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03 May 2002  

Welcome new readers. Today has been a record day for traffic at The Goliard Blog, and I'd like to thank everyone who's stopped by, and also Amy Welborn, Anne Wilson, and Eve Tushnet for the kind mentions on their blogs.

Friday evening is when I put The Goliard Blog to bed for the weekend. If you're a new visitor and interested in reading more of my deep thoughts and alleged insights right away, however, there is lots of good stuff in the archives (links to the left) for you to look at until I start up the printing presses again on Monday.

I will not name specific story ideas that I have for next week, as I did last Friday (since I only ended up writing one of the three pieces mentioned), but rest assured that there is plenty more interesting commentary to come. And be sure not to miss the groovy new Friday feature that will debut in a week's time.

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NOBODY expects the…um…Apostolic Inspector. Reader David L. Alexander of Arlington, Virginia suggests an adjustment to my proposed department of Internal Affairs for the Church:

I would make such a Department directly accountable to the Holy Father, rather than place it within a Congregation. This is to ensure the most autonomy of movement possible.

I would not limit this proposal to the church in the USA, but worldwide. A diocese would have an "Office of Apostolic Inspector" assigned to them. That Office would report to the Holy See directly, through the Papal Nunciature of that country. This would sidestep the entire hierarchical structure.

A promising idea. But I would be wary of giving the Papal Nuncio any influence over operations, as I hold the occupants of that office responsible for most of the unfortunate episcopal appointments of the last thirty years.

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Make that three seats. The British National Party has picked up a third city council seat in the town of Burnley, by a margin of only four votes. The result was finally declared after five recounts.

Please note that the good people of Burnley voted using the low-tech mark-an-X-with-a-stubby-pencil method, the ballots were counted and re-counted five times by hand, and yet a final and definitive result was reached before lunchtime on the day after the voting. Would somebody please hire these people to run Palm Beach County's next election?

For a rundown of yesterday's English local-government elections, including a photo of Hartlepool's new monkey-suit mayor, see the BBC's report here.

posted by The Goliard |  Link  | 

02 May 2002  


Calling Jonah Goldberg... In today's local government elections in England, the stridently nationalist, "pay no attention to the skinheads behind the curtain" British National Party has won two city council seats in the town of Burnley. But that's not the Jonah-esque story.

This one is: "Man in monkey suit is mayor."

posted by The Goliard |  Link  | 


"Pushing the envelope". Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester has told the Union Leader why he did not do anything about abusive priest Paul Shanley's repeated public statements in favor of both homosexual activity and sex between adults and children. The bishop explains that "at the time, Paul was known as one who would push the envelope and kind of make statements that were in some ways extreme. But I never thought he believed it or he would practice it.”

So he was "pushing the envelope". Oh, that's all right then. I understand why McCormack wouldn't have seen any need to intervene. Who could have guessed that Shanley was actually a sexual pervert, merely on the evidence of his public advocacy of sexual perversion? Who could have known that Shanley's involvement in the meetings that gave birth to NAMBLA (the North American Man-Boy Love Association) was anything more than an interesting intellectual experiment?

Several bishops have made statements like this, where it is hard to tell whether or not they are lying—which doesn't really matter since their words are damning either way. Either McCormack is telling a ridiculous and shameful lie, in which case he is too deceitful to be a bishop; or he is telling the truth, and is far too stupid to be a bishop. The people of New Hampshire (and of Boston, where he served when Shanley was committing his crimes) deserve his resignation.

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What about the lost souls? One of Amy Welborn's readers writes to her with an excellent reminder of something that has been all too easily forgotten about the scandals in the Church: souls are at stake here.

BUT what about the scandal created by Shanley's pushing the envelope? That is, what about the plain ol' laity—who took it to heart and believed his words and, as a result, have lost their souls?

This could be extended to the entire scandal and beyond as well. Although those physically abused are rightly spotlighted, does the hierarchy perceive the magnitude of an uncountable number of souls who have been lost due to the words of priests who have 'pushed the envelope' and have not been disciplined over many decades. It makes me cry and they seem to be oblivious to it.

This should cause all of us to weep.

