Monday, February 25, 2013

House of Cards: Bewitched by Power

Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air. – The Three Witches. The Tragedy of Macbeth, by Williams Shakespeare.*

Paraphrasing Macbeth, the American and British versions of "House of Cards" exist in the "borrowed robes" of the play itself. As I indicated in "House of Cards: An American Macbeth," the American version is an overlay of the original British version, but both owe their plots and principal characters to Shakespeare's tragedy, even down toLadyMacbeth and the three witches. The three works invite comparison.

It should also be noted that all three works owe their plots to Greek tragedy, but that topic, while tempting to explore, is beyond the scope of this column. And, a warning: Plot spoilers ahead.

It might be fair to claim that "House of Cards" bears a closer resemblance to Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Richard the Third than to Macbeth. But in Richard the Third, while Richard was as ruthless in murdering his way to the English throne as Macbeth was to the Scottish throne, major elements and parallels are missing but which are present in Macbeth and "House of Cards."

For one thing, Richard murders the legitimate heirs to the English throne and their relations, while Macbeth flails about murdering anyone or having them murdered– fellow soldiers, their families, guards – who might incriminate him for the murder of Duncan, the king of Scotland. For another, Richard plotted his murders alone, while Macbeth is encouraged in his murders by the witches, by his wife, Lady Macbeth, and by the praising flattery of his colleagues.

For another, Richard the Third is not seeking vengeance against the king for having reneged on a promise. He's merely feeling neglected and shunned and bored with the new peace. Macbeth, on the other hand, has a bug planted in his head by the three witches who prophesize that he will be the king. It acts as a kind of Stuxnet virus that compels him to fulfill a destructive, deterministic fate. It is the witches who kindle his ambition, and that ambition is further abetted by his wife.

In "House of Cards" (the umbrella name for the British series, of which there were three parts, between 1990 and 1995) Urqhart(Ian Richardson) seeks vengeance on the newly elected prime minister who had promised him a seat in the cabinet, while Underwood(Kevin Spacey) seeks vengeance on the newly elected president who had promised him the Secretary of State post.

In "House of Cards," there are two Lady Macbeths and a number of witches or warlocks. In the British version, Francis Urqhart's wife Elizabeth (Diane Fletcher) eggs him on his pursuit of the prime ministership, especially when he exhibits doubt, and frequently suggests strategies. In the American version, Claire, Francis Underwood's wife (Robin Wright), urges her husband on, as well, and suggests solutions to their problems. In both versions, the marriages are explicitly acknowledged by the parties as partnerships in the pursuit of power and influence.

The witches? In the British version, they are represented by two other women in Urqhart's life, a journalist, Mattie Storin (played by Susannah Harker), and Sarah Harding (played by Kitty Aldridge), Urqhart's hired idea-developer and sounding-board. Both become his lovers, and both are murdered, after they display their untrustworthiness – "trust" is stressed by the protagonist-villains in both versions – when they learn of Urqhart's crimes. Both inspire Urqhart to pursue his machinations and aid him in his actions –and pay a price in the end.

Another witch is Claire Carlsen (Isla Blair), with whom Urqhart does not begin an extramarital affair, but who, as his private secretary, encourages him to vanquish his enemies, and at the same time urges Urqhart's chief nemesis, a Secretary of State who does resign from the cabinet, to vanquish Urqhart. Still another witch is the divorced wife of the King, the Lady (Erika Hoffman), who secretly advises Urqhart to oppose her ex-husband (we are left wondering why she and the King are divorced, and about her motive for wanting Urqhart to oppose him).

In the American version, the witch is Zoe Barnes, a journalist in pursuit of the "big time" in her trade. I described her previously as a pushy, ambitious, obnoxious little vixen. She also becomes Underwood's lover, although the "love" in their relationship is mutually acerbic and mercenary. Zoe, as portrayed by Kate Mara, is oddly sexless and strikes one as too much like a teenager working for a high school newspaper. One almost expects she will appear in the next scene in a cheerleader's outfit waving pom-poms. Mara is very effective in the role, but only in the sense that she and Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, are convincingly black-hearted enough to be drawn to each other in a reciprocal contempt for each other and for their professions. But, then, that is the nature of the relationships between the Urqharts and the Underwoods, as well.

The warlocks? These are Roger O'Neill (Miles Anderson), a publicist for Urqhart, and Peter Russo (Corey Stoll), a Pennsylvania congressman. While they aid Urqhart and Underwood (willingly or unknowingly) in their respective plots, both are addicted to dope and liquor, and become loose cannons who cannot be trusted by Urqhart and Underwood to stay in tow. Urqhart disposes of O'Neil by mixing rat poison in his cocaine; Underwood gets Russo drunk and disposes of him with carbon monoxide in a locked garage. They were more like Macbeth's protégé Banquo than advisors or prophesiers. And they, too, get killed.

Lady Macbeth explains to her husband the method he must employ to disarm his future victim, King Duncan, a method mastered by Underwood and Urqhart:

Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue; look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under't. He that's coming
Must be provided for; and you shall put
This night's great business into my dispatch,
Which shall to all our nights and days to come
Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.**

Macbeth, already primed to do something to fulfill the witches' prophesies, but still reluctant to discuss it, simply replies, "We will speak further." He is "bewitched" by the idea that he could become king. Later, in another soliloquy, he agonizes over the necessity of needing to commit the murder, and, after having committed it, about its possible consequences.

Here we leave Macbeth behind. There are similarities in the material between the two versions of "House of Cards" that help to define the characters of the protagonist-villains. Frank Underwood, in the opening scene of the first episode, breaks the neck of a dog injured by a hit-and-run driver, and delivers a brief soliloquy on the uselessness of pain. He emphasizes that his was not a mercy killing, but something he enjoyed doing. He lies to the owner, saying that the dog was killed by the driver. In his basement retreat, he plays violent video games to "relax." Throughout the rest of the series, he comments to the audience about putting useless people out of his way or out of their misery. Urqhart, on the other hand, shoots birds on his estate, shoots one of his dogs that has become too old to participate in the hunt, and delivers an aside to the audience about uselessness.

In another telling scene in the American version, Underwood comes out of a government office building and sees that the police have handcuffed a mad man to a pole. The police tell him that the man, a disheveled maniac who is still yelling, that he tried to enter the building while taking his ragged clothes off. Underwood goes up to the man, stoops down, and tells him that "no one is listening," implying that it was useless to protest any perceived injustice. His purpose in saying that to the man was not to calm him down, but to kill him. The maniac is left speechless.

In their sexual relations – I hesitate to call them "romantic," for they are anything but that – Underwood and Urqhart adopt unhealthy views of their lovers, that is, faux incestuous views. Urqhart, about forty years her senior and childless, insists that Mattie call him "Daddy." Underwood, about twenty-five years her senior, at one point regards Zoe as a daughter, and in an aside while Zoe is calling her father for Father's Day, with a smirk emphasizes that point to the audience. Zoe seems to sense that this is the root of their sexual relationship, and, whore that she is, doesn't seem to mind it.

Other than a few pecks on the cheek and lips, and an occasional comforting touch, we see no passion between the Underwoods and the Urqharts. When they are smiling together, it is not an affirmation of the happiness of their marriages, but a celebration that they are getting away with something that they've pulled on everyone.

