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July 27, 2004 - July 20, 2004

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Instapunk072604

Sieg Hill!


A WOMAN WITH A PLAN. Yes, sir, Senator Hillary spoke at the convention last night, and it wasn't so much what she said as the way she said it that struck a deep chord of memory. Her delivery was so forceful, so commanding, so loud, so monotonous, so incantational that she reminded us of some great leader of the past. It's on the tip of our tongue... yes, we've almost got it, it's... no, damn, it's gone. Well, it doesn't really matter who it was. What matters is that she clearly has the iron will it takes to get elected chancell--, er, president of this great homeland of ours and stick it to our enemies even while she's creating a national social--, er, health care paradise for all us citizens. It's a shame we can't fast-forward to the next election and get started right away on whatever she has in mind. The Democrats have got to be so darn disappointed that they're stuck with nominating a cadaverous billionaire and John-Boy Walton. But think how much hate they can build up in a second Bush term, an emotional cauldron that can fuel the ambitions of a truly great leader. That kind of hate and that kind of a leader could remake the world. Is everybody else as excited about that prospect as we are?

UPDATE. Since we posted the day's entry a few seconds ago, we've received some complaints from the Democratic National Committee, Moveon.org, DemocraticUnderground.com, and a few thousand liberal bloggers. They claim we're comparing Hillary to Hitler. Also, the New York Times, the L.A. Times, and the Washington Post are planning to denounce us in their editorial pages for comparing Hillary to Hitler. They think it's unconscionable, a new low point in American politics.

We want to set the record straight. We were not comparing Hillary to Hitler. If a few files got mixed up and linked together in such a way as to make people think we were comparing Hillary to Hitler, we regret the wrong impression people may have gotten. And if anyone was offended during the momentary misapprehension that we intended to compare Hillary to Hitler, we are sorry they were offended. Isn't that what usually passes for an apology about this kind of thing? Good. Because that's about as sorry as we're going to get.




Monday, July 26, 2004


Instapunk072504

UPDATE. Remember, the deadline for entries in the photo caption contest is Tuesday at midnight.

Convention Notes

Ann Coulter

EDITORIAL BALANCE. USA Today contracted with Ann Coulter to write a daily column about the Democratic Convention and with Michael Moore to do the same at the Republican Convention. Now Ann has submitted her first report, and the high-minded folks at America's skimpiest national newspaper are refusing to print what she wrote. They sniffed that the piece was "unusable" and "not funny." So we thought we'd check it out at AnnCoulter.org and see for ourselves. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Here at the Spawn of Satan convention in Boston, conservatives are deploying a series of covert signals to identify one another, much like gay men do. My allies are the ones wearing crosses or American flags. The people sporting shirts emblazened with the "F-word" are my opponents. Also, as always, the pretty girls and cops are on my side, most of them barely able to conceal their eye-rolling.....

As for the pretty girls, I can only guess that it's because liberal boys never try to make a move on you without the UN Security Council's approval. Plus, it's no fun riding around in those dinky little hybrid cars. My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call "women" at the Democratic National Convention.

Maybe we're impossibly crude, but we think that's funny. Certainly funnier than some of the stuff Michael Moore allows to escape the snakepit he calls a mouth. Has Coulter said anything to compare with this?

At his live show in London last year, which I reviewed, he built an entire segment around his argument presented not as satire, but as a straight-faced statement of fact that, if all the hijack victims on September 11 had been black, they would have fought back. Moore argued that, because the passengers were pampered members of the bourgeoisie, accustomed to being waited on at every turn, they did not know how to defend themselves. Now, it takes only a second to realise that there is an obvious flaw in this: we know that once the passengers on the third plane heard about the attacks on the twin towers, they rose up and fought their hijackers. Even the more sympathetic reviewers acknowleged that Moore crossed the line into absurdity at this point.

But USA Today has already replaced Ann Coulter with Jonah Goldberg, who is far too much of a gentleman to compete with Moore's crazed and vicious tirades. We'll have to wait and see whether Moore's first effort is similarly adjudged "unusable" and "not funny."

