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October 2003

 

Russia: "All property is theft" -- The Russian government impounded today half the shares of the giant Yukos oil company run by jailed billionaire Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, one of the "seven oligarchs" of the Yeltsin era. It's not clear whether Putin is nationalizing the company or is just sending a warning to the board of directors not to go ahead with its decision today to distribute $2 billion in dividends to its shareholders, such as, to pick a random example, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky.

 

Let's step back and look at this in the big picture: Russia lacks what English historians called a "settled distribution of property." When he broke off from the Roman Catholic Church, King Henry VIII stole vast properties from Catholics. For the next century and a half, one never-forgotten question would be whether Catholics would ever get back their possessions. The issue came to a crisis in the late 1680s when the Catholic King James II came to the throne. He was overthrown in 1688 in the Glorious Revolution, which once and for all determined that England would be ruled by a Protestant monarch and thus the descendents of the beneficiaries of the Henry VIII's larceny would keep their holdings. This "settled distribution of property" unleashed an economic boom by removing uncertainty over title.

 

In contrast, Russia's latest distribution of property goes all the way back to the 1990s when seven sharp operators managed to wind up with most of the industrial goodies of the old Soviet Union. According to Yale Law Professor Amy Chua's recent book World on Fire (here's my review), "The height of their oligarchic influence was reached in 1996, when the Yeltsin government hung on the verge of political and financial collapse. Among other problems, Yeltsin had suffered a heart attack; his approval ratings hovered between 5 and 8 percent; the Russian treasury was strapped for cash; and in the parliamentary elections the Communists and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's extreme nationalists had captured two-thirds of the seat of the lower house, paralyzing the government. Already wealthy by that time, the oligarchs collectively put forth the so-called "loans-for-shares" deal -- now notorious, but at the time grudgingly endorsed by Western advisers and Russian economists as well as England's The Economist. Essentially, the oligarchs offered loans and political support to the government in exchange for majority shares -- at a fraction of their potential market value -- in the behemoths of the Russian economy... 

 

"When in 1996 it appeared that Yeltsin might lose his reelection to the Communists, the oligarchs poured millions into Yeltsin's campaign and began flooding the television airwaves (which they owned) with pro-Yeltsin "news" items while conspicuously failing to give any airtime to the oppostion. With Yeltsin's victory, the loans-for-shares deal was finalized, catapulting the oligarchs from a small group of millionaires to a small group of billionaires. A few years later the oligarchs "guaranteed" (to use Berezovsky's term) that Vladimir Putin, like Yeltsin before him, would get elected in Russia's 2000 Presidential elections."

 

Since then, however, the ungrateful Putin has been chipping away at the power and wealth of the seven oligarchs, especially those who dared defy his power.

 

Economists often imply that, from the perspective of encouraging economic growth, it doesn't really matter who owns the property as long as somebody owns it definitely. On the other hand, if you were an average Russian scraping by on an annual salary of pocket lint and wondering what Mr. Khodorkovsky did to deserve his $8 billion in former government property (other than buying the 1996 election), you might answer, "That's easy for you to say."

 

I haven't seen poll data yet, but I'm sure Putin is doing this in part because there's an election coming up and the average voter is much less concerned than the American media is over the violation of the oligarch's property rights.

 

A big difference between England in 1688 and Russia in 2003 is that the English oligarchs whose property was validated and the great majority of English people were all Protestants. In contrast, although coverage of this fact has largely been kept out of the mainstream American press (with open discussion found only in publications like The Forward), according to Chua only one of the seven Yeltsin-era oligarchs is fully ethnically Russian. Other sources say two of the seven. (See this page from her book, which was edited by Adam Bellow, in Amazon's wonderful new search feature. Or, here's a summary of the seven oligarchs by San Jose St. economist Thayer Watkins.")

 

This ethnic disjunction between the average Russian voter and the big winners of the 1990s privatization helps explain the lack of enthusiasm on the part of citizens for protecting the property rights of the oligarchs. Considering the financial and political importance of this fact, you'd think you'd have been able to read about it in the mainstream American press, but I guess there are some things you just aren't supposed to know. At least I had never heard it until I read Chua's book last winter.

 

The point of Chua's important book is that this kind of situation is common in many countries: most of the business skills reside within a few ethnic minorities, which means that "democracy" and "property rights" are likely to be in tension. In the U.S., the ethnic majority has lots of business ability, so this conflict is almost non-existent. Unfortunately, we don't grasp how that rare that is, so we often blunder into assuming that democracy and property rights naturally go together.

***

 

Camille Paglia emerges from her cave with her entry, as it were, in the Charles Murray Challenge: Madonna's "best compositions, like "Into the Groove" -- 20 years old next year -- never lose their freshness. Her videos are in the main line of the best of studio-era Hollywood. I personally feel that the video for "Vogue" is superior to anything produced in the fine arts worldwide in the last decades of the 20th century."

 

Also, "Most bloggers aren't culture critics but political or media junkies preoccupied with pedestrian minutiae and a sophomoric 'gotcha' mentality." Ouch.

***

 

Time gives a surprisingly perceptive evaluation of the new (2005) SAT -- Under the ill-informed prodding of U. of California supremo Richard Atkinson, who is restricted by Proposition 209 from using quotas to discriminate against white and Asian applicants and thus is trying to rejigger the entrance exam to achieve "diversity," the SAT is being converted from an aptitude test to an achievement test, with more subjective and thus less reliable grading. One of the SAT's old missions was to find "diamonds in the rough" with brains but lousy educations, but it looks like they're giving up on that task, perhaps because after a couple of generations of meritocracy and assortative mating, there are fewer of them these days.

 

The really odd thing is that there's no obvious evidence that blacks will do better on the new SAT, and they may do worse because they tend to go to worse schools, and thus achieve even less than their aptitude would suggest. The elimination of the SAT's much-denounced analogy questions are especially likely to hurt blacks. African-American humor is quite oriented toward analogy, simile and methaphor: "Yo mama is so fat, she's ..."

***

 

The Charles Murray Challenge continues -- Email me your nominations for works of art from 1950-2000 that people will care about in 2203. (You can read updated nominations here.) So far, the most often mentioned single work is 1955's Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, although I'd probably prefer his Pale Fire or autobiographical Speak, Memory. Of course, Lolita sold an incredible 15 million copies worldwide, so its impact was huge (although I doubt that the majority of purchasers finished the book.) On the other hand, Nabokov was born in 1899, so he shows up in Murray's Human Accomplishment as "flourishing" (i.e., reaching 40 years old) in 1939. Nabokov's unusual in having a tremendous second career that began after he fled Europe at age 40 and began writing in English. His prime continued up through the first half of Ada, which was published when he was 71.

 

Other common nominees include Solzhenitsyn and Shostakovich (suggesting, perhaps, that Russia's 20th Century crucifixion contributed to the greatness of its artists who survived.)

***

 

Question: Today, the disk of the sun was safely observable through the all the smoke in the LA sky. In the bottom center of the disk was visible a dark blemish. Am I wrong to assume that's the second massive solar flare that erupted on Monday? Or was I seeing things from, uh, staring at the sun.

 

ANSWER: Yes, I was looking at Sunspot 486, which may be associated with the current solar storm. At a time when earthbound nature has gone haywire in Southern California, it's very creepy also to notice imperfections in the Sun.

***

 

A 100th birthday salute to Evelyn Waugh.

