Capitalist Loot I'm helping Forbes launch its lifestyle website. Travel, cars, collecting?areas in which I've trawled and overopined down the years. Start with cars: back in the UK when I was 19, I owned a secondhand gold-painted E-Type Jaguar sport that had once belonged to Mick Jagger. Though a dream to drive, it had the notorious flaws of all E-Types. At high speeds its back end would drift and skew. And it was notoriously front-heavy?if it went airborne for the merest nanosecond, you dived nose-first back onto the ground. One radiant summer day in the Somerset countryside the flaws combined and offroaded me into a hay bale in a cow pasture. I had to sell the Jag for scrap.
I continued to love Jags, and in the late 80s Connoisseur asked me to go on a test-drive junket in Scotland. Needless to say, in those days government subsidies still fueled the British car industry's folly. I use the word advisedly: Jaguar's itinerary for the test-drive through the highlands included a series of pitstops at obscure, picturesque malt whisky distilleries.
On the first morning, we cranked up the heavy metal on the radio and tested the sleek four-door at speeds of 135 mph and above. Clearly, the local bobbies had been warned off. We arrived mud-spattered for lunch at a hilltop resort and staggered woozily to our seats next to Jaguar executives. They told us the scandalous story of one pair who had praised the car for handling well at 110. Yes, we said, we'd noticed that. We were passing them at the time. By trip's end, half the cars were wrecks, but they got great reviews.
You might think that collecting objets d'art would furnish a sedentary counterpoint. I thought it would. Among other things, I collected antique textiles for some years. I have weirdly fond memories of days and weeks spent at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul drinking black tea with rug merchants and gossiping on the latest arrivals. The early 90s in particular were a boon period. The Soviet Union's collapse had the effect of reviving the ancient Silk Road. Families throughout Central Asia wanted VCRs and fridges. After more than a century of Russian rule, the only possessions they had left to flog were old family silks and carpets. Suddenly the Grand Bazaar accrued centuries of pent-up fabrics in one short burst of time. Exquisite ancient genres of textiles were being discovered anew. You could get them cheaply for a few months, then the world snapped them up and they now sell at Sotheby's for tens of thousands of dollars.
In 1994 I decided to get ambitious and track down an enigmatic newly emergent antique textile called a Kaytak. Kaytaks came from Daghestan, a remote region of the Caucasus Mountains not far from Chechnya. Silk-on-cotton embroideries, they had motifs influenced by the most divergent cultures, often by armies?from the Mongols to the Ottomans?who'd passed through and left garrisons. So steep are the mountains there, and so isolated the villages, that within 20 square miles you find 10 separate languages. It was summer when I set off into the interior with a trusted rug-dealer who'd been there before. We went overland through Azerbaijan and Georgia?not in themselves the most peaceful zones. But amazingly we encountered no trouble that bottles of whisky and a little hard currency couldn't dispel. Until Daghestan, that is. It turned out that a British anthropologist who'd worked there for years had toured about acquiring hundreds of Kaytaks for pennies. The local mafia had since found that these textiles were beginning to sell for princely sums in the West?only a few hundred dollars in fact, but princely for them at the time. Suffice to say we endured some bouts of very rough treatment over two days in a smelly adobe-like dwelling at the hands of the local unwashed. They took our car, dropping us not far from a Russian borderpost, where we received more handling. The guards, in turn, insisted on escorting us back to our guesthouse where they levied a stiff fine in dollars before taking us back over the border.
You might think then that any association with the civilized patrician world of Forbes might offer a pleasant surcease from such horrors. It does, but for a small incident?not their fault at all, and better if we don't tell them. Several years ago, a scurrilous rag I won't name thought I'd be just the person to investigate a rumor that the Forbes yacht was up for sale. They were having financial problems, went the rumor, and they needed to divest, albeit in great secrecy. The story came to nothing. None of it was true, but I did my due diligence. I'd arranged an elaborate sting to find out from Florida yacht dealers if it was on the market. I asked an Italian lawyer friend in Milan to pose as a potential customer. These were properties worth tens of millions; the packets of brochures and videos he received couldn't have been flashier. As they piled up in his office, secretaries and colleagues began to view him with extreme suspicion. No doubt, they wondered if they would find the office vault yawning open one morning and his desk empty.
At the time Italy was going through its great purge of businessmen and politicians accused of bribery?in fact, of anyone with conspicuous wealth. My friend soon found himself downtown answering nonsensical questions about deposits and purchases over the past decade. He explained the yacht story, but to no avail. I sent an affidavit. No good. Finally, I flew to Milan to the Guardia Financia headquarters with an editor's note to get the curse lifted.
Did I tell you that the website will also include real estate? Don't get me started on real estate.
