The liberals hate the middle class. There, I said it, and I am glad. Once again I am a truth teller, in this case speaking truth to stone heads. So certain am I of the truth of my asseveration that I honestly doubt any liberal will take issue with me. Can you imagine a liberal coming forward and saying: “Wrong, Tyrrell! I love the middle class.” Well, I guess I can imagine it, because liberals are effortless liars. Yet what specifically about the middle class might the liberals adduce to demonstrate their affection? The middle class’ sobriety? Hard work? Love of country? Love of liberty?
The liberals’ contempt for the pulchritudinous Sarah Palin obviously is fired by their hatred of the middle class. She has said nothing that many ordinary Americans have not said privately, though she does it with charm. I was particularly charmed by her playful taunt directed toward the Prophet Obama at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tenn., in February, when she said, “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for ya?” At the time, his polling figures were low—not as low as they fell later, but low—and not much was “working” for him. Things have not improved.
What seems particularly to offend the liberals is that she is from Middle America and from a state whose citizens pride themselves in self-reliance. Then, too, it has to hurt that she is so easy on the eye while being the antithesis of the feminist. By the way, has there ever been a comely feminist? Yes, Gloria Steinem had her moments, but then as the years went on and her gripes and disappointments multiplied, her anger got the best of her, and today her face looks like a gnarled fist. Palin could teach her a lot, starting with a pedicure and maybe a prayer. That is another thing that brings the liberals to a boil, Palin’s being a person of faith. For some reason, religion really alarms liberals, unless it be the religion of the Prophet Muhammad. Now there is an evolution in liberal thought I would not have anticipated.
The tea party movement is another perfectly middle-class phenomenon that sets off fires of indignation with the liberals. I could understand if they simply disagreed with the tea partyers. The tea partyers favor freedom, limited government, low taxes, and addressing the staggering debt that government is piling up. These are values that liberals do not champion. But the liberals have to go further, depicting the tea partyers as violent racists. Once again we see how fluently the liberals lie, starting by lying to themselves.
Last week during a seminar at The Heritage Foundation on my new book, After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery, Michael Barone, surely one of the most learned political observers of our time, made a very instructive point. While writing his fine book Our Country: The Shaping of America from Roosevelt to Reagan, he discovered that there was in the late 1930s a growing resistance against the New Deal’s spreading governmental tentacles. Very much as they are in today’s tea party movement, Americans were becoming uneasy about the cost and coercion of FDR’s huge government projects. Moreover, as Amity Shlaes has demonstrated in her most recent book, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, the New Deal was not ending the Depression, but lengthening it.
Barone now believes that had World War II not arrived, this late-1930s tea party manifestation would have supported a stiff challenge to FDR’s precedent-breaking third term. He speculates that there is something about America that makes many of its citizens relish their freedoms and suspicious of government involvement in areas Americans envisage as off-limits to government power and inefficiency. That something is the Constitution, which might explain why liberal judges want to be free to ignore it or disfigure it.
Yes, the liberals hate the middle class, and I think I tripped across the reason for their hatred while finishing Hangover. Whereas conservatism is fundamentally a temperament to delight in reality and in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, liberalism is fundamentally an anxiety. The environment? The Constitution? The middle class? Liberalism is an anxiety about reality. The liberals prefer fantasy to reality—hence their fluency in lying about the tea party movement and the pulchritudinous Sarah Palin.
The whole idea of a teenager began in the 1950s. Before that 13—19 just meant “young man.” Shortly after the birth of adolescence, came the birth of cool and you don”t have cool without rebellion. When Marlon Brando answered “Whaddya got?” to “What are you rebelling against?” in 1953’s The Wild One, youth subculture exploded into an endless cycle of teenagers defining their various epochs through short-lived mini-revolutions. The biggest deal throughout all these changes came in 1977 with punk and the biggest deal in punk was Malcolm McLaren.
Time Magazine recently published an obituary for McLaren written by Legs McNeil which, for wizened old punks like me, is a coup beyond proportions. About half the music nerd community is convinced Legs invented punk. The other half say it’s Malcolm.
In 1975 Legs McNeil named his music fanzine “punk” because some writers at Creem Magazine had started using the term to describe the violent rock and roll we all know and love today. When the zine made it to Britain, an entire generation found a word to tie their rebellion to. Soon-to-be seminal punk bands like the Damned read about punk and made songs like “New Rose” based on how the music was described. When the Ramones played London a year later in 1976, the buzz around the scene was catapulted into something real and tangible. Legs secured his place in history by carefully documenting this zeitgeist in his oral history book Please Kill Me, but he left out one huge detail. When the Ramones played London, Malcom McLaren’s Sex Pistols had already been gigging for about six months and the Clash were also a real band with a dozen songs ready to play live. New York may have helped, but Britain’s punk was already well on it’s way.
