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Ed Driscoll

All You Need Is Ears

Greatest. Headline. Ever. Courtesy of Reuters and Yahoo:

The singer Chubby Checker has settled a lawsuit in which he accused Hewlett-Packard Co of using his trademarked name without permission on a software app that purported to measure the size of a man’s penis.

HP denied liability in agreeing to settle with Checker, whose given name is Ernest Evans, but agreed not to make future use of his stage name, likeness or related trademarks.

The settlement was disclosed in a Tuesday filing with the San Francisco federal court. Other terms remain confidential. It is unclear whether money changed hands.

He said hands. [Insert Beavis and Butthead chuckle here.]

But what exactly was the once staid and respectable firm of Hewlett-Packard thinking, when they created or began marketing what Reuters describes as an app “which purported to let women estimate the size of a man’s genitals based on his shoe size” in the first place?

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

“Notwithstanding two years of headlines re Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and others, not everyone at the Beeb in my day was a paedophile — or at least I don’t think so,” Mark Steyn wrote last week, in a profile of Rolf Harris, who at the end of last month was “found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on young girls in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties,” Mark writes:

Just about the only part of my career I truly regret was the time I spent at the BBC, who very kindly fired me back in the Nineties. Otherwise, I’d have a lot more time to regret. Notwithstanding two years of headlines re Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and others, not everyone at the Beeb in my day was a paedophile — or at least I don’t think so. Nonetheless, it was something of a shock to hear that Rolf Harris has been found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on young girls in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. As I said when he was charged nine months ago, it almost certainly marks the demise of his small but enduring catalogue of novelty songs. “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” and “Jake The Peg (With The Extra Leg)” delighted generations of children in both Britain and Australia, but it’s hard to see them getting much airplay now, or any other singer reviving them given the name of the author.

I knew none of that when I selected Rolf Harris’ biggest hit as Steyn’s Song of the Week to mark his 80th birthday in 2010. We reprint it here as an elegy for a number we’re unlikely to be hearing much of after yesterday’s verdict:

Naturally, England’s left are taking the news about as well as you’d expect. “Some university academics make the case for paedophiles at summer conferences,” Andrew Gilligan of the London Telegraph wrote on Saturday:

Last week, after the conviction of Rolf Harris, the report into Jimmy Savile and claims of an establishment cover-up to protect a sex-offending minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, Britain went into a convulsion of anxiety about child abuse in the Eighties. But unnoticed amid the furore is a much more current threat: attempts, right now, in parts of the academic establishment to push the boundaries on the acceptability of child sex.

A key factor in what happened all those decades ago in the dressing rooms of the BBC, the wards of the NHS and, allegedly, the corridors of power was not just institutional failings or establishment “conspiracies”, but a climate of far greater intellectual tolerance of practices that horrify today.

With the Pill, the legalisation of homosexuality and shrinking taboos against premarital sex, the Seventies was an era of quite sudden sexual emancipation. Many liberals, of course, saw through PIE’s cynical rhetoric of “child lib”. But to others on the Left, sex by or with children was just another repressive boundary to be swept away – and some of the most important backing came from academia.

As one of Glenn Reynolds’ commenters quips, “the day is coming when the Catholic Church will be excoriated not for covering up pedophilia, but for opposing it.”

Meanwhile, at the newspaper of choice for those who practice the religion of socialism in England, “Guardian blogger Jonathan Jones feels vindicated. He alone once had the courage to call the inexplicably famous Rolf Harris a shitty painter to his face, and now Harris is a convicted child molester, so there. Or something,” Kathy Shaidle writes, noting that Jones wrote “a particularly sweeping statement of smug class-conscious snobbery, even by Guardian standards.”

Jones sneered, “Perhaps it all goes to show that the middlebrow is inherently corrupt.” As Kathy responds:

Jones didn’t even bother name checking the usual convicts—disgraced American daubist Thomas Kinkade; serial killer-cum-clown painter John Wayne Gacy; the freeze-dried personification of evil Amerikkka, Walt Disney—to bolster his theory. Why bother?

Pointing to frustrated artist Hitler’s taste for baroque spectacle and corny symbolism, leftists have equated lower- and middlebrow kitsch with fascism for generations, and “fascism” with “anything they don’t approve of” rather more recently. (When I still “worked” with flaky progressives, my complaints about their inefficiency were always met with a somber, “Mussolini made the trains run on time, you know…”)

If earnest, unironic kitsch is Nazi Germany, then its first cousin—gay, “edgy,” winking camp (which the left adores)—is Weimar. And we all know who won that scuffle. But leftists love nothing so much as a lost cause. Camp is the Spanish Civil War of aesthetics.

The Nazis may have won the scuffle, but Weimar really won the war, as its intellectuals fled Nazi Germany, resulting in Weimar culture and its worldview being spread far and wide, as Allan Bloom perceptively noted in 1987′s The Closing of the American Mind. I suspect a Weimar-era boulevardier of 1920s-era Berlin put into a time machine and fast-forwarded into today’s London, New York, Hollywood, or San Francisco would find much to approve of those cities’ culture and nightlife, and the values their media pumps out to the rest of the world.

Today’s middlebrow may well be “inherently corrupt,” but I wonder if anybody at the Guardian will explore how it got that way — and explain why, from their perspective, they consider that corruption to be a bad thing?

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

June 16th, 2014 - 7:14 pm

An Alternet author has a sad because her local supermarket plays the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” in the background. Or as Matt Welch writes at Reason, “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But the Rolling Stones Should Be Banned From Trader Joe’s!”

Today’s not-The-Onion headline comes from AlterNet:

Trader Joe’s NYC Store Defends ‘Racist, Sexist, and Misogynistic’ Songs on Playlist

Even after Elliot Rodger’s killing spree, Trader Joe’s manager says the store will keep playing a famous song that demeans women.

Even after Elliot Rodger’s killing spree! The nerve of these supermarket managers, not policing their Muzak to weed out songs that no one besides an AlterNet contributor could dream of linking to the Isla Vista massacre! Author Lynn Stuart Parramore goes on to describe her confrontation with store management over the misogynistic classic “Under My Thumb“:

Why should I have to hear about a guy comparing his girlfriend to a dog while I’m buying vegetables?

