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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: October 2009

While the Obama administration continues its war against its media critics, well-known liberal journalists — instead of defending freedom of the press — are joining the attack on a news network they despise as much as does the administration. Gone is any seeming concern for the right of commentators to voice their own opinion, because mainstream liberal editorial writers are sure their opponents are both extremists and wrong.

Take, as our first example, Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of The Slate Group. Writing in last week’s Newsweek, Weisberg explained at the start that anyone who watches Fox News knows immediately that Anita Dunn’s charge that Fox has a “right-wing bias” is correct, since Fox always confirms “it with its coverage.”  Referring to Fox’s own reporting on the administration’s attacks on the network, he notes that Fox showed what he calls a “textbook example of a biased journalism.” If it is true, it is hardly surprising, since the very network under attack might be expected to come to its own defense.

Next, he refers to its commentators as “platinum pundettes and anchor androids.” He offers no names. Could he be referring to Chris Wallace, whose weekly Sunday broadcast is widely acclaimed as one of TV’s best weekend programs, and who publicly complained that never in his decades of broadcasting has he come across more of a bunch of “whiners” than he has seen in the Obama administration?  Is he referring to Megan Kelly, who did a yeoman’s job questioning ACORN founder Wade Rathke in a long and exclusive interview? Wouldn’t he want a defender of ACORN to speak on the one network that reported on its scandals? Is he upset, perhaps, that Kelly came off better than Rathke did?

He thinks it is a silly comparison to their charge that the war on Fox is similar to Nixon’s enemies list. Of course, he gives no reason why the analogy is false — perhaps because to most observers, it isn’t.

Next, he attributes the success of the many “tea parties” as due to Fox’s sponsorship of them — ignoring the fact that it was an internet created phenomenon that Fox alone chose to cover when others ignored them.  Evidently, Weisberg can’t distinguish between paying attention to events it finds newsworthy and sponsoring them. [I acknowledge that Glenn Beck anchored his show’s special coverage of the Washington DC tea party, which he supported.]  Weisberg’s fear is that now “ideologically distorted news” drives ratings up, and that others will soon imitate them in order to gain more viewers.

Not one word by Weisberg about MSNBC’s equally tilted drift to the precincts of the far left. Chris “thrill up my leg” Matthews is an unabashed liberal whose brand of politics stands at the left end of the Democratic spectrum, and its mainstays in prime time, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, are as far Left as O’Reilly, Hannity and Beck are on the right end of the conservative spectrum. If Fox reports critically about ACORN, for example, one can count on Maddow and Olbermann to offer unabashed defenses of the group presented as accurate news analysis.

Weisberg’s problem is that he takes pride that the press had an “old tradition of independence,” one that serves the “public interest” and not “parties, persuasions, or pressure groups.” He claims to be standing firm with this model instead of the Murdoch “model of politicized media” that is slanted in one direction.  Does he really act on this? Look at his own publication, Slate. Is there any reader of it who believes for a moment that it is anything but reflective of a certain kind of left/liberal mentality? Sure, it has one maverick — Christopher Hitchens — whose fame and persona as a media star allows them to run him, even though he alone continues to support a tough foreign policy against Islamic radicalism.  Just look through their list of columnists on their home page, and I defy you to find one voice aside from Hitchens who is outside of the liberal consensus.

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My wife and I just got back from Kansas City, where we returned to learn about Dick Cheney’s speech last night to the Center For Security Policy.  Cheney revealed that the Bush administration had given the incoming Obama team a carefully developed strategy for the war in Afghanistan, and that it was a false allegation that the new administration had to start from scratch in developing a policy. “They asked us not to announce our findings publicly,” Cheney said, “and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt.”

Now, of course, Rahm Emanuel is seeking to blame the supposed need for a careful review on the failures of the previous administration, and to find some way to account for Obama’s indecisiveness on the issue of what to do in Afghanistan.  Cheney, as expected, argues that General McChrystal’s recommendations are solid and well thought out, and that Obama should implement them immediately. “Now,” he added, “they seem to be pulling back and blaming others for their failure to implement the strategy they embraced. It’s time for President Obama to do what it takes to win a war he has repeatedly and rightly called a war of necessity.”