In fact, Britain’s rebellion had so much momentum at this point, it swept New York along with it. British people took their superior education and built the Ramones up to be this “band of the people” who was telling kids rock and roll is for everybody and together we can destroy the system. Meanwhile, the band was just a bunch of idiots from Queens who were doing a shitty job of riding the rockabilly revival that was sweeping New York and London at the time. The bands Legs was documenting were mostly art-rock wimps like Talking Heads and Blondie. They were far from revolutionary. It was Britain’s misinterpretation of the New York scene and their own anger that truly created punk rock.
A few months before Legs created his zine, Malcolm McLaren had changed the name of his and Vivienne Westwood’s clothing shop from Let it Rock to Sex. Let it Rock was a rockabilly revival shop, but Sex was to be a strange combination of torn t-shirts and bondage gear. There was a new generation of kids who were sick of Britain’s antiquated class system and bizarre love of the monarchy and McLaren called them on their hatred by daring them to dress the part. He saw an exciting mini-revolution growing so he grabbed it by the short and curlies and defined it. Months before the Ramones seemingly groundbreaking British show, Malcolm had assembled some loiterers from his store and formed the band that, even today, people think of when they hear the word “punk.”
The Sex Pistols were his well-crafted collection of misanthropic adolescents and, unlike the Ramones, they didn”t stumble into this revolution. They stood on top of it and sneered. In 1977, Malcolm vandalized the Queen’s Jubilee (the last one Britain really cared about) by having the Pistols play live on a boat right next to her. The day this happened, June 7, punk went from some angry British teenagers reading about a few New Yorkers in a photocopied magazine to a full-fledged movement.
All youth subculture is based on two things: music and fashion. Today’s hipsters are vilified by the boomer media for being shallow, apolitical, and having no legacy. This is the same old bullshit we were hearing when Bill Haley blew everyone’s mind by suggesting we rock around a clock. Sure the beatniks had some books and I”ve heard the hippies hated the war in Vietnam but contemporary pop culture’s only real legacies are music and fashion and what’s wrong with that? That’s what being young is all about. Malcolm was the master of both domains and he brought them to punk like only a true visionary knows how. He took a tiny fad and injected it with philosophy, an attitude, a class struggle, vandalism, anarchy, film, literature, enemies, allies, some incredible songs, and most importantly, cool pants.
It may seem like a tiny detail to you but for those of us who spend our lives sweating the small stuff, Malcolm McLaren was a hero. He was the king of adolescence because he was a maestro of rebellion and if you don”t think that’s a big deal, your youth was wasted on you. I”m sad Malcolm’s gone, but I”m also excited to see what the next generation’s rebellion will bring. The only sure thing is old people will be shaking their fists in the air and yelling about “the kids today” exactly the same way their parents did.
New York. It’s up early every day before 8 a.m. and a brisk walk through the park before breakfast on the way to judo practice. A pale green washes the fields, daffodils pushing through the crusty earth. The joggers are out in force, young Jewish princesses struggling while getting in shape for serious Bloomingdale’s shopping in the afternoon. The U.S. nationals are this weekend and I’ve been behaving myself. I now get hammered only twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. The walk through Central Park is the calm before the storm, the respite before the hell I know I will have to go though upon arrival. And that’s when I notice nature the best. The knotty buds unfolding, the sound of robins, the clatter of hooves of hansom cabs. There is a camaraderie among early risers, like early Christians, I suppose, one I never felt before because throughout my life I’ve been a night owl.
One other thing I’ve noticed is the total absence of children. One never sees kids doing what kids used to do in my time. Things like playing marbles, or hopscotch, stickball or even throwing a ball around. TV and computers have moved the kiddies indoors, hence the age-old bonds of childhood have gone the ways of good manners. There’s no more fighting—as in the time-honored ritual of wrestling a bully to the ground, or punching him in the nose. Uptown, the black and Hispanic kids still do it, but they settle it either with guns or knives. Midtown, affluent white children stay glued to their electronic devices, laughter, teasing and spontaneous play utterly vanished.
Did you know that only one in seen Americans know the name of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, but two-thirds can name at least one judge of American Idol? My friend and first publisher, Tom Stacey, laments that traditional narrative history has all but vanished in British schools, supplanted by a diet of projects on slavery, the labour movement, and women’s subjects. Tom is doing something about it, however, which is more than I can say about American studies. PC teachings are all one gets in the Home of the Depraved, and then some.