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This is the frontier? Anne Wilson puts her finger on a problem with the execution of the Frontier House concept in an article on her blog today. "[T]he game handlers blew it by not considering 'behavior' as important as material culture," she argues, and I believe she's right. But then I'm strangely susceptible to being convinced of just about anything by a woman who admits to having a "shoulder valkyrie"…

posted by The Goliard |  Link  | 

Steyn strikes again. Mark Steyn has a new column out, this time in The Spectator of London, which deliciously rakes the Europeans over the coals once more. His "Ugly Europeans" point deserves to be hammered home again and again, and translated into as many Continental languages as possible. (That is, if the denizens of the E.U. would ever deign to read the writings of a man who chooses to live in "Live Free Or Die" New Hampshire, confesses to owning a gun, and is liable to fire on their sacred cows at any moment.)

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The Friday Poem is now becoming the Thursday Poem, to make room for a boffo new feature of The Goliard Blog that will debut either tomorrow or Friday week (depending on how quickly I can come up to speed on some technical web stuff). Staying with the Celitc theme, here is a poem from the Irish bard William Butler Yeats.



DANCE there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water’s roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool’s triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind?


Has no one said those daring
Kind eyes should be more learn’d?
Or warned you how despairing
The moths are when they are burned,
I could have warned you, but you are young,
So we speak a different tongue.

O you will take whatever’s offered
And dream that all the world’s a friend,
Suffer as your mother suffered,
Be as broken in the end.
But I am old and you are young,
And I speak a barbarous tongue.

W.B. Yeats

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01 May 2002  


Frontier House. I can't resist offering my own two cents' worth on the PBS series Frontier House, which wrapped up this evening. I found it to be pretty good television (the fact that many of us feel obliged to talk and write about it is a sign of its value), but somehow not quite as fun and compelling as its inspiration, the 2000 series 1900 House. Perhaps that was because the four hours of 1900 House focused on a single family, while the six hours of Frontier House had three families to document. Looking back on it, the earlier series seemed to be able to tell a longer and richer story, even though it was two hours in finished production (and two months in real-life experience) shorter. Also, I don't recall the earlier series being as frequently bogged down by politically-correct sermonettes.

A large part of the fascination of 1900 House had risen from watching the family cope with the technology and lifestyle of a century ago, and I think this was the producers' hope for the new series as well; but as it turned out the most gripping parts of Frontier House were the personality conflicts both between and within the families. Perhaps this was because the American families chosen for Frontier House were more spoiled, less mature, and less well-adjusted than the English family featured in the earlier series. Perhaps it was due to the historical reenactment being less televisually gripping than the first time around. Perhaps it was the inevitable result of having three families live as close neighbors. I am not sure…maybe it was some combination of all these.

As the series came to an end, nurse Karen Glenn from Tennessee was the clear winner in the hard-fought competition for Most Disagreeable Individual. Both Rod Dreher and Anne Wilson labeled her, not without ample cause, a "shrew". She insisted on being in complete charge of all family matters at all times, and reacted incredulously to her husband Mark's suggestion that this authority might be shared with him from time to time. She criticized and disrespected Mark even in front of the children (which are hers from a previous marriage), treated her marriage almost as a disposable commodity, sanctimoniously bad-mouthed the neighbors every chance she got, and seemed to believe that every chore she completed served as proof that she was a better person than anyone else in Frontier Valley, most especially the adult males. The reader may consider this a bit of a leap, but I believe that America may well suffer from an overabundance of Karens at the moment, a fact which might have some connection to both the high divorce rate and the booming foreign-bride business on the Internet. (I intend to write an article soon regarding the latter, and would love to hear from anyone with any thoughts on the subject.)

The Most Annoying Male title was wrapped up early in the series by business executive Gordon Clune from California. He was a habitual whiner, artful dodger, and a cheat who talked a lot of rubbish; what is more, he showed surprisingly little leadership or organizational ability for a man who runs a sizeable corporation. The final episode showed just how strongly he resists criticism, and refuses to acknowledge and learn from his mistakes. Just why is it that they pay him the big bucks back in California? Gordon did have his virtues, however. It was nice to see him growing closer to his family in the penultimate episode; he provided a useful service by getting under Karen's skin from the outset and thus bringing out her true colors; and I further regard it as a matter of principle that a man with his own still can't be all bad.

