I thought I was a charming fellow and quite a moral man. I was not a seducer, had no unnatural tastes, did not make that the chief purpose of my life as many of my associates did, but I practiced debauchery in a steady, decent way for health's sake.
Dissoluteness does not lie in anything physical -- no kind of physical misconduct is debauchery; real debauchery lies precisely in freeing oneself from moral relations with a woman with whom you have physical intimacy.
It began when I was not quite sixteen. It happened when I still went to the grammar school and my elder brother was a first-year student at the university. I had not yet known any woman, but, like all the unfortunate children of our class, I was no longer an innocent boy. I had been depraved two years before that by other boys. Already woman, not some particular woman but woman as something to be desired, woman, every woman, woman's nudity, tormented me. My solitude was not pure. I was tormented, as ninety-nine per cent. of our boys are. I was horrified, I suffered, I prayed, and I fell. I was already depraved in imagination and in fact, but I had not yet laid hands on another human being. But one day a comrade of my brother's, a jolly student, a so-called good fellow, that is, the worst kind of good-for-nothing, who had taught us to drink and to play cards, persuaded us after a carousal to go there. We went. My brother was also still innocent, and he fell that same night. And I, a fifteen-year-old boy, defiled myself and took part in defiling a woman, without at all understanding what I was doing. I had never heard from any of my elders that what I was doing was wrong, you know.
I heard people I respected say it was good. I had heard that my struggles and sufferings would be eased after that. I heard this and read it, and heard my elders say it would be good for my health, while from my comrades I heard that it was rather a fine, spirited thing to do. A paternal government saw to that. It sees to the correct working of brothels, and makes profligacy safe for schoolboys. Doctors too deal with it for a consideration. That is proper. They assert that debauchery is good for the health, and they organize proper well-regulated debauchery. I know some mothers who attend to their sons' health in that sense. And science sends them to the brothels.
Yet if a one-hundredth part of the efforts devoted to the cure of syphilis were devoted to the eradication of debauchery there would long ago not have been a trace of syphilis left.
Yes, my natural, simple relationship with women was spoilt for ever. From that time I have not had, and could not have, pure relations with women. I had become what is called a libertine. To be a libertine is a physical condition like that of a morphinist, a drunkard, or a smoker. As a morphinist, a drunkard, or a smoker is no longer normal, so too a man who has known several women for his pleasure is not normal but is a man perverted for ever, a libertine. as a drunkard or a morphinist can be recognized at once by his face and manner, so it is with a libertine. A libertine may restrain himself, may struggle, but he will never have those pure, simple, clear, brotherly relations with a woman. By the way he looks at a young woman and examines, a libertine can always be recognized. And I had become and I remained a libertine, and it was this that brought me to ruin. Read On
The New Racism
My Upper West Side Sage, The 450 Pound Sage of West End Avenue, Writes
Dave Deutsch writes: As for Liberia, I don't know if US troops should bleed for it (right now, they are only sending a couple of dozen advisors for the UN peacekeepers), but if US troops should bleed anywhere where there isn't a threat to the United States (you know, like all those weapons of mass destruction that have turned up in Iraq), there's a fairly good claim for Liberia, since it was established by the US. Again, one may be a consistent isolationist, in which case you don't think the US should be sending troops anywhere else, either. But, considering the uses which have been found for the American military in the last couple of centuries, advising peacekeepers in a country that was brought into existence by the US and which was essentially a US protectorate for much of its history seems to be one of the least questionable uses.
Dennis Prager Criticizes Sunday's LAT's Article About Division At Shalhevet
Barry Siegel wrote what I thought was a gripping and fascinating account of a clash of values at the modern Orthodox Jewish school Shalhevet. Here are excerpts from the article:
Dennis Prager thought the article was pointless. He griped about how it took up most of the front page with a big photo.
Dennis: "The author loved the teacher. The LA Times loved the teacher. The thought that a Jewish school wishes its kids to support Israel apparently disturbs The Los Angeles Times.
"This seventh grade secular teacher [Alexander Maksik] decided that he was going to go in and show the other side. You would think that the purpose of teachers is to teach truth - moral truth, factual truth - not 'other sides.' But to the modern mind of the left, the typical secular person on the left, the other side is what needs to be taught and there is no moral truth. Here's the proof. I devoted an hour to this article:
"He didn't think you could say "this is right, this is wrong," and then claim you were educating kids."
"Isn't that awesome? And that's what the LA Times' loves about him. That a teacher could not say to kids, This is right or this is wrong. This the times finds worthy of front page attention - the beauty of teacher who can not say this is right... This summarizes our present moral crisis.
"The world has many crises. For reasons that are unclear to me, the vast center of the front page of the LA Times on Sunday was about an Orthodox Jewish school, which my son [David] had attended... This is all new to me [in the article]. It's not so much about the school as it was about the secular teacher they brought in and how he got in conflict with them because he wanted to show them a lot of pro-Palestinian things, movies, and books, and so on.
"I have zero problem with that at a later age. People should be exposed to all points of view. But when the point of view is wrong, it is not the duty of a school to subject a kid to it. Among the greatest [places] of moral clarity today is the Palestinian/Arab - Israeli conflict. One side wants primarily to destroy the other, one wants to live in peace. One side celebrates death. One side celebrates life.
"They celebrate the teacher in this article. He opens their eyes. He teaches seventh grade and he assigns Palestinian works in a religious Jewish school.
"The reason I think this teacher is not intellectually honest is that he would never go to a Muslim and assign pro-Israeli Zionist texts. The Muslim school certainly wouldn't keep him if he did, while this guy stayed for a while at this Jewish school until they finally made it bad for him to stay. People were not happy.
"The article is not really about Israel or the school. It's about the celebration of secular moral confusion. This is how your kids are taught by most teachers in secular schools.
"If the seventh grade teacher of my kid couldn't teach this is right and this is wrong, I would want that teacher fired.
"If this teacher in a religious school can't say this is right and this is wrong, why do I need a religious school? To pray and then have moral confusion."
Luke: "This teacher taught secular subjects. It was not his job to indoctrinate the kids."
Dennis: "Everybody in the article seemed absurd. The teacher looked absurd. The school looked absurd. Listen to this line after another homocide bombing in Israel."
A mother says in the article: "This wasn't what she wanted for her son. One reason she sent her child to Shalhevet was for protection — to buffer him for a while from the intensity of the world. Maksik didn't understand that. It was all just theory for him."
Dennis: "What a devastating line. It's all just theory. Why is it just theory? Because Maksik doesn't have kids and I bet he's not married. He doesn't understand what parents go through with kids.
"He had a big complaint there that the only articles on the school bulletin board were about Palestinian suicide bombers. All the news is about horrors to Israel. There's never any discussion of any other side. I wonder if during WWII, he would've opposed American schools only showing the horrors the Nazis committed but not the horrors the Germans underwent?"
