Archive for October, 2011

Rick Perry on Race

Posted on October 19th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Not too long ago I was at a fancy party (working!) at which I spoke to a high-level banker who happened to be African-American. The event was fashion-centric and the guy was a sharp dresser, so I asked where he shopped for clothing. He mentioned a store in Connecticut where I happened to have worked as a cashier and salesperson when I was in high school. He asked how it was, and I said that I’d learned a lot, but that they paid so badly it was like “slave labor.”

Instantly I regretted that remark. Because of course working in a fancy clothing store in Connecticut wasn’t like slave labor at all, and saying that to a black guy… Well, I just felt like a complete ass. Whether he noticed or not, I don’t know—if he did, he was too gracious to say anything—but it was one of those moments where you realize how different one’s perspective and diction can be depending on the color of your skin. Who knows, maybe he wouldn’t have had a problem with it. But…it’s tricky, and I wished I had chosen different words.

So I have some empathy with people who make inadvertent racial gaffes (I mean, up to a point—sometimes those gaffes reveal some pretty ugly stuff).

Still, as I read the New York Times’ description of last night’s GOP debate, I kept stumbling over the fact that Rick Perry repeatedly called Herman Cain “brother.”

(Weirdly, that fact has since been edited out of the Times’ recap I read on my iPhone last night; but here’s a Wall Street Journal piece about a Twitter debate on the very subject.)

Early in tonight’s GOP presidential debate, Governor Rick Perry began a comment to fellow candidate Herman Cain by saying, “Herman, I love you brother…” In case the public didn’t hear it the first time, Perry did it again, saying “I’ll bump plans with you brother…

Comic Kathy Griffin tweeted about the moment: “Awkward. I’m waiting 4 Perry 2 say ‘jive turkey.’”….

You know, she’s right—it is awkward. It suggests a clumsy, self-conscious attempt on Perry’s part to speak black, as he sees it, for political advantage. The fact that he said it twice suggests that it was a calculated remark, which troubles me. How does that work? In a pre-debate planning session, a high-paid (white) campaign adviser says, “You know, Governor, here’s an idea…”

To illustrate how odd this incident is, imagine if Hillary Clinton had called Obama “brother” during one of the Democratic debates in 2008. Impossible. So yes, it’s hard not to think that there’s something patronizing and probably racist in Perry’s use of the term.

Is this important? I think so, because it is telling. Remember, this is a guy who had an obscene word for black people painted at the entrance to his summer ranch. Rick Perry just doesn’t feel ready to lead the country; he feels appropriate to Texas (take that as you will).

And in that sense, he feels like a pre-Obama candidate, rather than a man of our times. The president has changed this conversation fundamentally, and it’d be a great shame to elect someone who’d take us in the wrong direction on race.

Larry Summers, Buckraker

Posted on October 19th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I see (without really looking) that Larry Summers will be debating Paul Krugman on the economy at an event in Toronto on November 14th.

He’ll also be appearing at The Economist’s “Buttonwood Gathering” in New York next week.

I just happened to see those two events because I read a lot about economic debates; I expect they’re just the tip of the iceberg. It’s fascinating to see how ardently Summers is devoting himself to making a lot of money these days. It’s his right, of course. But I wonder if his ascension into the 1% (which, to be honest, probably happened long ago, if not when he started giving speeches to Wall Street banks and consulting with the hedge fund DE Shaw) will affect his economic thinking as it pertains to the rest of us, and whether that’s of concern given his status as a preeminent and (theoretically) progressive economist. Do progressives have the right to ask that their economists do more than just teach a class and hobnob with the super-rich for paychecks that are more individually than most people earn in a year?

American (Airlines) Making Sense

Posted on October 18th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

One of my pet peeves (it’s true, I have a few) is oversized carry-on luggage and the people who haul it onto planes. Inevitably, they tow their generic, IBM-inspired black bags, stuffed to bursting and heavier than they could ever carry, down the aisle of the plane, clipping every seated passenger along the way like the Wheel of Fortune. After which they ask me to help them stow it in overhead compartments that are already full with other generic black bags. Inevitably, there are announcements about running out of overhead space and how the plane can’t leave until people stow their luggage and so on.

And when it comes time to de-plane, as they say, the process of finding and removing all those bags means that getting off the plane can feel longer than the flight you just finished. (There’s always someone who has to push three rows back to get his bag….)

I know: It’s the airlines fault for charging people to check luggage. Still, Americans seem to fill those bags like they’re gorging at an all-you-can-eat buffet in Vegas.

So it’s nice to read that American Airlines is trying out a new experiment: offering frequent flier miles to passengers who check their bags….

Mort Zuckerman Can’t Be Serious

Posted on October 17th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Do you ever feel that some people have outlived their cultural usefulness?

(And the supposition that he ever had one is a compliment to Mort Zuckerman.)

Here’s a line from the Wall Street Journal’s red-hot (as in, most emailed) profile of “the Democratic billionaire.”

The Boston Properties CEO is trying to understand why Mr. Obama has made little effort to build relationships on Capitol Hill or negotiate a bipartisan economic plan….

