Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 24, 1981

Five years ago, in anticipation of my 25-year college reunion at Georgetown University, I wrote a blog post called "May 29, 1981," which began like this:

May 29, 1981 -- the Sunday before Memorial Day, hazy in the morning in the Nation's Capital and unseasonably hot (with temperatures eventually reaching the 90s). It was Bob Hope's 78th birthday, it would have been John F. Kennedy's 64th, and it was the anniversary of Wisconsin's 1848 admission as a state in the Union and Rhode Island's ratification of the Constitution.

A Chorus Line was in its seventh year of a record-breaking Broadway run, but Cats (which would eventually overtake that record) had opened in London but not yet in New York. "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes was the Number 1 song hit. Jonny Lang was precisely four months old and Britney Spears would come along nearly six months later.

The Falklands War was a year away, John Belushi was still alive, and virtually no one had ever telephoned a friend to ask, "Where are you now?"

May 29, 1981, was also a day of significance for me. It was the day I was graduated from Georgetown University.
At the reunion a week or so later, I received a handful of compliments from classmates about the post, and gratitude that I had done the research to supplement their own memories.

Nobody noticed that the premise was wrong.

That is, I had the wrong date. May 29 was not the "Sunday before Memorial Day," because Memorial Day that year was on May 25. Our graduation, as a glance at my diploma on the wall would have told me, was on May 24, 1981.

I've waited five years to correct the record.

Sunday, May 24, 1981, was the birthday of documentary film maker Nic Hill (Truth in Numbers? Everything, According to Wikipedia and Ray Charles America) and of Czech model and actress Markéta Jánská (Swingtown). It was the day that the "Toastmaster General of the United States," George Jessel, passed away.

That weekend saw the opening of several new movies: Outland, with Sean Connery and Peter Boyle; Death Hunt, with Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson; The Legend of the Lone Ranger, with Klinton Spilsbury, Michael Horse and Christopher Lloyd; The Four Seasons, with Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Sandy Dennis, and Len Cariou; and Bustin' Loose, with Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson.  (Of those, the only one I remember seeing is The Four Seasons.  Maybe I thought it was a documentary about Vivaldi, or a concert film with Frankie Valli.)

The night before, Jill St. John and Jim Stafford guest starred on Fantasy Island, in an episode called "Paquito's Birthday."  Sunday evening's TV shows included the perennial 60 Minutes, as well as Archie Bunker's Place, One Day at a Time, Alice, and The Jeffersons (all on CBS); NBC offered Disney's Wonderful World, CHiPs, and The Big Event, while ABC had its Sunday night movie.  Fox did not yet exist, and cable was not nearly pervasive in American homes as it would be just a few years later.

The New York Times best-seller lists published that day had Noble House, by James Clavell, at the top of the fiction list, followed by Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith, in second place.  The number one non-fiction best-seller was The Lord God Made Them All, but James Herriot, with George Gilder's influential Wealth and Poverty at number five.  (Number six was a biography of Maria Callas by Arianna Stassinopoulos.  You may know her as the founder of The Huffington Post under her married name.)

In the music world, the number one U.S. single, according to Billboard, was "Bette Davis Eyes," by Kim Carnes; according to Cashbox, it was "Being With You," by Smokey Robinson.  In Canada, the top hit was "Angel in the Morning," by Juice Newton.  In continental Europe, the number one single was "Making Your Mind Up," by Eurovision winner Bucks Fizz.  In the UK, however, the chart-topping single was "Stand and Deliver," by Adam and the Ants, and in Ireland, it was "You Drive Me Crazy," by Shakin' Stevens.

Not that many of us at graduation on the Hilltop were paying close attention to these statistics.  We had more monumental things on our mind.

Let me note that my original 2006 post, despite the wrong date, is still worth reading, if for nothing else than for the excerpts from Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick's commencement address.

At least I had the date for my high school graduation right, when I posted memories on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary a year later than my misdirected college reunion reminiscence.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Governor Gary Johnson Plays 'Not My Job' on NPR

Gary Johnson in Charlottesville
"Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" is a weekly quiz show on NPR stations, usually broadcast on Saturdays or Sundays.  The show is recorded on Thursdays.  It's normal home is in Chicago, but sometimes it goes on the road.  A few years ago, I attended a taping at Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Each week features a segment called "Not My Job," in which a celebrity -- actor, singer, author, race-car driver, computer guru -- has to answer three questions on an obscure topic.  The point is that the questions are about things the contestant knows nothing about.

