By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
When JonBenet Ramsey was first found violated and murdered in her home a decade ago, many people were less shocked by the crime itself than fascinated by images of the 6-year-old in full beauty-queen regalia. It wasn’t hard to see why. In Crime and Punishment, the murderer Raskolnikov has a horrifying dream in which an innocent little girl’s face suddenly takes on the lewd, lipsticked look of a whore. What Dostoyevsky presented as the ultimate nightmare had become the Little Miss Colorado pageant. This made the story not just sad but disturbingly freaky — its pop resonance still fuels Little Miss Sunshine — and started people wondering if her parents could actually be the culprits. After all, if they’d dress their little girl up like that . . .
While the titillating tragedy of a cute, little white girl always has media legs — it’s our voyeuristic way of feigning concern about The Children — the Ramsey story was soon replaced by those of Samantha Runnion, Danielle van Dam, Cassandra Williams and Elizabeth Smart, to name only the quartet who starred in 2002’s summer of stolen children. Still, JonBenet’s story was always the sexiest, so it was only natural that snarling Nancy Grace and her fellow hyenas should start baying so excitedly at the arrest of John Mark Karr. I don’t know whether he’s guilty or not — I’m not even sure he does. But as a film critic, allow me to give Karr full marks for his memorably moist performance as a child rapist and murderer. Not only has he perfected the creepy limpness favored by today’s most memorable villains (Kevin Spacey in Seven, the serial killer in Cure, languid Osama bin Laden), he makes simply buttoning your top button seem like a perversion. It’s enough to make David Lynch show his chest hair.
They were salsaing in the streets of Miami when early reports suggested that Fidel Castro’s surgery had gone badly — the Bearded One might be dead. I don’t know whether they were blasting the Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack in the White House, but the administration already has a task force — and millions of dollars in funding — to help shape the new Cuba once Castro’s gone. (Do you think they have similar plans in case Tony Blair or Germany’s Angela Merkel should drop dead?)
Now, despite the Cuban Revolution’s early idealism and reasonably egalitarian social programs — this isn’t Haiti or even Mexico — you won’t find me defending Fidel. The old caudillo’s decades-old rejection of mufti says everything you need to know about how the country is run. Nor am I heartened at the thought of his equally ruthless brother Raúl transforming the country into a Chinese-style (read: single-party) capitalist police state. But lest we forget — and the right keeps encouraging us to — Cuba wasn’t exactly paradise before Fidel arrived. The dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista enriched American corporations, made Havana a luxurious city (for the wealthy) and, as historian Hugh Thomas put it, “formalized gangsterism” — it was better for Michael Corleone than the impoverished majority. That’s why so many Cubans, even those who can’t stand Fidel, fear that, once he’s dead, their country may well be taken over once again by an outside elite — including rich, self-righteous Miami Cubans with a sense of entitlement the size of the whole island.
From the Diary of a Slug
Winston Churchill famously joked that Clement Attlee was a modest man with a lot to be modest about. I used to think the same of Senator Joe Lieberman. But the years have made it obvious that the dreary senator’s pose of self-effacing decency actually masked a ghastly, self-promoting vanity. His true self became as vivid as Mel Gibson’s after his loss to Ned Lamont in Connecticut’s Democratic primary when he promptly began running as a fear-mongering Independent. (You see, it’s always about Joe.) Although Lieberman’s doom may have been sealed from the moment he got that televised kiss from George W. Bush at the 2005 State of the Union address — that image is what really started the Fredo-mentum — he treated a personal electoral loss as a Democratic Götterdämmerung. Demonstrating exactly why he got beat, he accused party opponents of imposing a litmus test on the Iraq war (patently false) and of being wildly out of the mainstream (86 percent of Democrats oppose the Iraq war). Echoing Cheney, he tried to link Lamont’s victory to the London plot to blow up airliners.
If you didn’t know better, you might think that Lieberman’s foes, especially the Netroots, were Trotskyites or superannuated SDSers, their freak flags still flying. In reality, they’re that most peculiar of birds: strident liberals. The new Democratic activists are radical only in their partisanship (not an irrational position in a polarized era when, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently argued, a politician’s partisan affiliation matters more than his personal beliefs). Which makes it all the funnier that Lieberman fancies himself the victim of an ideological purge (led, it must be noted, by a millionaire heir with a venture-capitalist wife). Like whiny Bernard Goldberg — whose own troubles at CBS led him to accuse that Viacom-owned network of egregious left-wing bias — he’s become a clownish parody of the disillusioned communists who once felt that their God Had Failed.