Support Lawrence Lessig for President

I am often singled out by close family as being a “grumpy old man” when it comes to politics.  I’ll admit that I find Russell Brand’s compelling argument “Not to Vote” in line with my current thinking about politics, but I am concerned that it demonstrates more cowardice than conviction. (Editor’s Note: Also, I will admit that I still listen to DWM (“Dead White Men”) music even though iTunes continues to tempt me with promotions of pop or rap artists I have never heard of before.)

In any event, I was thrilled to learn that Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard professor and democratic theorist, might run for president as a Democrat. According to the recently published New York Times article, Mr. Lessig’s goal is to restore ownership of our government to the people.   His central point – and one I fully agree with – is described in more detail in the short TED Talk  Video further below:

“The reason I’ve been driven to this is the constant ’emperor wears no clothes’ feeling about this election,” said Mr. Lessig, who will also campaign against gerrymandering and restrictive voting laws. “We need a plan for unrigging the system first, and none of them have given us that plan.”

He added: “You want to rail against Wall Street, as O’Malley does or Bernie Sanders does? Great” But, he continued, “unless you fix the way we fund campaigns, we’re not going to take on the largest funder of congressional campaigns in America.”

While Mr. Lessig political beliefs may be a bit too liberal for some readers of Gourmay, his articulate analysis of how corruption has a stranglehold on our political “process” certainly resonates with me. Unless we can break the Gordian Knot of partisan political corruption, it is unlikely that true representative democracy will emerge from this morass of hypocrisy.

Thank you Mr. Lessig for saying what needs to be said. I guess the question is: Is anyone listening?

Women in America: An Update

Henry the Eighth dispatched a few wives to produce a Royal heir, but sadly his worst nightmare was realized when the fairer – and far more intelligent – sex was crowned Queen of England. By most accounts, she did a pretty good job: Even male historians give her passing grade even though she wasn’t into promiscuous sex.

Kate BouldanNow, I have never been much of a sexist – particularly after Lorena Bobbit took a knife to husband John’s private parts – but I have come to realize that men could learn a lot from women particularly if they look like Kate Boulduan (She even makes CNN commentator Wolf Blitzer look intelligent, which I thought  impossible).   I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist one last sexist remark.  (Editor’s Note:  John Bobbit went on to become a Porn Star which I guess goes to prove that there is life after sex).

All snide sexist comments aside, I was astonished to learn that Hilary Mantel of Wolf Hall fame  started reading Shakespeare at the age of 10.   While I am nowhere near the intellect of Hilary, I still feel proud that I began reading my first “adult” book when I was 12:  Tschiffely’s Ride.  Aimé Tschiffely was a Swiss Argentine (that’s a real oxymoron) who rode two horses from Argentina to Canada in 1933.  Sadly, one was killed by a car in the US.  Some would call this progress.

Now there is no reason to rejoice in this useless trivia, but to point out that Hilary was reading Shakespeare at 10 and I was reading my first adult book at 12 and that women tend to mature at 30 while men peak at 20.   If you do some sexist extrapolation, this would suggest that women are far higher on the intellectual food chain than men.   I realize that this contradicts most orthodox religious dogma, but the Bible and Koran were written by men.  Actually, some Gourmay readers have taken a far more militant posture: “It will yet be the proud boast of women that they never contributed a line to the Bible.”

I am not one to get in the way of gender or religious warfare, so I will leave it to others to opine.  Nevertheless, no less of an authority as Harvard harbored relatively antiquated views on the role of women in society:

Longtime Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman originally wanted to be an urban planner, although she never got much farther than sending off an initial grad-school application to the Department of City and Regional Planning at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

An assistant professor in the department, William A. Doebele, Jr., sent her back this letter, which was reprinted 52 years later in Sunday’s Washington Post:

Although we have not yet received your official transcript from Brandeis, on the basis of your letters of recommendation there would seem to be a possibility of your admission to the Department of City and Regional Planning even at this date.

However — to speak directly — our experience, even with brilliant students, has been that married women find it difficult to carry out worthwhile careers in planning, and hence tend to have some feeling of waste about the time and effort spent in professional education. (This is, of course, true of almost all graduate professional studies.)

Therefore, for your own benefit, and to aid us in coming to a final decision, could you kindly write us a page or two at your earliest convenience indicating specifically how you might plan to combine a professional life in city planning with your responsibilities to your husband and a possible future family?

Now I am not going to issue a public apology for Harvard – hell, I can’t even afford the  tuition – but it seems that their guidance was not exactly on target. Bubba’s  Hillary agrees, but then she went to Yale.

Whether you are a Hillary spelled with one “l” or two “lls”, I think that there is now a fair amount of evidence that women on both sides of the Atlantic don’t seem quite as shackled by the stereotypical roles assigned to them by men.    I suppose this is good news, because most families need two incomes to support their needs when only one wage-earner was required 50 years ago.

While women’s liberation may not be moving as fast for some women than they would like, a little perspective is required.  I vividly recall the horror of watching a most disturbing film called Osama which describes how women were treated during the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan.   This is what fundamentalist terrorism is all about and it is pretty frightening.