Friday, May 16, 2008

You have to read it to believe it. This is a major metropolitan daily’s idea of hard-hitting social commentary? This is insight? Incisiveness? Small wonder Internet websites like the one you’re reading are sounding the death knell for old media like television and newspapers. Detroit Free Press columnist Susan Ager’s recent take on disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s fling with a pricey Manhattan call girl reads like a high school journalism student’s P.C. hit piece. You want feminist fables? Whiny, cliché-ridden drivel? Pabulum, propaganda and identity politics? Go ahead and click on the link. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A good writer observes the world as it is, and only then cites or formulates a theory to make sense of it. The territory should precede the map, in other words. Susan Ager stands the process on its head. We all approach reality with preconceptions and pet theories, of course; but Ager aggressively shoehorns “sensory-sensual space-time data” (to borrow the late Robert Anton Wilson’s terminology) to fit her foregone ideological conclusions. Anyone with even the most tenuous hold on reality will see in Spitzer’s fall from grace a story as old as sex and sin themselves: an alpha male betrays his wife and family to do the cha-cha-cha with another woman. But our enlightened columnist isn’t falling for that obscurantist claptrap.

She knows better. She took Women’s Studies classes as a college student. She pursued a lifelong course of independent study afterwards. She became a thrall to the buzzwords, which had a life all their own. She followed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s 1991 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, fixing rapt attention on Anita Hill’s lurid allegations against him. Even back then she knew “men just don’t get it.” Immersed in elite media’s psittacine chatter, she knows men still don’t get it. Ager gets it. She gets that l’affaire Spitzer is not about sex and sin and betrayal. It’s about men victimizing women.

She adduces no evidence to buttress her cherished myth—only bromides, canards, fluff, half-truths, innuendo and out-and-out fallacies. You hate everything she stands for. You can’t help but be embarrassed for her nonetheless.

Her column starts inauspiciously and goes downhill from there:

"Women elected to high political office do not have sex scandals."

Didn’t feminism claim once to seek the elimination of this kind of blatant stereotyping? Or did it always depend on whose ox was getting gored? Of course, as far as sweeping generalizations go, this one seems plausible enough: women elected to high political office probably don’t have sex scandals in the same proportion as men. But so what? In her 54 years on the planet, Ager must have noticed that men put a premium on looks and youth in the opposite sex, whereas women are drawn to wealth and status. It takes years of education and experience to develop the skills, connections and name recognition necessary to land a high profile job. It stands to reason women elected to high office are older women—elles ont une certaine age, as the French say. The bloom is off their rose. (Unless they’re French, in which case even the battle-axes are hot and slender and equally adept in the kitchen or bedroom—no wonder the neocons hate the French!) What likely sexual temptations do they face?

Then there’s this:

"A woman governor would not pay what amounts to weeks of day care for one hour of sexual stimulation. Women know how to take care of themselves."

Does Ager really believe any governor, man or woman, worries about day care fees? Does she believe men don’t know “how to take care of themselves?” Whether or not men or women know how to take care of themselves, does she believe men and women don’t prefer to be taken care of by somebody else?

"We’re more civilized now, but men still use power to get sex. Power is an aphrodisiac for some women. For other women, a powerful man is an easy target: Men will pay big bucks, as Spitzer did, for the illusion of power over a woman they hardly know.

"His one-hour playmate, Kristen, was quoted as saying to her boss: “I’m here for a purpose. I know what my purpose is.” Her purpose was to submit."

Ager couches mating strategies in terms that advance her Myth of the Monstrous Male, without regard to the actual dynamic at work. Rather than say, “Men use power to get sex,” isn’t it just as fair to say, “Men seek power for many reasons, including to make themselves more attractive to women”? Does Ager deny that women find powerful men more attractive? Is it men’s fault that women find powerful men attractive? Don’t women use their own charms and wiles “to get sex”? Don’t men succumb to those charms and wiles? Who’s the victim in these transactions? Who’s the oppressor?

