The Pasty Little Putz is all excited, and he took pixels to screen to write a letter to The Jersey Whale. In “Dear Governor Christie” he offers up a don’t-do list for a possible presidential run in 2016. Of course he left off “don’t go ballistic and scream at people,” so the debates should be fun… MoDo is sharpening her claws on Hillary again [yawn], and in “Funny Girl” she hisses that as Hillary takes Hollywood, Sarah Silverman offers a piece of advice. (And it’s not even funny.) Since she’s obviously completely in awe of Hollywood maybe the Times should switch her to TV and movie reviews. In “Why I (Still) Support Obamacare” The Moustache of Wisdom says in a world where middle-class work is in transition, we need a strong health care safety net. Mr. Kristof is in Tulsa, and sends in “Oklahoma! Where the Kids Learn Early.” He says if America wants a national model for early education, it should look to what is being achieved in Oklahoma. Mr. Bruni considers “Violence, Greed and the Gridiron” and says with its savage culture and wrecked bodies and minds, America’s most popular sport may also be its least conscionable. Here’s The Putz:
I know, governor, I know: It’s still too early for presidential speculation, you’re just focused on the job at hand and any talk of 2016, while flattering, is purely hypothetical.
But just in case you do have some faint, slight, extremely modest interest in parlaying your landslide re-election into a presidential bid, here are four 2016 “don’ts” to keep in mind:
Don’t be Jon Huntsman. This sounds easy enough, but obvious pitfalls are still worth pointing out. For the next two years, you’re going to be hailed up and down the Acela Corridor as the Great Moderate Hope, the anti-Tea Party candidate, the Man Who Is Not Ted Cruz. But you can’t actively embrace that part, or give off the impression — as Huntsman did, obviously and fatally — that you agree with the media that your party’s full of rubes and cranks.
As a would-be nominee, you have to woo base voters, not run against them, and make them feel respected even when they disagree with you. This doesn’t mean muzzling yourself, or pandering to every right-wing interest group. But it means persuading conservatives that you like them, that you understand them and that as president you’re going to be (mostly) on their side.
Don’t be Rudy Giuliani. You probably think you wouldn’t have Rudy’s problems in a Republican primary. Yes, you’re both combative Northeasterners from the party’s moderate flank, but unlike the former mayor you aren’t a social liberal with a public history of adultery (and a few drag performances thrown in).
But what felled Giuliani in 2008 wasn’t just “values” issues. It was the former mayor’s apparent belief that being a national hero was a sufficient qualification to be president — that he could just show up, be “Rudy,” and the rest would take care of itself.
As another charismatic politician defined by your handling of a catastrophe, you’re vulnerable to the same temptation: the belief that you, personally, are the solution to the Republican Party’s many problems, and that you can just run on your own awesomeness without specifying where you would take the country if you won. That act wears thin in a long campaign, and it’s likely to wear especially thin in a party that needs a new agenda as badly as Republicans do today. Which brings us to …
Don’t assume that what worked in Jersey will work nationally. In state-of-the-party arguments, you and your fellow Republican governors love to contrast your successes with the national party’s struggles. But those successes have been made possible by crucial differences between state-level issues and national ones.
In New Jersey, for instance, you’ve been able to successfully isolate public-sector unions, portraying them as drains on middle-class tax dollars and enemies of the common good. But in national budget debates, the biggest issues are popular entitlement programs, not teacher salaries or bureaucrats’ health benefits. And you probably aren’t going to win the presidency wagging your finger at Social Security recipients, or painting the poor and elderly as dangerous special-interest groups. You need a different way to convince voters that you’re on the middle class’s side, and you won’t find it unless you …
Don’t always listen to your donors. As a standard-bearer for pragmatic, non-apocalyptic Republicanism who also hails from a state where lots of rich Wall Streeters sleep at night, you’re going to be awash in money, and with it will come lots of unsolicited advice. Some will be good: the Republican donor class has a better handle on certain political realities than the Tea Party. But some will be terrible, because the right’s donors are loath to acknowledge that their party’s biggest problem isn’t gay marriage or immigration or even the disastrous government shutdown. It’s a brand identity, cemented by Mitt Romney’s persona and “47 percent” remark, as the handmaiden of Big Business and the rich.