I decided to ask Trader Joe’s this question. Just so they would know I wasn’t making things up, I printed out the lyrics to “Under My Thumb” and brought them into the store with me. I was directed to a young man named Kyle Morrison at the manager’s station, to whom I explained in friendly terms that I was a frequent shopper and that I had heard a song playing over the sound system which, in the wake of the Elliot Rodger killing spree, made me feel uncomfortable. I told him the name of the song, and offered him the paper with the lyrics. [...]

Without looking at the page, Morrison’s first response was to tell me rather smugly that art was a matter of interpretation. I asked him to read the lyrics, and let me know how he interpreted them. He said he didn’t have time, so I read off a few for him.

“Do you think those lyrics are offensive to women?” I asked.

He looked uncomfortable. “It’s just like the radio in your car,” he argued. “There are all kinds of songs playing on different stations.” [...]

I did manage to reach Trader Joe’s customer service department and spoke to someone named “Nicki” (she refused to give her last name), who told me robotically that the music lists were set and Trader Joe’s would not change them.

“Even if they are offensive to women shopping in your stores?” I asked. “No one ever complains,” she said curtly. “I’m complaining,” I replied.

Why yes, Lynn, you are!

Misogyny being a regrettable part of life; romantic struggle being the single biggest subject of pop/rock music, and art being art, we will always have songs that fail the Parramore Test.

It’s nice to know that even as he’s a month away from turning 71 years old, Mick Jagger can still offend someone. But to understand how this moment came to be, return with us now to the not-so-thrilling days of 36 years ago, when supermarkets and retail stores still universally played easy listening instrumental Muzak in the background. When my father built his retail store in South Jersey in 1977 and installed an AM/FM receiver and overhead speakers in the customer portion of the store, one of my first questions about it went something like this:

ED JR.: Dad, can we put the radio in the store on WYSP or WMMR [then the two biggest rock stations in neighboring Philadelphia]?

ED SR.: No.

ED JR.: Aww, how come?

ED SR.: We’re going to play [whoever was the easy listening instrument station in Philadelphia.] Because the music isn’t for us. It’s for the customers.

Presumably, boomers with dads who owned businesses had conversations like that throughout the post-Beatles-era America, until one day, Dads got fed up enough to collectively give in, and said in unison, “Fine. Leave us alone — put whatever the hell you want on in the background if it’ll make you happy,” and the boomers won the argument.

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Look on the bright side — the New York Times has finally found a business it can defend, pushing back against the dangers of the left insanely promoting income inequality as a meme in the process:

The acquisition also included the expensive Beats headphones — $300 and up in a variety of colors so they also serve as fashion accessory. People will still pay large money for devices, and this weekend, thousands of people will spend at least $250 for three-day access to the Governor’s Ball Music Festival in New York. It’s a curious disconnect: Fans will pay top dollar for a music accessory or a music event. They just won’t pay for, oh yeah, music.

Writing in The Daily Beast last week, the musician Van Dyke Parks said that in the good old days, a song he recently wrote with Ringo Starr would have provided him “with a house and a pool.” But at current royalty rates, he estimated that he and the former Beatle would make less than $80, which means he will have to choose between a dollhouse and a kiddie pool and then share it with Mr. Starr.

Superstars like Beyoncé can drop an unannounced bomb on iTunes and sell a million copies in under two weeks, but most artists are having trouble treading water in the stream. Streaming services argue that as their subscriber base grows, musicians will be able to survive on many small slices of a very big pie.

On the bus ride home from dinner last week, I streamed most of the wonderful new album from Parquet Courts, courtesy of the Something for Nothing paradox. The $6 grapes were delicious, by the way, but I consumed them slowly and consciously, each one carrying not only lusciousness, but the knowledge that I had paid for them.

As someone who has watched the music industry go from a vibrant hit-making machine to near irrelevancy in the course of a couple of decades, I’m sympathetic to archliberal David Carr’s article, but the Times is arguably the worst place for it to be running. This is the newspaper that regularly rails against excessive consumerism by publishing profiles feigning praise for New Yorkers who have lived without toilet paper for a year, or articles on why the Third World should forgo the same air conditioning that cools the Times’ Eighth Avenue office building and Thomas Friedman’s mansion. (Even as the Times defends aerosol-powered graffiti vandals over the owners of private property they’ve defaced.) The paper that began the 1990s by running Al Gore’s manifesto comparing global warming to Kristallnacht, and concluded 2012 by calling for an end to the Constitution. If the environment is in such perilous condition that we must forgo air conditioning and toilet paper, CDs and iPods are the ultimate non-essential luxury.

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‘Disco Doesn’t Suck. Here’s Why.’

June 3rd, 2014 - 11:32 pm

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At Reason this month, Jesse Walker is tackling the important topics, reviewing “Jamie Kastner’s The Secret Disco Revolution, a documentary/mockumentary hybrid from 2012:”

The movie is happy to mock the musicians as well as the academics. In the film’s funniest sequence, the current members of the Village People brazenly assert that there was nothing gay about their material, claiming that “there was not one double entendre in any of the music” and that “In the Navy” was written as an earnest celebration of sea life. This is intercut with an interview with Henri Belolo, who wasn’t a member of the band but produced their records, co-wrote many of their songs, and played a major role in inventing their image. As the singers issue their denials, Belolo talks about “how we created a gay-positive message” and discusses the barely hidden gay-cruising subtext of “YMCA.” At that moment, the Village People become a different type of revisionists, rewriting their history with the self-confidence of a Soviet censor snipping Trotsky out of a photo. Or maybe they’re being poker-faced jokers, too. But I don’t think so: At the end of the movie, right before the credits roll, we see some post-interview footage of a Village Person pretending to throttle Kastner as he warns the filmmaker that he reads too many books.