What planet is Zuckerman living on? Apparently one in which every Obama overture to the GOP has been met with reasoned, adult behavior.

But wait—there’s more:

….as Mr. Zuckerman ponders the Occupy Wall Street movement, he concludes that “the door to it was opened by the Obama administration, going after the ‘millionaires and billionaires’ as if everybody is a millionaire and a billionaire and they didn’t earn it. . . . To fan that flame of populist anger I think is very divisive and very dangerous for this country.

This is the danger of assuming that billionaires are good at anything other than making money: We allow them to say idiotic things as if they are wise. The Obama administration “opened the door” to Occupy Wall Street by “fanning the flames of populist anger”? There isn’t a thing about that allegation that contains truth. Wall Street opened the door to Occupy Wall Street by causing the financial crisis through greed and mismanagement and then trying to stifle every effort to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Here’s more Zuckerman wisdom:

Mr. Zuckerman sees a need for a cooperative effort like that of President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill when they reformed Social Security in 1983. That wasn’t a permanent solution, of course, as Social Security needs more significant changes now, but Mr. Zuckerman sees it as a model of bipartisan progress.

Again: many things to dispute here. But most important, to put the blame for the apparent failure of bipartisanship on the president is simply to ignore recent history.

Mort Zuckerman can’t make U.S. News and World Report a successful magazine, either editorially or commercially. Why should we think has any thing smart to say about the country?

Reasons not to Race Cars for a Living

Posted on October 17th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Monday Morning Zen

Posted on October 17th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Chamisa Trail, Santa Fe

Chamisa Trail, Santa Fe

Saturday Morning Zen

Posted on October 15th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Taos pueblo, Taos, New Mexico

Taos pueblo, Taos, New Mexico

The Journal’s New Colors

Posted on October 15th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

What a drag it is to see the Wall Street Journal becoming a dumber and dumber paper under Rupert Murdoch.

Consider this lede from an article about Occupy Wall Street in today’s paper:

Say what you want about the assorted bums, radicals, students and wage slaves comprising Occupy Wall Street, but they’ve managed to pull off the impossible: living in one of the world’s most expensive cities on less than $10 a day.

Think about that first half of the sentence. It’s not just that the first nouns to describe the protesters are “bums” and “radicals.” (Is Occupy Wall Street filled with homeless people? I don’t think so. [And if it were...?] And are the protesters really “radicals”? If Wall Street thinks these people are radical, they’re even more clueless than the rest of us already suspect.)

It’s that “say what you want about..” part that really gets me. It’s an invitation to a complicit sneer: You know and I know how foolish these people are, but hey! Good for them to do NYC on ten bucks a day.

Just incredibly patronizing. Reminds me of this….

Harvard 375th a Disaster?

Posted on October 15th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

A poster who called him/herself “descent into the mud” left this comment on a post below called “Bad Craziness in Boston.” It seemed worth highlighting:

I thought the title of this thread described the party celebrating Harvard’s 375 last night… drunk undergraduates, rampant alcohol, people falling on the mud… I understand that Dean Hammonds advised last monday to move the party to saturday when the forecast prediced beautiful weather. If this is true it is too bad that advice was ignored.

My parents, who are also Harvard grads and who were with me yesterday –it was also Parents’ weekend– told me it was such a contrast to the celebration of the 350. In 1986 the anniversary was marked by a whole week of panels, conferences, performances all focusing on and celebrating ideas on a range of topics. Every school was part of the celebration with very exciting discussions on topics at the cutting edge of their fields. The celebrations in Tercentennary Theatre were better than a Harvard Commencement. I am told that everyone who participated in the 350 still remembers it as one of the most exciting events at Harvard.

I wonder how those of us in the Yard last night will remember this party 25 years from now. Amid the fury of umbrellas, thunder and people falling in the mud I looked at John Harvard, and saw rain flow down his face, as if in tears he wondered how this little College to which he gave his library and half of his estate had descended into the mud and how his anniversary had become a party of drunks.

John Henry: Sox Not in Chaos

Posted on October 15th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Apparently responding to this blog, and maybe a few other things, John Henry made an impromptu visit to 98.5 “The Sports Hub” yesterday to insist that the Red Sox are not, I repeat, not in chaos.

Judging from Peter Abraham’s account in the Globe, Henry merely proved the point he was trying to refute.

in a darker tangent, Henry said that his wife, Linda Pizzutti Henry, would not own the team in the event of his death.

“I wouldn’t wish that on anybody I loved,’’ he said.

WTF? That’s the way you feel about owning one of the great sports franchises in history? If that’s the way you feel, John Henry, give ‘em to me. I’ll take the team.

“I think the chaos that’s going on is much more external than internal,’’ Henry told [cohost Michael] Felger. “There’s this feeling, I think you said that we’re in ashes, that the Red Sox are in ashes. That’s not how we feel about it.”

The Red Sox are in ashes? All this talk of death—is John Henry trying to tell us something?

I can’t tell you how pleasant it is to be supporting what appears to be a pretty well-run organization these days—the Yankees—and be watching this soap opera in Boston….