To alter that identity, you’ll need substance as well as regular-guy style: a tax plan that doesn’t play just as a giveaway to the 1 percent, a health care plan that isn’t just a defense of the pre-Obamacare status quo, an approach to spending that targets corporate welfare as well as food stamps.
The good news is that you already have populist politicians like Utah’s Senator Mike Lee leading the charge into this territory, so you can follow without worrying too much about being attacked as a RINO sellout squish. The bad news is that you’ll have a lot of big bundlers cornering you to explain that actually it’s much more important to cut capital-gains taxes or preserve the carried-interest loophole for hedge funds, and why can’t you move to the center on social issues and stick with upper-bracket tax cuts, because after all they worked in the Reagan era …
Which they did — in a completely different economic and political landscape. So if you want to have an era of your own, you’ll need to nod politely, crush your well-heeled advice-giver with a handshake, and then take a different path.
And now here’s MoDo, God help us:
As Hollywood bowed down to Hillary Clinton, who swept through on a state visit with Chelsea on Friday, there seemed to be only one person here with any reservations.
“I want her to take a voice class,” Sarah Silverman said, as she curled and uncurled like a cat on the gray couch of her modest West Hollywood apartment decorated with taped-up pictures of her family.
“She’s so smart and has so much to say and can change the world but she’s” — here Silverman goes fortissimo — “TALKING LIKE SHE’S YELLING AT YOU. She sounds like a mom who’s yelling at you. And it triggers a response.”
What response does Ted Cruz trigger?
“Terrifying,” she says. “He’s disgusting, and one day I Wikipedia-ed him and I’m like four days older than him and it made me so depressed.”
She does credit conservatives with being deviously effective at naming things. “Citizens United,” she says. “What sounds more beautiful than that?”
The comedian says she’s “not smart enough” about politics, and in an HBO special, airing Nov. 23, she sticks to her usual sweet depravity with jokes about rape, porn, Jews and her family. But she became a hilarious viral force in the last two elections.
In 2008, she did the “Great Schlep” video urging Jews with grandparents in Florida to withhold visits to “bubbie” and “zadie” unless they agreed to vote for Barack Obama.
In 2012, she offered Sheldon Adelson “an indecent proposal” involving a bikini bottom and a lesbian sexual treat if he would give $100 million to Obama instead of Mitt Romney.
She teased Mitt on Twitter, asking about his sexual proclivities. And she quickly got a million views for her video slamming voter ID laws.
When a rabbi wrote to JewishPress.com to criticize Silverman’s “Let My People Vote” campaign, suggesting that she should “channel” her passion into marriage and children, her dad defended her with a few of the off-color words he taught Sarah when she was a toddler.
But Silverman, whose persona has always been that of the adorable, pigtailed child-woman, defended herself recently after some younger male comics mocked her as a crone, in Hollywood terms. She admitted to W. Kamau Bell on his TV show, “Totally Biased,” that it took a couple of days to recover her self-esteem.
At a Comedy Central roast of James Franco, Jonah Hill said, “Sarah is a role model for every little girl out there. I mean, every little girl dreams of being a 58-year-old single stand-up comedian with no romantic prospects on the horizon. They all dream of it, but Sarah did it.” (Silverman is 42 and dates comedian Kyle Dunnigan.)
Hill also offered this shot: “People say it’s too late for Sarah to become successful in movies at her age. I again do not agree. It’s not impossible. I mean, it’s not like they’re asking you to bear children or anything like that.”
Roast Master Seth Rogen introduced her as “No. 29 on Maxim’s Hot 100 — in the year 2007.”
Silverman told Bell that “as soon as a woman gets to an age where she has opinions and she’s vital and she’s strong, she’s systematically shamed into hiding under a rock. And this is by progressive pop-culture people!”
