Especially in the last three years, we’ve had a debate in this country over who or what creates jobs. The other day, the Washington Post seemed to have an answer. The paper’s website had a line saying “Meet Obama’s man who creates jobs for the U.S.” I thought, “Whoa, there is such a man?”
You clicked on this line and you were taken to an article headed “Gene B. Sperling: Obama’s jobs creator.”
So, there you have it — Gene B. Sperling. The “man who creates jobs for the U.S.” What a job! What a responsibility! What a man!
You may have seen a story published on Tuesday: “New US sanctions on Iran aim to head off Israel.” Yes, Israel has been thinking seriously about attacking Iran’s nuclear program, in order to spare itself annihilation. The Obama administration does not want such an attack to happen. Israel seems to have concentrated the administration’s mind. Obama & Co. are taking a tougher stand on Iran. They’re trying to “head off Israel.”
So, score one for Israel, I say. Israel has motivated the Obama administration.
I was stopped by a sentence in this article: “Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said outside forces should let Syrians settle their conflict ‘independently.’”
Say you are jumped by a gang in a back alley. The gang is armed to the teeth, you have virtually nothing. The wise non-interventionist says that you and the gang must settle your conflict independently.
So, “Students at Shippensburg University in central Pennsylvania can get the ‘morning-after’ pill by sliding $25 into a vending machine installed at the request of the student government.” (I have quoted from this article.)
Those vending machines can be tricky, you know. They may reject your twenty and your five. Or your ten and your ten and five ones or whatever. Instead of rejecting them, they may eat those bills. Your pill may linger on the edge of its dispenser, reluctant to come down . . .
Soon you’re banging on the machine. Then you’re tipping it. And here come the security guards . . .
Remember a time in America when what you got from a vending machine was, say, a Mars bar? Was that a worse time in America than now? Too square for our own good?
Going on right now in my home area of southeastern Michigan is the annual “Sphinx Competition,” capped by a “Finals Concert.” The competition is “open to all Junior High, High School, and College age Black and Latino string players residing in the U.S.” The concert is “hosted by the Detroit Symphony at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.”
No word on whether the bathrooms and drinking fountains will be segregated or integrated.
(For a piece I wrote long ago on the collision of race and classical music, try this collection.)
More news from home: The University of Michigan at Dearborn is now offering a minor in Arab-American Studies. (This article tells the tale.) Dearborn is the center of “Arab America.” More and more, higher education is nothing but an exercise in navel-gazing. We don’t want to learn about the world. We want to gaze at our navels. “Oh, what a lovely navel I have, the loveliest in all the world, surely!”
But if you don’t know the world — what can you say about others’ navels?
Anyone who pays for a minor in Arab-American Studies deserves the waste of money. The taxpayers, collectively — they don’t deserve it so much.
If you have not read this profile of Silvio Berlusconi by Philip Delves Broughton, treat yourself. I believe I understand Silvio better now than I have in all these years he’s been onstage.
A couple of items of interest (and the entire profile is of interest): “When I [the interviewer, Broughton] call him [Berlusconi] a businessman he flinches. ‘I was not a businessman. I was an entrepreneur.’”
You and I could spend several paragraphs on that distinction.
Another one: Says Silvio, “I have nothing against homosexuals, let it be clear. Quite the contrary. I always thought the more gay people around, the less competition.”
Finally, I think I’ve mentioned in this column a friend of mine who has been in public life for decades. A few years ago, he said something like this: “I’ve read a range of newspapers, magazines, and books for 50-plus years. I have read all points of view. From now on, I’m not going to read anything I disagree with. I’m not going to read anything that’s going to make me upset. I’ve paid my dues. I’m done.”
Now, we may not admire this stance — but I think we can all understand it. Anyway, a final excerpt from the Berlusconi profile:
The one lesson he took from Margaret Thatcher, he says, he took too late.
She once asked him to describe his working day. Up at 7:30, he told her, work all day. Then at 1:30 am read the next day’s papers, get angry, and then sleep for five hours. “Really?” she said. “You read the newspapers?” “What do you do then, Mrs. Thatcher,” Berlusconi asked her. She answered, “I read only the articles that speak well of me and my government, which my head of press brings to me in the morning.”
I spotted a headline that said, “Handel Denounces Planned Parenthood.” I thought, “Wow — not only a genius composer, but such sound political-social views!” Alas, it was Karen Handel, who had resigned from the Komen foundation. To see an article on this controversy, go here.
Speaking of music (sort of), my column in the new City Arts is on clarinetists. Go here. We are in an outstanding — a great — age for clarinetists. I think I mention about ten in this article, and could have gone on . . .
Now to golf. I loved something Ernie Els said. It appeared in an article on long putters. (I’m not talking about people who make long putts. I’m talking about putters — clubs, instruments — that are long.)
Ernie Els once criticized the use of belly putters, but switched to one late last year and said: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”
Again, love it.
I also loved something Michelle Obama said — so help me, I did. According to this article, she and the comedian Jimmy Fallon had a kind of play day at the White House. Childhood obesity and all that. She beat Fallon “in a climactic potato sack race.”
Afterward, he said, “It doesn’t matter if you won or lost.” She said, “It matters.”
A little language? Let’s go back to that article on Silvio Berlusconi. We read, “In any case, he says, ‘money is not so important.’ Generations of Berlusconi’s have already been amply provided for.”
Think about that apostrophe-ess — “Generations of Berlusconi’s.” A flat mistake? Or deliberate? I think you can, kind-sorta, make a case for it.
Let’s have a little mail. Last week, I had a column mentioning Rob Portman, the Republican senator from Ohio. I have long wanted him to run for president. He knows as much as the best staffer, yet he’s the officeholder — a very strange combination. Also admirably self-effacing — but not so self-effacing that he doesn’t run for office, at a very high level.
I received several letters from Portman fans. Here’s a bit of one of them:
. . . I’m a recent Michigan Law graduate, and in May Rob Portman spoke at our commencement. A lot of students didn’t like his DOMA support [a reference to the Defense of Marriage Act], and some organized a walkout. About a quarter of the students walked out, and about half stayed and wore rainbow pins.
Rob was very respectful, and got a lot of respect in return. He said it was a great thing that people have the conviction to walk out on a speaker with whom they disagree strongly, and that we have a country in which we can do that. He even joked that, if he knew he was speaking, he’d walk out too, but for other reasons.
One more letter, not related to Portman, but related to my hometown:
Was at an extended-family gathering over the weekend. I didn’t know some of the in-laws. One of them was on the far side of the room. When a host approached him and asked (as hosts do), “What do you need?” he answered, “Socialism!”
Later, this in-law and I engaged in a conversation. We got onto the subject of airports. He mentioned National, adding with a sneer, “I can’t call it Reagan!”
As our discussion continued, I asked, “Where do you live?” He said, “Ann Arbor.”
A final item — the last known World War I veteran has died. She was Florence Green, age 110. You can read about her here. When asked what it was like to be 110, the Englishwoman said, “It’s not much different to being 109.”