Saturday, November 30, 2013

Conservatives and the Religion of the Free Market

Russell Kirk often used to make the point that conservatism (properly so called, as George F. Will would say) is not an ideology. This was implicit in his deeming of conservatism as the "politics of prudence." An ideology is a political philosophy operating like a religion: It is apocalyptic, messianic, utopian, and radical.

You know you are a ideologue if, solely on the basis of your political views, you can fill in the blank of the following question: "The world will be brought to perfection when ____________."

A conservative can complete this statement on the basis of his religion, but he cannot answer it on the basis of his politics. From a political perspective, he has to completely beg off. The world, until it is redeemed by something transcendent, will never be perfect. It is the place of imperfection. It is a place of good and evil and the good we can only see through a glass, darkly.

Modern left-wing liberalism has always been ideological in this sense. They can complete the statement above. For them, the world will be perfect when the society no longer interferes with our advance toward self-fulfillment. There can be a utopia if we take radical action to bring it about. It will be established in that Last Battle, when the forces of political darkness (conservatives) are defeated by the forces of the political light (left-wing liberals). In the meantime, we must settle for passing government programs.

This is what William F. Buckley (quoting Eric Voegelin) meant when he accused liberals of "immanentizing the eschaton": They want to bring about in the here and now what can only be brought about in the afterlife or in the religious apocalypse that will ensue before a Last Judgment they don't believe in.

Left-wing liberalism being a religious belief masquerading as a political one, it only makes sense that its most central belief would be theological: The denial of Original Sin. Left-wing liberalism is the political analog of the Ghost Dance movement, the cargo cults, and the Shakers, only without the religious trappings. They all sought a heaven here on earth and thought that through their actions they could either prepare for it or help bring it about.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, not Karl Marx, is the left-wing liberal's patron saint. Rousseau's "natural man," uncorrupted by civilization contrasts with the conservative idea that civilization is the only thing keeping man from destroying himself and everybody else.

Left wing liberalism's view that utopia is possible and that man is perfectible--and that all this can be accomplished through the right policies--is an idea that is increasingly characteristic of modern conservatism. And this is why we had the knee-jerk reaction of so many so-called conservatives to Pope Francis' comments that the free market was not sufficient to accomplish what needed to be accomplished with the poor.

The idea of the free market now serves the same role for many conservatives as government action serves for many liberals: It has become the policy by which we can reach an earthly Nirvana. Conservatives now seem to see the right set of policies as the route by which we can reach terrestrial perfection. The way to do this, they say, is a completely free market.

Traditional conservatives do not view the free market in this way. It does not view it as a cultural panacea. Free market capitalism is indeed the most efficient economic system, but that doesn't mean that it's perfect. It is the worst economic policy ever developed by mankind, to borrow an expression from Winston Churchill about systems of government, except all the other economic policies that have been developed from time to time throughout history.

All the Pope was trying to say was that the free market was not a panacea and it didn't release us from the obligation to help the poor. Many conservatives interpreted this as the Pope attacking the free market per se. But an attack on the idea that the free market is not a panacea is not an attack on the free market. It is an attack on a mistaken belief about the free market.

It is a plea from a religious leader not to make politics (or economics) into a religion.

This is why many conservatives do what traditional conservatives would never have done: called their political position an ideology--a "conservative ideology." They too place celestial faith in earthly things. Conservatism is not an ideology and when it becomes one, then it isn't conservatism any more.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

George Washington's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

New York, 3 October 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's Not About the Pope: Modern conservatives need to get back in touch with their traditional economic selves

The Pope's comments in an official Vatican document yesterday are being portrayed as an indictment of free market economics by the liberal media—and the misrepresentation has been swallowed whole by many conservatives. They're wrong. In fact, it isn't the Pope who's a liberal: It's conservatives who have abandoned their own traditions and whose liberalism on economic issues is now being shown up.

Any school of philosophical thought suffers from popularity, and conservatism is no different. Ever since conservatism grew out of its remnant status about 35 or 40 years ago, it has been in a process of degradation that continues to this day. It has been victimized by its own success.