Looking like a lithe college girl in a blue and white striped T-shirt, sweatpants, sneakers and no makeup, she stressed to me that “everything goes” at a roast and that she brutally dishes it out — she leveled fat jokes at Hill at the roast — so she has to take it.
And her philosophy is that women should not get special favors but just be the best at what they do. “That’s what makes strides for women,” she says. “Be undeniable.”
Still, the taunts hit a chord. You can be the toughest girl on the block and still be vulnerable, as Hillary learned in New Hampshire in 2008, when she got emotional.
Silverman said she was up for a role recently, and “it was between me and a 25-year-old to play the love interest of the 50-year-old man and I lost it.” She laughs ruefully.
“These issues always come up when an actress hits a certain age and has a voice she can use,” she says. “It’s not any kind of new notion. It’s just new for me, you know what I mean? I love all those guys. Still, I think it was O.K. to admit that it cut me. We’re just made of feelings.”
She adds that jokes about appearance play differently: “Look, Jonah Hill can be fat, guys can be fat and still deserve love in this society. You know? In white America, overweight women don’t deserve love.”
The gender divide comes up again when I ask her about having kids, given her riff in the HBO special about how much she loves them.
“Maybe I would have had kids if I had a wife,” she says. “I have a lot of guy comic friends who have families because they have wives and they raise the kids. And I’m on the road all the time, and I date other people who are on the road. But I guess I really just was never ready. I still don’t feel like I’m ready. My plan is to adopt and be like young Grandma age.”
Really. She’d be a great TV reviewer, and the perfect balance to all those accusations about “liberal” Hollywood… Now here’s The Moustache of Wisdom:
At the recent New York Times forum in Singapore, Eleonora Sharef, a co-founder of HireArt, was explaining what new skills employers were seeking from job applicants, but she really got the audience’s attention when she mentioned that her search firm was recently told by one employer that it wouldn’t look at any applicant for a marketing job who didn’t have at least 2,000 Twitter followers — and the more the better. She didn’t disclose the name of the firm, but she told me that it wasn’t Twitter.
At a meeting with students at Fudan University in Shanghai a few days earlier, I was struck by how anxious some of the Chinese students were about the question: “Am I going to have a job?” If you’re a software engineer in China, you’ll do fine, also a factory worker — but a plain-old college grad? The Times reported earlier this year that in China today “among people in their early 20s, those with a college degree were four times as likely to be unemployed as those with only an elementary school education.”
Stories like these explain why I really hope that Obamacare succeeds. Say what?
Here’s the logic: The Cold War era I grew up in was a world of insulated walls, both geopolitical and economic, so the pace of change was slower — you could work for the same company for 30 years — and because bosses had fewer alternatives, unions had greater leverage. The result was a middle class built on something called a high-wage or a decent-wage medium-skilled job, and the benefits that went with it.
The proliferation of such jobs meant that many people could lead a middle-class lifestyle — with less education and more security — because they didn’t have to compete so directly with either a computer or a machine that could do their jobs faster and better (by far the biggest source of job churn) or against an Indian or Chinese who would do their jobs cheaper. And by a middle-class lifestyle, I don’t mean just scraping by. I mean having status: enough money to buy a house, enjoy some leisure and offer your kids the opportunity to do better than you.
But thanks to the merger of globalization and the I.T. revolution that has unfolded over the last two decades — which is rapidly and radically transforming how knowledge and information are generated, disseminated and collaborated on to create value — “the high-wage, medium-skilled job is over,” says Stefanie Sanford, the chief of global policy and advocacy for the College Board. The only high-wage jobs that will support the kind of middle-class lifestyle of old will be high-skilled ones, requiring a commitment to rigorous education, adaptability and innovation, she added.
But will even this prescription for creating enough jobs with decent middle-class incomes suffice, asks James Manyika, who leads research on economic and technology trends at the McKinsey Global Institute. While these prescriptions are certainly “correct,” notes Manyika, they “may not be enough to solve for the scale and nature of the problem.” The pace of technologically driven productivity growth, he said, suggests that we may not need as many workers to drive equivalent levels of output and G.D.P.