Here are excerpts of this "pointless" article that Prager did not discuss:
The Passion - Jews As Christ-Killers
On his radio show today, 8/4/03, Dennis Prager said he saw the movie THE PASSION with Mel Gibson. Prager says one fine Christian man in the audience after the film said it made him want to take a gun and shoot the Jews responsible for Christ's crucifixtion. Prager says the film makes Jews look bad but he doubts it will cause American Christians to treat Jews today badly.
Prager told Mel Gibson the movie should make a ton of money in Arab countries because they hate Jews. This thought had never occurred to Mel Gibson. He's an American Catholic. European and Latin American Christianity is steeped in hatred of Jews.
Dave writes: "Mel's an Australian member of a Catholic splinter group that hasn't accepted the validity of any pope in the last 40 years or so, and his father is a leader of the group, holocaust denier, and antisemite (if you don't believe me, check out the NYTimes magazine article about him that came out some time in the last year or so)."
The film portrays Jews as Christ-killers. For the past 2000 years, Jews have been regarded as Christ-killers, and persecuted and murdered for it. For those who already loathe Jews, the film can be used terribly. I am not happy about this film going beyond American borders. This will be a big deal in other parts of the world to reinforce hatred of Jews.
Dennis: I don't blame Mel Gibson for this. I believe his only intention was to portray as accurately as he could, the death of Christ. He had only noble religious intentions.
Mel Gibson was not aware of the history of persecution of Jews for being Christ-killers. I'm working with Mel Gibson's staff to make for smoother relations.
Many Jews are over-sensitive. Just because someone says, "He jewed me down," doesn't mean he hates Jews.
The Jews look disgusting in this film. Jews have a right to be worried. It's also ok to make films that make Jews look bad.
In America, Christians are taught that sinning humanity killed Christ.
A caller from Mexican says she was called Christ-killer regularly as a kid. Mexican Jews live in enclaves and are kept out of the heart of Mexican society. Only in America are Jews an integrated part of their larger society.
DP: This film is made for the believing Christian. As a non-Christian, the film does not have the power that it has for the believer. I don't find two hours of Jesus being tortured inspiring. I wish this film were never made.
If Gibson had asked me two years ago, what type of film could I make to inspire Christians and help bring Christians and non-Christians closer together, this would've been my last suggestion.
There are a lot of lessons here for blacks (to get over their hatred of whites for slavery). I'm very pro-black.
Luke says: What the hell does it mean for Prager to say he's pro-black? Prager says he's color-blind. Doesn't take into account race. That he believes in morality not racialism. Yet here he says he's pro-black. Sounds racialist to me.
DP says: My son David is more observant than I am. He's a college student (at UCLA). He walks around with a yarmulke. He gets no anti-Jewish treatment.
Dave Deutsch writes Luke:
Most idiotic blog comment of the week...
Cathy Seipp writes:
Luke says Cathy: I know only one meaning to "money shot" and it is not one I feel I could articulate on lukeford.net. I wondered if you could please tell me what you mean by "money shot"?
Cathy replies: "I'm glad there is something you won't articulate on LukeFord.net. What I suppose I meant by money shot is that there are things that are thought and done in private that are unseemly when displayed in public. If Joe Shea wants to imagine, in the privacy of his own home, that he is somehow a Jew, that's fine. But please let's not share that thought with others. Yet I would have felt cheated somehow if, after seeing him work himself up into a lather of thinly disguised anti-Semitism, there hadn't been the climactically idiotic "I feel very much that I am a Jew" payoff."
Luke writes LA Observed:
Joe Shea writes LA Observed:
Hanging Out With The Cecile du Bois Set
I went to a Beverly Hills coffee house Sunday night and I sat behind a group of Orthodox high school girls studying some sacred text with their college-age teacher. They didn't do much studying. They mainly talked about her approaching wedding, the scandal that she wouldn't wear a wig after marriage, and other feminine details. They also discussed with awe Saturday's Barry Siegel piece in the LA Times on Shalhevet, an Orthodox Jewish school. They thought the article and photos were cool.
Laura Tate writes: The Jewish Journal has its faults but it's not fair to say it doesn't have the balls to do the story the Times did-- it BROKE the story, it featured an article excoriating Shalhevet by that teacher Maksik-- a year ago or more. (Gee, I wonder how the writer even found the story in the first place...) The Journal also broke the story about the Shalhevet' senior class's pot brownie retreat-- it did a whole cover story on it and a scandal at the University of Judaism and Milken High school a month ago. The reporter reads the Journal a lot more than he lets on-- the lead is taken from an ad that appears in the Journal (I see the ad all the time in there)). If you look at how many ads Shalhevet runs in the Journal (like, every week) and how many it runs in the LA Times (like, zero) I'd say the Journal; has BIGGER BALLS to run with this story when it was controversial and fresh and raw and not a year later when it reads like a warmed over New Yorker wannabe story!!!! You guessed it-- I like the Jewish Journal. It's small but effective (and I know a lot of guys who can relate to that)....So shoot me.
Luke says: I wrote about the Shalhevet marijuana brownie scandal about six weeks before the Jewish Journal got to it.
Is Orthodox Judaism A Barrier To Entering Pubic Arena?
I was sitting in shul Friday night reading the book, "Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism." In particular, an essay by Sara Horowitz entitled "The Paradox of Jewish Studies in the New Academy."
She writes about her father and how "his choice to remain an observant Jew - would prove no barrier to his entry into the pubic arena..."
Was that a typo?
Is it ok for your girlfriend to be sexually attracted to someone else?
Hybrid writes: This is really eating up a buddy of mine. His girlfriend recently shared this with him, and he doesn't know how to react. His girl was at this thing for work when he wasn't there, and there was some dude there who was older than him and set up in life etc. while he's (my buddy) is still in school.
Anyway, this guy is like, totally hitting on his woman, trying to get her drunk & go home with him, even after she told him she had a b/f. Nothing ended up happening, but she told my friend about it a couple days later. According to her, she had chosen him (her b/f) over some momentary "animal sex" urge, but that she *was* attracted to him, and *had* considered it.
He took it all in stride and laughed it off, but he came to me asking how he should've reacted. I told him it wasn't a big deal, and that he should be happy that she feels comfortable in their relationship (about 2 1/2 years) to talk to him about it.
But then I really started thinking about it... Is it really ok and he should just shrug it off? Or is it kind of tell-tale that she may not be able to handle herself so well in the future, and he should just bag her? Like, would this be a prelude to the fact that she isn't ready to settle down and still wants to fuck around, or is it normal? I mean, i know that in my relationship, I crave other women all the time, and it's come close, but it just seems different for a woman. What do you think i should tell him? Stick with the advice I gave or tell him to bag her?
