Wednesday, March 23, 2005

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Half Of CA Blacks, Latinos Fail To Graduate Highschool

From The LA Times:

Nearly half of the Latino and African American students who should have graduated from California high schools in 2002 failed to complete their education, according to a Harvard University report released Wednesday.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the situation was even worse, with just 39% of Latinos and 47% of African Americans graduating, compared with 67% of whites and 77% of Asians.

Chaim writes: "Why should white standards of academic achievement be used to judge black students? Sounds very ethnocentric, if not actually racist. Part of the glory of diversity is that different peoples can behave in different ways to achieve different outcomes. As for the drop-out rates of Negro and Mestizo students, perhaps what is called for is less study of faggy white writers and more shop classes."

Beautiful Girls (1996)

This movie is what it is all about -- beautiful girls. It's been a while since I've had a relationship with one, but if I ever do, I want it to be like this movie. But longer.

The director of the film, Ted Demme, was my age (38) when he died of a heart attack.

“You let her behind the curtain, I know you did. You never let them behind the curtain Will. You never let them see the little old man behind the curtain working the levers of the great and powerful OZ. They are all sisters Willie ... they aren't allowed back there ... they mustn't see.”

Paul delivers a monologue defending man's idealization for the impossibly perfect image of women. "Supermodels are beautiful girls, Will. A beautiful girl can make you dizzy, like you've been drinking Jack and Coke all morning. Se can make you feel high with the single greatest commodity known to man--promise. Promise of a better day. Promise of a greater hope. Promise of a new tomorrow. This particular aura can be found in the gaze of a beautiful girl. In her smile, in her soul, how she makes every rotten little thing about life seem like it's going to be okay. The supermodels are bottled promise. A beautiful girl is all powerful, and that's as good as love."

Some of my other favorite quotes:

Paul: I'll bet you $20 she's banging that guy.
Kev: Bad bet.
Paul: Bad bet? Why?
Kev: Well, either way you lose. If you win, she's bangin' the guy, if you lose, you lose 20 bucks.


Girls with big tits have big asses. Girls with little tits have little asses. That's the way it goes. God doesn't f--k around, he's a fair guy. He gave the fatties big, beautiful tits and the skinnies little tiny niddlers. It's not my rule. If you don't like it, call him.

Implants, collagen, plastic, capped teeth, the fat sucked out, the hair extended, the nose fixed, the bush shaved.....These are not real women, alright? They are beauty freaks. And they make all us normal women with our wrinkles, our puckered boobs, and our cellulite feel somehow inadequate. Well I don't buy it, alright? But you guys think that if there's a chance in hell that you'll end up with one of these women, you don't give us real women anything approaching this commitment.

Guys, as a gender, have got to get a grip. Otherwise, the future of the human race is in jeopardy.

Michael from Japan writes:

My friends accuse me (rather accurately) for being a sap - for liking this 90's chick flick. But they are wrong about this movie. This movie is entertaining and sometimes fluffy, but more importantly it is real and timely. Amongst all the hype of the X-Gen, this movie boiled down our mood (all us kids who are still growing up) in a small town setting where the people were real. The slight plot is less important than the setting and the circumstances. Winter in small town Massachusetts, on the frozen lakes, and the plowed roads and small taverns - on the edge of early mid-life adulthood for yet another lost generation...the movie leaves you with a cold warm snow feeling of hope and sorrow for people in transition, that usually only a classic novel (like those by F. Scott or Hemingway) can give you.

Great Donno writes: "The emphasis of this movie can be placed in Kev's last words to Willy in the film, 'Stay Cool Man, Stay Cool Forever.' All of the male characters in this film with the possible exception of Moe, are trying to stay cool by refusing to grow up."

JHClues writes: "The most memorable performance of all, however, is turned in by Natalie Portman, who at fifteen is playing the thirteen-year-old Marty, the girl mature and wise beyond her years (`I'm an old soul,' as she puts it)..."

On the set with Premiere magazine.

Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you
Sweet Caroline...good times never seemed so good

100 Things About Esther

A person is an undiscovered country, with rough terrain that can be navigated only with the most determined, dedicated, devoted companion. Topographical shortcuts may be available, but better, in the long run, to have tackled the tougher paths together; the brambly, rocky roads less traveled lead to a deeper, more resonant appreciation.

My favorite writing is heartbreaking.

Paul Wolfowitz Dating A Muslim

But Wolfowitz, a married father of three, is said to be so blinded by his relationship with Riza, that influential members of the World Bank believe she played a key role in influencing the Pentagon official to launch the 2003 Iraq war.

“His womanizing has come home to roost,” a Washington insider told reporters. “Paul was a foreign policy hawk long before he met Riza but it doesn’t look good to be accused of being under the thumb of your mistress.”

Wolfowitz married his wife Clare Selgin in 1968. But they have lived separately since 2001, after allegations he had an affair with an employee at the School of Advanced International Studies where he was dean for seven years. They are now believed to be legally separated.

Living In The World Of Text

My secular friend Cathy Seipp consistently berates me about the same things such as my crumby van, and my lack of knowledge of TV and cartoons. Considering what she knows about me, I feel like I'm getting off easy.

My home did not get a television until I was 14 and had graduated from 8th grade. After that, the TV was strictly controlled until I left home at age 18. I did not see a movie in a theater until I was 16. I've never liked cartoons.

