- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2000

Leisure status

"In 'The Theory of the Leisure Class,' written a century ago, Thorstein Veblen showed how the wealthy use 'conspicuous consumption' and 'conspicuous waste' to display their status.
"Tom Wolfe's 'Bonfire of the Vanities' shows nicely how little has changed. In one brilliant vignette, he describes how the bond trader Sherman McCoy and his wife Judy travel to a dinner party only six New York blocks from where they live. Unfortunately, Judy's dress is not designed for walking in the street. Veblen would have understood that well … .
"So walking is out. Nor is getting a taxi possible, because it would be socially unbecoming for the other guests to see the McCoys out on Fifth Avenue, trying to hail a taxi to get home. So they must hire a limousine and driver to take them six blocks, wait four hours, and drive them home again."
Peter Singer, from his new book, "A Darwinian Left"

Liberal fear

"Who's afraid of the religious right? Not I. And yet, as a 'New York intellectual,' I am precisely the type of person who is supposed to be trembling with apprehension at the baneful influence conservative Christians have gained within the Republican Party and, through it, on the nation as a whole… .
"Never mind that, in the justly celebrated quip of Irving Kristol … Christians in America today are less interested in persecuting Jews than in marrying their sons and daughters… .
"Irving Kristol has a brother-in-law, a scholar named Milton Himmelfarb, who is the author of an even more famous quip … 'American Jews live like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.'
"Himmelfarb's great witticism was born out of his analysis of Jewish political habits. In studying the statistics, he found that members of every other religio-ethnic group invariably shifted from the Democratic to the Republican ranks as they became more prosperous. Jews, by contrast, stubbornly remained as liberal as they had been when living in poverty ….
"There is virtually no limit to the paranoia aroused by the Christian Right among liberals.
"When Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964, the all-but-open liberal fear was that he would bring fascism to the United States. Today, the old talk of fascism has been replaced by the conviction the sincere conviction that if the Christian Right ever got into power behind a Republican president, we would face an updated version of the Salem witch trials… .
"Liberals fear that if a Republican like George W. Bush were elected with a debt to the Christian Right, all hell (as liberals envisage hell) would break loose."
Norman Podhoretz, writing on "The Christian Right and Its Demonizers," in the April 3 issue of National Review

Movie magic

"You might say 'Erin Brockovich' is Julia Roberts' most uplifting movie and we don't just mean the single-working-mom-conquers-all story line.
"We're talking about Roberts' jaw-dropping bustline. Given her usually modest silhouette, how'd they do that? 'That's all Julia up there,' assures costume designer Jeffrey Kurland. But it's Julia plus 'precisely engineered,' custom-designed, intricately interdependent garments, sewn by a master dressmaker.
"Kurland won't reveal the exact 'trade secrets' though he will say that 'three-inch heels helped a lot to push Julia's bust forward.' Just be prepared for slightly less dramatic results if you try to duplicate the gaga garb at home.
" 'It ain't a look that's off the rack,' says Kurland, 'if you'll pardon the expression.' "
Steve Daly, writing on "Inflated," in the March 24 issue of Entertainment Weekly

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