Diary of a Mad County

Wednesday, Sept. 27
Conspiracies abound. The most popular one these days being that there is something rotten with the sudden drop in gas prices. For months gas rose for no apparent reason to nearly $4. Now, for no apparent reason, prices have dropped more than a dollar a gallon in some cases. This has people wondering if the drop isn't motivated by oil folks' desire for Republicans to do well in the November elections—lower gas prices translating into happier constituents who apparently will suddenly forget we're mired in a land war about to become a religious war. Now, I like a good conspiracy as much as the next guy and still believe that it was Earl Warrenwho killed John Kennedy, but this is just silly. Oil companies are regular people like you and me. What do they have to gain from a Republican administration under which they have profited in the billions? Sure, prices have dropped more than a dollar recently, but gas prices always are dropping more than a dollar. You know, when the oil companies have too much oil they say, “Hey, let's pass this savings on to our friend, the consumer”—and they drop the price a dollar or two—”and, hey, consumer, you want your oil checked? And did you know your left rear tire was a little low on air? No, no: don't you worry. I'll do that. That's what oil companies are for.” Still, no matter how you feel about gas prices, one thing that has to make you feel warm inside is the respectful and secure manner in which Congressional pages are treated.

Thursday, Sept. 28
Word comes that The Orange County Register is going to have to make some cuts in staff to make up for a shortfall in revenue. You may think that this gives us some kind of happy boost over here but this is a complete For Whom the Bell Tolls situation. I've been part of failing papers, taking a buyout from the Long Beach Press-Telegram and watching the National Sports Dailycrash and burn while I was aboard. When a newspaper like the Register—which is basically unopposed in one of the richest areas in America and whose political outlook falls nearly lockstep with the wealthiest, most powerful people in that region (kids flying kites, kittens playing with yarn, good; gun laws, kittens pushing school bonds, bad)—has trouble making a go of it, you know times are tough. It's a scary time for newspaper types since industries in America have a way of disappearing overnight. Blink and typewriter repair disappears, blink again and say goodbye to steel production. So, I just want to say to my brothers over at the Register that I know what you're going through, but there's always the Internet, and nobody ever lost a dollar there.

Friday, Sept. 30
All is lost! Republican congressman Mark Foley of Florida abruptly resigns his seat after ABC News brings forward pretty creepy e-mails he sent to a 16-year-old page. Every guy has at some point had someone like Foley in his life. I had a football coach who used to beckon us after we got in the shower and demand we stand at attention—careful—before his desk as he talked to us about George Patton. Good times. Well, at least Foley did the right thing in quitting and the Republican leadership did the right thing in immediately condemning him because, we can only assume, they just found out about this and were immediately outraged, because if someone had known about this and not done anything about it, I mean, that would be sick and an enormous abuse of power. Did I mention I was Catholic?

Saturday, Sept. 31

Sunday, Oct. 1

Monday, Oct. 2
! More of Mark Foley's e-mails to male pages come to light and they are gruesome. “You in your boxers, too? . . . Well strip down and get relaxed.” And “Do I make you a little horny?” Eeeeewwww! Just as gross is the news that apparently the Republican leadership in the House knew about the e-mails for some time. In fact, stories are coming out that pretty much everyone in the leadership knew Foley liked to hit on young male pages. This has caused some to demand House Speaker Dennis Hastert resign, like the Washington Times, which you might think of as conservative since it endorsed William McKinley in the last presidential election, but it seems absolutely progressive compared to our own LA Times, which felt compelled in a story about a congressman sexually harassing a 16-year-old boy to mention that Democrats have their problems, too, though neither of them sexually harassed a 16-year-old boy. Our own Rebecca Schoenkopf wrote to Noam Levey, author of that article, and Times Editor Dean Baquet: “Congratulations on Saturday's story on Mark Foley. I especially liked how you managed to tie in the names of the two ethically challenged Dems in the entire House up close to the top of the story, many paragraphs before you ever mentioned Tom DeLay or Bob Ney. AND, you said DeLay resigned because of actions of his 'former aides,' without mentioning that he's under indictment. You, sir, are awesome. Thank you for taking on the liberal media, which only exists to smear decent conservatives like Foley, DeLay and Ney. Yours, Rebecca Schoenkopf.”

Tuesday, Oct. 3
releases a new version of The Little Mermaid on DVD in that Disney way where they threaten you that this is a limited release and if don't buy this soon it will be gone forever and your kids will then take drugs and shoot you in the back of the head while you eat ice cream in your underwear. Or words to that effect. Little Mermaid is significant because it started not only Disney's impressive animation run—Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin—but made animation a powerful player in the film industry. The thing about the Disney films is that they always featured strong female characters who stood up for themselves. Young girls reacted to this and, in the 1990s, it was a common sight to see them wearing clothing, accessories or Halloween costumes adorned by the aforementioned characters. Those days are apparently gone. You don't see little girls wearing as much Disney stuff. Or wearing much of anything. In fact, they're much more likely to want to emulate other young women—supermodels, party heiresses. Not long ago, I was talking to a woman who arranges birthday parties for kids. Ten years ago, she tells me, girls wanted princess parties that usually involved Disney characters. Now, without a doubt, her most popular theme is supermodels where little girls put on makeup and strut the catwalk. Is this bad? I dunno. It's different. The Disney characters were strong and resilient and it seemed little girls took notice of their ability to stand up to bullying men. It would seem little girls notice that supermodels are terrific at being noticed. What else is there?


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