Friday, February 02, 2007


I can't recall the last time I read a New York Times obit that made me laugh out loud repeatedly at 4:00 in the morning, but then this is, alas, Molly Ivins we're talking about:
After Patrick J. Buchanan, as a conservative candidate for president, declared at the 1992 Republican National Convention that the United States was engaged in a cultural war, she said his speech “probably sounded better in the original German.”


Her subject was Texas. To her, the Great State, as she called it, was “reactionary, cantankerous and hilarious,” and its Legislature was “reporter heaven.” When the Legislature is set to convene, she warned her readers, “every village is about to lose its idiot.”

Her Texas upbringing made her something of an expert on the Bush family. She viewed the first President George Bush benignly. (“Real Texans do not use the word ‘summer’ as a verb,” she wrote.)


In 1976, her writing, which she said was often fueled by “truly impressive amounts of beer,” landed her a job at The New York Times. She cut an unusual figure in The Times newsroom, wearing blue jeans, going barefoot and bringing in her dog, whose name was an expletive. [It hurts, oh how it hurts, to say "If only she were alive today," but...if only she were alive today, I'd suggest she rename him Friedman. --nash]


She quit The Times in 1982 after The Dallas Times Herald offered to make her a columnist. She took the job even though she loathed Dallas, once describing it as the kind of town “that would have rooted for Goliath to beat David.” [Or, as the Austin Lounge Lizards once put it, "Most cities have soul, but Dallas must have been / At the bank when they passed it around." --nash]

But the newspaper, she said, promised to let her write whatever she wanted. When she declared of a congressman, “If his I.Q. slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day,” many readers were appalled, and several advertisers boycotted the paper. In her defense, her editors rented billboards that read: “Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?” The slogan became the title of the first of her six books.


Ms. Ivins learned she had breast cancer in 1999 and was typically unvarnished in describing her treatments. “First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you,” she wrote. “I have been on blind dates better than that.”

Oh, Molly. Even the staid NewsHour got in on the act last night, re-running a comic piece you did for them back in the Eighties, a hilarious tour of Texas public art (or did you call it "ort"?)—various statues of shrimp, beevees, bugs, and so forth, moldering in public squares, perched precariously atop buildings, and whatnot—that made me at once giggle with delight, sigh with nostalgia, and wince at the thought that none of us will hear you turn loose your awesome wit again. Across the internets, your tributes have been many and well-deserved. (And I haven't even gotten around to listening to yesterday's Democracy Now! tribute yet.) It's nice to see how many people recognized just how special you were.

I'm one of those people who likes to collect snippets of wit, verve, pith, zazz, insight, etc. that strike my eye as I surf the web. I went digging in my files and, unsurprisingly, I've collected quite a few from you over the years:

The slippery-slope argument [for sodomy laws] is almost as silly. The law is full of more or less arbitrary lines and distinctions. The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in theft is one penny. The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in drugs is one ounce. For that matter, the difference between a pig and a hog is one pound. To take another notorious Texas law, if you own six or more dildos in this state, you are a felon, presumed to have intent to distribute. Whereas if you have five or fewer, you are merely a hobbyist.


Dear old API [American Petroleum Institute], author of innumerable ringing editorials on the desperate need to leave the oil depletion allowance at 27 percent (certain Texas newspapers that shall remain nameless used to run those editorials without changing a single comma), is really swell at representing the oil bidness. Fond as I am of many of API lobbyists I have known over the years, I am not quite sure I want those bozos calling the shots on global warming. I have watched them buy law and bend regulations for decades now, and while I admire their chutzpah, I am impelled to warn you: They have no scruples, they have no decency, and they have no shame. (See 50 years worth of reporting on the industry by The Texas Observer.) Also, they lie.


Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. I've said it before: War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. That, or you could just piss on them elegantly, as Rep. John Murtha did. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless "string of bad news."

Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.


The "Watch on the Rhine" quality of our public life these days deserves serious attention. As one who studies the small, buried stories on the back pages of major newspapers, I am becoming increasingly uneasy. This is more than just, "Boy, do their policies suck." There's a creepy advance of something more menacing than bad policies.

I keep thinking of Mussolini's definition of fascism: "Fascism should more properly be called 'corporatism,' since it is the marriage of government and corporate power." When was the last time we saw this administration do something that involved standing up to some corporate special interest in favor of the great majority of the people?

Were you the one who brought this last sinister nexus back to the public consciousness? If so, I'll thank you for that, too (even if the oft-cited Mussolini quote may be spurious).

I had the pleasure of meeting you in the flesh once, Molly, and even of sharing a beer with you. But mostly I, like thousands of other admirers, have had the pleasure of reading your words and sharing your wit. I'm glad that so many of your words remain behind to keep us company—we need things like them in these times. Your wit, I guess, you've taken with you into the undiscovered county. I only hope the undiscovered country is ready for it.

Thank you and goodbye.

When the slimey UT bastards fired me, you spoke up for me, and even spoke a my benefit at Scholz's! Meeting you and sharing a beer made it all worthwhile though in the larger scheme of things...Goodbye Molly, and give 'em hell in Heaven!
I already miss her so much I can't stand it. She was a giant among a host of dwarves, midgets and runts. There'll never be another like her, and that's as unfortunate as it gets.
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