LEMAÎTRE No Smoking, Ever Inside theroyal enclosure at Ascot races last week-for any of you unfamiliar with theplace, Ascot is a race course next to Windsor Castle, and inside what is knownas the royal enclosure, for one week in June, gentlemen are required to weartop hats and tailcoats, ladies large hats preferably with flowers-I asked theCountess Alexander of Tunis if she would drop her title and become plain Mrs.Taki. "Your family only got it because of 10-to-one superiority of menand material and the fact that Rommel ran out of fuel..." "Whathave you got to offer?" asked Davina.
"Fetacheese, olives, Mykonos, you name it," offered yours truly.
"Ihate feta cheese," said the divine Davina, so I moved down the line propositioningthe rest of the ladies with equal success. What I should have offered insteadwas free smoking areas. Greeks consume more ciggies per capita than all otherEuropeans, and do so by a large margin. Trying to get Greeks to stop smokingis like trying to make fish walk, and suddenly there's more to Greece than justsea and sun and lots of greasy food. It is a place where people thank you forsmoking, and where there is not a single taxi driver who is allergic to tobacco.Ergo the "smoking tourist" boom.
Legislationto ban tobacco advertising in Britain before the end of the year was unveiledlast week by Tony Blair's socialist government, sending the freedom of the individualup in smoke, so to speak. At best this is a case of the romantic delusion thatthe state can solve all the problems we face; at worst it is the new breed ofcoercive bureaucracy striving to alter our culture and control our behaviorat work. There will be no more tobacco ads on billboards and in newspapers andmagazines starting Dec. 10. Advertising inside shops will also stop in this,the toughest crackdown anywhere in Europe. The European Union plans to followBlair's lead in two years. Needless to say, the ban was hailed by all sortsof health freaks and antismoking campaigners, but all it really does is adda nail to the coffin of our civil liberties.
Once upona time, when someone was criticized for self-destructive behavior, they usedto answer, "It's a free country." No longer. Laws today have becomeso extensive and regulations so expansive, contradictory and devoid of commonsense that almost anyone in the private sector who manages any business canbe held in violation of something. What this Blair bullshit means is that afterDec. 10 no one will be allowed to see an advertisement for a pack of, say, Camelsor Marlboros. You will not be permitted to send a letter to an individual containinga free Camel cigarette, even to an adult person who has expressed a willingnessto receive such a letter. It is the self-righteousness that makes me want topuke.
And I knowmy bureaucratic-loving socialists better than I know my Greek alphabet. Smokingin any public place will be forbidden next, followed by smoking in private.Eventually people will be prosecuted for offering cigarettes to someone, justlike girls are nowadays prosecuted for practicing the world's oldest profession.I wonder who will one day become the Heidi Fleiss of smoking-maybe Nan Kempner,or even Pat Buckley, both smokers and generous hostesses, bless their littlelungs. ("Mrs. William F. Buckley Jr., is it true that on June 23, 2000,you offered a cigarette inside your living room to one Taki Theodoracopulos?""Guilty, your honor." "Eighteen months, not suspended becauseyou have a previous record of a similar offense, to be served in a federal penitentiary,and a fine of 5000 dollars. Take her below!" )
The trendof legislation for our own good is a bottomless pit, pun intended. The ban ofother consumable goods that could damage our health will be sure to follow.Ads for butter, which contains cholesterol that brings on heart attacks, haveto be among the first to be banned. Advertisements for bacon ditto. And meats.And what about sugar products? They're bad for Muffie's teeth, and that includesCoca-Cola and other fizzy drinks. Which means Muffie and Buddy will not be ableto watch violent videos or homoerotic ones while downing Diet Cokes and munchingbeefburgers.
The largestcause of death, of course, will never be addressed by the autocratic buffoonswho lord it over us: Pollution caused by motor vehicles kills more people ayear than road accidents, according to the World Health Organization, but bullycowards like Clinton and Blair are very, very silent on the subject. No onehas ever accused either man of being dumb, and both of them know on which sidetheir bread is buttered. The automobile industry is stronger than the tobaccoby far, and just as we went to war for cheap oil in 1990, we are not about togo to war for expensive cars in 2000.
Oh yes,I almost forgot. Guess which was the only industry to be exempted by the banon tobacco advertising. Yes, you guessed right. Virtually all tobacco sponsorshipswill end by 2003-except for Grand Prix racing. Formula One has secured a specialexemption until 2006. The sport's billionaire boss, Bernie Ecclestone, donatedone million pounds to Tony Blair's party a couple of years ago, a highly controversialmove that worked both ways for old Bernie. When the story got out Blair hadto give the moolah back, but this was long after he had made the concessionto exempt. And you thought Clinton and Gore were slippery.