The children all seemed to do well in the 1883 environment, especially the boys who frequently showed both wit and spunk, and Karen's daughter Erinn who discovered she was a whiz with animals. The teenage California princesses, Aine and Tracy Clune, continued to strike the regulation number of attitudinal poses throughout, and had the very un-historical habit of prancing around in their undergarments even in the presence of company; yet they still adjusted better than I had predicted based on the appearance anxiety and profound vanity they had exhibited at the beginning of the series. The paradoxical thing about all the female fretting over appearance was that the teenage Clunes (as well as the mother, Adrienne) were, in the eyes of this male viewer at least, often considerably more comely in Frontier Valley than back home in California with all the war-paint on.

Irish immigrant Adrienne earned my vote for Most Improved Character, as she reverted from glossy plastic California hardbody to naturally beautiful Irish lass before my eyes. She accomplished considerable feats of baking with the outdated equipment and limited ingredients at her disposal, greatly endearing her to a gourmand such as myself. It was also encouraging to see both Adrienne and her husband start to break out of their profound self-absorption and realize that they had children in their household, children who might just be worth getting to know as people.

Best Overall Character honors would have to go to Nate Brooks from Boston. He appeared to possess a good nature and sense of humor beyond the fondest dreams of the other adults on the show—except for his father and brother, each of whom spent time with Nate at the beginning of the series before his frontier wedding. The scenes with Nate and his father, as they relished their all-too-short time together, moved me greatly. I was less sold on the relationship between Nate and his new bride. She could be a fine match, or agreeable but shallow, or even a shrew in training…I wasn't able to tell for sure.

I found it interesting that at the close of the project, the women mostly voiced an eagerness to leave Frontier Valley and the domestic existences which they resented, while the men shed actual tears at having to depart this place where they all, to varying degrees, had rediscovered themselves. Was the women's reaction due to their lot being that much worse than a man's in 1883…even an 1883 populated with 21st century people? Or did it spring more from the women's own attitudes and cultural prejudices? Does the men's experience of self-discovery and deep satisfaction on the frontier point to something that is sorely missing in the lives of contemporary men? And if so, can this be defined and explained without venturing into the silly land inhabited by the likes of Robert Bly?

The final episode showed the three families returned to the present day, all three of them looking lost and confused. The Clunes found their excessive Malibu mansion sad, empty, and, well, excessive. Nate and his new bride Kristen walked the beaches of Cabo San Lucas, seeking a sense of direction for their modern lives, and mostly failing to find it. The children and teenagers of the Clune and Glenn families found themselves overwhelmed by the paradoxical boredom of overstimulation.

Poignant last words were provided by Mark Glenn, now separated from Karen. "It's an unnatural life the 21st century offers you," he said, sitting in his Nashville apartment, alone and alienated from the world to which he had returned. He was the person most transformed by the frontier experience; yet at the same time the saddest character back in 2002. Perhaps Mark's experience should serve as a cautionary tale for all those who embark on journeys of self-discovery and transformation. As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for…you might just get it.

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With Oprah getting out of the book-recommending business, somebody's got to take up the slack…hence this new feature, the Wednesday Book. Today's selection is Life at the Bottom by British physician Theodore Dalrymple.

Dalrymple's book is drawn from articles written for the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. In these essays he meticulously documents the various pathologies of the urban underclass in his city of Birmingham, England, and offers some insightful views as to how contemporary society has helped encourage and enable these pathologies.

It makes for bleak reading, even though Dalrymple leavens it with his very English wit. The world of his patients is saturated with junk culture, fast food, crime, domestic violence, casual sex, drug and alcohol abuse, slovenliness, idleness, irresponsibility, and ignorance. It is devoid of learning, moral principle, self-knowledge, stability, safety, virtue, taste, and the little civilizing communions of family and neighborhood that keep man from being an island unto himself.

One is surprised to realize, in reading these accounts of mostly white Englishmen, how little race has to do with the transforming of inner cities into prisons of squalor. This is not to deny that large numbers of American blacks became impoverished residents of the inner cities as a direct result of America's racial history—it is unarguable that they did. But the pathologies that beset them once they got there also afflict the whites, Latinos, even Indians and Pakistanis (as Dalrymple documents) who find themselves living in such environments.

I believe that this book is important reading, and not just for those whose professions put them into contact with the underclass. The environment, worldview, and values that form the underclass exert a pull on all of our children, not just the children of the inner city; and poverty of the spirit can affect even the wealthiest among us. We should seek to understand these destructive forces, which permeate our ailing culture, and be prepared to combat them in our own lives and our own families.

