Defending Kissinger; Announcing TopDrawer.com's IPO!
John Aspinall,England's greatest gambler and wild animal breeder, gave a small dinner lastweek in honor of Henry Kissinger, the ex-Secretary of State having arrived inLondon to promote his third volume of memoirs. As we were only 12-Sir DenisThatcher, Conrad Black, Lady Annabel Goldsmith...you get the picture-I had theopportunity to ask Henry the K about the Kosovo problem and the administration'shandling of it. As they used to say in Brooklyn, thank God I did not stood inbed.
As it wasa private dinner, and the conversation off the record, I of course cannot giveyou any of the juicy contents, but what I can do is come to Kissinger's defensefollowing the outrage that took place the next morning. Start the Weekis a very popular BBC program about current affairs. The show's host, JeremyPaxman, I can only describe as having been conceived by someone with a doseof the clap. He is an abusive bully of the leftie persuasion, a man who exultsin his intellectual thuggery, especially when facing a civilized person likeKissinger, who refused to sink to Paxman's level.
Paxman accusedKissinger of being a fraud for having accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, to whichour Henry answered with admirable sarcasm: "I wonder what you say whenyou do a hostile interview." What bothers me is the self-righteousness.Kissinger presided over American foreign policy during a very difficult period,inheriting the Vietnam quagmire from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.Unlike today, the Soviet bear back then was no patsy. The Chinese were underMao and eager to fight. Nixon and Kissinger played brilliant poker, losing Vietnamonly because of the treason back home. If Congress had not cut off all funds,South Vietnam would still be free. Talk about a Fifth Column. The Frank Churchesand Ted Kennedys, not to mention Jane Fonda and Bill Clinton, would have beenshot in any civilized country for their efforts to undermine our troops. Treason,after all, is a capital offense, and no one betrayed Uncle Sam more than Clintonwhen he went to Moscow to organize resistance to the war.
Paxman'sstream of accusations against Henry Kissinger is nothing new. The left has alwayshated the good Dr. K for his "Realpolitik." The Draft Dodger and theGrinning Hyena (Tony Blair) grew up thinking that America was run by cynicaland basically evil men like Nixon and Kissinger. The real evil, of course, thatof communism and of the Gulag, has always been brushed aside. Talk about principlesand the lack thereof. Clinton recently made a speech explaining that the international community had a duty to intervene all over the world to protect people fromoppression. "Where is the principle?" asks Kissinger. "Why didn'tthey do anything in Chechnya, or in Tibet? Why only where weak countries areconcerned?"
Hear, hear!Once NATO began the war Kissinger proclaimed that "victory was the onlyexit." But he has always claimed that the whole business was misconceived.Although everyone is bored with the subject, here is one last try: MadeleineAlbright demanded that the Serbs admit NATO troops to enter not only Kosovo,but Serbia proper. In other words, surrender to NATO. No one, not even JimmyCarter, could have accepted such a demand without at least firing a shot inanger. More important, 80 percent of the ceasefire violations between the KLAand Serb troops in the six months before the bombing were committed by the KLA.There was no ethnic cleansing going on, and it began only after we startedto bomb.
What puzzlesHenry Kissinger is Milosevic. If the Serbs had hunkered down and not gone afterthe Albanians, NATO would have looked pretty pathetic with its bully-bombingfrom afar. Kissinger thinks that perhaps Milosevic could not control the armyonce it began the cleansing. The whole mess started in the spring of 1998 whenarmed Albanian Kosovars raided police stations, killing and kidnapping policemenand Serb civilians. The subsequent reaction by Yugoslav forces was intendedto seal off KLA rebels from their supply lines in Albania. In came Albrightand we know the rest.
Clinton'sadministration has politicized the NATO alliance, turning a defensive allianceinto an aggressor on behalf of a Muslim drug cartel in Kosovo and Albania. Themajority of the American media, starting with the big three networks and CNN,turned into Clinton enablers. In the meantime, the Paxmans of this world dressup as moralists and go after Henry Kissinger. Here is a man who has played amajor part and has profound knowledge of almost every major world crisis duringrecent times, and the lunch-bucket pilferer that is Paxman can only think ofabusing and insulting him on the air.
ARRIVISTE Top Drawer's IPO Judgingfrom the media outcry over TopDrawer.com's forthcoming IPO, anyone would thinkwe'd just published an exposé of a prominent Republican congressman orsomething. TopDrawer.com is hardly the only online magazine to take advantageof the Internet stock boom. TheStreet.com, ZDNet.com and Salon.com have allheld stock offerings this year. We may have come late to the party but we believethere's room for one more guest at the 20th century's last hurrah.
