Tom Wolfe's a Drag, and So's Roger Kimball; Who Likes the Homeless?


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Emily, if you want your daughter to really understand the homeless, have her leave her bicycle chained up outside overnight and then explain to her what happened to it in the morning. She can have the same feeling of violation and outrage that I felt 10 years ago when the last car that I owned in Manhattan was completely destroyed after a homeless person tried to disable the alarm by ripping out the electrical system in order to get a worthless bag of clothes. Or that I felt when they repeatedly relieved themselves in the front hall of my apartment building. Or when one of them assaulted me in front of an ATM machine, or when...

Well, you get the idea.

Unfortunately, no place that has a large population of liberals is immune from their idiocies, and Santa Monica and Venice on the West Coast are held in the same thrall to politically correct ideologies about people who are so incapable of handling their own lives that they endanger not only themselves, but everyone around them.

Thus, it was with a familiar disgusted feeling that I discovered that one of them had managed to break into my car two nights ago and, with only a few hundred dollars in damage to the dashboard (and a drop of about $1000 in resale value), managed to remove an $80 radio that he'll parlay into a $10 crack fix. That's what living surrounded by the homeless is really like, and all of the sentimental pap from celebrity journalists whose money and prestige insulate them and their families from that harsh reality isn't going to change it.

Mike Harris, Los Angeles

Your Mother's?
Just cruised New York Press' interesting site. Hope Russ Smith gets that corncob out of his ass soon. Is there a Republican boot he won't lick?

David Giddens, San Mateo, CA

Salem's Thanks a Lot
MUGGER: Thank God for your column. A voice of decency and common sense, opposing the insanity in the White House.

Margaret Whitcomb, Salem, OR

Soup Bones
Kudos to Alexander Cockburn for sticking it to the insufferable Tom Wolfe ("Wild Justice," 5/31).

I don't think I could stand to be in the same room with Wolfe. His whole persona is such a complete affectation, with those stupid white suits and his perpetual smirk. It's amazing that he lets himself be seen in public like that. And then there is the snarky tone of his writing. He is just so pleased with himself and his cleverness. I'm not sure I could resist the urge to bash his face in with a shovel.

Hunter S. Thompson once wrote about a woman being gang-raped by a bunch of Hells Angels in front of her boyfriend. Wolfe wrote about the same incident. (I wonder who their sources were.) But while Thompson was clearly horrified, Wolfe thought it was cute. He snickered about it as he does about everything. It always struck me as strange that everybody gave Wolfe a pass on this.

Joe Rodrigue, New Haven

Swamps of Jersey
Andrey Slivka: Would you pay $2000 a month for rent in a New York City shack or pay for a mortgage on a large, brand-new home only an hour from Manhattan ("In God's Country," 5/31)? Many choose the house. Hence the creation of New Jersey sprawl. It's not just Murray Sabrin and people like him who are responsible for strip malls. Surely they are to blame for allowing and endorsing such reckless development, but the city forces many out with exorbitant prices, and thus deserves part of the blame.

Besides, Your Next Senator (oh, do I feel for you!) isn't the only out-of-towner, just the most (in)famous. Most who work in NYC are probably from nowhere near it, and given the choice (which they have from making lots of money), will choose a house with a yard, which in some way resembles what they comfortably grew up with (Chappaqua, anyone?).

Look for telecommuting to make it worse, and for more excellent Jersey farmland to be destroyed.

Robert DiDomenico, East Rutherford, NJ

Hot Rats
MUGGER: Your latest column was another home run. Can't wait for your review of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan column defending that "risky business" Social Security plan. Hey, wasn't Risky Business a movie starring Tom Cruise?

P.S. The saddest thing to happen in the last eight years at the White House was the widow of Frank Zappa donating to the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996.

