MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN . . .
Cub manager Dusty Baker discussed the superiority of black and Latin ball players in hot weather. Chi Trib
sportswriter Rick Morrisey -- "In the Wake of the News," 7/6/03
-- recalls what happened to two white sports figures a few years back who also expounded on black-white differences. Their careers were ruined, but Baker's is not likely to suffer, except (conceivably) from the swoon in which his Cubs find themselves these days.
Baker's comments are also in the (NW Suburban) Daily Herald
And in the Peoria Journal-Star,
where the writer cites Copley News Service Chicago sports columnist Mike Nadel: Cardinals manager Tony La Russa "would have been fired before the ninth inning for saying the same thing as Baker."
And in the Indianapolis Star,
where Baker is quoted without comment: Playing in hot weather is "easier for most Latin guys and it's easier for most minority people because most of us come from heat. You don't find too many brothers [blacks] in New Hampshire and Maine. Right?
"We [blacks] were brought over here [as slaves] for the heat. Isn't that history?" Baker said.
"[Our] skin color is more conducive to heat than it is to the lighter-skinned people. I don't see brothers running around burnt," he said. "That's a fact. I'm not making this up. I'm not seeing some brothers walking around with some white stuff [sun blocker] on their ears and noses."
Also in the Calgary Sun
, also without comment, and probably lots of other places.
And with comment in the Dallas Morning News
, where (black) columnist Kevin B. Blackistone pointed out not only the double-standard problem (blacks get a pass, whites lose jobs) but the danger in telling blacks they are less vulnerable to sunstroke when they are demonstrably more vulnerable.
Baker was relaxed when he talked this way, chuckling. But a white guy would not get away with such, no matter how relaxed.
HEARD AT YOUR LOCAL CHURCH . . . Meanwhile, back in the sacred precincts, the mass readings 7/6 featured two of the Judaeo-Christianity's all-stars, Ezekiel and our old standby Paul. Ezekiel, best known for his stunning vision of bones coming to life, gets the word from On High that he is to be a prophet no matter how unpromising a career it is. Paul, just last week presented as the convert par excellence, blinded on the road to Damascus, tells the trouble he has been in lately and what God told him to do about it.
You don't find any more dramatic characters in Holy Writ. Ezekiel (I want to call him Zeke) got invaded by "Spirit," who set him on his feet and told him he was off to the rebellious Israelites, "hard of face and obstinate of heart," to bring them around. Ezekiel's gulp was heard for miles. Do it, said Spirit: "Whether they heed or resist . . . they shall know that a prophet has been among them." In other words, do it and don't get too results-oriented about it. Trust me.
Paul says he "was given a thorn in the flesh." Two archbishops come to mind, Sanchez in Santa Fe and Weakland in Milwaukee, who surely or apparently succumbed to their fleshly thorns -- batting from different sides of the plate, for what it's worth. Paul says he begged to be excused from his thorn -- three times. Nothing doing, he was told: "My grace is enough . . . for in weakness power reaches perfection." Great, he might have said sarcastically but didn't. Instead he made a silk purse out of this sow's ear and broadcast the results of his colloquies, bragging about being weak and claiming to be strong when he is powerless.
Then in Mark 6, Jesus as preacher has his own bad experience. Trying to make his points with the hometown folks, he lays an egg. Remembering him back when he was a runny-nosed kid, they are not impressed. Wandering minstrel or not, they turn him off. In his "native place," he is without honor. Their not taking him seriously gets to him. "Distress" clouds his soul.
HARD TIMES IN ATHENS . . . Paul's worst experience audience-wise was in Athens, where he tried to get through to the local non-yokels on their own terms. But this foray into philosophy, adapting the unknown-god idea and speaking of him "in whom we live and move and have our being" -- which he got from a 6th-century poet -- did not work. They listened at the Areopagus, where the elite met to argue, a sort of Bughouse Square venue, and found him interesting, as they would find the itinerant Epicurean or Stoic interesting the next day.
But when he talked up resurrection from the dead, a staple of his message, they found him not only interesting but uproariously funny. It didn't mean they wanted him out of there. They invited him back, in fact. He was fun, but that's not what he had in mind. So when he walked off the Areopagus that day, he shook its dust from his feet and declared an end to philosophizing with sophisticates. No more, he told Corinthian Christians later. From now on it would be announcement of message, period. You bought it or you didn't.