Cathy blogs:

Then last night I was talking to Luke Ford. For all his faults, he's pretty fun to talk to, because he's extremely well-read and if you happen to have hair-splitting theological questions about the beliefs of (a) Orthodox Jews (he is one), or (b) evangelical Protestants (he was one), he's your man. But because he was raised a particularly strict Seventh Day Adventist (they're not supposed to watch movies or TV), there are strange pop culture gaps in his knowledge and occasionally the conversation comes to a screeching halt.

For instance, I mentioned to Luke that Ruth's husband Rob Barrett told me recently my daughter might not find Washington & Lee University, where she's going for a special high-school program this summer, exactly her cup of tea for college.  "It's real Foghorn Leghorn country down there," Rob said. Ninety-nine out of a hundred people would know exactly what he meant by that, but...

Luke: [Crickets].

And then: "Who's Foghorn Leghorn?"

Who's Foghorn...I say, who's Foghorn Leghorn?!? Unthinkable that anyone should be so sadly ignorant of the Looney Tunes oeuvre! But I always run into that with Luke. No wonder he never gets it when I tell him he's dethpicable.

I don't watch TV. I think it defiles the soul. I prefer to spend my time immersed in the world of the Babylonian Talmud. Nothing is more fascinating to me than these 3-5th Century Aramaic debates. In comparison to cartoons and Desperate Housewives, these texts are a tree of life to those who hold them close.

Cathy wants to me answer these questions:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough. I want to hold on to Maggie and desecrate my religious vows.

#2 Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I want to lose the woman I love and return to my religion.

#3. My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. I want to hold on to my art and desecrate my religious vows.

#4. G.A. Henty stories. I want to kill a lot of bad guys.

I tend to inhabit every book and movie that grabs me. I could keep answering this question forever if only my memory was what it was.

The last book you bought is:

The Other Hollywood and How To Make ---- Like A ---- Star.

The last book you read:

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Fiction: Giving Up America by Pearl Abraham.

What are you currently reading?

The Collected Short Stories of Bruce Jay Friedman.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

War and Peace by Tolstoy. Read twice.
Remembrance of Things Past. Marcelle Proust. Never read.
The Brothers Karamazov. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Read once.
A Bible with a good commentary.
The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Read most once or twice.

The Lady Killers

Chaim Amalek writes:

While you are poor in dollars, you are rich in social possibilities. You have the social life of a millionaire, minus the hot girl friend.

You know some people in reality TV, don't you? I want to pitch them my idea for a show in which OJ Simpson and Robert Blake live in a house and try to pick up chicks. "The Lady Killers."

You would live with them, and lecture them on the teachings of the holy books as they relate to dating. First lesson: "Thou shalt not murder."

Then you go with OJ and Blake to a shoot. And the hot blondes slobber over OJ. Would get killer ratings.

Where Did Blacks Go Wrong?

Roland G. Fryer Jr. can only get away with asking this question because he is black (and an economist at Harvard):

''I basically want to figure out where blacks went wrong. One could rattle off all the statistics about blacks not doing so well. You can look at the black-white differential in out-of-wedlock births or infant mortality or life expectancy. Blacks are the worst-performing ethnic group on SAT's. Blacks earn less than whites. They are still just not doing well, period.''

To Fryer, the language of economics, a field proud of its coldblooded rationalism, is ideally suited for otherwise volatile conversations. ''I want to have an honest discussion about race in a time and a place where I don't think we can,'' he says. ''Blacks and whites are both to blame. As soon as you say something like, 'Well, could the black-white test-score gap be genetics?' everybody gets tensed up. But why shouldn't that be on the table?''

Fryer well appreciates that he can raise questions that most white scholars wouldn't dare. His collaborators, most of whom are white, appreciate this, too. ''Absolutely, there's an insulation effect,'' says the Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser. ''There's no question that working with Roland is somewhat liberating.''

Glaeser and Fryer, along with David M. Cutler, another Harvard economist, are the authors of a paper that traffics in one form of genetic theorizing. It addresses the six-year disparity in life expectancy for blacks versus whites, arguing that much of the gap is due to a single factor: a higher rate of salt sensitivity among African-Americans, which leads to higher rates of cardiovascular disease, stroke and kidney disease.

How many of his close family members, I asked him, had either died young or spent time in prison? He did a quick count: 8 of 10.

The very issue of black-white inequality has, in recent years, been practically driven from public view.

Contrast Fryer's attitude to questions of race with that of white Reason editor Nick Gillespie.

Anita Busch Has Finished Her Novel

From reading her work, I've never thought of her as a good writer. That's not been her reputation. Maybe she will surprise us.

A Hard Bargain

Saturday night at the American Film Institute, Cathy Seipp moderated the best panel discussion I've heard in years. It was far better than our blogger panel from two years ago.

TV writers Paul Feig (Freaks & Geeks, wrote books), Scott Kaufer (Boston Legal), Rob Long (Cheers), and Tim Minear (Angel) were quick, feisty and funny.

The event was sponsored by the center-right American Cinema Foundation. The panel ran 80 minutes as did the shmoozing afterwards.

Cathy asked the panelists what they said to people who told them they don't watch television.

Tim Minear: "I run them over with my Mercedes."

Rob Long: "A few years ago, The LA Times Calendar section ran an interview with a woman who was the executive producer of a hit comedy at Warner Brothers starring Candice Bergen [Diane English of Murphy Brown], and she said, 'We never watch TV. We don't even have cable.' A little later in the interview, she said, 'We don't watch TV. All we watch is CNN and the Discovery Channel.'"