Who’s submitting to whom? If Kristen’s purpose is to submit, why is Spitzer paying her? Isn’t he at least submitting to her fee schedule? Why does Ager call Spitzer Kristen’s “boss”? Kristen’s boss is her pimp or the madam of her escort service. She may even be her own boss. Spitzer is Kristen’s customer, not her boss. He wields the same power over her that any consumer wields over an entity plying a good or service in a market economy: the ability to take his business elsewhere.

Ager’s train wreck ends with this howler:

"Perhaps that’s the main reason women in high political office don’t have time for sex or scandal: The trash needs to be taken out. The dishes need to be done. The children need to be kissed good night. The bills need to be paid. The house needs to be set in order because tomorrow will arrive sooner than we think, and we must be ready for whatever it brings."

What women in high political office can she possibly have in mind? Does she see a driven careerist like Hillary Rodham Clinton concerning herself with such mundane matters as taking out the garbage, washing the dishes and tidying up the house? What planet is she living on?

Susan Ager shows some semblance of wit, insight and wisdom in her “slice of life” columns for the Detroit Free Press. Her demonstrated abilities suggest she could have contributed something worthwhile to the Spitzer controversy as well. She might have examined real sex-based differences, something quite apart from the Victim-Victimizer chimera to which she clings. The comedian Gallagher’s hilarious contrast between the male and female sex drives comes to mind: “Guys are microwaves; women are woks.” She might have addressed the absurdity of consensual crime in a free society. Victimless crimes like prostitution victimize men and women alike. Though she forsook the faith long ago, she might have even conceded the Church’s wisdom in insisting spouses remain faithful to each other under pain of sin. She might have pursued any of these avenues, all within her ability and ken. Instead, she let her ideology make an idiot of her.


Monday, May 12, 2008

One and eight! This is what $139 million--the second richest payroll in baseball--gets the Tigers. Since 2000, fans have had to contend with bad-weather Opening Days, a string of losing seasons, and a promising upturn in fortune followed by an inexplicable collapse to the underdog St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 World Series. Now their much heralded team verges on ignominious collapse. Are the Tigers hexed?

Karma matters. How did Tigers' ownership secure funding for its extravagant payroll? Acting on the Tigers' behest, state and municipal governments in 1999 fleeced Michigan's beleaguered taxpayers--many of whom have since lost their jobs and homes--to the tune of $100 million for a "community investment" in the new stadium. This forcible transfer of wealth from Michigan's working families to the richest family in the state freed up funding for the Tigers' payroll, which itself is made up of millionaires. Those tax dollars certainly didn't subsidize Little Caesars pizza franchise purchases for the poor!

Be not deceived. God is not mocked. One does soak the poor on behalf of the rich and forsake the hallowed ground of Tiger Stadium without reaping bitterness in the wake. For 86 years, fans of the Red Sox lamented the ill-fated sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees and tagged their team's ensuing futility the "Curse of the Bambino." With a nod to the pizza-magnate owner, Tigers' fans should now brace themselves for their version of the affliction: the Curse of the Little Bambino. (OK, wrong chain, but you get the picture.)


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dear Rudy:

You mean at the end of your fourth paragraph? Yes, I assumed you meant "on British cities." Though I wouldn't put it past the German government to bomb its own cities--or the American, British, Russian or French governments to bomb American, British, Russian or French cities.

Only by happenstance do the State's interests coincide with the people's. The State exists to preserve the disorder.

In friendship,

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Mon, 5 May 2008 6:58 pm

Subject: Re: Let's Koventrier Teutonophobia

Dear Tony,


At the end of the 4th paragraph, it should read "on British cities.".

Best regards,



Dear Rudi,

(You spelled my name with an "i", so I'll return the favor.)

I do not believe the court historians. History is written by the victors. If the devil-Nazis had won the war, they would have recorded a completely conflicting account of events. My mom lived in German-occupied Northern Italy during the Good War. She tells me of kindly German soldiers; she likewise tells me of dodging not-so-kindly American bombs. You could say (of course you won't) she's a Holocaust survivor. The fact remains I wouldn't have been born if she had been "damaged collaterally."

