminously magnified, 
but without proportion or perspective.

     David Copperfield's stepfather, Mr. Murdstone, is a 
terrifying figure, though he actually does little 
"objective" harm; he thrashes David, confines him to his 
room, and sends him to a dismal boarding school and to 
degrading work in a blacking factory, but such things 
don't begin to explain the impression of utter, devilish 
cruelty he makes on us. It's amazing how Dickens makes 
you feel you remember him from your own childhood. I 
myself had as gentle and lovable a stepfather as a boy 
ever had, but I have the extraordinary sense of 
=recognizing= Murdstone as if he were part of my own 
early experience. How to explain this? I suppose it's 
Dickens's great gift to tap our deep memory of the age 
when all grownups are essentially scary, even the kind 

     The most remarkable Dickens adaptation of recent 
times was the Royal Shakespeare Company's nine-hour stage 
production of NICHOLAS NICKLEBY in the early 1980s. After 
a triumphant run at the Old Vic in London, it came to 
Broadway, where I saw it with great enjoyment. It too is 
now available on video (four DVDs for $79.99); it serves 
Dickens well, toning down neither his sentiment nor his 

     Slightly less fine, much shorter but still 
satisfying, is the recent film with Christopher Plummer, 
Jim Broadbent, Juliet Stevenson, Nathan Lane, Tom 
Courtenay, Edward Fox, and Anne Hathaway, directed by 
Douglas McGrath. Even at nine hours Dickens's rambling 
story is much abridged, but this movie captures as much 
of it as could be contained in two hours.

     A generation ago, Dickens's literary immortality 
seemed secure, and it also seemed likely that his novels 
would keep finding their way onto film. Today the very 
future of literature appears less certain, so we may 
wonder how many more movies his books will inspire. Gone 
are the days when Hollywood could make box-office hits of 
DAVID COPPERFIELD (with W.C. Fields as Micawber!) and A 
TALE OF TWO CITIES (starring Ronald Colman), as well as 
other great novels like ANNA KARENINA, THE HUNCHBACK OF 
books that used to be read in high school. Things to come 
can only be guessed at, but when was the last time you 
heard of a high school student reading a Victorian novel?



PRESIDENT FRANKEN: Comedian Al Franken, at his best the 
funniest man on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE back when it was at 
its best (remember his character Stuart Smalley?), is 
said to be considering a run for the U.S. Senate (he's a 
Minnesota native). If so, I hope he wins, and I dream 
he'll eventually make it all the way to the White House. 
On one condition: He must never, ever talk about 
politics. (page 8)

FORGOTTEN, BUT NOT GONE: Harriet Miers has now -- oh, 
wait. I should explain who she was. In case you'll have 
forgotten by the time you read this: She was President 
Bush's hapless nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court a while 
back. Anyway, I was about to say she has joined Abe 
Fortas, Clement Haynsworth, Harold Carswell, Robert Bork, 
and Douglas Guinzburg among unsuccessful Court nominees 
over the last generation. I still hope Guinzburg gets 
renominated someday. (page 10)

OFFICIAL SECRETS: Notice what special prosecutor Patrick 
Fitzgerald has =not= said. Neither Scooter Libby, nor 
Dick Cheney, nor Karl Rove has been accused of leaking 
the name of a single Mossad agent. (page 12)

Exclusive to electronic media:

Democrats reacted to Bush's new Court nomination by 
objecting that Samuel Alito is no Sandra Day O'Connor. 
True, but that's more like a recommendation than a 
criticism. If O'Connor was fit for the job, how hard can 
it be? If anything, Alito is severely overqualified for 
the Court and should seek a way to make a living more 
worthy of his talents.

POLITICS AND HUMILIATION: Bush should have seen not only 
that Harriet Miers was "unqualified," even by the very 
modest standards of the Federal judiciary, but that she 
was bound to be defeated and, what's more, cruelly 
humiliated. Sometimes politics really makes you cringe.

COUNTING TO 51: Democrats are threatening to bork Samuel 
Alito, Bush's latest Court nominee. They'd better check 
the odds. They seem to be forgetting that when they 
borked the original Bork, they controlled the Senate (as 
well as the House), they faced little opposition in the 
media, and Ted Kennedy was still taken seriously.

NOMENCLATURE NOTES: We aren't supposed to call abortion 
advocates "baby-killers." The baby is a "fetus," and the, 
er, "procedure" is daintily referred to as "terminating a 
pregnancy." Maybe we should describe them as 

REPRINTED COLUMNS ("The Reactionary Utopian")
(pages 7-12)

* Confessions of a Right-Wing Peacenik (October 6, 2005)

* Liberal "Neutrality" (October 13, 2005)

* Who Is to Say? (October 20, 2005)

* Body Counts (October 25, 2005)

* Bush versus Bush (October 27, 2005)

* The Scooter Saga (November 1, 2005)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran.

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