GoBigTime writes: Keep in mind she still has the other guys phone number -- just in case your friend got or gets pissed enough about it to get in a big fight with her over it. How could he fight with her when shes being so honest and upfront about her feelings for the other guy. Just one "break up day" is all she needs... maybe two if its a weekend. Sneaky calculating women.
CDSmith writes: A lot of guys seem to think that once they get a girlfriend she is never to have any kind of attraction to another male, period. She is supposed to shut off these urges completely......... ... this is completely retarded. Guys, grow up. Only little boys should be intimidated by this. Men are supposed to be a bit more secure in themselves, especially when their woman feels enough intimacy with you to actually come and talk to you about something like this. In this case, I sense that the girl really wanted her boyfriend to know how strong a bond she feels for him, so strong in fact that she would refuse to give in to these natural urges. I would hang on to a woman like that.
Now writes: I think Chris Rock said it best... That guy is a "dick in a glass case ---- In case of emergency, break open glass." I would've said it's ok to be attracted to other people, but once she has crossed that mental line of "considering hard sex with random dude" it's time to reassess her deservedness.
Lady writes: If a woman tries to pretend she isn't sexually attracted to anyone but her man, she's a lying hahahaha. Better that she be honest. It's what she DOES with that attaction that's most important. If she takes it home to her man and takes out her sexual frustration on him, fine. If she's slutting it up and telling him that to "test the waters" and make him jealous, slap the bitch, then ditch the bitch.
Randy Swanson writes Luke:
Amy Alkon Goes Moveable Type Thanks To Boyfriend Greg
Amy Sneaks Into The LA Times Again
Thus, although rape can be violent, this doesn’t mean a man’s motivation to rape is violence. Thornhill and Palmer note that "rapists rarely engage in gratuitous violence, defined as expending energy beyond what is required to subdue or control the victim and inflicting injuries that reduce the victim’s chance of surviving to become pregnant or that heighten the risk of eventual injury to the rapist from enraged relatives of the victim (all ultimate costs of rape)."
Thornhill and Palmer explain that there’s a difference between "instrumental force, (the force actually needed to complete the rape, and possibly to influence the victim not to resist, not to call for help, and/or not to report the rape) and excessive force (which might be a motivating end in itself). Only excessive force is a possible indication of violent motivation. Use of forceful tactics to reach a desired experience does not imply that the tactics are goals in themselves (unless...one is willing to argue that a man’s giving money to a prostitute in exchange for sex is evidence that the man’s behavior is motivated by a desire to give away money). Here again the crucial distinction between goals and tactics is blurred when rape is referred to as an act of violence."
Thornhill and Palmer understand what they’re up against -- years of ingrained feminist propaganda that "the patriarchy," violent TV shows, and nasty old American culture are to blame. "Debates about what causes rape have been evaluated not on the basis of logic and evidence," they observe, "But on the basis of how the different positions might influence people to behave." What the propaganda purveyers don't understand is key: It's the actual truth about why some men rape that will have the greatest influence on whether or not they do, and on whether or not women can avoid being raped (and feeling stigmatized if they are).
Luke writes on Amy's new comments section:
The Case For "Airing Dirty Laundry"
Syndicated columnist Cathy Seipp peers into the San Francisco dog mauling case and the Kobe case and comes up where I do -- concluding that rape victims’ identities shouldn’t be kept out of the media:
Kobe Bryant - Kate Faber Rape Case
Randy Wyrick, of The Vail Daily, told the "Today" show that "they (Bryant and the alleged victim) began fooling around, as it were, and that part was consensual. She said 'no' shortly thereafter. She had enough. One of our sources also said she was trying to leave and was not allowed to leave." Wyrick also said that his sources told him that the alleged victim then turned up in the lobby in "a stupor" and with visible physical injuries. He also said that Bryant initially denied even knowing the victim.
Fox News: Two hotel workers will give supporting testimony to the the claims of a 19-year-old Colorado woman that she was raped by Kobe Bryant. Fox News' Rita Cosby reported on her weekend "Big Story" program Saturday night that two hotel employees of the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera have given Eagle County, Colo., police investigators accounts that are consistent with claims made by her accuser. One hotel employee reportedly saw the girl moments after she left Bryant's room and describer her as "shocked and upset." Shortly after, the girl was driven home by a hotel bellman. Cosby reports that the bellman said the girl told him she was "forced to have sex with Kobe Bryant." The bellman also noted that the woman's clothing had been torn.
Lessons in Division
Great LAT's article by Barry Siegel. The Jewish Journal would never have the courage or literary talent to turn out something like this.
If I had to choose a side in this story, I'd have to side with the school against the teacher. Inculcating Judaism is more important than free expression and debate. There are more important things than developing empathy for Palestinians, the biggest whiners in the world.
Upper West Side Sage Writes:
Heather MacDonald Interview
Spur writes on Reason.com: "Interesting I guess -- she's rather lame -- Luke isn't. perhaps you put up the interview because she mentions you as being smart and stuff -- which you are but...her article saying people shouldn't protest the war and march in the streets because cops are strapped for cash and should be all focused on terrorism instead -- just to mention one article beyond the pale -- not only is this wrong, but most protests have way to many cops at them anyways -- 1-2 cops per 1000 people isright for most crowds -- 1000 cops per 2000 protestors equal cops getting easy overtime -- she fits right in at the Manhattan Institute."
Jeff Smith writes: "I really enjoyed the interview - it was a view into a part of the chattering classes that I do not interact with. What struck me was how different her social environment is from mine."
Douglas Fletcher writes: "I hate people who enjoy talking about themselves. Really, I do."
Eugene Volokh writes: "Heather is a very interesting, thoughtful, and serious conservative journalist (though she clerked after law school for arch-liberal Judge Stephen Reinhardt, and was indeed a liberal in those days); I know her fairly well professionally, though not that well personally, and I found the interview enlightening, readable, and thought-provoking. I'm not sure how people who don't know her would like it -- I heard her saying her lines as I read it, and perhaps without that the piece wouldn't be the same. But I still highly recommend it."
Jane writes Luke: "Loved your Heather interview -- and especially her review of it! Heh heh...girl didn't know who she was dealing with. That said, I thought she came off very well -- not that I'd think otherwise. Very interesting, goodhearted, very bright woman. How's the romance with Cathy coming?"
Michael writes on 2blowhards.com: "She's impressive (in a pleasingly modest way), and thoughtful on some surprising topics -- eloquent about what it's like to come from L.A., and smart about what the decon-and-politics profs did to literature. As well as being straight-shootin' about how she stopped being an Ivy liberal and became a conservative instead, of course."
Friedrich writes 2blowhards.com: "I was rather sad to see that Ms. MacDonald had taken extensive notes for a book intended to expose all the foibles of deconstructionism, but never wrote the book and even lost her notes. While an understandable human reaction, surely she knows that she's just dooming some other poor public minded person to writing the same book."
