Archive for the ‘The Papers’ Category

On a Prophetic Photo in the Times

September 22, 2008

As president, you come before the brace
of Doric columns with your chastened frown,
that heavy lip of schoolboy in disgrace.
Advisors to your left and right look down
in attitudes of reverence, even prayer.
But hands in this catastrophe belie
a cynicism on the public stair,
the smallness of your game beneath the sky.
A final act. Can you say “denouement”,
George W, without a Texas sneer?
Perhaps there is an overarching law,
unbreakable, in this your final year
of getting over. Leave it to the French.
They have a word for Bush Before the Bench.


Keep the Doctor Away

January 29, 2007


I sparred a bit with Bill Nye the Science Guy on whether scientists are doing for our diet any good. I told him I’d be coming back with a friend .

New Year

January 1, 2007


I wrote an editorial for the science industry magazine that employs me in which I recount a moment of minor crisis during my job interview with the editor-in-chief and managing editor. It went like this:

MJ (the editor-in-chief) asked what I considered the best educational background for a journalist covering the chemical industry.

“History,” I said.

“Which,” she asked, “is the worst?”

“Any kind of science background,” was my answer.

I vaguely remember RB (managing editor) rising out of his seat at this juncture, and MJ touching his elbow. “Let him explain,” she said, smiling at me with a hint of nervous tension in her eyes.

Well, I ‘splained and I got the job. They even published my editorial, complete with my explanation–which I will spare you, other than to assure you I am not one of these “anti science” types. I will, however, for the second time in two days, lean on the Op Ed page of the New York Times to give you the views of a heavyweight on a topic dear to my heart. Here is Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. on better living through history, and the moral imperative of our “quest for an unobtainable objectivity.”

Number 38

December 28, 2006


In the Jimmy Carter Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, there is a political cartoon from a big-city daily. In a single frame, it depicts 1) a nefarious Richard Nixon handing Gerald Ford what looks like a smoldering pile of garbage on a shingle, 2) the stoic-faced Ford reeling around with the same shingle on which the garbage has been turned back into a sun-drenched White House, and 3) a toothy-smiling Jimmy Carter taking the handoff. That’s what I thought of when I heard the news last night.

Surrender Dorothy!

December 8, 2006

cover.jpg Did you ever go to the homepage of the New York Post? Quite an experience. It makes your pop-up blocker pop like an old-fashioned bucket of grease-boiled corn kernels. I went today—for the first time ever!—because I had to grab the front page. It’s one of the greats.

You probably know that the New York Post, founded by Alexander Hamilton and now owned by Rupert Murdoch, has become a cross between Fox News and the National Inquirer. Today’s bottom-of-the-page banner?: “Water on Mars.” (Yeah, sure–right next to Elvis!) The Post frequently runs “keeper” front page headlines, like the one 20 years ago about the first words of a man with a transplanted baboon heart after his surgery–“Heart Man: Gimme Me a Beer!” By comparison, The Daily News (“Ford to New York: Go to Hell,” circa 1975) is kind of sedate.

“Heart Man:Gimme Me a Beer!” That made me laugh.

But today’s headline and accompanying photo montage with the faces of James Baker III and Lee Hamilton almost stretched me out in gut-laughter at the news store on Bloomfield Avenue where I get my Chock Full-of-Nuts every morning. Again, with the baboons! They look like flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz at a 60th anniversary reunion.

You can’t beat the brio that The Post brings to the Yah-hoo news perspective. “Sound the reteat!,” it mocks. “Panel kisses up to Iran and Syria.” And I admire the paper’s willingness to pillory its darlings, folks like Jim Baker, when the bottle spins in their direction.

And you gotta love Jim Baker, too. C’mon! Sure, he was a henchman for George H.W. Bush–the handler who had such thoughtful insights on why Bush pere had to write-off New York. But I’ll give almost anyone a second chance. As for Baker–he’s become much more than a henchman to young W, and I’ve warmed up to him in the process. Baker is frequently compared to Winston Wolfe, Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction who’s called in to get John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson cleaned up after a messy faux pas. How cool is that? He’s tough, but fair, and clean by virtue of complete detachment. Travolta and Jackson know enough to do just what he tells them to do.

Well, here’s hoping that Baker has actually done some good heading up the Iraq Study Group, and that some good comes of it. He may be their monkey-boy, but he’s giving that ever-more-isolated monkey in the White House some serious adult marching orders.

Meanwhiile, over at The New York Times: “In 142 stark pages, the Iraq Study Group report makes an impassioned plea for bipartisan consensus on the most divisive foreign policy issue of this generation. Without President Bush, that cannot happen.”

Oh, that’s right. Sure, New York Times. Blame everything on Bush. Borrrr-ring!