I resentthe suggestion that we're just in this for the money. The $35 million we'rehoping to raise is going to be spent expanding our sales force and attractingmore readers. "This isn't about the moolah," Taki reassures me. "I'mmuch more concerned with making a cultural impact." For the record, Taki's15 percent of TopDrawer.com will be worth $25 million and my 3 percent a paltry$5 million. Russ Smith will be the big winner, but even his 30-percent stake,which should net him $50 million, pales in comparison to the $200 million JimCramer was worth the day after TheStreet.com went public last May.
Howard Kurtzhas pointed out that, unlike most Internet ventures that have gone public inthe past 18 months, TopDrawer.com's IPO won't be enriching the company's second-and third-tier personnel. However, while it's true that Taki, Russ and I willbe the principal beneficiaries, the remaining members of the staff will be ableto sleep soundly in their beds knowing that they're working for a newspaperwhose independence is guaranteed and whose future is secure. In this ever-changingindustry, that kind of job security is worth far more than some nominal chunkof equity.
Admittedly,we haven't yet launched TopDrawer.com, but at least we've registered the name.In any case, it's not as if "Taki's Top Drawer" doesn't have a Webpresence. If you go to www.nypress.com and click on "Top Drawer" you'llfind several of the articles that appear in the section each week. Since thelaunch of the site last May, Taki's columns alone have received a total of 117unique visitors! (I know this falls a little short of Yahoo!'s 30 million visitorsa month, but it's a start.)
Taki hassoberly predicted that TopDrawer.com will begin making a profit as early asnext year, and I take exception to Michael Kinsley's suggestion in his mostrecent Slate column that this is "the ouzo talking." Unfortunately,"quiet period" restrictions imposed by the Securities and ExchangeCommission prevent me from rebutting Kinsley's charges here. However, I am allowedto point out that Kinsley is flat-out wrong when he claims "the print versionof Top Drawer hasn't sold a single ad." We sold an ad to Elaine's in ourvery first week of publication.
In the company'sfilings with securities regulators we've disclosed a net loss of just under$100,000 in the first six months of this year. If you compare that with thecost of launching Talk-estimated to be at least $75 million-you'll seethat this is a remarkably low figure for a start-up. Salon, by contrast,had a net loss of $4.3 million in 1998 and yet, following its IPO last month,has a market cap of well over $100 million.
Some criticshave accused us of jumping on the Internet bandwagon, but the most cursory examinationof the record reveals that to be untrue. While employed as a contributing editorat Vanity Fair 1995-'98 I wiled away many a lazy afternoon surfing theNet, as Graydon Carter can testify. In the process I became a charter memberof several cutting-edge websites, including ClubLove.com, AnimalFarm.com and-my personal favorite-Man-Boy-Love.com. While it's truethat Taki still doesn't have an e-mail address, he assures me he'll sign upwith AOL just as soon as he buys a computer.
Much ofthe controversy surrounding TopDrawer.com's IPO has focused on the unusual methodof bidding on the company's shares, the so-called "Greek auction."According to this method, which has never been used before, only those who fallinto the following categories will be entitled to bid on shares:
?Thosewho have beaten Taki at tennis, karate or backgammon.
?Editorswho have spiked Taki's stories or fired him from their publications.
At first,I thought this might be casting our net a little wide, but Taki assures me thatthe number is in the low six figures.
The WallStreet outfit that's handling TopDrawer.com's stock offering-the distinguishedfirm of Bait, Bilk and Bolt-informs me that the great advantage of a "Greekauction" is that it gives the little guy a chance to share in the Internetboom. "By extending the offer to all those people who have outsmarted Taki,"says Hiram J. Bilk, "we're giving the ordinary person on the street a chanceto get in on the IPO."
It's understandablethat other members of our profession should question our motives and accuseus of cashing in on a trend. After all, it's only human to be upset by the successof a colleague, however well-deserved. What was it Oscar Wilde said? Whenevera friend succeeds, a little part of me dies-and we're going to make an absolutekilling.
Those entitledto do so can place a bid by visiting our IPO website, PoorLittleGreekBoy.com.TopDrawer.com's shares will trade on Nasdaq under the ticker SNKOIL. You cane-mail the author on firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE LONDON DESK The Victims Remain
It was afilthy war. Protestant and Catholic Irishmen planted bombs in each other's neighborhoods,and they kidnapped innocents. Former convicts admit on television that theyput revolvers to the heads of innocent people whose only relevant characteristicwas their religion, and pulled the trigger without remorse. Both sides committedmurder, as did the British army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Protestantsand Catholics blew up one another's, and sometimes their own, children. No onecan look back on the last 30 years in the North with pride, least of all theBritish who were, after all, in charge.