Scott Kaufer: "When I was an executive at Warners Television, people used to come in and pitch me shows we had on the air. They were the better pitches. When we said, that show is not only on TV, but we produce it, they'd say, 'Ehh, I don't watch TV.' Why would we want to be in the business with you?"

Paul: "It's an old fashioned prejudice. I don't think you hear younger people saying it. When I was working with directors on my show, any director over 40 would say, 'If I don't have the camera moving all the time, it's going to look like a TV show.' But to a 23yo, cameras moving all the time was TV."

Tim: "It's such an old fashioned prejudice when there are so many crappy movies and good TV."

Cathy: "Paul, there was a scene in Freaks & Geeks about watching a porn movie, and I thought it was one of the most wholesome scenes I had ever seen. It was sweet and touching and dealing with porn."

Paul: "If you give someone heroine, they're going to become hooked. Sure, we can give people what their base instincts want. You can throw girls in bikinis up on there and people are going to watch, but what's the point? My mom used to get upset at all these talkshows with people screaming and yelling. 'It doesn't do anything but bring the general mood of the country down.'

"As an artist, you should say, what can I do to make people think, and not just add to the crap. Sure you can sell something, but the goal is to something that you can be proud of. I want to sleep with myself at night."

Cathy to Tim: "Your show is going to be bloodier and gorier than Silence of the Lambs. You told me before that you have to build character development or it becomes pornography."

Tim: "It is lurid. That's what the genre is. I don't apologize for it. I didn't apologize for it on Angel. The responsibility that I apparently have, I just got a [Fox] network note because I had a character (one of the good guys) who smoked. No longer. She's played by an actress on Wonderfalls last year who smoked. They said, we don't have characters who smoke on our network.

"We have a cigarette smoking man, but he's evil."

Scott: "In Boston Legal, we end pretty much every episode with James Spader and William Shatner smoking on the balcony. Even though this is a different network, it is the same studio [producing both series]. We always get the network note, it's part of the boiler plate of their notes, please be advised that ABC wishes to refrain from scenes showing people smoking. If you show people smoking, don't show them inhaling.

"Never once this season have I paid any attention to that note or heard any follow-up."

Tim: "I can't get away with it."

Rob: "We had a lot of resistance to vagina [from ABC]. We were told that that's a word you shouldn't use. Because we are writers and artists, we took the word out.

"You're not going to tell a new story. All the stories are out there. You're just going to try to use interesting language."

Scott: "We get the most [aggravation] from [network censors] over commercial words. We have a script that shoots next week that makes extensive use of the word 'Viagra.' The network...told us to change it to "little blue pills" because the Cialis people will get mad."

Tim: "I couldn't have [a serial killer] say the word 'retard' because the serial killer would've been insensitive."

The killer ended up saying "handi-capable."

Paul: "The medium we work in is so incredibly powerful that it is frightening. With Freaks & Geeks, I wrote scenes for a smoking patio [at a high school]. When I was growing up, even in Junior High, there was a smoking patio. We got it cast and we were about to shoot the smoking scene, and Judd Aptow and I looked at each other and said, 'We can't do it. These kids are so appealing and they look so cool, that it's like telling kids to go ahead and smoke.'

"It became the junkfood eating patio. We allowed one character to have a cigarette behind his ears and he could play with a lighter."

Rob: "In France, they are not talking about not having people smoke on TV."

Rob says you can always trick network censors by sending them pages late (after you've shot the scenes). "It's more often when you're pitching something [that you run into problems with the network]. When you pitch something, they hear what they want to hear, and you go write the script, and it is not what they expected it to be. You get away with much more when you write the script as a spec. If you ask, the answer is almost always no. If you do it, the answer is, well, I wish you wouldn't have, but now that you've shot it...

"We wrote a joke about a group of people at an ad agency trying to come up with a name for frozen hot dogs -- Anne Franks. 'They hide in your grocer's freezer.' We got a note from the network that Anne Frank is a revered character..."

Paul: "We used 'Hitler' [as a punchline]. We got a note saying that if you use 'Hitler' in a lighthearted way, it takes the onus off his acts."

Rob: "There was one writer who named all crack whores, prostitutes and strippers after his mother."

Now that Scott Kaufer is no longer a magazine editor, he's frustrated that he can't assign a 10,000 word piece on Susan Estrich.

Thirty minutes in, Cathy opens up to questions from the audience.

A woman asks, five times, if the shift of the CBS TV movie on Reagen got shifted to Showtime. The writers had varying reactions. Rob thought it was cool that people could get together and protest something and make a difference.

Rob: "An actress in her mid-to-late eighties said she wasn't ready to play a [young] grandmother. We couldn't even get completion bond with her."

The audience erupts in laughter. It must be an inside audience to laugh at the punch line "completion bond."

Rob recalls a network pushing him to create more racial diversity within a family.

Scott: "David Kelly wrote a line for a character who says, "I'd much rather be on HBO." We had to change it to, "I'd much rather be on cable."

Tim and Paul say they seek racial diversity even without network prodding.

While I walk back to my van, a woman with a boyfriend told me she wouldn't get into the back unless I buy her dinner first.

I like a woman who drives a hard bargain.

At 11pm, the security guards had to ask us to leave the parking lot so they could close the gate.

Jackie reports on the evening. Christian Johnson reports. Cathy Seipp reports.