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30 April 2002  


An Inquisition for the 21st century. The American cardinals left Rome in the apparent hope that a few spiffy new policies labeled with buzzwords like "zero tolerance" will serve to put the crisis in the Church behind them. If the root of the trouble were simply the scandal of priestly sexual abuse, their strategy might just work; but in fact the real problem is the broader and more enduring issue of: Quis custodiet custodes? Who will watch over the shepherds, when they fail in their duty of watching over the sheep?

Some are of the opinion that an empowered laity ought to be the custodians. I do not believe that this is wise for several reasons. The American laity of today is bitterly divided, heavily secularized, scandalously ignorant of its own Faith, and often incapable of making even rudimentary moral distinctions. The most prominent and active lay people are often those with ideological axes to grind. Being relatively innocent of clerical politics and the inner workings of dioceses, laypeople are far too easily shown exactly what they wish to see, and told exactly what they want to hear, while diocesan officials sweep the true problems into that increasingly-crowded space under the rug. Any advisory or supervisory board of laypeople that the diocese had any hand in selecting and training (something I don't see any way around) would, as a result of the selection and grooming process, be as heavily populated with allies of the chancery office radicals as any conference of DREs. And finally—as unfashionable as it may be to point this out—laypeople have not been given the specific graces of Holy Orders, which relate in no small measure to the governance of the Church and the defense of the orthodox faith.

I believe that, in order to be effective agents of change within the Church, the custodians will need to be drawn from and remain a part of the Church structure. They should be erected as an independent force, which can serve as a check and balance, in the spirit of Federalist 51. ("Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.") They should have broad powers of inquiry, and ultimate support from Rome when necessary. Fortunately, the Roman end of this counter-force is already largely in place, in the form of Cardinal Ratzinger's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, known in earlier centuries as the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition (an entity entirely separate from the Spanish Inquisition, please note).

This Congregation has, in recent decades, focused on a relatively small number of cases relating to the most notorious heretical theologians, renegade priests, and radical religious. But under the statutes of the Curia its remit is broad. "The duty proper to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world: for this reason everything which in any way touches such matter falls within its competence." (Article 48 of "Pastor Bonus", 28 June 1988.) This authority is broad enough, I believe, for the Congregation to sponsor a widespread housecleaning operation in a sector of the Church that finds itself in deep doctrinal and disciplinary trouble. Such as the American Church.

I have referred to this counteracting force as an "Inquisition" in the title, because seizing people's attention is what a blog-writer tries to do, but this new project would of course not want to risk conjuring up visions of Torquemada by calling itself the "American Inquisition". (The reader should note, however, that much of the Spanish Inquisition's horrific reputation rests upon a "Black Legend" composed of wild fabrications.) For purposes of this discussion I will instead call it an "Internal Affairs" department for the American Church, a department which would borrow both its investigative powers and its ability to impose discipline (such as suspension from public ministry) from the Congregation, and be ultimately accountable to the Congregation for the exercise of these powers.

The Internal Affairs department's first objective would be to root out heterodoxy among priests, religious, theologians, catechists, and other religious educators. For a description of what the investigators would be looking for, one could hardly do better than St. Pius X's syllabus of modernist errors, Lamentabili Sane, and encyclical on modernist doctrine, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, both from 1907. Representatives of the department would not only examine published writings, educational materials, homilies, and public statements, but make regular visits to seminaries, schools, and universities. This would require considerable manpower, and it is impossible to overstate the degree of bitter resentment with which the investigators will be met in some quarters. I contend, however, that the rot is so serious in so many dioceses, that both children and adults are being so severely miseducated and misled, and that the forces of heterodoxy are so firmly ensconced, that nothing less will suffice to restore the purity and clarity of Christian truth to the teaching of Catholicism in America.

The second objective of Internal Affairs would be to uncover and investigate grave moral failures, such as sexual abuse of minors, that threaten the community, drive people away from the Church, and damage the moral authority of the Church and it's teachings. (The necessary connection between this objective and the prior one is a subject that I do not have time to cover here, but might discuss some other time.) Recent events eloquently show that an independent investigatory force, such as an Internal Affairs department backed up by sponsors in Rome, has become necessary to counteract the dissembling force of the bishops. I should stress that these investigators would not be employed as some sort of ecclesiastical secret police, seeking to uncover every priestly peccadillo; their task would be to investigate credible and serious complaints that clergy, or other employees of the diocese, have caused serious harm to others. Internal Affairs would also be charged with discovering and breaking up hotbeds of clerical sexual activity that exist within Church institutions (such as some of the seminaries described in Goodbye! Good Men), and bringing to account priests and religious who engage in open and flagrant defiance of the Church's moral precepts (which Boston's Father Shanley, for example, was permitted to indulge in for years, on top of his abuse of young men).