Cathy Seipp writes on her blog:
Convince Me To Love You
I've had a string of women in my life challenge me to persuade them to date me or keep dating me. They will lay out a string of our problems:
* Religious differences
* Political differences
* My writing, where I reveal so much about my life that it makes her feel unsafe
* My inappropriate public and private comments that I think are funny but offend people
* My lack of income
* Geographical differences
* Vastly different work routines
* My insensitivity to her feelings
* That I'm constantly testing her, seeing how obnoxious I can be
After this, there is an akward pause. I don't know what to say. The objections are strong.
I never argue my case. I just accept it as a reason to move on for that illusive woman who's meant for me. Whenever I hear, "I don't think I can date you anymore," I go into the separation mode. Other guys would probably say, "Is there anything I can do to make you change your mind? Will you give me one last chance?"
Perhaps I'm too proud?
Tootie writes: Well, to me the only thing that would be a biggie would be chronic insensiticity to her feelings. That would be bad. And maybe the lack of income, depending upon just how low it is. But if you can support yourself and don't beg her for rent money or anything then it's not her business. You need to find less picky women.
Thumbs Down On Jerry Bruckheimer's SKIN
I've seen the pilot episode and it stinks. Cardboard characters, wooden dialogue, cliched scenes, SKIN offers nothing. There's not a single thing about this new TV show that captivates.
It's supposed to be a mid-season replacement for FOX.
The idea of basing a show on the porn industry and the DA prosecuting it is an interesting one but Jerry Bruckheimer TV can't deliver.
The story points about the porn industry are unbelievable. Ron Silver as porn mogul Larry Goldman tries to make a $2 billion satellite deal. He says if Direct TV won't make the deal, he'll buy Direct TV. Yeah, right.
A plot point concerns child porn on Goldman's Internet site. It's inconceivable that a porn mogul today would traffic in child porn.
Nothing on this show rings true. This is Jerry Bruckheimer at his worst. And to think that clueless Frank Rich at The New York Times was raving about how revolutionary and cool this show was.
Cecile du Bois writes: I didn't watch that tape as my mother would never allow me, but just by looking at it, I could tell that it was stupid. But is fun to watch stupid tapes or movies to mock them in your blog, I suppose.
Question to the producer I have: Who cares about some porn people in some cliched plot of Shakespeare? Sounds creative at first, but why does it have to be about porn? Besides if Shakespeare has to be remade, why choose something of his that is seldom produced, not Romeo and Juliet? But anyways, Bruckheimer is not terribly talented. Pearl Harbor was too Hollywoodized for my taste.
I'm Going To Interview Mickey Kaus, What Should I Ask Him?
Los Angeles Magazine profiles him here.
Cathy Seipp writes:
Your Interview With Heather MacDonald Is Brilliant, But Is She Happy With It?
Jane writes: "I have to tell you--your interview with Heather McDonald is brilliant, but is she happy with it? I admire her writing a great deal, but she sounds like sort of a ditz! (Maybe too many "girl references"--she's in her 40s, right?) She was really candid with you, and I'm not so sure that it served her well. They never see you coming, do they?"
Luke says: "I'm not sure how happy she is with it (her first reaction via email was "How Horrible") but I did give her a chance to read and correct it before publishing it. She recommended cutting out the LA scenery parts."
Khunrum writes: "Isn't this a breach of "journalistic integrity"? Having the subject correct their own interview?"
Luke: "Since when do I hold with journalistic integrity?"
Why Do Most Therapists Favor The Woman In Relationship Counseling?
Therapists tend to favor the underdog (and usually the woman presents herself as the underdog) and the more psychologically attuned (women). Most of the problems (about 60%) in a relationship come from the man, says psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Marmer on Dennis Prager's show. Family is not as natural to men.
The most common complaint in counseling is that each spouse says the other does not appreciate the difficulty of the other's role.
What Does Heather MacDonald Like To Do For Fun?
I asked. She replied: "I've been taking in the amazing human degredation in downtown LA's skid row area--which is rather spacious."
The Pain Of The Internet Entrepreneur
Colin writes: "First they came for the processors but I never owned a processing company, so I didn't speak up. Then they came for the paysite operators but I owned a TGP [thumbnail gallery post], so I didn't speak up. Finally I realized there was no one left to sell my traffic to and by that time there was no one left to speak up."
Cathy Seipp Eats Vegetarian - And Likes It
Cathy Seipp and I had our first date today. I took her to lunch at Real Food Daily (where we met a friend of hers from David Horowitz's frontpagemag.com) and then I suggested we get a refreshing lap dance at the club next door to help the digestion. Cathy almost slapped me.
So on we went to my favorite place in Los Angeles to take women - David Poland's apartment (much more luxurious than my hovel) - hoping to study this week's Torah portion in peace. David has given me his key, and as arranged, he was not home.
One problem - his niece and nephew were.
We trudged on through the heat, the traffic, in my lumbering van to where Cathy lived for nine years (I'm going to start a public tour with my van of Cathy Seipp's life and times) and then to my second favorite place to bring women - the Holocaust memorial at Pan Pacific Park (across the street and up the grass from where Cecile interns at City Beat). "Never again," Cathy and I intoned before lying in the grass under the shade of a tree.
As is my custom, I interrogated Cathy about her religious beliefs. While she does believe in God, she's unsure He knows us and rewards and punishes us for our behavior. She believes God is in the Bible (though it is many years since she's read it, and then only a King James Version) and she believes the Jews are God's Chosen People.
Cathy and I have had the pleasure of running into a string of her ex-boyfriends over the past few weeks. Who knew she had so many? She seems so prim and proper.
Second date we're going to the Museum of Tolerance to learn about racism, bigotry and the Shoah.
When I came to Los Angeles in March 1994, I placed a singles ad and met a Gentile woman, a film editor with two big talents. She looked like a bustier Julia Roberts. On our first evening, she took me to sushi (I ate none) and then to the Malibu beach. We walked out to the rocks and made out. She showed me the scenery - two gorgeous outcroppings of rock that blew my mind. But she wouldn't show me more than halfway down the beach.
My soul longed to surf the big wave to the frothy end.
On our second evening together, she took me to the Holocaust memorial at Pan Pacific Park. Then I took her places. A few days later, she wrote me a passionate letter. I think I forgot to reply. And I never heard from her again.
Luke writes his friend: "Could you check my update to see if it is funny?"
A Ubiquitous New York Character: "Well, to be honest, you've done the same shtick before, right? If you want to be funny, give Heather MacDonald a call, tell her who you REALLY are, and note her response. Now, THAT would be funny!
"So this woman who doesn't know you from Adam opens up to you for a detailed interview. Luke, you have a gift. You should be on TV, you lazy bastard. Your indolence is all that keeps me from dating desirable women.
"Did she have any idea who you were or why you were interviewing her? Just for laughs, you should inform her of your book and ask her to check it out. C'mon, who knows how she might react? She might loosen up."