FRICTION . . . In Acts (of Apostles, or as I read it, The Adventures of Paul), he is knocked down and blinded, as above. No mention of a horse, by the way, as we often hear. Later he and Luke (author of Acts) have a "violent argument" when Paul refuses to take Mark with him on a trip, because Mark had wimped out earlier. That's when Paul and Luke split up. Paul took Silas, Luke took Mark, which shows how evangelists tend to stick together.
UNKIND CUT . . . William Hazlitt addressed the French Question in his 1825 essay "Merry England," about the English penchant for the comic and irregular. Hazlitt called the French "the cockneys of Europe," said they had "no idea how anyone can exist out of Paris [the ones who live in Paris anyhow], or [and here's a true jibe] be alive without incessant grimace and jabber."
SHORT CUT . . . Samuel Johnson called someone "a most unclubbable man" who had sought a dues reduction because he was not eating regularly at his club. He got the reduction, but other members thought less of him: "We all scorned him [but] admitted his plea," said Johnson, "for no man is angry at another for being inferior to himself." He was his own worst enemy. For the most part, they felt sorry for him. The item is in Boswell but also in novelist Frances Burney's diary account of dining at Mrs. Thrale's with Johnson and others.
"Unclubbable" is used quite recently for Princess Diana's divorce lawyer, meaning non-establishment (he got her $25 million), and less recently for loners characterized by Sherlock Holmes in "The Greek Interpreter" -- members of the Diogenes Club, "the most unsociable and unclubbable men in town."
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED . . . Talking Pictures: New Poems by Richard Howard, Turtle Point Press. Marvelous stuff. Highly literature. Allusions are literary, historical, contemporary. He's smart, funny, restrained, systematic. Forms matter. Village Voice tells us he has a "bristling dispatch" in the summer Bookforum letters section in which he "confirms he is gay, but not, as Alain Robbe-Grillet called him in a previous issue, the kind of homosexual who finds 'nothing more disgusting than women.'" That's not the half of it for Howard, who is immensely credentialed and won a Pulitzer some time back. For this reader he's a real find.
A real rediscovery is Byron (George Gordon, Lord B.), especially in his satires. He uses the couplet in ways that make one laugh and ask him back to one's reading attention. In that respect I give him the attention the Areopagites gave Paul, except Byron likes it, if he's in a position to do so, or would have liked it if he and I had been contemporaries. On the other hand, he got so tough on his fellow poets in "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers" that he lived to regret it. He felt bad about it, that is. Which is a lesson for us all: Watch what you say in addition to how you say it. (7/7/2003)
CRIME ON THE STREETS:
NAIL WISE GUYS EARLIER, SAYS COP . . . Roe & Gary on WLS-AM had a Chicago cop on the line talking about murder and other mayhem in Chicago's inner city. Cop says stop the cars, says vehicles are everything. Lots of no-plates or phony-plates and other violators that permit stopping and searching, as for guns, and maybe taking the vehicle away from the marauder.
There's a pattern in these neighborhoods. Workaday folks come home dinner time, riding bus or "L" or driving; by 8 o'clock they are off the streets. Instead, the shooters and other violators are out. Get them. Do not wait for the ultimate crime, shooting to maim or kill or at least intimidate, but go for the earlier crime. Preventive maintenance of law and order for the sake of the decent folk.
Daley won't order that because, as said here earlier, he lacks guts and imagination. Political guts: he would take big heat if he installed a Guiliani-type program, the sort that so much reduced NYC's murder rate. And imagination: he makes sure he does not entertain bad thoughts of the sort that jeopardize his political control. (6/24/2003)
MEDIA MADNESS . . . Begin with worship of violence, end with timidity. Begin with worship of success, end with mediocrity. That's GK Chesterton on worshiping the wrong things, in his 1905 book Heretics. He writes to counter the "new imperialism" of his day in England, as manifested in its waging the Boer War, vs. Dutch-originated settlers in S. Africa. He was later to support the anti-German war nine years later.
The relevant chapter, "The Mildness of the Yellow Press," is a shot at the day's corruption of popular journalism, which he embraced and practiced, by liars and charlatans. It's also a tribute to popular journalism. In this respect, he was the Bernard Goldberg (author of Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News) of his day, firing from within at the Demon Sensationalism, or rather Distortion, which he held not sensational enough but tailored to soothe and lull.
So in our time, do not headlines, print or not, keep us in a state of addictive nervousness, even neuroticism? We seek from them and get a daily fix of blather and upset. One leads to the other. Do we really believe that every 24 hours deserves even an inch of headline, not to say two or three? What is it about us and our suppliers who have figured us out? How come they do us like they do?