***

 

I drove up to the top of the Hollywood Hills and could see the Simi Fire burning red and ugly 15 miles away across the San Fernando Valley. (The Simi Fire's no longer confined to the Simi Valley). It came up a canyon and crossed the ridgetop in the ten minutes I watched. Maybe they'll save most of the the foothill homes (or maybe not), but all the shady oak-filled canyons for hiking must be gone by now. It will take decades for the trees to grow back. I'm depressed. Cooler weather is supposed to arrive Wednesday, but a lot more will be gone by then.

***

 

Here's a graph showing every single one of the hundreds of opinion polls measuring Bush's approval rating since he became President. He's lost three points per month since the statue toppled in April. His current rating isn't too bad -- around 51%, but he needs to stop this trend or he'll lose badly in 2004.

***

 

Keep sending in your nominations -- Here are iSteve readers' nominations, so far, for works of art that will meet Charles Murray's "Seriously?" Challenge -- Which works of art from the 1950-2000 will anybody care about in A.D. 2200? Seriously? I posted everybody's contribution anonymously so you don't have to suffer guilt by association with me.

***

 

Earnest 'Beyond Borders'

By Steve Sailer

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- While watching "Beyond Borders," Angelina Jolie's romantic melodrama about sexy famine-relief workers, it's easy to imagine an assistant director shouting through his megaphone: "Miss Jolie is ready for her close-up. Cue the starving masses."

 

Jolie, once famous as a promising actress, then notorious as some kind of sicko celebrity obsessed with knives, tattoos, blood and her brother, had her conscience sparked while filming the first "Tomb Raider" videogame movie in Cambodia. She later described how the horror of the landmine problem was driven home "in the middle of the night when I had to go use the bathroom in the bushes and was not really sure where the path was." She adopted a Cambodian baby, built a house in that tragic land, and has become a goodwill ambassador for the UN.

 

It's easy to make fun of her -- as everybody will -- but the tedium of her performance in "Beyond Borders" (which mostly consists of her tearing up over the suffering of humanity) stems from her sincerity. I don't know a solution for the horrors of the world, so I'm not going to hold it against Jolie that she's out there at least trying. I just wish this were a better movie.

 

Jolie plays an American in 1984 who is freshly married to a London stockbroker of the Hon. Crispin Pallid-Chinless ilk. Her eyes well up with tears (for the first of about 35 times in the film), however, when she is lectured by a strong-jawed, smoldering doctor (portrayed by Clive Owen of "Croupier") who runs a camp for starving Ethiopians. So, she brings him a convoy of rations, but he treats our heroine rudely, just like the handsome rogue does at the beginning of every romance novel since "Pride and Prejudice."

 

Namibia's Kalahari Desert stands in for Marxist Ethiopia. While the English volunteers desperately drill for water, Jolie uses a big bowl of water to wash her quite clean feet, perhaps to symbolize that she is Mary Magdalene and Jesus rolled into one. Or something.   [More...]

***

 

New VDARE.com column at left.

***

 

Enter the Charles Murray "Seriously?" Challenge: Murray told me, "I think that the number of novels, songs, and paintings done since 1950 that anyone will still care about 200 years from now is somewhere in the vicinity of zero. Not exactly zero, but close. I find a good way to make this point is to ask anyone who disagrees with me to name a work that will survive -- and then ask, "Seriously?" Very few works indeed can defend themselves against the "Seriously?" question." 

 

A reader wrote in: "Might it not be amusing to throw Murray's challenge down to your readers, and start taking nominations? The Gulag Archipelago comes to mind. Anything else...?"

 

It seems like most of the art works I come up with are actually from the 1940s. For example, tragedy endures better than comedy, so I thought of Eugene O'Neil's Long Day's Journey into Night, which was first produced in 1956, but O'Neil finished it by 1941.

 

There's no shortage of scientific accomplishments since 1950, although once again the power of the 1940s shows up in a reader's suggestion that Claude Shannon's 1948 paper on information theory and communications will go down as one of the landmarks in the history of the intellect.

 

So, email me your nominations for post-1950 works of art that people will care about in A.D. 2203.

***

 

The NYT is shocked, shocked at Charles Murrray's Human Accomplishment -- "I'm not aware of anyone in my profession who uses these methods," said John R. McNeil, a historian at Georgetown University..."

 

Well, isn't that the point of Murray's book -- to introduce a proven technique from psychology to a field dominated by people who like words but feel uncomfortable around numbers?

 

Here's my UPI interview with Murray. And my long review (not online) of Human Accomplishment should be in the 11/3/03 issue of the American Conservative, which may well be on newsstands by now. Buy the book here.

***

 

The WSJ gets stomped on by its readers -- Most websites' comments sections are full of dittoheads agreeing with the original article, but a consistent exception is whenever the WSJ editorializes in favor of more immigration. Then, the readers erupt and simply beat the logical tar out of the original essay, as seen here. It must be humiliating to the WSJ professionals to be so badly out-argued so often by amateurs.

***

 

October 28th is the 100th anniversary of Evelyn Waugh's birth -- Bill Deedes, who was with Waugh in Ethiopia 68 years ago and is still going strong, summarizes his life and works here. I think Deedes' assessment of the books are excellent: Put Out More Flags is certainly Waugh's most underrated novel (his immensely sympathetic portrayal of the gay novelist Ambrose Silk might be his best characterization) and his travel book on his first trip to Ethiopia in 1930 is delightful. In contrast, Geoffrey Wheatcroft's tastes tend toward Waugh's heavier novels. (Links from Andrew Sullivan.)

***

 

In fashion-crazed New York City, tradition still reigns in one area. Girls' names are notoriously faddish, with the unintended consequence of making it harder for ladies to pretend to be younger than they really are. We all sense that somebody named "Linda" who claims to be under 30 is probably fibbing, as is a "Lois" who says she's under 50. Interestingly, New Yorkers, of all people, don't seem compelled to make up stylish new names for their dogs. According to an NYT analysis of dog licenses, here are the city's Top Ten names for dogs (and fine names they are, indeed): Max, Lucky, Princess, Rocky, Buddy, Lady, Shadow, Daisy, Coco and Ginger.

 

Demographics: "Dogs that are considered tough are more common in neighborhoods with tough reputations. So the largest concentrations of pit bulls are in Spanish Harlem and Alphabet City. Rottweilers are popular in Soundview; Canarsie, Brooklyn; and Spanish Harlem. Lap dogs are more often found in the lap of luxury. According to the city's statistics, more Shih Tzus live on the Upper East Side in the 10021 ZIP code than in any other neighborhood in the city."

***

 

The War Nerd is back, this time with a happy column: "What Went Right in Afghanistan: "Stand back and squint at the two wars and you see something weird: we did well against the tougher opponent, Afghanistan, because we didnít want anything from the place. We wanted Iraq to be a lot of stupid dreamy stuff, voting booths and cheap gas. You pay for dreaming on duty."

***

 

The Ambler, Kevin Michael Grace, whose financial position is far more perilous than Gregg Easterbrook's, has another brilliant post, this time on David Frum's position on the Easterbrook brouhaha. Frum argued (admirably) that it's not anti-Semitic to criticize Michael Eisner because he's a big boy who can defend himself. But, Frum continues (hilariously), "The same is not true, alas, of Paul Wolfowitz."

 

My reply: Poor, poor defenseless Paul Wolfowitz. It's tragic that he can't defend himself adequately because he's already used up for 2003 his entire annual quota of wars he's allowed to mislead the President into starting to further Wolfie's personal obsessions and those of his old college buddy Ahmed Chalabi. It's so unfair that Wolfie won't be able to have the Army attack anybody he doesn't like until next year, at least.