Luke: I was at the Los Angeles Public Library tonight and I ran into an old acquaintance of mine from a very Orthodox synagogue I attended six years ago. He stared at me as I waved at him. About ten seconds later he spoke: "Luke, I was on your website last night...I started reading your bio. I probably spent two hours..." That made me feel good.
Auld Acquaintance Shan't Be Forgot
Cecile du Bois, Cathy's 14 year old daughter, writes on her blog:
Heather MacDonald - The Thinking Man's Sex Symbol
While serving the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt, Heather MacDonald became involved with another law clerk and her work suffered. For the first time, Heather tells all about the affair that shook American jurisprudence.
After reading her for years, I met Manhattan Institute fellow Heather MacDonald (author of two books - The Burden of Bad Ideas: How Modern Intellectuals Misshape Our Society and Are Cops Racist?, writes columns for New York Daily News, New York Post, Weekly Standard) at a July 3, 2003 party for writers (Mickey Kaus, Ruth Shalit, Cathy Seipp, Steve Oney, Rob Long, Jill Stewart) at Yamashiros in Los Angeles.
A week later Heather and I had dinner at Purans and argued about God.
I don't think I've ever interviewed a more educated person yet she makes no effort to be intellectually intimidating.
Sunday morning, July 27, we chat by phone.
Luke: "Where did you grow up and what did your father do for a living?"
Heather: "I grew up in Bel Air, Los Angeles and my father was a business consultant. I went to secular private schools - John Thomas Dye and two years at Westlake."
Luke: "How did you like Westlake?"
Heather: "I didn't like it. I didn't take to the girls' environment. It created a more emotionally intense environment than I wanted. There was this sense of fast girls with a lot of money. But it was not a happy time in my life so I may not have been happy in Los Angeles regardless."
Luke: "Did you like Los Angeles growing up?"
Heather: "I loved it. I spent a lot of time in the Santa Monica Mountains. The smell of the dry chaparral in the summer time and the eucalyptus and the wild mustard plants and the light... There are so many smells that I associate with the land around here, from both the natural Southern California environment and the urban forest that has been brought in over the century."
Luke: "Were you a big hiker?"
Heather: "Our family would occasionally take walks in the side roads of the Santa Monica Mountains. I grew up in an area that was wild. We had deer on our porch at night and raccoons would come. You're up against the mountains. It's an amazing urban environment to have that interface so close to a city."
Heather is the youngest and most academic of three kids.
Luke: "After living in New York for 14 years, how do you find LA now?"
Heather: "The smells and vegetation and the light, which I have become even more conscious of, are still here. I'm still deeply attracted to the physical environment here. Unlike East Coast nature which is lush monolithic, a small variety of green trees and bushes), here every lot has a wildly different set of plants on it. When I was first walking around my neighborhood here [Hollywood], I was in sensory ecstasy at the vines, bushes, trees that were profligate and luxuriant. There must be a billion types of vegetation on one street alone.
"Here the car culture is a big challenge for me."
Luke: "Did you ever find your right-hand view mirror?"
Heather: "Yes, the Captain of the Ramparts Division adjusted it for me. I realized that part of the reason I haven't been able to use it was that I had completely maladjusted it. I would look in it and see the side of my car. That I now find my right view mirror doesn't mean it is any easier for me to get on the freeway. I still can't estimate the speed of the oncoming cars. I have no confidence that they will let me in. I've yet to figure out what you can push for on the LA freeways. I've seen some crazy driving behavior. The surface streets people are sane but on the freeways, when you have these mergers when you have both an off ramp and an on ramp simultaneously, it's horrific."
Luke: "It's not getting any easier for you driving in LA?"
Heather: "It's not. At night, when I get home, I feel I'm lucky to be alive."
Luke: "Do you find driving at night more difficult?"
Heather: "On the freeways. It's harder for me to see and to be confident that I can tell that there's not a car that's switching four lanes in one second that isn't going to come into my lane when I'm trying to get on the freeway."
Luke wonders if Saudi Arabia was right in not allowing women to drive.
Luke: "How old were you when you got your drivers license?"
Heather: "Probably 21 or 22. I refused to learn how to drive growing up because I was so anti-car. I was such an environmentalist. Finally, after college, my father put his foot and said, 'You must learn how to drive.' I got my license but then I never really used it. I drove only one year, in 1985, when I lived in Los Angeles and clerked for federal judge Stephen Reinhardt downtown. So my skills are basic and unused."
Luke: "When you walk around your neighborhood, how much of the vegetation can you name?"
Heather: "I've seen here star jasmine, bougainvillea, honeysuckle, olives, Italian Cyprus, roses, palms, agapantha, lantana..."
Luke: "I used to work in landscaping so I am luxuriating in your words.
"You said the light here is special. Could you elaborate?"
Heather: "It's brilliant and white. It's even more so in Orange County. My mother lives in Irvine. I wonder if it is because the light reflects off of the ocean and bounces off the open hills. You feel like you are in a big bowl of light. It's the most wondrous feeling. Here it is a little thicker but still in the evenings, it reflects off the white stucco houses in a way that makes you feel like you are in the sky. In the East Coast, the humidity is constantly so much heavier, that the light never produces that clarity and sharpness of outline."
Luke: "Do you notice the smog here?"
Heather: "No, it hasn't been bad at all. I don't notice it at all."
Luke: "Is it better than when you were living here?"
Heather: "Oh yeah. I remember summers when we had a pool. And if you spent the day swimming, you really couldn't inhale because of the combination of the chlorine and the smog. You'd see a brown layer. One day here when I was coming back from a conference in Colorado, driving from the [Los Angeles] airport east, it seemed that there was a little brown on the horizon."
Luke: "I remember when I was at UCLA in 1988. A couple of times I played basketball outside, I was coughing and wheezing from the smog. That's the first time in my life I've ever experienced that."
Heather: "I get up early to get exercise. Maybe if I were doing midday exercise, I would feel it. When I get up, it is clear."
Luke: "What's your favorite type of architecture here?"
Heather: "Where I live now, there are these wonderful Spanish haciendas. But it's also Italianate, with the ways the houses and pedestrian staircases climb up the hills. In the particular place I am, there is no car access. You just have pedestrian paths and stairs up and down the hills. I like the little earth cottages you get in Brentwood and Santa Monica with the thick adobe walls and red tile roofs."
Luke: "If you were to live in LA and money was no consideration, where would you live?"
Heather: "I'd probably live in Bel Air. The urban forest is so immense and spectacular. It's almost like you're in the Amazon. Hedges that are 50 yards high to protect these houses. I'm more of a mountain person than a beach person."
Luke: "You give all these wonderful reasons for living in Los Angeles yet you're moving back to New York in a few months?"
