Thursday, March 28, 2002

Starting back in the summer of '54, when I worked for Halliburton in Duncan, OK, I've spent a fair part of my working life in and around the oil business, which my late stepmother once not altogether inaccurately characterized as "All good news and no money!" So I'm naturally interested in the kerfluffle the media and the Democratic center are trying to stir up about the energy industry's impact on energy policy. That oil companies, via the piggy-back and the lobbyist, should wish to influence energy policy seems to come as a great and insupportable shock to The New York Times et al, much as the average woman in a supermarket checkout line seems astonished by the realization that she is expected to pay for the groceries the clerk has just rung up. If you read today's Times, you will discover that when it comes to energy policy, it is OK for NRDC and other conservationist groups to have input on policy changes effected for environmental reasons without regard to supply-demand effects, it is not OK for oil producers and marketers and consumers, people also directly affected by supply-demand effects, to have a voice on those very same changes. Left unsaid, but as obvious as that elephant over there against the wall, is the implication the media is really trying to sell: that any recognition by this administration of energy-industry interests somehow is all about Enron and therefore crooked.
I happen to agree with the WSJ's Paul Gigot who expressed the thought the other night on the paper's talk-show - along with "Forbes on Fox" the only TV gabfest I watch - that the white-hot frenzy with which the media are working the priestly molestation story has more than a little to do with a wish to discredit the Catholic Church on such more vital issues as abortion and divorce. I say this as someone who is 150% pro-choice and who, looking back, often has second thoughts about the ease with which divorce is obtainable in our culture. I make the point also as someone who attended single-sex schools from fourth grade through college, and who vividly recollects the sexual cruelties adolescent boys are capable of visiting on one another, cruelties as susceptible of repression in memory and as useful in the purpose of institutional discreditization as anything a priest might get up to. Indeed, I shall be very surprised if in the near-distant future we do not see a barrage of law suits essentially directed at the endowments of Yale, Harvard, Exeter etc. brought by plaintiffs alleging sexual molestation at the hands of masters which was supressed in the interest of getting a diploma but which has now, suddenly, been recovered in memory.

One more thought. In my last novel, BAKER'S DOZEN, published (sic) by FSG, the "villain" plots a ground-to-ground missile attack on a big Venice bash, a celebrity feast of self-congratulation combining the worst of the Davos Conference and the Vanity Fair Oscar party. As a writer, one wants to make readers think. And yet another year has gone by when a giant step toward the betterment of mankind could have been taken and wasn't. Just think of how a couple of mortar shells judiciously dropped onto one of these Oscar night celeb feasts of self-love might help the state of things by focusing attention. A cynical mind might argue that terrorists are missing the boat by killing cops and foremen and white-collar middle-level workers, or innocent people sitting down to a Passover supper, because - frankly - the people at the top, those with the power to effect, have grown utterly remote from the F-Train reality most of us have to live in. Wars are not won by armies whose officer class is disengaged. Or back at Morton's toasting one another.
I've been guilty of careless bloggery but I went off to Jamaica for a brief golf trip with my son Francis and found myself in e-purgatory. Nothing seems to have improved in the interim, however. Do read Jed Perl's coments on the Richter show on The New Republic's website (I still haven't figured out how to incorporate links in my blog.) Perl REALLY hates this show, and with many more good reasons that I came up with. We are into an age of intellectual and cultural impoverishment, make no mistake about it, although for someone my age it's beyond hope. I've been rereading (reading in some cases) Graham Greene - most recently The Comedians. The difference between the quality of novel writing then and now is disheartening, and worse still are all the warning signs in the work of writers like Greene that went unheeded.