It's a mystery of life, an urban-suburban tale of itch and scratch, itch and scratch. More, more, give me more, more, more, like the voracious plant Audrey II of the Little Shop of Horrors.
CONDIGN PENANCE . . . I sought out my correctness confessor the other day. "Forgive me, Father, I have sinned. It's been 15 minutes since my last confession."
"Yes, and I thank your ilk for being so accessible, ready at a moment's notice."
"I have sinned against correctness."
"Alone or with somebody?"
"Alone. It was a sin of thought."
"Bank One got my account fouled up. I gave them information they never recorded. I blamed it on affirmative action."
"I said -- to myself -- they were hiring the minimally equipped."
"For these and all the other sins of my past life I am heartily sorry."
"For your penance say 'All the news that's fit to print' 25 times. Now go and sin no more."
CUDDLING . . . Sitting in Scoville Park 7:30 or so with coffee, gooey bread slice from Great Harvest across the street, reading my William Hazlitt on taking a journey, I noticed 15 or 20 yards to my left what seemed a young father or baby-sitter standing over what seemed a child perched on a stone ledge. The child faced away from me, the father or sitter was slightly obscured by bushes. My first thought, readily dismissed, was of abuse perpetrated there in broad morning daylight at the bus stop.
Not that, I decided, but an adult setting the kid up, making sure he's O.K. on the ledge. Fifteen minutes later, finished with my morning cup, I headed for the corner to get papers from boxes on the sidewalk. Passing the ledge-sitting area, I looked over at the supposed adult and little kid. It was not that but two adolescents boys, one of them much bigger than the other, who was slight of build and short.
They pulled apart as soon as I looked. The smaller one gave me a broad grin that was part leer. I kept going but returned a blank look, which he returned with a stare. He was not to be called on. The big one had flopped back on the ledge, hand up to eyes as if to doze. It was a quick move, apparently precipitated by my walking by a few yards away.
I got my papers, exchanging a blank stare or two with the smaller one, who was in no way abashed. I got my papers, then walked away. Glancing back, I saw that the bigger one had sat up again and had moved close to the other. As I turned away, they were side by side on the ledge.
SAVING PLACE . . . Another day, Great Harvest bakery in the mornin'! "In the Mood," "Jeepers Creepers (where'd you get those peepers?)," "Summertime," one after the other. At 8:15, I have beat the junior crowd, for whom Peter Rabbit books and rag dolls are ready in a wicker laundry basket on the wide sitting sill. There's also a mini-table set with two mini chairs.
Who's been sitting on our sill? the family will ask when they return later in the day. I promise not to leave a mess.
Do they play big-band swing and jazz for the little ones? Such sound, with blaring horns and pounding drums and clashing cymbals, has kept me inside on a cloudless blue-sky day.
JUSTICE DELAYED . . . Neighbor asked about noisy dog across street, said, "Oh, Maggie," seeming to dismiss the implied complaint. Well she may call her Maggie, but I call her Barks-her-ass-off and have already reported here what Jake would like to do: dump a scrappy or lascivious mutt in the yard with her so as to chew her up or get her pregnant. It won't happen, I tell him.
BORN SAUL . . . Lifelong Catholic-educated Catholic asks if St. Paul was Jewish. More Jewish than a lot of rabbis, I said, if we are to judge by Sunday 6/29's Scripture reading, for feast of Sts. Peter & Paul, from Galatians 1 (11-20), where he says he went "far beyond most of [his] contemporaries" in Jewish observance, in his "excess of zeal to live out all the traditions of [his] ancestors."
Then came conversion, we know. The lifelong C-e C. had heard him called apostle to the Gentiles so many times as to be unclear as to his provenance. They were all Jews in those days, apart from a centurion here and there, I told C-e.C.
CAN'T STOP THINKING OF THIS . . . Balzac's 1847 play "Mercadet Le Falseur," or "the Speculator," made a 1949 movie, "The Lovable Cheat," about a Parisian flim-flam man who coerces money from his friends while trying to arrange a suitable marriage for his daughter, has the recurring line, "waiting for Godeau," who is expected to relieve everyone's troubles but never appears.
It's where Beckett got his "Godot" concept, apparently. So various literary critics have argued, but Beckett claims not to have read the Balzac play until long after his "Waiting for Godot" premiered in 1953. Odd.
