Well, it sure didn’t take long for the Tucson Truce to collapse.
After Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot on Jan. 8 by a berserker who killed six others, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and wounded 13, the media were aflame with charges the right had created the climate of hate in which such an atrocity was inevitable.
The Washington Post story on the massacre began, “The mass shooting … raised serious concerns that the nation’s political discourse had taken a dangerous turn.”
Following Barack Obama’s eloquent eulogy and call for all of us to lower our voices, it was agreed across the ideological divide that it was time to cool the rhetoric.
This week, however, hate speech was back in style.
After Donald Trump called on Obama to release his original birth certificate and produce the academic records and test scores that put him on a bullet train from being a “terrible student” at Occidental College to Columbia, Harvard Law and Harvard Law Review editor, charges of “racism” have saturated the airwaves.
To Tavis Smiley of PBS, this was a sure sign the most “racist” campaign in history is upon us. To Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg of “The View,” this was pure racism. To Bob Schieffer, CBS anchor, an “ugly strain of racism” is behind the effort to get Obama’s records.
Again and again on cable TV, the question is raised, “What, other than racism, can explain Trump’s call for these records?”
Well, how about a skeptical attitude toward political myths? How about a legitimate Republican opposition research effort to see just how much substance there is behind the story of the young African-American genius who awed with his brilliance everyone who came into contact with him?
Trump is testing the waters for a Republican campaign. One way to do that is to attract the party’s true believers by demonstrating that, if you get nominated, unlike John McCain in 2008, you will peel the hide off Barack Obama. Is there anything wrong with that?
As for the birth certificate, it was The Donald who forced Obama to make it public. Not in two years had anyone else been able to do it. The White House press corps did not even try. The pit bulls of Richard Nixon’s time have been largely replaced by purse dogs.
Not since Jack Kennedy has a president had a press corps so protective of the man they cover—though in Kennedy’s case, they covered up a lifestyle that could have ended JFK’s presidency.
“Hypocrisie est un hommage que la vice rend Ã la vertu.”
La Rochefoucauld was right. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. More to the point, virtue deserves tribute. I tire of nincompoops raising a quivering finger at folks whose morality may not be 100% consistent. I grow weary of those who think the mere observation of hypocrisy means something. I yawn and roll my eyes at the killjoys who seem to think that the mere existence of hypocrisy somehow discredits the idea that one should at least attempt to act ethically.
The argument seems to be that if you reveal someone is a hypocrite in any way, no matter how tenuous, they’ll dissolve into an embarrassed puddle of goo like the Wicked Witch of the West when splashed with a bucket of water. What kind of reasoning is that? Looks to me like the kind of highfalutin disputation used by spoiled, foot-stomping, semi-sentient adolescents on their parents. It’s a textbook example of the ad hominem logical fallacy. Pointing out that someone is a hypocrite is analytically equivalent to calling them a pooty-head or mentioning they are fat and smell like paste. Except being a hypocrite is actually a good thing.
I admire hypocrisy: the more brazen, the better. It makes people strive toward something better than what they are. Hypocrisy is just faking it until you make it. The anti-hypocrites would prefer that everyone wallow in their vices rather than attempting to become better people. But virtue of any kind is impossible without some hypocrisy. Being against hypocrisy is moral nihilism.
The way the rhetorical game works for the hypocrite-hunters, you can be an extremely bad person as long as you’re consistent about it: sort of like Barney Frank. You’re not allowed to encourage people to be good or even vaguely sensible without being saintlike in your perfection. In fact, if you’re a big enough hypocrite, your opinions don’t count at all. Hypocrites are often considered nonpersons, much like racists, believers in sexual dimorphism, and other modern thought criminals.
