"THE GOVERNMENT'S attitude toward different professions is striking. With sports scandals, it zeros in on individuals. But when it comes to banks, federal authorities go after the institutions--when they go after anything at all. The people at the center of a financial scandal are almost never touched, and just walk away with compensation packages that would make a cable-news anchor or a talk- show host blush.
"In Roger Clemens' case, you'd think he had stolen money from widows and orphans, so fevered was the government's wish to pin something on him." (They spent two years trying to nail the baseball star and cost us an estimated $2-$3 million. It all resulted in an acquittal.) "He should have gone into the true American pastime of our age: banking, a profession that actually had been clipping money from widows and orphans the past decade."
This is Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter at his most humane. This leader of the plush, glamorous last of the great excessive magazines offers followers of the rich and famous a neat look at the issues. Editor Carter is writing serious criticism and the reader benefits from his down-to-earth understandable high dudgeon about our life and times.
As for the "scandal" of athletes taking performance enhancing drugs, Mr. Carter says, "Let's face it, who among us wouldn't take a pill or potion that would make us better at our job? Goodness knows, we abuse substances for just about everything..." Then he cites the drugs famous writers have used for eons -- booze, coffee and cigarettes. I like his headline too. He calls bankers BANKSTAS --as in Gangstas!
- DON'T MISS the September issue of Vanity Fair which includes Meryl Gordon's history on "Fashion's Most Angry Fella - John Fairchild (and if you look closely at this article, you'll get the rare chance to see what the New York Times drama critic Ben Brantley looks like. So you can avoid stepping on his foot when taking your theater seat.) ...Then there is Laura Jacobs analyzing the fashions set in 25 great movies. It's worth the price of admission to get a glimpse of Marlene Dietrich in "Morocco"...And there's a lot of serious stuff like Karl Rove and his future and the ongoing art feud over whether some Jackson Pollocks are authentic or not. I would like to offer one small correction to the Jacobs article. She writes of Truman Capote's best-dressed swans--Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, C.Z. Guest, saying that Truman "dissed them all with 'La Cote Basque, 1965.' Truman did "diss" them. But the truth is that C.Z. Guest is the one exception. She remained friendly with Truman ever after. She even begged the other fashionables to overlook what he'd written about them. She was surprised that her fellow best-dressed-pals were so mad at Truman. She said to me at the time: "What do they think writers do? They all confided in Truman and gossiped with him. Didn't they realize he'd use it in time?"
- Looking at Vanity Fair's pages of fashionable women, selected by Amy Fine Collins, she shows us the incredible Diane Kruger. Maybe you remember her as "the girl" in the anti-Nazi, re-written history film "Inglourious Basterds." But Diane Kruger is even better as Marie Antoinette in the French film of the last days at Versailles - "Farewell Ma Reine." ("Farewell, My Queen.") This is still playing locally in New York and you should make it a point to see it, if you can.
- ARE YOU one of those people fuming about the U.S. sending an expensive "Curiosity" spacecraft to Mars? (NASA's budget is only $15 billion a year; or 0.47 per cent of the total federal budget. Compare that to the Department of Defense. It gets $716 billion, or 18.9 per cent.) Well, don't take my word for it; read Time magazine for August 20. A wonderful cover story on what this all means and how the "Curiosity," doing its job on Mars means 7,000 jobs for high-tech workers in most of our 50 states. Time writes: "A country that can't get its rods and bridges fixed at home actually has infrastructure on Mars...It was cool, indeed, but it was much more too. In an era in which the grind and gridlock of Washingtonhave made citizens wary of anything the government touches, this was a reminder of what the country can still do. The scene in mission control was what 'smart' looks like. It was what vision looks like." And we could get our roads and bridges fixed, easily, if Congress would get off its destructive high horse and get to work.
- USA TODAY headlines that 90 million Americans could vote in November "but likely won't. They're busy, fed up, disillusioned. Lisa Goicochea, 19, is one of them." All I can say here is that young Lisa and her pals may well get what they deserve for their negligence. They may lose Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare as we know it...the constitutional right to abortion via repeal of Roe vs. Wade...the help of Planned Parenthood...and they could end up living in a pseudo-democracy where there are only the very rich and the very poor. Plus, they may find they are permanently living in a world where money buys elections, just as it is trying to buy this one in November.