- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Teens and jeans

“In the 1950s, Levi Strauss & Co. decided to update the image of its denim clothes. … It didn’t want to abandon the evocative Gold Rush connection, but the postwar world was filling with consumption-minded creatures called ‘teenagers,’ and it seemed time to rethink the company’s pitch.

“So in 1956 Levi Strauss tried an experiment, releasing a line of black denim pants it called Elvis Presley Jeans. It was the perfect endorsement. … Upon the release of Elvis’ [1957] hit movie ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ writes James Sullivan in ‘Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon’ … ‘black jeans became the rage of the season.’ That transition would eventually make undreamed-of profits for Levi Strauss and its many competitors. …

“Elvis actually disliked denim. To him, as to most people from real working-class backgrounds, it was just a reminder of working hard and being poor. The less denim Elvis wore, the happier he was.”

— Charles Paul Freund, writing on “The Politics of Pants,” in the February issue of Reason

Marquee justice

“From the beginning, [Supreme Court] Justice [Clarence] Thomas was an independent voice. His brutal confirmation hearings only enforced his autonomy, making him impervious to criticism from the media and liberal law professors. He’d told his story, and no one listened. From then on, he did not care what they said about him.

“Clarence Thomas, for example, is the only justice who rarely asks questions at oral arguments. One reason is that he thinks his colleagues talk too much from the bench, and he prefers to let the lawyers explain their case with fewer interruptions. But his silence is sometimes interpreted as a lack of interest, and friends have begged him to ask a few questions to dispel those suggestions. He refuses to do it. ‘They have no credibility,’ he says of critics. ‘I am free to live up to my oath.’ …

“With the addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, the court now is poised to finally fulfill the hopes of the conservative movement. As George W. Bush told his legal advisers early in his presidency, he wanted justices in ‘the mold of Thomas and [Antonin] Scalia.’ Interestingly, on President Bush’s marquee, Justice Thomas got top billing.”

— Jan Crawford Greenburg, writing on “The Truth About Clarence Thomas,” Sunday in Opinion Journal at www. opinionjournal.com

Moral villain

“[Dinesh] D’Souza sees America as profoundly divided by cultural issues, views these issues as being of great importance, and fears that conservatives are losing ground to the Left. ‘[W]hat has changed in America since the 1960s,’ he writes, ‘is the erosion of belief in an external moral order. This is the most important political fact of the past half century.’ He provides numerous examples of how this changed view of morality has transformed America, from the debasement of popular culture, to the rapid spread of pornography, to the widespread acceptance of what was universally regarded in the past as sexual immorality, to what D’Souza regards as the inevitable result of such changes: the breakdown of the American family.

“He is generally a clear-eyed observer of the Culture War, recognizing that this attempt to redefine morality has produced an America perhaps more divided than at any time since the 1850s. He also realizes that much of what drives the Left is hatred of traditional morality, especially sexual morality: ‘If there is a villain in the liberal story, it is traditional morality itself.’ ”

— Tom Piatak, writing on “MTV Made Them Do It,” in the Jan. 15 issue of the American Conservative

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