Don Surber, Poca, WV

Das Matrix
I applaud John Strausbaugh's 5/31 critique of Roger Kimball's simplistic and reductionist notion that a covey of 1960s intellectuals was responsible for the moral ruin of American culture. Kimball is sociologically naive, or he would know that culture is not self-generating, but emerges within a complex network of social institutions. Culture is knit within a social matrix. A profitable understanding of culture and cultural change requires, for example, a consideration of concurrent and related political and economic conditions. Kimball has no understanding that culture is bound up in general historical trends, showing no awareness of the elementary insights of Johann Gottfried von Herder and Max Weber. So Kimball's pretentious balderdash is abstracted from both knowledge and reason. His verbal agitprop only serves to deepen the ignorance and obtuseness of a close-minded and deluded right-wing flock.

Deniz Tekiner, Manhattan

What Can a Poe Boy Do?
Since I was once scheduled to play Harry Chapin in a movie about his life, and since I was once planning to make Alice's Restaurant II with Arlo Guthrie, and since I lived through the 60s and 70s, somehow I'm probably qualified to comment on John Strausbaugh's 5/31 "Publishing" column.

How appropriate that Strausbaugh quoted Poe, particularly this part: "Prophetic sounds and loud arise forever/From us, and from all Ruin, unto the wise,/As melody from Memnon to the Sun."

Since Poe died of booze in the gutter like so many 60s and 70s icons, Strausbaugh couldn't have picked a better poet, unless he wanted to go real esoteric and tap into Jim Morrison's god, Arthur Rimbaud.

I was sitting with Arlo Guthrie at a radio interview once and a college kid asks him, "So what did you change in the 60s, really?" And the quintessential hippie replies that you couldn't wear your hair long back then.

Let's face it, the 60s and all the "intellectuals" who sprang from it were about as deep as a Kuwaiti wading pool in 140-degree heat. Example: Tim Leary admitted to working for the CIA from the get-go. He was a goofball, and so is Gloria Steinem and every other dinosaur left over from those days. The only worthwhile change that came out of the 60s was civil rights.

Whenever I think of my generation and the stupid stuff we did, I am ultimately left with the stunning reality that, when given a chance to elect one of our own president, we came up with that peahead Clinton. Twice! Strange to say it, but George W. in comparison looks like Einstein. Maybe that's our chance to rectify some of the damage.

Vote for anybody but Hillary Clinton. Save the face of your generation.

Skip Press, Burbank

Here Frum There
John Strausbaugh is a reasonable guy, and I'm prone to agree with most everything he writes. However, while I have my own quibbles with David Frum's How We Got Here, and have not yet read Roger Kimball's new book, I think Strausbaugh is too dismissive of their separate takes on the history of the Culture War.

Frum is not a gloom-and-doomer like Robert Bork. Indeed, I thought his take on the 70s was a bit too sanguine. As for Kimball's decrying the impact of the Beats, et al., on American society, the only possible grounds for dispute is whether or not one views that impact as good or bad. In other words, does one think of American society ca. 1955 as wholesome and healthy, or does one view that society as empty and oppressive? And, further, does one think that the critique of the cultural left was valid, invalid or just plain malevolent?

One cannot, however, deny or diminish the enduring impact of those intellectuals. By the mid-60s, ideas that had been the dissent of a tiny bohemian/academic fringe a decade earlier had become common views throughout the liberal educated classes. Suburban housewives and insurance salesmen began acting upon the liberationist premises that had seemed shocking when originally articulated by Alfred Kinsey, Norman Mailer, Hugh Hefner and Betty Friedan. The intermediaries that transmitted this message from bohemia to the bourgeoisie (tip of the hat to David Brooks) were popular magazines, newspapers and television. However much fun former "counterculture types" like Strausbaugh and I may have had during the halcyon days of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll (an era that ended in the mid-80s with the knowledge that AIDS was caused by a virus), the social statistics indicate that our generation broke a lot of furniture with our two-decade party in the basement rec room of Western civilization.