So remember.In Britain after Dec. 10, do not under the penalty of imprisonment send unsolicitedmail shots, leaflets or anything else free of charge with the aim of promotinga tobacco product. And in a few years, learn from the mythical Pat Buckley lessonand do not offer your favorite girl a smoke. Sing Sing, here I come.
Proud to be Un-American
Russia'sseizure of Pristina airport was its first armed confrontation with the Westsince the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. History will record this as the act thatsignaled the start of the Second Cold War. During the First Cold War, I wasstaunchly on the side of the West. This time around I will be just as staunchlyon the side of Russia. For today it is Russia that is upholding civilized norms,the sanctity of international law and the sovereignty of nations-the ostensible"values" of our side in the Cold War. Now it is the West, led by anincreasingly demented United States and animated by a shallow materialist ideology,that contemptuously disregards laws, treaties and conventions and seems unableto live peacefully with the rest of the world.
As of thiswriting, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania are denying the Russians access to theirair space, which prevents them from reinforcing their troops in Pristina. Theydo this in flagrant disregard of the requirements of the June 10 UN SecurityCouncil Resolution and the June 3 G-8 Agreement. The two documents state quiteexplicitly that the "international civil and security presence?in Kosovo"would be "under United Nations auspices" and that the Russian contingent"will not be under NATO command."
NATO, ofcourse, had no intention of abiding by any of its commitments. Even before thepassage of the UN Resolution, the United States was working fiercely behindthe scenes to make sure that Russia was prevented from playing any role in Kosovo.Washington leaned on Russia's former military allies and, without hesitation,they responded with the dishonor that is such an integral part of their nationalcharacter.
Back inAugust 1968, ignoring previous pledges of noninterference in the internal affairsof their neighbors, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria marched into Czechoslovakiaalongside the Red Army. (Significantly, Yugoslavia was the only country in theregion that condemned the Soviet invasion.) Now these countries have a new master,but their conduct is the same: craven and devoid of decency. Their action tellsthe Russians that they made a big mistake in granting them freedom. Confrontedby a United States determined to establish a series of satellites on their borders,the Russians realize that restoration of their old sphere of influence is amatter of life and death for them. I write as someone who was born in Budapestand who can still recall the pockmarked buildings that were the scenes of theheaviest fighting in 1956 between the Red Army and the Hungarian freedom fighters.
The FirstCold War was caused by the Soviet Union's inability to combine a sense of nationalsecurity with respect for other people's-or indeed its own people's-right toself-determination. America won, but instead of savoring their triumph, theydesperately looked around for new enemies to fight. Unable to believe that theworld they were living in was by and large a peaceful one, by late 1989 thedemented search for enemies was well under way. Japan was the first candidate.But the collapse of the Nikkei index soon ended that scare. Then it was theturn of reunited Germany (remember?).
Then camea variety of old favorites. Islamic fundamentalism. The China scare also madea comeback, but too many Americans make too much money in China to permit theforeign policy elite to start a pointless fight. Drug trafficking became anobsession for a while. But it is hard to blame foreigners for our own addictions.Noriega, Saddam and, of course, Milosevic all had their turn. Shrill littleintellectual magazines like The Weekly Standard and The New Republicregularly print venomous screeds against dangerous targets like Switzerland,France (apparently still governed from Vichy), in fact almost everyone in theworld with the exception of Israel and Turkey.
Alas, thesearch for enemies invariably produces them. Today, for the first time in itshistory, the United States confronts a world that by and large wishes it ill.China hates and mistrusts the United States. Japan is sick of listening to Americanstrictures about their economic system and about their supposed lack of contritionfor the "rape of Nanking." Latin Americans are tired of being judgedonly by their "efforts to combat drug trafficking." Brazilians can'tbear hearing again about the destruction of the "rainforest."
As for theRussians, they gave up their empire without firing a shot. They made it clearthat all they wanted was to be left in peace to address their innumerable problems.Rather naively, they assumed that other powers would not take advantage of theirweakness. After repeated humiliations, the Russians have had enough.
The SecondCold War will be fought over the same issues as the first one: freedom and self-determinationfor nations. Arrayed on one side will be the United States promoting its ideologyof "market democracy," supported by its small, weak but noisy pup,Great Britain. Arrayed on the other side will be Russia, China, India and muchof Asia and Latin America. As in the First Cold War, Europe is up for grabs.Doubtless, the neoconservative magazines, The New York Times and thevarious half-mad foreign policy intellectuals who pop up on CNN will soon betrying to whip us into line. We will be told that the new Cold War is all about"American" values. We will hear chilling tales of Russian nationalists,crazy generals, xenophobes, anti-Semites, former Communists and religious fanatics.We will hear hoary tales of Chinese-sponsored terrorism. As before, anyone opposingthe Second Cold War will be smeared.
Today'sAmerica is waging war against the values yesterday's America fought for. I willbe proud to be called "anti-American."