There is a significant difference between Macbethand "House of Cards." Macbeth, before and after he has murdered King Duncan, expresses qualms about the act. Lady Macbeth chides him for having second thoughts, before and after the crime. Urqhart is sometimes bothered by his having thrown Mattie off the roof garden of the Houses of Parliament, but right until the end of the trilogy is unrepentant. Underwood isn't bothered at all, and, as Urqhart does, he speaks to the audience as though it were an accomplice to the crimes.

InMacbeth, Lady Macbeth goes mad and dies in remorse. Not so Claire and Elizabeth. They're committed. As Barton Keyes put it about a pair of murderers in DoubleIndemnity:

Whether it's love or hate doesn't matter; they can't keep away from each other. They may think it's twice as safe because there's two of them, but it isn't twice as safe. It's ten times twice as dangerous. They've committed a *murder*! And it's not like taking a trolley ride together where they can get off at different stops. They're stuck with each other and they got to ride all the way to the end of the line and it's a one-way trip and the last stop is the cemetery.

The American version of the Netflix series is literally "how to" do precisely what Chris Horner, in an Accuracy in Media interview, describes in the way of private email accounts and secret messaging and code names and the like. It is a revealing interview about Obama's "transparent" administration, from the private emails of the EPA to Fast and Furious to the Benghazi cover-up. If nothing else, "House of Cards" is an education in corruption and power-grabbing.

Although both series share the same premises in the way of how to game the political establishment, the British version relies less on technology than does the American. The villains and characters in the British version rely more on acting and direction than on technology, whereas much of the plot of Kevin Spacey's version is driven by instant access to people and information and humungous databases. For example, there are few scenes in which Zoe isn't staring at her Android or Ipad, communicating frantically with her thumbs (I couldn't catch the brand name of her devices). Mac Laptops are prominently displayed throughout the Spacey "House of Cards." So much for "non-commercial" promotions.

The Spacey version is a capital lesson in non-transparency. You can see the serpents lurking beneath the orchids. As General Sternwood remarked about orchids in RaymondChandler's The Big Sleep, in literary agreement with the quotation that precedes this column:

Nasty things. That flesh is too much like the flesh of men. Their perfume has a rotten sweetness of corruption.

Only there is no sweetness in "House of Cards." Only smiling serpents slithering in the foul fog of power politics.

*Act 1, Scene 1. William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1988. Eds. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.
**Act 1, Scene 5, ibid.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gun Shy Amazon

I have twenty-one books for sale on AmazonBooks, and eleven on Amazon Kindle. Upon reading the news that Amazon is pressuring – nay, demanding – that sellers of guns and firearms accessories withdraw some of their products from sale on Amazon, I sent Amazon Books this letter.

20 February 2013

Amazon Books


I direct your attention to an article on the Web forwarded to me, "Amazon Removing Gun Products From Store. Worse Than EBay," about Amazon demanding that vendors remove certain accessories and other gun-related items from their Amazon listings. If they do not comply, these vendors will be banned from selling all their products on Amazon. The veracity of this article is not to be questioned, albeit it would be helpful if you confirmed this ultimatum.

I cannot imagine what prompted Amazon to reach this decision other than a craven submission to the anti-gun hysteria that arose even before the Sandy Hook School, Newtown, CT massacre, together with all the misinformation about guns and gun-owners propagated by enemies of the First and Second Amendments of the Constitution, a hysteria which has gripped not only many Americans but Congress and numerous advocacy groups. This hysteria can be likened to a kind of moral epilepsy, rooted in a penchant for political correctness and towing the government line, in this instance an episode of too little neuronal activity in the brain, a phenomenon which has caused you to bite your tongue and require your vendors and customers to bite theirs.

That being said– and I am sure you are not so far gone that you cannot detect the tone of contempt and opprobrium for you in this missive, but, then, when have cowards ever felt shame for their behavior? – I offer you an opportunity to maintain a consistency in your policy and win the acclaim of the anti-gun bloc. I strongly urge you to remove from sale on Amazon Books any title of mine in whose title the term "gun" occurs. Two titles come to mind at the moment, Whisper the Guns, and Running Out My Guns. In fact, I suggest that you remove all my titles, for in each and every one of them guns are employed. This would include the whole series of Sparrowhawk, novels about the American Revolution.

Come to think of it, why not remove all titles that feature guns and violence from your listings? If you are going to be so conscientiously and foolishly sensitive and picayune about the matter of guns and gun-violence, it would salve your sense of moral worth with an act of total and unqualified consistency.

Just think of the national acclaim you would garner by performing such an act of contrition. Of course, it would reduce your listings by an unimaginable percentage, and consequently affect your revenue, but, after all, what is money when it is imperative that you do the "right thing"?

By the way, I have sent this as an open letter to as many publications and media as I could muster the time for.

Best wishes in your new endeavor,

Edward Cline

Although written in a contemptuous, satirical vein, this was a serious letter, which remains unacknowledged by Amazon. As an "open letter," it was sent to publications friendly to gun ownership and the Second Amendment, and also to hostile ones, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. While I received programmed, automatic acknowledgements from all the publications, only one actual, living person replied, the editor of the Firearmblog, who thanked me for sending it.

Let us take a look at Amazon's anti-sales spiel that was sent to a vendor of "gun-related" products.

This product has been identified a X. X are prohibited from sale on Amazon.

For more information on our policies, search on "Restricted Products" and "Listing Restrictions" in seller Help.

**Action Required: Within 48 hours of this notice, please review your remaining listings and make any changes necessary to ensure compliance with our policies.

Failure to comply with this request may result in the removal of your selling privileges.

We appreciate your cooperation and thank you for selling on

As reported by the Firearmblog, the notice was sent to selected vendors. The identity of the specific vendor to whom the notice was sent was protected by the editor of the Firearmblog. But, if you look at the "Weapons" page of permitted and impermissible gun-related items, just about the only "guns" that can be sold on Amazon are "play" guns, such as BB guns, air guns, and paintball guns. Under the Prohibited listing one finds just about the whole range of "real" guns, that is, guns one could use to defend oneself against burglars, rapists, and muggers. Or even government agents. Prohibited "weapons" included in the list are bows and arrows, spears, pepper spray, muzzle-loading, black powder muskets and black powder itself. And starting pistols.
Amazon's list was probably culled from restrictions established by the ATF and other government agencies charged with "protecting" citizens against gun violence, and too likely with "protecting" government agents against any meaningful resistance to government gun violence against American citizens.

In reviewing the Prohibited list, one can only wonder why Amazon permits the sale of any kind of firearm at all. Apparently, anything that goes "bang!" or "whoosh!" or "Pssst!" or "click!" scares the hell out of Amazon.
A friend remarked to me: Why don't they also prohibit the sale of violent video games, and movies that feature gun violence, and nonfiction books on guns and marksmanship and so on? Why not go whole-hog, and ban things like jigsaw puzzles of Howard Pyle's painting of the battle of Bunker Hill, or of John Trumbull'sDeath of General Warren, or of Custer's Last Stand, or perhaps a video of the Marines' rifle drill.

The anti-gun hysteria has spread to major companies such as Comcast, which, upon purchasing a controlling interest in NBC, has banned ads by gun sellers. As reported by Newsmax:
The ban came to light when John Kupiec, president of the advertising agency Canadian American Corp., attempted to purchase an ad for Michigan-based gun store Williams Gun Sight Inc. but was denied, according to CBS News' Detroit affiliate.