OUR FRIENDLY UNCLES. The big three networks have decided that covering the conventions is less important than showing us reruns of people eating worms and undergoing total head rebuilds on so-called "Reality TV." This has left the three ancient network anchormen stranded, like the beached (and overpaid) whales they are. Even The New York Times has felt it necessary to document their humiliation:

This has left the anchors seeking new ways to stand out on a landscape that has changed vastly since Mr. Rather, 72, Mr. Jennings, 65, and Mr. Brokaw, 64, covered their first conventions in 1956, 1964 and 1968, respectively.

In a particularly uncomfortable moment, the three men found themselves on the wrong end of a lecture on Sunday about their networks' paltry convention plans in a panel discussion at Harvard University. Stern words came from the PBS anchor Jim Lehrer and the CNN anchor Judy Woodruff, both of whom work for networks that are offering many more hours of coverage.

"We're about to elect a president of the United States at a time when we have young people dying in our name overseas, we just had a report from the 9/11 commission which says we are not safe as a nation, and one of these two groups of people is going to run our country,'' Mr. Lehrer said. "The fact that you three networks decided it was not important enough to run in prime time, the message that gives the American people is huge.''

As the lecture hall echoed with applause and the three men bristled, Mr. Lehrer added, "As a citizen, it bothers me.''

The three anchors of the biggest networks - whose newscasts' combined audience of nearly 30 million still dwarfs that of cable news - were hardly in a position to disagree.

Chances are, they'll still be cashing their paychecks even though none of them had the cojones to stand up to the whoremasters in news management.




Saturday, July 24, 2004


Instapunk072404


UPDATE: The entries are pouring in for our photo caption contest, but most of them seem to be coming from men, and it shows. Capturing a woman's voice requires either a good imagination -- or a woman.

The Unasked Question


THE CHOSEN. Few things raise our Celtic ire more than watching and listening to all the talking heads -- the political pundits of our day -- ignoring a very simple historical fact that spins around the periphery of our current discussion of the Iraq War, most notably the roles of Senators Kerry and Edwards. Senator Kerry's unchallenged doubletalk when asked if he is in favor of the war in Iraq is a constant reminder of the interviewers' failure to pursue the invisible question at the center of the war debate.

Let's start at the beginning. The President does not declare war. The Constitution of the United States assigns the responsibility to declare war to the legislative branch, defined in Article I, Section 8; Clause 11, "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water." Article II, Section 2; Clause 1 of the Constitution gives the task of waging war to the executive branch of our government. It states, "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." Thus it falls to the President to carry out all declared wars on behalf of the United States and its citizens. These two parts of our constitution function in a very special way. First, they place the military power of the United States under civilian rule. Second, they divide the authority to commit and command these forces. Now why was this done?

Well, interestingly enough, the founders seemed to think that an executive, say, the Commander in Chief, might become overly ambitious and cavalierly dispose of the lives of U.S. citizens and U.S. treasure if he could go wherever he pleased with whatever force he desired. They had seen enough of this in the principalities and kingdoms of Europe. So they ensured that no war could be fought by the United States without the legislative branch of the government declaring one. Then, and only then, can the executive branch proceed to wage war.

On December 8, 1941, Congress did just that. President Roosevelt asked for and Congress granted a declaration of war. It is brief enough to be set here for your review:

Whereas the Imperial Government of Japan has committed unprovoked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial Government of Japan which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial Government of Japan; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.

Three days later, the same declaration of war was issued against Germany, as follows:

Declaring that a state of war exists between the Government of Germany and the government and the people of the United States and making provision to prosecute the same.

Whereas the Government of Germany has formally declared war against the government and the people of the United States of America:

Therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.

Thus began World War II as far as the United States was concerned.

The war against Iraq under President George W. Bush has not been so clear. Something very strange was done. Congress, in what would become Public Law No: 107-243, wasn't as straightforward. The Congress worked from October 2, 2002 through October 16, 2002 on House Joint Resolution 114 ("HJRes114"), which can be read HERE.