Naturally the film mentions “the infamous Disco Demolition Night of 1979, when disco-hating rockers blew up a bunch of dance records in a baseball stadium,” dubbing it and other anti-disco rhetoric from the period an attack on disco’s “mass liberation of gays, blacks, and women from the clutches of a conservative, rock-dominated world.”

Because, racism. And homophobia. And fear of white polyester suits as well, I guess.

But in reality, 1979 was a unique quiet highpoint for rock. MTV was two years away, and dinosaurs still thundered the earth: all four Beatles were still alive and recording, Led Zeppelin was still around and released their underrated last album as an intact band, In Through the Out Door, Pink Floyd released The Wall, and Bill Wyman was the only member of the Rolling Stones over 40. While Keith Moon had recently gone off to The Great Practice Hall In The Sky, The Who were more visible than ever, with multiple albums, movies, tours, and the debut of Pete Townshend’s solo career. And while Punk Rock had been something of a bust in America, a group of New Wave artists with the same DIY ethos of punk, but with much better chops: Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, The Police, The Cars, Blondie – and even Tom Petty was shoved into the New Wave slot for his early albums (QED). On Saturday nights in South Jersey, I used to tune to the car radio to 91.3 FM WTSR, the College of New Jersey radio station, which when atmospheric conditions were right, could be heard pumping out these and more obscure artists, little knowing it would be my future alma mater.

So no wonder disco, with its constant four-on-the-floor drumming, limited dynamics, and ultra-slick production seemed like “plastic soul,” to coin a phrase, considering how vibrant rock was, before it eventually garnered a plastic sheen all its own:

However, as I said last year when I wrote a lengthy review titled, “Turn the Beat Around: A Reformed Disco Hater Looks Back at Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco,” had I known what was coming for black music – the non-melodic dead-end of rap music – I would never been as dismissive about disco.

But then arguably, rock would exhaust itself by the end of the 1980s. You could probably make a case that both genres ended on similar notes: Disco was the last gasp of the pop-oriented R&B professionalism of Motown; the hair metal of the following decade was the last gasp of the genre of hard rock invented by Cream, Jimi Hendrix, the Yardbirds, and Led Zeppelin. Rap would replace disco, death metal would replace its more melodic predecessor, and both would quickly hit brick walls.

Today, as Mark Steyn recently noted, “A performance of the Village People’s disco classic “YMCA” by the Bennett Elementary School First Grade class has been canceled because …oh, go on, guess.”

“Wrong, it’s racist,” Mark added. A class of Fargo first graders can’t perform the song, not because of its camp gay single entendres, but because one of the kids’ mothers “said asking her daughter and her classmates to dress up like an Indian is offensive.”

However weird the 1970s were – and believe me, they were plenty weird – at least political correctness wasn’t yet an issue. These days, in sharp contrast, as the headline on Mark’s post notes, “Young Man, There’s Any Number of Needs to Feel Down.”  (And don’t let anybody hear you sing another disco-era hit, “Kung Fu Fighting,” whilst hitting the bars on the Isle of Wight, either.)

In other words, come back Deny Terrio – all is forgiven!

Get David Gregory on the Case!

May 30th, 2014 - 2:18 pm

“BREAKING: Obama Administration Kids Broke D.C. Law in Music Video,” reports the Washington Free Beacon — and fair is fair; since there’s no aspect of life the administration doesn’t want to politicize, Alinsky’s Rule Four demands that they — and their offspring — obey those same rules themselves.

I don’t want to steal the Beacon’s photos, so here’s the backstory: the preteen sons of Obama’s advisors, including Jay Carney, last seen kissing Obama’s suit jacket on the way out, formed a rock group, and recorded a paint-by-numbers song and equally formulaic accompanying video. As Sonny Bunch noted in a post titled “Awful Children Release Awful Song,” “And here, ladies and gentlemen, is everything wrong with the Beltway set: It’s all about who you know, not what you can do:”

You’re a kid who can kinda hold a guitar or prance around the stage while whinily singing nonsense? Let’s professionally produce a song and a video and get you some attention in the press! These little twerps will probably have a keynote gig at the Democratic convention lined up by the end of next week. You can watch their caterwauling here:

In the follow-up post at the Beacon, Andrew Stiles writes, “Some awful Democrats are outraged and calling for Sonny’s head:”

What they should REALLY be outraged about is the complete disregard for basic child safety measures, not to mention the blatant flouting of D.C. bike laws, on display in the “Heart Thief” video, which features the “band” skateboarding and riding around on bikes in our nation’s capital WITHOUT HELMETS. According to a Free Beacon analysis, that’s awful.

* * * * * * *

It is unclear if the children (who are all under the age of 16) were apprehended and fined during the course of shooting the video, or if they are first time offenders. The good news is that their parents can probably afford the fines. But on the other hand: WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?

The revelations come just one day after President Obama hosted a conference at the White House to highlight the dangers of head injuries among young athletes.

Perhaps the Twenty20 kids should take after their Sidwell Friends classmate Malia Obama, and her helmet-wearing biker dad.

I’m sure David Gregory will be breaking this story wide open on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

“MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry: NBA Is About ‘Profit From the Sale of Black Bodies,’” as spotted by Tom Blumer of NewsBusters:

Melissa Harris-Perry seems to have a problem with some African-Americans making a lot of money in professional sports, apparently because some other people also make money in the process. Specifically, she seems to believe that the relationship between players in the National Basketball Association and their teams’ owners is a form of slavery.

It’s hard to conclude otherwise based on statements made by the MSNBC host this past Saturday. Perry introduced her segment about the Mark Cuban “controversy,” wherein the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks expressed self-preservation-related desires — which he inexplicably attributed to being personally “prejudiced” and “bigoted” — to move to the other side of the street upon seeing a “black kid in a hoodie” or “a white guy with a shaved head and lot of tattoos,” by saying: “You can’t really talk about (slavery) reparations and ignore the modern day wealthy Americans who own teams made up predominantly of black men and profit from their bodies and labor.”