A few years ago, media ding-dongs went into foaming paroxysms of ecstasy when it turned out that former American “Drug Czar” William Bennett likes to gamble. Or that like many rich people, Al Gore is a fat guy who, despite preaching the virtues of living small, owns large houses, a private jet, and boats with hot tubs in them. Or that Rush Limbaugh was addicted to drugs. Why is any of that interesting? Drugs are still bad and you should avoid them, lest you end up muttering to yourself like Charlie Sheen or a Berkeley City Council member. Gambling…so what? Bennett may be an annoying neocon gasbag, but he is right that people should have more virtues such as self-discipline. Apparently he had enough personal restraint that gambling was never a problem in his personal life. Sure, Al Gore has giant houses and a jet; that doesn’t mean folks shouldn’t be frugal and modest, even if the fat moron can’t manage a halfway decent hair-shirt routine to impress the rubes. Personally, I find Al Gore contemptible because the man can’t even cadge a handjob from a paid middle-aged masseuse, but I don’t mind that he has boats with hot tubs yet wants other liberals to eat gruel. The inventor of the Internet can apparently use all the help he can get with the ladies. The fact that Rush Limbaugh has no self-control with his pill stash doesn’t mean you should start shooting heroin or cut any slack for people who do, or that none of his other opinions have merit. Laugh at Rush for his melodramatic rants or his portly figure, but he obviously knows something about drug problems.
At the risk of being antiquated, I am wholeheartedly in favor of the nuptials taking place today in London. This, despite its apparently being dÃ©classÃ© for one to admit to having romantic notions of happily-ever-after, adore the regalia of circumstance, or participate in an unabashed adoration of tradition.
What sours me on the event is the manner in which so many seem eager to dismiss it. For whatever else, this is one of the singular moments of our time. (If one disagrees, please recall that it will be the most watched event in 15 years, with an estimated 2 billion global viewers.)
In short, it is a glorious celebration of the heritage of many of us and a rare opportunity to see an antiquated finery which was once far more common than today put on to its full display.
And if not all agree, we can consent to disagree, except in that those who will avoid the wedding coverage (or claim to avoid it) seem intent to ruin the enjoyment of everyone else. In my specific case, a fellow quipped to me that he thought it ridiculous that millions of people would camp along the Royal Procession for a mere momentary glimpse of the Royal couple.
To this end I feel I must, as they say, burst his bubble.
The following are of course averages and they vary between a 70 and 80 year life span. Most of them I have rounded to the lowest numbers rather severely, so even if one thinks they do not apply personally to the reader these numbers are likely quite representative. As to the television number, it is for 3 hours a day, though most people watch it for 4 hours and many as high as 7 hours. Even if one is disinclined to the lowest number for television viewing, internet use and electronic gaming will likely make up the difference.
With that, for all those who would begrudge today’s grand moments, I present the following:
The politicians are beginning to shuffle into place for next year’s presidential contest. (Or out of place: Haley Barbour announced this week that he won’t try for the Republican nomination.) So whom do we have?
We have Barack Obama. I see no sign that anyone in his own party will challenge him. This might change. This time next year, with unemployment at fifty percent, the dollar trading at par with the Laotian kip, and Chinese landing craft coming ashore on Guam, things might be different, but let’s go with what we currently have.
The field to ponder is therefore the GOP presidential field. Herewith some notes:
The National Question. I don’t want to end up having to vote for a candidate who is squishy on the National Question. This primarily involves matters of immigration, citizenship, and border control, but also issues relating to national cohesion”race preferences, multiculturalism, and maintaining English as our single national language.
Taking immigration policy as the main index here, it looks as if I’m out of luck. None of the 2012 hopefuls rated by NumbersUSA gets better than a B-minus on immigration, and the median there is a D.
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson hasn’t made it to the NumbersUSA list yet (he only declared last week), but to judge by his National Review interview, he’s an immigration dim bulb who thinks the main problem is that it’s too hard for foreigners to get work visas and that “it’s not a matter of welfare.” (Oh, no?)
Johnson’s published policy statements are even worse than that, calling for “a temporary guest worker program that makes sense.” Hoo-kay, Governor”here are 13 current guest-worker programs, by visa category:
F-1: Student temporarily employed
H-1B: Occupations with specialized knowledge
H-2A: Seasonal, agricultural
H-2B: Seasonal, non-agricultural
H-3: Trainees (other than medical or academic)
J: Interns, au pairs, etc.