The conservatism that produced Ronald Reagan and that in large part dominated the old National Review magazine until somewhere along in the 1990s has been beset with what can only be called a liberal infection.

The conservatism of Edmund Burke has been quietly traded in by modern conservatism for the liberalism of John Stuart Mill, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke. The problem is aggravated by the fact that, due to almost universal philosophical illiteracy, most modern conservatives don't even know who these thinkers are.

Utilitarianism has replaced respect for custom and tradition. Raw libertarianism has replaced ordered liberty. Free market ideology has replaced a common sense economic liberty that once understood the difference between the empirical laws of economics and the normative obligations of a Christian culture.

The process has been helped along by conservative talk radio and now Fox News. People like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, right as they are on many issues, are now seen as the standard bearers for conservatism when, in fact, their political philosophies are at serious odds with the conservative tradition itself.

A large part of the problem with modern conservatism has to do with the fact that conservatives have forgotten their own tradition. Just look at the most popular conservative books (and weep). No movement that takes as its chief intellectual nourishment itself on people like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Bill O'Reilly deserves to be taken seriously.

This was not the case with the old conservatism. There were no popular conservative authors back in the conservative day, so we couldn't be corrupted by them. We had to resort to Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, Michael Oakeshott, and F. A. Hayek, and T. S. Eliot for our political nourishment. Even the conservative journalists were intellectuals, not former disc jockeys and beauty queens: Wilmore Kendall, Frank Burnham, Joseph Sobran, and William F. Buckley, Jr.

These were people who a) knew what they were talking about, and b) actually authored the books that they claimed to author.

Modern conservatives can see conservatism from their house.

I have a simple rule for any conservative who wants to learn better what conservatism is: Don't read any book by anyone claiming to be a conservative that purports to explain it who didn't actually write the book that bears their name.

That would eliminate just about every popular conservative author with the exception of Charles Krauthammer, a liberal-turned-conservative (what we used to call a "neoconservative") who only had to change half his political philosophy in order to fit in to the new modern "conservatism" that is only half conservative. And we'll make an exception for Ann Coulter, any of whose lapses from true conservatism are more than made up for in sheer wit.

Allan Bloom once famously divided the political public into right-wing liberals and left-wing liberals. Modern conservatism is right-wing liberalism.

And this is why so-called conservatives have a problem with Pope Francis: He has challenged the liberal element within their thinking that has developed during a 40 year-long gestational period and has now experienced a coming out like the monster in the movie "Alien."

Conservatism has traditionally fought for a proper balance between justice, order, and freedom; and a belief in an economy that is free, but still subordinate to these goals. They believed freedom was a means, not an end.

What modern conservatism has done is to subordinate every other aspect of political conservatism to one thing and one thing only: free market economics. Everything else is dispensable.

Marriage for example.

Just look at the number of "conservative" leaders who, as soon as the political winds changed, abandoned ship on conservatism's central cultural position. It's pretty sad.

You can take my culture, but don't mess with my free market economics.

Once upon a time, conservatives advocated ordered liberty—both as a political and an economic principle. They were never in favor of unrestricted market actions. Never.

What the current critics of Pope Francis who think they are conservatives need to do is take account of Russell Kirk, the author of the most influential and authoritative book on conservatism, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot (the Ur text of modern conservatism), and legendary defender of the free market, who writes in another book:
Sometimes, indeed, vociferous American devotees of "American capitalism" and the "American standard of living" do more mischief and benefit to their own cause, generating more heat than light, and substituting facile slogans for first principles ... 
... We ought not to exaggerate the importance of our economic arguments or of our American economy. In many ways the free market economy of the United States is a good thing in itself; yet it is not the whole of life. No economy, however productive materially, could be a good thing if it were founded upon injustice, disorder, slavery, and dishonor. The slave-labor camps of the Soviet Union were efficient, after a fashion—but only because they took no reckoning of human lives or moral principles. Thus our American economy, though good in itself, is important not merely for its own sake: its real importance is the contribution it makes to our justice and order and freedom, our ability to live in dignity as truly human persons. Our "standard of living," though often enjoyable in itself, is not the be-all and end-all of life. Economic production is merely th e means to certain ends. One of those ends is the satisfaction of man's material wants. And there are other ends served by this means of economic production: the satisfaction of certain profound desires in human nature, such as the desire for fruitful work and sufficient leisure and hopeful competition, for one; and the maintenance of a decent society for another.
Now take this view and the read what Pope Francis said again, and ask yourself where there is any contradiction between this and what the Pope said.