Jacques Barzun mentions the "Mercadet"-Godeau reference in a discussion of allusiveness in the modernist mind, "haunted . . . willy-nilly" by the past. Picasso, for instance, "seemed obsessed" by the Delacroix painting, "Women of Algiers," a Romanticist work, after which he patterned 15 of his own. (From Dawn to Decadence, 724-5)
Copyright Jim Bowman, 2003.
DESPERATION MOVE . . . Colorado Democratic Party Vice Chair Julia Hicks recently told a group of Democrats the way to get the troops moving might be to depict Bush as "the village idiot from Texas."
Easy. Just say he's a Harvard MBA.
BRUTAL CANDOR . . . At 71 and a half, you don't pull punches. "Listen," I told the lady of the house, "in 20 years I will be slowing down." She blanched, stifled a sob, and went out the door on an errand of mercy. Sometimes you have to tell it like it is.
READING HABITS . . . My esteemed journalistic colleagues (they full-time for a recognized medium, me haphazardly) at Chi Trib do not read conservative magazines, they have confessed. Thursday 6/12 they ran a feature, "The 50 Best Magazines," picking the ones they buy and read. Not a conservative one in the lot, unless you count the libertarian Reason Mag.
No Chronicles, for instance, this being the Rockford, IL-based monthly edited by the arguably cranky, very smart, very literate Thomas Fleming. No National Review or Weekly Standard or First Things or Crisis (but the lackluster America, Jesuits' answer to all things slightly conservative, and Christian Century, both offering religion-based coverage -- but no Commonweal!). No London Times Literary Supplement; it's a weekly newspaper, true, and expensive, but that's a matter of paper stock and willingness to forego nice Christmas shirts from one's children, who chip in instead for TLS. And the choice is bland Fortune over snappy Forbes, with its unapologetic capitalism.
The editors "chose a simpler route" than explaining why these 50 are best," they tell us. Rather, and quite defensibly, they offer what they like. These are magazines you will find "on staffers' night stands and coffee tables, in our backpacks and on our car seats and on the edges of our bathtubs. These are the periodicals for which we pay good money."
The edges of whose bathtubs? Terry Armour, Tim Bannon, Allison Benedikt, Linda Bergstrom, Joan Cairney, Mike Conklin, Rob Elder, Eric Gwinn, Kelly Haramis, Steve Johnson, Chris Jones, Blair Kamin, Michael Kellams, Julia Keller, Jim Kirk, Karen Klages, Charles Leroux, Lilah Lohr, Jason McKean, Emily Nunn, Patrick T. Reardon, Maureen Ryan, Nara Schoenberg, and James Warren, they also explain.
Fine to do it this way, especially because it goes a long way toward exemplifying Chi Trib's liberal bias, which except among the truly dedicated, is probably mostly unconscious, except when they have to flick away a conservative gnat now and then.
For instance, TV critic Steve Johnson, after one of his rare forays out of entertainment into assessment of news programs, was urged (by whom do you think?) to consider Brent Bozell's and his Media Research Center's web-based reporting of liberal bias, based entirely on this day this, that day that. Picky, picky, replied Steve, though not in those words. It's called inductive reasoning, I replied. Bozell et al. nail the daily cases of liberal bias. I thought a nod in that direction was in order by Steve. He did not want to hear about it. The people he spends time with don't talk that way, nor do his favorite magazines.
He and the other 23 named, and they include ex-Tempo editor, ex-Wash Bureau chief, now associate managing editor on-his-way-up (the next Howell Raines, Trib-style?) James Warren, do not have to give their liberal bias a second thought. They take it for granted. Like movie critic Pauline Kael when McGovern lost the election by a huge margin: Nobody she knew voted for Reagan. Nobody these Trib writers and editors know reads Buchanan or Fred Barnes or Fr. Neuhaus -- not even, it often appears, in the line of their arduous duty.
MYSTERIOUS . . . They find The New Republic hard to figure, by the way -- "Its politics are mistakenly called liberal when actually [they are] moderate" -- but so do others. TLS's J.C. in his important "NB" column, looked up TNR's 12/25/2000 issue and found Supreme Court justices O'Connor and Kennedy on one page praised as "the most illustrious open minds in America" and on another decried as "the preening O'Connor and Kennedy" and (O'Connor) "addled and uncertain."
TNR had been called by a TLS writer liberal and by another conservative, and a letter writer had asked J.C., "Which is it?" Which is what J.C. asked after looking at that 12/25/00 issue.