Between 1962 and 1965, all the indicators of social health headed sharply southward, while all the indicators of social pathology skyrocketed upward. Unmarried mothers, divorce, violent crime, drug abuse, venereal disease, suicide?whatever the social problem, it suddenly got worse in America during those years. While the rate of increasing pathology has inevitably abated (and, in some cases, actually reversed a tad), there is no escaping the statistical evidence that the America of 1960 has been destroyed, and shows no sign of returning. This great transformation happened in less than 30 years, until we became a nation so debauched, so degenerate, so morally blind as to elect the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The only question is whether there was anything worthwhile in the nation that elected John Kennedy president. I think so. My father's generation endured the Depression, defeated the Axis and were for the most part loyal husbands and caring fathers. My own generation witnessed rates of illegitimacy, abortion and divorce that suggest a nation populated by many millions of men who are incapable of bearing even the ordinary burdens of normal family life?to say nothing of enduring the hardships of poverty and war that my father's generation overcame.

We baby boomers are, as a group, demonstrably inferior to our parents' generation?and our unwillingness to admit this inferiority only proves the point. A cowardly, whining, narcissistic scum: that's us. Hell, I actually voted for Clinton in 1992. That's what years of drug abuse will do to one's judgment.

Robert Stacy McCain, Gaithersburg, MD

Calling Spike Vrusho
I have just read New York Press for the first time. I enjoyed most of the articles, but was disappointed that there was no sports section. New York City is truly a "sports town." A paper called New York Press needs to have some of its pages dedicated to the area's great teams.

If you added a good sports section, I would probably pay for my weekly edition.

Jerome Lafragola, Oceanside, NY

How About "Rabid Peckerwood"?
MUGGER: I protest your characterization of Dr. James Dobson as a "religious fanatic" (5/31).

Have you ever listened to Focus on the Family? Dr. Dobson is correct in his view that we social conservatives will not enthusiastically support George W. Bush if he picks a liberal runningmate.

Dr. George A. Kuck, Provo, UT

Yeah Well, Drew Knowles?
MUGGER: I like, and agree with, much of what you write. But I disagree with your 5/31 characterization of James Dobson as a fanatic or extreme right-winger. Dobson stands on principle, and can be counted on to do what he says, always. He's great and right when it comes to the abortion issue. Religious Christians are a core group the Republicans cannot afford to alienate. They're more important than the country-club abortion-rights Republicans you deal with in New York City. Thanks for sticking to your conservative principles.

Keep an open mind on the abortion issue. I think one day you'll be more pro-life than you are today.

Drew Knowles, Nacogdoches, TX

Smillie's Book
MUGGER: I can't believe you would call James Dobson a religious fanatic. In fact, when you use those terms, you sound like a liberal Democrat. You associate him with the "extreme" right wing of the Republican Party. That's a Clintonesque tactic: if you disagree with them, call them "extreme." After all, no one wants to be associated with an extremist.

There are more charitable ways to describe people (good people) with whom you have a disagreement. Remember, there are others out there to fight. Why take aim at the good? Have you read any of James Dobson's books? I have sought his wisdom many times, and he has done a service to the community by writing them. But reading your column makes him sound like a wacko. By your criteria, these people would also be wackos: Pope John Paul, Ronald Reagan, Mother Teresa, Alan Keyes.

I could go on here. Just because these people don't want to see babies mutilated in the womb doesn't make them fodder for slander by pragmatic pundits such as yourself. Hillary, Bill, Al and the gang would never tolerate a pro-life veep or Supreme Court justice, because they are unwavering in their support for abortion. We have to be unwavering in our condemnation of it. The souls of millions cry out for it.

Andrew Smillie, Irving, TX

Li'l Devils
I would like to commend John Strausbaugh and Don Gilbert on their 5/24 interview with Sonny Barger. This question-and-answer session was very informative and insightful. For many years the Hells Angels have been a mystery to most of the establishment. However, your article shed light on the mystery.

Sonny Barger, with his decorated arms and his iron horse, makes no apologies for who he is and what he represents. He is an interesting combination of Viking warrior, Roman gladiator and Wild West outlaw. Some even liken him to a modern-day buccaneer.

Although his face will never appear on currency, and although a national holiday will never be celebrated in his honor, he remains a hero to some folks who secretly yearn to swagger through life like he has.

Peter A. Basile, West Babylon, NY

Kettle Bums
Hey New York Press, what color is that kettle?