Much more lawyerly than the World War II declarations, HJRes114 winds through a series of WHEREAS clauses that recite how we got here from Iraq's aggressive foray into Kuwait in 1990. It states that "the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated." It reminisces about those halcyon days in 1998 where, in Public Law 105-235 (August 14, 1998), "Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in `material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations' and urged the President `to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations.'" (It reminds us of those awful insurance policy forms that are incomprehensible to any normal human being.)

And there is more from the golden Clinton years -- regime change. That's right. It is Public Law 105-338 (October 31, 1998), which "expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime." Congress has a sense? What does that mean?

There is sooo much more. Such as:

"Whereas Iraq's demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself."

It even cites the United Nations' Resolution 678 authorizing the use of all necessary means to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 (1990) and subsequent relevant resolutions.

This long WHEREAS section concludes with "Whereas it is in the national security interests of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region."

This means War! Right? Well, not exactly. It means that the House and Senate jointly resolve to support diplomatic efforts and the use of United States Armed Forces. Both? Yes, both. How does this work?

Well, it works like Section 3 (b) says it works in big, bold letters:

PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION

Presidential determination? What the hell is that? Did we miss this in the Constitution?

What it means is that Congress abdicated its duty under Article I, Section 8; Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution to declare war. Who did it give the care of this duty to? That's right, President George W. Bush. So, instead of Congress weighing the evidence and declaring war on a hostile nation, it spent nearly a week wrestling with the problem only to hand it back to the President and say, "Whatever you think."

You'd think that if a guy was willing to give away the store like this, he'd have to be pretty convinced it was time to go to war. Well, why not say that? Because if things don't work out as you hope they will, nobody can blame you. After all, you can say "PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION" meant whatever you want to say it meant for years to come.

But that was way back in October of 2002. We're now in 2004 and boy-oh-boy are the guys that voted for Public Law No: 107-243 mad, especially Senators Kerry and Edwards, the very guys that voted for this thing.

If Senators Kerry and Edwards ceded their right to declare war to the Executive Branch and have proceeded to say that the Executive Branch unwisely took the country to war, the central issue has to be: Why did they cede their constitutional authority to such a man - a man they speak of as if they never regarded him as fit for the role of commander-in-chief?

Can't somebody ask them why "PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION" seemed like such a great idea in 2002 and is such a dreadful idea now? Can we expect more constitutionally challenged decisions like this from them in the future or was this just a one-time thing?




Friday, July 23, 2004


M. Trudeau




Garry Trudeau, author of 'Doonesbury' and cousin of Pierre Trudeau

SWARTHMORON OF THE WEEK
. It's been a rocky road of late for cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who has had a long and celebrated career with the comic strip Doonesbury. Used to unending praise, he's probably found it difficult to accept that his time in the sun may finally be passing. But the spring and summer of 2004 have pestered the great man with slaps, spats and downright disrespect, and he has begun to react with irritation.

What is it that got under his skin? Was it the nagging rumor that he's too high and mighty to draw his own cartoons, which resurfaced as recently as April of this year, when all the attention was supposed to be on poor B.D.'s war wound?

I guess everyone now knows that "Doonesbury" character B.D. is going to have his leg amputated. If not, let me spoil the surprise.

Garry Trudeau, the strip's author (but not illustrator), wants us all to understand that bad things happen in war, and that people make big sacrifices.

Thanks for the tip. I had no idea.

Personally, I don't think a cartoon leg is much of a sacrifice.

When I first read the item, I thought, "Gee, that sucks." Then I remembered I had stopped reading "Doonesbury" in the Eighties. About fifteen years after Trudeau hired a beard to do all the drawing for him...

In case you're wondering why I mentioned the fact that Trudeau doesn't draw "Doonesbury," it's because he doesn't credit the artist who does the work. Nice, huh?...