YIPPEE! . . . Winning the Whitbread First Novel award for White Teeth in January, 2001, Zadie Smith said: "I'm delighted, sort of gobsmacked, very chuffed, really psyched." She had also won the (left-wing) Guardian First Book award and had called it "the prize I really wanted to win." J.C. in TLS's "NB" noted (1/12/01) that the Whitbread award, worth 3,500 lbs. cash, put her in line for the "overall Whitbread award," which pays 22,500 lbs, and puckishly stated his opinion that this is the prize "Ms Smith really really wants to win."
NO DOUBT ABOUT IT . . .
Realizing that I employ systematic doubt when I read Chi Trib
, I looked it up and found that it dates back at least to the time of Socrates. "Doubt has been one of the philosopher's keenest implements in dissecting the cosmos, the self, and the sacred," says Dr. Dave in the intro to his Complete Cyclopedia of Systematic Doubt
. "This little known work has come to be viewed as the most far reaching reassessment of human reason since the industrial revolution," offering 1,130-plus types of doubt, "carefully cross indexed" for ready reference.
Dr. Dave is apparently a very hot property. Surely the time has come for the boiling down of his original 16 volumes to the handy pocket size recommended (but oddly, nowhere offered for on- or off-line purchase).
CALLING ALL CANDIDATES . . . Chi Trib is advertising for a religion reporter, by the way, on journalismjobs.com, if not elsewhere. The person is to be "experienced . . . with an affinity for religious ideas and issues. . . . [to] help direct and shape . . . overall coverage of religion . . . through his or her own work and by advising other reporters and editors [with] primary responsibility . . . to cover the . . . religious communities of the Chicago area [but] also expected to monitor religious trends nationally and globally, and write stories when appropriate. There are opportunities for travel as needed."
This ad breaks no new ground in such matters, and God bless him (or her) who gets the job -- experienced, competent James Janega, on the beat for several weeks, would seem to have an inside track at the moment. But my friend Jake (not his real name) rates chances a non-Chi Trib employee will be hired with those that Mayor Daley, also currently advertising, will hire an outsider police superintendent.
MYSTERIOUS CULPRITS . . . They can't identify the ringleaders in the Benton Harbor rioting? And they are not fingering them? Isn't that what police are supposed to do? Instead cometh sociologizing, the search for root causes. What made those individuals "act out"? There's no devil, so we can't say he made them burn down neighbors' houses and so on. So where to look?
Well, there are the (mostly white) Benton Township cops. But in the chase during which the motorcyclist crashed and died, the pursuing township cop was four blocks behind; and the biker's 100 m.p.h. careening bespeaks a reckless, born-to-die temperament. What's more, the pursuer went by the book, says his (black) chief, Jimmie Coburn, who evinces no sympathy for him in the 6/20 South Bend Tribune.
Rather, he defends his man Koza, now on sick leave, whom he will welcome back with open arms. Returning from the most recent of many post-riot meetings, he eschewed popular explanations: "It's a lie. It's a bunch of lies," he told SB Trib's Jim Meenan. His police are "no more aggressive at doing their jobs than anybody else." They are there when Benton Harbor residents need them, however, calling for help some 16 times a month. Every other day, someone in B. Harbor decides the B. Harbor police can't handle things.
This is Chief Coburn's explanation, in fact: B. Harbor residents can't count on their own cops. That's what caused the rioting. "It ain't . . . the police chase, trust me," he said; it's "not getting the answers they want in the city."
Racism? Bull. The stopped driver and passengers will be searched and put in the squad car "for the officer's safety" when it's a question of that, he said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
Koza "broke no rules," he said, but observed Coburn's policy in pursuing the guy. "How can you call it a high-speed chase if he was three or four blocks behind the guy?"
The cyclist's part in the crash is being overlooked, he said. People blame Koza but not the cyclist. "He had some responsibility in that also," said Coburn, praising Koza as one who "doesn't care what color you are if you break the law."
One change is coming, however. No more entering the city "on minor traffic complaints, chasing and going into the city on traffic stops. I won't do that," he says. When a felon heads for the city, township cops will call the city and tell them who's entering their precincts. The will let city cops take over at that point. No more "chasing down into the city." B. Harbor residents have made it clear that what they want. If so, says Chief Coburn, adopting the late Sen. Moynihan's recommended policy of benign neglect, "I will give it to them."