The problem is that because Cheney is making that argument, liberals and Democrats will run to say that this is the position of the extreme right-wing, and hence should be abandoned. After all, Obama ran as the anti-Bush, and any policy put forth by the former vice-president is for the liberal-left going to be reason enough to reject it.

That is why the new issue of The New Republic that was waiting for me in the mail is so important. It contains in its pages two major articles on the U.S. and Afghanistan. The first is by Peter Bergen, a senior fellow at The New America Foundation, and author of a highly regarded book on Osama Bin Laden. Bergen argues that the argument we are hearing today from so many, that al-Qadea is the real enemy and is in Pakistan and that hence we can ignore and forget about the Taliban and Afghanistan, is completely false.

His point is that the evidence clearly shows that they are not distinct groups, and in fact have essentially merged into one new jihadist body. The heart of his argument is this:

These arguments point toward one conclusion: The effort to secure Afghanistan is not a matter of vital U.S. interest. But those who make this case could not be more mistaken. Afghanistan and the areas of Pakistan that border it have always been the epicenter of the war on jihadist terrorism–and, at least for the foreseeable future, they will continue to be. Though it may be tempting to think otherwise, we cannot defeat Al Qaeda without securing Afghanistan.

If returned to power in Afghanistan, Bergen shows, the Taliban would not become responsible and moderate, as “realists” like Stephen Walt and others claim. They will not become, he quips, “an ultra-rational clique of Henry Kissingers.” And if we fail to defend Afghanistan, al-Qaeda will gain new momentum and strength. To gain their ends, they want and need a state; and if we let them have control over Afghanistan, we will most assuredly up the ante for a major new attack on our homeland.

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As I read the very latest UNHCR report, I could not believe that I was not looking at an Onion parody.  It is but the latest outrage from a would-be human rights commission set up by the United Nations, and which to our nation’s embarrassment, President Obama has seen fit to have the United States sign up as a member.

As Martin Peretz points out, “America’s new membership on the Human Rights Council has had no results in the fairness of the process. Did anyone imagine it would? Well, I suppose the president did.”  Peretz is right. And the current administration’s reversal of staying out of the farcical body is one of the affronts to dignity of our current Chief Executive.

As for the latest broadside, “The report therefore discusses, besides the human rights of women, the gendered impact of counter-terrorism measures on men and persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, and addresses how gender intersects with other prohibited grounds of discrimination, such as race and religion.” What this gobbledygook legalese means is that when the Israelis engage in counter-terrorism against terrorists and suicide bombers, they are threatening the rights of trans-gendered individuals. How? When a man dresses as a woman, the Israelis might embarrass an honest cross-dresser by subjecting him/her to a humiliating search, thereby interfering with the person’s sexual identity and human rights. They state: 

The report identifies the ways in which those subject to gender-based abuse are often caught between targeting by terrorist groups and the State’s counter-terrorism measures that may fail to prevent, investigate, prosecute or punish these acts and perpetrate new human rights violations with impunity. These violations are amplified through war rhetoric and increased militarization in countering terrorism, both of which marginalize those who challenge or fall outside the boundaries of predetermined gender roles and involve situations of armed conflict and humanitarian crisis in which gender-based violence and gendered economic, socialcand cultural rights violations abound. 

They add: “The report then draws attention to the fact that contrary to these international human rights obligations to ensure equality, some Governments have used the human rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals as a bartering tool to appease terrorist or extremist groups in ways that have furthered unequal gender relations and subjected such persons to increased violence.” 

On page 19 the report says: “Enhanced immigration controls that focus attention on male bombers who may be dressing as females to avoid scrutiny make transgender persons susceptible to increased harassment and suspicion.” (my emphasis.)

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The Media’s War Against Liz Cheney

October 14th, 2009 - 5:53 pm

Liz Cheney is sending fervent Obama fans into a tizzy. First, Maureen Dowd, the most overrated op-ed columnist writing today, penned the most mean spirited column she has ever written and  perhaps the most inaccurate. She accuses Ms. Cheney of “regarding bipartisanship with the same contempt as multilateralism and multiculturalism,” and along with her father and sister, of leading “the charge against Obama, painting him as a wishy-washy loser who turned America to mush.”