I've been checking around the web, and I found out Trudeau denies that his inker, Don Carlson, draws the strip. Trudeau claims it's a false rumor that came from an "Entertainment Weekly" story. Funny, I believe I read it in a cartoonist trade magazine back in the Eighties. I probably still have the issue.

Or was it the sudden appearance of articles that suggested Trudeau had lost his satirical edge and his sense of humor to boot? He couldn't have enjoyed reading critiques like this one in the July issue of Reason Online:

Trudeau's career arc mirrors the evolution of baby-boom liberalism, from the anti-authoritarian skepticism of the 1970s to the smug paternalism of the Clinton years. In 1972 the strip was engaged with the world; in 2002 it is engaged with itself.

I mean that literally. In 1972 Doonesbury rewarded intelligence; in 2002 it rewards familiarity with its own mythology and conventions. In 1972 it trusted readers to know the politics and pop culture of the day; in 2002 it trusts us to understand that a floating waffle represents Bill Clinton, a floating bomb represents Newt Gingrich, and a floating asterisk represents George W. Bush. The strip has grown so self-referential that it makes jokes about its own self-referentiality, with Sunday strips devoted to charting the relationships among the characters. And so Doonesbury folds in upon itself, and Trudeau ends up producing his own fan fiction.

Which is worse? Shots like that from the intelligentsia or brickbats from the peanut gallery like this one from May?

Mr. T, well-known lefty author of a very well done political strip, decided to pitch a hissy-fit, en francais, in his Sunday strip.

Mr. T pretends to express the outrage of Franco-Americans all over the country at the frog-bashing of recent days.

Hmm....

Evidence has been piling up for days of illegal weapons collaboration and outright espionage, through which the French assisted in Saddam's accumulation of military equipement banned by the sacred UN Security Council, and kept Saddam up to date on everything they (the French) knew about what the US was up to during the runup to the war.

All, it appears, in return for contracts of various sorts and illegal sweet deals for oil.

Perhaps this was not the time to rise up in fake frog outrage in defense of all Franco-Americans.

Who knows? Perhaps it has been some combination of all these factors that caused M. Trudeau to boil over. At any rate, he started letting off steam in mid-July about -- who else? -- his old Yale classmate George W. Bush:

Trudeau('s) first cartoon illustrated an article in the Yale Daily News on Bush, then a senior, and allegations that his fraternity had hazed incoming pledges by branding them with an iron. This... caused The New York Times to interview Bush, who (in Trudeau's memory) told the Times "it was just a coat hanger, and ... it didn't hurt any more than a cigarette burn." Trudeau quipped: "On doit penser ce qu'est sa vue d'ensemble de la torture aujours d'hui."

And that's not all he had to say about Bush. The same article in Editor & Publisher quotes these pungent remarks from a Rolling Stone interview:

Garry Trudeau recalls his former Yale classmate George W. Bush as "jusqu'un autre preppie qui buvait trop de biere et blessait ses amis avec ridicule." He also claims Bush helped inspire his very first cartoon.

"Il etait une artiste de la manipulation," said "Doonesbury" creator Trudeau, who served on a dormitory committee at Yale with the future president in the late 1960s. "Il pouvait vous faire inconfortable extremement ... Il etait fort a controller des gens et des resultats in cette fashion. La maitre de humiliation."

Shortly after this little explosion, the beleaguered cartoonist experienced the unkindest cut of all, also reported in Editor & Publisher:

A poll that resulted in a vote to drop "Doonesbury" was defended by the head of a Sunday-comics consortium.

"It was not a political statement of any kind," Continental Features President Van Wilkerson told E&P. "I personally don't have an opinion about 'Doonesbury' one way or another."

Wilkerson said he conducted the survey because Garry Trudeau's comic "created more controversy than other strips." In the poll e-mail he sent Continental's newspaper clients this spring, Wilkerson wrote: "(I)t is my feeling that a change in one of the features is required. I have fielded numerous complaints about 'Doonesbury' in the past and feel it is time to drop this feature and add another in its place. ... If the majority of the group favors a replacement, you will be expected to accept that change."