 

Anyway, the Ambler scoffs far more mordantly than I can.

***

 

Predictions: Gregg Easterbrook will have his (financially) desperately needed job with ESPN back shortly. The rehiring will go down in the conventional wisdom as proof of Michael Eisner's magnanimity in taking back a dangerous but now chastened and hopefully reformed anti-Semite. The take home lesson for American professional writers will be: Never, ever write a sentence that includes any words that could be snipped out of context to imply that you hold any opinion not pre-approved by Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. In others words, many entire topics are potential professional suicide. Don't go there. For the vast majority of Jews who aren't in the anti-Semitism paranoia racket like Foxman is, the answer to the classic question: "Is it good for the Jews?" will turn out to be "No." That's because the message that the world beyond the reach of this peculiarly American form of censorship will take from this incident is: "Maybe Prime Minister Mahathir isn't such a paranoid old bat after all." And that ain't good.

***

 
Link: Oct. 21, 2003 23:06:19 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Mickey Kaus writes:

 

"What does [Al] Sharpton say about hip-hop? Here's a sample (from FNV Newsletter):

 

"'Unfortunately, much of what they're selling is a fraud.  They spew hedonism, misogyny, and self-hate.  They glorify the prison culture, the pimp culture, and drug culture.  They tell the young that they're not worthy unless they're "rocking" Chanel, Gucci, or wearing platinum and diamonds.  Not only is this message immoral, but it is also flawed.  It's a lie.'

"Words that should be heard by all concerned Americans. I'm serious! Most of my friend's kids listen to hip-hop. It can't be good for them. [You're turning into ... Gregg Easterbrook!-ed. And what about those rap music executives? They're ... Stop!-ed. Thank God I have an editor.]

 

The joke of course is that in today's intellectual environment, it would be perfectly A-OK for a white pundit to write the following (adapted from Easterbrook's endlessly denounced paragraph):

 

"DefJam's CEO, Russell Simons, is black; the chief of Death Row Records, Suge Knight, is black. Yes, there are plenty of white and other music executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for black executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent American history alone ought to cause black executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Rap records are now played all over America, to audiences that may not understand the irony or even read the interviews, but can't possibly miss the message--now DefJam's message--that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself."

 

And of course, saying this would be absolutely right. The race of who says it doesn't matter. The question should be, as always, is it true?

 

Here's another irony. Disney spends $100 million to make and market Quentin Tarantino's attempt to introduce Japanese-style sado-pedophilia to American multiplex audiences, but what has the bloggers of the world so up in arms that they are lobbing the atom bomb of career-killing smears -- anti-Semitism -- is that a pixel-stained wretch named Gregg Easterbrook posted 84 words online at a Jewish-owned intellectual magazine to point out that lots of ughly history suggests it is imprudent for Jews to help in glorifying violence.

 

Tarantino wrote the original screenplay for Natural Born Killers, a film that inspired numerous copycat murders, but the big threat to the world is supposed to be Easterbrook's little nonfiction analysis. This reminds me of the profound point Steve Pinker made when we talked last year about why so many intellectuals are outraged at those few analysts who tell the truth.

 

"People are surely better off with the truth. Oddly enough, everyone agrees with this when it comes to the arts. Sophisticated people sneer at feel-good comedies and saccharine romances in which everyone lives happily ever after. But when it comes to science, these same people say, "Give us schmaltz!" They expect the science of human beings to be a source of emotional uplift and inspirational sermonizing." 

 

Except of course, when the movie is Mel Gibson's The Passion. Then, everybody knows that movies can be dangerous.

***

 

The Ambler, Kevin Michael Grace, elegantly dissects the Two Minute Hate directed at Gregg Easterbrook for his comments on Disney here.

***

 

We all know that media depictions of violence couldn't possibly be related to real violence. After all, it's not like gangsta rappers or their fans ever act out the revenge fantasies in rap songs, right?

 

Here's Gregg Easterbrook's 1999 New Republic article on violence and movies, which begs to differ with the orthodoxy. Amazing (if true) fact from his article:

 

"Big Hollywood studios, including Disney, look craven and exploitative compared with, of all things, the porn-video industry. Repulsive material occurs in underground porn, but, in the products sold by the mainstream triple-X distributors such as Vivid Video (the MGM of the erotica business), violence is never, ever, ever depicted -- because that would be irresponsible. Women and men perform every conceivable explicit act in today's mainstream porn, but what is shown is always consensual and almost sunnily friendly. Scenes of rape or sexual menace never occur, and scenes of sexual murder are an absolute taboo."

***

 

Speaking of Michael Eisner greenlighting Disney's Kill Bill gorefest -- all I can say is that if Walt Disney were alive today, he'd be spinning in his cryogenic preservation chamber.

***

 

You can support Greg Easterbrook in his battle with political correctness and corporate media concentration by pre-ordering his imperiled new book here.

 

For visitors from NRO's The Corner, the entry Ramesh pointed to is the fourth one below.

***

 

Link: Oct. 21, 2003 15:21:55 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Noah Millman is baffled that anyone can honestly think that what Easterbrook wrote is wrong. 

 

In contrast, the craven way that so many others are saying, "Easterbrook shouldn't have been fired, but there must have been something or other untruthful about what he said or there wouldn't be so much controversy" is craven. What gets you in trouble is telling the truth.

***

 

Link: Oct. 21, 2003 15:20:54 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Obviously, the persecution of Easterbrook and his upcoming book means that censorship of independent thinkers is getting out of hand in the U.S. when a well-connected liberal/centrist like Easterbrook, who writes self-defensive cover-your-ass politically correct silliness about genuinely controversial topics (such as his ignoble recent attack on Rush Limbaugh for supposedly being the first to inject tensions over race into football coverage), can be broken on the wheel like this over an out-of-context fragment of a sentence. What hope is there for completely honest writers to achieve wide audiences if an Easterbrook is persecuted?

 

Clearly, it's time to tell Michael Powell at the FCC that too much financial control over free expression is concentrated in too few hands. Let's break up the Disney octopus.

 

More on Easterbrook below.

***

 

Link: Oct. 21, 2003 15:19:32 E-mail me iSteve home

 

From my review of Veronica Guerin:

We've all seen it dozens of times: the middle-aged bad guy throws a punch at the willowy heroine, but she evades it with a wire-assisted backflip. Then she slams home a half dozen kung fu kicks, and, if it's a Quentin Tarantino movie, pulls out her samurai sword and lops off a few limbs and the top of his skull case. You go, girl!

 

In "Veronica Guerin," the small but honest and uplifting biopic about the crusading journalist who became Ireland's new national heroine, that scene, however, plays out differently, shockingly so. Ace actress Cate Blanchett (Oscar-nominated for "Elizabeth") cheekily bangs on the imposing front door of Ireland's biggest heroin importer. When the bantamweight thug emerges, she asks him to confess his crimes for publication in her newspaper column.

 

Enraged, the gangster slams his fist into her face, breaking her nose. He pummels the defenseless woman with lefts and rights, leaving her a bleeding shell. There's nothing feministically empowering or fetishistically titillating about this horrifying depiction of what violence between a woman and a man really looks like.

 

Veronica Guerin, an accountant turned PR flack turned investigative reporter, normally fought Ireland's organized criminals with a woman's best weapon: words...