Blumer goes on to quote Tom Tillison of BizPac Review, who notes that “For the record, NBA players are the highest paid professional athletes in America, easily surpassing all other major team sports:”

According to Forbes, the average salary in the NBA in 2012 was $5.15 million a year. With the average career lasting 4.8 years, that equates to $24.7 million in total compensation — this is the “average.” The NBA’s top player, Kobe Bryant, yes a black man, earned $30.4 million for the 2013-14 season, USA Today reported.

The chief reason professional athletes arrive in the One Percent (to borrow from the left’s lingo) is because of the amount of television revenue professional sports such as the NBA bring in. To end this system, Perry is de facto calling for the end of televised sports. As an on-air personality of MSNBC, she’s also a spokeswoman for Comcast, the giant cable company which co-owns the network. It shouldn’t be difficult at all for her to arrange a meeting with the top brass there, during which she can call for the end of televised sports.* I’m sure the Comcast board will heed her advice, right?

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Can You See The Real Me?

May 2nd, 2014 - 1:43 pm
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Quadrophenia celebrated the 35th anniversary of its debut at the movies today, according to Kathy Shaidle, who links to the film’s trailer, and an hour-long “Making Of” video.

I became a huge fan of The Who in response to The Kids Are Alright, both the 1979 movie and the soundtrack double album (an actual album, long before there were tiny silver CDs), and its accompanying booklet filled with beautifully written hagiography by British rock critic Roy Carr. (I just checked the author’s name; it’s one of the few actual LPs I still own, complete with price tag indicating it was purchased One Million Years Before CD at the Turntable record store in Willingboro, NJ.)

I loved the sturm und drang of the roaring original Quadrophenia album from 1973, and played it endlessly (and still do from time to time). So when the movie version of Quadrophenia followed the Kids Are Alright movie out of the gate, I eagerly anticipated it. When I saw it, though, I had a very difficult time reconciling that the music, sung by Roger Daltrey in all his hard rocking macho glory, was built around Jimmy the Mod, a scrawny little 16-year old shrimp of a kid puttering around on his Vespa scooter. For a guy who grew up among classmates in suburban New Jersey who owned Camaros, Mustangs and Mopars, it was cognitive dissonance in the extreme.

But then, most of the iconography of the early 1960s British Mods initially seemed impenetrable, except for two things: rationing and information ricochet. The mods were a rebellion against the last stages of the postwar rationing maintained by its socialist government, which hadn’t ended until the late 1950s, a rebellion built around what we would now call conspicuous consumption, of American Brooks Brothers Ivy League clothes, Italian scooters and the La Dolce Vita lifestyle depicted in Italian cinema, and American Motown music.

As opposed to their arch rivals, the Rockers, who worshiped American 1950s rock and roll, and the image that Marlon Brando cultivated in The Wild One.

And with their rival obsessions over American culture, both the British mods and rockers were enmeshed in what Tom Wolfe used to describe in the late 1970s and early 1980s as “Information Ricochet,” such as in this 1983 interview (with Ron Reagan, of all people):

The history of punk seems to go as follows: It was picked up by young English people and used in somewhat the same way that Los Angeles teenagers used the word rotten to mean good. Punk had a certain genuine quality at the outset in England as a kind of version of the great gob of spit in the face of the class system. So there was this elaborate glorification of things rotten, as in the name Johnny Rotten. Then it was brought to this country in magazines. It had no roots in this country whatsoever. Young people read about it, and the shops existed before the phenomenon. It just caught on as a fashion. This is what I think of as information ricochet. The Hell’s Angels, for example, didn’t exist until the movie The Wild One. They looked at The Wild One and said, “Oh, that’s the way it’s done. ” So they took their own name and insignia and stuff, and Roger Corman came by and said, “Oh, that’s the way it’s done,” and made a movie called The Wild Angels. And the Hell’s Angels came by and said, “That’s a nice idea; we’ll do that.” That’s information ricochet. Punk was developed the same way, and the only genuine thing about it is a general impulse among people in their late teens to thumb their nose at the ongoing attempts to make them act like adults, which begin to seem like an imposition and rather boring. So you glorify wanton, impudent violence.

Of course, the information ricochet surrounding the mods and their story was endless. As Franc Roddam, the director of the film version, notes in the making of documentary that Kathy links to, he originally wanted to cast punk rockers, to help make the film more accessible to young audiences in the late 1970s. Roddam claims that Johnny Rotten had an excellent screen test, but he was unable to get insurance on the musician, based on the Sex Pistols’ destructive reputation. The film makers settled for Sting as supporting character, in one of his first movie roles.

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The Passing Parade Grows Larger

April 23rd, 2014 - 2:20 pm

Ezra Levant of Canada’s Sun News calls it “a riveting collection of stories chronicling the lives of the men and women who helped shape the 20th century,” and he’s right. For a perfect snapshot of what life was like among the overculture – in the media, in pop culture, and in politics in the last and first decade of the new and old millennium, simply read the profiles Steyn has crafted for his Passing Parade. The book is an anthology of his obits, written for National Review, the Spectator (both its UK and American incarnations), the London Telegraph, and until 2007, a monthly staple of the Atlantic. That the Atlantic traded Steyn for a multi-year dalliance with leftwing former Brit Andrew Sullivan is a classic example of ideologically-driven managerial incompetence. The following year, Excitable Andrew assumed the role of America’s Foremost Uterine Detective, and the Atlantic, even after Sullivan left in 2011 for first the Daily Beast and then (at the moment at least) a solo career last year, seemed doomed to live out the epic 86-year old curse of the Boston Red Sox after they discarded Babe Ruth in 1919.

And at the moment, not even Xenu can save them.

For everyone else, check out Mark Steyn’s Passing Parade, finally on Kindle, and updated with numerous obits added since its initial publication in 2006 on dead tree, ranging from Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Eugene McCarthy, to Bob Hope and Alistair Cooke, to Evel Knievel and Tupac Shakur. (The last pair are joined by the leitmotif of Mark quoting the lyrics of Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen.” Coincidence? You be the judge!)