As the M.I.T. economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee show in their book “Race Against the Machine,” for the last two centuries productivity, median income and employment all rose together. No longer. Now we have record productivity, wealth and innovation, yet median incomes are falling, inequality is rising and high unemployment remains persistent.
To be sure, notes Manyika, a similar thing happened when we introduced technology to agriculture. We did not need as many people to produce food, so everybody shifted to manufacturing. As the same thing happened there, many people shifted to services.
But now, adds Manyika, “a growing share of high-paying services and knowledge work is also falling prey to technology.” And while new companies like Twitter are exciting, they do not employ people with high-paying jobs in large numbers. The economy and the service sector will still offer large numbers of jobs, but many simply may not sustain a true middle-class lifestyle.
As a result, argues Manyika, how we think about “employment” to sustain a middle-class lifestyle may need to expand “to include a broader set of possibilities for generating income” compared with the traditional job, with benefits and a well-grooved career path. To be in the middle class, you may need to consider not only high-skilled jobs, “but also more nontraditional forms of work,” explained Manyika. Work itself may have to be thought of as “a form of entrepreneurship” where you draw on all kinds of assets and skills to generate income.
This could mean leveraging your skills through Task Rabbit, or your car through Uber, or your spare bedroom through AirBnB to add up to a middle-class income.
In the end, this transition we’re going through could prove more exciting than people think, but right now asking large numbers of people to go from being an “employee” to a “work entrepreneur” feels scary and uncertain. Having a national health care safety net under the vast majority of Americans — to ease and enable people to make this transition — is both morally right and in the interest of everyone who wants a stable society.
And now we get to Mr. Kristof:
Liberals don’t expect Oklahoma to serve as a model of social policy. But, astonishingly, we can see in this reddest of red states a terrific example of what the United States can achieve in early education.
Every 4-year-old in Oklahoma gets free access to a year of high-quality prekindergarten. Even younger children from disadvantaged homes often get access to full-day, year-round nursery school, and some families get home visits to coach parents on reading and talking more to their children.
The aim is to break the cycle of poverty, which is about so much more than a lack of money. Take two girls, ages 3 and 4, I met here in one Tulsa school. Their great-grandmother had her first child at 13. The grandmother had her first at 15. The mom had her first by 13, born with drugs in his system, and she now has four children by three fathers.
But these two girls, thriving in a preschool, may break that cycle. Their stepgreat-grandmother, Patricia Ann Gaines, is raising them and getting coaching from the school on how to read to them frequently, and she is determined to see them reach the middle class.
“I want them to go to college, be trouble-free, have no problem with incarceration,” she said.
Research suggests that high-poverty parents, some of them stressed-out kids themselves, don’t always “attach” to their children or read or speak to them frequently. One well-known study found that a child of professionals hears 30 million more words by the age of 4 than a child on welfare.
So the idea is that even the poorest child in Oklahoma should have access to the kind of nurturing that is routine in middle-class homes. That way, impoverished children don’t begin elementary school far behind the starting line — and then give up.
President Obama called in his State of the Union address this year for a nationwide early education program like this, for mountains of research suggests that early childhood initiatives are the best way to chip away at inequality and reduce the toll of crime, drugs and educational failure. Repeated studies suggest that these programs pay for themselves: build preschools now, or prisons later.
Because Obama proposed this initiative, Republicans in Washington are leery. They don’t want some fuzzy new social program, nor are they inclined to build a legacy for Obama. Yet national polling suggests that a majority of Republicans favor early-education initiatives, so I’d suggest that Obama call for nationwide adoption of “The Oklahoma Project” and that Republicans seize ownership of this issue as well.
It’s promising that here in Oklahoma, early education isn’t seen as a Republican or Democratic initiative. It is simply considered an experiment that works. After all, why should we squander human capacity and perpetuate social problems as happens when we don’t reach these kids in time?
“This isn’t a liberal issue,” said Skip Steele, a Republican who is a Tulsa City Council member and strong supporter of early education. “This is investing in our kids, in our future. It’s a no-brainer.”
Teachers, administrators and outside evaluators agree that students who go through the preschool program end up about half a year ahead of where they would be otherwise.