 

[The rest will be in the November 20 edition of the Ameircan Conservative. Subscribe here.]

***

 

Link: Oct. 21, 2003 14:54:24 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Easterbrook gets the bum's Rush from ESPN, too -- the The talented neoliberal columnist Gregg Easterbrook recently attacked Rush Limbaugh for telling the truth on ESPN about why QB Donovan McNabb (who is still last in the NFC in passer rating after another awful game this Sunday) is overrated. Easterbrook claimed:

 

"This is why sports nuts were so mad at Limbaugh. Not because race should not be discussed, but because sports is one place where racial tensions are under control; even, close to solved. Everybody, black and white, wants to keep it that way."

 

That's an absurd weasel statement because Easterbrook has read hundreds of sports articles about how black quarterbacks and coaches are discriminated against. Nobody ever got in trouble for writing that kind of politically correct boilerplate on the sports page, but Limbaugh was crucified for saying the shoe was on the other foot now.

 

The irony turns out to be that Easterbrook was helping dig his own grave. If there had been sufficient outrage among the press over the censorship of Limbaugh, Easterbrook would not have been fired this weekend by ESPN from his job writing a pro football column for a snippet of a sentence he wrote over on his blog on The New Republic that, when taken out of context, has been criticized by ADL-types as anti-Semitic. In fact, Easterbrook has been made an unperson on ESPN.com -- all his old columns have been removed from the archive and thrown down the memory hole. Why? He imprudently attacked by name Disney's management (which owns ESPN) for paying $65 million to make "Kill Bill," plus tens of millions more to market it.

 

No studio should have given Tarantino a penny to make an ultraviolent film like "Kill Bill" after Tarantino's involvement in 1994's "Natural Born Killers," for which he wrote the original script. There are quite a few documented cases of copycat murders -- trailer park trash boyfriend-girlfriend couples watching "Natural Born Killers" repeatedly while drugged up and then going out and committing random thrill-kills, just like Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis do in the movie. (This isn't just blaming NBK for random murders -- boy-girl murder teams are extremely rare, otherwise.)

 

One of the victims was Bill Savage, a friend of lawyer-novelist John Grisham. (Here's Grisham's essay on his friend's murder.) Grisham had director Oliver Stone and the studio sued. Tarantino avoided being named because he had taken his name off the script, but in basic conception NBK seems much more of a Tarantino movie than a Stone movie, who, despite all his endless moral failings, is a moralist rather than a sensationalist/ironist like Tarantino. Stone fell for Tarantino's BS about how NBK wasn't glorifying violence, it was really Satirizing the Media's Obsession with Violence. As "Kill Bill" proves, however, Tarantino simply likes to glorify violence. That's the point of "Kill Bill."

 

Unfortunately, Stone brought his overwhelming talents as a director and editor to empowering Tarantino's sick ideas, with horrific effects on various innocent victims. I'm not defending Grisham's lawsuit, which obviously raises many, msny troubling questions, but the judgment of the executives who funded this misbegotten marriage of Tarantino's concept and Stone's talent. The issue is not whether all expression should be prohibited to prevent unintended consequences, but whether in the single most extreme case of the decade, should companies be criticized for putting profit ahead of the public good? In 1994, Stone was the most gifted and often misguided movie maker in the world. He needed someone to forcibly explain to him -- by not funding him -- that Tarantino's story was a disaster waiting to happen.

 

By the way, in his own movies before "Kill Bill," Tarantino was never that strong a visual director for his sick scripts to have an NBK-sized visceral impact, but in "Kill Bill" he steps up into Stone's league, which is dangerous.

 

I'm sure Tarantino would defend the Japanese movie-inspired sadism and pedophilia of Kill Bill by pointing to the law-abidingness of the Japanese who watch this kind of garbage (except for the occasional Rape of Nanking, of course, and the trips to the child brothels of Bangkok), but Japan is a far different culture from ours, with intense social controls in place. Do the American masses really need to be introduced to Japanese sado-pedophilic porn (here's a Slate article on Japanese cartoon porn) by a master moviemaker with a $100 million dollar production and marketing budget? Where was the adult supervision at Disney? Disney??? 

 

The politically incorrect part of Easterbrook's item was this: After Easterbrook had attacked Catholic Mel Gibson the previous week for making The Passion, which Jewish organizations have claimed could inspire violence and no studio at present has signed on to distribute, he in turn mentioned that the heads of Disney and its subsidiary responsible for Kill Bill are Jewish. He noted, "Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice."

 

What Easterbrook said is straight from traditional Jewish wisdom. For centuries, the greatest Jewish thinkers have made clear that Jews are best off when the larger society in which they live abhors senseless violence. Likewise, Jewish sages have considered it imprudent for talented Jews to pander to the lowest, most bloody tastes of that larger society. 

 

These executives don't know anybody personally who would ever take "Kill Bill" seriously, but they should keep in mind that there are drugged-up defectives out there who just might, as there were with Tarantino's Natural Born Killers.

 

Easterbrook wasn't holding Jews to a higher religious or moral standard, as he has repeatedly been criticized for doing. He was explaining the factual situation: encouraging random violence Is Bad For The Jews.

 

Unfortunately for Easterbrook, the Limbaugh lynching in which he participated established a precedent at ESPN that heterodox thinkers should be silenced. Oh, well, Gregg, you live and learn.

 

By the way, I bet Prime Minister Mahathir will chuckle knowingly when he hears about Easterbrook's firing.

 

Colby Cosh has more.

 

UPDATE: A reader in Bangkok writes that the Thai authorities have cracked down upon organized pedophilia, so the child brothels have largely moved to lawless Cambodia. Good for the Thais!

***

 

Link: Oct. 21, 2003 15:24:20 E-mail me iSteve home

 

The Decline of the Metrosexual

by Steve Sailer

From The American Conservative

October 20, 2003 (on newsstands now)

 

Every year, English-speakers coin countless clever words and phrases, the vast majority of which sink like stones into oblivion. A few appeal to the press' obsessions and become almost omnipresent. Last year, it was "jump the shark," which, for reasons too tedious to recount, describes the point at which a TV series begins to decline. This year, the word is "metrosexual," a term coined back in 1994 to refer to a man who likes the finer things in life -- yet who is (surprise!) a heterosexual. It leapt into media prominence with a June 22 New York Times article called "Metrosexuals Come Out."

 

In the distant past, a man who dressed stylishly and enjoyed art, theater, and sophisticated music would have been praised as a "gentleman," but today his sexual orientation is automatically called into question. The average person's "gaydar" has become so sensitive that a long list of traits associated with civilized living are now assumed to be prima facie evidence of homosexuality.

 

Journalists love to use the word "metrosexual" in articles about another of this year's sensations, the Bravo Channel's makeover show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," in which five witty gay men refine (no doubt only temporarily) some straight slob's entire look and lifestyle. Yet, the underlying assumption of "Queer Eye" is not that metrosexuals are abundant, but that they are scarce.

 

Is there really a trend among America's straight guys toward acting like elegant homosexuals, as the hype implies? Do the young men of America want to grow up to be Frazier and Niles Crane?

 

Or is the opposite happening? 

 

[For the rest of my article, please purchase the magazine at a newsstand, or subscribe here.]

***

 

Link: Oct. 21, 2003 15:25:21 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Charles Murray's Super "Human Accomplishment"

[Buy the book here]

The American Conservative

November 3, 2003

 

Few figures in American intellectual life more admirably combine ambition and modesty than data maestro Charles Murray. Every decade or so, Murray delivers a big book full of graphs and tables that audaciously but judiciously illuminates a vital topic.