There is nothing as crude as exaggerating a serious critique of Obama’s foreign policy, one that Liz Cheney regularly makes with aplomb and dignity, by dumbing it down to make Cheney sound absurd. Dowd is obviously furious that Cheney along with Bill Kristol and others have formed a new group, Keep America Safe, that seeks to heighten public awareness of the need to come together as a nation and demand a policy that protects our national security.

Dowd is scornful that Cheney charges Obama will “make America weaker.” After all, didn’t the Nobel Prize Committee respond to its critics by saying that Obama won the prize for contributing to a “world with less tension.”  But as Sean Curvyn writes on his website, “It’s a less tense world. Tell that to the Chinese dissidents…By conceding to the Russians on missile defense, he is reducing “tension” with Putin. By granting the Iranians further stages of delay before there are any real consequences for their pursuit of nuclear weapons, he is reducing “tension” with the Persians.” As he quips aptly, “if only he could reduce tension with Fox News.”

Another commentator who agrees is Marty Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic as his recent “Spine” blogs at TNR’s website makes clear. As he writes today , “Obama hasn’t reset the American relationship with Russia. He was taken for a ride. Maybe his vanity won’t let him admit it. But, believe me, the Russians know they have taken him (and us) for a big ride, indeed.” Obama, he adds, gave the Russians what they asked for, in the hope that Putin would then agree to tough sanctions against Iran. Secretary Clinton then goes to Russia, only to be informed by Putin that his government does not believe sanctions are appropriate. As Peretz concludes: “Of course, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. In fact, with the Russians, if you don’t demand and threaten a little, you get zero.” 

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The White House’s War Against Fox News

October 12th, 2009 - 4:48 pm

No wonder the Obama administration has decided to single out Fox News as its major opponent, and to wage war against it. Almost everyone acknowledges that with its signal slogan, “We Report: You Decide,” the network in fact leans towards the conservative side, particularly when it comes to its array of on the air pundits and commentators.  But what particularly must rankle the White House is that Fox’s ratings are growing daily, and at present during Obama’s first year in office, are the highest it has ever achieved.

I have addressed this question earlier,  in a blog in which I paid special attention to the forced resignation of Van Jones and to the expose of ACORN’s wrongdoings. Fox News was also the only network to consistently play the videos prepared by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, which quickly became so popular that not only did the other media outlets have to treat it as a legitimate news story- which it was- but was also taken up by the nation’s most popular comic talent, from Jay Leno to Jon Stewart.

To any observer, it is clear that if Fox is the conservative’s station of choice, MSNBC is the darling of those on the side of liberals and the far Left. Why else do these viewers regularly watch Maddow and Keith Olbermann?  Is what they do any different from what Beck, O’Reilly and Hannity do? Of course, MSNBC has its balanced “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. But Fox News also has its equivalent on its top rated Sunday program, Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. And the 6 pm “Special Report with Bret Baier” has its daily panel, that regularly includes mainstream liberal pundits Juan Williams and NPR’s  Mara Liasson.

And yet, the administration has sought to only make war against Fox, and will not allow its people to be on any of their shows, even those widely acclaimed as fair-minded. As Anita Dunn, the White House communications director said, “We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent. As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

Given that position, it is no wonder people are worrying that an appointee to the FCC, Mark Lloyd, who has previously expressed his admiration both for Hugo Chavez and his revolution’s war against all media opposed to him, might be seeking to find ways to do the same thing to our TV and news sources via the tactic that they are only trying to enforce “diversity.”  Indeed, as Fox accurately reported, Lloyd himself made his goal clear in a 2007 report about the “structural imbalance” of talk radio.