FDR had foreknowledge of the Japanese "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor; he let it happen to suck the U.S. into his stupid war. More French died from the Allied bombing of France than did English from the Nazi bombing of Coventry. Churchill bombed Germany before Hitler bombed Coventry. All this history is studiously ignored.

You say there are no humanitarian bombings. Yet you accept the nuking of Hiroshima. What does terrorism mean if not the intentional killing of innocent and unarmed civilians? Don't the denizens of Hiroshima qualify? You want to go back to "Nanking, Guernica, Warsaw, Rotterdam, London and, yes, Coventry." Go back to your heart's content. The denizens of Dresden (which included many of Stalin's refugees, but nobody cares about that, because the mass-murdering "Uncle Joe" was on the "good guys'" side) and Hiroshima and Cologne and Hamburg and Tokyo and Nagasaki had nothing to do with the atrocities committed in "Nanking, Guernica," etc.

I will close with a quote from Nicholson Baker, the author of Human Smoke: the Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (a new release--you may want to check it out):

"I've had some very good reviews and some very bad ones. The bad ones seem to follow the teeter-totter school: that if a dictator and the nation he controls is evil, then the leader of the nation who opposes the evil dictator must be good. Life isn't that way, of course. There is in fact no "moral equivalence" created by examining coterminous violent and repulsive acts. The notion of moral equivalence is a mistake, because it undermines our notions of personal responsibility and law. Each act of killing is its own act, not something to be heaped like produce on a balancing scale. One person, as Roosevelt said, must not be punished for the deed of another--though he didn't follow his own precept."

I have no use for the "teeter-totter school." I have no use for group-think. I am concerned only with the Holocaust of One. There are no uniquely monstrous people or pure-as-the-driven-snow people. There are only people.


Labels: ,

Sent: Sat, 3 May 2008 5:41 pm
Subject: Re: Let's Koventrier Teutonophobia

Dear Toni,

For a moment, I checked to see if the sender of your email might have been the Reverend Wright.

When it comes to the WWII conflict, we might have to go back to Nanking, Guernica, Warsaw, Rotterdam, London and yes, Coventry before retaliation rained on Germany and Japan.

Duringthe "funny war" French and English bombers were instructed to untie the bundles of leaflets being dropped on Germany "for fear of injuring civilians"

I guess you never saw the German propaganda newsreels and magazines (e.g. Signal) where German crews were shown delighting in dropping bombloads on German cities.

After that, anything went. "Who sowns the wind will reap the tempest".

I have become reconcilled with Hiroshima, but I still have very strong reservations about Nagasaki. I often feel that it was dropped in a hurry to be able to compare results from two different bomb designs.

As far as Teutonophobia ( I love the word) my credentials as a Holocaust Survivor might give me an edge, although I do not blame the sons for the sins of the fathers. I do remember being at JFK airport waiting in line for a long time because two Germans were loudly assailing an airline clerk. My wife mentioned to me that the "Boches" were holding up the line.
Another clerk admonished us that it was not nice to say "Boches". I suggested that since both my wife and I had endured many harms during the nearly 5 years of the German occupation of Belgium, we had earned the right to use the term "Boche" whenever we felt the need to.

I do agree with you that there are NO humanitarian bombings.

In friendship.


Labels: ,

Good old Winston! Good old Franklin! They Koventriered Dresden, Hamburg, Frankfort and Cologne, incinerating not only innocent German civilians (a half dozen or so of whom surely existed) but the tens of thousands of Eastern Europeans seeking refuge from Winston and Franklin's beloved ally, the mass-murdering Uncle Joe Stalin. Their acts of benevolence culminated, of course, in good old Harry's nuclear Koventriering of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thus ended the Good War.

Every year, around August 6 and 9, America-hating malcontents brazenly question the morality of Harry's atomic bombing of Japan (but certainly not Winston and Franklin's firebombing of Germany!). I can still hear the roars of disapproval from the gathered crowds.