Last week, after a late night, I went to a Broadway matinee on my own. It was Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, a hit show with tunes that slam one with waves of nostalgia and longing. One particular song almost knocked me out, “My Eyes Adored You.” Perhaps it was the hangover, but most likely it was Pam Wallin, a beautiful Palm Beach girl that once walked barefoot onto the plane when I was leaving the beach for the Bagel, just to say goodbye. Those were innocent days and a pretty girl could walk on and off a plane undisturbed. She had a boy’s haircut and the best legs in Florida. An older boy at Lawrenceville, my first prep school, was her beau, but he was at Lehman Brothers while I was in Palm Beach. He hated me in school and his hatred grew after graduation. “My Eyes Adored You” was our song, Pam’s and mine, and last week I listened to it and almost cried. Cried because I haven’t seen her in 55 years and she is now in her seventies. I have no idea what happened to him, and frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn.
Music can do things to romantics. It’s a collaborative adventure. The romantic brings emotion and feelings to the table, lust or sorrow, the music does the rest. Music is pegged to one’s heart, that’s why the modern cacophony that passes for music nowadays is so soulless and such utter crap. See Jersey Boys and relive your youth and think of Pam and Taki dancing at Taboo and at the Alibi. But let’s move on, as they say, to the modern horror that’s today.
Britain is going to the polls in ten days, and Clegg and Brown look good. This is proof that the English have to be the dumbest people in Europe. The north of England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland are all state financed, the south producing the moolah for the rest. Social disintegration no longer counts. It should be the major issue yet it’s not. Immigration, ditto. Britain’s broken and not working but the two clowns will most likely end up running the country for the next five miserable years. Clegg is a Fifth Columnist for Brussels, and Brown has doubled the national debt, yet there are still English people around who will vote for them. So go ahead, see if I care. The Lib- Dems want an amnesty for illegal immigrants, so law breakers can demand full benefits. Labour wants to hire every able-bodied man and woman to ensure Labour stays in power for ever. Brussels is having the time of her life. I’m going down to South Carolina, then coming to London to inspect the wreckage, and then I’m off on my boat for the duration. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
When it comes to memories you can’t pound out of your head with a mallet, few rival the staying power of that moment when we discover how babies are made.
For me, it was really a series of excruciating epiphanies in the span of a fifth-grade afternoon in 1967.
All of us girls marched down to the school basement carrying chunky social studies books we would use to hide our very own copies of the slender Johnson & Johnson booklet titled “Growing Up and Liking It.” We watched a short flick on the wonders of our impending womanhood focusing entirely on feminine hygiene products made by—and how’s this for coincidence?—Johnson & Johnson.
Oh, how eagerly I whipped out that booklet to show my mother. She was a nurse’s aide, and she just loved matter-of-fact discussions about bodily functions. She set the booklet on her lap, looked me in the eyes and said, “There’s something else you should know.”
I don’t recall the specifics of the talk that unraveled life as I knew it, except that Mom had to add, “One day you will like it.” I do remember the heat burning up my neck and setting my cheeks on fire. I also remember my eyes bugging out like marbles on a spring as I shrieked, “With Dad?” And I remember my father coming home from work and asking, “What’s wrong with Connie?” Mom whispered, and he chuckled, and that was the only time I got away with not speaking to my father at the dinner table.
Ann Hanson, a grandmother of seven who travels the country teaching sex education in faith and secular communities alike, calls stories like mine “cradle tapes,” which are the experiences from our youth that form our adult values. When it comes to making sense of the mischievous stirrings that bring our childhood to an end, parents play a starring role, she said—even if they never take the stage.
“Parents are primary sexual educators,” said Hanson, who is minister for sexuality education and justice for the United Church of Christ. “It’s communication that stays with you for a lifetime.”
If parents say nothing, or act horrified by questions, the message is clear: It’s not OK to talk about sex in our home.
Hanson’s question: “If you aren’t educating your child, who is? Experimentation is a dangerous way to learn.”
On this, Hanson has a lot in common with Ben Snyder. He’s a 30-year-old father of two and the student ministries director for CedarCreek Church’s three campuses in the Toledo, Ohio, area.
I first discovered Snyder in a Toledo Blade story about his church’s campaign titled “My God Made Sex,” which used billboards, commercials, and a flashy website to promote two seminars for teens about sex and God. The message is a relentless drumbeat about how God will rain shame on you like volcanic ash if you don’t stay “pure” and wait until marriage to have sex.
It would be unfair to depict Snyder as a typical two-fisted warrior for intolerance. In our phone interview, he came across as a thoughtful and gentle man who wrestles with issues of human judgment even as he claims God’s certainty. After he declared homosexuality a “sexual immorality,” I asked him what he would say to gay and lesbian teenagers who feel bereft and abandoned by God because of his church’s teachings. His voice softened.
“If they feel certain they are homosexual, perhaps there is something else we’ve missed,” he said. “These things can be very divisive or misunderstood. For me, there are names and faces to this.”