Charles Glass The London Desk
Sons and Fathers Baltimore, MD ? My son Edward has become an actor. He's also doing gigs with his two bands, the Three Amigos and the Muppets, at pubs in Scotland that actually pay him. Obviously, this is not what we expected when he went north of Hadrian's Wall to study philosophy at St. Andrew's University. Still, it could have been worse. He could have taken up golf.
Last fall, he played Macduff in Macbeth. Watching Ed, as his friends call him, onstage as Macduff, I saw the little baby that we'd homeward brought from Queen Charlotte's Hospital 20 years ago transformed into a man. And another man at that, stalking the stage and, when he spoke, dominating it as the noble Scotsman. Macduff is a more demanding part than Macbeth, who merely succumbs to fate, ambition and his wife's lust. Shakespeare makes Macduff the loyal and unreflective servant of Malcolm, then unsheathes his character when Macbeth arranges the murder of his wife and children. For a moment, I lost my son and heard only the anguish of Macduff?the wretchedness of all who have lost a child?when he cried out:
He has no children. All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite? All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop...
I cannot but remember such things were,
That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on,
And would not take their part?
It was with pride bordering on hubris that I walked alongside this young man to dinner, where he told me of his life and loves. Nothing would have kept me from going back to St. Andrew's, as I did, to see him in Much Ado About Nothing. The next day, the sun did something it rarely does in Scotland: it appeared. Edward and I had lunch outside with two beautiful girls, one his girlfriend and the other his friend. (The envy I felt was unbearable.) I lingered and smoked cigars, regaling blondes Georgiana and Natasha with scenes from my pointless life. It was with great difficulty that Edward managed to get me on a train to Edinburgh, where I would connect with a train to London.
At Edinburgh's tawdry Waverly Station, a Scottish voice announced that the London-bound train had stopped near Motherwell, "due to a fatality." This was repeated many times over the next few hours, so I had time to imagine the accident or suicide that had delayed us. When trains are late in Britain, which they almost always are since the state sold the system to incompetent private companies with monopolies to rob the public, people complain loudly and futilely. Not this time. We became mourners for whatever soul had perished on the line near Motherwell, and I was probably not the only one to say a silent prayer for the victim.
Thus it was, in one of the coincidences that life inflicts upon us to make us suspect Providence plays a role on the mortal stage, that I was awakened the next morning by a telephone call. The 20-year-old son of one of my dearest and oldest friends had been killed in an accident in Massachusetts. A train hit him. It seemed that some piece of the train was sticking out beyond the line and struck him on the head as he was walking back to his dormitory. He went into a coma. His mother and father had gone immediately to the scene from their home in Baltimore to wait by his side. Three days later, on that Sunday night while I was riding from Edinburgh to London, he died.
I met his father, Jeff Price, in Beirut in 1973 or 1974, when we were both living there. He was the Baltimore Sun correspondent, a few years more experienced than I. Generous to the point of profligacy, he invariably paid for my dinners and drink, because, as a freelancer, I was not on expenses. I admired his journalistic courage when he stood apart from the almost universal pro-Israeli bias in the American press at the time to report what Israel was doing in Lebanon. Somehow, he ended up as the Sun's foreign editor. Our common interests in covering wars, chasing women, playing cards and going to nightclubs made us fast and, as it turned out, lifelong friends. The other thing we had in common, apart from a fondness for alcohol, was our apostate Catholicism. In the coming years, we both left Beirut, both married, both had children, both enjoyed reunions to play gin rummy at the Maryland Club and points east, both returned to the bosom of Holy Mother Church and the care of the Society of Jesus.
The Jesuits did themselves proud last Wednesday at St. Ignatius Church in Baltimore, where more clergy assembled than for a papal conclave to pray for this young man. John Price, it seems, was not merely a star jock, captain of lacrosse and classroom genius, but a kind of saint with a sense of humor. He used to visit a Vietnamese refugee in an insane asylum. His intention, on graduating from Holy Cross, was to work with the poor in Nicaragua. When his mother, Anne, asked him why he didn't just become a priest, he said he loved women too much. Surely, his father's son. When I saw his girlfriend, Molly, I knew I would take her over a Roman collar any day. Mea culpa, Father.
Grief is a killer. Consolation is impossible. If I lost either of my sons, George or Edward, or my daughter Julia, I'd die. Breathe, perhaps, but surely die. I do not know what to say to Anne and Jeff, to the brothers Arthur and Sebastian, to the sister Mary. The only thing I do know is that, if I had to endure such an unbearable fate as to outlive any of my little chickens, Jeff Price would be there to hold my hand.
