Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS, née Roberts, the longest-serving Prime Minister of Great Britain of the 20th century died today of a stroke at age 87.
Thatcher reversed the course of Britain’s economic stagnation and decline, ending the long post-war reign of Socialism over Britain. Unfortunately, like her American counterpart Ronald Reagan, she failed to leave behind a worthy successor, and Labour was able to regain power and resume its work of destroying Britain’s culture, economy, civilization, and traditions.
Bret Stephens remembers Michael Kelly, the American journalist killed ten years ago south of Baghdad Airport, traveling embedded with the US Army’s Third Division. His jeep came under enemy fire, and the driver lost control while trying to evade and went into a canal. Kelly drowned along with his driver, becoming the first American journalist to lose his life during the war.
Wouldn’t you know that it would be a reporter like Kelly who got killed, not one of the usual verminous breed?
Kelly treated a column as a sword, the obvious and most worthy purpose of which was to stab, slice, decapitate and—once he really got going—utterly disembowel the objects of his contempt.
Which objects? The pompous, the dishonest, the phony, the self-satisfied, the morally safe and smug, the debauched, the downright evil. To speak more precisely: Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Frank Sinatra, Mr. Gore again, the news media in general, Ted Kennedy, Yasser Arafat. And, of course, Hollywood, which pretty much exemplified all the above-mentioned qualities.
Kelly didn’t just deride these people and institutions. Before he could skewer them, he had to capture them. Writing about Oscar night, he catches Jack Nicholson “leering and sprawling paunchily in his ringside chair like an especially dissolute pasha waiting for his next lap dance.” From an early profile of Bill Clinton: “When he spoke, perception was not only reality. It was a reality that changed, quicksilver quick, from eye to eye and ear to ear.” Of one of Mr. Gore’s debate performances against George W. Bush: “It was much like the most infuriating of all husbandly marital-argument tactics. You know the one—where you play the part of the patient but pained party in the obvious right, too much a gentleman to say that your wife is spewing pure rubbish, but communicating utter contempt through creative breathing.”
Reading Kelly, I used to wonder: Did his power of observation explain his moral judgments, or was it the other way around? Usually (though few of us columnists will admit it), we make our judgments and then find our evidence. I don’t think this was true of Kelly: He was like a man born with a preternatural sense of smell. He couldn’t help smelling it. And he could smell it from a mile away.
Take his view of Frank Sinatra. Everyone loved Old Blue Eyes and mourned him when he died in 1998. Everyone except Michael Kelly.
Kelly hated Frank because Frank had invented Cool, and Cool had replaced Smart. What was Smart? It was Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca: “He possesses an outward cynicism, but at his core he is a square. . . . He is willing to die for his beliefs, and his beliefs are, although he takes pains to hide it, old-fashioned. He believes in truth, justice, the American way, and love. . . . When there is a war, he goes to it. . . . He may be world weary, but he is not ironic.”
Cool was something else. “Cool said the old values were for suckers. . . . Cool didn’t go to war; Saps went to war, and anyway, cool had no beliefs he was willing to die for. Cool never, ever, got in a fight it might lose; cool had friends who could take care of that sort of thing.”
It never, ever would have occurred to me to make the distinction until I read Kelly’s column. And then I understood Sinatra. And then I understood Kelly, too.
Kelly, who was killed 10 years ago as an embedded journalist just outside of Baghdad, was Smart. When the war came, he, too, went to it. Few columnists in America had argued as passionately, and none as cogently, for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
“To march against the war is not to give peace a chance,” he wrote six weeks before his death. “It is to give tyranny a chance.”
Renowned British cat burglar Peter Scott warned the Telegraph in 1994 that he would consider it “a massive disappointment” if his passing were to be overlooked by its obituary writing staff. The Telegraph did not disappoint him.
Scott stole jewels, furs and artworks worth more than £30 million. He held none of his victims in great esteem (“upper-class prats chattering in monosyllables”). The roll-call of “marks” from whom he claimed to have stolen valuables included Zsa Zsa Gabor, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Sophia Loren, Maria Callas and the gambling club and zoo owner John Aspinall. “Robbing that bastard Aspinall was one of my favourites,” he recollected. “Sophia Loren got what she deserved too.”
Scott stole a £200,000 necklace from the Italian star when she was in Britain filming The Millionairess in 1960. Billed in the newspapers as Britain’s biggest jewellery theft, it yielded Scott £30,000 from a “fence”. After Miss Loren had pointed at him on television saying: “I come from a long line of gipsies. You will have no luck,” Scott lost every penny in the Palm Beach Casino at Cannes.
In the 1950s and 1960s he pinpointed his targets by perusing the society columns in the Daily Mail and Daily Express. Nor did he ease up with the approach of middle-age; in the 1980s he was still scaling walls and drainpipes. In one Bond Street caper alone he stole jewellery worth £1.5 million, and in 1985 he was jailed for four years. On his release he expanded his social horizons by becoming a celebrity “tennis bum”, a racquet for hire at a smart London club where — as he put it in his autobiography — he coached still more potential “rich prats”.
By the mid-1990s, Scott had served 12 years in prison in the course of half a dozen separate stretches, and claimed to have laid down his “cane” [jemmy] and retired from a life of crime.
But in 1998 he was jailed for another three and a half years for handling, following the theft of Picasso’s Tête de Femme from the Lefevre Gallery in Mayfair the year before. To the impassive detectives who arrested him, Scott quoted a line from WE Henley: “Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed.” He often drew on literary allusions, quoting Confucius, Oscar Wilde and Proust.
Scott was also a past-master in self-justification of his crimes and misdemeanours: “The people I burgled got rich by greed and skulduggery. They indulged in the mechanics of ostentation — they deserved me and I deserved them. If I rob Ivana Trump, it is just a meeting of two different kinds of degeneracy on a dark rooftop.”
In his memoirs, Gentleman Thief (1995), Scott admitted to an even stronger motivation than fear as he contemplated another “job”: “Even now, after 30 years, it was a sexual thrill.” There was the additional satisfaction in his assumption that the millions reading about his exploits in the papers were silently cheering him on.
the late Harry Stamps with unknown woman. (His sister-in-law, Betty Williams, writes to explain that the photo shows Harry with his wife of 50 years photographed together after the destruction of their home by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.)
The obituary of Harry Stamps, written by his daughter Amanda for the Gulfport Mississippi Sun-Herald, is being linked everywhere and is widely described “as the best obituary ever.”
Harry Weathersby Stamps, ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Harry was locally sourcing his food years before chefs in California starting using cilantro and arugula (both of which he hated). For his signature bacon and tomato sandwich, he procured 100% all white Bunny Bread from Georgia, Blue Plate mayonnaise from New Orleans, Sauer’s black pepper from Virginia, home grown tomatoes from outside Oxford, and Tennessee’s Benton bacon from his bacon-of-the-month subscription. As a point of pride, he purported to remember every meal he had eaten in his 80 years of life.
The women in his life were numerous. He particularly fancied smart women….
He had a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna [Vi-e-na] sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens, and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread.
He excelled at growing camellias, rebuilding houses after hurricanes, rocking, eradicating mole crickets from his front yard, composting pine needles, living within his means, outsmarting squirrels, never losing a game of competitive sickness, and reading any history book he could get his hands on. He loved to use his oversized “old man” remote control, which thankfully survived Hurricane Katrina, to flip between watching The Barefoot Contessa and anything on The History Channel. He took extreme pride in his two grandchildren Harper Lewis (8) and William Stamps Lewis (6) of Dallas for whom he would crow like a rooster on their phone calls. As a former government and sociology professor for Gulf Coast Community College, Harry was thoroughly interested in politics and religion and enjoyed watching politicians act like preachers and preachers act like politicians. He was fond of saying a phrase he coined “I am not running for political office or trying to get married” when he was “speaking the truth.” He also took pride in his service during the Korean conflict, serving the rank of corporal—just like Napolean, as he would say.
Harry took fashion cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom, his black-label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at the Sam’s on Highway 49, and a pair of old school Wallabees (who can even remember where he got those?) that were always paired with a grass-stained MSU baseball cap.
Harry traveled extensively. He only stayed in the finest quality AAA-rated campgrounds, his favorite being Indian Creek outside Cherokee, North Carolina. He always spent the extra money to upgrade to a creek view for his tent. Many years later he purchased a used pop-up camper for his family to travel in style, which spoiled his daughters for life.
He despised phonies, his 1969 Volvo (which he also loved), know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words “veranda” and “porte cochere” to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and Martha Stewart. In reverse order. He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil’s Time. It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest.
One journalist reckoned that if Munden had been at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26 1881, the gunfight would have been over in 5 to 10 seconds. He could whip out his Colt .45 single action revolver (as used by John Wayne), shoot a target and replace the gun in his holster in .0175 seconds, and over his lifetime he won more than 3500 trophies, 800 championship titles and bagged 18 world records in speed-shooting.
Munden’s accuracy was deadly. He could burst two balloons six feet apart in what sounded like a single shot and split playing cards — edgeways. He might not have been quite as fast as the French cartoon character “Lucky Luke”, the cowboy who could “draw faster than his shadow”, but Munden’s audiences sometimes needed slow-motion action replay to convince them that what they had just seen was not a trick.
Munden was so fast that it was generally agreed that he could draw and easily shoot down an adversary holding a gun on him every time. In fact, Munden was so fast that he could have drawn his gun from his holster and shot down an opponent who was actually in the process of pulling the trigger. The other guy would still have lost.
Walter Olson argues that Judge Bork lost the battle for his own Supreme Court Confirmation but, while the liberals weren’t noticing, has been winning the war of constitutional interpretation on behalf of fideism.
[T]he confirmation critique that makes it into every Bork obituary [is] Ted Kennedy’s blowhard caricature, intended for northern liberal consumption, of “Robert Bork’s America” as “a land in which women would be forced into back alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, school children could not be taught about evolution,” and so on.
Never in memory had a judicial nomination been fought in such language. Why?
As a constitutional law scholar, Bork had distinguished himself even among conservatives for his scathing critique of the Warren Court, which he accused essentially of having made up constitutional law as it went along. ...
Within a few years, presidents of both parties were taking care to pick nominees with schmoozy as opposed to prickly personalities — and willing to submit to coaching on how to give off that oh-so-important empathetic vibe without actually committing to anything.
Ideologically predictable though some of these folks might be, they lacked the intellectual heft and daring paper trail of a Richard Epstein on the right, a Cass Sunstein on the left or a Richard Posner somewhere in between. ...
But with regard to the Warren Court, it’s looking as if he’ll have the last laugh. Obama’s high court nominees are just as eager as George W. Bush’s to decry the practice of making up the constitution as one goes along, while “liberal originalism,” which takes seriously the insistence of critics like Bork that judges must adhere to what’s actually in the founding document, is making headway among scholars at places like Yale Law School.
Not such a bad legacy.
David Frum also remembered the distinguished jurist as a man who believed in personal modesty and who exercised official responsibility with objectivity and restraint.
Pessimistic as he was, however, Robert Bork was in no way bitter or angry. “Mordant” is the word I think I want to describe his conversation. His bleak assessment of his fellow human creatures was based upon hard experience. He was used to hearing his ideas distorted, and his best actions distorted and vilified. Before his nomination to the Supreme Court, Bork was best known as the man who fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Bork’s two immediate superiors in the Department of Justice had resigned rather than execute the presidential order. Bork didn’t approve the order any more than the others did. But he also understood that the order was a legal one, and that somebody sooner or later was going to have to carry it out. This unpleasant duty had to be done, and since it had to be done, Bork’s sense of responsibility required him to do it.
The whole domain of law and judging was bounded, in Bork’s view, by a like sense of responsibility. Laywers and judges, as he saw it, were not knight-errant righters of wrong, not freelance agents of abstract justice, but fallible people no wiser than anyone else, entrusted only with certain defined powers to settle certain kinds of disputes. Those judges who claimed greater power received more applause than Robert Bork ever drew, but they did not deserve. Their actions were power-grabbing and their motives were arrogant. Bork made this case powerfully and vividly in the best book of his later years, Coercing Virtue.
Dan Greenfield turns out another brilliant essay as a better epitaph than New York’s long-time alternative newspaper really deserves.
The passing of the Village Voice, its thick greasy pages smudged with desperate cries for attention in between glossy cigarette ads and phone sex ads, also coincides with the passing of the bohemian nature of the East Village, now little more than tall glowering condos and coffee shops. To those residents who showed up there in the 70’s and 80’s bearing art school portfolios and a burning desire to be part of the “Scene”, it’s one more triumph of the capitalist running dogs over the “People”.
But the real reason that the Village Voice is dead is because the alternative media is dead and the alternative media is dead because there is nothing for it to be an alternative to. New Yorkers can just as easily read shrill rants about the NYPD in the Daily News, pretentious movie reviews for artsy films at The Onion and leftist denunciations of the War on Terror in the New York Times.
The way that the Village Voice used to cover Republicans is now the way that every media outlet, but the handful that aren’t part of the liberal collective, covers Republicans. Every mainstream media outlet is opposed to fighting terrorism, opposed to the police and opposed to any notion of balance in reporting. And every outlet is churning out the same tired 24/7 coverage of something provocative a Republican allegedly said because every outlet wants to be the Village Voice, the ink-stained pamphleteer on the corner screaming about capitalist pigs before heading off to a concert at CBGB’s, also as dead as the Village Voice and the rest of the East Village.
Newsweek, once the paragon of middlebrow inoffensiveness, now does the kind of covers that the Village Voice used to do. It still hasn’t run a picture of Bush drinking the blood out of the green neck of the Statue of Liberty, but, if Romney wins, you can expect that as the March cover. And by then even that might be considered tame.
If anyone deserves credit for killing the Village Voice, it’s George W. Bush, who was its unwitting cover boy more often than Obama has appeared on the cover of Essence. Under Bush the entire media became alternative and the alternative media became supplementary to requirements. When mainstream newspapers give positive reviews to books and movies that envision Bush’s assassination, cheerlead anti-war rallies run by militant Trotskyites and demand unilateral surrender in the War on Terror; what possible territory is left for the alternative media to explore?
All that was left for the alternative media was to run yet another profile of a new bar where people drink the tears of Ecuadoran children purchased through fair trade while looking at themselves doing it in video monitors as an artistic commentary on capitalism. And these days that’s what the internet is for.
Mike Blanchard’s “In Memoriam” notice from the Denver Post has gone viral internationally.
It was reported with appropriate admiration by Britain’s Daily Mail.
Charlie Martin added a bit more at the Daily Caller:
“What’s in the vial?”
According to lifelong friend Ron Remy, those were the first words he heard from Mike Blanchard when they met during high school.
“I was coming up the walk to his parents’ house when he came out, carrying a small vial, very carefully. He said it was nitroglycerin. He’d just cooked it up in his parents’ kitchen. We put it on a fence post and Mike shot it with a pellet gun, and it blew out a whole section of fence,” Remy said. “We all have these fantasies — but Mike would go out and just do it. I spent a year in Viet Nam, and some of the moments of stark terror I had with Mike eclipsed anything I saw there.” ...
Collecting stories from Flathead’s life, however, initially presented a small problem. “I’m not sure of the statute of limitations,” one of his friends said. After assuring them we’d protect our sources, the stories flowed like whiskey.
“We had friends who joined these ‘outlaw’ motorcycle clubs. We decided we’d have our own. We called it the ‘Dead Cats MC,’” said one of the attendees who had been worried about misdeeds recent enough to prosecute. ...
The stories Blanchard’s family and friends told certainly didn’t paint him as a boy scout. According to his friends, he was astonishingly intelligent and well read, with encyclopedic knowledge of Fords, guns, and explosives, but equally deep knowledge of European history and of prosaic topics like landscaping.
On the other hand, he had real difficulties with authority, and didn’t give in to social pressures — like hygiene.
“You could have drilled for oil in the leg of his jeans,” remembered one friend who wished to remain anonymous. ...
As his obituary noted, Blanchard was a life-long Republican and an NRA member. And according to another friend, he had what we might now charitably call “old-fashioned” attitudes about race.
His paintings are hanging in an estimated one of every 20 homes in the United States. Fans cite the warm, familiar feeling of his mass-produced works of art, while it has become fashionable for art critics to dismiss his pieces as tacky. In any event, his prints of idyllic cottages and bucolic garden gates helped establish a brand—famed for their painted highlights—not commonly seen in the art world.
“I’m a warrior for light,” Kinkade told the Mercury News in 2002, alluding not just to his technical skill at creating light on canvas but to the medieval practice of using light to symbolize the divine.
Art Critic Jerry Saltz did not have very kind words for the deceased or for his artistic pronouncements.
The reason the art world doesn’t love Kinkade isn’t that it hates love, life, goodness, or God. We may be silly or soulless or whatever, but we don’t automatically hate things with faith and love or that other people love. We’re not sociopaths. (Well, most of us aren’t.) The reason the art world doesn’t respond to Kinkade is because none — not one — of his ideas about subject-matter, surface, color, composition, touch, scale, form, or skill is remotely original. They’re all cliché and already told. This is why Kinkade’s pictures strike those in the art world as either prepackaged, ersatz, contrived, or cynical. Unoriginal rote things done in his perfectly conventional, balanced people-pleasing way produced these confected conglomerations of things people wanted to think they wanted to think about, democratic paintings whose meanings are hidden from no one, whose appeal is to not to vex or disturb, to produce doubt or newness. As Kinkade said, “I work to create images that project a serene simplicity that can be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone.” Joan Didion wrote that Kinkade’s pictures “typically feature a cottage or a house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire.”
Kinkade’s “serene simplicity” wasn’t limited to his ideas about imagery. They had everything to do with what Andy Warhol called “business art.” Kinkade was willing to go the full Warhol. He mass-produced his pictures, making prints and images painted by factories filled with assistants. A recent ad advertised “a Master Highlighter Event … an 8-hour personal stage appearance by a certified Thomas Kinkade Master Highlighter. At the event, a highlighter enhances images of the gallery’s choice.” Needless to say, these are the very things that artists like Kinkade, and of late David Hockney, have railed about when they’re done by Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, or Damien Hirst. In fact Kinkade makes Koons & Co. look like a boutique. After all, Jeff Koons never built his own gated communities in California, with houses and grounds in the likeness of his paintings, with starting prices at $425,000. (As for creating serenity, it’s often mentioned that Kinkade “has a long history of cursing and heckling other artists and performers … that he openly groped a woman’s breasts … and once relieved himself on a Winnie the Pooh figure while saying “This one’s for you, Walt.”
The constitutionality of Obamacare needs extreme assistance.
When professional spinners on the left like Peter J. Boyer start explaining why the Supreme Court’s killing of Obamacare would really be a good thing for Barack Obama’s reelection chances, you can kind of tell that the realization that the Supreme Court is not likely to rule their way has pretty well sunk in.
Apart from the fact that Republicans would lose their most animating issue in the presidential race, the overturning of the health-care reform law would free Obama of the burden of having to mount a broad defense of his health-care plan as a centerpiece of his campaign. The president, who can read polls, managed to absent himself from any public observance of the reform law’s second anniversary last week. A Supreme Court invalidation of the reform law’s individual mandate, the feature that Americans find most odious (PDF) would allow Obama to embrace the issue anew, focusing on those portions of the reform (such as the provision allowing families to keep their children on their policies until they reach the age of 26) that most people actually like. Obama’s Democratic allies, meanwhile, could hammer home the importance of deciding who will be making the next appointments to the Supreme Court.
——————— The Hill quoted a major liberal analyst, who was about as pessimistic on Obamacare’s chances as it’s possible to get.
Jeffrey Toobin, a lawyer and legal analyst, who writes about legal topics for The New Yorker said the law looked to be in “trouble.” He called it a “trainwreck for the Obama administration.”
“This law looks like it’s going to be struck down. I’m telling you, all of the predictions, including mine, that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong,” Toobin said Tuesday on CNN. “I think this law is in grave, grave trouble.
Toobin’s observation came on the second day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Earlier that day, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who could be the deciding vote on whether to uphold the law, told Solicitor General Donald Verrilli that there appeared to be a “very heavy burden of justification” on aspects of the law, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Toobin described Kennedy as “enormously skeptical” during the arguments Tuesday.
The Telegraph obituary of Lord St. John (pronounced “SinJin”) of Fawsley represents another classic of the genre, affectionately remembering the career of a delightfully flamboyant, yet reactionary, politician, wit, and scholar.
The Royal Fine Art Commission, of which he served three terms as chairman from 1985 to 1999, described itself as “the ultimate authority for consultation on matters of taste and aesthetics” — a remit which fitted Lord St John to perfection. Like Oscar Wilde, he put his genius into his life, affecting the flamboyant mannerisms of an Edwardian aesthete (proffering his hand in papal fashion, lapsing into Latin, deliberately mispronouncing modern words). At his Northamptonshire rectory he amassed an impressive collection of Victorian bric à brac and royal memorabilia, including photographs and mementos of the Royal family and a pair of Queen Victoria’s undergarments.
Irrepressible, witty and disarmingly immodest, Lord St John was an expert on much else besides aesthetics. In the 1990s, during the break-up of the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales, he became known for his frequent television appearances in which he would give the nation the benefit of his expertise on the attendant constitutional implications, a role in which he claimed extensive knowledge of the inner workings and private thoughts of the Royal family.
It was never entirely clear how much direct access he had, though he was certainly a great friend of Princess Margaret, whose framed likeness, prominently displayed behind him, graced many an official photograph. But that did not stop him assuring the nation that, for example, the young princes bore no grudge against Camilla Parker Bowles, or that the Prince of Wales was a loyal member of the Church of England with no intention of converting to Islam. When criticised for his willingness to pontificate on any royal issue, however trivial, he explained that his motivation was a “desire to do what one can to help the monarchy and help the Queen”.
In his role as Arts Minister in Mrs Thatcher’s first administration, Norman St John-Stevas was said to be one of the only cabinet members allowed to tease the Prime Minister, whom he referred to as “the Blessed One”, “the Leaderene” or (unaccountably) “Heather”. He liked to tell the story of how he asked to be excused from a meeting because he had a reception to go to. “But I’m going to the same function,” protested Mrs Thatcher. “Yes, but it takes me so much longer to change,” replied St John-Stevas. ...
His time at the Royal Fine Art Commission was not entirely uncontroversial. The Commission had been a dozy quango which, for many years, could hardly even be bothered to produce an annual report, and it was hoped that his appointment would inject a bit of panache and excitement. It did, and he changed the public image of the Commission considerably. But critics accused him of turning it into a personal publicity vehicle (one annual report featured no fewer than six full-colour photographs showing the chairman striking one pose after another in the company of the great and good), and of allowing his own wayward preferences to take precedence over the views of the experts.
There was, for example, the affair of the Millennium wheel on the South Bank (now known as the London Eye), which was the subject of a blistering public attack by the Commission, even though at least three commissioners strongly supported the design. After a bad-tempered meeting at which Lord St John was reportedly rude to the architects concerned, the Commission’s secretary, Sherban Cantacuzino, wrote to the architects saying: “I am sure that he enjoys putting people down, all of us have suffered from his bullying.”
Problems magnified after Lord St John was elected Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1991. Academic politics proved highly diverting, and his frequent absences from the Commission’s offices in London raised eyebrows. In 1994 the government called in the retired civil servant Sir Geoffrey Chipperfield to examine the Commission. His conclusions were devastating: the Commission acted arbitrarily and was not respected, and the chairman’s office and car were over-lavish for a publicly funded body. Any other chairman would probably have had to resign, but Lord St John defied all predictions and was reappointed for a third term in 1995.
His time at Emmanuel College, from 1991 to 1996, was equally tumultuous. It was said that the dons of the historically Puritan institution first had doubts about whether they had chosen the right man when several of his friends were caught naked one night in the Fellows Garden swimming pool. While he certainly raised the college’s profile (albeit particularly in such outlets as House and Garden and Hello!), there was controversy on the high table over the lavish refurbishment of the Master’s Lodge and an expensive new extension to the college which some saw as a monument to the Master rather than a useful addition. ...
Lord St John was also accused of spending an excessive amount of time with a small clique of mainly public school-educated young men who, it was alleged, were favoured with introductions to royalty and captains of industry, to dinners at White’s, private theatrical performances at the Master’s Lodge and long, affectionate letters. Such special privileges were extended to very few. Other undergraduates would recall the Master cutting them off in mid-sentence with some disparaging remark in Latin. To bitchy colleagues in other colleges, Emmanuel became known as “Mein Camp”.
Second only to royalty in Lord St John’s affections was the papacy. One of the rooms in his house was virtually a shrine to Pius IX, and in 1982 he published Pope John Paul II: his travels and mission. He himself was known to appear at official functions wearing the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem (he was Grand Bailiff and head of the order in England and Wales).
In Who’s Who Lord St John described himself, somewhat superfluously, as “unmarried.”
The American left responded with characteristic class yesterday when confronted with the sudden death of prominent conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.
Twitter erupted with unconcealed expressions of liberal delight at news of the death of a political opponent.
AlmightyBob @AlmightyBoob : @AndrewBreitbart haha youre dead and in hell being a gay with hitler
Dave Lartigue @daveexmachina : Andrew Breitbart has died. Honestly, good riddance. He helped poison the country where I live and we are better off without him.
DAC @dac2527 : Satan calls Andrew Breitbart home… Good riddance!
The most prominent leftwinger to comment on Twitter was Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) who contributed: “Conventions around dead people are ridiculous. The world outlook is slightly improved with @AndrewBrietbart dead.”
The response on Twitter was pretty bad, but Rolling Stone’s Nicholas Kamm had a go at topping all that in a gleeful farewell piece titled: Death of a Douche.
So Andrew Breitbart is dead. Here’s what I have to say to that, and I’m sure Breitbart himself would have respected this reaction: Good! Fuck him. I couldn’t be happier that he’s dead.
I say this in the nicest possible way. I actually kind of liked Andrew Breitbart. Not in the sense that I would ever have wanted to hang out with him, or even be caught within a hundred yards of him without a Haz-Mat suit on, but I respected the shamelessness. Breitbart didn’t do anything by halves, and even his most ardent detractors had to admit that he had a highly developed, if not always funny, sense of humor.
Still, in many ways, an even more impressive example of seriously bad form was turned in by the perennial-critic-of-conservatism-pretending-to-reside-within-its-ranks Andrew Frum.
And this is where it becomes difficult to honor the Roman injunction to speak no ill of the dead. It’s difficult for me to assess Breitbart’s impact upon American media and American politics as anything other than poisonous. When one of the leading media figures of the day achieves his success by his giddy disdain for truth and fairness—when one of our leading political figures offers to his admirers a politics inflamed by rage and devoid of ideas—how to withhold a profoundly negative judgment on his life and career?
Postmortem tributes to the late flamboyant journalist Christopher Hitchens became so prolific and fulsome that they actually provoked satirical parody from Neal Pollack in Salon.