“We’ve seen a huge change in terms of not only academically the preparation they have walking into kindergarten, but also socially,” said Kirt Hartzler, the superintendent of Union Public Schools in Tulsa. “It’s a huge jump-start for kids.”
Oklahoma began a pilot prekindergarten program in 1980, and, in 1998, it passed a law providing for free access to prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds. Families don’t have to send their children, but three-quarters of them attend.
In addition, Oklahoma provides more limited support for needy children 3 and under. Oklahoma has more preschools known as Educare schools, which focus on poor children beginning in their first year, than any other state.
Oklahoma also supports home visits so that social workers can coach stressed-out single moms (or occasionally dads) on the importance of reading to children and chatting with them constantly. The social workers also drop off books; otherwise, there may not be a single children’s book in the house.
The Oklahoma initiative is partly a reflection of the influence of George B. Kaiser, a Tulsa billionaire who searched for charitable causes with the same rigor as if he were looking at financial investments. He decided on early education as having the highest return, partly because neuroscience shows the impact of early interventions on the developing brain and partly because careful studies have documented enormous gains from early education.
So Kaiser began investing in early interventions in Oklahoma and advocating for them, and, because of his prominence and business credentials, people listened to the evidence he cited. He also argues, as a moral issue, that all children should gain fairer access to the starting line.
“Maybe the reason that rich, smart parents had rich, smart children wasn’t genetics,” Kaiser told me, “but that those rich, smart parents also held their kids, read to them, spent a lot of time with them.”
I tagged along as a social worker from Educare visited Whitney Pingleton, 27, a single mom raising three small children. They read to the youngest and talked about how to integrate literacy into daily life. When you see a stop sign, the social worker suggested, point to the letters, sound them out and show how they spell “stop.”
Some of the most careful analysis of the Oklahoma results comes from a team at Georgetown University led by William T. Gormley Jr. and published in peer-reviewed journals. The researchers find sharp gains in prereading, prewriting and prearithmetic skills, as well as improvements in social skills. Some experts think that gains in the ability to self-regulate and work with others are even more important than the educational gains — and certainly make for less disruptive classes. Gormley estimates that the benefits of Oklahoma’s program will outweigh the costs by at least a ratio of 3 to 1.
So how about it, America?
Can we embrace “The Oklahoma Project” — not because it’s liberal or conservative, but because it’s what is best for our kids and our country?
And last but not least here’s Mr. Bruni:
While Tony Dorsett described the collision, CNN played the footage, from 1984.
There’s Dorsett, the great former running back for the Dallas Cowboys, carrying the ball fast downfield. And there, suddenly, is a Philadelphia Eagles defender, shooting toward him like a burly rocket. The defender’s helmet lands in the crook of Dorsett’s neck; Dorsett’s head snaps back so far that you’d swear it’s connected to the rest of him by nothing more than taffy.
“A freight train hitting a Volkswagen,” Dorsett said, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in the interview last week what the moment of impact must have been like. He can’t specifically recall it.
There’s so much he forgets these days. On a flight recently to the Los Angeles medical center where they studied his brain, he grew confused about his destination, about the reason for the trip. His memory, his emotions: They’re jumbles, pieces of a puzzle in disarray. The doctors at the center confirmed why. Dorsett, 59, has chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease that has now been found in dozens of former pro football players. It’s most likely caused by big hits like the one in 1984 and little hits that happen on every play, a constant thwack-thwack-thwack of a player’s head against his helmet. This is the reliable, unremarkable percussion of the sport. This is its very rhythm.
“Would I do it all over again?” Dorsett said to Blitzer, beating his questioner to the punch. “Yes.” The damage, in other words, is worth the thrills, and not just to Dorsett, who can’t alter the terms of the trade-off at this befogged point. Team owners and coaches have made the same calculation. So have the money-mad executives in the National Football League, and so, too, have we fans. All of us have entered into a compact, a conspiracy. For the pleasure the sport gives us, we’ll tuck away our reservations about its culture of violence. We’ll turn a blind eye to the wreckage.
