Big fish in a stagnant pond
The following thoughts were prompted by David Pasztor's recent article on Wendy Lee Gramm ["Take my wife--please!" March 30].
How loudly to yell at football games and whether to eat at Burger King are probably as stimulating as intellectual debate gets in the Economics Department of Texas A&M. The fact that Phil Gramm rose rapidly at A&M and his wife (who had far better credentials) did not speaks volumes for what it takes to get ahead at A&M. In terms of his academic career, Phil Gramm was only a big fish in a stagnant pond. (Aggies will probably demur. They can scream and yell or they can show me their Nobel Laureates.)
Gramm's greatest achievement in Washington was the Gramm-Rudman-Hollis Act; that combination of smoke, mirrors, and poppycock which was supposed to get us out of debt--how many billions of dollars ago?
Phil has not showed much in the brains department, or in the ability to get things done. That leaves the character issue. I suppose there is nothing really wrong in having a banker help pay for a house on Maryland's Mosquito Coast. At least nobody went to jail over it. But is it really presidential to take favors from people who might ask for favors in return? Phil thinks so, but then he built his house in the middle of the mosquito belt.
This is where we get back to Wendy. Is there a correlation between Wendy Gramm's reluctance to impose health and safety regulations when she was in charge of the federal office that was supposed to do so, and the size of the contributions from those industries to Phil Gramm? Presidential hopeful Gramm (sometimes called "I'm yours for a grand" Gramm) has managed to corral a huge number of corporate dollars.
There seems to be a fundamental difference between the senior members of the Gramm household. Mr. Gramm is a firm law-and-order man. More cops, stiffer penalties is the presidential hopeful's prescription for the nation's ills.
His wife takes the opposite view. She seems to want to get all the cops off the streets of corporate America. Given that difference, no wonder they restrict their conversation to burger joints and Aggie spirit.
Protecting rare books
David Farmer has been criticized by some librarians for his comprehensive approach to combating book and manuscript theft ["Precious pages," March 23]. As a professional colleague, I want to raise my voice in support of David.
Security measures are important, but no system is unbeatable if there is to be any access to the material at all. When the inevitable happens and rare material is stolen, we who are charged with its well-being have, in addition to a legal obligation, a moral obligation to our heritage to do what we can to recover the material and see that the thief is brought to justice. We only encourage theft if we do not fight it. David is a leader in our field and deserves a pat on the back.
On snakes and civilization
Sorry, Jennifer Briggs, your snake-hunting buddy got it wrong ["Rattlin' and ropin'," March 23]. Not everyone is afraid of snakes, nor should they be. Most snakes are harmless and, indeed, ecologically beneficial.
Even rattlesnakes have a place in nature (though it seems that Nature herself may have lost the battle for a place on mankind's agenda). Rattlesnakes are neither aggressive nor particularly dangerous, as religious zealots have long demonstrated by manhandling them with fair impunity. Rattlesnakes pursue only their natural prey--rodents, mainly--and scrupulously avoid encounters with larger animals. When threatened, however, they will attempt to defend themselves, and this "Don't tread on me" behavior maddens rattlesnake hunters.
But rattlesnake hunters are, in general, an ignorant lot of exhibitionists, while rattlesnake roundups are just another remnant, like dogfights, canned hunts, and lynching, of a regional bloody-mindedness that has always dismayed civilized observers.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.