Re: "The Times' Beatniks Rock On" ("Editorial," 5/24). You call The New York Times' rock writers pompous, which certainly they can be, but you go on to justify this point of view by writing, "Times rock writers are never more bloviational than when striving to impute..."

Excuse me?

Name Withheld, Queens

Doubt the Sublime Purnick?
Real eye-opening article by Celia Farber ("AIDS & South Africa: A Contrary Conference in Pretoria," 5/24). I know better than to believe The New York Times, and yet I do, every day. Thabo Mbeki is brilliant and soft-spoken, but secretive and bent on removing any challenger. Witness the fall of Tokio Sexwale. Nonetheless, Farber is spot-on.

Ellen Vosbury, Manhattan

Well, Now You Know
Thank you for enlightening me as to how I got AIDS. Celia Farber's crack-shot reportage in your pages, along with Emily Prager's 5/31 "Opinion" piece (in which she refers to her toddler's being offered "AIDS-soaked cookies" on the subway), have led me to the inescapable conclusion that it was not HIV that caused my AIDS?it was that encounter with the crazed Girl Scout dominatrix on Folsom St. in San Francisco in 1990! (I always wondered how I got those Thin Mint dingleberries that summer.)

Animal J. Smith, Manhattan

Full Nelson
I have looked forward anxiously to the day when someone, somewhere, would finally crack the hard shell of the vast money-sucking Orwellian combine collectively known as the AIDS orthodoxy. And I couldn't have dreamed up a better scenario of exposure. Imagine: Nelson Mandela marched back to jail for standing up to some bogus science. I know it's going to get better! Thanks for your great work. No one reads this in The New York Times!

Steve Pope, Bellevue, WA

See "Billboard"
In response to letter-writer Darryl Taylor of Brooklyn ("The Mail," 5/24): I find the use of sexually explicit pictures and advertisements in New York Press to be very appropriate. Most of us are multidimensional, and this newspaper is one of the few that caters to our different dimensions?from politics to the arts to porn.

Yes. Porn.

If you are a parent, then keeping "inappropriate" materials away from your kids is your job. Do your job! I am tired of parents shirking their responsibilities and blaming everything and everyone else for their children's behavior. I am tired of pandering to those snotty-nosed little brats. I am an adult, and I want the option of picking up my paper and being able to flip to the XXX section if I so desire.

Mr. Taylor, I am sitting here in the smallest room of my house with your letter of criticism in front of me. In a moment it will be behind me. Next time, buy the Daily News.

Ludlow Duhaney, Brooklyn

Natural Aristoi
Superb issue of New York Press, as usual. Taki is a national treasure, and the writers he has assembled are the best around.

Craig Kisciras, Larchmont, NY

Silver and Goldberg
In attempting to impugn the patriotism of American Jews, Taki has taken a veiled swipe at Irish-Americans ("Top Drawer," 5/24). Referring to a book on Vietnam by Richard Earley, Taki lists the war-dead as follows: "...81 Murphys, 84 Gonzaleses and 380 Browns." Earley states that "more than twice as many Murphys, Gonzaleses and Browns perished in Vietnam than Jews."

"See what I mean about facts?" Taki writes, hoping to promote with this "fact" his tireless campaign against Jewish perfidy. But he has cast his net wider and more subtly this time in order to imply, unfairly, that a disproportionately small number of Irishmen made the supreme sacrifice in the war.

Here's how he did it. It's a well-known fact (see www.census.gov), that .12 percent of the U.S. population has the good old Irish name of Murphy and only .09 percent are Gonzaleses. Therefore, the Murphys outnumber the Gonzaleses by 33 percent. (In the Vietnam era that percentage was undoubtedly even higher.) Yet, as Taki reminds us, the Murphy body count was 4 percent lower than the Gonzales count. Those Irish Murphys obviously were not fighting and dying in sufficient numbers to escape the sly opprobrium of our little Greek columnist.

Taki exhibits an undiscriminating faith in the power of numbers, particularly when it suits his ends. Presumably, if the data showed that, of the 58,000 war-dead, two German-Americans and one Nigerian-American perished, he would present that as evidence that Germans have twice the fighting spirit of Nigerians.