 And in a public and videotaped panel in 2008, Lloyd called Hugo Chavez’s government the result of “really an incredible revolution…a democratic revolution.”  As a result of his triumph, Lloyd argued that “the property owners and the folks who were then controlling the media rebelled,” with the result that Chavez and his cadre had to move and close their media outlets down. Then he said the US sought to oust him, but Chavez came back stronger than ever, “and  had another revolution,” and then “started to take the media very seriously in his country.” Viewing Chavez’s totalitarian actions favorably, Lloyd implied that opponents of the right-wing media should do the same here.

Lloyd  also said that the “fairness doctrine” isn’t enough, that we need new “structural rules” to put teeth into it, and that “good white people in important positions” should “step down so someone else can have power.” Is it important that a man who now is Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer of the FCC has these views, and that the public get to hear about them?

How do I know this? I admit it freely. The man who made this public, from research that anyone could have conducted, was Glenn Beck. Does this mean I agree with everything Beck says, or give credence to his often hysterical conspiracy theories and his endless and breathless monologues?  Does it mean I agree with this support of Ron Paul’s ideas or those of the extremist Bircher, the late Cleon Skousen? Of course not. But give the man credit. He alone has made us aware that this appointment was made. So far others have not picked up on Lloyd, and perhaps in his new office, Lloyd will abandon trying to put his proclaimed views into actual policy. But as citizens, we have a right to watch and see what he is doing, and if he makes moves that jeopardize a free media, respond by demanding that he too step down.

Naturally, the administration that appointed people like Jones and Lloyd must not be happy to see that Fox commentators  are exploring the backgrounds of appointees who have hitherto been under the radar.  Recently, Beck turned his attention to an equally little known Marxist scholar, Robert McChesney, who created the media watch group “Free Press,” who has explained his point of view in the following way: “Instead of waiting for the revolution to happen, we learned that unless you make significant changes in the media, it will be vastly more difficult to have a revolution. While the media is not the single most important issue in the world, it is one of the core issues that any successful Left project needs to integrate into its strategic program.” According to Beck, on a recent program, McChesney and his group met with the FCC commissioners at the White House, to advise them on programs to adopt to help enforce so-called “internet neutrality.”

I have no idea whether the assertion Beck made is accurate. But shouldn’t some media outlet and reporters investigate this, and see whether some in the Obama administration are asking in extreme far left Marxists to advise them on how to better mold the media and prevent the free expression of opposition ideas? If it turns out not to be true, wouldn’t that put a stop to some of the charges Beck is making, and that so enrage many liberals?

Rather than do that, it is clear the administration prefers to try and isolate Fox News by emulating Richard M. Nixon’s strategy of informing his people to blackball The New York Times, or to develop an “enemies list” of media people opposed to his policies and administration. Back then, liberals saw Nixon’s attempts as a gross interference with freedom of the press, and for many in the media, Nixon’s citation of some of them became a badge of honor to proudly wear.

Will a time come when the White House decision not to allow any administration spokesman to be on Fox News in 2009 backfire? Does Barack Obama, the great orator, really think if he appears for an interview with Chris Wallace- a seasoned and respected broadcaster- that he will not be able to handle Wallace’s questions, or that he will not be able to persuade any of Fox’s viewers that he, and not they, is right about the issues?

So far, in the White House battle with Fox News, it is Fox that has won. Their widely reported ban on Fox has been reported everywhere, and it makes the White House look fearful, weak, and ready only to talk with those who are more likely to agree with their agenda. Is this the change America wanted when it elected Barack Obama as President?

When I woke up this morning and saw the clip of the Nobel Prize Committee spokesman announcing that Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize, I thought that one of the morning talk shows was showing a clip of last night’s SNL Weekend Update parody. Unfortunately, as we now all know, it was all too real.

I can’t say anything more insightful than all of our colleagues on this space and on Commentary’s Contentions site—everyone should read some of their people’s very sharp comments – but I do have this thought about which speechwriter he will use to pen his acceptance speech.

