Post-Reagan Blues

THE glorification of greed that defined the Reagan era may be on the way out, but its legacy remains. Time praised the women of the Bush family for popularizing dresses that cost "only" $800--a mere pittance compared to the $22,000 displays of conspicuous consumption that adorned Nancy Reagan. In the age of shameless accumulation, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that $800 is a hell of a lot of money to most people. For the more than 7 million Americans who work for the minimum wage, it's considerably more than a month's gross earnings.

Perhaps President Bush would reconsider his opposition to raising the penurious $3.35 per hour minimum wage if he knew how many people can't afford even one Victor Costa gown.

Casting the First Stone Dept.: Newsweek had some harsh words for "trash t.v." shows such as "Geraldo," "A Current Affair" and "The Morton Downey, Jr. Show." According to Newsweek, they are "sleazy," "dirt," and "trash-masters" which "Shock 'em to attention....Deliver a visceral rush by playing to [the viewers'] most primitive fascinations."

This is certainly an accurate assessment of tabloid television. But only a few weeks later, Newsweek forfeited its moral authority to denounce sensational journalism when its cover story featured "The Horrifying Steinberg Trial...a chilling tale of drug abuse, systematic beatings, and a life of squalor hidden behind a middle-class facade."

Considering that the Steinberg story took precedence over the Reagan-Gorbachev summit, the RJR-Nabisco corporate buyout, then-Secretary of State George Schultz's refusal to grant PLO leader Yasir Arafat a visa and the electoral victory of Benazir Bhutto '73 in Pakistan, can we believe that Newsweek had anything in mind except appealing to our "most primitive fascinations"?

Larew on LaRouche: If you've walked through the Square this week, you've probably noticed the forlorn activist by the T-station who has launched a solitary hunger strike to free Lyndon LaRouche. LaRouche, a former communist turned right-wing fanatic, is now serving a 15 year sentence for conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion. The convictions stem from a credit card scam in which LaRouche's operatives stole more than $2 million.

Although his political views are incredibly outlandish (he has charged that Queen Elizabeth II is involved in a drug ring, and that former Vice President Walter F. Mondale is the tool of a communist conspiracy), his supporters are dedicated. The hunger-striker in the Square, who called LaRouche a "prisoner of war" and a "martyr," vowed to starve himself to protest the incarceration and "murder" of LaRouche. If he succeeds, I think we can write it off as natural selection.

Free Enterprise Dept.: If you have been wondering about the mysterious banner hanging from Holworthy Hall that reads "The Giant Sloth--The Legend Continues," it is the brainchild of Winthrop House resident Randy K. Toth '90. The giant sloth, a now extinct species that gained fame in Darwin's Origin of Species, slept 22 hours per day and woke only to eat. Believing that the somnolent creature is an appropriate mascot for some Harvard students, Toth decided to launch a Giant Sloth Movement.

His motive is not, however, strictly sentimental. Toth had a stock of T-shirts printed that read--you guessed it--"The Giant Sloth: The Legend Continues." He predicts that once the movement catches fire, he will be able to hawk the shirts in dining halls and unload them on giant sloth fans at $7 a crack. Keep that in mind when you are tempted to discount John Kenneth Galbraith's thesis that producers create the demand for their products.

Kinder, Gentler Conservatives Dept.: The homeless should be happy to learn that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp has pledged to aggressively enforce the McKinney Act, a measure that would transform unused, federally owned buildings into homeless shelters. Kemp's new-found enthusiasm for the bill is strange, considering that he voted against the act as a member of Congress.

A New Sleaze is Blowing Dept.: C. Boyden Gray, Bush's counselor and ethics advisor, finally agreed this week to place his assets in a blind trust, after initially stubbornly refusing to do so. Having a White House "ethics czar" is a fine idea, especially after the brazen disregard for ethical strictures that characterized the Reagan Administration. But the office is worthless unless it is occupied by someone who at least knows that the primary ethical concern of public officials should be scrupulously avoiding even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Gray probably knows, but he doesn't seem to care.