Although Taki shows his usual commendable affection for lower-class Hispanics, I resent his trying to beat up on us Irish guys. Fortunately, even the most gloriously stewed Irishman can understand the statistical insignificance of the relatively small numbers involved, and shrug off the ignoramus in whose column bigotry triumphs over numeracy.

Al Silver, Manhattan

Pet Sounds
I read, but did not enjoy, Norman Kelley's essay "The Politics of Pet Negroes" ("Opinion," 5/24). I do not think that such a tirade serves the black community well.

I am white, and if I were to talk about blacks in the same manner, I would be labeled a racist, and no one would allow it in print. Alan Keyes, Colin Powell and similar black men of quiet dignity and accomplishment have done the most for their race. Self-serving and loud rabble-rousers serve only to antagonize their enemies and people who think them inferior.

Robert F. Jacobs, Coudersport, PA

Davis, Nancy
This letter is in response to N. Stokes Davis' 5/17 letter to "The Mail," entitled "No Stokes Radio":

As a proud member of the New York City police department for almost 20 years, I was appalled by Mr. Davis' comment that the NYPD commits myriad abuses.

The NYPD has nearly 40,000 members, and they are a cross-section of society. There are some bad apples, but the overwhelming majority is honest and caring, overworked and yet underpaid. They have one common goal, and that is to help people, not abuse them.

Samuel T. Miller, Staten Island

Summer Winds
Armond White's 5/24 "Film" column was needlessly tedious. I understand that New York Press tries, for the most part successfully, to produce an intelligent commentary on the world around us. I think, however, that Mr. White has confused intelligent commentary with pretentiousness?tired and repetitious pretentiousness, to boot.

We all know that summer movies are stupid, mindless fun. I share Mr. White's opinions about both Tom Cruise and M:I-2. Anyone who looks at film as an art form almost certainly shares these opinions. I think, even if we agree with Mr. White, that the only thing we want to avoid more than these films is reading blowhards' complaints about the sad state of modern cinema.

I am sorry people don't pay for the sort of films both Mr. White and I would prefer to see. But for God's sake, I'm over it. Isn't he? Preaching to the converted isn't half as entertaining as blowing them up, and maybe that's why this schlock sells. But please, have the grace to spare us.

Gideon Gluckman, Tampa

If a Tree Falls...
MUGGER: Okay, you're right. Al Gore is in free-fall, at least until the convention and the inevitable bounce and this whole thing looks like a horse race again and Bush fucks up and everybody places too much weight on the debates (where Bush will not fuck up) as the deciding factor between two candidates who offer the least interesting presidential possibilities since...well, beats me, I'm only 46 years old.

I'll say this much. Bet you a dollar Tom Ridge never gets the veep nod. I find it impossible to believe that Bush will fight the base on this one. It's enough to say he doesn't have a litmus test?he's compassionate!?and then use that same test in selecting a vice president.

But if he does select Ridge, he'll be like Pedro Martinez in October. Unhittable.

I may be a Yankee fan, but I'm a realist as well.

Harley Peyton, Santa Monica

Peggy Sue
MUGGER: Thank you for your very interesting 5/26 online column about people who have been victimized by Clinton & Co.

I loved Peggy Noonan's article about Elian in The Wall Street Journal, by the way.

My husband and I have talked (only half-jokingly!) about initiating a class-action lawsuit against the Clintons for all the personal suffering and mental anguish they have caused us these past seven years. Included in my complaint would be the many hours (which should have been devoted to jobs and family) spent calling congressmen, writing letters to editors, etc., in a desperate attempt to insert some sanity into the crazy political climate. Thank God for term limits! I wonder if we could recruit several million more to join us in such a class-action suit?

Thank you, also, for speaking out about the media elites. I really believe they, above even the Clintons, should be held responsible for the mess the country has endured. If the media had been doing its job?reporting the truth, rather than trying to save the world (according to its socialist beliefs)?Clinton's womanizing would have been reported, the rape charge would have been covered, Hillary's leftist politics would have been known, etc., etc.

