- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2002

Bush, George Bush
"I always like the bit in the Bond movie where 007 and the supervillain meet face to face usually at the supervillain's marine research facility or golf course or, in this latest picture, his Icelandic diamond mine. Bond knows the alleged marine biologist is, in fact, an evil mastermind bent on world domination. The evil mastermind knows Bond is a British agent. But both men go along with the pretense that the other fellow is what he's claiming to be, and the exquisitely polite encounter invariably ends with the mastermind purring his regrets about being unable to be more helpful.
"It must have been a bit like that when Prince Bandar and his family dropped by the Bush ranch at Crawford a couple of months ago. Bush must have known for the best part of a year that in the run-up to September 11 Bandar's wife, Princess Haifa, had been making regular transfers from her Washington bank account to a couple of known associates of the terrorists. Bandar must have known Bush knew. Each party knows the other party knows they're engaged in a charade, but they observe the niceties, with Laura showing Princess Haifa the ranch, Bush hailing the 'eternal friendship' between the Saudi and American people, and Bandar regretting, as the Saudis always do, that they're unable to be more helpful.
"It would be nice if George W. Bond would kick over the cocktails and lob a grenade into Oilfinger's refinery, but instead he and the sheikhs are still teasing each other."
Mark Steyn, writing on "Bush and the Saudi princess," in the Saturday issue of the Spectator

Inside jokes
"The successful inside joke can never last. In 'A Great Silly Grin,' a history of 1960s British satire, Humphrey Carpenter relates a routine done at the comedy club the Establishment early in the decade. The sketch was about the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, which had been destroyed in the war, and the speaker was supposed to be the Cathedral's architect, Sir Basil Spence:
"'First of all, of course, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the German people for making this whole project possible in the first place. Second, we owe a debt of gratitude to the people of Coventry itself, who when asked to choose between having a cathedral and having hospitals, schools and houses, plumped immediately (I'm glad to say) for the cathedral, recognizing, I think, the need of any community to have a place where the whole community can gather together and pray for such things as hospitals, schools and houses.'
"When that bit was first performed, many Englishmen would have found it offensive. Now, of course, hardly anyone would. Mocking British establishment pieties is no longer an act of rebellion. It is the norm. Successful revolutions contain the seeds of their demise: they attract so many followers, eager to be in on the joke as well, that the circle breaks down."
Malcolm Gladwell, writing on "Group Think," in the Monday issue of the New Yorker

Ozzy's train wreck
"'People always want to watch the train wreck on television,' [MTV President Van] Toffler says. Which applies to the whole 'Osbournes' phenomenon. 'The Osbournes' was never supposed to be anything more than a single episode of 'Cribs,' MTV's at-home-with-the-stars series. 'I assure you, no one from the networks was calling up Ozzy Osbourne and asking, "Can you do a show for us?"' Toffler says with a cool smile. 'I mean, you can't understand what the guy is saying. We debated subtitles.' Ozzy and Sharon got their own show only because the guys at the top got a chuckle out of it, and if it sank like a stone, who cares?
"'The Osbournes' did not sink like a stone. Instead, it quickly became a stealth hit and a fitting cap to a remarkable, and completely unforeseen, turnaround that MTV has pulled off over the past five years."
Alex Williams, writing on "MTV's Real World," in the Dec. 9 issue of New York

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