 

In 1997, Murray quietly began a huge project to objectively rank history's most important discoverers and creators so he could examine the causes and correlates of greatness. The result is his gracefully written and enthralling Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 (HarperCollins, $29.95, 688 pages).

 

[For the rest of my long review, please purchase the magazine at a newsstand, or subscribe here.]

***

Murray took some time to discuss with United Press International "Human Accomplishment," which is scheduled for release on Oct. 21.

 

Sailer: Can you truly quantify objectively which artists and scientists were the most eminent?

 

Murray: Sure. It's one of the most well-developed quantitative measures in the social sciences. (The measurement of intelligence is one of its few competitors, incidentally.)

My indices have a statistical reliability that is phenomenal for the social sciences. There's also a very high "face validity" -- in other words, the rankings broadly correspond to common-sense expectations.

 

Q. Who came out on top of big categories like Western Literature, Western Art, Western Philosophy, and Combined Sciences?

 

A. Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Aristotle, and Newton -- the people you'd expect. In Western music, Mozart and Beethoven were in a dead heat, with Bach third. A rather vocal minority is upset about Bach not being on top. I'm not. I love Bach, but it's awfully hard to listen to Beethoven's later symphonies and string quartets and figure out how anybody could possibly be ranked above him. However, let me stress: I'm not the one who made those decisions. And occasionally I had to grin and bear it when things didn't come out according to my druthers. Rousseau and Byron are way too high in Western literature for my taste, for example.

 

Q. Who was the most accomplished person who ever lived?

 

A. Now we're talking personal opinion, because the methods I used don't work across domains, but I have an emphatic opinion.

 

Aristotle.

 

He more or less invented logic, which was of pivotal importance in human history (and no other civilization ever came up with it independently). He wrote the essay on ethics ("Nicomachean Ethics") that to my mind contains the bedrock truths about the nature of living a satisfying human life. He made huge contributions to aesthetics, political theory, methods of classification and scientific observation. Who else even comes close?

 

Q. You reject postmodernist reinterpretations and stick to traditional histories, chronologies, and biographical dictionaries as the sources for your data. Are there any postmodern works that could have provided an alternative list of names?

 

A. Not that I know of. It would be internally contradictory for a postmodernist history of art, let's say, to devote space according to objective merit, wouldn't it? What would be its rationale for allocating more space to Michelangelo than to Grandma Moses? If you're a devout postmodernist, surely you couldn't believe that Michelangelo was "better" than Grandma Moses?

 

Q. You found that per capita levels of accomplishment tended to decline from 1850 to 1950. Would you care to speculate on post-1950 trends?

 

A. I think that the number of novels, songs, and paintings done since 1950 that anyone will still care about 200 years from now is somewhere in the vicinity of zero. Not exactly zero, but close. I find a good way to make this point is to ask anyone who disagrees with me to name a work that will survive -- and then ask, "Seriously?" Very few works indeed can defend themselves against the "Seriously?" question.

***

 

Analysis: Is Howard Dean a modern Puritan?

By Steve Sailer

UPI National Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Is Howard Dean of Vermont, the current frontrunner for the Democrat Party presidential nomination, a 21st-century version of the New England Puritan? According to historian David Hackett Fischer, cultural patterns laid down by different groups of British settlers before 1776 explain much about the extent and limits of Dean's appeal.

 

According to Fischer, a Brandeis University professor who is the author of the landmark 1989 book, "Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America," Dean has positioned himself as a "classic New England candidate who closely fits the cultural framework that evolved out of 17th-century Puritanism."

 

Fischer noted in a telephone interview from his home in Massachusetts that Dean's followers admire him for what they see as "a very strong moral impulse, an intellectual quality that sets him apart from the others, and a particular quality of striving." These are all traits associated with the old New England WASP culture, Fischer told United Press International.

 

Commenting on Dean's opposition to President Bush's pre-emptive attack on Iraq, Fischer said, "New Englanders are apt to make very strong moral judgments on just versus unjust wars. New Englanders haven't had an anti-war tradition in general. They strongly supported the Revolution, the Civil War and WWII. Yet, they were also the strongest center of opposition to the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War and Vietnam." Fischer contended that the Bush administration's doctrine of pre-emptive war on Iraq was foreign to New England's traditional self-image. "It's very important to New Englanders not to fire the first shot," he said.   [More...]

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Why disputes over real estate titles are a lot more interesting in the 3rd World -- A lawyer from India describes how things work in India, and, no doubt, many other places: 

 

A lets out property to B in 1974. B stops paying Rent in 1978. A goes to court and nothing happens. The thing drags on for decades and he realises this is a waste (Title is a factor here because B challenges that A actually has good title). A hires X who heads a gang of criminals who "specialize" in "evictions". B gets evicted by brute force. [Of course, if B has more force than A, then A can kiss his property goodbye forever]. B goes to the police to complain. The police have been bribed of course and they do nothing. Case closed. 

 

Obviously, it's hard to get a mortgage on real estate if ownership is uncertain, so the capital markets don't work well. Hernando De Soto has been arguing for years that it doesn't really matter who owns the property as long as someone definitely does, because that will free up lending and investment. Here are my interviews with De Soto: one and two. The problem is that for the individuals involved in these disputes, this Olympian attitude is irrelevant.

***

 

I get asked about Australian lady golfer Jan Stephenson's comments that Asian golfers are "killing" the LPGA by not being outgoing. Jan is 51 now, and maybe she let a hot flash do the talking for her because going public with her comments doesn't do the LPGA any good. Still, it raises a lot of interesting issues. The background is that the LPGA is a fairly hand to mouth enterprise, with only a few women making a more than middle class living off tournament golf, and quite a few scraping by staying in Motel 6s. So they need to sell themselves in multiple ways, including by playing pro-am rounds with local business people, appearances at corporate outings, client golf, you name it. The LPGA markets itself as the friendly tour, whose members will give you swing tips, tell you jokes, charm your clients, talk to reporters, whatever, unlike those rich, aloof PGA stars. The problem is that all this promotional work takes players away from the practice tee, which is where they need to be to win and where they tend to be most comfortable. (Pro golfers are lot less gregarious than hack golfers. Most of them are people who like practicing by themselves for hours per day.)

 

For reasons that nobody quite understands, women's golf is slowly becoming dominated by East Asians and there are lots more in the youth pipeline. This may indeed have an effect on the success of the LPGA promotional strategy. I can well imagine that Se Ri Pak is not as fun to play a pro-am with as Jan Stephenson is. And Se Ri would probably just as soon get back to the practice tee and work on her own game as help you look for your tee shot in the trees and tell you what's wrong with your swing (everything). The Aussies are probably the best at this (her countryman Greg Norman was the all time champ at charming sales managers at corporate outings). It's pretty churlish of Jan to expect Koreans to live up to Aussie levels of amiability. Koreans have a really hard time speaking English, they tend to be shy (like most pro golfers, only more so), and they don't have a lot in common with American sales managers. Still, they could probably try harder. Of course, from a business point of view, this is the kind of thing that should be said privately. Now that Stephenson has let the cat out of the bag, businessmen thinking of signing up for an LPGA pro-am might skip it for fear of getting stuck with Se Ri.