The other night, after staying up too late watching an episode of Rumbole of the Bailey on the Acorn channel on my Roku set-top box, I clicked over to the Vemo channel. Acorn is devoted to classic British TV series, such as the Poirot murder mysteries, Brideshead Revisited, Edward & Mrs. Simpson, and the aforementioned Rumbole, starring veteran British actor (and occasionally scenery devouring over-actor) Leo McKern in the eponymous role. Vevo is an entirely different channel, one that also has a large YouTube presence, as a repository for rock videos old and new. At the start of the week, while listening to Sirius-XM on headphones while working, I heard Aerosmith’s “Jaded” song from 2001 for the first time in ages, and Joe Perry’s riff, which sounds inspired by Jimmy Page’s sharp-suspended fourth riff on Led Zeppelin’s “Dancin’ Days” rapidly became an earwig, playing over and over in my head.

So I thought I’d check out the video for the song, since Vevo generally does a very good job with running the videos in HD with full-range audio. And really – who doesn’t conclude a segment from a 1978 Thames Television show about an aging British barrister by saying, “Well, now that I’ve seen Rumpole of the Bailey, it’s time for some classic Aerosmith!” But I’m me, and that’s how my brain works, after years of having been badly mutated through massive Chernobyl-level  overdoses of pop culture.

While Vevo’s clips are free to watch, they’re often preceded by commercials for various products that sponsors believe would be appropriate for a rock video audience. However, in this case, the video was not preceded by a commercial, but by a public service announcement (PSA) designed to encourage young people to stop smoking.

Through the use of the most disgusting imagery possible.

The PSA began with a young man entering a convenience store and asking for a pack of cigarettes. Plunking a five dollar bill and his ID on the counter, he asks the clerk, “This enough?” Whereupon the clerk says, “Nope, there’s one more thing I need” – and proceeds to rip the customer’s front teeth out with a pair of pliers.

As James Lileks would say, pure 100 proof nightmare fuel.

Once the pliers came out, I averted my eyes until Steve and Joe and the boys began playing. I understand that not everyone realizes that excessive smoking can have injurious effects on a person’s dentition — and that Seinfeld is no longer on the air to remind them of this fact. At which point the juxtaposition was grimly hilarious, considering that Steve Tyler and Joe Perry used wear T-shirts in their rock videos describing themselves as “the Toxic Twins” – by the late 1970s and early ‘80s, before they went through maximum-strength rehab, puffs from a Marlboro 100 were by far the healthiest thing they were putting into their bodies.

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My Back Pages

April 9th, 2014 - 1:47 pm

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common…Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Armey, who explains that the problem with “people who do not cherish America the way we do” is that “they did not read the Federalist Papers.”)

Rolling Stone, “The Truth About the Tea Party,” September 28, 2010.

Flash-forward to today:

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“Rolling Stone Mistakenly Plants John Hancock on Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Back,” Josh Encinias, at the NRO Corner today. As Justin Green of the Washington Examiner tweets, “Pro tip: John Hancock didn’t sign the Constitution.”

But it’s a nice bit of karmic blowback against a magazine, which in addition to despising anyone to the right of Pete Seeger, last year thought Boston bomber Dzohkar Tsarnaev was so totally cool and early Jim Morrison dreamy that he was worth featuring on their cover. In his terrific new book Not Cool, Greg Gutfeld describes that gesture as the end product of a sclerotic leftwing magazine on life support, asking, “If the Rolling Stone offices had been the target of bombing, would they have put such an adoring photo on their cover?”

Actually, maybe they would. Think back to Robert Fisk, the leftwing British journalist and namesake of the popular Blogosphere technique of fisking, who famously wrote after being attacked while covering the war in Afghanistan in late 2001, “My Beating is a Symbol of this Filthy War.” Fisk added, “In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.” In other words, In other words, ‘I totally had it coming.’

Or as Gutfeld himself quips, “If only bin Laden had been younger and hotter. If only he’d had abs. Then Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone, who put the Boston Bomber on the cover of his rag, might have done him first.”

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“One day at 4:30 in the afternoon,” Dave Barry writes in his latest book, his 13-year old daughter Sophie, “went into her bathroom, which is pink, and WHOOM!, some kind of massive hormone bomb went off there.”

The result has been utter chaos, both for Sophie, and especially for Dave himself, who’s having to deal with a massive influx of boys visiting his house. “They come around.  They come around all the time now.  There didn’t used to be boys in our life.  And now there are boys on the lawn, on the roof, in the trees.  They’re like squirrels; they’re just boys coming around.”

“And I don’t like it, Ed,” he insists. “ I used to be a boy.  I’ve been a male my entire life.  And let’s be honest.  We’re scum.  Of all the genders, we’re the worst one.  And that’s exactly the gender that is showing up now around our house.  And I Don’t. Like. It.”

Which is why the title of Dave’s latest book is based on reading the Riot Act to his daughter: You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About.

Perhaps Barry is overreacting just a minuscule amount to the situation. On the other hand, you’d be feeling a bit harried too, if you recently returned from the following nightmare scenarios:

  • Going to your first Justin Bieber concert and listening to a stadium full of teenage girls shouting “I loooooove you!!!! I loooooove you, Justin!!!!!!”  into your ear all night long.
  • Paying a fortune for tickets to take your daughter to said Justin Beiber concert, only for her to eventually discover that the Bieb is an idiot. Which Barry had pointed out to her before plunking out money for the concert.
  • Pondering what women see in 50 Shades of Grey, and asking your wife if she wants to try out the book’s scenario.
  • Visiting Israel on a quest for free Wi-Fi throughout the Holy Land.
  • Rappelling down an Israeli desert cliff and risking pooping on a rabbi due to total loss of sphincter control.
  • Having people approach you constantly to praise your article on the importance of colonoscopies.
  • The easy way for first time authors to promote their works by get booked on nationally-watched network talk shows by showing up at the studio door unannounced 15 minutes before airtime.

