July 27, 2004 - July 20, 2004
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
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?
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
OUR FRIENDLY UNCLES
Remember, the deadline for entries in the photo caption contest is
Tuesday at midnight.
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
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."
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
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
THE CHOSEN UPDATE:
The Unasked Question
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.
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? 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
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?
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
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
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
this year, when all the attention was supposed to be on poor B.D.'s
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
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
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
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.
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
in mid-July about -- who else? -- his old Yale classmate
George W. Bush:
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
And that's not all he had to say about Bush. The
article in Editor & Publisher quotes
these pungent remarks from a Rolling
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
A poll that resulted
in a vote to drop "Doonesbury" was defended by the head of a
"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
Jenna and Barbara
president's daughters have been back in the news of late, joining their
father on the campaign trail. They made joint appearances before Ohio
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
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
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
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
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
The Raitt Wing
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
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
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
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
But Bonnie is no latecomer to the leftist bandwagon. She was born on
it. Her bio puts it
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
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
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
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
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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