Of the 38 papers that run the Continental-produced Sunday comics section, 21 wanted to drop "Doonesbury," 15 wanted to keep it, and two had no opinion or preference. "I wouldn't call the vote [to drop 'Doonesbury'] overwhelming, but it was a majority opinion," Wilkerson said.

Naturally, M. Trudeau could not be silent about this outrage. He responded with great heat yesterday:

Garry Trudeau said "un processus injuste" led to a vote to drop his "Doonesbury" comic from a consortium of 38 newspapers.

"La popularite de comiques individuelles augmente et diminue naturellement, et les selections des journals reflecteront naturellement les preferences evoluant des editeurs et lecteurs," said Trudeau, in an e-mail response to an E&P request for comment. "Dan ce cas, 'Doonesbury' etait choisi pour le sondage internel cause par les vue d'une personne seule. Une idiote. C'est unamericaine. C'est un outrage, un affront a ma genie brillant. Va te faire foutre!"

Is it just us, or does Trudeau seem a bit out of touch with his audience in these remarks? Nothing we can put our finger on, but some, you know, je ne sais quoi that makes him appear distant, even cold. We hope he finds a way to get over it. Or not.





Thursday, July 22, 2004


Instapunk072204

Contest

Jenna and Barbara

TWINS. The president's daughters have been back in the news of late, joining their father on the campaign trail. They made joint appearances before Ohio GOP workers and Vogue Magazine. They sound serious these days:

In the Vogue interview for the August issue, conducted in a Manhattan hotel room on Mother's Day, the daughters present a picture of themselves in striking contrast to the image of fun-loving twins known for partying and under-age drinking in Texas. Barbara Bush says that after the election she plans to sign up for a program to work with children with AIDS in Eastern Europe and Africa; Jenna says she plans to teach at a charter school.


Despite all this grown-up-itude, the irrepressible Jenna, who almost lost her dress at the Republican Convention four years ago, playfully stuck her tongue out two days ago at the reporters and photographers surrounding the president's limousine in St. Louis. Maybe she was remembering the snotty coverage The Washington Post gave to their Vogue interview:

Jenna's ruby red dress is by Oscar de la Renta, a designer favored by her mother. Barbara is wearing a similar ivory gown by Calvin Klein. They are accessorized with an array of borrowed diamonds. The dresses are classic designs -- styles a designer would keep on hand in the showroom but wouldn't bother to put on the runway.

The 22-year-old twins look like debutantes, minor royals, or that particular New York species of well-groomed, pedigreed and socially connected women known as the "Bright Young Things." For much of the time their father has been in the White House, they were kept under wraps. Occasionally they emerged from their protected world to be snapped attending a fashion show or traveling with their mother. The only significant ink on them has been on police reports detailing their ill-advised underage drinking.

The article goes on like this for quite a while, as if the Washington Post has never had any truck with the well to do. It would seem that Jenna, at least, hasn't been so thoroughly protected that she doesn't know how to deal with the press.

We at InstaPunk think the Bush twins are charming. There's something mischievous going on there that defies the slick characterization offered by the Post. We think they have a sense of humor. We think they have secrets. We think they're always up to something, which their father probably knows but doesn't worry about because Laura does plenty of worrying about it.

Herewith our lowly tribute to the First Daughters: a photo caption contest. We really like this picture, which was published the same day as the notorious 'tongue' photo:


There's Dad, leading the way, probably just out of earshot of the girls (what with the jet engines and all), and something is happening between the two of them, but what? A sly comment? A cutting barb? An argument? A plan? You tell us. Mail your captions to punk@Instapunk.com, and we'll sort through them and decide on first, second, and third place winners. First prize is an autographed copy of The Boomer Bible, courtesy of our friends at BoomerBible.com, and second and third place will be a hat or T-shirt or something, courtesy of same. We'll accept entries through midnight Tuesday, July 27. We'll announce the winners one week from today.