Conspiracy Theorist Barry Chamish Speaks To The Happy Minyan

From the PR release: The Happy Minyan and Cong. Mogen David present Internationally recognized special investigator and author Barry Chamish in his only Los Angeles appearance discussing the ultimate goal of the gaza withdrawal. Chamish’s recent books “Who murdered Yitzhak Rabin”; “Israel Betrayed” and “Save Israel” have dramatically changed the way Israelis view their history. Congregation Mogen David, 9717 W. Pico Blvd., LA CA 90035. Monday March 21 at 8:00 pm.

Miss Nude Canada 2005 Feels Humiliated

I felt humiliation keenly as a child and as an adult. I've been fascinated by it ever since. I think that is one reason for my choice of subjects to write about. I have strong self-destructive drives that continually push me towards humiliating myself. I feel that I deserve to be punished for being naughty. I sometimes feel inclinations towards humiliating others in ways that would violate the Golden Rule. Luckily, my strong moral fibre prevents me from acting on these impulses.

George Orwell said that the only parts of an autobiography you should believe are the shameful. With few exceptions, I don't find writing about oneself fascinating unless one is revealing one's shame.

The woman, a 28-year-old philosophy student who is financing her education through exotic dancing, says she has been humiliated. Known by her stage name Honey Houston, the 2005 Miss Nude Canada told the Calgary Herald she has had to finish her studies by correspondence because she can no longer face her fellow students.

He hasn't got much sympathy for Houston's complaints.

"How is she hoping to play this? Is she going to stop dancing? Or now is she a celebrity and everyone wants her to dance for their student union events, like start farming her out to UBC?

"If she's expecting sympathy, I don't think she'll get much."

Not Too Many Smelly Arabs, Please

Cathy Seipp is hosting a panel discussion with TV writers Saturday night. It should be the social event of the weekend and I'm hoping there won't be too many smelly Arabs.

Please do not accuse me of racism. I have no problem with Arabs in general. I just don't want a lot of the smelly kind.

As for the Pakis and wogs, I just don't want the uncouth kind.

Nor too many uppity blacks either. Blacks in general are fine. Just not too many of the uppity ones.

And as for the Jews, I just hope that they our kind. Cultured. Westernized. Not smelly.

And if we're going to admit gays, I just hope that they won't be flaming. When those people start mincing and prancing, it puts me right off my panel discussion.

I don't want a lot of fat and ugly people either. And not too many oldies. At least not the ones who smell.

Luke Ford Fan Blog Returns

He's feeling blue.

The answer to his inquiry is that it was G-d's will.

Racial Insensitivity In Fawlty Towers

In the episode "The Germans."

"Ah yes," the Major says, "a woman. I knew one once. Took her to see India. At the Oval. Marvellous day. But she kept calling the Indians niggers. 'Oh no, no,' I told her, 'you can't call them niggers. The West Indians are niggers. These are wogs."

A few thoughts on the drive to "decimate our comedy heritage just to satisfy the Thought Police of The PC Brigade."

Sweet Dreams

I'm all a twitter as the 30th anniversary of Air Supply's founding approaches and I work in its honor on an essay comparing and contrasting Air Supply lyrics with the Song of Songs.

I'm a little off my rocker this morning... Got kangaroos loose in my top paddock. Can't drink my wallaby squash like I used to...

Let me Abos go loose, Lou,
let me Abos go loose.
They're of no further use, Lou,
so let me Abos go loose.

By Air Supply:

Close your eyes
I want to ride the skies
In my sweet dreams
Close your eyes
I want to see you tonight
In my sweet dreams

I’ll think of your kiss as the days roll by
And I’ll write the words you love
And what I can’t say in a letter
Will just have to wait till I get home

How will you celebrate May 12, the 30th anniversary of when Graham Russell met Russell Hitchcock and formed the greatest pop group ever? Email Luke Who would be the perfect girl for such a night?

Oh dear, the onanistic experience I have while listening to Air Supply is just a simulcra of the true joy that awaits me when I unite my life with a fellow Orthodox Jew in a ceremony hallowed by state and shul and come together under the chupah in connubial bliss (at least that is what I've heard).

Tan me hide when I'm dead, Fred,
tan me hide when I'm dead.
So we tanned his hide when he died Clyde,
(Spoken) And that's it hanging on the shed.

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I'm On Channel 4 In Britain Now

I'm talking about works of great culture that have been censored in the past century and what that means for the human striving for the transcendent.

I'm wearing a grey suit and a red tie.

Affirmative Action For Conservatives

Evan Gahr writes:

Linda Chavez, whose nomination for Labor Secretary imploded amid reports that she had extracted cheap, tax-free labor from a desperate illegal immigrant, is arguably the right's foremost opponents of racial preference policies.

Her think tank, the Center for Equal Opportunity, which she moved from downtown DC in December 2001 to Sterling, VA, which is inconvenient to everything, except, her home, is devoted to the time-honored principle "equal opportunity for all, special preferences for none."

Compelling stuff, except that if you're not related to Chavez, a former Reagan Administration official, it seems your opportunities for jobs with CEO are substantially compromised. Although it's impossible to tell from the think tank's web site, two of the Chavez boys have long worked for their mommy, and at least one got his job without any other candidates. So much for the level playing field cherished by Chavez and other color-blind conservatives.

Indeed, for quite some time, of the four salaried jobs at CEO, the only one held by a non-Chavez was Roger Clegg. With Ed Blum having joined the organization in 2002, that made two non-family members and three Chavezes.

