HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

August 13, 2007
From the Editor

John Turner


Last Wednesday I drove from my house in Montpelier to Chicago. I realize I'm probably less a heroic driver than most of you are, but I have to confess that a thousand miles in one stretch is farther than I can any longer enjoy. Most of it is done along limited-access highways, which means if you want to avoid the bother of paying a toll to get off and then stopping for a ticket to get back on, you have to get food and gas at the turnpike travel centers. Why do these places have to be as they are? Why is the food so bad? I'll admit that some of them now have Starbucks units, so you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin. But, beyond that, the offerings are pathetic.

In theory, the market always supplies us what we want. And these are market operations. So if the theory is correct, Americans have terrible taste.  I'm always asking myself why that should be. But I have no good answers.

The price of gas varied from $2.72 to $3.29. The reason for such a wide range is also a mystery.

I have noted that Mitt Romney won the Republican straw poll in Iowa. This is a nonevent of such vacuous proportions I have a hard time seeing why it should be reported in the newspaper. But there it is, consuming tons of newsprint.  Another event that received far less attention was the measure of the polar ice cap. It has shrunk more this summer than at any other season since satellite tracking began in 1977. But in most newspapers it was either not reported or a ho-hum occurrence. I've been wondering if there's a strong connection between the relative importance accorded these two events and the taste demonstrated on America's turnpikes.

In Harper's Magazine, I read Laura Kipnis's article titled "Lust and Disgust: A Short History of Prudery, Feminist and Otherwise." About this piece I have little to say except that I like Ms. Kipnis's writing. She has the ironic view about sexuality that I think human insanity on the subject demands.

Speaking of insanity, I also read excerpts from a United Nations report titled "The Dynamics of Honor Killings in Turkey." It reminded me yet once again that there's such a thing as cultural distinction and also such a thing as being completely nuts. Honor killing, whether in Turkey or anywhere else, falls into the latter category.

I see that President Bush's erstwhile speechwriters have got into a fuss. Matthew Scully published an article in The Atlantic saying that chief speechwriter Michael Gerson engaged in extravagant falsehood about his own contributions to Bush's speeches. I didn't have a driving interest in the news, but I did notice that it was accompanied by the assertion that Gerson is a deeply religious man. This I have seen a number of times before so I want to take this opportunity to say I don't care. He helped write speeches for Bush didn't he? Why not let him be damned by that alone?

I read this morning in the New York Times that Karl Rove is resigning from the White House Staff. This made me very sad. And when I read also that he's doing it for the sake of his family, it made me even sadder.

I don't know whether I'll be back in Montpelier by next week or not. No baby has emerged into the light of day since we arrived here. But, who knows? It could happen tonight. Monday night is my pick in the poll. I'm beginning to think I'm not going to win.

In any case, I'll tell you something next week.


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