MOVIE TIME . . . Run, do not walk to OPPL or other library or Blockbuster for your DVD of "American in Paris," the 1951 flick with Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, and others including dozens of perfect dancers and musicians. Oscar Levant the pianist too. Such a movie, in which you needn't flinch at face-eating kisses and nudity that takes the mystery out of the human body. It's the Gershwins, of course, drawing on, I swear, Cole Porter, Ferd Grofe, and other composers who have drawn on the American scene. The story line is O.K.; it does not call attention to itself, which is what you want in a musical. The color by Technicolor (note copyright sign) is stunning, the sets (for dancing) and choreography too. Do it, now.
TAX HAVEN . . . Did you know that a bar is a good place in which to hide money? Yes. Got good income you'd rather the feds not take away from you? Word is, you buy a bar, where it can be hidden or at least get lost so the revenuers can't find it. Presto! Your very own tax cut. If tortured, or threatened with torture, I will say where I heard this. On the street, my friend, where else?
K-9 PATROL . . . Little dog across street yips and yaps to beat all when other little dig comes by on leash, mid-height cyclone fence between them. At which point little dog in window in our building also yips and yaps to beat all. My friend Jake (not his real name) says if he were independently wealthy he would get his own little dog, one prone to yipping and yapping, and would unleash, lift, and drop him or her over the cyclone fence in midst of clamor, to see what happened.
Preferably the two would be of opposite sexes or at least of mutually responsive sexual preferences, which he thinks would calm things down. Ideally, the yard dog would be female and pregnable, and his dog would do the trick, taking his jump and leaving a package. Another possibility is that the two would rip each other to shreds, which Jake, being no fool, would piously abhor at the first opportunity. [6/22/03]
HEY, IT WORKS FOR ME II . . . I feel bad in the morning, I said last week, and what I do is pretend I'm a liberal and open up the Tribune. In no time I feel good all over, so warm and cuddly I can hardly stand it.
Last Monday, 6/9, I thought my paper of record came through with what I needed -- a scoop, a palpable scoop, "Pipeline leads to White House," by WashBureau's Jill Zuckman, about the terminally tax-hostile Grover Norquist, who "has the ear of the Bush administration," the headline said, so that "conservatives are eager to court [sic] his influential meetings." (Court meetings? Howinhell do you court a meeting? Influential meetings? Meetings are not influential, people are. Do headline-writers really want to talk this way?)
As if the head and subhead aren't enough to get the glow going in my phony-liberal heart, with this clear pointer to inside dope on Bush admin shenanigans, there in the first sentence was "vast right-wing conspiracy," in quotes, of course, because it's the phrase made famous 'round the world by our once first lady, now arguably the first lady of New York (and quite the book author, I might add).
"Those who believe in [above famous phrase] might trace its path to a generic [sic] conference room of [in?] a nondescript office building here [Wash.], where fresh bagels and cream cheese await more than 100 conservative activists every Wednesday morning."
In the White House? Apparently not, but page one does not say for sure, and page 17, to which the story jumps, does not either. It's apparently the one with the bagels and cream cheese on Wednesday mornings, easily smoked out by the persevering sleuth.
That said by way of the spotting of quirks and annoyances, the faux liberal who reads the article through has to stop right where he is, because Zuckman has done a good thing here. It's a good article, telling more than f.l. knew about Norquist. Norquist and his gang come across as quite effective, sans sophomoric shots at what this means to the republic. Chi Trib this time was interesting, informative, and straight.
It killed me to say that.
DON'T MISS IT . . . Soon to be a major motion picture: "Hillary!: The Musical," starring Madonna, featuring the show-stopping "Don't Cry for Me, Democratic Party." Based on the runaway best-seller Living History. At a movie theater near you.
PROFILING . . . "Now that America [Britishism here] is projecting its frontier justice on the world [italics mine]," it is "an urgent matter" to understand our "adolescent country's fierce contradictions," says reviewer Ronald Wright, a novelist, in TLS 3/21/03.
The book is Richard Grant's Ghost Riders: Travels with American Nomads (Little, Brown), which he says "for all its wryness . . . shines with affection for America, its people and lost possibilities." [Oh the loss of them!]
The contradictions include "fair-mindedness [with] fanaticism [and] yearning for truth yet capacity to . . . believe in and disseminate bunk."
That's us, all right.
NEW WORD . . . "Invigilate"? That's what a Thai intelligence agent maybe did to the reunion cum trip to Bangkok of author Pascal Khoo Thwe (From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey, HarperCollins) and the Cambridge don who befriended him. Reviewer Shelby Tucker, travel writer and Burma expert, says it's "one of the best books about Burma" that he's read, if you are in the market for such books.