George Szamuely The Bunker
God Bless Rehnquist! The 1994 Violence Against Women Act should have been declared unconstitutional years ago. It was legislation typical of the Clinton era. It invented a problem that did not exist, provided work for thousands of prosecutors in an America already gone prosecution-crazy, violated civil liberties and squandered money on a vast, pointless federal program. The law was Clinton's payoff to the feminists. Since state courts could not protect women, the federal government had to step in. "State courts are riddled with gender bias..." National Organization for Women (NOW) President Patricia Ireland shrieked recently. "Surely women must be able to look to Congress and the federal courts to enforce our civil rights and save women's lives? Rape and other violence, which have reached epidemic levels, are devastating crimes against women and society."
None of these claims has the slightest basis in fact. But the lies serve a useful purpose. By portraying women as a victimized group the government can usurp the powers of local government in the name of protecting "civil rights." There is no "epidemic" level of violence against women. To the contrary, every day men are far more likely to be assaulted than women. The statistics the feminists cite are laughably misleading. Here is typical writing of this genre?the American Medical Women's Association's The Women's Complete Healthbook. "Every 6 minutes a woman is raped," it warns, "every l5 seconds a woman is punched, slapped, kicked, or otherwise physically abused by a man she knows?every day, approximately four women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends?half of all American women experience violence from men at some point in their lives?more than 12 million American women, or one in every eight, have been raped at some time in their lives?20 percent of girls?reported they had been sexually abused before they were 18." Yet a 1998 report by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control states that 1.9 percent of the women surveyed claimed that they had been assaulted in the previous 12 months. For the men surveyed the figure is 3.4 percent. And while "18 percent of women surveyed said they experienced a completed or attempted rape at some time in their life," only "0.3 percent said they experienced a completed or attempted rape in the previous 12 months." In other words, women are hardly living in terror. According to the 1998 National Crime Victimization Survey put out by the Justice Dept., men are twice as likely as women to be victims of aggravated assault. Three-fourths of murder victims are male. And men are twice as likely as women to be subjected to violent victimization while at work.
Based on these deliberate distortions, the government set out to abrogate civil liberties. The Violence Against Women Act was part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which changed the rules of admissibility of evidence in federal sexual assault and child molestation cases. It's now possible to enter into evidence during a trial a defendant's past criminal record. "These evidence rules," explains the Butcher of Waco's Justice Dept. smugly, "facilitate the effective prosecution of habitual sex offenders. They provide the basis for informed decisions by juries regarding questions of propensity to commit future crimes in light of the defendant's past conduct." Further, the federal government has been urging the states to adopt these new evidentiary procedures. To do this it doles out large sums of money?among other things, the Violence Against Women Act was a nice $1.6 billion boondoggle, and there are grants galore written into the legislation.
The administration and Congress have for years been desperate to use the federal government for purposes of law enforcement. Hence the bogus issue of "civil rights." The claim that women are a victimized group is ludicrous. There is no evidence that state authorities do not investigate crimes committed against women. And women, like men, have recourse to the civil courts to seek monetary damages against criminal assailants. For the government to present itself as some latter-day Don Quixote defending the honor of women it had to pull off an extraordinary piece of legerdemain. Under Section 8 of Article I of the Constitution Congress has the authority "to regulate commerce...among the several States." Since gender-based violence restricts women's choices in jobs and travel, the administration and Congress agreed that this was a proper matter for federal legislation. "[A]ll persons within the United States shall have the right to be free from crimes of violence motivated by gender," the law declared. Quite why being "free from crimes of violence motivated by gender" is more of a fundamental right than being free from crimes of violence motivated by pecuniary gain no one ever bothers to explain. Indeed, it is hard to know what being "motivated by gender" means. Does that mean that homosexual rape is okay?
If the government's reasoning was to be accepted, Chief Justice Rehnquist noted sarcastically, it "would allow Congress to regulate any crime as long as the nationwide, aggregated impact of that crime has substantial effects on employment, production, transit, or consumption. Indeed, if Congress may regulate gender-motivated violence, it would be able to regulate murder or any other type of violence since gender-motivated violence, as a subset of all violent crime, is certain to have lesser economic impacts than the larger class of which it is a part."
Moreover?and this really is the heart of the matter?if the Violence Against Women Act as well as other terrible laws of the Clinton years were allowed to stand, "Congress could regulate any activity that it found was related to the economic productivity of individual citizens: family law (including marriage, divorce, and child custody) for example? Thus, if we were to accept the government's arguments, we are hard-pressed to posit any activity by an individual that Congress is without power to regulate." Imagine the kind of creature President Gore would hire to replace Rehnquist!