Unlike the hand-wringing, head-in-the-clouds Blame America First crowd, the enlightened multitude grasps the illegitimacy of moral equivalence. The German and Japanese bombing of Coventry and Pearl Harbor are rightly viewed as homicidal bombing. Likewise the 9/11 attacks and the suicide bombing practiced by Muslim extremists. But when the Apostles of Democracy deign to uplift barbarian societies by raining death from the skies, well, that's what we call humanitarian bombing.

In the immortal words of Vonnegut, "And so it goes."

Tony Pivetta
Royal Oak, Michigan

From: Rudy
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--extirpate

Good old Adolf! After the German bombers completely eradicated Coventry, UK, Hitler coined a new word for "extirpate" -- Koventrier: To Coventry. He thenbroadcast to the English people that Germany would erase all their cities. I can still hear the roars of approval from the gathered crowds.


Dear Deacon:

You are correct that economics is a value-free discipline. This is not to say moral values are unimportant, of course, but that the economist observes the economic world as it is and derives his theories based on economic reality as the economist perceives it. The law of supply and demand represents the economist's chief contribution to understanding economic reality.

Christians care about the poor. Christians care about high prices and low wages. Lower prices and higher wages can ease the plight of the poor. Christians are free to donate their time or material resources to various charities committed to easing the plight of the poor. But that's not enough for some Christians; sometimes Christians favor state intervention to reduce prices and increase wages. This is where the law of supply and demand comes in. (I'll leave to one side for now the morality of state intervention aimed at easing poverty; suffice it to say the state employs morally problematic means--taxation requires force or threats of force--to achieve its purportedly moral ends.)

Gasoline prices are very high right now. Some believe the state should impose a ceiling on the price of oil to ease its toll on our pocketbooks. The law of supply and demand states that the market price of oil is set by the supply and demand curves for the product. The market price will drop only when supply increases or demand decreases. For the state to impose a price ceiling below that market price will succeed only in creating shortages, as supply will not meet demand at the artificially imposed below-market price. Perhaps you remember the gas lines of the early 1970s?

A corollary to the law of supply and demand states that imposition of a price floor above the market price for a good or a service creates an oversupply of that good or service. This is the phenomenon observed with minimum wage laws. At higher wages, employer demand for labor will not meet supply. Christians are ill-advised, therefore, to favor minimum wage laws (again, leaving to one side the morality of the state's employing force or threats of forces to set the terms and conditions of employment). Minimum wage laws create unemployment among those most in need of work experience to lift themselves from poverty.

Respectfully, I also find your faith in the public-school system misplaced and more than a little ironic, coming as it does from a Catholic parish's news bulletin. A free market in education will serve the needs of the poor and middle class better than the state monopoly system. Catholic schools, for example, educate students for one-third the cost of public schools. This fact should surprise no one. As monopolies, the public schools are insulated from market discipline; they have virtually no incentive to decrease costs or improve quality, especially when compared to private schools.

Indeed, the incentives for public schools are turned on their head. Public schools get more money when they fail! Underperforming private schools lose money as dissatisfied consumers drop those schools' services and spend their education dollars elsewhere. Charities can educate the poor under a system of privatized education. To favor collectivized education in the interests of educating the poor is as wrong-headed as favoring collectivization of farming and food distribution in the interests of feeding the poor. We all know how agricultural collectivization turned out in the Soviet Union: only the wealthy and politically connected were well fed. Likewise with the public school monopoly: eventually only the wealthy and politically connected will be well educated.

I apologize for composing such long a letter, but the issues you raise are important and complex. If I have piqued your interest in free-market solutions to social problems, you may want to Google "Thomas Woods." Mr. Woods is a traditionalist Catholic who was written many defenses of the free market from a Catholic perspective. (He has also written a sterling defense of the Latin Mass.) A link below will direct you to Mr. Woods' book The Church and the Market.

Yours in Christ,

Tony Pivetta