As for "invigilate," intransitively it's "to keep watch," as over students at an examination, and it's especially British. But transitively it has the sense of "supervise" and "monitor."
I get it.
KEEP POUNDING AWAY . . . Feel like you're fat? Consider that we are "designed" to overeat when the food is varied, it's easy to get at, "we are in the company of good friends who are hearty eaters," and "when familial and cultural customs exert their pull."
This is disgusting. There I am with friends and family, and what do I do? I pig out.
Sometimes government tries to help. In Finland, for example, it subsidized salads and veggies at restaurants. Cardio-v disease dropped 73%!
In any case, from author Ellen Ruppel Shell (The Hungry Gene: The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin, Atlantic Books, reviewed in TLS 3/21/03 by Carol Tavris): It's "less a matter of individual differences than of societal pressures, and of the power of the institutions that impose them. We can and should resist."
Yes! Nothing to lose but our pounds! If you don't count heavy-eating family and friends!
ONE GOOD MAN . . . From National Catholic Reporter online, 6/9/2003, this about the new Boston archbishop, to take place of Cardinal Law, who let very bad things happen: The new man must be a bishop, of course. That goes without saying. But, and here come the hard part: He has to have "personal morality . . . above reproach," must never have "negligently transferred a priest who engaged in sexual abuse to another assignment" (palming him off), and must be "a strong leader who can restore the confidence of the archdiocese . . . a strong administrator who can deal with serious financial challenges . . . media-savvy . . . "
Let us pray they find that man.
STIRRING THE POT . . . Rocked on down to the Loop Thursday 6/12, caught Reason Mag editor and author Jacob Sullum (red-handed) in a "defense of drug use" at the Heartland Institute, on La Salle Street. Sullum's new book is Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, Tarcher/Putnam. Fifty or so sat in a crowded conference room, having paid $15 for a buffet sandwich lunch. Sullum stood at the end of a table.
The "most addictive" title has been passed around like a Miss America crown, to hear him tell it. Heroin was once the measuring stick, then crack cocaine, now cigarettes, billed by one enthusiast as more addictive than crack. It calls the rhetoric in question, to say the least.
Marijuana possession has been de-felonized in every state, treated like a traffic violation in a dozen states. Growing or selling is another story.
Amsterdam declared a toleration policy as regards using marijuana, and use declined. It has risen since that drop, but still is not as high as in the U.S.
An estimated $billion goes for anti-drug advertising in the U.S. over "several years'" time. The war on drugs as such costs feds $20 million a year plus that much for the states. Estimated billions are lost yearly to drug-driven theft.
I asked if whole neighborhoods might end up nodding on their doorsteps if drug laws went away. Sullum didn't think so, citing studies that show non-addiction among the vast majority of users.
This was the major message of his very well delivered, intellectually satisfying talk, by the way: addiction ain't what it's cracked up to be (if you will pardon my expression).
So "the utilitarian argument" won't wash, he said. Yes, some would take advantage of the legalization and use the drug who don't now. But not many, he thought, and with the above mentioned low rate of addiction reported in recent studies (for which see his book), the tradeoff in favor of our present policy does not justify its continuance.
For one thing, "the vast bulk" of drug-related crime would disappear (he might have said, as alcohol-prohibition-related crime disappeared), saving billions for the economy and (he might have added) thousands of lives lost in drug-related gang warfare.
Asked what's to come, including liberalization in his lifetime, he said he wouldn't be writing about it if he thought not. Among possible ways would to return controls to the states -- which is what Repeal did, of course. He counts more on Republicans to bring this about, they being less likely thought soft on drug abuse and more likely to limit the federal role, for which Democrats of course have a very soft spot in their big-government hearts.
As it is, Feds butt into intrastate matters unconscionably (unconstitutionally), as in California, where a grower is being prosecuted. Republicans could tell Feds to butt out when Dems would shrink from it, believing, as (unofficial) Catholic lay saint Dorothy Day said ironically, in "holy mother state."
Meanwhile, however, there's the old American penchant for prohibiting things, as if we need something to pick on -- tobacco, gin, dope, and now tobacco again -- and come down on with the full force of government. Jacob Sullum would rather not, and argues persuasively for the point.
OUR TAXING SITUATION . . . Tax the rich? See what Calvin Coolidge said in 1925: "The method of raising revenue ought not to impede the transaction of business; it ought to encourage it. I am opposed to extremely high rates, because they produce little or no revenue, because they are bad for the country, and, finally, because they are wrong.