All of which we’ll discuss in our latest interview, and more. Click here to listen:

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In 2009, Fred Siegel, in the midst of writing the articles that were the rough draft, and in retrospect also expand upon his terrific recent book, The Revolt Against the Masses, dubbed H.G. Wells “The Godfather of American Liberalism” at City Journal. But Wells could also be called — perhaps even more so — the Godfather of British “Liberalism” as well:

By 1932, a frustrated Wells found his superior wisdom bypassed time and again by the superior mass appeal of fascism and Communism. In a talk at Oxford provocatively titled “Liberal Fascism,” he called for liberalism to be “born again.” After his customary denunciation of parliamentary politics as an anachronism, he let out his frustrations, calling for fascist means to serve liberal ends by way of a liberal elite as “conceited” and as power-hungry as its rivals. “I suggest that you study the reinvigoration of Catholicism by Loyola,” Wells said. “I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti.” It was also to Communism that “we shall have to turn—we outsiders, that is, the young people with foresight for enlightened Nazis; I am proposing that you consider the formation for a greater Communist Party; a western response to Russia.”

Flash-forward 82 years, and as Kathy Shaidle proffers at the PJ Lifestyle blog, “Meet the Famous British Liberals Who Support Government Control of the Media:”

Within living memory, plays could only be performed in London if they’d been approved by the Lord Chamberlain.

Naturally, that regime was pulled down in the late 1960s; it may surprise some to note how many of the names on the Hacked Off petition are “Swinging London” era artists who led, and benefited hugely from, the battle to abolish that and other restrictions on free speech.

That very surprise is what surprises me.

By now, doesn’t everyone know that many of the leftist Baby Boomers who led the 1960s and 1970s “revolution” were always totalitarian hypocrites?

* * * * * * * *

Salman Rushdie is one of the signatories, too.

(“How much tax-payer dosh was spent protecting HIS ‘freedom of speech’?” asked one commenter.)

So are JK Rowling, Maggie Smith, Richard Dawkins, Russell Brand, Tom Stoppard, Bob Geldof, Stephen Fry and Steve Coogan (above.)

When I got to the bottom of the list without seeing the name of anyone I still give a damn about, I literally let out a sigh of relief and slumped in my chair.

The rest of you may have to spend part of your weekend weeding your collection of books, records and DVDs, however.

Mike Hume sums it up perfectly:

Some 80 years ago, George Dangerfield wrote his famous history, The Strange Death of Liberal England. Today, it seems we are witnessing the strange suicide of liberal Britain, as those who like to think of themselves as free-thinking radicals and champions of human rights publicly declare their ‘weakening of the desire for liberty’. They have effectively signed a death warrant for liberal Britain by tossing away the most fundamental liberty of all, freedom of expression and of the press.

Remember their names, and the next time any of these illiberal liberals tries to claim that they are radicals, rebels or freedom fighters, let us remind the world that they are fully signed-up supporters of an unfree press by order of the Crown.

The ghost of Oswald Mosley gives his blessing to the entire endeavor, the natural conclusion to a nation that toppled National Socialism only to immediately begin nationalizing and socializing their own country. Read the whole thing.

Update: Here’s the list of names; Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd was one of the signees. It’s not an entirely “unexpected” development, but naively, I thought Gilmour, one of my teenage guitar heroes, was less obsessed with totalitarian control than his bandmate Roger Waters. Between Gilmour’s willingness to sign off on the concept of a state-run media and Waters’ escalating rabid hatred of Israel, increasingly I start to wonder, half-seriously, if perhaps songs like this from The Wall weren’t meant to be ironic:

Note that in the above video, the odious lyrics from “In The Flesh, Part II” are being sung by Bob Geldof, the star of the movie version of The Wall, who also signed off on the notion of state media control.

“Mick Jagger’s Girlfriend Found Dead, Official Says,” the New York Times tweets; their headline is echoed by numerous other Websites and news agencies. Leftists have a cow (or the vegan tofu equivalent thereof):

See, a headline is designed to get someone to read an article. And L’Wren Scott is (was) nowhere near the name that Mick Jagger is. In order to get the maximum number of people to read about her death — and her career — the shortest, quickest way to grab eyeballs is to mention the Jagger connection. Otherwise, the majority of readers will wonder why they should read the article.

But hey, if you want to accuse your fellow leftists at the New York Times as being sexist misogynists, well, have fun storming Pinch’s castle along with the rest of us.

R-S-P-E-C-T

March 8th, 2014 - 2:12 pm

“Obama accidentally misspelled ‘respect’ while introducing singer Aretha Franklin during a tribute to “Women of Soul” at the White House Thursday,” Fox News reports, asking if it was Mr. Obama’s “Dan Quayle Moment:”

“When Aretha first told us what … R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her,” Obama said, pausing briefly before the audience began laughing, apparently realizing his mistake. “She had no idea it would become a rallying cry for African Americans and women and anyone else who felt marginalized because of what they looked like, who they loved. They wanted some respect.”

Also looking for some respect is Quayle, who in 1992 was schooled by a sixth grader on how to spell potato.

Quayle was at the Munoz Rivera Elementary School spelling bee in Trenton, N.J., when he relied on a notecard provided by the school on the spelling of the word potato, a word used in the contest. The notecard incorrectly added an “e” to the end of the word, and Quayle advised the student to spell it that way.

In his 1994 autobiography, Quayle called the day “a defining moment of the worst kind imaginable.” He added, “Politicians live and die by the symbolic sound bite.”

But Quayle — who had more years as a senator in DC before becoming vice president than Mr. Obama did before running for president — endured a baptism by nuclear fire from the monolithically leftwing media in 1988, which magnified every one of his minor gaffes into momentous character flaws. All in sharp contrast to the way the media greased the skids and downplayed every gaffe from Obama and his vice president — who’d I’d refer to as the “equally Quayle-esque” Joe Biden, except that would be an insult to Quayle himself.

(And it goes without saying that Mr. Quayle’s youthful culinary habits were far more refined than Mr. Obama’s of course.)

Layers and Layers of Fact Checkers and Editors

February 24th, 2014 - 7:06 pm
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Click to turn size up to 11.

