"In regard to Jolene of Lake Forest," wrote my new pal Leah, "she can go fuck herself." Leah went on to say many deliciously delightful things, things about me, many of which included the prospect of street riots should I ever get canned and which I excise in the name of modesty, before Leah wrapped up her note with the pithy explication, "But really, getting back to the lecture at hand, Jolene is an asshole. Thanks."
The more I think about it, the more I have to agree. Jolene is an asshole.
For those of you just joining us, Jolene is a Lake Forest matron who wrote in last weekend hoping I got fired and who was of the opinion Americans are supposed to shut their mouths till after they've read their Bible; she was very offended by my potty language, and I was very offended by her smearing her Jesus on me (I like Jesus; Jesus is a cool guy. But fuck off with your theocracy), and I quoted her letter in full as a nice little peg on which to hang my column on the liberal-Hollywood elite, which meant Jolene was basically doing my work for me. Win-win-win, win-win!
I would like nothing more than to spend the next 700 words or so quoting other people's letters to me this week about Jolene (who is an asshole) and my breasts (which all my correspondents agreed were superb) because I spent the weekend moving to a very nice neighborhood in Anaheim that's chock-full of superfriendly home-schoolers and Cavalry Chapel folk and people with bumper stickers that read, "In Case of Rapture, this Car will be Unmanned," but I'm pretty sure they don't mean it will be unmanned, like David Gest, I think they mean unoccupied or maybe de-manned, which is kind of like deloused—and in my new neighborhood, heretofore referenced as "The Belly of the Beast," even the Latinos are Born Again, but they were all supernice even though their kids' eyes just about popped out of their faces when they saw Commie Mom's Bush Sucks shirt, and since I spent the weekend moving, I really didn't do all that much—or anything at all for that matter—for your entertainment and edification. Still, my neighbors? Really nice!
Okay. I did one thing, but I've been putting it off for 395 words or so because I don't know how much of it you'll be able to take.
Sadly, for you, you'll now be reading about some dude (looking back at my notes, I see it was Andrew Bernstein) from the Ayn Rand Institute expounding on the thrilling topic "Global Capitalism—The Cure for World Oppression and Poverty." I sat through it for you, people! And you will like it!
Now. I know some fabulous libertarians, up to and including my swell and urbane editor, who likes to explain Schumpeterian theory around the water cooler, and they are, mostly, fabulous.
But I read Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness in philosophy class with a particularly natty and soul-patched professor (Santa Barbara City College has the best-dressed philosophy faculty perhaps in the entire universe), and I found it, how you say, sociopathic.
Waiting for the hoe to down at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine a Thursday or two ago, I read an excerpt from The Fountainhead, which the Ayn Rand Institute was passing out like subpoenas at the Haidl house, and found every college sophomore's favorite novel to be (in a very few little pages, of course) incredibly simplistic and full of silly straw men like an architecture dean who declared our sociopath—I mean, our hero—"dangerous" because he designed modern buildingsand didn't care to reproduce Renaissance structures, and it didn't bode well for the rest of Rand's egoistic oeuvre. I can't tell you how many coffeehouse conversations I've listened at that fervidly retold the story of Howard Roarke. Really? This is life-changing?
Once the main act came on, I studiously took notes amid several hundred libertarian men and at least a dozen women. The men were most notable for their striking lack of chins, which I wouldn't have expected, since my swell and urbane editor is possessed of a strong and manly jaw.
But the most important thing to know about Bernstein's talk, aside from the fact that he spake it in front of a whole lot of beards, is that he apologized for Pinochet.
I know! I couldn't figure it out either. Was he trying to be funny? If so, why was I the only person laughing?
Now, Bernstein knows Augusto Pinochet wasn't just a daisy in springtime; he called him bloody-handed, suppressive and bad . . . "except for one fact," he said. What might that be? The Butcher of Santiago loosened economic freedoms! And he studied with Milton Friedman! So I guess that would be two facts! And he swept aside the "disastrous policies of [Salvador] Allende's rule!"
How? By killing him!
So that's three!
In addition to giving Capitalism credit for the Enlightenment, saying he's "proud" that "we're the fattest people in history because Capitalism prevents famine" (at last! an economic system that keeps one's land arable, just like in Oklahoma in the '30s!) and that Capitalism spurred abolition, which would probably have been a surprise to Little Eva, Bernstein had lots of other witticisms, too. When he talked about how Taiwan's people made $100 per capita 50 years ago and earn $14 thousand per capita now, so they've created 140 times more wealth, I wanted to know if those were constant dollars, but that would have entailed staying during the question-and-answer session, and Bernstein's speech went on for an hour and 15 minutes, and I didn't want to stay for the Q&A even though there were a couple of punk rockers standing in line for the microphone who could well have been secreting a couple of pies. But they were really far back in the line, and I would have had to wait through a whole bunch of people stuttering and Bernstein saying things like this, which he said in response to the first question, which was about the ethics of our taking over the Panama Canal: "Whoever comes after Saddam Hussein will make the country freer."
At least the local Ayn Rand Institute jefe disagreed—albeit milquetoastily—with that particularly lame and un-libertarian-like assessment (just ask the Randians over at The Orange County Register). "If I may disagree," he whispered, "there are multiple scenarios where Iraq becomes worse-off."
The fuck, you say!
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I would have had more questions, too, had I in fact not bailed. For instance: When Bernstein extolled capitalist nation's average incomes, was he simply misnaming the proper median income? Or was he really talking about average incomes, which don't mean shit when you're trying to explain how well wealth is spread? If you average my income with Bill Gates', you get $15 billion.
There was a lot more—an hour and 15 minutes' worth of more—but perhaps the best part (aside from when he apologized for Pinochet; everyone's willing to apologize for Pinochet, but who will apologize for Sting?)—came when he discussed the moving plight of a victim of Robert Mugabe. "He was asking not for a check or for the blood of our soldiers, despite his suffering," Bernstein intoned piously. "The only thing he asked of us was this: 'America, stop apologizing for your greatness!'"
And start apologizing for Liza Minnelli!