This week's "Not My Job" contestant was former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.  In the introduction, "Wait, Wait" host Peter Sagal (author of The Book of Vice:  Very Naughty Things [and How to Do Them]) reviewed Governor Johnson's qualifications for high office:
Gary Johnson built a construction business from nothing; then became a two-term Republican governor of a Democratic-leaning state, New Mexico. He cut taxes and put the budget in surplus. He has competed in triathlons and climbed Everest. He lives in a house he built himself. And he once put our a forest fire with his feet.
During the pre-quiz interview, Sagal noted:
We looked you up and we were amazed. You are like - if we had like a campaign consultant draw up the ideal candidate, it would be you. You are fiscally conservative, which is absolutely essential these days. You cut taxes in New Mexico. You vetoed all these budget - I mean you actually held the record for vetoes nationally, right, during your two terms?
When Johnson replied that he had vetoed more bills than the other 49 governors combined, Sagal quipped:
Right. And Republicans love that. They love people who hate laws.
Later, the host recounted some of Johnson's additional accomplishments, and how they might prepare him for the presidency:
I just want to say, I mean one of the things you hear a lot about in presidential primaries is toughness, how tough is he. And you've got this locked. You've done four or fire Hawaii Ironman Triathlons. That's the two mile swim, the hundred mile bike ride, the marathon....

You've climbed Mount Everest, plus three other of the tallest mountains on the various continents. Don't you think after all that the Oval Office would be dull?
Johnson's response says a lot about his character:
From a personal standpoint, I think this is really one of life's great adventures, and I'm really thrilled to be a part of it. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could do the job. I wouldn't be doing this is I didn't think I could do a good job at doing the job. But thirdly, that personal notion of this really, I think, is right up there with regard to adventure and maybe one of the great adventures of humankind.
Sagal went on to point out that while a lot of Republicans "pick and choose" when it comes to small government, Johnson is a libertarian through and through. That leads to a discussion of traffic signals and speed limits.

At the end of the interview -- just before the three quiz questions about sex tapes and viral videos involving Paris Hilton, Rebecca Black, and Sandra Bullock's ex, Jesse James -- Sagal asked Johnson a general question about the other GOP presidential candidates. Johnson's off-the-cuff response is priceless. Here's the partial transcript:
SAGAL: Do you ever look around at the other candidates on the dais with you or on the trail with you and say "oh I wish I had that"? Is there any characteristic of any other Republican candidate that you wish you had?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Gov.JOHNSON: Or, do I look around and go, you know I got the best of all of that stuff?

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)
I have to say, it's nice to hear my favorite presidential candidate on my favorite public radio program.

If you like this blog post, you might also like:
Sagal and Ferguson on the 'Real America'
Gary Johnson on WINA's 'The Schilling Show'
RLC Videos: Peter Schiff and Gary Johnson
"Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me"
Is There a Litmus Test for Conservative Republicans?
And on, you'll find:
At the 9/12 March on Washington: Former NM Gov. Gary Johnson aims 'to put a voice to the outrage'
Gary Johnson wins RLC straw poll, places third in CPAC poll
Gary Johnson reflects on his first visit to Jefferson's Monticello
You can hear Gary Johnson's interview and find out how well he did on the "Not My Job Quiz" by listening here. To listen to the complete program, click here.

Update:  The Johnson for President campaign has put the full interview and "Not My Job" quiz on YouTube.
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Four Music Videos for the Rapture that Didn't Happen

Reports from beyond the International Dateline suggest that Harold Camping was wrong again.  There were no earthquakes or tsunamis or asteroid crashes that led to the end of the world, time zone by time zone.

Not that anyone of sound mind took Camping's predictions seriously.  He had been wrong before, and he'll no doubt make another inaccurate prediction again.  (I hope nobody is taking stock market advice from this crackpot.)

Still, unlike in 1994, the last time the Family Radio mogul made his wild-eyed prediction that the Rapture was imminent, for some reason the "end-is-near-and-it's-May 21" meme caught the popular imagination. 

People were having fun with it.  There actually may be some disappointment among those who planned to be Left Behind that there will be no post-Rapture parties (raves? barn dances? orgies? pig-outs at Hooters?) to celebrate the departure of the prigs and the prudes.

In the spirit of post-Rapture bacchanalia, however, I present four examples of the kind of music that might have been played at those non-stop dance parties.  Enjoy!

