Published on: November 11, 2011
Just a few more words on the Penn State mess.
I think the students on campus need to be cut a little slack for demonstrating on behalf of now-fired coach Joe Paterno. (Though not cut slack for acts of violence and vandalism.) These students are kids, and don’t seem to understand the utter depravity of the acts that have been committed there and that seem to have been swept under the rug by people who should have known better, who were paid to know better, who had a moral and ethical responsibility to know better. They are living in the college cocoon, and that can warp your view of the rest of the world.
But this is the moment that the university needs to step up and prove what “higher education” really means. It means not closing your eyes to acts of evil. It means being willing to challenge authority when necessary. It means not just doing the least possible thing, but going as far as necessary - and sometimes, even farther - in pursuit of justice. It means not putting an institution ahead of the welfare of people, especially kids who cannot defend themselves, who have no voice in the power structure. It means, at its very core, not just knowing the difference between right and wrong, but acting on that knowledge.
This is what is known as a teachable moment. In the debris of the Penn State disaster, that’s what the university leadership ought to be doing. Teaching. Not worrying about selling football tickets or preserving alumni donations. Maybe if they actually teach, they’ll learn something themselves.
There are a couple of commercials on television these days that I find really offensive.
One is from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). It has this older guy in a blue sweater walking toward the camera, essentially saying that anyone who votes to make any changes in Social Security or Medicare should expect to find 50 million people voting against them in upcoming elections.
Now, I say this as someone who is 57 years old, and therefore probably too old to be affected by any changes in benefits. (General speculation is that if there are any changes, they will only affect people under 55.) But from my perspective, is is one of the more irresponsible commercials on television - and it certainly does not speak for me. (I don’t belong to AARP, mostly because I don’t like to think of myself as being old enough to belong to such a group. But now I have a reason that has nothing to do with vanity and self-delusion.)
I am not nearly smart enough to be able to figure out how to dig the country out of its current fiscal mess. But I do believe that nothing - nothing
- should be off the table. And I also happen to believe that AARP is deluding itself if it believes that its membership will march in lockstep behind such an irrational and irresponsible position.
The other commercial that really, really annoys me is a new one saying that a large percentage of US Postal Service (USPS) employees are retired members of the military, and suggests that any changes in the postal service - and, by implication, its staffing levels - is an attack on America’s servicemen and women.
Again, totally irresponsible.
Listen, I feel bad about the people who inevitably will lose their jobs if the USPS goes through a major and desperately needed restructuring. And I feel worse if a lot of those employees are retired military - they served this country in a way that I cannot even imagine, and they deserve our respect and gratitude.
But that doesn’t mean that the USPS should continue doing business as usual if business as usual doesn’t make any sense, if the organization itself is obsolete and has outlived its usefulness, at least in the way that its usefulness traditionally has been defined. All of its employees ought to be retrained for 21st century jobs, ought to be helped to find ways to be competitive in a new economy.
But we don;t do anyone any good if we simply go down the path of least resistance when it comes to the USPS, because eventually we’ll go over a cliff.
The one thing we can’t be is irrational and irresponsible.
There is, however, one very cool commercial on TV these days - it is for a video game called “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” and it stars Jonah Hill and Sam Worthington. Now,I am not a gamer - I’m not sure I’ve ever played a video game, and I know I haven’t played this one. But I love this commercial, which is themed around the line, “There’s a soldier in all of us,” and which is both clever and does not insult the viewer’s intelligence. And here’s the deal - it actually made me want to play.
Which is what I think a commercial is supposed to do.
I had one of the best birthday dinners of my life last weekend. (I’m referring to the food; my two sons were not there, and I miss them when they’re not with us.) We were in Boston, where we were visiting colleges with my daughter. On Friday night, we went to Legal Test Kitchen (LTK), down in the Seaport District, and I had Blackened Raw Tuna Sashimi, served with chili garlic vinaigrette and wasabi sauce as an appetizer, and then this marvelous paella - with shrimp, chicken and chorizo sausage - as an entree.
And the wine - fantastic! It was a 2009 Ben Marco Malbec that was smooth and rich and utterly perfect.
Great evening. Happy birthday to me.
My other wine of the week - a terrific 2009 Albarino from California’s Bonny Doon Vineyard, which is bright and spicy and perfect with a chorizo omelette that I made the other night.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.