Both Hanson and Snyder want parents to take the lead in sex education for their children. They also want young people to understand the spiritual ramifications of sex. The difference between their faith-based programs is that Snyder’s instructions stop at “no,” whereas Hanson wants kids to know how to protect themselves if they have sex. And she doesn’t want them to feel unworthy in the eyes of God when they do.
Education, she said, is a great deterrent. For pointers, she recommends parents visit AdvocatesForYouth.org.
“If you teach a child that sex is normal and healthy and even pleasurable, they are more likely to know when they are in a relationship that harms them,” she said. “And they are less likely to seek experimentation and sex at a young age.”
Remember, dear parents: When it comes to sex, you are your children’s primary teachers.
Even if you say nothing at all.
As is common knowledge now, on April 23 Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country. Senate Bill 1070 “make[s] attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.” It requires law enforcement to check the status of people suspected of being in the country illegally, makes knowingly hiring illegal aliens a crime and even outlaws one “enter[ing] a motor vehicle that is stopped on a street…in order to be hired by an occupant of the motor vehicle.”
Illegal immigration, unfortunately, is a lot like affirmative action. The majority of the country may oppose it, but any real attempts to do anything about the issue are treated as outbreaks of mass psychosis by the establishment. It’s not surprising that the media has begun smearing Arizona, trying to send a message to any other state out there thinking of actually doing anything to oppose Latino colonization. In addition to the stick of the threat of being considered uncivilized, conservatives are also offered the carrot of better relations with Hispanics if they don”t follow in the footsteps of “those bad people over there,” with ominous and subtle warnings about the political dangers of angering the country’s fastest growing demographic.
The day the bill was signed Politico ran an article with the title “What’s the matter with Arizona?” citing a local paper that said the state was “turning into a punch line.” Indeed, the National Catholic Reporter, Center for American Progress, and Metro Latina USA ran articles with the same exact headline; Rasmussen Reports ran one titled “What’s wrong with Arizona?”
According to Arizona Democratic State Representative Kyrsten Sinema the state has “become the laughing stock of the nation.” If Arizona is being laughed at, we have to ask exactly who is doing the laughing? Not only do seventy percent of the people of that state favor SB1070, but sixty percent of all Americans want local police to have the ability to check immigration status.
Perhaps it’s the establishment that’s doing the laughing. Then again, Obama didn”t seem to be in a joyous mood when he called the bill “misguided” and announced his Justice Department would look at it. I don”t think that Congress is laughing either as they”re forced against their will to make immigration their top priority, a move that may very well cause the Democrats to loose both houses in November.
Maybe the churches think all this is funny? Reverend Jim Wallis calls the bill a “social and racial sin.” (You remember learning about “racial sins” in Sunday school, right?) Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony gets no originality-points for pulling out both the Nazi and Communist cards. Evangelical leaders are similarly upset with the measure.
A few days after governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070, the religious, political and activist establishments had become even more hysterical. On Monday the New York Daily News told us:
“New York activists, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, compared Arizona’s new immigration law to apartheid, Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South—and vowed to shut it down with mass protests.
‘We will bring Freedom Walkers to Arizona just like Freedom Riders went to the deep south 50 years ago,’ Sharpton said yesterday…
[The bill] now faces a slew of legal challenges and a review by the U.S. Department of Justice that was ordered by President Obama.
‘When I heard about it, it reminded me of Nazi Germany,’ said Hispanic Federation President Lillian RodrÃguez LÃ³pez. ‘It reminded me of South African apartheid.’”
Wow, Lillian, Franco’s Spain and Mussolini’s Italy feel left out.
Quite obviously, these aren”t the words of people who are laughing at what’s just happened in Arizona. What you hear is fear coming from an elite which knows the masses are against them and hopes to intimidate the majority of the country into silence.
Greg Dworkin of the Daily Kos warned the Arizona GOP not to follow in the footsteps of the California party, which supported Proposition 187 and has been unable to remain competitive in statewide elections since. Those making these kinds of calculations never consider that it’s lax immigration policies which lead to a large Hispanic population in the first place. If your state is unwelcoming they won”t come, and if they don”t come you don”t have to placate them. The only thing California proves is that the state Republican Party addressed the issue too late.
Unfortunately, the national GOP seems as clueless as ever. On Monday Politico reported, “former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie paraphrase[d] the words of Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: “When immigration is an issue, nobody wins.”” Nonsense. If there’s a two party system, then there’s no such thing as an issue which isn”t a net benefit for one side. Since in November every seat in the House of Representatives and Senate (with the the exception of one or two) will go to either a Democrat or Republican—and the same can be said for the vast majority of political offices across the country and the presidency in 2012—one party will emerge from the coming immigration fight better off than the other (or nobody will be hurt/helped). It’s simply a logical necessity in a zero sum game where there’s only two players.