First, here's Skeeter Davis singing her hit country song, "Don't They Know It's the End of the World?," from "The Star Route Show" on television in 1963:

There has long been a rumor among high school debaters that Michael Stipe wrote the R.E.M. song "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" based upon his own experience as a debater, piling disadvantage upon disadvantage on top of the podium. As I understand it Stipe has denied the connection, but the rumors persist -- and no wonder, since the rhythms of the verse mimic the delivery of a debater at full-spread speed.
It would be a shame to forget Blondie's "Rapture," which charted 30 years ago and brought rap music to a wider audience. The video based on the song was also something of a genre-bender. (Videos were not widely seen back then; MTV didn't take to the airwaves until August 1981, eight months after "Rapture" was released.)
Finally, I want to add a song I heard performed by Elaine Paige the other night, in the new production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies at the Kennedy Center. Considering that the Rapture hasn't happened, what can be more appropriate than "I'm Still Here."

Here's the original Carlotta (Yvonne DeCarlo -- yes, Lily Munster), performing the song on a 1979 television show. (Unfortunately, whoever posted this on YouTube provided no more specific information about the program.) There's a slight hiccup at about 2 minutes in, cutting the words "Beverly Hills," but the rest is largely intact -- which is more than you can say for the original cast recording. (The vamp at the end is also cut short. C'est la vie!)

Enjoy the remains of your day -- even for Harold Camping, it's the first day of the rest of your life!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Waiting for the Rapture? May 21 Is Just Days Away

The unusually wet and rainy May weather has a lot of us feeling chilly this week.

A good number of our fellow humans are, at the same time, feeling a bit chiliastic, because they have accepted the prediction of radio preacher Harold Camping that the Rapture will begin this Saturday, May 21, with the world itself coming to an end five months later.

Camper is the owner of a network of religious radio stations called Family Radio, based in Oakland, California. As Stephen Cox noted in Liberty magazine in December 2010 (PDF; pp. 19ff), the network has some 100 stations in the United States and an unknown number of other stations elsewhere. He also points out that Camper predicted the world would end in 1994, but turned out to be wrong.

Not that Camper is alone. He's just the latest in a long line of false soothsayers whose predictions prove groundless. (I won't misuse the word "prophet" to describe Harold Camper. In a theological sense, prophecy has nothing to do with predicting future events. It's much more about speaking truth to power, as Nathan did with King David.) In fact, beginning with the Millerites in the 19th century, predicting the end-times has become something of an American religious tradition.

This sort of fascination with the end-times is, in fact, a fairly recent phenomenon. While the early Christians seemed to accept the idea of an imminent return of Jesus Christ, that belief dissipated rather quickly.

E. Ann Matter, a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in an essay called "Exegesis of the Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages" (found in The Year 1000: Religious and Social Response to the Turning of the First Millennium, edited by Michael Frassetto):

The last book of Christian Scripture, with its vivid imagery and sweeping promises of the triumph of the faithful over the persecutions of Antichrist, has always captured the imagination of Christians. Some contemporary groups fully expect to see the Last Days soon, and they offer exacting interpretations of the clues hidden in the last book of the New Testament for how this could happen. Sometimes these interpretations take the form of fiction [citing Tim LaHaye's and Jerry B. Jenkins' Left Behind series]. This is a long tradition. In fact, the Apocalypse was among the first biblical texts to be systematically explicated in Latin, even as it was one of the last to be accepted into the canon of the New Testament and given a liturgical role.
That early exegesis was, however, soon rejected by most orthodox Christians, and the Revelation of John took on a more allegorical function, beginning with interpretation of the book by St. Jerome (translator of the Bible into Latin). As Matter notes, "it would seem that at least from the earliest stage, the book appealed especially to those whose theology deviated from the orthodox consensus" [p. 29].

Several pages later, after reviewing the literature from the third century through the ninth and tenth, Matter goes on to point out:
All the Apocalypse commentaries from the Carolingian world thus show the continuing assumption of the text as an allegory of the Church, and a continuing process of filtering specific interpretations from earlier commentaries to support that assumption. There is little in these texts that shares the radical assumption of the imminent end evident in the Apocalypse which was such a subject of fascination to the earliest Christians and now again attracts a following. Instead, early medieval exegesis presents the Apocalypse as a book about the integrity and purity of the Church on earth [p. 36].
Last year, I interviewed Charlottesville writer Kristin Swenson about her widely-reviewed book, Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time.

