Dispatches > The Buzz

QuickTakes

Issue: "Germ warfare and national security," June 2, 2001

CAP & GROAN: Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating celebrated two college graduations this year: A daughter finished law school and a son received a bachelor's degree. He writes in National Review that he's glad he didn't spend lots of money sending them to big, elite schools because the investment isn't worth it: "We had heard the horror stories, but I was unaware of how extreme the left-wing fringes of academia had become ... until I scanned the course offerings listed by some of our most 'elite' schools." The governor recalls a Harvard offering called "Bodies and Boundaries" about how "bodies [are] normalized and controlled, and how they in turn become instruments of governance." He cited Stanford offerings such as "Subjectivity in Feminist Research," "Gay Autobiography," and "Feminist Media Theories," and Columbia University's "Renaissance Literature: Gender and Disorder in England" (which studies "witches, shrews, priests, whores, disloyal servants, [and] murderous spouses or parents"). Gov. Keating says all this is overpriced indoctrination. "Shouldn't the parents who pay the equivalent cost of a new house for a college degree have something to say when academics waste a substantial share of that investment on 'Queer Studies?'" DARE TO BE UNCOOL: Perry Como's death received scant attention in the media, remarks Mark Steyn, and that's a shame. The rock music boom overshadowed his successes. Many today remember him only for his trademark cardigan sweaters and his TV Christmas specials. Como's hero, Bing Crosby, once called him "the man who invented casual." "He had a bunch of Number Ones, sold more records than Dylan, was at one point the highest-paid performer in the history of American TV, but none of it seemed to count for much by the end," Mr. Steyn says in Canada's National Post. Songs like "Hot Diggity," "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?", and "Papa Loves Mambo" weren't great art. Still, they were fun and better than a typical performance of the 1970s: "bloated, decadent, dependent on lasers and dry ice to conceal its fundamental banality." Mr. Steyn suggests buying a Perry Como record instead of "200 Baby Boom Rock Classics You Hear Every Time You Switch On The Radio." CELLPHONE WANT A CRACKER? Is that your cell phone ringing? Or just some bird in a tree? Ben Charny of CNetNews.com reported that Danish experts have found starlings in Copenhagen who can imitate the ringing tone of a Nokia handheld: "Usually, birds copy what they hear the most. Birds in rural areas have added the sound of horses whinnying, lawn mowers, and even chainsaws to their repertoires. In cities, birds have added car alarms, the warning beep of a truck backing up and police sirens to their calls, experts say." Mr. Charny also reports than some phones now offer bird calls instead of the usual ring tones. GROSSED OUT: Author Martin Gross, pondering the recent budget in The Washington Times, complained that spending increases have become a bipartisan activity, helped along by recent surpluses. Mr. Gross listed a handful of pork-barrel projects he'd love to see downsized, including corporate welfare, failed job-training programs, and unnecessary Federal courthouses. His dream chopping block includes a $7 million golf course at Andrews Air Force Base and "such tragi-comic expenditures as $105,163 to study the Evolution of Monogamy in a Biparental Rodent, a rival to $107,000 to study the sex life of the Japanese Quail." Also mentioned is the often embarrassing Small Business Administration loan program that loses "hundreds of millions" through defaults-one-eighth of which goes to convicted felons. "At one time, budget cutting was a Republican prerogative," he laments. POLYGLOT NATION: How many languages do you speak? If you contract with the government, according to Linda Chavez, you'd better be ready to handle a lot of them. Her syndicated column refers to a little-noticed Clinton executive order requiring agencies and those who receive federal dollars to service non-English speakers in their native tongues: The order was meant to require provision of services immediately in both Spanish and Chinese. "But other languages are sure to follow, as the regulations several federal agencies have drafted make clear." Mrs. Chavez says that those who can't operate in uncommon tongues such as Farsi, Urdu, and Tagalog could be found guilty of discrimination. She hopes President Bush will take the advice of Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) and overturn the order. Otherwise, a twisted interpretation of civil rights could become standard public policy: "Some years ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided that language and national origin were the same thing, and to discriminate on either basis was to run afoul of civil rights laws, even though the laws themselves are silent on the subject of language."

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