In any event, are family values Chavez-style tricky? What happens if her sons' work is below par? Does Linda give them a bad performance review? Or just send them to bed without supper? Does the family picnic double as a working lunch? Thanksgiving dinner written off as business expense?

Like many on the self-righteous right, Chavez often makes the decidedly curious argument that affirmative action policies are demeaning to blacks.

Relying on self-esteem arguments to advance conservative policies is rather hypocritical because conservatives otherwise mock liberals for elaborate and often dishonest schemes intended to boast the self-esteem of minorities. Secondly, outside the conservative imagination it's not quite clear just which minorities who are affirmative action beneficiaries are plagued by self-doubt. Can Chavez name any who are?

News accounts generally say the opposite; that blacks feel the "affirmative action" is entirely justified because of past injustices and what they contend is ongoing, prevalent discrimination. Ditto for interviews by this writer: many blacks, in public life and private, take it for granted that affirmative action merely levels the playing field, and shrug off criticism. Or as the head of trade group of black broadcasters responded when asked if it was hypocritical to give special preferences for minorities seeking FCC licenses, including the not-particularly-downtrodden Bill Cosby and Vernon Jordan: You can't go to a homeless shelter to recruit radio station owners.

But let's take Chavez at he word. If affirmative action is so demeaning to blacks, does this mean giving two plum jobs to her sons leaves them insulted and degraded?

As far as can be determined, Linda Chavez was forced to make some draconian personnel cuts at her think tank around 2000. What criteria were applied. How did it happen that both her sons avoided being laid off. Is it demeaning when your mother spares your job?

They're probably just gratified to have the jobs. David Gersten (they use the name of Linda's Jew husband Chris Gersten) is staff director of the CEO and Rudy Gersten is office manager and Linda's personal secretary.

She made her own son her bitch?

All of this is done with considerable secrecy. Staff bios of Rudy and David on the CEO web site entirely omitted the minor detail that their boss is also their mommy. All kinds of other information was provided about them. Ditto for press releases that list David Gersten as the contact person and other times an expert on race issues.

Why was this the only significant thing left out? Who made the decision to leave it out? It looks like only Linda Chavez's bio is posted on the CEO web site these days; it says she is the mother of three sons--but omits that two of them work for her. (Her recent memoir, An Unlikely Conservative, mentions in passing that David works for her but all references to son Rudy omit the job that was set-aside for him.)

All this is a mother lode of an omission; especially in a city that, for better of worse, insists on full disclosure to avoid any conceivable conflict of interest. When Lloyd Grove wrote the "Reliable Source" column for the Washington Post he took much flak for his item on anti-feminist Amy Holmes that failed to say the two of them were an item. Imagine if he had hired the bi-racial beauty for a job and not told editors or readers.

But like Deep Throat, Rudy Gersten's true identity is known only to a select few.

Linda Chavez's voice mail for her home office number explains that her "assistant Rudy" should be called to set up interviews with the great lady, but leaves out the family ties..

It's a touchy subject these days. Indeed, Chavez seems far more uptight about it than do blacks who benefit from affirmative action that she endlessly denounces. The otherwise articulate Chavez was, to put it politely, at a loss for words when pressed on her quotas for family members last week..

Linda Chavez: Hello.

Reporter:Hey, Linda, those are great jobs Rudy and David got. Were there any other applicants?

Linda Chavez: [click.]

The lady gives new meaning to brevity.

And hypocrisy. Consider the following quote from Mama Chavez's syndicated column in 1997.

"Success in any business requires providing a superior product at a low price. But government set-aside programs create a rarefied environment in which participating minority businesses don't have to offer the lowest bid. In some instances, they don't even have to compete with other firms. This is hardly the way the real business world operates, which is why so many minority businesses that depend on government set-asides fail."

And what are the consequences for her sons who depend on the jobs that their Mom set aside for them?

Rudy Gersten went to work as receptionist for CEO not long after he graduated from University of Maryland, as far as can be determined. Lots of collegians graduate without having any job so he should consider himself lucky.

Just what are his qualifications? When I was an adjunct scholar for CEO Rudy did not seem particularly well-versed in the realm of race and related issues. When a very prominent journalist called CEO to double check that I really was with the organization as claimed, a befuddled Rudy later told me, "Some guy from the Washington Times called about you."

The "guy" was Nat Hentoff.

Duh: Hentoff is one of the nation's foremost and prolific journalists. He writes for the Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, and the Washington Times on many of the same kind of issues that CEO engages. If Rudy had never heard of this "guy" does that mean he doesn't read all the publications where Hentoff's work appears? Plus the Washington Post where it previously did?

No matter. Ignorance is bliss.

Or it is at least for the immediate family of Linda Chavez.

When the office manager post became vacant in the Fall of 2001 because the beautiful and poised shiksa Amanda went to work for her father, appropriately enough, the job was just given to Rudy Gersten. That's a plum assignment which might have attracted much more qualified candidates. He lacked the polish of Shiksa Amanda, and DC is filled with countless girls like her who might have been eager for the job, and, although exact comparisons are difficult, are arguably better qualified. Some may even have heard of Nat Hentoff.

Were there other candidates considered for the job that went to David Gersten? If there are no other applicants how can Linda be sure that these jobs went to the "best qualified" person? That's what she usually demands, of course, from employers and educational institutions. Or is this unfair? The computer industry where David Gersten worked before leaving for CEO is excellent preparation for fighting affirmative action?