Heather: "I'm not looking forward to going back to New York. Every time I go back, my heart always sinks because I find it ugly, except for the heart of Manhattan, which is wonderful in its architectural diversity. I grew up in a new environment. California is a new landscape. New York is a classic aging Northeast industry city. The bricks, the rusting bridges and the cement, I find spirit killing. I know that's my shallowness because for many people it's thriving energy.
"If you've grown up in the Midwest, where there isn't any kind of urban sophistication, you're willing to trade nature for New York. Los Angeles does not have the pinnacle of culture that New York has, still New York doesn't offer that much more, except I'm trying to find out whether there are writing, journalistic and intellectual opportunities out here.
"There is in New York a group of successful businessmen who are deeply committed to the battle of ideas about cities and society. They support the group I work for - the Manhattan Institute. They are willing to put their philanthropic dollars behind the battle of ideas. There are a lot of small magazines that are in the culture wars. I'm not confident that that exists to the same extent in LA, but I'm not sure."
Luke: "What are you discovering about LA's intellectual life in your two months here?"
Heather: "I came in the beginning of June but my first month I was in hibernation finishing an article. I've still been relatively domestic aside from the work I've been doing for the LAPD. Unlike the East Coast snobbism, I think there are people out here, such as in your circle [Cathy Seipp, Emmanuelle Richard, Matt Welch, Jill Stewart, Rob Long, Amy Alkon] that are extremely sharp and are on to the myth-making of left-wing and right-wing politics. I'm assuming that the condescension and solipsism of New York intellectuals is unjustified but I do have to admit that looking at it purely quantitatively, there are not as many publishing outlets here. There aren't as many magazines based here.
"In New York, such unfairly maligned tabloids as the Daily News and the Post provide publishing opportunities. If you want to get an Op/Ed out, your chances are good. I've got an Op/Ed coming out in the New York Post July 28, which is an excerpt of something I just wrote on the City Journal website. I can pretty much place anything I want and my voice is known. Here the only game in town is the LA Times as far as I can tell. I've been invited to write for it but still, you can't write every week in the same paper.
"My experience in LA is that the people are extremely friendly, the group that you are involved with... People were so kind and open and welcoming. In the retail experience, California and the West are just miles ahead of the East Coast. You can shop and you don't feel that the store clerks despise you. Customer service in New York is abysmal. Here is just a less abrasive environment. People are just more open here. These are stereotypes but they are for a reason."
Luke: "How has the dream factory, Hollywood, affected you?"
Heather: "Not at all. A lot of Hollywood kids went to my grammar school growing up. I'm completely unmoved by it. I don't have a fondness for movies, which leaves me stranded when it comes to cocktail party chat, but I prefer language and books. Growing up in LA inoculated me against any sense that it is glamorous or special."
Luke: "What's it like being a Gentile in the world of letters?"
Heather laughs: "It helps that I'm not religious, so I really don't give a darn. Growing up in a Hollywood school environment, a lot of the kids there were Jewish but since I didn't grow up in a practicing family, nor were they, it was irrelevant. Since I've always been interested in school, it did seem that many of my friends in college were Jewish. It's been transmitted there a greater dedication to learning. I hope that I am not looked at as an inferior species."
Luke: "Have you ever sensed that?"
Luke: "Has anyone called you a shicksa and has it offended you?"
Heather: "It hasn't offended me. I assume it was said affectionately.
"If people take religion seriously, I don't think you can have the religious tolerance we have. It's one or the other. In our culture now, tolerance has won out, which is a good thing for civil peace but may be a bad thing for religion."
Luke: "Could you happily marry a Jew?"
Heather: "Sure. The bigger issue would be anybody's degree of religions faith."
Luke: "Could you marry someone who believed in God?"
Heather: "It would depend on how much they insisted on seeing the world through that lens. If they were constantly attributing certain outcomes to divine intervention, I would then want to know why other horrific daily outcomes should not also be attributed to divine intervention or divine indifference. That's a fundamental difference in worldview. If it were somebody who was willing to joke about either his faith or my atheism, it's possible. If it were a regular demonstration of piety, I would find it difficult.
"I don't understand how people of intelligence can reconcile what I see as constant proof of divine indifference to human outcomes with a reverence for God. To me it's a mystery."
Luke: "Have you ever thrown someone over that you were dating because he was too religious for you?"
Heather: "I've never been involved with someone who was religious."
Luke: "Have you noticed that the more intelligent people are, the less religious?"
Heather: "No, it is therefore to me a mystery that very intelligent people can be religious. I think there is a part of them that is willing to put aside their rationality because there is a deep emotional or psychological yearning for a belief in a transcendent being who has responsibility for our world. It's a part of the brain that does not involve empirical reasoning."
Luke: "Is much of life a mystery to you or does most of it make sense on rational natural grounds?"
Heather: "I'm not overwhelmed with a deep sense of mystery. The one compelling ground for religion that I can see is the need to give thanks. I know that I have led an extraordinarily privileged life. I have had everything given to me. I've had to do nothing for myself. I've been given every possible opportunity. I have nobody to thank for that aside from my parents. When you realize how fortunate you are, there is a desire to give thanks in a broader way.
"Beyond that, when I look at the beauty of the natural environment, I'm satisfied seeing that as the extraordinary development of billions of years of evolutionary complexity. If I try to force myself to think of the beginning of the universe or the end or notions of infinity, of course my mind stops. I have no hope of understanding it. It's not worth trying to figure it out. I will leave it to the astronomers to push further into the bounds of our ignorance about how the universe came into being."
Luke: "What were the politics of your home?"
Heather: "My father is conservative but it was not an explicitly political house. There wasn't a lot of discussion. Your classic intellectual conservative Jewish family on the East Coast, for instance, everybody has read Commentary, National Review and whatnot. I'd never heard of those until a decade ago."
Luke: "So as a child, you didn't have a burning interest in [her Manhattan Institute specialties] Education Policy, Welfare Policy, Philanthropy and Policing?"
Heather: "I had no awareness that such things existed."
Luke: "Where did you go undergrad and what did you major in?"
Heather: "I went to Yale and I majored in English. I chose to make it a synonym for studying literary theory."
Luke: "Was it Yale where you fell in love with deconstructionism?"
Heather: "Right. Fortunately it hadn't yet trickled down to high school, though now it has. I was at Yale in the seventies when it was at its zenith. For people like myself who lacked the wisdom at the time to see that all of this is a fraud, it seemed like the most exciting, dangerous, cutting edge type of study was about language, which was something I'd always loved. Unfortunately, deconstruction proved to be complete bunk about language but I didn't have the maturity to see that. Many of my classmates did. I have enormous retrospective respect for them in that they said it was bulls---. I said, 'Oh, you're just a bunch of anti-intellectuals.' But they were right. I was caught up in it. I wasted a huge portion of my time at Yale on something that was a fiction, a self-indulgent pasttime of a few professors who had lost interest in conveying the beauties of literature."