Of course, I”m only right if the goal of each party is to win elections. As we saw from the McCain campaign, there’s no shortage of Republicans who would rather lose than be suspected of racism. If by “winning” Gillespie means the country club-Republicans being able to both do better in polling while not feeling a pang of white guilt, then there’s probably no way for an immigration battle to be beneficial from his perspective. For immigration reform patriots, however, there’s no reason not to want the national spotlight shining on this issue.
With the support of 70 percent of its citizens, Arizona has ordered sheriffs and police to secure the border and remove illegal aliens, half a million of whom now reside there.
Arizona acted because the U.S. government has abdicated its constitutional duty to protect the states from invasion and refuses to enforce America’s immigration laws.
“We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” said Gov. Jan Brewer. “But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created an unacceptable situation.”
We have a crisis in Arizona because we have a failed state in Washington.
What is the response of Barack Obama, who took an oath to see to it that federal laws are faithfully executed?
He is siding with the law-breakers. He is pandering to the ethnic lobbies. He is not berating a Mexican regime that aids and abets this invasion of the country of which he is commander in chief. Instead, he attacks the government of Arizona for trying to fill a gaping hole in law enforcement left by his own dereliction of duty.
He has denounced Arizona as “misguided.” He has called on the Justice Department to ensure that Arizona’s sheriffs and police do not violate anyone’s civil rights. But he has said nothing about the rights of the people of Arizona who must deal with the costs of having hundreds of thousands of lawbreakers in their midst.
How’s that for Andrew Jackson-style leadership?
Obama has done everything but his duty to enforce the law.
Undeniably, making it a state as well as a federal crime to be in this country illegally, and requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they have a “reasonable suspicion” is here illegally, is tough and burdensome. But what choice did Arizona have?
The state has a fiscal crisis caused in part by the burden of providing schooling and social welfare for illegals and their families, who consume far more in services than they pay in taxes and who continue to pour in. Even John McCain is now calling for 3,000 troops on the border.
Police officers and a prominent rancher have been murdered. There have been kidnappings believed to be tied to the Mexican drug cartels. There are nightly high-speed chases through the barrios where innocent people are constantly at risk.
If Arizona does not get control of the border and stop the invasion, U.S. citizens will stop coming to Arizona and will begin to depart, as they are already fleeing California.
What we are talking about here is the Balkanization and breakup of a nation into ethnic enclaves. A country that cannot control its borders isn’t really a country anymore, Ronald Reagan reminded us.
The tasks that Arizonans are themselves undertaking are ones that belong by right, the Constitution and federal law to the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Homeland Security.
Arizona has been compelled to assume the feds’ role because the feds won’t do their job. And for that dereliction of duty the buck stops on the desk of the president of the United States.
Why is Obama paralyzed? Why does he not enforce the law, even if he dislikes it, by punishing the businessmen who hire illegals and by sending the 12 million to 20 million illegals back home? President Eisenhower did it. Why won’t he?
Because he is politically correct. Because he owes a big debt to the Hispanic lobby that helped deliver two-thirds of that vote in 2008. Though most citizens of Hispanic descent in Arizona want the border protected and the laws enforced, the Hispanic lobby demands that the law be changed.
Fair enough. But the nation rose up as one to reject the “path-to-citizenship”—i.e., amnesty—that the 2007 plan of George W. Bush, McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama envisioned.
Al Sharpton threatens to go to Phoenix and march in the streets against the new Arizona law. Let him go.
Let us see how many African-Americans, who are today frozen out of the 8 million jobs held by illegal aliens that might otherwise go to them or their children, will march to defend an invasion for which they are themselves paying the heaviest price.
Last year, while Americans were losing a net of 5 million jobs, the U.S. government—Bush and Obama both—issued 1,131,000 green cards to legal immigrants to come and take the jobs that did open up, a flood of immigrants equaled in only four other years in our history.
What are we doing to our own people?
Whose country is this, anyway?
America today has an establishment that, because it does not like the immigration laws, countenances and condones wholesale violation of those laws.
Nevertheless, under those laws, the U.S. government is obligated to deport illegal aliens and punish businesses that knowingly hire them.
This is not an option. It is an obligation.
Can anyone say Barack Obama is meeting that obligation?
Due to Polish president Lech KaczyÅski’s death in the tragic April 10 plane crash, his identical twin brother JarosÅaw, Poland’s brooding former prime minister, announced on April 26 that he is running to replace his twin.