Does all this mean, per her affirmative action analysis, Chavez is demeaning her own son?

Of course, in the private sector and the government, doling out jobs without other candidates is generally avoided. When jobs are available the federal government is requited to post them for all to know. And Wal-Mart got in big legal trouble for doing what Linda Chavez did with Rudy, namely offering promotions without public notice so other could compete.

Similarly, government agencies and contractors face serious legal trouble if they award no-bid, non-competitive contracts, which is the equivalent of what Linda Chavez apparently did when she bestowed two plum jobs to her sons. As far as could be determined, the degree of CEO nepotism is decidedly unique for the Washington area. Nobody interviewed could cite another scheme like the one that Chavez has quietly implemented, with no press attention until now.

The offices of the Heritage Foundation and Brookings Institute presidents, respectively, confirmed that they haven't hired any relatives, and seemed to find the question rather goofy.

Meanwhile, over at the Labor Department, which almost had Linda Chavez at the helm, spokeswoman Peggy Abrahamson says that hiring relatives is "a no-no."

Mary Frances Berry, the favorite Negro punching bag of Linda Chavez, and others could never have hired relatives when she headed the US Civil Rights Commission.

Similarly, the Office of Personnel Management enforces very strict rules against nepotism throughout federal agencies. (How do all these restrictions and prohibitions square against the standard conservative claim that Uncle Sam's bureaucrats are out of control and unaccountable.)

This is not some little hypocritical peccadillo, "the best-qualified" is the assumption upon which most of her anti-affirmative arguments are predicated.

Almost everyone is a little bit hypocritical. And following through on your stated values is not necessary a virtue. (Hitler was not a hypocrite).

But the hypocrisy here concerns the very outfit from which Chavez wages her jihad against special treatment for minorities

It's well to note that right-wing value monger Bill Bennett was raked over the coals for much less troublesome hypocrisy.

The Washington Monthly exclusive report on the former Education Secretary's penchant for high-stakes gambling was certainly ironic. But irony is not logic and critics could find few statements in which he objected to gambling let alone denounced it with the same fervor he does other cultural targets.

By contrast, opposition to the very kind of preferential treatment which Chavez reserves for close relatives is at odds with her whole public persona. And unlike gambling, by the standards of DC, nepotism is improper and unethical and nearly universally-forbidden.

Congressmen, for example, are not permitted to hire family members for their Capitol offices; the only exceptions are staff members they marry, who are allowed to remain on the pay roll but can not get a salary increase.

David Gersten should be lucky his boss does not labor under any such ethical requirements. His salary has skyrocketed since he joined the family business in the late 1990s.

How do you negotiate salary increases with your mom?

Do negotiations break down when she insists the salary should include your allowance, but you want it figured separately?

Although the rank nepotism at the Center for Equal Opportunity is rather unusual, it's well to note that she is hardly the only conservative not to practice what she preaches regarding equal opportunity.

Conservatives, however, do indulge all sorts of favoritism at odds with the meritocracy they purport to favor.

Elena Lefkowitz, an utterly pedestrian writer and thinker with very little reporting experience, probably got her job at Insight magazine in 1991 because her husband Jay is tight with Bill Kristol who is tight with John Podhoretz who hired her. (The male Lefkowitz and Podhoretz ignore inquiries.)

Did Danny Wattenberg get his job at Insight because he is the son of neo-con writer Ben Wattenberg? Or did whoever hired him not notice the last name? What a great hire he proved. The junior Wattenberg used to meander into the office around 2pm, often hung over and bleary-eyed, and write articles--I kid you not--about the need for a better work ethic among the underclass. He did, however, work very hard on his piece about Hillary Clinton's leftist past, and then sold the piece he wrote on Insight's time to the American Spectator.

Similar questions apply for Liz Kristol, daughter of Irving and Gertrude Himmelfarb, sister of Bill, who, according to Insight's Steve Goode, once worked at the magazine, which is the sister publication of the Washington Times.

Seth Lipsky, currently editor of the New York Sun, publishes his wife Amity Shlaes's column regularly. Why is that? Are her humorous blatherings really the best stuff available? Or is there another reason?

In my case, I'm an unabashed beneficiary of John Podhoretz's affirmative action program for over-privileged, white Jews.

In May 1991, I wrote to John Podhoretz, saying I was using the "Columbia Prep old boys network" to show him my clips. He had graduated from this remarkable, yet low profile private school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, six years before I did. We met. Not long thereafter later, I pitched an article to him, then TWT features editor, about women-only health clubs; how this blatantly violated anti-discrimination statutes but liberals didn't object. The piece worked out real well. And when he became Insight editor he gave me a job (as he did at least one other CGPS graduate).

Yes, unlike Elena Lefkowitz, whose only mark of distinction at the magazine was to yelp out of nowhere during a newsroom discussion of the legalization of drugs that she smoked pot for the first time and lost her virginity freshman year at Cornell, lots of journalists consider me to have immense talents.

But I had even less experience than Elena and John Podhoretz would never met with me had it not been for our Columbia Prep ties.

Ironically enough, in my case, "affirmative action" worked in the manner which liberals always extol for blacks; it allows someone very qualified to get an opportunity he would otherwise not have.

Rudy Gersten and David Gersten also get many opportunities than others--many arguably better qualified--are denied. Family ties are the ultimate special privilege.

"I believe every individual should be viewed as an individual. They need to be looked at on the content of their character and their effort and performance, not based on a racial group." -- Linda Chavez

Of course her dream could prove the Chavez boys' worst nightmare. If meritocracy ever came to the Center for Equal Opportunity both could end up out of work.

In any event, why should anybody take Linda's opposition to affirmative action seriously if she applies such a grotesque and extreme version to her own think tank?

-- END --


Does anybody remember the "Saturday Night Live" skit with an immigrant from Jamaica or some such country who single-handedly runs a motel or hotel but tries to convince his guest that he has numerous employees?

He helps somebody check in at the front desk. Then, when the person asks for a bell hop he leaves and comes back five minutes later with a little bell hop cap.

Was Linda Chavez inspired by this skit? She claims to work 40 hours per week as president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, plus write her syndicated column, serve on corporate boards, appear on Fox News Channel as an analyst, run one pac and serve as president of her new organization, Stop Union Abuse Now.

How is all that possible? How can she head two organizations at once? She makes about $100,000 per year as president of CEO. Is she drawing a salary for her leadership of SUPA?

Chavez insists SUPA is not anti-big labor it just wants better accountability from unions. Yeah, sure. And Arafat was not anti-Israel just pro-Palestine.

But the organization which demands full disclosure from unions is shrouded in secrecy.

Flouting IRS dicta, Chavez refused to make the group's 990 form available for public inspection. None could be located through Guidestar.com, which compiles all forms filed by non-profit, non partisan educational organizations known as 501C3's.

Is SUPA something else? The FEC does have a filing of an official SUPA political action committee. Why doesn't Chavez who demands full disclosure from unions, post material on the SUPA web site about the political action committee.?

Or is there only a pac and no educational organization? In that case, the SUPA web site would be very misleading: a political action committee in disguise.

The only thing that can be definitively established thus far is that SUPA does not employ any of her immediate family members.

But that could change once her youngest granddaughter is toilet-trained.

The Return Of The JAP

Self-proclaimed JAP (Jewish American Princess) Alana Newhouse, arts and culture editor of the Forward, does her on-the-one-hand-this, but on-the-other-hand-that thing in the Boston Globe Sunday before concluding that she, and those who are like her, are ok:

In the end, this may all come around, as issues of cultural importance often do, to Barbra. In one of the sharpest episodes of ''Sex and the City,'' Carrie wonders aloud why Mr. Big chose another woman over her. Suddenly she's reminded of ''The Way We Were,'' the classic 1973 movie in which the neurotic, curly-haired (read: Jewish) character played by Barbra Streisand loses her man to a simpler, straight-haired (read: WASP) woman. Carrie belts out the movie's theme song, and a hybrid personality emerges that is at once Jewish, smart, complicated in the best way, and unembarrassed by sartorial fetishes. Though Mr. Big might not have understood it, Carrie did. For some women today, that's more than enough.

Alana began her weekend in Friday's LA Times with her piece, "Yiddish literature gets new 'Angel'":

Many people assume that Yiddish literature is dead, a tragic example of a creative universe aborted by history, leaving us to wonder what could have been while enjoying the last wisps of musty shtetl air it gives off. "The Angel of Forgetfulness" by Steve Stern proves that Yiddish literature for a mainstream audience lives; it's just not being written in Yiddish anymore.

Mesmerized By Gafni

The Rabbinical Council of California has appointed me to root out heresy within Modern Orthodox Los Angeles.

Please send women, children and servants out of the room before reading this blog because it contains subversive ideas.

I was mesmerized by Oxford's (Louis B. Jacobs scholar) Dr. Gafni this weekend. I caught his speeches at a local Orthodox shul. He was funny, insightful, and warm. It was the best Torah I've heard in a long time (and made all the better by my shul-provided balanced breakfast of two Chocolate mousse cakes, one lemon meringue pie, one pecan pie, and three glasses of orange juice freshly squeezed from the carton).

Dr. Isaiah Gafni is a professor of rabbinics at Hebrew University and a pioneer in the growing field of Torah comedy.

When he got to the racy bits of his lecture, stuff about the ignorant Jews who have sex with animals, he'd only give over those parts of the Talmud in Hebrew (there were children present).

After his Sunday morning lecture, I asked him (as I did James Kugel on Shuvuot 2001) if he chose to specialize in rabbinics rather than Bible because he would get into less trouble using the critical/historical tools he learned at secular universities on sacred text. They both said yes (with various qualifications and explanations).

My father did a PhD in Bible (with F.F. Bruce at Manchester University) so I am well acquainted with the ways a critical study of sacred text challenges a religion's fundamentalist approach.

I always get a chuckle at the widespread Jewish notion (as widely held by the non-Orthodox as the Orthodox) that Orthodoxy is not fundamentalist. Of course it is. The primary definition of "fundamentalism" in many dictionaries is rejection of historical/critical approaches to sacred text. Orthodox rejects this approach to the Bible as much as fundamentalist Christianity and Islam (all of Islam is fundamentalist by definition that no one who believes that any part of the Koran does not come from God is not a Muslim), and even extend the fundamentalist approach to the Talmud and the rabbinic tradition.

In contrast to the popular Jewish view that the Oral tradition proves that Orthodoxy is not fundamentalist, Orthodox Judaism extends fundamentalist assumptions to text to far more text and a far longer string of tradition than do any branch of Christianity and Islam.

I do not say this as a criticism of Orthodox Judaism as I do not see fundamentalist religion as inherently good or bad.

This discussion reminds me of Voltaire who would send out his servants when discussion deism and atheism. Voltaire wanted his wife and his servants to believe in God because that way he would be less likely to be cheated and deceived.

On Shuvuot 2001, Dr. James Kugel, ostensibly and publicly Orthodox like Dr. Gafni (who grew up Borough Park, Brooklyn, and spent his entire life within the Orthodox community), told his listeners at Young Israel of Century City that they should ignore Biblical criticism because it might shake their faith.

Dr. Kugel says he often hears from young Orthodox Jews that they want to study Bible in a critical way so that they can refute the critics (who say the Bible is composed by human beings and edited by human begins over centuries). Dr. Kugel advises them against this because there is something inherent in studying text with critical methods that shakes one's traditional faith.

Professors Kugel and Gafni avoid publishing on matters that are taken for granted by their scholarly peers because it would place them outside of the Orthodox community. I find fascinating the impossible dance of those Modern Orthodox who take both Modernity and Orthodoxy seriously (a distinct minority of Modern Orthodox) and try to reconcile them.

Modernity and Orthodoxy can not be reconciled (though tens of thousands of Modern Orthodox think they can and lead lives of delusion by avoiding asking difficult questions).

Dr. Gafni said that one reason he chose not to specialize in Bible was not that he would get into trouble with his religious community but that so his own faith would not be shaken.

"Oh come on," I said. "You know very well that you believe things privately that are not compatible with Orthodoxy."

Dr. Gafni will never admit such things publicly. When questioned whether the Torah presents Sinai in the mode of a classroom, Dr. Gafni danced away from admitting any such thing. He found the idea provocative but he was never going to say anything that could be misinterpreted as lack of belief in the Eighth Principle of the Jewish Faith according to Maimonidies (that every word of the Torah is divine).

A friend at Sunday morning's lecture said he noticed an ad in the Jewish Journal that Dr. Gafni was speaking all week at Stephen S. Wise. "That's a different Gafni," I noted.

Joseph Schick writes: "Marc Shapiro has argued that the 8th of the 13 principles of faith should not be taken literally. Shapiro certainly did not get treated as Louis Jacobs did; I think observant Jewish academics get express alternate positions on the matter without censure."

Crisis Management Consultants

I met this blonde bird at shul Friday Night. I asked her what she did for a living. She said, "Crisis Management Consultant."

I exploded at her, years of rage finally crystallizing: "Oh come on. You're a publicist. Crisis management consultant [my donkey]. You're a publicist."

"Ok," she said, walking away. "You know better than I do. I'm a publicist."

She walked back and forth in front of me several times in the next five minutes repeating those same phrases. I apologized profusely for my outburst and tried to explain it with a story about the time I called [former Buzz magazine editor, author, and Newsweek journalist] Allen Mayer a "publicist," and was subsequently notified that he was a "crisis management consultant."

Turns out the girl worked for Mayer for over two years.

So then I tried to mollify her with the anecdote that Allen had once called me the "Andy Kaufman of bloggers."

I kept trying to talk my way out of the hole for the rest of the night.

Around the time the sun rose, the blonde's brunette friend told me that I was exhausting. I offered to switch out performance mode and to be genuine, but I could only stand that for a couple of minutes before I had to fall back to my "kidnapped by Aborigines when I was a child" routine. Chicks normally dig that. It conjures up primordial notions of the noble savage who needs to be civilized and makes them want me even more than when they are drinking from the wellsprings of my Torah knowledge.

A Morbidly Fat Older Man Takes on Lauren Winner

Chaim Amalek writes:

Lauren Winner could have been yours, Luke, had you but made the effort. Now, as for her arguments about sex, they simply miss the mark, because they do not address the demographic state of the world in which we live. What is called for is not a program to dissuade the Lauren Winners of the world from having sex or from having more playtime with their vaginas. No, what we need is a program of indoctrination to get such women to have more PROCREATIVE sex with the sort of men who helped make them in the first place. I want to see these smart young white women having more white babies, so that our numbers increase in the world. (I don't mention other races here, since they are doing fine as is, number-wise, and don't need my advice on this score.) So yes, have fun while fornicating, but remember your broader obligations.

On the other hand, lots of other people should never have procreative sex.

But Can Sex Talk Be the Bride of Chastity?

With her new book, "Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity" (Brazos Press), Ms. Winner, a 28-year-old evangelical Christian, intends to promote chastity among Christians while challenging the prevailing just-say-no approach with an unflinching, soul-searching, distinctly up-to-date alternative that urges people toward a frank assessment and acceptance of their sexuality. Drawing on her own history of premarital sex as a cosmopolitan, liberal single woman and delving into subjects like sodomy and masturbation, she aims her argument at sophisticated young working Christians who know the ways of the world. In her view, people are more likely to abstain from sex once they fully understand its power.

Ms. Winner certainly doesn't run from the topic. She speaks of her "endless numbers of boyfriends" after having sex for the first time at 15, an experience she discusses in "Real Sex."

All told Ms. Winner was celibate for only "a couple of years" earlier in her 20's ("with some backsliding," she said with a shrug).

Still, one odd aspect of "Real Sex" is that the book, while a passionate plea to postpone sex, can be read as a celebration of female sexuality, in particular her own.

Why does Lauren Winner remind of Wendy Shalit? Media darlings. Provocateurs. My main question is: Are they more style than substance? The jury's out.