Taki LE MAÎTRE
A Village of Idiots With apologies to the great Thomas Sowell (imagine how much better the black American community would be if it had Sowell and Ward Connerly as leaders, rather than hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton), here are a few random thoughts:
...There are two things that people in general, and the Clintons in particular, habitually lie about, and these are sex and money. Hillary called the blowjobs her hubby got from Monica a vast right-wing conspiracy. Ditto where Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and the rest of the "beauties" are concerned. (The Draft Dodger's women resemble the countries he bombs; they are poor, ugly, weak and no one comes to their rescue.) Here is a candidate whose law and business partners are in jail, who advocated the pardoning of convicted terrorists, who called innocent people murderers and who is the co-beneficiary of a $7 million tax-free "legal defense fund," with $4 million in personal legal bills still unpaid.
The Clintons' great weapon, however, is the liberal and left-wing media. For example, Frank Rich of the Times, better known to us insiders as Françoise, who has blurred the issues to help her candidacy. The President committed perjury and obstructed justice and is the first president of the United States to be held in contempt by a federal judge. Rudy Giuliani did not volunteer the fact that he had a girlfriend. In fact, I will let you, dear readers, in on a little secret. A world exclusive. Françoise Rich and Hillary Clinton are one and the same person. Their whole rationale is to stir up hatred and fear of a supposedly Neanderthal extremist right. Physically they are the same: profoundly puffy and unattractive; both wear suits; big-hipped and heterosexually challenged. You know what they say about looking and acting like a duck. Hillary and Françoise are one person.
...The most sinister buffoon, shallow, stupid, loud and uninformed, has to be the egregious Rosie O'Donnell. This overweight moron, an unabashed Hillary-for-senator huckster and Giuliani basher, recently appeared on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. When asked what islands off the coast of Argentina are controlled by the British?multiple choice?she failed to answer, "The Falklands," but made a crack about not even knowing where Argentina is. This ignoramus par excellence once said that "Giuliani is so dumb, if he ever wrote a book, it would be called It Takes a Village Idiot." Never mind that it took a village to ghostwrite Hillary's book; never mind that a bloody war was fought over the Falklands in 1982; never mind that the buffoon warned Congress that she and her ilk will be watching and they better vote her way on gun control or else. What really grates is the disproportionate amount of publicity mental midgets like O'Donnell receive from the liberal press as soon as they make some public-policy prescription. If she had a little pride and decency, the sinister buffoon would go back to school and leave the politics to other sinister buffoons like Sid the Scumbag. At least no one has yet called Blumenthal a moron.
...If any of you out there are against the blacklisting that went on in Hollywood during the early 50s?about 10 people lost their jobs, although most of them continued to work under assumed names?go out and boycott Procter & Gamble. Don't touch Ivory soap, and stay away from Tide laundry detergent. P&G caved in and withdrew its advertising from Dr. Laura Schlessinger's radio and tv shows after homosexual activists flooded the sponsors with threats of a boycott. Schlessinger voices religious views that have been around for thousands of years. She has as much right to her opinions as homosexuals have to theirs. But, unlike the latter, Dr. Laura has not tried to pressure the networks, which, according to the Parents' Television Council, have increased the references to homosexuals from four in 1989, to 125 10 years later. In the meantime, where are the soi-disant civil libertarians? Why hasn't the ACLU screamed against the "McCarthyism" of the homosexual pressure group? I'll tell you why. Freedom of speech applies only to the left. But let's boycott P&G anyway.
...The Clinton stage-managed spectacle of a Million Moms was designed to sell the Draft Dodger's gun control agenda to the public. As an avowed pacifist?except when, to divert public opinion, he murders innocent Sudanese and Serbs?Clinton once again exhibited his talent for manipulating a zonked-out-by-too-much-tv populace. There are more gun control laws in place than there are name-droppers in Hollywood. The reason the laws don't work is because felons are hardly ever prosecuted for lying when they apply for guns. It's outrageous but true. The last thing we need is more legislation. But try to tell that to the hypocrites at the White House.
...A very important book on Vietnam has reached my desk. War, Money and American Memory: Myths of Virtue, Valor and Patriotism, by Richard Earley (DIANE Publishing Co.), is a meticulously researched, documented and footnoted book, as well as a very brave one. Space prohibits me from quoting at length from it, but I will give you a small example. When Abe Rosenthal, then a columnist for the Times, accused Pat Buchanan of anti-Semitism because Pat said in 1990 that "there are only two groups banging the drums for war, the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States," the mud stuck. Pat had written that the fighting would be done by people with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales and Leroy Brown. The author lists the dead: 11 McAllisters, 81 Murphys, 84 Gonzaleses, 380 Browns. "More than twice as many Murphys, Gonzales and Browns perished in Vietnam than Jews. No public apology or explanation from Rosenthal has ever come forth."
See what I mean about facts? And the importance of this book? The opus also includes who among the rich and powerful did the fighting. Almost nobody.