No big deal. We're just having fun. Maybe you will too.




Wednesday, July 21, 2004


Instapunk072104

The Raitt Wing


ANOTHER BUSH BASHER. We told you we were going to keep track, and so today we bring you the word on Bonnie Raitt, who found it necessary to mock the president during a concert in Sweden. The Associated Press reports::

Winding up her summer tour across Europe, Bonnie Raitt drew thunderous applause at the Stockholm Jazz Festival for dedicating a classic to President George Bush.

We're gonna sing this for George Bush because he's out of here, people!" Raitt crowed Tuesday night before she launched into the opening licks of "Your Good Thing (Is About to End)," a cover that was featured on her 1979 album, "The Glow"...

Raitt's comments resulted in a round of applause and even whistles from among the estimated 3,000 concertgoers at the Swedish capital's annual jazz event held on the banks of the downtown Skeppsholmen island.

Swedes are skeptical of Bush, and the Scandinavian country refused to support his efforts in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

There are a couple of points to be noted before we get around to Ms. Raitt. First, the reporter's reference to whistles is interesting, because Europeans generally use whistles as a form of booing. Second, the blanket statement that "Swedes are skeptical of Bush" is a perfect example of AP style -- a sweeping generalization which may be mostly true but can't be as unanimously true as the usage would indicate. One gets the feeling the reporter approves heartily of the Swedes, whose bent toward pacificism is so strong that they permitted the Germans to use their railroads to invade and conquer neighboring Norway in World War II. Something has happened to their spines since the days of the Vikings.

I have no doubt that Bonnie Raitt would make the same remarks at a concert in El Paso, but it is particularly obnoxious when American celebrities insult their president in foreign lands. Yet they seem to become especially voluble about politics when they encounter the press in some European capital. Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Kate Hudson, Johnny Depp, Madonna, the Dixie Chicks and now Bonnie Raitt belong to an elite travel club -- "Let's take this huge fortune we made in America and fly off to an exotic destination where people will think we are smart because we have contempt for the American president and the idiots who support him."

But Bonnie is no latecomer to the leftist bandwagon. She was born on it. Her bio puts it very prettily:

Born to a musical family, the nine-time Grammy winner is the daughter of celebrated Broadway singer John Raitt (Carousel, Oklahoma!, The Pajama Game) and accomplished pianist/singer Marge Goddard. She was raised in Los Angeles in a climate of respect for the arts, Quaker traditions, and a commitment to social activism. A Stella guitar given to her as a Christmas present launched Bonnie on her creative journey at the age of eight. While growing up, though passionate about music from the start, she never considered that it would play a greater role than as one of her many growing interests.

In the late '60s, restless in Los Angeles, she moved east to Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a Harvard/Radcliffe student majoring in Social Relations and African Studies, she attended classes and immersed herself in the city's turbulent cultural and political activities. "I couldn't wait to get back to where there were folkies and the antiwar and civil rights movements," she says. "There were so many great music and political scenes going on in the late '60s in Cambridge." Also, she adds, with a laugh, "the ratio of guys to girls at Harvard was four to one, so all of those things were playing in my mind."

She was already deeply involved with folk music and the blues at that time. Exposure to the album Blues at Newport 1963 at age 14 had kindled her interest in blues and slide guitar, and between classes at Harvard she explored these and other styles in local coffeehouse gigs. Three years after entering college, Bonnie left to commit herself full-time to music, and shortly afterward found herself opening for surviving giants of the blues. From Mississippi Fred McDowell, Sippie Wallace, Son House, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker she learned first-hand lessons of life as well as invaluable techniques of performance.

Does the term "limousine liberal" ring a bell? A child of celebrity, reared to lean left, goes off to America's most prestigious university to become a folksinger-activist and look out for the little people. Three years of that is enough -- social relations and African Studies are two of Harvard's most grueling courses of study, after all -- and then it's time to become a white star in a hitherto black vein of music. I'm sure she doesn't see it that way, of course, but is there, or is there not, some whiff of the poor little rich girl striving mightily toward an authenticity that could only be found in another culture, another race? Congratulations are due if she found what she was looking for, but it cannot be the case that her experience speaks for very many of the rest of us.