"Comcast Spotlight has decided it will not accept new advertising for firearms or weapons moving forward," the cable provider said in a statement to CBS. "This policy aligns us with the guidelines in place at many media organizations."

The HollywoodReporter elaborates:

NBC Universal does not accept ads for fireworks or weapons but for some exceptions. For example, the NBC Sports Network will allow ads for hunting weapons, but it will not accept spots for guns such as assault rifles and hand guns. Several shows focusing primarily on guns, such as Guns & Gear,will no longer appear on NBC Sports, though other hunting focused shows, including Elk Fever, likely will return.

The term "assault weapon" is about as denigrating as the term "Islamophobia." As "Islamophobia" is meant to demonize anyone who criticizes Islam, "assault weapon" is intended to demonize guns. But if one examines the term "assault weapon," it is an anti-concept that evokes an image of violence. After all, "assault" means to attack, and "assault weapon" means a tool with which to attack. It can mean a tool that goes "bang!" and shoots a bullet, or it can mean a tool that goes "thunk!" like a ball-peen hammer or a rock. I think I've read a detective novel in which a badminton racket was used as a weapon. Or was it a golf club? Better alert President Obama about that. For all the pricygolfing he does while Rome burns, and for all the words he's slung against the lifestyles of the rich and famous, should he be acting as a model for a mass murderer?
Anti-gun advocates in and out of government love the term "assault weapon" precisely because it demonizes gun makers and gun owners. For them, it is a term of precision and defines the kinds of guns they don’t like. As reported by the NRA, however, the term is actually military slang and is hardly precise or definitional.

Reporters, fond of the way that the slang term "assault weapon" spruces up their articles, and ignoring the maxim that a term that means everything means nothing, have continued to use it to refer to things other than firearms – including baseball players, knives, folding chairs, telephones and SUVs. And, they've applied the "assault" prefix to other things that, like guns, can be used, but almost always are not used, as weapons -- including dogs and knives – ignoring one Drug Enforcement Agency agent's reminder that "It doesn't become a weapon until you use it."

The Brady Campaign has implied that the "gun industry" invented the term "assault weapon" in 1986, but the implication is obviously false. As noted above, the Brady Campaign used the term in 1984 and newspapers used it varyingly during the previous 41 years. However, though we believe much of what the Brady Campaign says is false by design, in this instance the error may be innocent. After all, the group states on its website that it changed its name to Handgun Control, Inc., in 1980. In fact, the name change occurred in 1979. If the Brady Campaign doesn't know when it adopted its own name, it can't be expected to know when it or others adopted "assault weapon."
Media Matters, a George Soros-funded propaganda site, provides a history of "assault weapons" dating back to Nazi Germany (1944:Nazi Germany develops the first mass produced assault rifle, the Sturmgewehr), but otherwise blasts all "assault" weapons that go "rat-tat-tat-tat" and inveighs against them like a virgin spinster ranting against premarital and marital sex. As with the New York Times and Washington Post, it refuses to use any other term than "assault weapon." The Media Matters article is loaded with scary pictures of "assault weapons" and military ads that boast of the efficacy of "assault weapons." An ad for the Bushmaster "assault weapon" is also featured. All the illustrations are intended to incriminate guns, gun sellers, and gun owners.

It concludes with this non-news:

January 24, 2013: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduces legislation for an expandedassault weapons ban that prohibitsthe "sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of" 157 named assault weapons, along with any rifles or pistols derivative of the AR-15 or AK-47. The legislation also bans rifles with the ability to accept a detachable magazine that also have one or more military features including a "pistol grip; forward grip; folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; barrel shroud; or threaded barrel."
I wonder what would happen if I invited big Democraticdonor JeffBezos, founderof Amazon, to a friendly round of golf, or even to tennis. No, it wouldn't happen. The club or the racket might scare him off. Besides, he'd spurn the invitation. I'm not one of the wealthy liberal elite. I like to "cling" to my Constitution, and guns.

I'm betting he goes around with an armed guard, too.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Clueless Left and Islam

Daniel Greenfield penned a perceptive and welcome critique, "What the LeftDoes not Understand About Islam" (February 15th), of the cluelessness of the Left vis-à-vis Islam. The Left, he writes, is naïve about its rival ideology, and ideologically will always remain naïve. The Left, he writes, has never been able to think outside of the cardboard box it has built for itself.

The left has never adapted to the transition from nationalistic wars to ideological wars. It took the left a while to grasp that the Nazis were a fundamentally different foe than [sic] the Kaiser and that pretending that World War 2 was another war for the benefit of colonialists and arms dealers was the behavior of deluded lunatics. And yet much of the left insisted on approaching the war in just that fashion, and had Hitler not attacked Stalin, it might have remained stuck there.

From my own observations, what the Left refused to acknowledge was that it was Hitler's Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Soviet Russia that behaved like unrepentant imperialists and colonialists, invading and conquering other nations for all the loot they could lay hands on. It was the consistent kneejerk evasion of that fact which demoted the Left from a noisy avante- garde to a commune of deluded lunatics. Greenfield goes on to remark:

The Cold War was even worse. The left never came to terms with Communism. From the Moscow Trials to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the moderate left slowly disavowed the USSR but refused to see it as anything more than a clumsy dictatorship. The only way that the left could reject the USSR was by overlooking its ideology and treating it as another backward Russian tyranny being needlessly provoked and pushed around by Western Europe and the United States.

The rise of Islam, however, presented the Left with another conundrum it could not handle.

Communism was…a red virus floating around the world, embedding its ideas into organizations and using those organizations to take over nations.

Islam is even more untethered than Communism, loosely originating from powerful oil nations, but able to spring up anywhere in the world. Its proponents have even less use for the nation state than the Communists. What they want is a Caliphate ruled under Islamic law, a single unit of human organization extending across nations, regions and eventually the world.

The Left, instead of confronting Islam as a rival ideology, has preferred to stick with the devils it knows, imperialists and the running dogs of capitalists. Greenfield notes:

The left is incapable of engaging with Islamism as an ideology, instead it reduces the conflict to a struggle between colonial and anti-colonial forces, showing once again that the left’s worldview is usually at least fifty years out of date.

Fifty years out of date, or fourteen centuries?

Their response to the Clash of Civilizations has been to include Islamists in the global rainbow coalition of minorities, gays and gender theorists, indigent third world farmers, transsexuals, artists and poets, sex workers and terrorists; without considering what the Islamists were or how they would fit into this charmed circle.

Here is another take on just how clueless the Left is about its competitor for power.

Project a hypothetical triumph of Islam over the world, and how its itinerant ally, the Left, would be treated. Not very well. Consider the Left's global rainbow coalition of "minorities, gays and gender theorists, indigent third world farmers, transsexuals, artists and poets, and sex workers." Islam, committed to doctrinal purity and eager to cleanse the world in literal conformance with that doctrine, would act to extinguish every member of that rainbow coalition, including those not mentioned by Greenfield: feminists, gun-owners, free-speech advocates, cartoonists who offend Islam, atheists, agnostics, apostates, followers of other religions, libertarians, anti-government advocates, Constitutionalists, First Amendment champions, and so on. Rightly or not, they'd all be lumped together in Islam's holding pen until they can be prosecuted, tried and walked to the chopping block or gallows. Leaving the Left what?