It is difficult to predict precisely which objections would be most loudly voiced to this plan by the bishops (who would fight for the right to remain a law unto themselves), committed dissenters of various stripes (who are opposed to orthodoxy and all its pomps and works), and others. I will, however, address one probable complaint by way of conclusion: That the work of Internal Affairs sounds creepy and un-American, would be a threat to our Constitutional liberties, and might inspire fear among ordinary Catholics in the pews. This complaint would be well-grounded if the new institution were instructed and permitted to investigate any Catholic in America for any error or failing whatsoever; but I wish to make clear that this is not at all what I am proposing.

My envisioned Internal Affairs department would have no power whatsoever over the vast majority of Catholic laypeople. Its moral investigations would be limited to three types of cases: priests and religious who publicly violate fundamental moral precepts, widespread debauchery within Church institutions such as seminaries, and credible allegations of abuse lodged against any employee of the Church who is in regular close contact with minors. I believe it is reasonable to discipline priests and religious who openly flout their solemn vows before God, to shut down dens of iniquity operating on Church property, and to protect the young by thoroughly investigating all credible complaints of abuse. As for theological investigations, these would only apply to those who are employed by the Church (or who serve in diocese- or parish-sponsored lay ministries) and have responsibility for teaching and propagating the Faith. I believe it is reasonable for the Church to expect that people charged with teaching its doctrine will do so in an accurate and orthodox manner (widespread disdain for Ex Corde Ecclesiae notwithstanding).

Could this plan be successfully implemented, through a combination of Vatican fortitude and the support of American laypeople, or would the opposition simply prove too strong? I am not sure. I do not doubt that it would be an extremely difficult fight. Neither do I doubt that it would be one well worth fighting.

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Useful rule of thumb. No Bishop of Rome has been, or ever will be, either a perfect man or a perfect Pope. But John Paul II sure comes close, in a whole host of ways; I believe that he is simply as good as it gets.

One of the blessings of having such a wise and holy Pope is the clarity he can provide, not just in his own words and deeds but through the reactions of others to him. Having studied these reactions, a fine Catholic lawyer of my acquaintance proposed a useful rule of thumb which I have employed myself for years. It is this: Any Catholic who fervently dislikes, habitually dissents from, or repeatedly disrespects this best of all possible Popes must have come off the rails somewhere along the way. Whether they fell off the rails to the left or to the right does not matter.

I am by no means suggesting that the faithful should never criticize the Pope. One of my great heroes, St. Catherine of Siena, did not hesitate to march into Avignon and straighten out the Pontiff herself when she judged it was necessary. St. Catherines, however, have always been few, and need to be distinguished from the toxic cadres of dissent—whether it be the professional malcontents who would be unhappy with any Vicar of Christ, including Christ Himself, or the tinfoil-hat crowd who see a vast global conspiracy involved in absolutely everything, including their son being benched by his little-league coach. The John Paul II Test is a useful tool for identifying and keeping one's distance from such people (for negativity and irrationality can be contagious), and I commend it to you.

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29 April 2002  


Turnabout is fair play. The Dallas Morning News reports that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's travelling party requested that no women be involved, either in the air traffic control tower or on the ramp, when his plane arrived in Waco for last week's visit with President Bush. Air traffic personnel directly involved insist that this request was honored on orders from higher authority; meanwhile spokesmen for various higher authorities in both Washington and Riyadh deny it.

Many American commentators have been disgusted by the apparent kowtowing to Prince Abdullah's demands, but I believe that the incident should instead serve as the model for a new, more enlightened policy of accomodating our Saudi friends. The policy is simply stated: In future dealings with the Saudis, we should attempt to mirror their customs and behavior as closely as possible, in the interest of making these dear friends of ours feel more at home when they visit our country. For example:

• Women are not permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia, or to appear in public without being covered from head to toe. Out of respect for their cultural preferences, we should not permit Saudi women to drive, or appear uncovered and unveiled in public, while they are in the States either. However, since a policy singling out women might not survive court challenges, we will probably need to apply these restrictions to all Saudis, male and female, just to be safe.