Luke: "Did you also lose your ability to appreciate the beauties of literature?"
Heather: "No. The one good thing about deconstruction was that it was a mandarin science. The people like Paul De Man and Geoffrey Hartman, who were the main exponents there, were close readers of texts. Jacques Derrida was around regularly but was not. De Man and Hartman had studied literature and they did know the tradition. One did approach texts with utter seriousness and take every word seriously. In that sense, there was implicit reverence. Unfortunately, your goal with every deconstructive reading, was to show that the text broke down, it was unable to convey meaning, and it had the same rote, repetitious message. Whether it was Plato or Proust, a deconstructive reading arrives at the identical message for every text it looks at - that the human subject is just a play of language and that language ultimately fails. Such a view nonsense and removes literature from its place in the world. On the other hand, the only thing good that I got out of it, was the skill of close reading, which can be a curse.
"I learned to take texts seriously and pay attention to every word, which doesn't mean you know history, or understand the broader meaning of a work, or can talk about it from an ethical point of view, which is something that deconstruction had an absolute loathing of. Other styles of literary analysis are sometimes too far in the other direction, wanting to talk about character, moral themes, without paying enough attention to the actual words on the page."
Luke: "You took your Masters in English Literature at Cambridge. How did you come to fall out of deconstructionism?"
Heather: "I studied linguistics while I was at Cambridge as part of another English degree. I was excited by it, especially by Speech Act Theory, which talks about how language can be action. There are certain magic phrases where you do things with words, like, 'I hereby pronounce you man and wife.' By speaking those words, you've changed reality. When you accept a contract, you've changed your legal status. I studied syntax and phonetics, which is thoroughly rigorous, as social sciences go.
"When I went back to Yale to start a PhD in 1980, De Man and Hartman were repeating the same hackneyed formulas and bizarre worldview... They purported to explain language as well without any kind of basis... I realized that the four years I'd spent slogging through Heidegger and Derrida's Of Grammatology was a complete waste. They purported to talk about language but they'd only developed their own bizarre discourse that illuminated nothing. Within a semester, I realized I couldn't go forward with the degree in comparative literature. The field at the time was theory or nothing. I'm glad I got out but it was a great great disappointment none the less.
"While I was there, I'd taken a class at the Yale Law School in Constitutional Law. I intuited that many of the issues I'd been interested in as far as how do you interpret text, the question of hermeneutics, were present in the law. Original Intent - is that what governs the Constitution or does the Constitution evolve in meaning over time? Do you read it structurally? Do you try to get to the meaning of the founders? Eventually I went to Stanford Law School, graduating in 1985. Unfortunately, I was still more interested in theory than I should've been. I thought I would do critical legal studies, which is the law version of deconstructionism. It took me a long time to flush it out of my system."
Luke: "After graduation, you returned to LA."
Heather: "I clerked for Stephen Reinhardt, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit."
Luke: "What's he famous for?"
Heather: "Probably for being the most liberal judge on the Ninth Circuit and the most overturned. I was liberal. He came recommended to me by a law professor. I was relatively oblivious about legal politics. He's a smart man. He's the perfect embodiment of judicial activism and judicial grandiosity - the belief that judges should have this special role to lead the country towards a greater political purity and righteousness as they see it."
Luke: "You voted for Carter and Mondale for president?"
Heather: "I don't remember my votes. I certainly remember buying a Reagan-busters T-shirt when I was at Stanford that said, 'Don't get slimed again.' I wasn't an activist. Unless you think hard about political questions in our culture, you are liberal by default. You have to think your way out of liberalism. And I hadn't even tried."
Luke: "What was it like clerking for Reinhardt?"
Heather: "He paid close attention to language and I respected him for that. He would go over opinions closely. He cleaned up my writing from any of theory jargon that it may have still been infected with. I got involved with a fellow clerk, so I have a bad conscience there. I don't think we were as serious as we should've been. I was a babe in the woods. I didn't realize how serious this was. I didn't see what was going on around me (judicial activism). In retrospect, I can see that Reinhardt started out in every criminal case with a presumption that the government was wrong. He was looking for ways to reverse, if he could. I was only dimly aware of that at the time."
Luke: "Where did you go from there?"
Heather: "I went to the EPA in Washington DC in the general counsel's office. It's the part of the EPA staffed by lawyers and they advise the scientists on the regulations they're drafting. Congress drafts broadly-worded laws and it leaves the details regarding how many parts per million are allowable to put in the water to the regulation writers of the EPA. The general counsel's office advises the reg-writers whether than are acting within Congressional intent. I had done volunteer work for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental advocacy group, during law school. I thought, I'm an environmentalist. I never went to law school with the intent to become a lawyer. I don't know what else I'm going to do.
"What I had been doing for the NRDC was land-use stuff, protecting public lands, forest regulations, but the EPA does all toxics. It regulates toxic waste in four different mediums, including air, water, land. It's all chemistry and that for me was a killer. I was given this 900-page regulation for wood reprocessing - about how you can dispose of waste from the wood processing industry. There was a guy there with a humanities background like me and he took to this like a fish to water but for me it was deadly.
"The EPA was in a building in Washington called Waterside Mall. It was a parody of Washingtonian labrynthian bureaucracy. It was an ugly ugly building that you couldn't find your way around. No windows. You just walk through office after office. There was this one guy who'd been working on the recycling rules for the last decade and he still hadn't finished them. I don't think he ever did. It felt listless. Nothing seemed more attractive to me at that point than to get back to the ivory tower, to the stacks somewhere studying poetry.
"I left there thinking, 'Ok, this is a mistake. I really am an academic. What I love best is studying literature. I'm going to make another go at it.' I looked around at various graduate schools. It's 1987. You had the ossification of deconstruction but the explosion of identity politics in academics and everybody studying their own navel, whether they were gay or lesbian or black or Hispanic. You had the growth of a yahoo attitude towards Western Civilization. These ignorant students who had no grasp of language or depth of civilization felt themselves qualified to cast aside Phillip Sydney, Milton, Shakespeare, or Aristotle, just because they were dead white males. This appalled me. I realized I can't go home again. That is closed off to me.
"I went to New York. Thought I'd write the definitive refutation of deconstruction, which I never did. I had all my notes. I think I lost them. I started writing short pieces for small literary magazines and eventually started doing more reported journalism. That became my career."
Luke: "When did you become a conservative?"
Heather: "I don't think there was ever an on or off moment. I think I was always opposed to racial preferences. I do recall the non-independant thinker [stage of her life] at [Stanford] law school, feeling the group antipathy to Clarence Pendleton, who was the head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for President Reagan. He was opposed to affirmative action. He came to Stanford to speak. Of course student and faculty alike were just appalled that such a person could exist. I think, with shame, that I probably just joined in that same group think, not that I was shouting at him or protesting him.