L: Intracompany transfers
O-1: Persons of extraordinary achievements
O-2: Persons assisting an O-1
P-1: Athletes & entertainers
P-2: Artists on reciprocal exchange programs
P-3: Artists performing culturally unique programs
Q-1: Cultural exchange training
If you throw in borderline categories such as crew members in transit (D visa), religious workers (R), foreign nationals” domestic staff (B-1), media and journalist folk (I), and some others, the count goes over twenty…but let’s settle on those thirteen existing guest-worker visas. What about this list does not make sense?
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who hasn’t declared but might yet run, is just as clueless. We need “a path to citizenship,” he says. Yo, Governor: We already have one. I trod it.
Donald Trump throws his hair in the ring. Trump’s come in for a lot of mockery since he announced his run. I just saw Charles Krauthammer sneering at him on the O’Reilly show. “Not a serious candidate….”
When you look at how we’ve been served by people whom Krauthammer presumably considered to have been serious candidates, this doesn’t seem like much of an argument.
There was, for example, the guy who got us into two pointless, endless wars, vastly expanded Medicare when it was already clear entitlements were going to bankrupt us, threw the nation’s borders wide open, and passed the silliest piece of social legislation in the republic’s history. Was he a serious candidate? I don’t recall Krauthammer saying otherwise.
Was Barack Obama a serious candidate in ‘08, with his lengthy and challenging experience of [sound of crickets chirping] and his striking achievements in the field of [more crickets]?
With the so-called Arab Spring still shaking the Middle East like an earthquake, I don”t doubt that reform is needed in that region. But America’s actions there are driven more by religion, oil, and election cycles than by humanitarian concerns.
We constantly hear the words “American interests” regarding the Middle East. If a regime’s interests coincide with America’s they are golden; if not, they should hunker down because Tomahawks may be headed their way. We keep hearing that “we are invested in what happens in the Middle East,” which is true, but the investment is more financial than emotional. Our leaders are constantly on the lookout for threats from abroad, with “threat” defined as anything that threatens Israel or Big Oil.”
Religion and oil”and seemingly nothing else”drive our foreign policy. As a predominantly Judeo-Christian nation it’s logical that America has hitched its wagon to the Star of David, but is it constitutional? The Jewish state is capable of self-defense and could nuke any neighbor that threatens it, which is a sad state of affairs for Israel and the world.
Government experts and policy wonks are constantly scanning the horizon for intelligence about which domino will fall next and what we can do to “manage the situation,” which is coded speech for interference. We keep putting corks on bottles of bad wine, but invariably the tops blow off. Luckily, we sided with the good guys from the Book of Revelation and everything will work out fine.
The president, with whom I disagree on domestic issues, may have the right instincts regarding international diplomacy, but he lacks the intestinal fortitude to stand up to AIPAC and the 700 Club. They question whether he’s a Christian or a Muslim and if he does not loudly answer he’s a Christian, his political career is over. His opponents know this and use it to batter him on foreign policy.
Atlas Shrugged: Part I is the most universally despised movie of 2011, but I liked it. Critics hate this adaptation of Ayn Rand’s 1957 cult novel for predictable ideological reasons, while Randites are embarrassed that their exalted capitalist system failed to pony up the munificent financing necessary to give Rand’s doorstop novel the blockbuster treatment they feel it deserves.
Instead of Angelina Jolie as heroine Dagny Taggart (as was rumored in 2008), this adaptation stars Taylor Schilling and other TV types. The film was rushed into principal photography on June 13, 2010, just two days before producer John Aglialoro’s 18-year option ran out.
I”ve never read Rand’s novel about a dystopian near-future in which the unappreciated capitalists who keep the world running go on strike. And from what my wife tells me of her attempt to grind through the book in college, it sounds pretty dire: “Rand lauds the competent, but she herself wasn”t a competent novelist.” Thus, I walked into the theater with negligible expectations, wondering whether it would be ethical to walk out early and still review it.