Modern conservatives have made a religion of the free market in a way traditional conservatives never would have done. The free market is not the sum and summation of conservatism; it is rather one principle to be balanced with others. As C. S. Lewis once said, "Second things suffer from being put first." This is what modern conservatives have done with economics.

Conservatism is not an ideology, it is a set of political first principles in constant tension. There's a big difference.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

So-called "conservatives" get in on the act of misrepresenting the Pope

The supply of mischaracterizations about today's remarks on economics by Pope Francis is creating an even greater demand for people to point out what the Pope actually said.

Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy takes the Catholic Church to task for being against free market economics on the basis of remarks Pope Francis made in an Apostolic Exhortation earlier today opposing the idea that invisible hand of the free market is sufficient for the bringing about of justice:
It appears that he is agin’ it (full document here). 
I’m not going to go into the wrongheaded economics here. Instead, what I think is curious about this document is a longstanding peeve of mine. Ever since the Galileo incident, the Catholic Church has generally tried to be careful to get its science right before it opines on ethical matters related to science. It takes seriously questions of bioethics and has developed internal expertise on those issues. Yet when it comes to economics, the Church seems to have no qualms about opining on issues of economics without even the slightest idea of what it is talking about.
Now first of all let's take note of the assumption implicit in this charge: that economics is some kind of hard science. Really? I would love to hear the argument for that. Economics is surely a moral science (Adam Smith was, after all, a moral philosopher), but it is hardly a hard science. If it were, you wouldn't see the wide divergence of economic opinion on even basic economic questions.

But  more importantly, Zywicki's criticism betrays the fact that he isn't to make even basic distinctions. The Pope is primarily making a moral point here, and where he does make economic assertions (as he does about the empirical fact that a free market does not automatically produce a just society), they're clearly accurate.

Of course Zywicki, who claims the intellectual high ground in relation to the Church, doesn't even bother to argue that the Pope is wrong--either on the ethical fact that we should take some kind of action in addition to just letting the free market work or on the economic fact of what the free market does and doesn't inevitably do. All he does is make snide remarks over what he thinks the Pope said.

In instead of an argument Zywicki simply employs and assumption about what the Pope said that is clearly inaccurate. The title of his post was "The Pope doesn't heart the free market." And he links to an equally inaccurate post titled, "In which the Pope informs us that the free market is very, very bad."

But the Pope didn't say the free market was bad; he said the free market was insufficient.

In order to criticize something, you have to be accurate about what you are criticizing. The Pope thinks that a just society requires more than just watching the invisible hand do its work. So what's Zywicki's refutation of this? He needs to offer one if he wants to appear as something other than what many supposedly conservative economic thinkers seem to be, which is not advocates for the free market, but apologists for large corporations.

Economics in its limited, social science sense has to do with the "laws" (as that word is loosely used in economics) of production, consumption, distribution, and so on. If a person or group of persons does X, then Y happens. But economics, in the larger sense of being a moral science, has to do with the normative decisions we make on the basis of these economic "laws." The former is empirical, the latter is ethical.

Writers like Zywicki would do well to understand the difference.

Link for my debate last night on KET on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

Here is the video link for the debate on "Kentucky Tonight" on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which is now before the U.S. Congress.