She explained what the book is about in just a few words:
The book is for general readers. It does not take a particular religious perspective. It’s also not dismissive of persons of faith but provides background information about the Bible: what is the Bible, where does it come from, [and] what’s in it, so that folks can make sense of the way the Bible shows up in contemporary culture.
In Bible Babel, Swenson takes a couple of pages to discuss end-times theology and how different branches of Christianity -- not to mention Judaism -- hold very different views on the Rapture and the Second Coming. Let me quote her at length:
The idea that Jesus will return and take the faithful up into heaven at some dramatic moment in the world's last days has captured the imagination of thousands of fundamentalist, evangelical, and nondenominational Christians. "Rapture," the term used to describe this event, is not actually in the Bible. Bible-based Jews, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and many other Christian denominations do not accept the premise, yet Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins's creative depiction of the rapture in the Left Behind series has clearly struck a chord. Tens of millions of these books have sold since the first was released in 1995, and several have become popular movies.

Ironically, it's the faithful who are described by the term "left behind," in the rapture proponents' central biblical text -- 1 Thess 4:16-17. Paul wrote that passage to assure people that their loved ones who had died before Jesus' return would not be overlooked. Those who were dead, Paul wrote, will rise first, and then the living (the ones who were left behind) will join them, "caught up in the clouds ... to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever." The Greek word arpazo, translated "caught up," is raptus in Latin -- the basis for the English "rapture." Of course, what LaHaye and others mean by the people "left behind" is those who are not caught up at all.

Although the rapture as it's popularly understood has little biblical support, the idea that Jesus will return is prominently represented. Sometimes called the Parousia (reflecting its Greek root in "presence, coming"), the expectation of Jesus' returning to earth to initiate a new age permeates the New Testament, and it is a central feature of Christian doctrine and theology today. Even though the Bible strongly maintains that people cannot predict exactly when Jesus will return, people try anyway. Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), fairly certain that his was the end-time (specifically, the 1980s). Not everyone who believes in a coming rapture agrees about its chronological relationship to other end-time events, but they share the certainty that it will happen. Then, as a popular bumper sticker warns, "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned" -- to which unbelieving humorists respond with the bumper sticker, "Come the rapture, can I have your car?" In a curious twist, the Rapture Ready Index recommends that you "fasten your seatbelts" when the number measuring end-time-like world events indicates the speady approach of the rapture [pp. 215-16].
Stephen Cox concludes his December 2010 Liberty article [PDF; p. 22]:
What will happen next?

One thing is certain: the Rapture will not take place on May 21. Nor will the total destruction of the physical universe occur on the following October 21. But what will happen to Family Radio?

Will the Depart Out movement collapse, like the Millerites? Will the Campingites try to reinterpret their message, as they did after the disappointment of 1994? Will they succeed? Or will there be a palace revolution?

I believe that the last is likeliest. People who have invested their careers in an organization are reluctant to part from it, no matter what happens, and in this instance there has been good reason for dissenters to stay and bide their time. Camping is the sole source of the sect’s peculiar theology, and he is 89 years old. (Not that he is senile — he isn’t. His method of argument is the same that it was 25 years ago, when I first found him on the dial.) It is difficult to imagine that Family Radio’s internal proletariat hasn’t made plans for what happens after his death — or even before it, when May 21 fails to justify his teachings. I look for a battle at Family Radio; and with luck, the battle will be public.

In any case, we are unlikely to see a more informative experiment in what happens when prophecy — definite, ceaselessly emphasized, widely disseminated prophecy — unmistakably and climactically fails. Every student of American civilizationshould plan to tune in to Family Radio on May 21 — not with the possibility of being caught up to heaven, but with the certainty of being caught up in a fascinating event.
In an update ("The End Is Nigh") published on the Liberty web site on May 3 (the magazine converted to web-only earlier this year), Cox makes a suggestion that could make this coming weekend highly entertaining:
Harold Camping is not a politician or a professor of environmentalism, whose prophecies can never be proven wrong because they’re ridiculously non-specific. No, he has said exactly what he means by the end of the world, and he has said exactly when the end of the world will happen. You can check it. I hope you do. Go to Family Radio’s website, find out where its nearest radio station is, and tune in during the evening of May 20 (US time), when, Camping believes, Judgment Day will begin in the Fiji Islands. Then listen through the next few days, as Family Radio responds to the disconfirmation of its prophecies. Or does not respond — until it figures out how to do so (and that should be interesting also).
As for myself, after 16 years of Catholic education (and thus holding a fundamental rejection of newfangled fundamentalism), I think the best way to spend May 21 will be to party like it's 1999 -- perhaps listening to Blondie's classic recording, "Rapture."