“Rand is famous for being anti-government, so it’s intriguing to see how much she despised corporate oligarchs equipped merely with deft lobbyists.”
To my surprise, I quite enjoyed Atlas Shrugged. Although the story is a hymn to the overdog, this low-budget movie has underdog appeal. I soon started to root for the plucky filmmakers to pull off their high-wire act of making a movie that’s distinctive”not distinguished, but still very 1957 in texture”without having anywhere near enough of the dollars that Rand idolized.
Have you noticed how few prestige movies these days are shot in midsummer when scenery is at its best? For example, the Coen Brothers” True Grit was a fine film, but it would have looked much less gloomy if filmed in June. Movie people like to send audiences the message: “You can tell by the dreary weather that we didn”t hire cheap television talent during their summer hiatus.” Well, Atlas Shrugged could only afford TV people on summer break, and guess what? The scenes of Dagny’s new super-train roaring through the sunny Rocky Mountains at 250 MPH are glorious.
Atlas Shrugged: Part I is nominally set in 2016, but the story is a pastiche of mid-twentieth-century concerns. Unfortunately, little in the movie will make much sense to the viewer who doesn”t possess at least a passing familiarity with some now mostly forgotten American economic history. If you do, Rand’s humorless plot still won”t seem terribly logical, but at least you can see where she’s coming from.
The America of 2016 is in a 1930s-style depression, both economic and moral. As during the first two years of the New Deal, when Franklin Roosevelt borrowed Mussolini’s corporatist economics, government and business conspire to reduce the “over-competition” blamed for the downturn. Established moguls ostracize entrepreneurs.
I have been married for five years and trying to get pregnant for the past year. Then all of a sudden out of nowhere, my husband gets diagnosed with MS about a month ago. I can”t believe my bad luck! I really want to have babies, but now he is “unsure” about what he wants. I guess I still love him but I want to leave; we just don”t want the same things anymore. When do you think I can leave? Is next month too soon? Three months? A week? Have I already stayed too long? What do I say? Do you have any ideas about how to make a graceful exit?
“Bitch? in Berlin
Dear Bitch? in Berlin,
You don”t need the question mark. You”re a bitch. And no, I don”t have any ideas on how to help you find a heart short of running into Dorothy on her way to see The Wizard of Oz. But for now, quit being a bitch and give him a minute to get his bearings. For the love of all that’s holy, this man just found out he has a life-altering, crippling disease; do you think you can delay your baby train for six months or even a year to let him think about what has happened, what it means, and what he wants?
Sure your first impulse is to run from a burning building, but you don”t leave your husband or child to die alone in the fire! Maybe he will decide he wants children, but after your appalling bedside manner he may decide he doesn”t want someone like you for their mother. Stop thinking about yourself for five seconds and start thinking about your husband. Give the poor man a break. “In sickness and in health” is supposed to be taken literally. It is intended to dissuade people from dishonorably running away from the sick and dying…you horrible, selfish bitch.
I really”make that really, really, REALLY”want my 12-year-old daughter to dye her hair blonde. She has awful mouse-brown hair and doesn”t even realize how bad it looks. I think she would look better, have more fun, and be more accepted by society if she were blonde. I always imagined it would be more fun to be blonde. Problem is, she keeps refusing. I keep showing her magazines and telling her that celebrities change their hair color all the time, but she is simply not interested. I”ve even thought about trying to dye her hair while she’s sleeping, but she”d probably wake up. What can I do? They”ve done studies”life is better as a blonde. If she would just try she would see how much better it would be! What’s her problem?