That wreckage isn’t just physical, as news last week about the vicious, racist hazing of a young Miami Dolphins lineman showed. The lineman was so shaken that he fled the team. And when his departure came to light, what did other Dolphins and players around the N.F.L. have to say about it? Nothing terribly empathetic. Most of the comments I saw questioned his machismo and defended the taunts and threats as jocks being jocks — or, even worse, as a sanctioned strategy to toughen up a wimpy newbie.
“The coaches know who’s getting picked on and in many cases call for that player to be singled out,” wrote Lydon Murtha, a former Dolphin, in a post on the Sports Illustrated website. “This is a game of high testosterone, with men hammering their bodies on a daily basis. You are taught to be an aggressive person.” Aggression is central to the brutal ballet that we fans have grown accustomed to. It’s also the path to victory, and thus the road to riches. It’s recruited. Rewarded.
To have our football and our fun, we delete what we learned about the New Orleans Saints: that the squad had put bounties on rivals, promising thousands in cash to any defensive player who knocked an opposing team’s quarterback out of the game. We look past how many quarterbacks — and cornerbacks and linebackers and wide receivers — wind up prostrate on the gridiron, a circle of trainers and doctors hovering over them, one of the sport’s most familiar tableaus. In last Monday night’s contest between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, the Packers’ star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, fractured his collarbone; he’ll be out for several weeks, just as the Bears’ star quarterback, Jay Cutler, has been. In this era of bigger bodies, blunter force and rampant casualties, championships don’t necessarily go to the best teams, but to the ones with the most men standing.
We brush that aside, as we do the substance abuse and each bulletin about the latest arrest. Aaron Hernandez isn’t playing tight end for the New England Patriots this year because he’s on trial for murder. If it’s not one alleged felony, it’s another, the on-field aggression traveling off-field to dogfights, fistfights, sexual assault: the high jinks of American idols in their idle time.
We minimize the relentlessness with which the sport is pursued and its message that nothing — nothing — matters more than winning. Is it coincidence that two head coaches were hospitalized this month, or is it the wages of a workaholic ethos? John Fox, of the Denver Broncos, had emergency heart surgery. Gary Kubiak, of the Houston Texans, had what’s sometimes called “a warning stroke.” The commentators wished them well and the game went on. It always does.
We minimize the tyranny of money, money, money. Money is surely why Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, won’t change the team’s name: What if too many fans were irked and too many of their dollars withheld? Money is certainly why there’s now a prime-time game every Thursday night, though the teams playing it get just four days of recovery from their Sunday matches, an abbreviation of down time that’s a potential force multiplier of injuries. Roger Goodell, the league’s commissioner, won’t be thrown off his financial goal, sketched out in a chilling profile of him by Don Van Natta Jr. in ESPN’s magazine last March. Within 15 years, Goodell wants to boost annual revenues to $25 billion from $10 billion.
THAT would be jeopardized if the N.F.L. took responsibility for the prevalence of brain disease like Dorsett’s and like that of several former players, including the San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, whose suffering drove them to suicide. (The recent $765 million settlement of a lawsuit by more than 4,500 players and their families was paltry in the context of all the lives ruined.) The league’s sustained refusal to confront this situation seriously and honestly is documented in “League of Denial,” a book by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru that was published last month.
Such a reckoning would pose “an existential problem,” Steve Fainaru told me last week, saying that if there’s a definitive determination that “the game itself can cause this devastating disease in a huge number of players, it can’t help but cause you to think: What exactly am I rooting for?”
He and I were talking as two people struggling with our love of the sport. He said: “Who wants to believe that all the joy that Junior Seau gave us led him to become completely unrecognizable to his family? How do we reconcile that as football fans? Some people have suggested, jokingly, that the book should have been called ‘Nation of Denial.’ ”
He mentioned a visit that he’d made to the Colosseum in Rome, where gladiators once fought. At least in pro football, he observed, “They’re not sacrificing people at the end of the game.”
I thought of Seau and of Dorsett, and said: “No, not at the end of the game. They’re just delaying it.”