We can not finance the country, we can not improve social conditions, through any system of injustice, even if we attempt to inflict it upon the rich. Those who suffer the most harm will be the poor. This country believes in prosperity. It is absurd to suppose that it is envious of those who are already prosperous.
The wise and correct course to follow in taxation and all other economic legislation is not to destroy those who have already secured success but to create conditions under which every one will have a better chance to be successful."
It's from his inaugural address, and says why I'm happy to be a conservative Republican, mainly in its wisdom about helping poor people. Such bosh we do hear from holier-than-thou Dem liberals, especially among the churchgoing.
LATIN STUDENTS . . . The excellent Fran Spielman, City Hall reporter for Chicago Sun-Times, tells us 6/14 of Chicago's Latin School dickering with Gold Coast neighbors about picking up and dropping off students. At issue is traffic in that posh but crowded community. Latin seeks neighbors' acquiescence in their adding a too-high, six-story middle school building.
Look for no comment here by Latin's illustrious alumna, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, stepdaughter of the very influential Mike Madigan, president of the state senate. Why not? Because she would rather be considered Irish Catholic than Latin alum, for obvious political reasons. In fact, it takes some looking to find the truth of that matter.
LISTENING TO THE MAN . . . Spielman again, 6/13, on Mayor Daley (how is he like death? He comes like a thief in the night to dig up your airport), irritated (again?) about Meigs Field, dug up and not there for Bush to land on 6/12. Was Bush surprised to land in his 'copter in Grant Park, not at Meigs? "O, come on. Every major newspaper" had the news of the midnight dig. "If you haven't watched CNN, I'm sorry [he isn't] . . . The federal government was very aware of what took place."
Yes, they were, AFTER THE FACT! Like the rest of us, except for a dozen or so City Hall regulars.
He was not happy that the park district said -- a few days earlier, while he was out of town -- that Meigs is getting ready for Ping-Pong and other amusements and gave lots of reasons why it won't be soon. "First of all, you have to do a lot of work . . . the whole concrete there [has to be torn up]. . . . You have to take a number of buildings out. You just can't have people go on there. . . . You have to be very, very careful when you're doing major construction . . . It's called liability. If someone gets injured, then we have to use money out of my pocket and your pocket . . . " Etc. etc. Voluble fellow.
CAREER MOVE . . . Did you hear Gen. Tommy Franks is quitting the Army "to pursue solo bombing projects"? He's had some "amazing years" and done "some fantastic bombing" but feels like he's "taken it as far as [he] can." It's time, he said, "to move on and see what [he] can destroy on [his] own."
If you think I'm making this up, you are not a reader of America's finest news source, "The Onion." It's all there and more in the 12-18 June issue. (6/14/03)
HEY, IT WORKS FOR ME . . . I feel bad in the morning, what I do is pretend I'm a liberal and open up the Tribune. In no time I am feeling good all over, so warm and cuddly I can hardly stand it.
Like today, 6/7/03, a Saturday, me sitting in the 7 a.m. sunshine in front of the bread kitchen with coffee and free slice of brioche. The main headline is "Pentagon report found 'no reliable' arms proof: [but] White House confident about claims," by Stephen J. Hedges of the Wash. bureau, dateline Washington, and he better have really been there and not just used a stringer, like that NYT fellow who just resigned -- the shadow reporter who wrote on airplanes (not about them) and won prizes.
This is a very liberal feel-good story because it picks up the Dem line of argument for the week, that no matter how many people we freed from the hateful Saddam by the war in Iraq, no matter how few casualties were incurred by all concerned compared to standard antiwar predictions for similar military actions, no matter how swift the victory contrary to dire anti-war predictions, no matter how little devastation occurred compared to predictions, the Bush admin. still does not have our vote in the matter because weapons of mass destruction haven't been found yet.
Thank you, Chi Trib, for making my faux-liberal day with this story and others I'd rather not go into because I have used up my strictly delineated quota of political and hard-eyed journalism-oriented commentary and lighter fare awaits me.
BLIND MOUSE DISROBING . . . Not making my day, on the other hand, are the red-shirted, gray-pantsed umpires changing clothes outside their station wagons parked across the street from where I sit at the computer at 9 a.m. on this beautiful Saturday. The guy changes pants, going down to white jockey-style shorts, tucking himself in, standing on the street next to his open tailgate. No thanks are due this guy, who is heading for the games at the high school fields a half block away.