Guests were:

  • Enid Trucios-Haynes, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky
  • Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky
  • Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign
  • Richard Nelson, executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Anthony Esolen on the Common Core Standards for literature and English

Anthony Esolen assesses the best of the model essays recommended by the authors for the Common Core State Standards in literature and English and discovers it is riddled with errors:
The best essay by far, for both style and organization, is a report on the economic effects of the Spanish Flu, in the United States after the First World War.  No other essay in the set comes close.  To read the others, after this one, is to stumble down the side of a ravine.  Yet I would not want one of my students to have written this essay, not in a hundred years.
The writer, however, makes a number of assertions about the Spanish Flu that are either plainly wrong or just contradictory:
These problems, which do not have to do with the style of the essay, are pretty easy to notice.  They are boulders in the reader’s path.  All you have to do is to pause and look.  But the author did not do that, nor did his teacher, nor did the mechanics of the Common Core Curriculum.  For the mechanics, the crucial thing is that the author presents “evidence” for his claims, and not whether the evidence is really evidence, or whether the pieces of evidence are consistent with one another, or whether the author draws just conclusions from the evidence.  They apply the rubric of their very badly written checklist: the author “develops the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.”  Again, this is their model essay, and it is the best of them all, written with no time constraints and with opportunity for “feedback” (note the mechanical term) from the teacher.
In the process of critiquing the essay, Esolen, an English professor at Providence College, points out the sophistical view that Common Core takes of literature:

The authors believe that the humanities are subordinate to rhetoric.  We read a poem by Keats in order to see, or to pretend that we see, how he uses images or odd words or a cunning series of expressions to persuade us of some peculiar point of view.  The authors do not read poems at all, really.  They read texts, or, as they put it with the air of technicians, text.  When you read a passage by Dostoyevsky, or a poem by Donne, or the maunderings of a politically correct doyen, you are reading text, and reading text requires the same techniques, always and ever, just as there is a correct way to dissect a dead cat on the laboratory table.  But I and my comrades believe that rhetoric is subordinate to the humanities.  We attend to Keats’ words and metaphors so that we will better see what he is saying to us about what it means to be human.  We do not invert the order of ends.  We care ultimately about the good, the true, and the beautiful, and what vision of those that Keats was granted to see.  We read poetry as poetry, and we rejoice in its truth and its beauty, nor do we presume to know all about it.

Read the rest Anthony Esolen on the Common Core Standards in literature and English.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is there anyone other than Richard Day who thinks that public schools are a measure of efficiency?

Richard Day, an education professor at Eastern Kentucky University, criticizes the Bluegrass Institute for financial inefficiency and contrasting it with what he apparently thinks is the efficient use of money by the public education system:
Combined fundraising and administrative costs at the Bluegrass Institute, however, exceed 50%, a level of inefficiency not seen in the public school system since the removal of the highly localized Trustee System, where an almost complete lack of government regulation led to the misuse of untold thousands of Kentucky taxpayer dollars in the early 20th century.
Now, I'm trying to fathom the level of delusion one must be under to seriously suggest that the public school system is any kind of standard when it comes to financial efficiency.

Ask yourself how much money we have spend on the education of a high school graduate. This would involve taking the annual amount we spend in state money per year per student, which is a four-figure number, adding in all the federal money and grant money that this spent on students annually in various ways, which results in a five-figure number, and multiply by twelve.

The amount you will eventually come to if you add all of this together is probably going to be well in excess of $100,000.

Then take the average person who graduates from high school in a Kentucky public school you run into every day. I run into them, and I know what I see. They mostly don't read very well or very often, they mostly can't add, subtract, multiply, or divide very well (if at all), they are almost entirely ignorant of our literary tradition, and don't know basic things about history the my generation took for granted.

Then ask yourself how an efficient system could spend this much money and get so little for it.

Whatever problems the Bluegrass Institute has, comparing it to the public education system isn't going to inspire anyone to trust your analysis.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Democrats Deadly Dilemma: Why Obama and his Democratic allies are doomed

President Obama has committed the one unpardonable political sin: embarrassing your friends.

So far he has gotten away with anything he wanted no matter how much it cost the country. But now it is not just costing the country; it is costing his political allies. You can do just about anything in politics but that.

