- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Oscars fall flat

"The Oscars managed to be both boring and exciting this year. There were live remotes from Sri Lanka, Australia and outer space; Steve Martin as host; smoldering stars like Russell Crowe, Javier Bardem and Benicio Del Toro standing in the wings; and the most systematically unpredictable results of any show within memory.

"So why was the 2001 edition of the Academy Awards so flat? Martin drew blood only once or twice. Not one unknown recipient of a tech Oscar did anything loopy, or droned on, or said something unexpected or memorable. None of the presenters ad-libbed or produced an original moment. There were no bad dance numbers … and no film collages beyond the 'in memoriam' sequence. The special awards … were each charming, but nothing more.

"The result was a brisk show, about three hours and 20 minutes an hour shorter than recent extravaganzas. The producers don't realize that we love to complain about the show, but we don't want it to change. We want long and wacky acceptance speeches, weird tributes to obscure talents… .

"We want to feel, in other words, like anything can happen at the Oscars."

Bill Wyman, writing on "Oscar plays nice," Monday in Salon at www.salon.com

Outrage for hire

"While [Jesse] Jackson says he is working to tear down the walls of 'economic apartheid,' his tactics bring to mind an old-style protection racket.

"Under the guise of 'civil rights activism,' Jackson coerces companies into conducting business with his friends and, very often, donating large sums of money to his own organizations. Rather than threaten broken kneecaps, Jackson threatens boycotts and the stigma of being labeled 'racist' by this country's most prominent black leader… .

"All told, Jackson's charities currently take in approximately $15 million a year in tax-exempt donations, most of that money stemming from Jackson's intervention in corporate transactions… . The tax-exempt status of these donations deserves emphasis. Not only is the shareholder being fleeced, but by extension the government is being robbed. Of course, Jackson's raids on the public coffers are not always so indirect.

"This past summer, the state of Illinois awarded Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition $763,000 to enroll poor children in the KidCare health insurance program. For months, Jackson had been attacking Gov. George Ryan for his failure to increase KidCare participation. Jackson's complaints stopped as soon as the contract was awarded… .

"Since July 1, when PUSH received the grant, 37,000 children in Illinois have been signed up for KidCare. PUSH has been responsible for signing up only 151 families… .

"While other groups were signing up thousands of children, PUSH signed up hardly any."

Noah D. Oppenheimer, writing on "Follow the Money," in the April 2 issue of the Weekly Standard

'Clinton contempt'

"Hillary Clinton must be throwing a fit. Here she is, a United States senator, rising up at last from the Grand Guignol of her husband's presidency, eager to be judged on her own merits and she's pulled back down into the muck… .

"The gradually unfurling narrative of the former president's pardons of well-connected crooks and swindlers has proved so revolting that even some of the Clintons' most ardent defenders have had it up to their keister.

"Bob Herbert, the New York Times columnist, recently described the Clintons as 'a terminally unethical and vulgar couple' who might well be 'led away in handcuffs someday,' and have in any case forfeited all rights to leadership… . Clinton fatigue has suddenly collapsed into Clinton contempt."

James Traub, writing on "Excelsior," in the April 12 issue of the New York Review of Books


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