Last week the Romanian-born soprano Angela Gheorghiu was fired from her role in Puccini’s “La Bohème” at Chicago’s Lyric Opera because, according to the Opera’s general director, she missed several essential rehearsals by leaving Chicago “without permission, a direct violation of her contract.” Gheorghiu’s excuse? She needed to be with her husband, French tenor Roberto Alagna, who is in New York singing two roles at the Met. Gheorghiu claims, “I asked Lyric Opera to let me go to New York for two days to be with him, and they said, ‘No.’ But I needed to be by Roberto’s side at this very important moment.” Gheorghiu, 42, has received much bad press for diva-ish behavior (often in articles by righteous critics who routinely display just as much diva-ish behavior as she).
Posts For: October 3, 2007
On Monday, this article in the Guardian, “Atheists arise: Dawkins spreads the A-word among America’s unbelievers,” about what is best described as an evangelical crusade by the celebrated Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, caught my eye.
I confess to being a bit puzzled by the current wave of attacks on religion. I am both a Ph.D. (with lots of science) and a regular church-goer, long under the impression that the alleged incompatibility of the two was a 19th century notion, associated with such organizations as The National Secular Society in England (to which Annie Besant devoted her estimable talents during the years before she helped found Theosophy), and perhaps best exemplified by vigorous period pieces, such as Andrew Dickson White’s massive two volumes, published in 1898, on The Warfare Between Science and Theology in Christendom. Over the last year or so, however, a powerful new wave of distinctly old-fashioned anti-religious campaigning has begun, with people like Christopher Hitchens and Professor Dawkins in the lead. I find myself asking why.
Many factors can be adduced: merits in the atheist argument; a desire to forestall criticism that secular and scientific politics as practiced in the last century proved disastrous; resentment of the way some politicians constantly invoke God. But maybe more sinister forces are at work.
In a brief hearing today, Appellate Court judge Laurence Trébucq read out the court order enjoining France 2 to hand over, no later than October 31, the raw footage filmed by cameraman Talal Abu Rahma on September 30 and October 1, 2000. Bénédicte Amblard, representing France 2, confirmed her client’s intention to comply. This confirms the request announced at the September 19 hearing of Philippe Karsenty’s appeal of his October 2006 conviction for defamation against France 2 and Charles Enderlin in the “al-Dura affair.” In the absence of mention of a huis clos, it is assumed that the November 14 hearing will be open to the public. An overflow crowd is expected.
This court order, which would seem perfectly reasonable to someone acquainted with the United States legal system, apparently is unprecedented in France. In fact, if the October 2006 defamation suit had been brought in an American court, the defendant’s lawyer certainly would have asked to examine the outtakes. (“Discovery” as we know it does not exist in French law. The burden of proof in a defamation case rests on the defendant.) The court of first resort had ruled that Karsenty’s public accusation of France 2 and Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin, on his watchdog site Media-Ratings, was not based on a serious investigation of the facts. Further, the court discredited Karsenty’s arguments, “drawn from a single source—Metula News Agency.” The irony of this judgment is that Charles Enderlin relied on a single source—Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma—for the report of Muhammad al-Dura’s “death,” and failed to investigate the report after he received the raw footage, which contradicts the sworn testimony of the cameraman.
“Are We Ready for China?” That is the title of Aaron Friedberg’s characteristically provocative essay in the October COMMENTARY. Friedberg, who teaches politics at Princeton and was from 2003 to 2005 a key foreign-policy adviser to Dick Cheney, is currently at work on a book—certain to be highly controversial and the subject of intense interest in both Washington and Beijing—about the U.S.-China rivalry.
“Though our leaders are loath to admit it,” writes Friedberg,
the United States is almost two decades into what is likely to prove a protracted geopolitical rivalry with the People’s Republic of China. The PRC is fast acquiring military capabilities that will allow it to contest America’s long-standing preponderance in the Western Pacific. In Asia and beyond, Beijing is working assiduously to enhance its own influence while at the same time seeking quietly to weaken that of the United States. Meanwhile, China continues to run huge trade surpluses with the United States, accumulating vast dollar holdings and advancing rapidly up the technological ladder into ever more sophisticated industries.
As Friedberg notes, the implications of China’s rise for America’s position in the world are profound, and are extending from one realm into the next.
Avi Lewis is a Canadian television host and the husband of Naomi Klein, author and columnist for the Nation and herald of the anti-American, proto-socialist, “anti-globalization” movement. (Klein is infamous for a 2004 column she wrote the week of the Republican National Convention in New York City entitled, “Bring Najaf to New York.”) Klein and Lewis make, as you might imagine, a politically pugnacious couple.
Recently, for his show “On the Map,” Lewis interviewed the prominent ex-Muslim critic of fundamentalist Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who, next to Burmese democracy activist Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, qualifies as perhaps the most remarkable woman of our age. By way of introduction, Lewis glossed over Hirsi Ali’s childhood as a Muslim in Somalia (from which she escaped to the Netherlands), informing viewers that she got her start in politics with the “right-wing Dutch Liberal Party” and now holds “a job at the arch-conservative American Enterprise Institute.”
Under the leadership of Democrats, the Congress has achieved something unprecedented: approval ratings that fluctuate between 18 percent (on good days) to 11 percent (on bad days). In the face of this massive unpopularity, what do they do? Why, they engage in a full-scale effort to smear the most successful radio talk show host in history.
It is quite a spectacle to behold.
I have written elsewhere on why Rush Limbaugh’s “phony soldiers” comment is a phony controversy. Any fair-minded reading will lead one to conclude that Limbaugh’s reference to “phony soldiers” had to do with, literally, phony soldiers—that is, those who had falsified their service records.
But Democrats, having watched the MoveOn.org attack of General David Petraeus blow up in their faces, were desperate to turn the tables. What it has led to are scenes that are almost comical, with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Tom Harkin taking to the floor of the Senate—the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body—to say things like this (from Harkin):
What’s most despicable is that Rush Limbaugh says these provocative things to make more money. So he castigates our soldiers. . . . More people tune in. He makes more money. Well. I don’t know. Maybe he was just high on his drugs again.