- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

J.Lo Inc.

“Technically speaking, I could drape myself head to toe in Jennifer Lopez. There’s the clothing line (velour jump suits), the jewelry (pink diamonds), the perfume (Glow by J. Lo), the sunglasses and the swimwear. Her newest movie debuts this week, she’s being Googled right now in The Netherlands, and my mailbox is full of spam with her name on it. Oh, and she sings, too.

“So what is it with J. Lo? If there were ever a good argument for the existence of that ineffable ‘something,’ it is the ascendance of a mediocre singer/actress to cultural domination, Madonna-style. But J. Lo has the singular ability to spread that gilded charm elsewhere — specifically to her fiance, the underwhelming Ben Affleck, who looks like some kid who went to your high school. In other words, that ‘something’ has spawned a power couple of staggering market value, and out of precious little raw material. …

“J. Lo may be the diva of the moment, but she has many more metamorphoses ahead of her if she is to get anywhere near the running time of a legend like Madonna. Her attempts to achieve extended cultural relevance in the throes of marriage will be a performance worth watching.”

Kerry Howley, writing on “Fly Girl Unbound,” July 31 in Reason Online at www.reason.com

Kleptocracy

“In 1991, Russia experienced a new dawn of freedom. The Communist Party was dissolved, and Russia appeared ready to build a democratic future. …

“The victory over communism was a moral victory. Millions took to the streets not because of shortages but in protest over communism’s attempt to falsify history and change human nature. As a new state began to be built, however, all attention shifted to the building of capitalism and, in particular, to the creation of a group of wealthy private owners whose control over the means of production, it was assumed, would lead automatically to a free market economy and a law-based democracy.

“This approach, dubious under the best of conditions, could not but be disastrous in the case of Russia. It meant that, in a country with a need for moral values after more than seven decades of spiritual degradation under communism, the introduction of capitalism came to be seen as an end in itself. …

“The decision to transform the economy of a huge country without the benefit of the rule of law led not to a free market democracy but to a kleptocracy with several dangerous economic and psychological features.”

David Satter, writing on “The Rise of the Russian Criminal State,” in the summer issue of the Hoover Digest

Grown-up kids

“The alarm bells started ringing a few years ago. I was showing a friend around my campus when we encountered a group of undergraduates absorbed in watching ‘Teletubbies’ in the bar.

“Normally, the sight of a group of 18- to 21-year-olds indulging their taste for a program aimed at toddlers would not have made much of an impact on my imagination. But my then 2-year-old son’s attachment to these sickly-sweet characters meant that I had become all too familiar with them; and the previous evening I had made a futile effort to wean my son off the ‘Teletubbies’ by offering him some more challenging visual alternatives. It didn’t work — and I was struck by the thought that it wouldn’t work with these 21-year-olds either.

“Not every 20-something is into the ‘Teletubbies.’ … Yet when I complain about young adults’ fascination with early years television, 28-year-old John Russell looks at me as though I am a lost cause. John, a well-paid lawyer, says he isn’t interested in doing ‘adult stuff.’ He loves his PlayStation and spends a considerable portion of his disposable income on hi-tech toys.”

Frank Furedi, writing on “The children who won’t grow up,” July 29 in Spiked at www.spiked-online.com

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