- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pop peacenik

“Ever since Plato mistakenly claimed that when the modes of music changed, the walls of cities shook … eggheads and dumbbells alike have overestimated the power of music — or popular culture in general — to effect social and political change. Still, the news that Neil Young rush-recorded a set of songs, to be called ‘Living with War’ and containing a song called ‘Impeach the President,’ has divided the world into pro and con camps.

“Can Neil win this fight against a foe tougher than Crosby, Stills, and David Geffen combined? Pop victories over political culture are unfortunately ephemeral — one would have thought the Village People had preemptively settled the whole ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’ controversy back in 1979 with their hit ‘In the Navy’; or that Vince Vance and the Valiants novelty hit from 1980 ‘Bomb Iran’ had spared President George W. Bush one foreign policy dilemma today; or that we would no longer see hate in either Red China or Selma, Ala. Alas, once … the CD ends, the wisdom of political pop tends to blow away, almost as if in the wind. …

“But really, what are Neil’s chances of turning things around with this new album? … He did tell CNN that he wanted it to carry a message of togetherness and unification to the American people at large — most likely … it will only succeed in uniting us in revulsion or boredom. Let’s just remember that Abraham Lincoln was the last president brought down by a popular entertainer.”

— Brian Doherty, writing on “Go Ahead, Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World,” Monday in Reason Online at www.reason.com

Bye-bye, California

“The 1986 amnesty for illegal aliens (1.6 million in California alone) sped the decline of California’s affordability by setting off a Hispanic baby boom. …

“A net of almost 2.2 million California citizens moved out of the state during the 1990s. … Many went looking for a cheaper place to raise kids. Between 1990 and 2000 in California, the total fertility rate for non-Hispanic whites dropped 14.4 percent. …

“Meanwhile, the whites moving to California to work in Silicon Valley and Hollywood tend to be economically elite and socially liberal.

“For those who stayed behind in California, it has become increasingly hard to form families.

“If the Senate has its way on immigration, the Californication of the rest of America will accelerate.”

— Steve Sailer, writing on “The Politics of Amnesty,” in the May 8 issue of the American Conservative

Stolen words

“Has any plagiarist ever owned up to stealing — deliberately — another writer’s words? None that I can recall. Mostly they peddle apologies and excuses like the ones offered by Harvard student and novelist Kaavya Viswanathan, whom the Harvard Crimson busted this week for word thievery. …

“Trudy Lieberman reported in the July/August 1995 Columbia Journalism Review that many journalists caught plagiarizing paid little or no price for their transgressions. Lieberman describes a “circle-the-wagons” mentality in the news business when plagiarism breaks out. … She also notes the double standard of journalists who gave Sen. Joseph Biden holy grief when he committed plagiarism in a presidential campaign speech but cut their colleagues slack.

“How severely will the book industry punish Kaavya Viswanathan? I predict that she’ll weather the storm with all the grace and denial of Doris Kearns Goodwin.”

— Jack Shafer, writing on “Why plagiarists do it,” Wednesday in Slate at www.slate.com

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