I suggest that he will have to turn to none other than Bill Ayers, and arrange a secret way to ferret the drafts back and forth. Then, he will offer that Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, accompany him and Michelle to the ceremony. That will pose a problem. To do that, Ayers would have to agree to wear a tuxedo. True, Bob Dylan wore one when he got the Kennedy Center award. But we’re talking about Bill Ayers- the last living repository of the 60’s revolution; a man whose website proudly displays the Communist Red Star as its emblem. Nothing- not even attending the Nobel ceremony- is reason enough to go bourgeois. And that is a compromise that Comrade Ayers will never make. Remember, some principles cannot be broken.

Then again, when they were all underground, the Weather Bureau cadre were quite good as disguising themselves with false beards, hair dyed different colors, false mustaches and the like. When Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan hosted an award ceremony for an ecology program and was introduced by the then underground and disguised Abbie Hoffman, the Senator and all the press covering the event didn’t notice it was Hoffman in charge, even though he was on the lam from various charges that were pending and both the FBI and the police were constantly on the lookout for him. But, Abbie did have plastic surgery- and I don’t think Ayers has time for that.

So, there is only one thing that will prevent Obama from using Ayers as his speechwriter. The Nobel Prize Committee is planning to give him the Nobel Prize for Literature, in honor of his great memoir, Fugitive Days.  You doubt this? No one hates America more  for what it stands for than Bill Ayers, as is made clear in his book.  He’s a natural. Are you listening, Nobel Prize Committee?

In October 2008, Jack Cashill penned a much discussed blog, in which he suggested the possibility that Bill Ayers actually was the ghost writer for Barack Obama’s powerful memoir, Dreams From My Father. Later, he wrote yet another blog, reporting about many who sent him more material that they thought would corroborate his original suspicions about authorship of Obama’s first memoir.

Responding to Cashill’s work, I wrote my own blog about whether or not Bill Ayers wrote Dreams From My Father. I ended with some skeptical questions that must be addressed, particularly surrounding the assertion by author Christopher Andersen in his new book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of a Marriage. Andersen gives no sources in his book for his assertions.  Hence one cannot verify whom he spoke with, and whether or not the stories he tells about Ayers writing the book are true. Indeed, when queried a bit later by Howard Kurtz, Andersen backtracked and denied that in his book, he had said that Ayers wrote it. I reread the passages in the book, and contrary to what he said to Kurtz, that is indeed precisely what he wrote. His denial to Kurtz, however, certainly makes it appear that Andersen is a bit worried that he has been caught in somewhat of a lie.

Nevertheless, I thought that Jack Cashill’s case had to be considered. Others think Cashill’s arguments are rather weak. At Powerlineblog.com today, Scott Johnson calls Cashill’s arguments “speculative,” and his textual evidence rather “thin.” He notes, for example, that based on the kind of metaphoric threads he uses, both he and John Hinderaker could also qualify as Obama’s secret ghostwriters, if not for the fact that they did not live in Obama’s neighborhood when he was working on the book.

But now comes the article appearing yesterday from Anne Leary at Backyard Conservative. Bumping into him at Reagan National Airport, Ayers told her: “I wrote Dreams From My Father.” He then added that “Michelle told me to.” Leaving the site where they spoke, he said: “If you can prove it, we can split the royalties.” When Leary told him “Stop pulling my leg,” he responded: “I really wrote it. The wording was similar.” Leary persisted that perhaps he only edited it heavily, and again Ayers said he wrote it. She ended by asking Ayers why should she believe him, since he is a liar. He had no answer to that.  Almost immediately, the Independent D.C. Examiner picked up the story, and James Simpson complained that Ayers admitted his authorship, yet “one of the biggest political stories of the year is being completely overlooked by the Obama-struck mass media.” After reading Leary’s blog, he wrote that her report is possibly “direct confirmation…from Ayers himself.”

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Writing in The Washington Post, Yale Law School Professor Bruce Ackerman attempts to chastise General Stanley McChrystal for standing behind his well known recommendations on the military strategy for the United States to follow in Afghanistan. What upsets the professor is McChrystal’s audacity to challenge the wisdom of the expert from Delaware, Vice-President Joe Biden- a man who has been consistently wrong on every foreign policy recommendation he has made for the past twenty years.