And who does Bonnie see as a finer, more capable leader than George W. Bush? The answer is so obvious that you'll all be surprised you didn't think of it right away. Bonnie supports Dennis Kucinich, the boy mayor of Cleveland who staked out a strong and lonely position to the left of Howard Dean in the Democratic primaries. Bonnie may have voted for him if she was in the country at the time, but no one else did. No one else thought a withered adolescent should be allowed anywhere near the White House. But, then, most of us didn't go to Harvard.




Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Instapunk072004

Snake Eyes


FREEDOM OF SONG. If celebrities are going to keep popping off about their politics, then somebody has to start keeping track. Here's what we're going to do: when some millionaire actor or singer shares his wisdom with the public, we're going to look into his credentials and share them with you. Everyone is entitled to speak his mind, but we are also entitled to inquire into the quality of any mind that insists on speaking into the giant mass media microphone. Our lucky first candidate for this exercise is Linda Ronstadt, who recently shared some of her views with the San Diego Union Tribune:

"This is an election year, and I think we're in desperate trouble and it's time for people to speak up and not pipe down. It's a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment. I'd rather not know."

Her enjoyment certainly got clouded at the Aladdin Hotel-Casino the other night. If she'd rather not have known about the Republicans in the audience, she sure was rolling the dice when she decided to dedicate a song to Michael Moore. They came up snake eyes. Neal Boortz summed up the incident this way:

Before singing "Desperado," she called Moore "a great American patriot" and "someone who is spreading the truth." She encouraged everybody to see the movie about President Bush. So what happened next? Did the audience just roll their eyes and wait for the song to start? Nope...they revolted. In addition to their loud boos, hundreds of concert-goers stormed out of the theater, tore down her concert posters and tossed their cocktails into the air. Nice work by the audience.

The president of the place, a Brit named Bill Timmins, told the AP Ronstadt had to go. He didn't let her back into her luxury hotel suite and had her escorted off the premises to her tour bus. He then had her suite emptied of her stuff and had it delivered to her and told her that she was not welcome to return.

When I call a plumber, I don't expect him to lecture me about the mechanics of good writing. And when I go to a concert, I don't expect a singer to hector me with a political spiel. So what are Linda Ronstadt's credentials for presuming to inflict her political insights on an audience which has just paid her a lot of money to sing songs? Here's what her bio says:

Linda Maria Ronstadt was born on July 15, 1946, in Tucson, Arizona. Her father was Mexican and her mother was German. Her first singing group was with her two siblings in the group, The Three Ronstadts.

Linda attended Arizona State University, where she met guitarist Bob Kimmel. He tried to persuade her to go to Los Angeles with him, but she declined because she wanted to stay in school. After a semester, however, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. In 1964, she joined Kimmel and songwriter, Kenny Edwards, in a folk group called the Stone Poneys.

Pretty impressive. Instead of dropping out of school immediately after freshman registration, she was was so determined to get an education that she remained enrolled for an entire semester. That's not quite enough time to declare a major, however, which means that Linda is, in fact, just a high school graduate who had an interpretive artistic talent sufficient to earn her millions of dollars. This should earn her respect as a singer, which it has, but it does not lend her any credibility whatsoever as a film reviewer, political affairs analyst, or arbiter of truth.

Linda Ronstadt would do well to heed the advice Laura Ingraham offers in her book Shut Up and Sing, which is that she should, well, shut up and sing. Why do I accord more weight to the pronouncements of Laura than Linda? Laura Ingraham can't sing, but she did finish school. She graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia Law School. She also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and she gets paid for talking and writing about her political views. If she were to start singing at a stop on one of her book tours, I would expect people to start throwing things at her. They might even yell at her: "Shut up and talk!" That's how life works. It might not be fair, but it sure is life.




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