This kind of heartwarming/unsettling vibe is common with stories about twins. In a civilization that celebrates individualism, identical twins have played a slightly subversive role ever since Castor and Pollux.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the spotlight first shone on the KaczyÅski twins when they starred in a 1962 hit kids“ movie. Being an identical twin provides an easy entry into acting in front of the camera. Both child labor laws limiting the number of hours allowed on the set and the tantrum-proneness of small children encourage producers to hire spares.
And young audiences, quite reasonably, are fascinated by identical twins. (The real question is why adults aren”t.) Identical twins make up no more than 1/250th of the population. (In contrast, due to late marriages and fertility treatments, fraternal twins are up to around 1/33rd.) Yet, many grown-ups can remember vividly a pair with whom they attended school.
Despite their advantage at getting a foot in the film industry door, identical twin child actors, such as the KaczyÅskis, seldom stay stars as adults.
One reason is that real-life twins almost never get to play twins in movies. In plays and movies, twins often bear a heavy load of symbolism and plot mechanics. These dual characters are normally conceived not as realistic portrayals of twins, but as tour de force opportunities for singleton stars to play two implausibly contrasting personalities, such as the good twin and the evil twin (Bette Davis in various movies) or the tormented artistic screenwriter and his amiable hack sibling (Nicolas Cage in Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation). In the upcoming Leaves of Grass, Edward Norton plays both an Ivy League professor and his twin brother, an Okie dope farmer.
These kind of movies allows actors and screenwriters to fool around with stark dualities. Nevertheless, they generally don”t have much to do with what it’s like to be an identical twin.
In case you are wondering, among today’s numerous pairs of film-making brothers, two are twin pairs: the half-black/half-Armenian Hughes brothers (Menace II Society) and the Polish brothers (Northfork). (Although they can be hard to tell apart, the Coen brothers (No Country for Old Men) are three years different in age.)
During Hollywood’s golden age, Julius and Philip Epstein, screenwriting identical twins, dreamed up the most perfect line in movie history. Desperately needing to decide what Captain Renault says after Rick shoots Major Strasser in Casablanca: “they turned to each other and with one voice cried out, ‘Round up the usual suspects!’” Or, at least, that’s how they told the story.
While movie twins look alike but act wildly different, real-life twins often see themselves as less similar, both in looks and personality, than they appear to strangers.
The American equivalent of the KaczyÅski child stars are Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (who, oddly enough, increasingly look like the KaczyÅskis). They started out playing the same infant on TV and went on to earn about $100 million dollars from direct-to-video movies for kids. Yet, they claim they are not identical, but fraternal twins.
This is not uncommon. For example, the extremely similar-looking stars of the 2004 American Olympics gymnastic team, Paul and Morgan Hamm, were always told by their parents that they were fraternal twins because their hair twirled in the opposite directions. Other twins, such as the two pairs of NBA-bound seven-footers to star for the Stanford basketball team, Jason and Jarron Collins and Brook and Robin Lopez, don”t know and don”t try to find out.
Twins illustrate the relativity of human differences. Bernard Shapiro became Principal of McGill University, the most prestigious college in Canada, and then Ethics Commissioner of Canada, while his twin brother Harold became president of Princeton and chairman of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission under Bill Clinton. The two always considered themselves fraternal twins because, growing up, Bernard was more scholarly and Harold more athletic; and then Bernard preferred psychology and Harold economics. (They ended up specializing in psychometrics and econometrics.)
Identical twin stars seem less common in movies than in team sports, where their superior cooperation skills can help. For instance, the Sedin twins of the Vancouver Canucks finished second and third in the National Hockey League in points per game this year. In basketball, tall twins grow up with the advantage of having to pick on somebody their own size when practicing in the driveway. Dick and Tom Van Arsdale, 1970s NBA all-stars, epitomized one trait often seen among identical twins: phenomenal levels of sibling rivalry combined with tremendous loyalty to each other against the world.
Among the most sophisticated portrayals of twins are two dramas/screenplays that don”t mention twins: Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer and Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, two rivalrous English twins who considered themselves fraternal. Psychoanalyst Jules Glenn argued that their plays manifested “the personality characteristics and interactions of twins” including “mutual identification, role reversal, intense rivalry and affection, as well as a desire to keep things “even.””
This is not to say all these pairs are identicals, just that individuals tend to overestimate how individual they are.
Recently, U.S. District Judge Barb Crabb ruled that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of church and state which, she believed, was mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Both the Obama Administration and the American Center for Law and Justice, a “friend of the court” litigant, have vowed to appeal it.
The National Day of Prayer was first established in 1952, and the statute presently reads: “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”
It is this simple statement that Judge Crabb found to be constitutionally indefensible. In her ruling, she wrote that, “in my view of the case law, government involvement in prayer may be consistent with the establishment clause when the government’s conduct serves a significant secular purpose and is not a “call for religious action on the part of citizens.””