 

The more general problem Stephenson touched on, which certainly isn't the fault of the Koreans, is that the LPGA is desperate for a pretty, feminine American champion in the mode of the now retired Nancy Lopez, who temporarily got the moms of America interested in ladies' golf, which in turn got the networks interested because moms buy lots of advertised products. Here in America, though, non-Asian teenage girls just won't play golf. A black champ, like the Williams sisters in tennis, would do the LPGA a huge amount of good. But the odds are really long. Black women hate golf, even though it's a good way to meet successful black men, and greens fees are now heavily discounted compared to their peak in 2000.

***

 

New VDARE column at left.

***

 

Here's a good LA Times article on one of Mexico's (and much of the world's) most-boring sounding but biggest problems: real estate title disputes. As Mexico's population grows, tribal and business groups are increasingly coming to blows over who owns what land because of Mexico's chaotic lack of definitive real estate deeds. This is one of the major reasons that what should be one of Mexico's primary cash cow industries -- providing retirement living in the sun to Americans -- has never really gotten off the ground. Small numbers of Americans have been retiring to Mexico for decades, but the incident in 2000 when 300 Americans had their homes in Baja taken from them without compensation in a real estate title controversy is a black mark that will take decades to recover from. Thomas Jefferson earned his place on Mt. Rushmore just by devising a simple, unconfusing grid system for selling off carefully surveyed Federal lands in the West.

 

Update: A reader from India says this is situation normal throughout the world. He once had to give testimony in court over a court case between his family and another family that began back to 1894.

***

 

School of Rock - Good movie. Not anywhere close to a great one, but a well-executed formulaic film with Jack Black as a washed up guitarist teaching at a stuffy school. The role he and his eyebrows (which look remarkably like catcher Ivan Rodriguez's) were born to play, as written by his old roommate Mike White. (The only phonier sounding names than Jack Black and Mike White that I've ever heard are those evolutionary biologists of the 1960s: Ed Wilson, Bill Hamilton, George Williams, and John Smith.) I think the Academy Awards should take a hint from the Golden Globes and start a Best Comedy Actor category for performances like this and Johnny Depp's in Pirates.

***

 

As I implied in my review of Mystic River below, I've always believed that the simplest explanation for Sean Penn's penchant in the 1980s of A. adding huge amounts of muscle for one role, then letting it vanish for the next, the packing it back on for the next performance; and B. beating up people until he got sent to jail, was that he was using steroids to quickly change his body shape. The 'roid rage was a side effect. If he thinks I'm libeling him, he can issue a better explanation of his behavior, which I'll be glad to post here.

 

There's a sequel to this: At the end of that decade, according to a story in Sports Illustrated about a decade ago, Penn's ex-wife Madonna asked his permission to hire his personal trainer. She, likewise, added huge amounts of muscle, and developed amazing self-confidence and energy, which carried her to the peak of her career, the Blonde Ambition tour. She also became, temporarily, a lesbian. Do you think that particular personal trainer might had some particular secrets?

***

 

Friedrich Von Blowhard (he's the LA Blowhard) has a long posting on women's fashion from the point of view of Darwin's theory of sexual selection.

***

 

Clint Eastwood's Mystic River 

By Steve Sailer

UPI National Correspondent

 

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- In case you are as easily confused as I am, let me first make clear that "Mystic River" is not at all a sequel to Julia Roberts' "Mystic Pizza." Instead, it's a long, grim murder mystery with many admirable elements. "Mystic River" even aspires to the stature of tragedy, but sadly winds up being a cheap holiday in other people's misery.

 

Sean Penn stars as an ex-robber gone straight whose beautiful daughter is murdered. His estranged childhood friend, Kevin Bacon, is the police detective assigned to the case. They each begin to suspect another old buddy from the neighborhood, Tim Robbins, who hasn't been quite right in the head since a Catholic priest raped him as a boy. Will Bacon's legal justice or Penn's vigilante vengeance prevail?

 

Penn became a star as the surfer dude in 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and turned in an astonishing character lead in 1985's "The Falcon and the Snowman" as a weaselly rich kid turned drug dealer and traitor. His 1980s comic performances alternated dazzlingly with his James-Dean-on-steroids dramatic turns. Critics much admired Penn for changing his entire body shape for each role. His superhuman muscle-building, however, perhaps not surprisingly, coincided with numerous fistfights and other violent incidents. Eventually, he did a month in jail and Madonna divorced him. He temporarily retired from acting, but re-emerged triumphantly in 1995 in "Dead Man Walking."

 

"Mystic River" provides Penn with perhaps the Sean Penniest role of his career. Always the fiercest of Method actors, here, as the tormented father, he achieves the intensity of a rabid ferret. Still, Penn's not suited to play the tragic hero, who, since the time of Sophocles and Aristotle, has been a larger than life figure of flawed greatness. We find his demise cathartic because he has so far to fall. Penn, on the other hand, is a small, wrinkly rodent of a man.

 

As a director, Clint Eastwood is also a critics' favorite, but that's largely because his strong, masculine persona and fairly homogenous slate of films are readily analyzable within the auteur theory. Movie buffs gravitate toward this intellectualized form of hero worship to impose an unrealistic degree of order on the cooperative chaos that is film history. In reality, Eastwood's main directing gifts are that he has an above-average eye for buying scripts, is good with actors, and works inexpensively. Thus, he's been given a free hand by the studios to make a lot of movies (24 since he began at age 40). His overall batting average isn't exceptional, but he's taken enough swings that he's hit a few homers and one grand slam: "Unforgiven."   [More...]

***

 

Clooney & Zeta-Jones in Intolerable Cruelty:

It's fashionable in Hollywood for brothers to team up to make movies, probably because it's a clever way to achieve the artistic integrity of the auteur method without its crushing workload and lonely megalomania. The most experienced and consistently delightful "frauteurs" are Joel and Ethan Coen, whose tenth film together is the screwball romantic comedy "Intolerable Cruelty." Like the pregnant lady sheriff played by Joel's wife Frances McDormand in her Oscar role in "Fargo," the brothers, amidst all the weirdness of their movies, just keep getting the job done with good humor and efficiency.

 

The Coens are to Hollywood what Tom Stoppard, author of "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead," is to the stage: enormously bright and funny innovators. And like Stoppard, their best efforts (to my mind, "The Hudsucker Proxy," "The Big Lebowski," and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") are subversively cheerful.

 

This drives many critics to dismiss both Stoppard and the Coens as emotionally shallow. Psychologist Peter D. Kramer, author of "Listening to Prozac," has pointed out that because so many artists are depressives (especially manic-depressives), our culture tends not to take seriously creative individuals who strike us as, well, depressingly happy and healthy. We stereotype them as inauthentic because they aren't suffering mightily enough for our edification.

 

[If you want to know what I actually think of the movie, the rest of the review appears in the November 3 edition of The American Conservative. Subscribe here. Buying the magazine is the only way to get half of my weekly reviews.]

***

 

Being a more fanatical Bushie than Bush -- Defending the Iraq Attaq is intellectually and morally corrupting Republicans. You know how much respect I have for Mark Steyn, but his latest column attacking Ambassador Joseph Wilson for not being a true believer is tipping over the edge into frenzied nonsense: "Everything about Mr Wilsonís day trip to the heart of darkness suggests either willful obstruction or sheer ineptness by the CIA." Sure, Mark, except that Wilson was right about Niger yellowcake, according to President George W. Bush. 

***

 

Accelerate Education to Increase Tax Revenue -- Randall Parker points out that there's another way to ease the burden on Social Security besides postponing the retirement age. We could get kids to work earlier. I would bet that the productivity of computer programmers is especially high among the very young, and they certainly don't need more than about three semesters of college-level training. (My wife got a good programming job after two semesters.)

 

Colleges, most famously the U. of Chicago, used to search out young students. Not many do anymore, although the Coen Bros. of "Intolerable Cruelty" fame went to a college that specializes in taking in underage freshmen. I don't know why they stopped. 

 

I pointed out to Randy that he could use Leopold and Loeb as an example of people who graduated from college while still teenagers, but he hasn't thanked me for that idea yet.

***

 

Nobel Peace Prize - In my lifetime, the greatest change toward peace is that there is no longer any chance of a tank invasion in Central Europe through the Fulda Gap or a massive intercontinental nuclear exchange. Pope John Paul II played a major role in that happy turn of events. He probably won't make it to next October. So, what did the Nobel Committee do? They gave the Peace Prize to some Iranian woman who campaigns for women's rights in Iran. A worthy cause, but is there any evidence that giving the Nobel prize in the hopes of influencing the future rather than for rewarding time-tested accomplishments ever does any good? 

 

It mostly seems to diminish the validity of the prize, as you end up with a lot of Arafats and Le Duc Thos and those two Northern Irish women whose campaign for amity collapsed right after they cashed their checks. In contrast, some of the elderly science winners this year were rewarded for things like inventing the MRI back during the Stone Age.

***

 

My next VDARE.com column (giving a final analysis of the California recall voter statistics) will come out Monday evening, rather than the normal Sunday evening, because we're doing something special for Columbus Day. (We like the Discovery of America.)

***

 

The Ambler is in fine dyspeptic form, explaining why Red Sox fans who revel in the moral superiority that their loserhood imparts are pathetic:

 

Directions for lifting the Red Sox "curse":

1. Score more runs than the other team in four games out of seven. 

2. Repeat as necessary.

***

 

When animals attack, ratings go up -- With two stories about tiger maulings and one about bears killing people in the news, it's worth remarking that few things fascinate human beings more than the danger of being eaten alive. Any time somebody in Sumatra gets ventilated by a Komodo Dragon, you know that Matt Drudge, a master of what interests the intelligent public, will give it relentless coverage. At least three huge movie franchises -- Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Silence of the Lambs -- are all about becoming lunch.

*** 

 

Analysis: Racial dynamics of recall

By Steve Sailer

UPI National Correspondent

 

... Demographically, the decisive change Tuesday was that white voters came home to the Republican Party. Indeed, Schwarzenegger won more votes from whites alone (about 35 percent according to the exit poll of 4,172 voters conducted by Edison Media for a consortium of media outlets) than his rival Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante won from all ethnic groups combined (32.3 percent).

 

... In each of these last three California elections, according to exit polls, the GOP candidate failed to win a majority of the white vote. On Tuesday, however, the two main Republican candidates combined to win a crushing 65 percent of the non-Hispanic white vote. That's the kind of enthusiasm for Republicans normally seen among whites in the South, not in California.   [More...]

***

 

The public likes sexually aggressive leaders -- Last week's L.A. Times article on Arnold's groping appears to have helped him win even bigger than predicted. No surprise, as we saw with Bill Clinton, or with JFK, whose popularity is sky high today, after the revelations about his private character. Here's a letter I sent to the NYT about the first revelations about Clinton by his state troopers:

 

January 6, 1994

Dear Editors:

 

Whether David Brock's Troopergate revelations (The American Spectator, January, 1994) will harm Mr. Clinton with the national electorate is doubtful. After all, most Arkansas voters had long heard rumors of their Governor's indulgence in industrial scale adultery, yet many seemed to take pride in his exploits, as shown by Arkansas being the only state to give him a majority in 1992. In fact, rather than revealing Mr. Clinton as "all too pathetically ordinary" as your Op-Ed columnist Frank Rich says, Brock's article depicts quite a formidable man. Mr. Clinton's ability to charm and satisfy large numbers of women, to do without sleep, to lie persuasively, to keep track of his many lies, even his capacity for eating a baked potato in two bites . . . these are not traits of the average man but of a certain kind of natural leader, the type that Africans call a "Big Man". Where exactly our Big Man may be leading us, however, is an altogether different question.

 

Yours truly,

Steve Sailer

 

Of course, they didn't print it.

***

 

Finally on line -- Here's my article from a couple of months ago in AEI's American Enterprise on "Why We Like Macho Leaders." (I sent it out via email two days ago.) Excerpt:

 

With many Republicans excited by the possibility that former Mr. Universe bodybuilder and current "Terminator 3" star Arnold Schwarzenegger may run for governor of California, the connection between masculinity and leadership charisma needs examining. Why does the prospect of being governed by Schwarzenegger, who did for steroids what Timothy Leary did for LSD, seem so much more right and fitting than the notion of being led by an unmanly star like, say, David Spade of "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star?"

 

The rise of feminism and political correctness has left us almost without a vocabulary for discussing why humans frequently demonstrate that, all else being equal, they prefer masculine rulers. Our pundits have a hard time accounting for the almost subrational reasons why some politicians, such as George W. Bush, are widely seen as natural leaders and others, like poor old Al Gore, aren't.   [More...]

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Where's Saddam? Greg Cochran figures he's in somebody's basement, lying low. Reports of him moving every three hours sound dubious. That's the easiest way to get caught. Many wanted men survived the upheavals of the 20th Century by simply holing up and staying put, like "The Pianist" played by Adrien Brody in the recent Polanski movie. Some Spanish leftists hid indoors from Franco's victory in 1939 until his death in 1975! That's pretty much what the Gruesome Twosome, his sons, did. Fortunately, their host betrayed them.

 

It's important to catch this bastard before we amscray Iraq, so it will take some clever detective work, like finding out his favorite foods and bribing grocers to stay on the lookout for somebody shopping for him.

***

 

I'm voting for Joe Guzzardi. 

***

 

Andrew Sullivan endorses Schwarzenegger, on the grounds (in so many words) that Arnold is the candidate Andrew would most like to be groped by. 

***

 

New VDARE.com column on Limbaugh and black quarterbacks at left. 

 

Another example of the press accidentally making Limbaugh's point for him while denouncing him: An LA Times article by Lonnie White called "Limbaugh is Lacking in NFL History" concludes:

 

"That's why the controversy over Limbaugh's statement is so ironic. The days when black quarterbacks didn't get opportunities to play because teams felt safer playing white quarterbacks, even if they were overrated, are over.

 

"If today a black quarterback led his team to a 4-1-1 record, there's no way he would be replaced. Yet that's what happened in 1974, when [black quarterback Joe] Gilliam started for the Pittsburgh Steelers but was benched in favor of [white] Terry Bradshaw. But that's the way it was back then, when black quarterbacks were judged more by their skin color than their performance on the field."

 

I'm no football guru, but even I know you have to be completely blinded by PC ideology to choose that example. Chuck Noll's replacing Gilliam with Bradshaw is one of the most famously great coaching decisions in football history. Bradshaw went on to win four of the next six Super Bowls! To say that Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw would have to sit on the bench today because mediocrity Joe Gilliam is black more than proves Limbaugh's case.

***

 

A reader comments: 

 

"I suspect Mickey Kaus is looking at the possibility of continuing effects of steroid use on Ah-nold too narrowly. I have no idea whether personality-altering physiological effects of using steroids continue long after one stops using, but it seems reasonable to me to think that having one's personality altered with artificial testosterone throughout one's early adulthood would have long-lasting effects. If Arnold came into manhood with his personality hormonally enhanced, and continued to live with extra hormones through his twenties and thirties, isn't it a pretty safe bet that this experience shapes the way he sees and interacts with the world? 

