Although Peggy spent 20 years as an official in world curling, we opted out of Sochi. Aside from the expense, anti-gay bill and reports of horrible hotels, we had an unpleasant experience in Moscow two years ago when traveling for a curling event. Virtually no one spoke English. Signs were in Cyrillic script. An inveterate American traveler called Russia the most unfriendly tourist venue he had ever visited.
When Peggy and I moved to Center City Philadelphia nearly 20 years ago, around the block from our 1817 row house was a typical, tacky pizza shop on the corner of Fourth St. and raffish South St. Every morning when I walked the dog in the area, discarded pizza crusts and paper waste were all over the sidewalk and in the gutter. The dog was in hog heaven; I found it disgusting.
Suddenly the pizza shop was replaced by Starbucks. I was thrilled. Good coffee and terrific snacks. The enthusiastic young baristas (clerks who make coffee) are up and at ‘em at 4:45 a.m. preparing for the 5:30 opening. And the place is always clean and tidy. For 16 years, Starbucks has been a great neighbor and presumably profitable.
Many years ago, Seattle direct marketing guru Bob Hacker took Peggy and me on a sightseeing tour of his city and we stopped for a requisite cuppa Joe at Starbucks’ first store at the Pike’s Place Market. I felt part of American corporate history.
In Madrid several years ago, I was delighted to spy the Starbucks logo just down the street where I could bring a couple of coffees back to the room well before our out-of-the-way hotel dining room opened for breakfast.
At the Starbucks down the street from our hotel in Geneva, two small coffees, two blueberry muffins and a small bottle of orange juice was a whopping US$27.50, but hey! the little muffins were loaded with juicy blueberries and it was all lots cheaper than the US$3 per person continental breakfast at the hotel.
In fact, just about anywhere in the world, Starbucks is a welcome sight.
Now suddenly Starbucks’ has decided to change its logo. It is deleting the word “STARBUCKS,” deleting the word “COFFEE” and being represented by a naked green cartoony mermaid with a Miss America tiara and two fish tails.
Will she become the Nike Swoosh of world-class coffee?
I don’t think so.
“If it ain’t broke,” said Jimmy Carter’s budget guy Bert Lance, “don’t fix it.”
When I saw that the 2008 rate for a speech by Larry Summers was $45,000 to $135,000, I got to thinking.
Out of curiosity, I started prowling the various Web sites of speakers' bureaus and came to six conclusions:
- It seems everybody in the world is available for speeches. Included are political and show business stars, second and third bananas, and hundreds upon hundreds of people I never heard of.
- All of these people—luminaries and nobodies—get fees from $1,000 to $1 million, plus expenses.
- I used to make a lot of speeches, and all I ever got was expenses and a plaque with my name engraved on it.
- I was a damned fool. I was as much a nobody as anybody else and could've picked up some dough if I'd just asked.
- If someone invites you to make a speech, think about asking for an honorarium at the very least, if not a fat fee, plus expenses. For Colin Powell, expenses include a private jet along with his $100,000 fee.
- The worst that can happen is that no money in the budget exists for fees or expenses. If you refuse, someone will replace you.
I've been around for 12 presidential administrations—starting with that of Franklin Roosevelt, who died in office when I was 10. In my memory bank are five deeply flawed men who turned the highest office into a national nightmare and were rendered politically impotent during the final years of their presidencies: John F. Kennedy (Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis, assassination), Lyndon Johnson (Vietnam), Richard Nixon (Watergate), Jimmy Carter (Iran hostage crisis) and Bill Clinton (Monica Lewinsky).
My family was not Democratic nor Republican. Nor am I. I've always voted for whomever I believed to be the best person for the job. As a result, I'm a registered Independent, which means I never vote in primary elections. If that's a cop-out, so be it.
For the record, up to the current administration (on which the jury is still out) I voted Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton.
Only twice in my life have I seen the country crippled and disfigured, resulting in genuine grassroots passion in a presidential election: 1968 and 2008.
The year I got passionate about politics—and dispassionate—was 1968.
The record of human rights in China today is abysmal. From the Amnesty International Report 2007: An increased number of lawyers and journalists were harassed, detained, and jailed. Thousands of people who pursued their faith outside officially sanctioned churches were subjected to harassment and many to detention and imprisonment. Thousands of people were sentenced to death or executed. Migrants from rural areas were deprived of basic rights. Severe repression of Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region continued, and freedom of expression and religion continued to be severely restricted in Tibet and among Tibetans elsewhere. Now various organizations and individuals with single-issue agendas are
This past Sunday on CNN, eight Democratic contenders debated the issues and each other. Tonight, the 10 declared Republicans are going to take on each other in the same venue before a national TV audience. In the words of the CNN press release: Due to the historical nature of presidential debates and the significance of these forums to the American public, CNN believes strongly that the debates should be accessible to the public. The candidates need to be held accountable for what they say throughout the election process. I watched the Sunday evening Democratic debate, growing more and more depressed for two reasons: