After reading her for years, I met Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald (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.
Sunday morning, July 27, 2003, 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."
A .wav file of her speech Aug. 29.
It's the first day of public school in Los Angeles but I miss the traffic by leaving home at 7 a.m.
Thirty minutes later, I sit in the Luxe Hotel with an acquaintance (he missed a thick line of black hairs by his nose when he shaved this morning) who has a B.A. in Political Science from Cal State Northridge. He's lugged along three heavy photo albums. He says they are of him with various conservatives. Would I like to look?
I say yes and we go through every page. Sometimes there are four shots (all 8 by 10s) of him with the same guy.
The conservatives include former California governors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian, as well as Allan Keyes, Orin Hatch, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Phil Gramm...
On most every page, the guy says to me either "That's a good photo," or "That's not a good photo" or "What do you think?"
Afterwards, the guy shows his photo albums around to various conservatives including Larry Greenfield of the Republican Jewish Coalition. (If someone will buy a blogad for my site, I'll pay my $100 a year dues.)
My complaint about the lack of protein at breakfast has been answered by a big bowl of cottage cheese. I pile it on my plate along with the fruit and the danishes. I must be holding up pretty well in my fifth decade as I get some giggles from the 50 year old girls and compliments on my new haircut.
One blonde at my table is convinced I'm going to ridicule her on my blog. But my blogging motto is -- first, do no harm.
Heather's topic: "Seeing today's immigrants straight."
She tackles that myth that Hispanics' strong family values are going to redeem America. She says the Hispanic family is in a nosedive. Over 50% of Hispanics in the U.S. are born out of wedlock (it's about 68% for Blacks, 23% for Whites, and 15% for Asians).
"Even liberals will say there is no worse way to begin life than in a single-parent family.
During a typical year, 1000 single young Hispanic women will give birth to 92 kids, compared to 66 Blacks, 28 Whites and 22 Asians.
"Prisons assiduously avoid keeping statistics on illegal aliens."
"The crime rate among second generation Hispanics is eight times that of first generation..."
"Hispanics are not able to keep their kids out of gang life."
I think Janet Levy said that only 40% of Hispanic kids in Los Angeles graduate highschool.
"In th 1900s, you didn't need to know how to read to work in a factory. In today's information economy, you need to graduate highschool to get a good job."
"It's not just a status issue (legal vs. illegal) but a behavioral one. It's a matter of how Hispanics behave once they are here."
"Because Hispanics are not getting married, they are wedded to the state."
"It does not surprise me when liberals wink at the rule of law, but it drives me crazy when conservatives wink at the rule of law (when Bill Kristol, David Brooks, the WSJ Editorial Page, etc, say it does not matter whether immigrants are legal or illegal)."
After 20 minutes, Heather stops speaking and takes a slew of questions, all on immigration. One man's so angry that he accidentally waves his middle finger as he rants.
"Participation in school lunch programs is dropping among Whites and Blacks but rising astronomically among Hispanics."
Heather says the Wall Street Journal called her racist (though not by name).
I want to give her a hug but instead I offer her a ride home. I want to protect her precious white virginity from the fecund hordes of Mexicans infesting our public transportation.
Before she realizes what she's getting into, Heather says that would be nice. Then she comes to her senses.
"You still have the van?" she asks.
"In that case, I think I'd rather take the air-conditioned limo."
I should be used to such rejection by now, but it still stings.
I leave without asking Heather: "How many men can a woman love in her life?"