Please keep on writing articles and getting the word out!

Laura Hornbeck, Van Alstyne, TX

How About "Thanks For the Editing"?
MUGGER: Your 5/26 online column was one of the most slavering attempts at tight-assed propaganda I have ever read. Yeah, Peggy Noonan was a genius in the service of a cerebrally challenged marionette. Of course she didn't have a staff kowtowing to her every need and sanctimonious word while she wrote her tear-jerk speeches for morons, delivered by a moron. The themes were right out of the Jim Crow South: Raise the flag, find an object for persecution, reframe the nation's urgent needs into an hysterical death wish for more nukes, make virtues of stupidity and greed... No, she was a hero and a genius.

But let's consider the object of her patriotic swill: brain-dead Republicans and seduced, bitter, marginal white men. (You could have been a brain surgeon, if it were not for...). She was a catalyst in the making of quasi-celebrities out of opportunistic journalists who have little to offer in the way of analysis or discovery. (Who needs it, right?)

But what the hell. I enjoy the vague flicker of jaundiced tabloidism. It is a real no-mind experience. Thanks for nothing.

R. Anuiano, Lakewood, CO

Gore D. Bunker
MUGGER: Thanks for your great 5/31 column. It was a terrific summary of the states of the Bush and Gore campaigns, and of how the press has been covering them. This is the kind of column that gives me hope and faith in my own perceptions and opinions about the presidential race.

Also, I hope you are correct that George W. Bush will choose Tom Ridge as his runningmate, since Ridge would do much to attract the independent and female votes. The only downside could be that many pro-life conservatives would stay home on election day.

Keep up the good work.

Dennis Bunker, Beverly Hills

A Pig and Polk
MUGGER: I enjoyed your column immensely, but I take exception to your comment, in the 5/26 "e-MUGGER," that Bill Clinton will stand in history somewhere between Warren G. Harding and (the venerable) James K. Polk. Polk is one of the greatest of all presidents. He added Texas to the Union, acquired the West and Southwest via the Mexican War and the Pacific Northwest through negotiations with Britain. Manifest Destiny was once a dream; Polk made it a reality.

Best of all, he promised to do what he set out to do, then went home. He did so, departing after a single term in the White House.

You, sir, have done Mr. Polk an injustice. I would hope that you would correct this in a future column. Many a lesser man than James Knox Polk has occupied the presidency.

Gene Mierzejewski, Grand Blanc, MI

Crapio
As a regular in the "Mail" section of New York Press, I recognize that there are others who are entitled to have their letters printed. Unfortunately, James Carpio is one of them (5/31). Here's his list of "right-wing" atrocities: Waco as use of force against innocents; "bombing innocent civilians around the globe"; threatening doctors who dissent from the party line; hiring a "military goon" for any policy; legalizing censorship; abuse of campaign fundraising; marital infidelity.

The last time I checked, socialists were the ones who have been historically proficient at the use of government power to squelch opposition. They're the ones who use the military to eliminate the opposition, the ones who institute censorship to restrict opposing viewpoints, the ones who favor the use of "military goons" in any governmental function, the ones who seem to always prosper financially at the expense of others when they are in power. I suggest he read any marginally unbiased history of 20th-century Asia or Cuba, or of the old USSR, to confirm these facts. The body count of any allegedly "right-wing" political attitude?especially in the United States?pales before these unfettered "left-wing" slaughterhouses.

As for his charge that marital infidelity is a "right-wing" crime, only a person with no self-respect would level this allegation. To say that extramarital sex is a vice primarily of the right is blind. Excluding Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford (both aberrant politicians who break the curve in so many ways), you can't name a single president in 50 years about whom there has been no speculation regarding his visits to the, uh, Oval Office. And in those 50 years, it's a 50-50 split.

Moreover, I'm pretty sure Carpio couldn't name the presidents of the last 50 years. (Hint: there were 10, and FDR was not one of them.) It's hard to do, but he gives Manhattanites a bad name.

Frank Turk, Pittsburgh





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