Politics & Policy

Glutton For Punishment; Frogs Surrender to Mammoth!


I was Perry Farrel’s replacement. That’s at least what I was told. Farrell — for you fogies who are too old to know, or too successful to care — is the co-founder of the band Jane’s Addiction and the co-creator of the Lollapalooza tour. It has been a strange couple of years but I never expected anyone to ever say “Well, if we can’t get Perry Farrel, we gotta get that Goldberg kid.”

And to tell the truth no one did. What really happened is that when Southwestern Missouri State University found out that Farrel couldn’t make it for their installment of the Spitfire Tour, someone had the wacky notion of getting a conservative. That’s where I came in.

And not a moment too soon.

I should explain that the Spitfire Tour is a road show for socially aware, progressive college kids to be told pretty much what they want to hear from socially aware, progressive musicians and activists — which pretty quickly explains why I got heckled and booed. My fellow panelists were: Art Alexakis, the front man for the band Everclear; Michael Franti, a poet and rap artist; Exene Cervenka, the vocalist and lyricist from the punk band X; Kennedy, the former MTV VJ; and Jello Biafra, former lead singer of the former band the Dead Kennedys. Let’s just say my presence multiplied the political diversity on the panel.

On the whole, the audience at SMSU was polite, engaged, and interested — but profoundly liberal. The campus as a whole, however, is probably pretty conservative; it’s just that Spitfire serves as a lint magnet for the white-guys-with-dreadlocks crowd. Anyway there were a few people who liked to raise their fists in solidarity when they heard phrases like “the prison-industrial complex” and “the evils of the one-world corporate media.” And there were a sizable number of people who thought Jello Biafra’s tirade about implementing a “maximum wage” actually makes sense. Presumably these people could teach me a lot about the perils of ingesting vast amounts of bowl resin.

But what was shocking to me was what the patchouli-soaked bong warriors didn’t want to hear. Yeah, there were grumbles when I explained that I was opposed to gay marriage (something I’ve been rethinking, wait for an upcoming column). Sure, there were harrumphs when I came out against hate-crimes legislation.

But what seemed to really piss people off was good news. I may not have served it with the most sugary coating — I called environmentalists and other Leftists liars. But when I told them about how great things are, they were as dour as a kid who finds his Christmas pony slumped over, dead, on top of the other presents.

I explained that the environment is demonstrably better — more trees, cleaner air, water, — and I got boos and whines. I explained that despite all of the talk about poverty in this country, we have the richest poor people in the world. Citing some stats from Robert Rector’s article in the current issue of National Review, I pointed out that 70% of people below the poverty line own a car or truck. Two thirds of the poor have air conditioning and about that many have microwaves. Almost 75% of the poor have VCRs. Ninety-six percent of the allegedly-starving poor say they have enough food to eat and the biggest health problem of “the children” is obesity. At some point in this recitation, some guy who hasn’t changed his underwear since Jerry Garcia died angrily yelled “So what?”

Well, I explained, in India a village is considered wealthy if it has a TV. And yet people like Jane Fonda tell the world that poor children in American live under third-world conditions.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make to these kids is that the Left has a vested interest in making people afraid.

Ironically, this is the chief criticism the Left makes of the Right. Conservatives have been accused for decades of fomenting fear and paranoia. We are accused of demonizing blacks, gays, feminists, etc., in order to exploit popular resentments. This is one of President Clinton’s favorite topics. He recently gave a loopy speech to gay activists about “fear” of the “other.” Tony Blair’s newly declared war against conservatives makes the same points. And I think the most recent study found that the New York Times’s Frank Rich actually cannot make any other point when talking about right-wingers. Of course, there’s some merit in the charge, though far, far less than the media would have you believe.

On the other hand, the steady drumbeat of bad news from the Left is often much worse, and usually gets reported as gospel by the press. From the black-church arson hoax, to Medicare reform, to the alar scare, to overpopulation (see Tuesday’s column), the Left scares the hell out of people. They do it largely to keep up momentum in their ranks. That’s bad enough, but what is really horrifying is how addicted campus-quad revolutionaries are to bad news.


French scientists have discovered an intact woolly mammoth in the Siberian permafrost. After surrendering to it for several days, they determined it was harmless and therefore deserving of effete criticism. The plan is to defrost the thing and study it. There is some hope they will be able to “harvest” its sperm (the winner of the 1987 award for least romantic phrase for intimate relations). With that they hope to make a baby woolly mammoth by impregnating an Asian elephant. If that doesn’t work, they’ll try to salvage some viable cells. Either way, they want to either clone or breed a living woolly mammoth.

I think this is so cool, I am at a loss for words. First, I want to be the first to predict that baby woolly mammoths are damn cute. Second, I think we should not just breed one, but hundreds. Hands up: Who wants to see a herd of woolly mammoths in Wyoming? I do! I do! And I mean a wild herd, too.

I am intrigued by the philosophical issues involved if the scientists can pull it off. Will animal-rights types be opposed or in favor? After all, some scholarship suggests we helped kill the things in the first place. Don’t we owe it to these creatures to bring ‘em back?

More to the point, I am sure many people will argue that we shouldn’t tamper with the ecological system. Well, here is where I think they’re wrong. We tamper with the food chain already. Nature is a chaotic thing and we affect it all the time. Many people across the ideological spectrum hate to admit this, but our reverence for nature is largely aesthetic. I’ve never had a problem with this. I think — all things being equal environmentally speaking — lions and tigers and bears and whales are more deserving of special protection than slugs, maggots, snakes, Sidney Blumenthals, etc., because they are so magnificent.

What I don’t like about the animal-rights people is not that they have elevated the value of animals — I love animals. It’s that they’ve lowered the value of humans. They believe that humans are essentially worthless and therefore no better than animals. I see it exactly the other way. Humans are better than animals and because we are better we need to be mindful of how wonderful other creatures are.

If we could bring back the woolly mammoth I think we should, for scientific reasons alone. But even if the science is negligible we should still bring it back because of the sheer glory of such a thing.


Okay, one last thing. I’ve been travelling a lot lately. I spend a lot of time in chairs that make bamboo tiger cages seem plush. Without trying to influence or enrage readers, I’d like to ask a question — we haven’t done a poll in a long time. Here it is:

The Jonah Poll
Do you think flight attendants are:

A) highly trained professionals with many impressive responsibilities

B) waitresses in the sky

Results [Link defunct]


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