And because of this they are fleeing the sinking political ship like rats. Today, 39 Democrats broke ranks to vote for a Republican-sponsored bill that would do what Obama said he wanted to do in his speech yesterday (and what he promised before Obamacare was passed): keep your current health care policy.

But Obama says he is going to veto it if it comes to his desk. Why would the President veto a bill that would ensure that insurance companies could do what he promised they could do yesterday?

There is a very simple answer to this question: Although he wants to appear as if he wants insurance companies to be allowed to do this, he doesn't really want them to do it.

If insurance companies continue to offer the same health policies they offered before, then fewer healthier people will join the exchanges. And if they fewer healthier people don't join the exchanges, then, because of the high percentage of high-risk participants, rates on policies purchased through the exchanges will increase.

In other words, the very success of Obamacare depends on the success of driving people now insured through the individual market into the exchanges. But it also depends on people being able to keep their policies like Obama said they would.

In other words, the two criteria necessary for Obamacare to succeed are mutually exclusive:

If people are allowed to keep their current policies, then rates will increase, which will doom Obamacare. If, on the other hand, people are not allowed to keep their current policies, then they will rebel, which will also doom Obamacare. Since either people will be allowed to keep their current policies or they won't, either rates will increase or people will rebel. In either case, Obamacare is doomed.

There does not appear to be any way around the horns of this dilemma. In fact, something even worse is likely to happen.

In fact, the pressure of this dilemma has been to increase even more by the failure of the Obamacare website. What the failure of the website has done is bring about the worse possible outcome of the President's health care legislation. In most dilemmas, you are forced to make a choice between two unacceptable alternatives--in this case raising health care insurance rates or making people angry by throwing them off the plans you told them they could keep.

What the failure of the website has done is ensure that the President and his Democratic allies are impaled, not on one horn of the dilemma or the other--but on both of them.

Because of the technical problems that are preventing people from signing up for health care, it is everything but an absolute certainty that people will not get back their cancelled policies. Under the Presidents plan--and the Republican bill passed today--insurers are not required to keep offering these policies and there is no incentive for them to continue to offer them.

In addition, it will be almost impossible for the exchange to sign up enough people to keep rates low, even if the site is fixed before the end of this month--another promise Obama made which he cannot keep.

And the timing of things couldn't be worse for Democratic congressmen: The announcements of rate increases will arrive next September or October, right before mid-term elections.

High rates and lack of choice. Oh, and one more thing, because of the inauspicious timing of the Obamacare schedule, many people will be without health care policies on January 1, when, under Obamacare, they are required to have them.

If this political coffin needed another nail, there it is.

I'm trying to think of what is going on right now in the minds of those people who predicted just a week or so ago a drubbing of the Republicans at the polls next year because of the threatened government shutdown. In fact, does any even remember that now?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Lou Reed and the art of being bad

Whenever a popular culture icon dies, we're all supposed to stop and take notice. Even if the popular culture icon was not very popular.

Lou Reed died last Sunday, and so now the people who we have given the job of telling us who is popular are telling us that Lou Reed was popular even though he demonstrably wasn't.

Lou Reed was never popular, however much the idea of Lou Reed was.

Lou Reed, in case you didn't know, was a rock 'n roll star. His most famous song was "Take a Walk on the Wild Side." It was also his best song, as measured in relative terms by all his other songs, most of which were much worse.

He started out his musical career with the band the Velvet Underground, a cult band whose popularity defied, ... well, their popularity. The people who have heard of the Velvet Underground far exceeds the people who have actually heard the Velvet Underground, which for these latter people is (probably unbeknownst to them) a good thing. Its members wore black leather, played long interminable songs about sex and drugs, and generally made a cultural nuisance of themselves.

Reed himself played guitar only passably, and sang mostly off key. He said he learned to play the guitar from listening to the radio. I think we can safely assume the the radio from which her learned to sing and play didn't have very good reception.

Since he was not very good, his mourners have had to resort to saying things like, "He was prophetic," although exactly why he was prophetic or what he was prophetic of remains a mystery.

