- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005

‘Twist,’ no bite

“In [Roman Polanski’s] film of [‘Oliver Twist’] — which he ventured to do even though there were 18 previous ones — the characters fulfill functions in the story rather than fulfill themselves as individuals. …

“Fagin [is] the inevitable danger point in any modern ‘Oliver Twist.’ One industrious literary critic reports that in the [Charles Dickens] book the word ‘Jew’ is used opprobriously about Fagin exactly 300 times. … In Polanski’s film … the word ‘Jew’ is never used; and Ben Kingsley’s Fagin is less likely to cause trouble … because the estimable Kingsley is apparently so concerned about the Fagin problem that his performance has no bite.”

— Stanley Kauffmann, writing on “Dickens and Devolution,” in the Oct. 17 issue of the New Republic

Space bureaucrats

“[T]he original ‘Star Trek’ became a massive … phenomenon that used science fiction as a means to spread a multicultural, anti-capitalist, progressive gospel. With its post-money, postwar Earth and its valiant, U.N.-like Federation of Planets, it reflected the liberal passions of the 1960s. Now, nearly four decades later, another short-lived TV show, Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly,’ has inspired similar … adoration and made the leap to the big screen — only this time the politics are reversed. The result is ‘Serenity,’ a scrappy, energetic science fiction/Western hybrid that is as libertarian as ‘Star Trek’ was liberal, reminding viewers why even well-intentioned government intervention is more a problem than a solution. …

“In the far future, overpopulation has led to a new wave of frontiersmen — exploring the edges of space. The central planets are run by a meddling unified government called the Alliance which recently suppressed an outer world revolt and now has designs on the outlaw crew aboard the spaceship Serenity.

“The Alliance is populated by bureaucrats who are quick to pass the buck when accused of mistakes and quicker to impose their ideas of ‘civilization’ on pesky frontier planets, trying to force a one-size-fits-all order on societies they’ll never visit, much less live in.

“‘Serenity’ shows the propensity for big, intrusive government to suppress individuality by demanding uniformity of thought.”

— Peter Suderman, writing on “Spaceships and Small Governments,” Oct. 11 in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

Shifting choice

“Karlyn Bowman, who studies public opinion for the American Enterprise Institute, has compiled poll data about abortion from several years into one handy document. Her conclusion is that public opinion on the issue has been ‘remarkably stable.’ …

“But all of a sudden, and without attracting much notice, the pro-choicers have pulled away again. A July poll had pro-choicers outnumbering pro-lifers by 51 to 42 percent. …

“So what has happened over the last few months? …

“I can only assume that it was the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the beginning of July, and Bush’s initial nomination of John Roberts to replace her, that has driven people back into the pro-choice camp. The Supreme Court vacancy made Roe [v. Wade] the first thing people think about when they think about abortion. … The leading pro-life figures, President Bush and congressional Republicans, have mostly tried to change the subject rather than to make the case that the country can live without Roe.”

— Ramesh Ponnuru, writing on “Bad News for Pro-Lifers,” Oct. 12 in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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