 

I mean, if he had been a drunk during the years that he accumulated the habits and patterns of behavior of being an adult it would certainly be fair game to question how this experience might still be influencing him. And certainly Republicans, who like to talk about the importance of "character" and the like, would be hesitant to make someone whose character developed "under the influence" their standard bearer. 

 

"Oh, wait. Never mind."

***

 

Link: Oct. 3, 2003 02:25:09

E-mail me

iSteve home

 

A victory for Arnold is a victory for steroids, crows Andrew Sullivan: "To get to his previous size, Arnold must have done a lot, as he has conceded. And he seems fine ... and the public doesn't care. Another example of our anti-drug laws being more about hysteria than science, let alone the freedom of any adult to do what he wants with his own body."

 

At least AndroGel Andrew notices the connection between Schwarzenegger and steroids. (Here's my National Post article on how Sullivan irresponsibly promotes steroid use.) I had been starting to worry that there must be something wrong with me because I seemed to be the only one who has been harping on the single most striking fact about Schwarzenegger's incredible career: the role of steroids. 

 

It's as if Pamela Anderson was the frontrunner for Governor and nobody ever mentioned what was running in front of her.

 

No steroids, no Ah-Nold! 

 

(Click here for my UPI commentary from August, where I wrote: "No man owes more to steroids and steroids owe more to no man.") 

 

If he hadn't altered his body and brain with artificial testosterone, beginning (according to the recent LA Times article) at age 17, he'd be Herr Schwarzenegger, wealthy Mittel-European real estate developer and leading candidate for mayor of Linz. In other words, he'd be a success of some sort without them, but he'd never have become Mr. Olympia or a world-famous movie star. Steroids put him over the top into Planet Hollywood.

 

If you read his 1977 autobiography, you'll find the steroids talking on every page. The book reads like Conan the Barbarian's famous plagiarism of Genghis Khan: "What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!" It's full of proclamations like, ""I knew I was a winner. I knew I was destined for great things. People will say that kind of thinking is totally immodest. I agree. Modesty is not a word that applies to me in any way."

 

Mickey Kaus has long been pointing out that Schwarzenegger's key moral failing isn't sexual harassment per se, it's his history of bullying both sexes. What do you think loading up on artificial testosterone does to you? It drives you toward aggression and a need for dominance. Does that sound like anybody we know?

 

The big question I've had about Arnold's candidacy is: "Do I want the voters of California to send my sons the message that taking tons of steroids is the way to become a success?"

 

Here's another question, this one for the neoconservative intellectuals that have been so worked up over the threat posed by biotechnology -- you know, the whole End of Human Nature crowd: The President's Council on Bioethics, Francis Fukuyama, Leon Kass, the Weekly Standard, the New Atlantis, etc. These are the folks who worry when depressed people take Prozac. So: 

 

Where's the concern over Schwarzenegger? 

 

Let me put this clearly to them: Arnold Schwarzenegger is about to become the Republican governor of California because he turned himself into the world's most famous human biotechnology experiment. 

 

Now, I'm not as paranoid about biotechnology as these folks, but I'm definitely not crazy about a masculinity arms race. Do we want other politicians to get prescriptions for testosterone so they can compete with Arnold in the masculine charisma sweepstakes? Aren't we a little afraid of what 'roid rage might do in our leaders?

 

UPDATE: A reader writes:

 

"Mickey Kaus takes on your "Arnold's victory is a victory for Steriods" post. His main question is: Does the drug permanently change your personality?

 

Possible answer:

 

--Once you're atop the mountain, it gets easier, but it's that push that steroids provided that made all the difference. Confidence is one of the most important qualities in business and politics. And confidence is earned through past successes. His own success fueled by steroids now carries him, and when he needs just a bit more, how do we know he doesn't juice back up?"

 

Steroid-user Jesse Ventura's anger-doomed political career provides the single most obvious analogy. Anyway, do we really want to send the message to young men: "Just take steroids for a quarter of a century, and then you can come clean and reap all the benefits?" 

 

By the way, the quarter of a century of use guesstimate is arrived at like this: 

 

- from starting at age 17 in 1964 (according to the LAT): "But Schwarzenegger's old gym mates say he consumed far more muscle-building drugs over a longer period than he has acknowledged. They say Schwarzenegger told them that he began taking Dianabol, a popular steroid, at the age of 17 in Germany and routinely injected other testosterone-like substances after arriving in America in 1968."

 

- to ending by 1990, when Congress made steroids a controlled substance. Arnold's publicist says he hasn't taken them since then. 

 

Although I'm still wondering about how he got back in shape for his nude scene in this year's Terminator 3. (Click here for my review in The American Conservative.)

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Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes: "An analysis of levels of happiness in more than 65 countries by the World Values Survey shows Nigeria has the highest percentage of happy people followed by Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and Puerto Rico, while Russia, Armenia and Romania have the fewest." -- From Reuters.

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"The real intelligence scandal is how an open opponent of the U.S. war on terror such as Mr. Wilson was allowed to become one of that policy's investigators." -- WSJ Editorial

 

The Foucault-ification of Republican ideologues continues apace. In French postmodern thought, there's no such thing as "truth," just power. Increasingly, that way of thinking is popular among the more frenzied defenders of the Iraq Attaq. Thus, the WSJ is outraged that the Niger Yellowcake hoax wasn't "investigated" by a gung ho Republican fanatic who would have reported back exactly what the WSJ wanted to hear. 

 

Look, guys, the President has already admitted that Wilson was telling the truth -- we got pranked by forged documents. (Of course, I am as shocked as you are that all communications from Africans purporting to be high government officials with interesting deals to discuss might not be completely on the up and up.) It's time to pull yourselves out of your deconstructionist death spiral.

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It's unlikely that Karl Rove will ever do the perp walk over the CIA agent cover-blowing case, but maybe Bush is now considering my suggestion of last spring that he ship Rove to Baghdad to be Viceroy of Mesopotamia.

 

UPDATE -- I doubt that one of the at-least seven journalists who received phone calls from Senior Administration Officials blowing the lady CIA agent's cover will testify under oath about who dun it. That's called "burning your source" and it would mean you'll never report in this town again. But ... some of those seven have probably informally told other people who have told other people, so the "secret" of who the bad guys are is probably all over Washington by now. Today, everyone in the press was pointing at Rove. If they keep it up for a couple more days, you can draw your own conclusions.

 

You've got to admire Rep. Tom Tancredo, head of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, for having the guts to stand up to Rove, considering Bush's consigliere's documented history of playing nasty.

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Paul Cella raises an interesting question: Which of the 50 states is the best looking? He votes for Virginia. 

 

I think Edmund Burke's distinction between the beautiful and the sublime might be useful here. Roughly, "beautiful" means fertile and gentle but varied enough to be interesting, a great place for human habitation, such as Southern England. Sublime means magnificent but inhuman, dangerous, a great place to fall off a cliff, like the Alps.

 

Certainly, Alaska is the most tilted toward the sublime and away from the beautiful. Dave Barry has noted that Alaska is full of glacier-laden peaks, any one of which if transported to a normal flat state like Indiana would be worshipped by cults.  I haven't seen much of Virginia, but I can well imagine that, in contrast, it ranks high for beauty.

 

What do you think?

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