Nothing, not a single victim of capitalism or colonialism. The Left will wonder what happened to its dialectical materialism, or claim that these are not the progressive forces it had predicted would pacify the world and leave it warless and in peaceful harmony. They might complain, if they dared to, that a gatecrasher hijacked their future. The more perceptive Leftists might then grasp just what Islam meant when it claimed it was just a "religion of peace." They would understand that it won't be a world in which they'd be expected to pray five times a day to godless icons of Marx, Lenin, Engels, Mao, and Stalin, but instead to Allah and Mohammad.

They would understand that Islam isn't interested in peacefully coexisting with other faiths and ideologies, "interfaith dialogue" to the contrary notwithstanding. They would grasp that Islam is as totalitarian as anything conceived by George Orwell and would play no favorites, not even with loyal Party members.

All they would see would be piles of victims of Islam, not of capitalism or of colonialism. The Left acts now as the janissaries of Islam, as ideologues and Sturmabteilungof another totalitarian system, for the moment tolerated and drafted into Islam's cause to swell the numbers of Islam's brigades and to handle the rough stuff in protests and demonstrations and clashes with the targets of the day. And when Islam's battles are won, the Left will act surprised when the executioners knock on their door and escort its members to killing fields that resemble Pol Pot's and to camps modeled on Auschwitz. They would be slaughtered by the bushel in the name of Allah, because they worshipped false gods or no gods and proposed a godless global government.

The humbler and more cowardly of them will submit to Islam. All others would be terminated. Some of their women and pretty boys would be whisked away to stock the numerous new harems that would be established, and which would not be limited to the palaces of Saudi Arabia and Dubai and Qatar and Cairo. They would pop up in New York City and Peoria and Buenos Aires and London and Vienna and San Francisco. Name your city or town.

That would be the character of the world under a global caliphate. The Left would find itself in the inconvenient and embarrassing position of the garage mechanic, George Wilson, in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In it, Wilson is told that it was Jay Gatsby who struck his wife in a hit-and-run outside his garage, not his airhead paramour, Daisy Buchanan. So Gatsby catches the mechanic's bullets. Wilson then shoots himself. Daisy gets off scot-free. While the literati may treat Daisy as a useless "ornament" of capitalism, in fact, Daisy is Islam.

Gatsby was F. Scott Fitzgerald's conception of unregulated capitalism, married somehow to gangsters and crime, while Wilson's grungy garage was symbolic of the underside of capitalism. Poor, exploited, put-upon George. But it was clueless Daisy Buchanan who killed the woman. Leftist literati may understand Fitzgerald's novel, but their ideological muchachosdo not.

Intellectually honest Leftists will follow George Wilson's example. Less honest ones will adapt.

Greenfield concludes his masterly column thus:

The left dwells in an intellectual bubble of its own making. It transforms that bubble into an elaborate place, furnishing the space until it resembles a miniature world, but a bubble is not a world, it can only ever be a bubble. Trapped inside the bubble, the left cannot realize that the world is going backward, not forward, that the 21st century is really the 7th century and that the future is the past.

The Islamists understand this quite well. The left cannot.

I think Greenfield gives the Left too much credit for being clueless. I think his is a misplaced generosity. I am convinced that the Left's ignorance of the true nature of Islam is a front refined and tailored over recent decades, ever since Islam and jihad began making headlines, disguising something much more insidious. Down deep, in the remotest, darkest corner of the soul of every Leftist, collectivist, statist, and community organizer, is a seething glop of malice for freedom which he wishes to exterminate, come what may, never mind how, and don’t ask him about it if you don't want to see him froth at the mouth and threaten you with physical violence. If the extermination is performed by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett, or Cass Sunstein, or any other exponent of totalitarianism, it won’t matter to him, just as long as the murder is committed.

And if it's performed by Islam, so be it. He will be content, even if it means he will need to buy himself a prayer rug or pay jizya from his paltry income and show up at Islamic rallies as a loyal infidel. All else – the protests, the books, the lectures, the posters –is guff and practiced posturing to him. He works to create the image of a champion of the underdogs, whoever and wherever they might be, when, in truth, he would just rather shoot the mangy mutts.

And what is the root of that seething glop of malice? An unquenchable, malevolent envy of every individual who has ever achieved independence and happiness without the Leftist's assistance or advice or guidance, an envy of the incalculable wealth produced by what little capitalism has been permitted to exist in any given nation's mixed economy or welfare state. This envy is coupled with an intimate but repressed knowledge and certitude that the kind of ideal communist or socialist state envisioned by him can produce nothing but poverty, misery, a state of stagnation sustained by force and deception and lies, and the suffocation of the able and the brightest.

Of individuals better than he. All tyrants and would-be tyrants nurture an inferiority complex. The only way they can compensate for it is the use of force and as much power over people as they can muster.

Islam would also produce that kind of existence, and the Left must know it, if only secretly and not spoken about among themselves, and certainly not to the gullible hoi polloi, in another kind of "gentleman's agreement." The Left's ideology and Islam's ideology are compatible in practice, differing only in details and object.

After all, what should it matter to the Left to whose ideology the hoi polloi swear an extorted obsequious obedience? Barack Obama's, or Mohammad Morsi's?

The Leftist won't care which, just as long as they concede defeat and subservience to the State or to the Caliphate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

House of Cards: An American "Macbeth"

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.– Lord Actonto Bishop Creighton, 1887

Francis "Frank" Underwood is absolutely corrupted, and isn't a "great man," except perhaps in the eyes of lessermen, no less corrupted but out-maneuvered by Underwood in the give-and-take-and-extortion business of Washington D.C. They pay him the respect and deference he expects of them, because they lost to him in the ruthless, cannibalistic pursuit of power that makes the slaughter of the French knights at Agincourt look like a Kennedy clan game of touch football. That comparison is of Kenneth Branagh's 1989 version of Henry V, not the Olivier.

Who is Frank (or Francis) Underwood? He is the leading protagonist of Netflix'sfeature televised series, "House of Cards," which debuted earlier this month. Frank Underwood is the majority whip in the House of Representatives, shilling for handouts and preferential treatment for his South Carolina district. A protagonist is a leading character in a story who moves the story along by his actions. He could be a hero or a villain. Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, is a villain. Throughout the series, he makes no apology for it. Quite the opposite. He boasts of it.

In "House of Cards," there are no heroes. Only villains of various shades of villainy, from gray to the blackest of blacks, fulfilling politically correct requisites on diversity, covering all the affirmative action mandates in gender, race, ethnic origin, and religion. "House of Cards" is an equal opportunity employer in its portrayal of corruption. In that respect, the series is very realistic, a reflection of "the way things are," in the spirit of droll naturalism.

It is even more cynical than the 1962 film version of Allen Drury's Advise and Consent, which portrays the sordid lengths to which politicians will go to defeat a nominee for Secretary of State (played by Henry Fonda as Robert Leffingwell, a left-winger proposing a treaty with the Soviets), in which the villains are "right-wingers" who find dirt on a Senator whose confirmation vote is critical.

"House of Cards" is an American knock-off of a hit BritishBBC trilogy that ran between 1990 and 1995. It is the title of the first of that series, followed after critical acclaim and popular demand by "To Play the King" and "The Final Cut." It follows the general plot line of the British trilogy, adapted for American audiences and issues. Season One of "House of Cards," in thirteen episodes, follows that plot line so closely, even in numerous scenes, that it's as though Spacey, his co-producers, writers, and directors laid a blank transparency over the trilogy and used a Magic Marker to write in where things should be changed, tweaked, and wrinkled.