Some ofthe freed Protestant and Catholic prisoners in the North of Ireland have cometo regret their crimes. Many do not. I doubt the men who killed Jean McConvillein December 1972 are feeling much angst. Otherwise, they might have returnedher body to her children. When they supplied a list of nine names and whereto find their corpses to the special Anglo-Irish Independent Commission forthe Location of Victims' Remains, Jean McConville's was on it. Seven otherswere not. The nine had, apparently, been buried secretly in the Republic. Allwere Catholic. Irish police, the Garda Siochana, found Eamon Molloy at a cemeterynear Dundalk. They have continued digging for the rest for the past month andwere about to give up when they found the bodies of two more, Brian McKinneyand John McClory. None of the remains has been identified, but DNA analysisis expected to prove them to be who the IRA said they were.
Jean McConville,whom the IRA had denied for years it kidnapped, left 10 children. Her survivingnine (the 10th, Agnes, died in 1992 of cancer) went dutifully across the borderto Templeton Beach near Carlingford Loch, County Luth, to watch the Irish policedig her up. One of the children, Helen McKendry, has moved to Carlingford withher husband Seamus to watch the dig.
They arestill waiting. The commission had been told that Mrs. McConville lay under thespace for one car in a parking lot that had been constructed years after theykilled her. The police began with shovels, digging under one, then two car spaces. Later, they brought the mechanical diggers, and the pit is now about 200 yardslong and 15 feet deep. It seems unlikely they will find Helen McConville's bodythere.
The McConvilleshave been victimized by just about every faction in Northern Ireland. Theirfather, Arthur, was a Catholic, who in the early 1950s left the British Armywith the rank of master sergeant. He married Jean Murray, a Protestant who convertedto the Catholic faith and became far more devout than her husband. They hadtheir 10 children. In 1969, their Protestant neighbors drove them out of theirhouse in East Belfast. They took shelter on the west side, among fellow Catholicswho were far from welcoming. Protestants were similarly forced to move east,although not as many. (The Irish were ethnic cleansers when Slobodan Milosevicwas a boy communist in Tito's multicultural Yugoslavia.)
The Britishthen interned the oldest McConville son, as they did hundreds of others, onsuspicion of involvement in republican activities. Arthur McConville died ofcancer, and Jean had to raise the children in a two-bedroom flat provided by the government to those who had lost their homes. Then came 1972. Bloody Sundayin Londonderry. Murders on the streets. Shootouts between the IRA and Britishtroops.
One nightin December, the McConvilles heard gunfire. Helen heard something fall againstthe door. "We then heard someone cry out, 'Oh, God, somebody, help me.Please, help me.' And that went on for a few minutes." Speaking to me notfar from the dig where she still hoped, after a month, to find her mother'sbody, Helen said Jean went outside to help. She returned with blood all overher. "I think she just cradled his head and said a prayer in his ear. Theway my mother seen it, you know, she didn't see the uniform. She seen a person.She seen someone's son. She had sons, and she wouldn't like for them to die like that and nobody go to his aid." An ambulance took the soldier away.It is not clear whether he survived.
With thecontempt for the public that characterizes British government officials, theMinistry of Defence and the army refuse to release the name of the wounded soldierwhom Jean McConville helped. It would be interesting to know who he was, becauseher act of charity to him led to the demise of her family. A short time later,the IRA broke into the house. About 10 men and women, some armed and all withsweaters or scarves partially concealing their faces, terrified the childrenand dragged the mother out to a car.
The IRAannounced Jean McConville had abandoned her children to live with a Britishsoldier in Australia. The younger children grew up believing the lie and hatedtheir mother for it.
The IRA'scrimes against the family were compounded by the Northern Irish government andthe Catholic Church. Social Service officials took them out of their house andgradually sent them all to different institutions. They were rarely permittedto see one another, even though the youngest, twin boys, were only six. Allwere abused emotionally, according to their parish priest, and some physicallyand sexually.
None ofthem knew what had happened to their mother after the IRA took her away, untilit included her name last May on the list of those it had made to disappear."There are no words to describe the anguish that they suffered," FatherPatrick McCafferty, curate of Belfast's Sacred Heart Church, said. He blamesthe church itself for adding to their anguish and has repeatedly called on theIRA to return Jean McConville's body. Allowing the children to give her a funeral"to begin the process of healing for them in a very tangible way"is all he asks. The McConvilles hope to bury her in Milltown Cemetery on Belfast'sFalls Road, near the place where she was kidnapped and, as it happens, the restingplace of many IRA volunteers.
Ireland'speace is in jeopardy as I write this. Even those who understand why the IRAis willing to risk a resumption of war to keep its rifles and bombs, so longas the RUC remains an armed Protestant bulwark, cannot justify what it did tothe McConvilles. Nor can many decent republicans excuse the fact that Jean McConville'sbody has not, so far, turned up where the IRA said it was. The least they expectfrom the IRA is an apology.
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