“Defiant Daughter in Mobile
On a recent trip to New York, I did something radically different from my usual forays back to the city of my birth: I visited the UN headquarters. To be sure, my One-Worlder credentials are very poor; I did not even trick-or-treat for UNICEF as a child. But that very childhood in the early to mid-“60s gave me a certain interest in the UN. Part of this was the conflation in my young mind of the UN logo with the 1964 New York World’s Fair’s Unisphere“symbolizing one of my earliest Really Good Times. Another element was the space program, and a third was the never-ending cavalcade of newly independent states”most of which would go on to become “failed” in our day. The developing countries rarely seem ever to quite develop.
In recent months, I have taken to reading innumerable UN-related websites in detail. Even as one soon tires of phrases such as “transparency,” “sustainability,” and “good governance,” such ideas illumine the self-image of those who staff the UN’s innumerable offices around the globe. Although it was rather late at night, while on the website of one country’s UN team I swear I saw an article on the close connection between gender equality and biodiversity. (In retrospect, it must mean that admitting women to men’s clubs will prevent endangered species from dying out due to inbreeding.)
“When one looks at so much of the UN’s agenda, from the “rights of the child” to population control to various gender-orientation-equality schemes, it is often difficult to repress a shudder.”
The furnishings at the UN’s New York headquarters immediately send one back to the early Bond movies and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The tour itself was conducted by an earnest young Spanish girl who spoke excellent English and was imbued with a true zeal for the organization. Apart from the General Assembly room, we saw a number of exhibits dealing with the UN’s history and its various humanitarian programs. There was also a wonderful gift shop filled with tchotchkes from all over the world. At the end, each of us had the chance to visit the Meditation Room.
It is easy to make fun of the starry-eyed “civilization of peace” rhetoric that the UN’s younger employees and innumerable volunteers at UN associations mouth. When one looks at so much of the UN’s agenda, from the “rights of the child” to population control to various gender-orientation-equality schemes, it is often difficult to repress a shudder. The prospect of a “One World Government“ melting all humanity into a single mass of robots is truly frightening. Those blessed with a memory of the Cold War will recall how often UN bodies served Soviet propaganda and intelligence ends. If one is particularly pro-Israeli he will take a dim view of the organization’s Middle Eastern role.
However removed from reality, the aforementioned idealism is real, if only in that many people sincerely hold it. It even has a spiritual dimension. Such organizations as the Temple of Understanding and the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions attempt to undergird the UN’s work with specifically religious support. Nor is the spiritual traffic one-way. The UN has attempted to make contact directly with “Civil Society“: NGOs as opposed simply to the member governments. Many of these are”given the charitable and advocacy realms in which they labor”religious bodies, from Catholic religious orders to Jewish organizations to Buddhist temples. The Holy See itself has permanent observer status, which allows it to collaborate with the UN in relief and other efforts, and also to attempt to torpedo General Assembly resolutions it finds odious. The annual service at St. Bartholomew’s Church marking the opening of the UN General Assembly is reminiscent of similar liturgies marking convocation of authentic legislatures.
Gone are the days when I used to wear a tux to go see a Broadway show. These days I feel overdressed wearing a sport coat and necktie.
I used to go to Broadway a lot when I was young. My girlfriend at the time, Linda Christian, was an actress known for her romances more than her screen credits. She was once married to Tyrone Power. She loved the theater and more often than not was asked to visit the dressing rooms afterwards. Hence I met the great Helen Hayes and Richard Burton, who were appearing in Time Remembered. I met Linda’s ex when Ty Power starred in the one-man play John Brown’s Body. Power was a very attractive and nice man and received us in his dressing gown while taking off the makeup. I was twenty at the time and rather intimidated, but I ventured to tell him that we had met once before, “although the last thing I expect is for you to remember….” Having registered my name, he thought for a moment and then said, “but I do, you”re the little boy who gave me the flowers in Athens back in 1946.”
He was right. Power had come to war-torn Athens to publicize The Razor’s Edge, the movie of Somerset Maugham’s wonderful book, and as my family and I were staying in the same resort hotel”and the only one still standing”the owners told me to hand him a great bouquet of flowers from a grateful nation. (My great-uncle was Prime Minister at the time, so I guess that helped.) We chatted in my broken English, and the great man remembered me ten years later and in very different circumstances.