Take a good look at the headline of the above page of yesterday’s Washington Post music section, and in the caption underneath the photo. Now take a look at the name on headstock of the guitar pictured. (Click to enlarge photo if necessary.) Note that they don’t match. While he might get blamed for it, the error very likely isn’t the author’s fault. Presumably, he turned in his article, an editor or his assistant went through the Post’s photo morgue to find photos of one of the superstar guitarists mentioned, recognized Jeff Beck’s name, and pasted in a recent image.

Glenn Reynolds emailed me the above photo, which was sent to him by one of his readers, who noted in his email to Glenn:

I’m sure they rushed to correct this online, but Today’s Washington Post print edition remains forever.

Seriously, if your gonna run an article on the Fender Stratocaster Jeff Beck is about as grand a Strat playing guitar god to showcase in a photo as you could find. And of course, that would be pretty easy to do. If you couldn’t, it would be nice if they at least had him playing a Fender.

But a Gibson hollow body ?!?!?!?

Hey, don’t knock ‘em — those Gibson hollow body Stratocasters are awesome guitars, and they fit very easily into the limited trunk space of a Chevrolet Mustang. And who can forget Eric Hendrix playing the Star-Spangled ‘Tis of Thee on one at Woodmont?

More seriously, the late Michael Crichton coined the phrase “the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect” to describe what the MSM seems to instill into just about all of us:

Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

Admittedly, as someone who — humblebrag alert! — has interviewed the late Les Paul and written for Vintage Guitar and Guitar World magazine, I’m more sensitive than many readers to when the MSM gets music facts wrong, but the above error is simply basic incompetence, which judging by the number of Chyron errors popping up on the news in recent years, appears to increasing exponentially. But that’s also on top of the MSM getting caught outright lying (and increasingly journalists are admitting publicly that they’re OK with that, too), and looking down with disdain upon their audiences.

And yet, they pretend to wonder why nobody trusts them:

Distaff Punkers for Freedom!

February 13th, 2014 - 8:42 pm

“Exene Cervenka of L.A. Punk Band X Moving to Texas Because California Has Become ‘A Liberal Oppressive Police State and Regulations and Taxes and Fees.’” Brian Doherty writes at Reason, quoting this passage from Rolling Stone:

…when I moved to California in 1976, Jerry Brown was governor. It was barefoot hippie girls, Hell’s Angels on the Sunset Strip, East L.A. lowriders, the ocean and nature. It was this fabulous incredible place about freedom. Now when I think about California, I think of a liberal oppressive police state and regulations and taxes and fees. I’d rather go someplace and have my own little place out on the edge of town. I’m a country girl at heart. It makes me happy when I see people in Texas open-carrying. It makes me feel safe. I’m not even a gun owner, but I’d like to see a gun rack in every pickup truck, like my boyfriend had when I was fifteen years old in Florida. An armed society is a polite society.”

She cracks a smile. “Now Jerry Brown’s governor again. He’s done some great things, like balancing the budget and libraries are open on Sundays. But things are getting to the point in this country where people are going to have to fight to survive and fight for their rights.”

And that’s on top of Maureen Tucker, Tea Partier, as Michael Moynihan wrote at Reason in the fall of 2010:

[F]ormer Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker was spotted at a Georgia Tea Party protest, telling a local reporter that she is “furious about the way we are being led towards socialism.” Prefix magazine calls this “depressing” news that will “bring you down” before the weekend, because it’s incumbent upon all musicians—especially those in seminal proto-punk bands like VU—to have roughly the same, boring lefty politics. Deviate from the acceptable ideology (Guevara t-shirts are fine, as is anything related to 9/11 “truth”) and a bunch of kids born in the 1980s will have their weekends ruined.

And they sure did — as some unfortunate soul admitted in October of 2010 at the Independent Film Channel’s Website after Tucker  epatered his bourgeois brain:

I’m still in shock from reading this news on Stereogum about primitivist drummer and doll-voiced Velvet, Moe Tucker being a Tea Party fanatic. Say it ain’t so Moe.

It’s like finding out that Henry Rollins has just been wearing a fake muscle suit all these years and he’s really a skinny, mild-mannered pushover. Moe’s strayed a long way off from being in a band at the center of 1960′s and 70′s American counter culture. She’s best known for her unrelenting, tribal drumming style of the time — opting to take her bass drum, turn it upright and pound away on it with mallets like a maniac.

Now she’s out at rally’s with poorly dressed people who can’t get their facts straight, yelling about socialism. This is one of the farthest falls from cool in music history.

Totalitarianism=cool? That’s not what I remember the Velvets being about, particularly since, to paraphrase Brian Eno, only 30,000 people bought the Velvet Underground’s first album — but everyone who did started his own band. (A little late to the party, but I was one of them, believe it or not.)

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Screwed, Blued and Tattooed Man Group

February 6th, 2014 - 11:05 am

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the ‘Fake But Accurate’ Rock Group, as dubbed by John Hayward at the Breitbart.com Conversation blog:

Great, now the “fake but accurate” ethos has spread to rock bands.  They can’t even just admit to lip-syncing or instrument-syncing; they’ve got to hand us a bill of goods about how not playing their instruments is actually more hyper-real than if they had performed live.  Never mind that a big part of the appeal of live performances is the thrill of thinking, “Wow, I’m actually hearing this song blast out for-real while those guys are gyrating all over the stage under difficult performance conditions, and it sounds great!

Hey, good enough for Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and Beyoncé to phone it in at Mr. Obama’s inaugurations, good enough for the Chili Peppers — but please, no more talk about how “authentic” and “real” rock music is. And Hayward’s take on the shoehorned appearance of these three middle-aged tattooed geezers in the middle of Bruno Mars’ polished set describes my reaction watching the halftime show as well:

I wasn’t a huge consumer of his music before, but I thought it was a terrific performance almost rudely interrupted by the Chili Peppers running on stage.  It looked he was getting mugged by the Blue Man Group, except they didn’t even bother to paint themselves blue.