Reed's publicist Bill Bentley claims that the reason no major label would sign the Velvet Underground was because their songs were seven minutes long, rather than three. Maybe. On the other hand, maybe they couldn't get signed because they stunk--not that I would have complained if we could have subtracted four minutes of bad music from the world.

Lou Reed was a musician we were all supposed to like. Which accounts for all of the Twitter eulogies coming from celebrities, most of whom probably never heard more than a song or two from him, if that, but know that it's just one of the things you're expected to say to be thought fashionable in the world they inhabit--a world that, unfortunately inhabits many of us.

I mean, Miley Cyrus (who tweeted, on Reed's death, "noooooooooo notttttttttt LOU REED")? Really? She probably thinks her music is good too.

Reed once said of his album Metal Machine Music, which even his admirers admitted was really bad, "No one is supposed to be able to do a thing like that and survive." But he underestimated the bad taste of his admirers and the depths to which they would descend in order to retain their avante garde cultural status.

Oh, and, by the way, in case you did't notice, he didn't survive after all. That's why we're talking about him right now.

Or maybe it wasn't just bad taste. No. He was one of those cultural heroes who gets more popular the worse he is. Badness is a quality greatly valued by those who those who don't have any real aesthetic standards think have them. They can't do it themselves quite as well and admire anyone who can. If you can sing badly, write bad songs, flaunt your homosexuality (at a time when it is not celebrated like it is now), take drugs and write songs about how good it is and get away with it all, then you can take the final step to pop cultural apotheosis and insult the people who admire you for doing it.

That's what really throws them into an ecstatic frenzy. Just look at the life of J. D. Salinger.

Terry Gross, host of NPR's "Fresh Air" did an adulatory show on Reed earlier this week. She admitted that she had no past recordings of Reed on her show because the one time he was scheduled to be her guest, he walked off after several minutes because he didn't like her questions. Gross said the incident did not detract from her admiration for his music, but you've got to know it probably only increased it (something other than the music itself just has to account for anyone's admiration of it). Such is the masochistic tendency of those R. Emmett Tyrrell once termed the "chi chi intelligentsia."

Ah, yes. Masochism. Did I mention that the title of Lou Reed's biography was Please Kill Me?

Lou Reed wasn't nice to people and said and did a bunch of bad things, including being rude and selfish, walking out of interviews, and once held a gun to his military superior's head (for which he got kicked out of ROTC at Syracuse University).

But, said one of his cultural entourage, that was "just Lou."

Here is an excerpt from Terry Gross' interview with Mary Woronov, who did the "whip dance" in the "Exploding Plastic Inevitable," a series of multimedia musical performances thought up by Andy Warhol, featuring the Velvet Underground in the late 1960s (And, by the way, were the 1960s really necessary?):
There was tremendous antagonism between New York and L.A. L. A. was, you know, um, full of color, full of acid, full of hippies, and we were not like that.
No way. They (Mary Woronov and her friends) had, you know, standards. They were, um ...
... dressed in black and white, uh, we did not like free love, we liked, uh, S&M, real, uh, restraint, uh, perversion too, um, we took amphetamines. We took LSD, They were, you know, sort of loving and happy, and, uh, we weren't, uh, really evil, we were more intellectual, more about art.
Mmhmm. Intellectual. About art. I think I see the problem now.

In his interview with Terry Gross, Bentley says that Reed was "tortured." She could have pointed out that, if you want to talk about being tortured, you should try to listen to Reed's music. But it apparently didn't occur to her.

But being tortured is also a good thing to be if you aspire to occupy a spot in the pop cultural pantheon. They said this about Johnny Cash too--who, if he hadn't been a "tortured soul," would have been way too Christian to have gotten any attention from those who tell us who we should give attention to. Of course Cash was, by his own account, tortured by the Devil. Reed didn't need the Devil to torture him: He had himself.

I hope he found some kind of peace in the end. Death isn't the kind of place you want to be walking on the wild side of.