• No one is allowed to bring any non-Islamic religious materials into Saudi Arabia, or practice any non-Islamic religion in any way in that country. Again, we might have trouble applying the identical rule to Saudis here in America, since our courts frown upon giving preference to any one religion. Therefore we shall have to prohibit Saudis from bringing any religious materials of any sort into the United States, or practicing any religion at all including Islam, while here. This rule will have the unfortunate side-effect of blocking any further Saudi support for their network of Islamic cultural centers, which the Kingdom generously established here for the purpose of bringing their message of peace and harmony to our people, and which will thus be sorely missed.

• Our habit of conducting criminal trials in public, and executions in private, is precisely the opposite of Saudi custom, and could cause misunderstandings and ill-feeling the next time we apprehend a Saudi national on suspicion of murder. To make the poor prisoner feel more at home, and to demonstrate our sensitivity to his culture, we should therefore conduct the trial of any future Saudi offender in secret and without any procedural safeguards. Following his conviction the prisoner would of course be publicly beheaded.

• Less widely noted is the Saudi practice of demonstrating their friendship and solidarity with us by having prominent clerics periodically call for our destruction and for the enslavement of our allies. Now this may appear an especially strange custom in Western eyes; but it must be important to the Saudis, judging by the frequency with which they engage in it, and so it will be our duty as their loyal friends and allies to reciprocate. We may have some difficulty at first finding prominent Christian clergymen willing to publicly declare Saudi Arabia to be the root of all evils on Earth, to call for its utter destruction, and to proclaim that the women of Jordan have been given to us by God so we should go grab them. But perhaps a public-spirited preacher like Brother Robertson could be persuaded, once it was made clear to him how vitally important it is for us to cultivate goodwill in the Arab world.

These policies represent only part of the accomodations which we will need to make in order to fully please our Saudi friends, but I believe that they would make for an excellent start, and I am proud to offer them in the spirit of promoting ever-greater harmony between our two nations.

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Who is Tommy Hilfiger and why does everyone want to wear his clothes? I have reached the conclusion that during one of my trips out of the country in the mid-1990s, some new and incredibly powerful brainwashing technology must have been unleashed upon the American public. For reasons I cannot imagine, this technology was put at the disposal of one Tommy Hilfiger, who used it to convince millions upon millions that they absolutely had to purchase and wear garments prominently displaying his name and flag-like logo. (My absence from the country at the time explains why I have no desire whatsoever to purchase a single thing this man sells.)

Obviously this new technology is so powerful that it would be pointless for me to ask why people would want to pay a premium to put this man's name on their backs, or what could have made this particular logo composed of black, red, and white blocks so much more alluring and fashionable than some other logo. These questions being pointless (because the answer—frighteningly effective brainwashing—is self-evident), I will move on to some more difficult and disturbing ones:

Who is this Tommy Hilfiger fellow? Does his desire to make all of America prominently display his name on their clothing and accessories indicate megalomania? Exactly who put this powerful new brainwashing technology at his disposal? Is the government in on it? Is Ralph Lauren?

I say that The Truth Is Out There, and the people should be told.

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We may be spared after all. Alex Kuczynski of The New York Times reports—as the headline has it—that "Hollywood Turns Up Its Surgically Correct Nose at Blake Case". Apparently the case may drop off the Tinseltown radar screen altogether before long, as consensus opinion gels around the view that the case only rates as "a B murder".

But that doesn't mean my earlier jeremiad (cribbed from the classic movie Network) is now simply a waste of bandwidth. Just replace the words "Robert Blake" with "Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes" (or whoever else the next 15 minutes tosses us) and the piece will still read just fine.

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Many people are not aware that in the next life, we shall all have jobs to perform, with the profession assigned by nationality. In Heaven, for instance:

The English will be the police,
the French will be the romantics,
the Italians will be the cooks,
the Swiss will be the bankers,
and the Germans will be the engineers.

In Hell the assignments shall differ slightly:

The English will be the cooks,
the French will be the engineers,
the Italians will be the bankers,
the Swiss will be the romantics,
and the Germans will be the police.

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