Plot spoilers follow, so, legit cavete.

"House of Cards" is one of the most educational TV series to come along in a long time, posing as fiction, yet still instructive about how much of a giant whorehouse Washington D.C. is, not only in its politics, but in journalism and personal ethics. As knock-offs go, it's very well done, although Spacey frequently interrupts scenes and conversations with Shakespearean "asides" to the viewers. Underwood is a perfect name of what you would find beneath rotted wood, maggots, so I don't think the name is accidental. Likely, neither is the name of his chief aide, Doug Stamper, played by Michael Kelly (the surname is a leftover from the British series). Stamper puts out fires and crises with extortion and blackmail by prospecting for and cultivating dirt on Underwood's enemies, with a little bribery on the side.

In the beginning of the series, Underwood plots to regain his nomination as Secretary of State, after a newly elected president, a very hollow man, reneges on his promise to nominate Underwood, and nominates someone else. Underwood contrives to get the new nominee withdrawn and a Hillary Clinton clone substituted, and then he's off and running to fresh new conspiracies.

Incredibly, all the villains are Democrats. No Republican has put in an appearance yet, although that might change in Season Two. Republicans are mentioned as the opposition, although, to tell the truth, and to judge by the behavior and record of the Republicans, the series could just as well be a portrayal of their political means and ends. Look how they keep an arm's length from the Tea Party and seasoned politicians (e.g., Allen West) who hold Tea Party convictions. Not to mention their flip-flopping on issues such as the budget, military spending, and immigration.

The story is compelling because it realistically portrays the sprawling Washington whorehouse. The most pathetic character is the vice president, based vaguely on Vice President Joe Biden, whose biggest complaint was that the president didn't give him one of the pens used to sign an education bill, engineered by Spacey, souvenir pens given to Spacey and a couple of kids in a scene reminiscent of Obama signing an executive order for gun control or Obamacare.

Overall, the sleaze dramatized in "House of Cards" is so well done you half expect it to leave crud or mold on your screen.

The British series debuted on the expiration of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's tenure. It's claimed that it helped to secure John Major the election, because "House of Cards" was broadcast days before an election. Based on the novel by Michael Dobbs, Major said of it that it had done for his triumph "what Dracula did for baby-sitting." The British series was meant to repudiate the Toriesand conservatism, because Francis Urqhart (played with bone-chillingcorrectness by Ian Richardson), the protagonist and aside-maker of that series, is a Tory Conservative more coldly ruthless and amoral than is Underwood in his smug, cynical, and contemptuous rancidness.

But one must wonder what else could be the intention of the American version but to repudiate the Democrats.

The difference here is that Underwood is a Democrat who is manipulating people and things to expand or preserve government controls in education, development, the environment, and so on, not because he sincerely believes in or values these things, but because they're stepping stones to power. His wife, Claire, runs her of charity, CWI, which caters to the poor in Africa and is always politicking for donor support. Her campaign for money becomes enmeshed in Underwood's schemes.
Actress Robin Wright, who plays Claire, remarked that the character is "Lady Macbeth to Underwood's Macbeth." As a couple who tolerate each other's infidelities, and who regard their marriage as a kind of non-aggression pact and alliance in pursuit of power, they reminded me most of Bill and Hillary Clinton. For all I know, Frank and Claire Underwood weremodeled on the Clintons, another Macbethian couple. There's nothing in the story that indicates otherwise. (Except that Robin Wright's Claire is a knock-out and less of a windbag than is Hillary.)

It even features a doppelganger of the British female journalist who's angling for power and gets herself in cahoots with Underwood. Zoe Barnes is a pushy, ambitious, obnoxious little vixen who also becomes Underwood's sharp-tongued mistress. In the first of the British series, the journalist, Mattie, a possible thorn in Urqhart's side, is murdered by him when he throws her off the roof garden of Parliament, even though she professes her love for him and tries to reassure him of her loyalty.

What Season Two has in store for Zoe Barnes remains to be seen. Underwood has personally murdered a conflicted Representative, Peter Russo of Pennsylvania, who was a loose cannon in Spacey's plans. He murders him as coldly as he killed an injured dog in the first episode, ostensively to put it out of its misery, but also because he seems to enjoy killing as an expression of his power. As with a character from the British series, Russo's drug and drinking problems become a threat to Underwood. Season One's last episode has Zoe Barnes suddenly realizing that Spacey and his Stamper fixer-aide might have been behind a lot of the nasty stuff.

At this point, I think the American version of HOC will do to the Democrats what it's alleged the British series did to the Tories. To date, all the protagonists in it are progressive Democrats pushing welfare state, environmental, and fascist economic programs (business/government development partnerships). And they're all pragmatic, compromising, malleable villains, if not conspirators against the president or other politicos.

This is how American TV series and movies usually smear the Republicans or anyone else who opposes the Democratic agenda or Progressivism. Since 9/11, Hollywood has churned out over a dozen anti-American movies. Usually the uncaring, cruel, and nasty villains are Republicans. So, if Season Two of the series continues (it's "in development"), and remains an adumbrated replicant of the British series, the Democrats will be painted in blacker terms than anyone could ever have imagined. No "right-wing" weblog or newspaper or magazine could do a more thorough job of it than has "House of Cards."

And unless the series departs from the British model, there is a question of how another thirteen episodes of it can be stretched out to the climax. The British series ends (in "The Final Cut") with a triumphant Urqhart riding to Buckingham Palace as the new Prime Minister. He has forced the King to abdicate, and has vanquished all his enemies, in the Party and out of it. And he doesn't look in the least troubled by his crimes, which were committed wholesale.

So, as a prediction, it's likely that Frank Underwood will manipulate his way the White House at the end of the American version. He is a consummate manipulator and string-puller. Please excuse the speculation. It can't be helped. Democrats are like that. Look at President Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton. Their political and personal careers could be dramatized just as well as Frank Underwood's, with the focus on the darker chapters of their rise to power. Which means everything about them.

The only "anti-capitalist" elements in the American version are Claire Underwood's foundation, "Clean Water Initiative (CWI), a billionaire who somehow owns a lot of nuclear power plants, and some natural gas conglomerate, the latter two entities intimately tied to the president and to the plot and the competition for government favors. But I suppose that if you were going to indict the Democrats, you would need a couple of "private" interests lobbying for those favors (a la Orren Boyle's Associated Steel Company in Atlas Shrugged). The Republicans could also be indicted for the same practice. But in Spacey's "House of Cards," all stops are pulled and the indictment is merciless.

However, if the series does take a noticeable turn away from the British model, it could only mean that the producers were lectured to or warned by the White House and the DNC and other parties to "cool it," and find some other villains to pick on.

I have never liked Kevin Spacey as an actor. In his past hits, such as American Beauty (1999) and L.A. Confidential (1997), his cynical, sneering mien was less developed but no less repellant than it is in "House of Cards." It never goes away, just as the malevolent masculinity of Robert Mitchum never left him even when he played good guys (and he perfected that attribute as the menacing, nihilist villain Max Cady in Cape Fear, 1962). But, here is the paradox: Spacey is a Hollywood liberal. He is a close friend of Bill Clinton, once calling him "one of the shining lights of the political process." He is friends with Hugo Chavez, the Marxist Venezuelan dictator. According to Wikipedia, he has contributed over $42,000 to Democratic candidates and committees.