Tyrone Power was of the old school and a gentleman. Richard Burton was less so, but miles above what passes as a star nowadays. Megastars today look like homeless people and act like juvenile delinquents. How would you like to offer flowers to, say, Charlie Sheen or someone of his ilk?
With the NFL draft approaching this Thursday, an unidentified pro football executive recently asked a reporter whether Rose Bowl-winning quarterback Andy Dalton’s cheese doodle-colored hair might impede his ability to succeed in the big leagues:
Has there ever been a redheaded quarterback in the NFL who’s really done well? It sounds idiotic, but is there any way that could be a factor? We’ve wondered.
The executive said he felt Dalton’s red hair was a “red flag.” Press coverage noted how Dalton’s flaming-orange follicles made him easy to spot on campus at Texas Christian University and how he had donated his spare time to help counsel a pair of younger carrot-topped boys who”d been persecuted at school because of their hair color.
A couple generations ago, pink-skinned freckle-faced red-haired male icons such as Howdy Doody, Archie Andrews, and Richie Cunningham seemed to epitomize Middle America. These days they”re treated as if they were Martians.
I went to school with Cunninghams and Callahans and Mulvilles and Carneys who had tangerine-colored manes and so many freckles, they may as well have been Kaposi’s Sarcoma spots on an AIDS patient. I”d reckon that one in five of my grade-school classmates was what is now known in the US”due in huge part to a single 2005 South Park episode”as a “Ginger Kid.” And though in school we all mercilessly teased and tortured one another for innumerably ridiculous reasons, I can”t ever remember anyone being mocked for having red hair. But the past few years have seen a spike not only in anti-ginger rhetoric, but also in physical persecution. Kids from Calabasas up to Alberta have even organized on Facebook to celebrate rituals such as “Kick a Ginger Day.”
Apparently ginger-bashing”just like the recessive gene that causes red hair”can skip a generation or two, because it’s a tradition with deep historical roots. Various sources claim that ancient Egyptians ritually burned red-headed males alive to appease the god Osiris. Ancient Greeks were said to have deemed redheads as mentally unbalanced individuals who became vampires when they died. Germanic cultures from the 15th through the 18th centuries allegedly considered freckles to be the “mark of the Devil,” murdering an estimated fifty thousand redheads on suspicion of witchcraft. During the Spanish Inquisition, red hair signified the indelible mark of both Satan and of Jewishness”take your pick.
But even Jews these days have a homeland, whereas there is no majority-redhead nation anywhere on Earth. The ginger breed is most abundant in Scotland, but still it only comprises a mere thirteen percent of the population. Next up is Ireland at ten percent. Australia’s demographics are also said to be reasonably freckled with red. And nowhere on Earth are redheads so openly mocked and abused these days than in Australia and the British Isles, possibly due to centuries-old Anglo/Celtic tensions.
In England the predominant slur is “ginger””often pronounced with a hard “g””with common variants such as ginger nut, ginger pubes, ginger bollocks, lanky string of ginger piss, ginger minger, and ginger whinger. UK redheads are also referred to as carrots, Duracells, period heads, tampon tops, and copperknobs. Although the favored Aussie slur for redheads used to be “bluey,” they”ve lately turned to “bloodnuts” and especially “rangas“ (a twist on “orangutans”).
British and Australian media are not shy about disparaging gingers in ways that would be considered hate speech in nearly any other context. An advertisement for a British power company in 2000 depicted red hair as an unfortunate genetic curse. A 2009 Christmas card that sold briefly at the British retail chain Tesco said that “SANTA loves all kids. Even GINGER ones.” A 2009 Virgin Media print ad implied that gingers were undesirable sex partners. Down in Oz, Adelaide Zoo once ran an ad that offered “free zoo entry for all rangas,” and an Australian TV public service announcement equates being a “ginga” with being a “dickhead.”