Then, we can listen to Harold Camping's explanation for his mistaken calculations.  I have a hint for him:  he forgot to count leap-year days in his meticulous enumeration of the number of days from the Crucifixion to May 21, 2011.

Readers of this blog post may also like:  As the Millennium Turns (Revisited) from December 31, 2004.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

PVCC's 2011 Commencement Exercises at UVA's JPJ

After a fast-moving thunderstorm drenched the afterparty of last year's outdoor commencement ceremonies at Piedmont Virginia Community College, a new, indoor venue was sought and found.

It turns out, however, that the first choice -- University Hall -- became unavailable two weeks before the scheduled May 13 (that's Friday the 13th,, by the way) and a back-up plan became necessary.  Fortunately, the John Paul Jones Arena had no bookings that night, and PVCC officials worked quickly to adapt their seating and platform arrangements to the JPJ space.

Strategically placed black curtains set off most of the JPJ, permitting PVCC's 38th annual commencement exercises to be held indoors but without getting lost in the cavernous basketball arena's vastness.

About 400 students were awarded degrees of certificates, cheered on by family, friends, and teachers.  They heard speeches from Fifth District Congressman Robert Hurt (R-Chatham) and from graduating student Shagun Adhikari, who came here from Nepal to earn two degrees, one in computer science and the other in engineering, with plans to continue his studies at the University of Virginia.

PVCC president Frank Friedman, board chair Suzanne Morse Moomaw, and vice presidents John Donnelly and William Jackameit also offered brief remarks, as did Sasha Gong, a member of the State Board for Community Colleges.  Voice student James Tubbs sang the national anthem, as he did last year, and the Charlottesville Municipal Band offered a musical prelude and accompaniment to the processional and recessional.  (Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" for the former, naturally.)

After the ceremony, I was able to interview Congressman Hurt for  His answers to my questions resulted in two articles, "U.S. Representative Robert Hurt discusses eminent domain and redistricting" and "Robert Hurt answers questions on pending legislation and the Constitution."

After I finished, Hurt faced the cameras from Jessica Jaglois of the Newsplex and Derick Waller of NBC29.

The Daily Progress also has a report on the commencement ceremony.

Here are video highlights of the occasion, in four parts.

Part I features the procession of faculty and graduates, plus the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Part II has PVCC President Frank Friedman's welcome and demographic topology of the graduating class, and Sasha Gong's brief words.

In Part III
, Congressman Robert Hurt delivers his commencement address, after an introduction by Suzanne Morse Moomaw.
Part IV starts with vice president for instruction and student services John Donnelly's introduction of student speaker Shagun Adhikari, followed by closing comments by vice president for finance and administrative services William Jackameit, and a final benediction done call-and-repeat style by Mr. Adhikari.

Note:  After last year's ceremony, I interviewed Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson and Delegate Rob Bell.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Is There a Litmus Test for Conservative Republicans?

In April, it was announced by the American Conservative Union that Christopher Malagisi had been hired as the new director of CPAC (the annual Conservative Political Action Conference), succeeding Lisa De Pasquale.  Malagisi's appointment was part of a changing of the guard that included the retirement of longtime ACU chairman David Keene and the tapping of his successor, Al Cardenas.

It's no secret that the choice of Cardenas was seen by many as a rebuke to Keene (and perhaps, indirectly, to De Pasquale) for being too open to libertarian and non-social conservative ideas and groups.  (The conflict came to head -- if it wasn't actually a tempest in a teapot -- when several social conservative organizations claimed to boycott CPAC this year because of the presence of GOProud, a gay conservative group.)  The ACU board, it was alleged, wanted to shrink the "big tent" that CPAC had been under Keene's leadership.

Last week, Malagisi stepped into a political tourbillion when, writing an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, he set up a five-stage litmus test for conservative Republican candidates that, by his estimation, disqualified Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson as contenders for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.  (It's noteworthy that in 2011, Paul and Johnson came in first and third, respectively, in the annual CPAC presidential straw poll.)