She determined that the National Day of Prayer failed that test, finding that it went “beyond mere “acknowledgment” of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context.”
She concluded that, “the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience….[R]ecognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not mean that the government may enact a statute in support of it, any more than the government may encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic.”
Judge Crabb’s ruling is only the latest example of the state of confusion that exists in the 1st Amendment’s religion case law, particularly in the area of ceremonial deism. For instance, the Supreme Court has upheld the use of the motto “In God We Trust” on our nation’s currency but, conversely, has held that the display of the Ten Commandments in a courtroom is unconstitutional.
“The problem lies in the fact that the courts have read into the Constitution two religion clauses when there is in fact only one”‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’”
The Supreme Court has held that manger scenes may be constitutional, but only if surrounded by a Christmas Tree, menorah, and Rudolph. It has held that prayer before the opening of a legislative body is constitutional, but lower courts have found some prayers to violate the 1st Amendment. The Supreme Court hasn”t addressed the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance yet, but in 2002 the 9th Circuit found that it ran afoul the great wall of separation of church and state.
This condition of uncertain confusion in our nation’s church-state case law rests on a profound misunderstanding of the Religion Clauses of the 1st Amendment, with the Supreme Court itself noting that, “[w]hile the two Clauses express complimentary values, they often exert conflicting pressures.”
The problem lies in the fact that the courts have read into the Constitution two religion clauses when there is in fact only one””Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The Religion Clause was intended to protect a freedom”religious liberty”from the coercive power of government. The goal was not to simply prohibit a state church or the prosecution of a church by the state, but to prohibit all religious discrimination that can occur between these two sides of the same coin.
The only way to consistently protect all aspects of religious liberty is to read it as one unified clause prohibiting religious discrimination by the government. Such discrimination occurs in three primary forms”governmental denial of equal protection based on religion, government interference with a religious organizations beliefs and practices, or government coerced adherence to a particular religious faith.
Symbolic references to religion”National Day of Prayer, Ten Commandments, manger scenes, etc”do not fall into any of these categories of government discrimination. Though generic endorsements may, as Justice O”Connor has noted, send “a message to non-adherents that they are outsiders,” these “non-adherents” are not denied the equal protection of the laws because they fail to conform.
Nor does ceremonial deism present the threat of government interference with a church or organization’s religious tenants and customs. Neither can symbolic references constitute coercion because they cannot reasonably and tangibly lead to government indoctrination and proselyzation.
It is time for the courts to replace their unworkable and conflicting religion jurisprudence with one that makes sense”that the Religion Clause is only violated by government religious discrimination.
British comedienne Catherine Tate did a very funny sketch with Daniel Craig, the latest James Bond actor. In the sketch she is a dimwitted, over-the-hill 36-year old who has hooked up with Craig through an internet dating service. The main joke is that Craig is besotted with her, and has moved in with her, while she is much cooler on him. (“I was hoping for someone slightly better looking, but …”) The secondary joke is that she is so clueless, she doesn’t know who Craig is. (“He says he’s an actor, but I’ve never heard of him … I think he works at Carphone warehouse …”).
After telling the “interviewer” how she and Craig first got in touch, the lexically-challenged Tate character adds: “The rest, as they say, is biology.” Realizing she has used the wrong school subject, she pauses to rethink, then corrects herself: “History.”
The joke there is of course that we were with her the first time. If an initial encounter turns into a love affair, the rest is biology, or at least an important part of it is.
So is a lot of other stuff. The Tate-Craig sketch came to mind when I was reading Wall Street Journal the other day: In 1900, David Hilbert produced a set of 23 problems that established an agenda for research in mathematics over the ensuing decades.
So he did. The event is dear to my heart: I got a book out of one of those problems. But where’s the Journal going with this?
Last Saturday, Harvard hosted a conference on “Hard Problems in Social Science,” sponsored by the Indira Foundation, that was explicitly inspired by Hilbert’s legacy. Twelve leading social scientists from a variety of fields and institutions were given 15 minutes each to present whatever hard problems they liked.
Seems like a neat idea. What’d they come up with?
<object width=“300” height=“243”; style=“float:left; MARGIN: 10px 10px 10px 10px”/><param name=“movie” value=“http://www.youtube.com/v/g4AgzQvFNZs&hl=en_US&fs=1&”><embed src=“http://www.youtube.com/v/g4AgzQvFNZs&hl=en_US&fs=1&” type=“application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=“always” allowfullscreen=“true” width=“300” height=“243”></embed></object><p>I have to confess that my attention wandered somewhat here. Twelve 15-minute presentations makes three hours. That’s a lot of lecturing to sit through when your college days are three or four decades behind you. Some of the topics are more accessible than others; some of the presenters are more watchable than others. What follows is therefore inexact and impressionistic. You can view the whole thing on your own time.
