Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Dick Armey's parting words," Dec. 14, 2002

Politically useless victim

When thugs murdered 21-year-old homosexual Matthew Shepard, the case became a national sensation. When gay teenager Nicholas Gutierrez was arrested for murdering a middle-aged woman who questioned his sexual preferences, the story barely reached outside local Chicago news. The Chicago Tribune reports that Mary Stachowicz was found dead at a funeral home. Mr. Gutierrez was living in an upstairs apartment and had apparently argued with her before the attack. "The defendant punched and kicked and stabbed the victim until he was tired," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Nancy Galassini at a hearing. "He then placed a plastic garbage bag over her head and strangled her." So why wasn't this news? "There is no moral difference between these acts," argues columnist Rod Dreher. "Yet the same American media that made Matthew Shepard a celebrated cause have said very little about Mary Stachowicz--just as they said very little about Jesse Dirkhising, the 13-year-old boy raped, tortured, and strangled by homosexuals in 1999."

Public-policy dietician

John DiIulio, who left President Bush's office of faith-based initiatives in August 2001, tells Esquire magazine that in terms of policy-making fitness, the White House is pretty flabby and needs to lay off the right-wing sweets: "They could stand ... [to add] more serious policy fiber into the West Wing diet." The Democrat's colorful diatribe against White House staff--not the president, whom he calls a "godly man and a moral leader"--argues that the Clinton policy shop was much better than that of TeamBush. His 2,700-word critique moves from recommending roughage to asking, "Where's the beef?" Mr. DiIulio claims the White House is dominated by "Mayberry Machiavellis," a term he used three times in his memo to Esquire. He didn't name names--though he pointed to aide Karl Rove as the most powerful staffer in the West Wing--but he did define the term: "staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible." His assertion in the Esquire article that the Bush White House suffers from a "complete lack of a policy apparatus" brought a vigorous reaction from presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer, who called the DiIulio comments "baseless and groundless." Later, a chastened Mr. DiIulio recanted and agreed what he said was "groundless and baseless." He said he would never again comment publicly on "any aspect of my limited and ... unrepresentative White House experience or any matters or persons related thereto."

Life wins in Louisiana

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Louisiana drivers will still be able to choose "Choose Life" license plates. The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to hear arguments that the tags violate the First Amendment's establishment clause. The ruling is the second recent setback for pro-abortion forces in the Bayou State, reports Susan Finch of the Times-Picayune. Last month, the state Supreme Court refused to take up a case that attacked as unconstitutional a 1997 law that gives women up to 10 years to sue over injuries that they or their unborn children suffer as a result of abortions.

Distressed? De-stress

Visiting a spa is joining school, homework, and shopping at malls on the list of teenage pastimes. Associated Press reporter Martha Irvine reports that spa owners have noticed a strong increase in business from teens since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She writes that teens go to spas to "de-stress" themselves with facials, manicures, and massages. The price of such de-stressing can be distressing--in some cases, over $100 per visit--but many parents are willing to pay it. "I think it's really decadent," said Martha Schwartz, whose daughter makes regular visits to a spa, "but it's probably cheaper than psychology."

Is prime time past its prime?

Prime time could end earlier if one TV executive has his way. The head of a large chain of TV stations asked ABC to stop programming the 10:00-11:00 (Eastern) hour. That would allow affiliates to run longer newscasts. David Barrett, CEO of Hearst-Argyle Television, made the request last month, reports Electronic Media's Doug Halonen. The change could be good for family audiences, since the 10:00-11:00 hour usually has the most explicit programs in a network's lineup. "Clearly the idea is a long shot, but its significance stems from the fact that it comes from Mr. Barrett, whose company not only has the greatest number of ABC affiliates but also, with 10 NBC stations, is that network's second-biggest group owner," reports Mr. Halonen. ABC had no comment on the idea.

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