Super Bowl halftime shows by their very nature are sucktacular, as legendary philosopher Bart Simpson would say. Why not bring back Up With People and call it a day?

Rebel Alliances, Then and Now

February 4th, 2014 - 4:14 pm

Of course, the ranks of the Evil Empire and the Rebel Alliance have shifted a bit in recent years, as this clip from the 2000-era BBC series Coupling highlights:

Oh, and speaking of Cold Wars then and now, Aaron Clarey writes today:

Karl Marx was bats*** insane.  He was psychotic.  And to believe or subscribe to any ideas the man had (be it political, economic, familial or anything) is foolish.

History has proven this.  Only a madman’s illusions de grandeur could result in killing more people during peace time than Nazi’s did purposely during war.  You can compare similar people’s implementing Marxism vs. freedom (the Koreas, East vs. West Germany, Cuba vs. Caymans, etc.).  And you can look to see what happens when countries abandon socialism in pursuit of capitalism (China, Vietnam, the Baltics).  But the real issue isn’t what a “moron” or “psychopath” Marx was.  It isn’t even the devastation and poverty his cancerous and flawed “theories” has wreaked upon the world.

It’s the scary fact as to just how receptive humans are to such a stupid, and ultimately, dangerous and evil ideology.

As Clarey notes, “Marx was a hypocrite.  To avoid creditors he would use aliases, skipping out on rent and often times not paying butchers, tailors, and other ‘workers’ he so claimed were ‘exploited’ by those evil capitalists.” His most devoted followers could be equally hypocritical:

And while we often describe a musician approvingly as having “made a song his own,” Seeger did so literally, cannily sticking his copyright on all this “people’s music”—thereby dying worth an estimated $4.2 million.

Some of that cash was swiped from a man named Solomon Linda.

Pete Seeger (or “Paul Campbell” as he sneakily styled himself on the sheet music) always wanted you to think one of his biggest crowd-pleasers, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” (you know, “wimoweh!” and all that) was a traditional Zulu work chant that he’d thoughtfully rescued from obscurity.

Except, as Mark Steyn’s detective work revealed, that song was written by the aforementioned Mr. Linda of Johannesburg, South Africa in 1939. There was nothing “traditional” or particularly “Zulu” about it. As for the “work” part, Seeger’s Great White Devil sleight of hand ensured that Linda got a grand total of 87 cents for his labors, while Seeger chanted all the way to the bank.

Now, we can say it was foolish for Linda to sell the rights so cheaply to Seeger’s record company, and a contract is a contract. And anyhow, someone with Seeger’s exquisitely tuned sense of social justice—he once claimed, “I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other”—surely took care of Mr. Linda by mailing a five-figure check to the poor fellow c/o his small village the moment his authorship was brought to Seeger’s attention.

While Pete Seeger always wanted a hammer (insert Lileksian rejoinder here), as Kathy Shaidle concludes in her obit on the ancient true believer of that God That Failed, who finally assumed room temperature, “just hand me a shovel so I can toss some dirt on the grave of that wicked old fool.”

Or simply a magic marker:

Kingsley Amis famously quipped that the updated version of Robert Conquest’s hstory of Stalin’s terror should have been re-titled, “I Told You So, You F***ing Fools.” but Seeger was perhaps the most stubborn fool of all.

Update: No, there is another, to borrow another Star Wars catchphrase.

(Via Instapundit, aka, “Law Professor. Blogger. Sith Lord.”)

‘Detroit is What Democrats Do’

February 3rd, 2014 - 3:38 pm

It was fun watching a surreal embalmed-looking waxworks Bob Dylan shill for Chrysler last night on the Super Bowl and noting, “Let Germany make your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone…we will build your car” — which seems rather ironic, considering that Chrysler is now owned by Italy’s Fiat.

But don’t let that unspoken fact bother you, Dylan implies by asking, “Is there anything more American than America?” It’s a particularly inscrutable sort of Zen koan, Nick Gillespie writes in response at Reason, especially when coupled with Chrysler’s recent slogan promising that the brand is “Imported from Detroit.”

Unfortunately, it’s far from the only product imported from Detroit, Or as Kevin D. Willamson writes today at NRO, “Detroit is what Democrats do:”

The last Republican elected mayor of Detroit took office during the Eisenhower administration. The decay of Detroit is not the inevitable outcome of the decline of the automotive industry: The automotive industry is thriving in the United States — but not in Detroit. It isn’t white flight: The black middle class has left Detroit as fast as it can. The model of Detroit politics is startlingly familiar in its fundamentals, distinguished only by its degree of advancement: Advance the interests of public-sector unions and politically connected business cronies, expand the relative size of the public sector remorselessly — and when opposed, cry “Racism!” When people vote with their feet, cry “Racism!” When the budget just won’t balance, cry “Racism!” Never mind that the current mayor of Detroit is the first non–African American to hold that job since the 1970s, or that, as one Detroit News columnist put it, “black nationalism . . . is now the dominant ideology of the [city] council” — somewhere, there must be a somebody else to blame, preferably: aged, portly, white, male, and Republican. No less a fool than Ed Schultz blamed the straits of this exemplar of Democratic single-party rule on “a lot of Republican policies.” Melissa Harris-Perry, “America’s leading public intellectual,” blames Detroit’s problems on its conservatism and small government, oblivious to the fact that Detroit maintains twice as many city employees per resident as do larger cities such as Fort Worth and Indianapolis, and three times as many as liberal San Jose.

As Thomas Sowell has written, “Before the ghetto riot of 1967, Detroit’s black population had the highest rate of home-ownership of any black urban population in the country, and their unemployment rate was just 3.4 percent.” Today, as Williamson writes, Detroit is the nation’s poorest city. To get a sense of how it collapsed, check out Bankrupt – How Cronyism and Corruption Brought Down Detroit, the new 41-minute documentary from conservative videomaker Ben Howe, and then my own interview with Williamson on Detroit from November.

Incidentally, Williamson’s article is titled “Progressivism Kills.” That it does — and its punitive appetite for the destruction of the lower and middle classes has been part of its DNA from the very start.