So, why has he produced a series that damns the Democrats, and, by implication, the Progressive agenda to turn the U.S. into a welfare state and the government into a "soft" fascist régime? If Netflix is right and the series becomes a hit, the Democrats may become a permanent dart board for anyone who doubts the propriety of the "democratic" (read "populist" or "statist") process. In 2010, Spacey said that broadcasters should carry "legitimate" political adsfor free during election periods. Who would decide which ads are "legitimate" and which or not, he does not say. We already have a Federal Election Committee that does that. Spacey was asked by Wolf Blitzerabout his predilection for political movies:

Emmy award-winning actor Kevin Spacey, star of the new film Casino Jack, says he blames television networks “to some degree” for lobbyist influence on the political process. He says television networks should run legitimate political ads "for free" as a public service.

“Well, I think you have to separate the idea of that what lobbyists can do is be an informational conduit for Congressman and Senators to understand specific bills and specific issues in other countries but at the same time, I think that there is no doubt that the amount of influence and power and money dampens the political process. I think it discourages people from public office,” he told at the E Street Cinema before the Washington screening of the film sponsored by the Creative Coalition.

In a Hollywood Reporter interview, he said:

Spacey: "The lobbying industry and what it has done in terms of Washington politics, and Casino Jack (and Recount about the Gore-Bush issue in the Florida vote count of 2000)…I'm very driven by the opportunity to examine current situations and current things happening in the world…. I think these are very important subjects for us to understand and see how we got where we are and if we can make it better than it is…."

Interviewer: "And reality is almost as outrageous as art, you can't even make this stuff up half the time."

Spacey: "You're right. I would go back to the hotel in Baltimore where we were shooting the first season, and I'd watch the news at night, this last election cycle… and I'd think, our story lines are not that crazy."

Crazy as a fox? Or just plain crazy? We won't know the answer to this paradox until Season Two of "House of Cards" is aired (or live-streamed on computers). After all, Spacey, Fincher and the scriptwriters could have easily remained more faithful to the purpose of the British version, which was to repudiate Thatcher and her policies, and instead targeted the Republicans for political and dramatic excoriation. It wouldn't have taken much in the script or in the characterizations.

If Spacey is accusing the lobbying industry of being venal, conspiratorial, and corrupting, he should know that it takes two to tango. If Congressmen and Cabinet heads and bureaucrats weren't so venal, conspiratorial, and corruptible, he would have no complaint.

He could go back to the live stage and give Ian Richardson a run for his money in Macbeth or Richard the Third.

Otherwise, go figure.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Al Gore, Al Jazeera, and the Gray Lady

The New York Times isn't called The Gray Lady for nothing. It has entered its 162ndyear of publication. Despite its falling daily circulation that hovers tenuously around one million, it is still regarded as the nation's "newspaper of record." It boasts a monthly tally of thirty million "visitors" to its online version. "Visitors," however, does not necessarily translate into "readers." Once the most widely read paper in the nation, today it follows USA Today and The Wall Street Journal in circulation.

In the 19th century, it was largely a Republican paper, until it turned "independent."

The Times' record of reporting "all the news that's fit to print" is not immaculate. Its offences are legion. Too often it was charged with fitting the news to conform to the paper's growing partiality for collectivist ideologies. Today, it is more or less notorious for it. Its crimes of commission include the Walter Durantyseries of articlesin 1931 that omitted mention of the Soviet government's engineered campaign of starvation in the Ukraine, which claimed millions of lives, but for which Duranty received a Pulitzer Prize. In 2001, it was revealed that before, during and even after World War II, the paper "minimized" reports of the Nazi genocideof Jews by briefly mentioning the atrocities in stories buried deep inside its pages.

There were the Pentagon Papers in 1971, which revealed U.S. military strategy in Vietnam, a war it opposed vociferously in tune with the anti-war and anti-America mantra of the Left. There was Jayson Blair, a reporter who was caught plagiarizing other newspapers and falsifying facts and whom the Times had hired to prove its commitment to affirmative action. The paper reproduced exclusively the prosecution's perspective in the Duke University/lacrosse rape case.

Finally, the paper has adopted an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian policy that colors every bit of its news reportage, and not just in its editorializing.

More recently, it has become a kind of publicist for the anti-wealth and anti-freedom complaints of the likes of Occupy Wall Street, running an article that condemned the Constitution, whose writer, Georgetown University constitutional law professor Louis Michael Seidman, called the document "archaic" and "idiosyncratic" and said contained "downright evil provisions." As though that weren't enough, it has applauded the purchase of Al Gore's failed propaganda outlet, Current TV, by Al Jazeera, the Muslim Brotherhood's propaganda outlet.

The Times acted as point-man in a libel case,New York Times Co. vs. Sullivan, that involved the number of times Martin Luther King, Jr. had been arrested in Alabama by the state police as reported by the Times, and by implication, it was charged with defaming the character of Montgomery police supervisor L.B. Sullivan. The case went to the Supreme Court in 1964. Citing the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Court held that the Times could not be sued for defamation of character because no malice was intended.

Factual error, content defamatory of official reputation, or both, are insufficient to warrant an award of damages for false statements unless "actual malice" --knowledge that statements are false or in reckless disregard of the truth -- is alleged and proved….

In short, the Court, in overturning an Alabama Supreme Court finding, ruled that malice could not be proven because no one can get inside a reporter's head to prove that he had malicious intent.

The evidence was constitutionally insufficient to support the judgment for respondent, since it failed to support a finding that the statements were made with actual malice or that they related to respondent.

Let's try to get inside the Times' collective policy head and try to grasp why its policymakers would, on one hand, condone a condemnation of the Constitution, and on the other, applaud the establishment of an Islamistpropaganda medium in this country. Let us try to see what "malicious intent" looks like.

In the Constitution article, the Times implicitly and in agreement repudiates the Supreme Court's Sullivan decision that the paper is protected by the First Amendment, which its author disputes has anything to do with freedom of speech and of the press. The Times ran the article without a proviso that it did not necessarily agree with Seidman's statements.

In his December 30th article, "Let's Give Up on the Constitution," Seidman provides us with a fantasy scenario linked to the "fiscal cliff" gridlock in Congress and serves as the premise of his whole article:

Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?

This is hypothesizing one would find in supermarket tabloids. All it lacks are Photoshopped pictures of the Founders hassling Obama in the Oval Office. It's time travel without the CGI.

Concerned that his fantasy might be taken out of context, Seidman attempts to provide a context.

Constitutional disobedience may seem radical, but it is as old as the Republic. In fact, the Constitution itself was born of constitutional disobedience. When George Washington and the other framers went to Philadelphia in 1787, they were instructed to suggest amendments to the Articles of Confederation, which would have had to be ratified by the legislatures of all 13 states. Instead, in violation of their mandate, they abandoned the Articles, wrote a new Constitution and provided that it would take effect after ratification by only nine states, and by conventions in those states rather than the state legislatures.

Seidman provides other contextless examples, as well, citing John Adams supporting the Alien and Sedition Acts, Jefferson's notion that every constitution should expire after a single generation, his Louisiana Purchase, and other instances of presidents exceeding their constitutional authority, in addition to some Supreme Court decisions he alleges go contrary to the Constitution.

In the face of this long history of disobedience, it is hard to take seriously the claim by the Constitution’s defenders that we would be reduced to a Hobbesian state of nature if we asserted our freedom from this ancient text. Our sometimes flagrant disregard of the Constitution has not produced chaos or totalitarianism; on the contrary, it has helped us to grow and prosper.