In his article, Malagisi asked, not rhetorically:
Why do Republicans let people like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson participate in Republican presidential debates? They are obviously trying to win the “Who’s more Libertarian?” or “Who’s the least Republican” debate as opposed to the actual Republican debate taking place.
He argued that the Republican Party rests on five pillars (which he does not define):
The Republican Party as a whole though is based on five fundamental principles – individual freedom, limited government, free markets, a strong national defense, and preserving our traditional values and heritage. The modern Republican Party is based on the foundation of the conservative movement.

The conservative movement is a coalition made up of three disparate, yet amenable groups – classical liberals or libertarians, traditionalists, and anti-communists – or modernly referred to as fiscal, social, and defense conservatives. While each entity emphasizes different issues, they all work together in a political compact of sorts with a shared sense of reason operating within tradition. They also understand that together, as a fusionist coalition, they have the best chance of winning elections and actually legislating their conservative principles.
Malagisi's exclusionary position immediately came under fire, beginning with 92 comments on the Examiner's web site, nearly all of which were in disagreement with him.

Bloggers also took aim at Malagisi.

First out of the box was The Minority Report's Alex Knepper, who says in a piece called "Yes, Ron Paul Should Be Allowed To Debate" that he is no fan of either Ron Paul or Gary Johnson, yet he still called Malagisi's op-ed "misguided," adding:
The term ‘Republican,’ however, refers to party affiliation, not to political philosophy. Anyone whose priorities are right-of-center can find a home in the GOP. This is why Ronald Reagan, who famously stated that libertarianism represents “the heart and soul” of modern conservatism, remains the icon of a party in which Mike Huckabee, who believes that libertarianism is a greater threat to America than liberalism, finds himself leading many presidential polls.

The logic of exclusion would appear to be that candidates who espouse heresy should not be considered legitimate Republican candidates and should hence be shut out from the debates.

Really, now? What to do, then, about Rick Santorum, who has previously stated that he finds “the whole personal autonomy thing,” which Malagisi holds as a hallmark of modern conservatism, to be completely overrated?
Knepper concludes by saying:
As Malagisi probably knows deep-down, there is no such thing as this creature known as the “true conservative.” Conservatism proper is a disposition, not an ideology. It is an attitude toward life, not a checklist of particulars that can be legislated from on-high. It remains, as it always has been, an argument with itself. If Ron Paul is wrong about foreign policy — and I think that he is — then it’s up to others on the stage to demonstrate that he is wrong. I hope that they can do that, rather than take the cowardly route of shutting him down.
Oklahoma blogger Brian Altenhofel goes straight to Malagisi's list of five principles and finds them "exceptional," as you will see:
I would have expected a much better level of rationality from a "President of the Young Conservatives Coalition, a National Review Institute Washington Fellow, and an Adjunct Professor."

The Republican Party has been referred to recently as the The Party of No. But I don't think that's quite accurate the more that I read articles and hear people speak about alleged Republican principles. A more accurate term might be The Party of Buts — "...based on five fundamental principles – individual freedom (BUT only those we approve), limited government (BUT so long as 'limited' means 'slower than Democrats'), free markets (BUT with federal financial support of private companies), a strong national defense (BUT only if it includes nation-building and holding Israel high on a pedestal), and preserving our traditional values (BUT only if those values don't conflict with our personal religious beliefs) and heritage."
Another blogger, The Virginia Conservative, posted a lengthy rebuttal to Malagisi on Sunday, also calling him "misguided":
I believe that Malagisi’s conclusions are just flat out wrong. He starts out claiming that the Republican Party is a three-legged stool, a merging of libertarians, traditionalists, and anti-communists....

Malagisi’s work devolves into fairly mindless bashing of Paul and Johnson for embracing this libertarian or “classical liberal” wing. He claims that both men are more suited to be Democrats rather than Republicans because they don’t support the war on terror or imposed moral standards coming out of Washington D.C. Doesn’t it seem strange that Malagisi admits there are three legs of the party, while at the same time seeking to saw off one entirely? Although this news may come as a shock to those who lack either common sense or a basic understanding of physics, but this two-legged stool that Malagisi seems to be advocating cannot stand.,,,

Both Paul and Johnson are a welcome change to the current Republican politicians as usual who advocate a blend of fiscal irresponsibility, moral pandering absent any real commitment for meaningful legislation, wars without end, and the shredding of our Constitution. Now, I will admit that Johnson is too libertarian for my tastes, after all, I am a social conservative. However, with the recent debate as a guide, I would support him over Rick Santorum. Although Santorum and I agree on many social issues, his statements in the debate lead me to fear that he would support an agenda more akin to fascism than liberty.

