Excellent piece in the New Republic by rising star Noam Scheiber who points out that the Democrats may not win back the House in 2002 after all. Mid-term gains for the opposition party are usually due to the scaling back of presidential coat-tails from the previous election, he points out. But W had no coat-tails. In fact, his coat was tucked firmly into his tighty-whities. To make matters worse, the latest Census data suggest that, under current population numbers, Bush’s 271 electoral college total would actually be 278. Hey, that’s almost as impressive as Gore’s half a million majority in the popular vote. Oh, all right, it isn’t. But it still isn’t great news for Dick Gephardt.
Another piece by Mary Eberstadt in the Weekly Standard taking a stand against child-abuse. I won’t begin to tackle all of its ugliness. But in my own defense: She claims at one point that because I made one small reference in a New York Times column to a study that found that boys were less traumatized than girls by sexual abuse that I am somehow belittling the crime of pedophilia. She claims I am less concerned with pedophilia than with those who ‘declare themselves against it.’ Piffle. I can think of no words adequate to express my horror at the unfathomable evil of sexual abuse of children and if I don’t condemn it on a daily basis it is simply because I take it as a given. Don’t you? All I was saying is that the study’s findings, if true, were a small piece of good news, indicating that the boys didn’t experience the more enduring psychological trauma we previously feared. (The broader point of the column was to single out various nuggets of good news in the culture we don’t want to discuss). The point of Eberstadt’s piece, however, is not to condemn pedophilia as such. It is a pretty obvious attempt, in classic fashion, simply to conflate the gay rights movement with a pedophile movement, and to accuse homosexuals of being child-abusers or complicit in child abuse. This is simply disgusting and beneath contempt. There is barely a mention anywhere in the piece of heterosexual pedophilia, which represents the overwhelming bulk of the phenomenon – both in terms of crime and cultural portrayal. Has Eberstadt even begun to list the representation of heterosexual sex with teenage or barely legal girls in the popular culture? Why not? Well, it would take years to catalog it, and then ‘pedophilia chic’ couldn’t be used to smear gays, could it? Yes, she has some caveats – mainly phony exhortations to gay rights leaders to condemn child-abuse, as if we haven’t already done so until we are blue in the face. But the mere demand that we do so repeatedly, and the sinister way in which she twists our writing on the subject (her other target is the unimpeachable gay writer Jonathan Rauch), is classic McCarthyism. It seems clear to me at this point that the Weekly Standard has all but abandoned even the slightest pretense of considering gay men and women as people worthy of respect or dialogue, and is now devoted at least in part to smearing, demonizing and dehumanizing them. And what better way than to accuse us of being child-abusers? There is only one word for this: despicable.
RACICOT A NO-NO
Hmmm. Seems like the religious right finally cottoned on to a point made here only a couple of weeks ago – that Montana Governor Marc Racicot is an enlightened, smart, unbigoted conservative, who has made overtures toward gay rights in office. Robbie George, a smart Natural Law theorist at Princeton, is the man responsible, according to the Washington Post this morning. I wonder if Robbie reads the Dish. We’ve had several lively and cordial debates over the years, so it wouldn’t surprise me. But Robbie’s intellectual skill is matched by his somewhat pristine Catholicism. He is so concerned with upholding Thomistic natural law that he once publicly declared there was a state interest in discriminating against masturbators! (Along with Gale Norton, he’s an alum of the Colorado 2 decision, which was ultimately reversed by the Supreme Court). That’s why, according to the Post, we’re stuck with Ashcroft – by far the least tolerable of Bush’s appointments. On the one hand, I’m relieved that the far right has only been given one plum, at Justice, and that Dan Coats’s animus against gay and female soldiers was one reason he didn’t make it to the Pentagon. On the other hand, it’s depressing to think that an able, talented, loyal conservative like Racicot could be barred from appointment as A.G. simply because he believes that homosexuals should enjoy equal protection of the laws. Not a good omen, is it?
It’s probably just me, but this New Year seems a lot more emphatic than the last one. Several themes which made the 1990s the 1990s have finally run their course. The tech boom is over; Clinton-Gore is over; New York is over; Miami is over; Napster is over. It will truly be over when Barbra Streisand finally sings for the last time. But even Streisand tickets, I’m told, are kinda over. I suggest we call it the end of an era when Salon.com goes under for good. You think February is too soon?
THE SEX PROTEIN
Fascinating piece in the Sunday Times of London yesterday. It’s a report of a lecture given by British science legend, James Watson, the man who co-discovered DNA and received the Nobel Prize in 1962. Among his recent work is looking into the role of a protein called pom-C in promoting happiness. According to the Times, ‘Pom-C is involved in the production of various hormones, including melanin, whose concentrations determine skin color; beta endorphins, which control mood swings; and leptin, involved in fat metabolism. [Watson] suggested that concentrations of these hormones might be increased by sunlight and described how men injected with melanin in an experiment had experienced surges in their libido. This, he said, implied that people exposed to the sun would experience surges in melanin levels, boosting sex drive.’ His memorable line summarizing this insight: ‘That’s why you have Latin lovers. You’ve never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.’ Of course, Watson made the mistake of giving the lecture at Berkeley, where science is required to comport with politics. Such politics must deny the existence of any biological differences between groups of people for fear of giving aid to oppressive white males (even though such research tends to show how white males are not the most genetically blessed creatures on the planet). So Watson was greeted by a walk-out and demands that he never appear at Berkeley again. It should, of course, simply be an empirical question whether, for example, Southern Europeans have higher sex drives and levels of happiness than those trapped in sun-less places like Edinburgh and Stockholm. But in today’s American academic climate, such questions – let alone answers – are increasingly verboten. Look what happens to anyone researching ethnic or gender biological differences. Watson is an established enough scientist not to care, which is why his work is to be encouraged. He says he’ll publish a serious paper on the subject soon. I can’t wait.
He’s back from vacation untan, unrested, but ready. Full daily coverage resumes tomorrow. Have a great New Year.
VAST VELVET CONSPIRACY
No, Mickey, Rumsfeld is not gay. Mickey Kaus has an item which almost implies I was sunning with Rummy in flagrante delicto below (see SHRUMMY 0, RUMMY 1). Ahem. All I meant is that I was a vacation guest of a family close to the Rumsfelds and was invited once to the ranch. My gay friend is one of my oldest and best, and the son of one of the families. Could hardly have been more, well, Republican. Now, back to midnight cocktails with Ricky Martin, Rosie O’Donnell, and Jim Kolbe. Just Kidding. Mickey: Just Kidding.