"But when I started to see the pressure for race quotas in academics that appalled me. The notion that merit no longer mattered but that you should hire or admit students who were not qualified... Then the trashing of literature and reducing it all to politics and the purported inherent virtue of people of color. That nauseated me.
"The neo-conservative understanding of the destructiveness of welfare was something I'd never thought of before. I didn't understand that part of the conservative worldview until I started doing reporting and seeing the affect of poverty programs. Hearing from people in them and their contempt for no-strings attached welfare."
Luke: "What was it like publishing your two books?"
Heather: "I was opposed to the first one because it is a collection of essays and I was scared about how I would describe the book. These are disparate articles on wildly disparate themes that are not generated by any particular theory going in. They grew out of the reporting. I was almost angry about it. How am I going to write an introduction and say what this is about? But I realized they were wiser people than I. To my amazement, people understood it as a book. Reviewers had a better understanding of it than I did. They were able to see what it was all about. To me it was a set of discrete analyses.
"The second book is easier to defend because it is on a single topic."
Luke: "How is the experience of being reviewed?"
Heather: "I haven't had terribly bad reviews. I would probably be tolerant of them. I've never had much confidence in my work. It's always amazed me what people will see in writing, perhaps deconstruction is right. There is no single meaning. It's always fascinating to see how people put things together."
Luke: "How has Stephen Reinhardt reacted to your career?"
Heather: "I think he's horrified. I think he feels like he didn't know there was an incubating monster going through his office. But he has so many other politicos that he can be proud of, like Mark Fabiani, Deval Patrick, that he should be able to write off one reprobate."
Luke: "What about other professors, like from Yale?"
Heather: "I don't know. Geoffrey Hartman was my advisor at Yale. I don't know if he's kept up with me. My Stanford law professors have been pleasantly tolerant. They're all very liberal. There's a chapter in my first book about critical legal theory, critical race studies, and feminist jurisprudence, that is harsh and mocking. My two professors were kind about it, even though they were both implicated."
Luke: "What have you learned about dealing with reporters?"
Heather: "Never trust them. One wants to because we're all egotists. You never learn. You think you're going to be portrayed in all of your shining wisdom and glory. You forget each time that they have the last word and editing is all. The capacity of taking things out of context, which politicians complain about all the time, is absolutely critical. There's nothing you can do about it. If people didn't have huge egos, reporters would never have any business because people would never talk to them. You have a bad experience, and darn it, you do it right over again because you still want to see yourself in print."
Luke: "How goes your research into the LAPD?"
Heather: "It's a challenge. I don't feel I've understood the essence of the LAPD yet, either historically or the present. I keep hoping to have some kind of revelation to judge what has been the hallmark of LA policing. There's certainly a conventional wisdom about that, which I'm skeptical of, along with all conventional wisdom about policing. I'm trying to figure out if it's true or not - that they were heavy-handed in the minority community and had no contacts.
"I was in Watts the other night at an outreach by various ministers, lay people and police who were trying to create a political backlash against gang violence. Being in Nickerson Gardens (massive public housing project) was very disturbing. The young people are so untouched by civilizing influences. Their language skills are abysmal. You get a sense that they have no hope. For some of them, there's just a dullness behind their eyes. They live in such an enclosed world. The schools they attend do not require them to engage in any kind of rigorous thinking or learning or even to use complete sentences, to form words properly. It's like they're living in a true ghetto environment in the European sense, where they are cut off. Most Americans are able to forget that there's that problem there. It also brings home the insanity of using any kind of disparate impact analysis in our culture because there are so many black males reaching their adult years without the modicum of basic basic skills that an employer can rightly expect somebody to have. And then we start doing bean counting, and think that if an institution, be it a corporation or law firm, doesn't have a proportionate number of black males it must be racist. When you go back and look at the material being provided, these young men that I talk to, it's very scary. It's very scary."
Luke: "How did you get to talk to them?"
Heather: "We went to recent homicide sites. The people I were with were chanting and preaching and trying to get people to join them. I walked around the housing project talking to people. They were very hostile. Obviously some white girl coming up to talk to them, I don't expect them to greet me with open arms, or even welcoming. They seemed untouched by civilization. It was disturbing.
"Most of the people I talked to wouldn't admit to living there. They said they were just visiting. Like most LA poverty areas, it's beautiful. There are these darling white cottages spread out over a big green campus with this charming black trim. It almost looks like it could be a resort with little cottage spread around but it's gang infested."
Luke: "Were you scared?"
Heather: "No, I tend not to be scared. I have a sense of foolish invulnerability, probably because I did not grow up in an urban environment. One guy was demanding that I give him $20. 'You're a reporter from New York. You must be rich. Give me an angel.' I'm not going to give you an angel. I'm not the National Enquirer and you haven't given me anything good. Why don't you work for it? 'Well, how about if I said I'd stick you up if you didn't give it to me?' That's when I just walked away."
Luke: "Did you ever go to Watts when you were growing up here?"
Heather: "No, it is a completely separate world."
Luke: "I guess it's a lot like the book Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh? Or Scoop. Or A Handful of Dust."
Heather: "I'm not going to go that far."
Luke: "If only Evelyn Waugh would've gone to East LA.
"Tougher or easier for you as a woman to write about the police?"
Heather, long pause: "I don't have the comparison. I think generally being a girl may help because it is disarming. I hate playing the gender card. My personality tends to be ingenuous. I don't go into interviews thinking I know anything. I realized this is a good trait. I was interviewed by somebody [Michael Tremoglie] who writes for Frontpagemag.com. He wanted to interview me about my cops book. He spent the whole hour talking about himself. It was extraordinary. He talked about his daughter going to a certain college. It was hysterical. When I finally said, 'I have to go,' he was surprised. He said, 'Wait a minute.' I thought, 'I've given you an hour.' Somebody who writes for City Journal is also a great talker, a lot of political wisdom, but I can't imagine him being a good interviewer. He's a talker. He's a big personality and he's not a good listener. I think I'm a good listener and I don't have any great axe to grind about my own superiority. It may be a girl thing. There may be more guys out there who think they're clever. There is something to being an innocent girl that helps."
Luke: "Do you feel as a girl in much of life that you're discriminated against?"
Heather: "Never. I've never felt discriminated against. I am 100% certain that anyone coming out of my educational background has only been the recipient of reverse discrimination. Any institution that we have contact with is desperate for gender equity. I know I have been chosen for certain things because I am a girl and I think that is ridiculous but what can you do?"
Luke: "There are a ton of men, and a ton of male reporter, who barrel over their subjects with their own opinions. I have to fight myself from doing it."
Heather: "I think there are thousands of crack male reporters. Reading the clips from the LA Times on the LAPD, I think, 'Boy, I couldn't write that under deadline.' I don't consider myself a real journalist. I'm making it up as I go along.
"With the LA Times, the columnists and the opinion stuff is truly lousy. The reporting is damn good."