Despite what you may think from this post and others populating this blog, I am not a libertarian. However, as a constitutional or paleo-conservative, I see libertarians as allies as we both seek to rein in the power of the federal government. We can and do disagree on a number of social issues, like abortion and defending our borders, but the party should welcome these folks to counterbalance the Republicans who abandon any notion of limiting the power of government while Republicans reign....

I would wager that either Malagisi is woefully ignorant of Paul and the conservative movement (unlikely) or he is a neoconservative who longs for the return to big government Republicanism. Either way, I encourage my fellow traditional conservatives and libertarians to steer clear of his poisonous rhetoric. Although he is welcome to his opinions, given his current political position, I fear how many other potential allies will become unknowingly tainted by his misguided and baseless words.
One final example.

Pulling no punches, the Northern Virginia Conservative begins like this:
I just can't stop myself...
...from fisking this piece from stereotypical neoconservadouche Chris Malagisi. This guy is one of Newt Gingrich's henchmen, and periodically plugs him, and even started this page on facebook to "draft" Newtie. I, of course, couldn't stop myself back then, either... and this appeared. Whoops.
And he ends like this:
Spare me your smarm, your condescension and your arrogance. No sale. Don't you have a Newtie event to go to?
In addition to the comments on the Washington Examiner's web site and the well-considered rebuttals on blogs, there has also been chatter about Malagisi's commentary piece on Facebook and Twitter. If his ill-considered attack on two solid conservatives -- Ron Paul votes "no" on virtually everything that comes to the floor of the House of Representatives, on the basis that Congress lacks the constitutional authority to do virtually everything it does, and Gary Johnson vetoed 750 pieces of legislation during his eight years as New Mexico governor, arguing that most of it was fiscally irresponsible -- has not already been withdrawn, you can bet that he'll think more carefully about making similar attacks in the future. It would be unseemly, not to say uneconomical, for the new director of CPAC to make enemies of the people who buy about half of the tickets to that annual conservative event.

For other blog posts that discuss disputes and divisions between conservatives and libertarians, check out "Mt. Vernon Is No Sharon" (February 16, 2010); "Rick Santorum's Views on Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan" (October 16, 2010);"Yep, I'm a Mugwump" (March 15, 2006); and "Obsessed with Sex" (February 22, 2010).

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Friedrich Hayek: 19th-Century-Born Video Star of the 21st Century

Sunday's New York Times featured a book review by Francis Fukuyama of a new edition of Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty, originally published in 1960 by the University of Chicago Press (the same publisher of the new edition, which is edited by historian Ronald Hamowy).

As Fukuyama notes in his first paragraph, Hayek -- who was born in 1899 and who died two decades ago -- is enjoying something of a renaissance of interest:

The publication of the definitive edition of Friedrich A. Hayek’s “Constitution of Liberty” coincides with the unexpected best-seller status of his earlier book “The Road to Serfdom” as a result of its promotion by the conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck. In an age when many on the right are worried that the Obama administration’s reform of health care is leading us toward socialism, Hayek’s warnings from the mid-20th century about society’s slide toward despotism, and his principled defense of a minimal state, have found strong political resonance.
That Glenn Beck is a fan of Friedrich Hayek should not be held against Hayek, because the Austrian-born Nobel laureate -- who also wrote about politics, society, philosophy, and culture -- is admired by far more intellectually solid individuals, not just Lonesome Rhodes types but also university teachers, think-tank scholars, journalists, business executives, and rap-music video producers.

Rap-music video producers?

Indeed, a surprising YouTube hit of recent months has been "'Fear the Boom and Bust' a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem," produced by George Mason University economist Russell Roberts and video artist John Papola. Since its Internet debut in January 2010, "Fear the Boom and Bust" has racked up 2,212,104 hits (and counting), leading to a sequel that was released on April 27, "Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two," which has had 589,253 views in less than two weeks.

That's a lot of fans for two economists who ended up in the long run just as Keynes predicted they would.  Still, their ideas are still alive.

Here are the two videos.  You can judge their intellectual (and entertainment) quality for yourself.

"Fear the Boom and Bust":

"Round Two":
For those interested in diving deeper into the continuing controversy among public intellectuals about Hayek, his ideas, and his legacy, take a look at the Mercatus Center's Peter Boettke's brief response at Coordination Problem to Fukuyama (who has his own new book on store shelves now, part one of The Origins of Political Order).  I'm sure it is just the start of a stimulating conversation.

