- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

Celebrity peaceniks
"Actors Mike Farrell, Matt Damon and Martin Sheen do not want the United States to go to war with Iraq.
"Therefore, along with 97 other celebrities, they have formed a group called Artists United to Win Without War.
"What the public didn't see at their Tuesday press conferenceis far more significant than the formation of yet another peace coalition by a bunch of left-leaning celebrities like Jessica Lange, Anjelica Huston and Elliott Gould.
"What that significant development is, is the healthy dose of skepticism displayed by the mainstream press at Tuesday's well-covered Hollywood event.
"An NBC reporter immediately set a skeptical tone for the spirited question and answer session, asking group co-chair Farrell if Artists United to Win Without War isn't made up of celebrities who were also against the Gulf War a decade ago. Wouldn't the world be an even more dangerous place if Hussein was not ousted from Kuwait and U.N. inspectors weren't brought in to Iraq back then?
"Then Sheen was asked by a couple of reporters why it is that President Bush would threaten war against Iraq if Hussein presented little or no threat to the U.S.
"'I don't know if we'll ever get the whole truth from this administration about anything,' he answered."
Paul Bond, writing on "Hollywood Appeasers," in the Dec. 11 issue of Front Page at www.frontpagemag.com

En garde
"Time to buckle your swash the art of the sword is back. Madonna mended fencing as 'Die Another Day's' instructor, Verity; Daniel Radcliffe and Tom Felton displayed some en-garde-inspired wand wizardry in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets'; and October's French sword-fighting film 'On Guard' was a critical hit.
"Celebrities aren't the only ones taking a stab. The U.S. Fencing Association reports a 53 percent increase in membership since 1997, and recreational fencing is on the rise at schools like L.A.'s Westside Fencing Center, where Viggo Mortensen and Patricia Arquette have also parried some blows. 'If you meet a villain face-to-face with sword in hand, it takes the most courage,' says Great Britain's former Olympic fencing coach Bob Anderson, who trained the casts of 'Die Another Day,' 'Pirates,' and 1998's 'The Mask of Zorro,' as well as two of the 'Star Wars' flicks, about the appeal of steel against steel. 'It's the ultimate weapon in the fight between good and evil.'"
Alice M. Lee, writing on "The Cutting Edge," in the Dec. 13 issue of Entertainment Weekly

Prison culture
"In 1999, the British Home Office conducted a study estimating that the United States now plays host to close to one-quarter of the world's prisoners. The only countries that have an incarceration rate approaching that of the United States are Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine.
"In tandem with this, a strange cultural 'normalization' of prison and of the process of arrest and prosecution leading up to prison has been occurring.
"Epitomized by the content of much rap music, by the HBO series 'Oz,' by Fox TV's 'Cops,' or in a more nuanced vein, by the various NBC 'Law & Order' spinoffs, this has gone beyond traditional voyeuristic fascination and media preoccupation with crime and punishment that America arguably inherited from the 18th-century English, with their broadsheets touting public hangings and epic crimes. We have come to accept as normal incarceration rates that would have seemed the unlikely progeny of a dystopian fantasy a mere generation ago. And we have come to regard arrest, prosecution and imprisonment as fundamental props of our mass culture."
Sasha Abramsky, writing on "Crime as America's Pop Culture," in the Nov. 15 Chronicle of Higher Education

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