So, because the Constitution was ignored, contradicted, or usurped in the past, we may as well scrap it and begin anew, fabricating a "compact" that answers the needs of our modern times. His reference to Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan, a 17th century political tract that sanctions strong or authoritarian central governments, is evidence of Seidman's superficial grasp of our current situation. The federal government is assuredly on the road to a totalitarianism of the Fascist/Marxist kind, and at present the bewildering forest of laws, regulations, prohibitions, mandates, and powers has produced a chaos not easily mastered even by the most knowledgeable statist or informed politician.

Seidman then expresses a concern that by discarding the document that has so far haltingly guaranteed certain liberties, we shouldn't see the negation of those liberties:

This is not to say that we should disobey all constitutional commands. Freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws and protections against governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property are important, whether or not they are in the Constitution. We should continue to follow those requirements out of respect, not obligation.

You must wonder what Seidman imagines would protect freedom of speech, life, liberty, and property if there were no Constitutional restraints on what a government may or may not do. What "respect" have a succession of administrations and Congresses shown for them even with the Constitution? When has the New York Times ever shown "respect" for them? What dictator or tyrant has shown "respect" for them in the absence of such a Constitution? Without a codified set of defined liberties and enumerated powers that a government may not exceed, none of these liberties could be guaranteed or save from obviation.

Seidman begins to let his cat out of the bag.

And as we see now, the failure of the Congress and the White House to agree has already destabilized the country. Countries like Britain and New Zealand have systems of parliamentary supremacy and no written constitution, but are held together by longstanding traditions, accepted modes of procedure and engaged citizens. We, too, could draw on these resources.

So, we should model ourselves after countries that are full-fledged welfare states with no governmental restraints on what they can do for the "general welfare"?

Seidman endorses the linguistic analysis, subjectivist notion that the words in the Constitution (as well as in the Declaration of Independence) have no relevance to today's collectivist spirit and yearnings, that they can be stretched or "interpreted" to mean anything anyone wishes them to mean, and that obedience is the highest virtue a citizen can aspire to. After referring to the Constitution as a "poetic piece of parchment," and cautioning that "No one can predict in detail what our system of government would look like if we freed ourselves from the shackles of constitutional obligation," he writes:

If we acknowledged what should be obvious — that much constitutional language is broad enough to encompass an almost infinitely wide range of positions — we might have a very different attitude about the obligation to obey. It would become apparent that people who disagree with us about the Constitution are not violating a sacred text or our core commitments. Instead, we are all invoking a common vocabulary to express aspirations that, at the broadest level, everyone can embrace. [Italics mine]

Words have no absolute meanings, but obedienceis an absolute obligation not to be questioned. And it can be predicted what our system of government would look like sansthe shackles of constitutional obligation: authoritarian, and too likely, totalitarian. No checks and balances, no referenda, no debates, no discussions, no escape, mercy at the whim of a tyrant, and fiat law that would produce a chaos which a régime would answer with more controls and exact more stringent obedience on the part of the enslaved. The end result would be firing squads and concentration camps and a lottery of death.

After all, pleads Seidman:

If we are not to abandon constitutionalism entirely, then we might at least understand it as a place for discussion, a demand that we make a good-faith effort to understand the views of others, rather than as a tool to force others to give up their moral and political judgments.

How does adherence to the Constitution "force others to give up their moral and political judgments"? It doesn't, or shouldn't, force liberals, leftists, fascists, and Marxists to give up their political judgments. What it does – or should do – is prevent themfrom forcing their judgments on the rest of us. The federal government, however, has been forcing their judgments on the rest of us for well over a century. Freedom from "constitutional bondage," concludes Seidman, would allow us to "give real freedom a chance."

Whose freedom? That of the statists, collectivists, and others who would be free to lock everyone into a single barracks for indentured servants? All 20thcentury tyrants have imposed dictatorial régimes as a means of granting themselves the freedom to act.

Hello, Mr. Seidman? Anybody home? Are you asking for an American version of Hitler's EnablingAct of 1933? His was passed by the Reichstag in an opera house. I think the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts would also be a perfect venue to vote ourselves into a dictatorship. Don’t you agree? The New York Times certainly would.

Let us now turn to the Times' newly discovered TV station, Al Jazeera, which also broadcasts "all the news that fits." Fits what?

Lest anyone think that Al Gore doesn’t believe in free enterprise, BloombergNews has a shock in store for you:

The deal highlights Gore’s makeover from career politician to successful businessman. His take from the Current TV sale is many times the maximum net worth of $1.7 million he reported while running for president in 1999. Besides investing in startups, Gore is on the board of Apple Inc., an adviser to Google Inc., according to his website biography, and a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield& Byers. Gore’s holdings also include investments in Inc., EBay Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. through his Generation Investment Management LLP.

Most of Gore’s investments are made through Generation Investment Management, which he co-founded with former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive David Blood. The most recent regulatory filing lists about $3.6 billion under management in 29 publicly traded companies. In addition, Generation Investment Management also has stakes in private ventures such as Nest Labs, a company formed by Apple Inc. alumni to create a thermostat that adapts to user behavior and saves money. The fund also backed Elon Musk’s SolarCity Corp. (SCTY), a developer of rooftop solar power systems that went public last month.

In April, Gore’s fund was part of $110 million in venture capital invested in Harvest Power Inc., a closely held company that produces renewable energy from waste such as food scraps.

Gore can only strut as a "successful businessman" if the government subsidizes these companies, or passes legislation forcing everyone else to patronize them. So rich a man as Gore, in these times, can only "profit" if he's a member of what Ayn Rand called an "aristocracy of pull."

Forbesnotes further that Gore is also tax-savvy.

Regardless of whether one lauds or criticizes Mr. Gore’s actions in the sale to Al Jazeera, he is likely to pay U.S. taxes influenced in part by the fiscal cliff deal. Current TV has $41.4 million in debt and preferred holders with first dibs on $99.5 million, according to a 2008 regulatory filing. Current TV appears to be an LLC, and that will help Mr. Gore enormously.

How will Mr. Gore and his compatriots do? Initially named INdTV Holdings, the Current TV LLC was founded in 2002 by Mr. Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt. They appear to be shrewd investors. The LLC should facilitate a single tax on the deal, not the two taxes common to more established businesses. LLCs are taxreporting entities but the members pay tax on their share.

If Mr. Gore and other members sell their interests, their own tax basis in their interests will count. But whether Al Jazeera is buying assets from Current TV or membership interests from Mr. Gore and others, this should be a nice single-tax payday. Not every business seller is so lucky.

But, what about Al Jazeera?

Al Jazeera is a Qatar-funded "private" news organization that is acknowledged to be the propaganda vehicle for the Muslim Brotherhood. Having gained little or no traction in finding carriage or distribution in the U.S., it finally found a willing partner in Al Gore's insipid enterprise, Current TV. He has sold it to Al Jazeera for a reported $500 million, and will profit from the sale to the tune of $71 million. Al Jazeera's connections with the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism bother him not. WNDreported, on announcement of the sale:

Al Jazeera this week announced a plan to establish a new U.S. cable news channel, tentatively call Al Jazeera America, utilizing the purchase of Current TV. The Qatar-financed network is hoping to retain and even increase Current TV’s distribution rights in more than 40 million homes to broadcast its own new network.