The man who voted against the First Gulf War under Bush 41 now favors less troops and the use of strategic bombing and drones—a tactic that would assure no return, harm innocent civilians, and guarantee America’s losing in Afghanistan. But the professor tells us “McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements,” since the NSC, not the General, determines our strategy. Keep in mind, as Max Boot has pointed out, that McChrystal was not acting contrary to his orders, or even disagreeing with Obama. Indeed, Obama’s March 27th edict was made clear when he announced a “comprehensive strategy” that would reverse the Taliban’s gains. As the president then argued, we cannot allow Afghanistan to fall to the Taliban, or “that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.”

General McChrystal was simply doing what he was told: informing President Obama what needs to be done to accomplish the ends he said were necessary to achieve. Why would the President not listen to the recommendation of the very man he put in charge who knows the territory and what needs to be done better than anyone else? Does Ackerman really believe that Joe Biden has one ounce of credibility for his recommendations? This is especially the case, as Boot notes, since McChrystal was only “offering his judgment about what it will take to implement the existing policy.”

Nevertheless, Ackerman and others are making a very flawed analogy—that pertaining to the Truman-MacArthur fight during the Korean War. “We have no need,” Ackerman writes, “for a repeat of the showdown between President Harry Truman and Gen. Douglas MacArthur over Korea. Truman faced down his general the last time around, but it was a bruising experience.” Once again, Ackerman suggests that if the General does not “show more-self restraint,” there could be another showdown over the issue of civilian control of the military.

Columnist Eugene Robinson agrees. He too thinks the General should “shut up and salute,” and not campaign publicly on behalf of what he thinks should be done. Again, Robinson makes the same mistake as Ackerman: he does not seem to realize that McChrystal was defending the strategy Obama originally favored, not one contrary to that of the Administration. He was not, as Robinson charges, engaging in politics.

And in the same paper, columnist Richard Cohen too raises the Truman-MacArthur analogy, while failing to comprehend what that dispute was all about. Cohen, unlike his fellow columnists, thinks the war in Afghanistan “is eminently more winnable than was Vietnam,” and he knows to win, that more troops and funding are needed. That takes presidential leadership, and he is afraid that is something Obama lacks. “Does he,” Cohen asks, “have the stomach and commitment for what is likely to continue to be an unpopular war?” Will he send some troops- but not enough to do the job?

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By now, there have been scores of terrific comments on the Polanski controversy. But perhaps the best single line was offered on it by Jay Leno. “It’s not as if he committed a real crime,” Leno said, “like colorizing a black and white movie.”  That comment reveals the mindset of the Hollywood elite, for whom anal rape of a 13-year-old drugged with Quaaludes is something to be forgiven. This is especially true  when committed by a celebrated director whose status as a Holocaust survivor offers him lifetime protection from having to pay for his own criminal behavior.

The usually astute Anne Applebaum, whose columns on political matters and the crimes of Communism are second to none, also joined in on behalf of Polanski’s defense. Writing in a Washington Post blog, Applebaum offered the following unique set of defenses: First, there “is evidence of judicial misconduct.” Since she wrote that line, however, new information has been released that indicates the testimony offered in last year’s documentary about Polanski, which for many people proved judicial misconduct, has been withdrawn by the talking head, the L.A. prosecutor in charge of the Polanski judicial misconduct allegations.

An article by attorney Marcia Clark (of the O.J. prosecution) on The Daily Beast reveals that the former prosecutor, David Wells, lied on camera when he said he had advised the judge on what course to take in order to send Polanski back to prison. “It never happened,” Wells said, and that statement undermines the heart of Polanski’s legal appeal. Wells said the director told him to make that statement, that the film would never air in the United States, and that “it made a better story if I said I’d told the judge what to do.”

Second, Applebaum argues that Polanski has already paid for his crime in many ways. He did not know the girl’s real age (a great excuse that reveals only the stupidity of those who repeat it). He has legal fees. He has suffered “professional stigma” and cannot return to the United States. What great suffering! The man jet sets around the world, is lionized by his own community of film world acolytes — who hardly show that he has suffered any stigma at all — earns a fortune for widely acclaimed films, and we are supposed to now see him as a victim.

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