Nicholas Christakis of Harvard: How and why does the social become biological? A really good presentation on the culture “ biology feedback loop. The star attraction here, as always, is lactose tolerance: a change in culture (from hunting to cattle herding) causing actual genetic change. In the other direction, genes shape culture. How many friends do you have? How many does he have? And her? And him? And her? … the number varies over a population. Well, 46 percent of that variation is genetic.
Ann Swidler, Berkeley: How do societies create institutions? Lots of ancillary problems: Who has influence and why? How do societies cope with free riders and defectors? Nicely done, but not as much fun as the first.
Nassim Taleb, NYU: Yep, it’s the black swan guy, riding that same hobby horse (hobby swan?) Can we find a robust way to cope with events that have tiny probabilities but huge consequences? You need to be able to thrill to statements like: “One day in 40 years represents 80 percent of the kurtosis.” Good fun if you know the jargon.
Peter Bearman of Columbia, standing in for an indisposed Robert Sampson of Harvard: Something about the continuity of civil violence.
Nick Bostrom of Oxford: What is the biggest falsehood promulgated in social science today? I’m not sure that was actually his main problem. He shot off into some sub-problems, e.g. How can humanity increase its collective wisdom? (“There are 30 billion IQ points in the U.S,, but they don’t aggregate very well.”) Hard to follow; but then, Bostrom’s a philosopher. They’re supposed to be hard to follow.
Gary King of Harvard: something about post-treatment bias. Very jargony presentation on experimental design in social sciences & the methodological problems with experimental variables. Worthy, I’m sure, but zzzzzz for non-specialists.
Emily Oster of the University of Chicago: How do we get people to change their health behaviors? I dunno. Smack ‘em upside the head? More worthy-but-dull, skipped the second half.
Claudia Goldin of Harvard: Why do sex differences in economic outcomes exist? (She said “gender,” of course, not “sex.”) Not such a duh! as it sounds, and quite rigorously done. “More women than men want shorter, more flexible hours …” etc.
Susan Carey of Harvard: How do new concepts arise when there are no similar concepts for them to build on? I think that was her question. Dense, challenging canter through some ideas in cognitive science, with side excursions in philosophy of science. I wish Steve Pinker had been there to hold my hand.
James Fowler, U. Cal. San Diego: What causes clustering in social networks? Some good rigorous experimental sociology, up there with Nicholas Christakis. Good models, neat graphics. You can squeeze some predictive virtue out of four degrees of social relatedness: e.g. if your friend’s friend’s friend’s friend is a heavy drinker, I can make nontrivial probabilistic inferences about your boozing. Good stuff on the difficulty of untangling influence (we’re similar because we hang out together) from homophily (we hang out together because we’re similar).
Roland Fryer of Harvard: Why does the black-white skill gap persist? Gotta improve those schools! KIPP! HCZ! Charter schools! Good vigorous presentation, but same old questions left hanging in the air. E.g.: If these intensive interventions raise the school achievement of poor black kids, why wouldn’t they raise the achievement of poor white kids, too? Or for that matter, of middle-class and rich white kids? If you have a method of raising school achievement, that is a social good. On what grounds, moral or constitutional, can you withhold that good from children who are nonpoor and nonblack? And if you don’t, won’t you be left with the same gaps as before, just shifted up the scale? Then the really hard questions, like: How do you get unionized teachers to work KIPP hours?
Richard Zeckhauser of Harvard: the question was either What should we strive to maximize”income, happiness, or what? or else How do we aggregate information from different parties to make decisions, e.g. what’s the optimal election system? Sorry, I was nodding off by this point.
As a thumbnail (can you have a three-hour thumbnail?) sketch of the current state of the social sciences, this symposium was informative. Most informative of all, though, was to see how little biology was there, once Christakis was through. The Standard Social Science Model, a.k.a. the “blank slate,” is still going strong.
Take Prof. Goldin’s topic: Why do sex differences in economic outcomes exist? I liked her presentation, and I’m sure she’s got a lot of the answer covered. Might not some of it, though, be a matter of women being less aggressive, less ambitious than men, for merely biochemical”hormonal”reasons? And why are economic outcomes the focus? After all, they’re not life and death, like this “gender” difference.
Come on, social scientists. There are some good minds there, doing good quantitative work. When you’ve measured all the environmental variables, though, and crunched the numbers”ranked, sorted, histogrammed, and correlated them”and there’s still an explanatory gap, what’s left? The rest is biology.
Meanwhile, here’s my hard problem in social science: Can a pure meritocracy be stable?