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E. are also major funders of terrorism, and also of programs now installed in American public schools to persuade students of the "benign" nature of totalitarian Islam. Gore failed to brainwash the world with his An Inconvenient Truth, although he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his failure, just as President Barack Obama was. But he found another way to skin the cat.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, rose to fame in the Arab world after Al Jazeera gave him his a major platform. Many regard Qaradawi as the de facto spiritual leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi achieved star status because of his regular sermons and interviews on Al Jazeera.

Gore must know this. But the truth is inconvenient or irrelevant and he'd rather not think about it.

Al Jazeera was founded with financing from the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who previously served as the network’s chairman. The network is still financed largely from Qatar, where its headquarters are located. The current chairman of Al Jazeera is Sheik Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, the Qatari emir’s cousin.

Keeping it in the family seems to be a theme shared by Al Jazeera and Current TV. About Current TV, Bloomberg News reported that:

The network's investors included funds controlled by Los Angeles billionaire Ron Bruce Burkett and San Francisco money manager Richard Blum, according to the 2008 filing, when the company unsuccessfully sought to sell stock to the public. Blum is married to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from San Francisco.

But, back to Qatar.

The Qatar Foundation International, or QFI, a nonprofit group financed by the government of Qatar, last year gave Harlem’s Hamilton Heights, a K-5 public school, a $250,000 grant to support the Arabic program for three years….

In addition to the Harlem school, WND found that QFI just awarded “Curriculum Grants” to seven U.S. schools and language organizations to “develop comprehensive and innovative curricula and teaching materials to be used in any Arabic language classroom.” The schools include Bell High School, a Los Angeles public school, and Safford K-8in Arizona’s Tucson Unified School District.

And, here's that family connection again:

QFI, based in Washington, D.C., is the U.S. branch of the Qatar Foundation, founded in 1995 by Qatari ruling emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Al Jazeera founder. Thani is still the group’s vice-chairman, while his wife, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairs the organization’s board.

Why would Qatar be funding Arabic language programs in American schools? Why, to better enable students to read the Koranand its companion texts in the original tongue. It's fairly common knowledge among "Islamophobes" and other critics of Islam that what Islamic spokesmen say publically in English is quite the opposite of what they say in Arabic. This practice is called taqiyyaor Islamic double-speak. If an Islamic supremacist publically offers Israel or Obama or the West an olive branch, in private, behind doors closed to the MSM, it says it is offering a slave collar to infidels and a beheading sword to Jews.

WND reports further:

In January 2012, the foundation launched the Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics under the guidance of Tariq Ramadan, who serves as the center’s director. Ramadan is the grandson of the notorious founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al Banna. Ramadan was banned from the U.S. until 2010 when the Obama administration issued him a visa to give a lecture at a New York school.

It isn't just the Brotherhood that is offering us slave collars and beheading swords. It is our own President. And, don't wonder where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got her news about what was happening around the world and a clue about how to formulate her own dismal and failed policies. The New York Post had this interesting tidbitabout the popularity of Al Jazeera in the administration:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee last March that viewership of Al-Jazeera is going up in the US“because it’s real news.”

“You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news, which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners,” Clinton said.

The New York Times practically drools over the prospect of an Islamic propaganda machine "competing" with the MSM, although the MSM hasn’t done too badly acting as Obama's de factoMinistry of Truth. Only, it isn't a Brotherhood-connected propaganda machine. It's just another news outlet that will help bring "truth" to the American viewing public. Qatar is mentioned in its report, "Al Jazeera English Finds an Audience" (January 31st, 2011), but no mention of that oil fiefdom's links to funding terrorism. Praising Al Jazeera during the protests in 2011 against President Hosni Mubarak, it noted:

Al Jazeera English, however, is indisputably unique. In recent days, the channel, an offshoot of the main Arabic-language Al Jazeera, has gained attention for its up-close, around-the-clock coverage of the protests in Cairo, Alexandria, sues, and other cities in Egypt.

Al Jazeera is "unique," without a doubt. It is the Brotherhood's propaganda outlet. The Times, guilty itself of recasting "facts" to fit its political proclivities and ignoring genuine facts that don't fit, can no longer distinguish between news and propaganda, thus explaining why it would applaud the debut of Al Jazeera in the U.S.

Mr. Gore demonstrated just how good a businessman he is. He sold his pitiful investment to an Islamic propaganda machine for more money than it was worth, because it had "journalistic muscle" and the money – read oil money –to compete with American news channels. In its January 2nd article on the pending sale, "Al Jazeera Seeks a U.S. Voice Where Gore Failed," the Times wrote:

Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab news giant, has long tried to convince Americans that it is a legitimate news organization, not a parrot of Middle Eastern propaganda or something more sinister. It just bought itself 40 million more chances to make its case.

Al Jazeera on Wednesday announced a deal to take over Current TV, the low-rated cable channel that was founded by Al Gore, a former vice president, and his business partners seven years ago. Al Jazeera plans to shut Current and start an English-language channel, which will be available in more than 40 million homes, with newscasts emanating from both New York and Doha, Qatar….

A decade ago, Al Jazeera’s flagship Arabic-language channel was reviled by American politicians for showing videotapes from Al Qaeda members and sympathizers. Now the news operation is buying an American channel, having convinced Mr. Gore and the other owners of Current that it has the journalistic muscle and the money to compete head-to-head with CNN and other news channels in the United States.

Well, there will be no more vilification of Herr Goebbels' – excuse me, Mr. Gore's –money moxie, nor of Al Jazeera, because it will have achieved "respectability" as a legitimate news outlet in the U.S.

Going forward, the challenge will be persuading Americans to watch — an extremely tough proposition given the crowded television marketplace and the stereotypes about the channel that persist to this day. “There are still people who will not watch it, who will say that it’s a ‘terrorist network,’ ” said Philip Seib, the author of The Al Jazeera Effect. Al Jazeera has to override that by providing quality news.”

Itwill be a challenge. Americans are already saddled with the MSM, which many no longer trust for objective news reporting, and sense are heavily biased and serve as the government's journalistic poodle on one hand and a pit bull on the other. The MSM are considered by many to be the collective mouthpiece of too many collectivist agendas that will affect their lives, wealth, standard of living, and future. They'd rather get their news from Internet weblogs and live-stream Internet channels. Still, oblivious to the trends, the New York Times plods on.

Al Jazeera, which has bureaus in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago, intends to open several more in other American cities. “There’s a major hole right now that Al Jazeera can fill. And that is providing an alternative viewpoint to domestic news, which is very parochial,” said Cathy Rasenberger, a cable consultant who has worked with Al Jazeera on distribution issues in the past. However, she warned, “there is a limited amount of interest in international news in the United States.”

Nowhere in this article, either, is there mention of Al Jazeera's terrorist connections, no hint of the propaganda character of its Islamic origins and purposes, no suggestion that Al Gore, an anti-wealth ex-politician and the Chicken Little of global warming, is going to make a questionable, hypocritical, and national security-violating bundle from the deal. Not a word of any of that is remarked on by the New York Times.

The New York Times has grown as maliciously senile and useless as the radicals and left-wing demonstrators from the 1960's and 1970's who chanted and shouted during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations to show their "solidarity" with the new generation of fascists and Marxists. It abandoned honest, objective journalism decades ago.

Perhaps it's time for it to consider voluntary retirement. It is no longer fit to read.