Hitchens spoke out against war, and also for war. In a span of five years, he bore witness to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the explosion of the Eiffel Tower, and the construction of the new holographic Eiffel Tower. He had acid in his pocket, acid in his pen and acid in his veins. Then Darkness fell, on Sept. 11, 2001. We’d all moved to America and gotten totally rich.
Hitchens changed that day. For months, he’d wander the streets at night, looking to drunkenly berate someone who disagreed with him about the evils of Islamofascism. Occasionally he’d attempt to strangle young journalists, who admired him unquestioningly, with their own neckties. But he was right. He was always right. Even when he was wrong.
The night they killed Osama bin Laden, he showed up at my apartment, drunk but lucid, quoting T.S. Eliot, Longfellow and, of course, himself. We stayed up watching CNN, which was actually pretty boring. In the morning, over a breakfast of corn flakes and whiskey, I said, “Well, I guess that’s the end of Islamofascism. Good job!”
Hitchens went into my kitchen, took a cutting board off the counter, and threw it into my forehead, drawing blood.
“Don’t be an imbecile,” he said. “The struggle never ends. Also, you must remember that there is no God.”
I needed four stitches that day. Hitch put them in himself, with his teeth. What a friend he was.
I thought that the funereal commemorations, at that point, had gone about as far as they could go, but, no, life was still able to top art.
Along came an essay from (of all people) paleocon classicist Victor Davis Hanson (the California Cato) informing us that he, too, had been a friend of Hitch. Did anyone who writes in Britain or America not drink with Hitchens (—or worse)?
Provoking the question: which is the wilder and funnier story, the fictional parody above or the actual testimony of a live eyewitness?
Christopher once asked me whether the classics community, my readers, and my Democratic family had become disgusted with me in the same way that the far greater global literary and left-wing world had with him over Iraq. I could only answer, “Well, yes, of course, but it is a matter of degree, since I am not sure how much they knew or cared.” He smiled, “Well, if they did, at least, that’s good news, Victor. We are judged better by our enemies than our friends.” I disagreed about that.
Like many Englishmen, Christopher had a great reverence for classics; he made it a point once to have me over to dine with the great Sophoclean scholar Bernard Knox, and on another occasion a Latin-quoting Jerry Brown (who remembered that I had written him a note in classical Greek in 1976). Christopher’s daughter was a gifted Latin student, and he often peppered me with academic questions about Thucydides and Aristophanes. He oddly seemed interested in the scholarly minutiae that others considered the equivalent, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson, of a dog walking on two legs (impressive, but for what purpose?): Could the average Greek have followed Pericles’ Funeral Oration as it is “transcribed” by Thucydides? How did the parabases actually work on stage in Aristophanes’ plays? For a radical, Mr. Hitchens had great reverence for traditional education, especially its emphasis on rote, grammar, and syntax.
I was more surprised about Christopher’s interest in agriculture, but then, in my experience, the English — and Christopher seemed to me as English as anyone born in Britain — seem to treat farming with the same special reverence they extend to dogs and Greek. He once asked to visit me for a weekend on our farm, and was fascinated about raisin production, tree fruit, tractors, and the economy of rural central California. I kidded him that out here driving a Massey Ferguson with a tandem disk was seen as far more impressive than reciting a stanza of Kipling, and he flared up and answered, “But why, man, one at the expense of the other?” But often of course they are.
When he arrived in rural Selma, out of drink and angry that he had exhausted his usual favorites, I warned him there was no way I could buy all his accouterments out here, and I was not going to drive all the way up to Fresno to find them. He rattled off a number of carbonated-mineral-water brands that he apparently knew well from Mexico, and announced, “Victor, there is a global brotherhood of quality drinkers that reaches even here that you are apparently not aware of.” He then insisted that we drive into the local barrio and find a “good” liquor store. Finally at one of the most run-down places imaginable we found two dusty bottles of exactly what he was looking for. “Why the surprise?” he scoffed.