Friday Reads: To Sir, with LovePosted: January 7, 2022
Good Day Sky Dancers!
In the last few years, we’ve seen the loss of the cultural and historical icons of the twentieth century. I’m pretty convinced that we’ve seen the end of American dominance since the World Wars, so this just seals the deal. We’re losing the last of heroes of the American Century. Sidney Poitier was a fixture in the Civil Rights Movement and one of the stars of the Golden Age of Cinema and TV. He passed quietly yesterday at the age of 94.
I loved many of his movies, but my most vivid memory of him was watching ‘In the Heat of the Night’ in a small downtown theatre in Estes Park, Colorado, with my parents and sister. It was probably the first serious adult movie I’d ever seen with its themes of violence and racism. Here is an excerpt from his New York Times Obit.
In 1967 Mr. Poitier appeared in three of Hollywood’s top-grossing films, elevating him to the peak of his popularity. “In the Heat of Night” placed him opposite Rod Steiger, as an indolent, bigoted sheriff, with whom Virgil Tibbs, the Philadelphia detective played by Mr. Poitier, must work on a murder investigation in Mississippi. (In an indelible line, the detective insists on the sheriff’s respect when he declares, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!”) In “To Sir, With Love,” he was a concerned teacher in a tough London high school, and in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” a taboo-breaking film about an interracial couple, he played a doctor whose race tests the liberal principles of his prospective in-laws, played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
Throughout his career, a heavyweight of racial significance bore down on Mr. Poitier and the characters he played. “I felt very much as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every move I made,” he once wrote.
Mr. Poitier grew up in the Bahamas, but he was born on Feb. 20, 1927, in Miami, where his parents regularly traveled to sell their tomato crop. The youngest of nine children, he wore clothes made from flour sacks and never saw a car, looked in a mirror, or tasted ice cream until his father, Reginald, moved the family from Cat Island to Nassau in 1937 after Florida banned the import of Bahamian tomatoes.
When he was 12, Mr. Poitier quit school and became a water boy for a crew of pick-and-shovel laborers. He also began getting into mischief, and his parents, worried that he was becoming a juvenile delinquent, sent him to Miami when he was 14 to live with a married brother, Cyril.
Mr. Poitier had known nothing of segregation growing up on Cat Island, so the rules governing American Black people in the South came as a shock. “It was all over the place like barbed wire,” he later said of American racism. “And I kept running into it and lacerating myself.”
In less than a year he fled Miami for New York, arriving with $3 and change in his pocket. He took jobs washing dishes and working as a ditch digger, waterfront laborer and delivery man in the garment district. Life was grim. During a race riot in Harlem, he was shot in the leg. He saved his nickels so that on cold nights he could sleep in pay toilets.
Sir Sidney was a leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He holds a place in the International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame.
Born February 20, 1927, Sidney Poitier’s pioneering career has had a tremendous impact on American culture. In the early ’50s, he was the top and virtually sole African-American film star—the first black actor to become a hero to both black and white audiences. Poitier was also the first black actor to win a prestigious international film award. With his unique career, Sidney Poitier helped change many stubborn racial attitudes that had persisted in this country for centuries. He has built the bridges and opened the doors for countless artists in succeeding generations. He is an actor who stood for hope, for excellence, and who has given happiness to millions of people around the world. Paying tribute to Sidney Poitier in 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “He is a man of great depth, a man of great social concern, a man who is dedicated to human rights and freedom.”
Many things are going on in our country’s governance today. There are discussions about expanding the number of judges on the Supreme Court, reforming the filibuster, the economic boom with the accompanying price increases, and the incredible amount of information the January 6 Committee has received from a variety of former staffers to all levels of Republican Insurrectionists. Let me highlight some of them.
There are many big lies told by Trumperz and Trumpists.
Just one month after the attack, Meadows appeared on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” and made this claim: “As many as 10,000 National Guard troops were told to be on the ready by the secretary of defense. That was a direct order from President Trump.”
Fact Checkers at the Washington Post fact checked reporting by a Vanity Fair reporter who was there at the time of the discussion. Fox and Meadows are caught in another big lie. It never went anywhere.
It’s always dismaying when false claims that were previously debunked turn up as accepted facts months later. Yet, increasingly, Fox News hosts and their guests appear to live in a world untethered by the truth.
As we have documented before, President Donald Trump never requested 10,000 National Guard troops to secure the Capitol that day. He threw out a number, in casual conversation, that is now regarded by his supporters as a lifeline to excuse his inaction when a mob inspired by his rhetoric invaded the Capitol.
People often overestimate the depth of the filibuster’s roots. When the Senate voted in 2013 to invoke the “nuclear option” to approve presidential nominees, then-Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) wrote in The Washington Post that sidestepping the filibuster was “the most dangerous restructuring of Senate rules since Thomas Jefferson wrote them.” More recently, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) defended the filibuster in the Charleston Gazette-Mail by saying, “Our founders were wise to see the temptation of absolute power and built in specific checks and balances to force compromise that serves to preserve our fragile democracy.”
True — but the filibuster was not one of these checks and balances. The Senate did not have any provision for a supermajority on legislation for its first 17 years. Like the House, its rules allowed a “motion for the previous question,” where a majority could move directly to vote. That provision was taken out in 1806, when Vice President Aaron Burr cleaned up what he regarded as extraneous provisions in the Senate’s cluttered rule book. For decades after the change, the status quo largely prevailed — until the 1840s, when John C. Calhoun exploited the motion’s absence to stall anti-slavery action by talking at length on the floor, joined by allies. His adversaries had no ability to stop the talk. From the 20th century on, the rules changed multiple times, always to make it easier for the majority to overcome a filibuster and move to action.
Biden will have some great information on the economy to share but will it really convince those of us that are experiences the challenges of the Covid-19 economy? Economist Noah Smith calls this the “Biden Boom”.
The official numbers aren’t in yet, but In the 4th quarter of 2021, the United States economy is believed to have grown by about 5.5% or 6% (annualized rate). That’s a pretty incredible number, when you consider that the consensus forecast for China is only 3.5% in the same quarter. But things get even more impressive when you look at the employment numbers. The unemployment rate probably fell to 4.1% in December — a number below what we used to think to think of as the “natural rate” of unemployment.
If you told me in April 2020 that unemployment would be 4.1% by December 2021, I’d have laughed in your face. And yet here we are.
Of course, after the Great Recession, we all got very used to looking past headline unemployment numbers, to see who is actually working. But now when we do that, we see that all the other numbers tell the same story. U6, the broadest measure of unemployment plus underemployment, is down to the level of 2018 or 2006. And my personal favorite labor market indicator, the prime-age employment-to-population ratio, is back to the level of late 2017.
Other indicators also show an extremely healthy labor market. While some have interpreted rising quits as a sign of a “Great Resignation”, the truth is that this mostly just reflects job churn; people are quitting in order to get better jobs, because the opportunities are so good. To see that, check out this graph from the Economic Policy Institute, showing that hires are greater than quits pretty much everywhere:
He’s got some wonky FRED graphs to back up the analysis. And, this folks explains why we see some inflation. But, that’s not a problem; the Fed needs to bump the interest rates up to more normal levels and out of historical lows. This is an economy we haven’t seen for a long time, and it’s kind’ve exciting!
The hearing to sentencing for the three murderers of Ahmaud Arbery is in court right now. Read more at the ABC link.
Well, I think that’s enough for me today. Happy Carnival Season!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Oh, it’s so on this year! There are sights to see and
this song to sing!