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Friday, May 06, 2011

Arthur Laurents Remembered

Arthur Laurents memoir biographyNews of the death of Broadway playwright, librettist, director -- and novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter -- Arthur Laurents sent me looking through my archives.

Although I never had the privilege of meeting or interviewing Laurents, his name pops up frequently in my writing about the stage.

First, an introduction to those who might be unfamiliar with Laurents' work, from a Los Angeles Times obituary by Charles McNulty that refers to him in its headline as "prickly":

Arthur Laurents, who died Thursday as an exceptionally young nonagenarian, was one musical theater writer who was impossible to overlook. Dismiss him — and how could you dismiss the man who wrote the books for "West Side Story" and "Gypsy"? — and you'd have your head handed to you, no matter if you were a lowly reviewer or a formidable diva.
Charles Isherwood's obituary in the New York Times hits many of the same notes:
It’s amusing to note that the notoriously pugnacious Mr. Laurents, who never met a score he didn’t want to settle, was involved in two of the most fruitful (if often fraught) collaborations in musical-theater history. From the collisions of artists can arise work that doesn’t just benefit from the tensions of the collaborative process, but somehow embodies them: dance, drama and song are as tightly integrated in both “Gypsy” and “West Side Story” as they are in any major American musical.
NPR, referring to a 1990 interview with Laurents on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, sums things up like this:
Laurents started his career in radio and later wrote Hollywood film scripts. But his big career break came on the Broadway stage in the late 1950s, when both Gypsy and West Side Story premiered. Laurents wrote the script for both musicals and later directed two revivals of Gypsy, with Angela Lansbury and Tyne Daly in the title role.
One anecdote from Laurents' life comes from a blog post I published in June 2007, titled "Judy Garland and Homosexual Identity," which was sort of a mini-review of a coffee-table book called When I Knew. Laurents tells a story in the book from his pre-teen years:
Let Us Be GayMy favorite entry -- perhaps because it emphasizes the value of words and how artifice affects one's reality -- comes from playwright Arthur Laurents, who writes on page 50 about growing up in the 1930s:
When I was twelve, I had sex with one of the kids on the block. We also went to the movies together and one day saw the picture called, Let Us Be Gay. Back then "gay" merely meant bright, lively, merry, but for some unfathomable reason, whenever one of us wanted sex, we used the code phrase "Let Us Be Gay." I think we may have pioneered the use of "gay" to mean homosexual sex. More meaningful than a Tony or Oscar, but not quite worthy of the Nobel.
Arthur Laurents -- librettist and neologist.
Other articles I have written that refer to Arthur Laurents include reviews of various productions of West Side Story and Gypsy, including the most recent revival of the former, which was directed by a nonagenarian Laurents, who also revised the libretto to include Spanish dialogue (and lyrics), but -- bowing to the realities of audience demands and expectations -- later re-revised the book to remove the Spanish passages.

Here's a list of Arthur Laurents-related content on this blog:
Today Stephen Sondheim Is 80 (includes review of Gypsy at Heritage Repertory Theatre in Charlottesville)
Sondheim at 75 (Part Four) (includes review of London revival of West Side Story)
Liveblogging the Tony Awards (from 2008)
Lower East Side Story (about the West Side Story's collaborative team being Jewish and gay)
Interview with Cody Green of 'West Side Story' (from the latest Broadway revival)
Review of 'West Side Story' (from January 10, 2009)

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Vote of Confidence

Every two weeks or so, the editors at send out a newsletter to the site's 25,000-plus contributors (known as "Examiners").

Today's newsletter landed in my inbox at about 5:00 p.m. and included this nugget that surprised and pleased me:

There have been many exceptional articles regarding bin Laden's death, and two Examiners have done a standout job with always-professional, on-topic coverage: Political Buzz Examiner Ryan Witt and Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner Richard Sincere.
My three articles on the reactions to news of Osama bin Laden's execution in Pakistan must have reached the editorial suites in Denver, where is based. Those three had search-engine-friendly headlines, which may have helped bring them attention:
Virginia political leaders react to news of Osama bin Laden’s death

Libertarian reactions to the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces

More Virginia political leaders react to news of Osama bin Laden’s death
Congratulations to fellow Examiner Ryan Witt for sharing in this vote of confidence.

Meanwhile, watch this space. If the place where I am viewing tonight's Republican presidential candidates' debate from Greenville, South Carolina, has a wi-fi connection, I will be liveblogging the proceedings.