Sleep, sports, Palin, and the bailout
Here are six news articles that have caught my eye this week. I’ll start with the stuff that has nothing to do with the bailout or Sarah Palin – news about college kids who don’t sleep enough and a column on sports overdogs. (Cany, the last article in the list, about Palin, is especially for you.) Also, to those of you on my blogroll (especially James and Mimi!), it’s been a busy few weeks, but you should see me in your Sitemeters once again before the week is out. :)
So, first up from the Boston Globe: “Colleges calling sleep a success prerequisite”. There’s lot of junk out there that purports to know the younger generation, but this one actually gets it right. The article quotes several students on why they don’t sleep enough, presents data that shows the trend is getting worse, and discusses university programs aimed at combating the problem. It’s both thorough AND accurate, a combination you rarely see in mainstream reporting anymore.
"For college students, sleep is the most dispensable thing," said Dr. Vanessa Britto, director of health services at Wellesley. "Most people feel it's a badge of honor. 'I didn't sleep. Parentheses, aren't I great?' Until you point out to them that pulling an all-nighter is the equivalent of driving drunk and is detrimental to their reaction time and memory."…
With 24 hours of online entertainment available, students today are tempted by myriad diversions other than school books. They're gambling, catching up on their favorite television shows, playing video games, or chatting with virtual friends - then trying to study into the wee hours of the morning.
"It's like, well, I could do my calculus homework or it sounds like the girls next door are doing something fun so I'll just walk over there," said Kelsey Barton, a freshman at Tufts, who said she has been averaging about three hours of sleep a night since starting college this month. "I don't want to miss out.”
Next on my list, Texas Monthly’s sports columnist Jason Cohen’s “Bully for You: In praise of the overdog”. I love the underdog as much as any red-meat eating, Budweiser drinking American, but Cohen has a point:
But what about Hall of Fame athletes and historic teams? Am I the only person south of New Haven who wanted to see Tom Brady and the Patriots ascend to even greater greatness with that nineteenth win? Three Lombardi trophies in four years had already put New England in the thick of any bar-stool argument about the best team of all time. Had they finished up only the second-ever undefeated season in the modern NFL with a fourth title, the debate was likely over (even with an asterisk for Spygate). We don’t often get to witness that kind of history, which is why I also wanted Tiger over Rocco in the U.S. Open, Roger over Rafa at Wimbledon, and the Red Sox over the Rockies in the last World Series. Can’t anybody spare a little fan-love for the poor, downtrodden overdog?
Somewhere along the way, dominance became less interesting than storytelling, ordinary more compelling than extraordinary. Nobody expects a world-class soprano at the Met to sing like everybody else. Brad and Angelina don’t sell movie tickets because they remind us of ourselves. “Plucky up-and-comer” is not what we look for in our brain surgeons or airline pilots. But sports teams that get hot for a month or lucky for two hours become as revered as nonpareil champions.
He’s got a point. Romo’s da’ man. But on a more sordid note, I must return to the bailout. There were a couple of interesting OpEds on mark-to-market accounting in the Wall Street Journal and American Spectator today, but I don’t know enough about the issue to quote them at length. What I will recklessly quote is the New York Times’ Tom Friedman on why you need the bailout even if the golden parachute jumpers don’t:
Well, you say, “I don’t own any stocks — let those greedy monsters on Wall Street suffer.” You may not own any stocks, but your pension fund owned some Lehman Brothers commercial paper and your regional bank held subprime mortgage bonds, which is why you were able refinance your house two years ago. And your local airport was insured by A.I.G., and your local municipality sold municipal bonds on Wall Street to finance your street’s new sewer system, and your local car company depended on the credit markets to finance your auto loan — and now that the credit market has dried up, Wachovia bank went bust and your neighbor lost her secretarial job there.
We’re all connected. As others have pointed out, you can’t save Main Street and punish Wall Street anymore than you can be in a rowboat with someone you hate and think that the leak in the bottom of the boat at his end is not going to sink you, too. The world really is flat. We’re all connected. “Decoupling” is pure fantasy.
I also appreciate David Gergen’s words on the matter. The omnipresent commentator and former adviser to nineteen different Presidents (ok, five) looks not at the economics of it all, but the equally devastating politics:
At Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership, which I have the privilege of directing, we have taken public surveys in each of the past three years measuring confidence in our nation’s leadership. Our surveys have been done in partnership with U.S. News & World Report as well as Yankelovich.
The results haven’t been pretty. In the fall of 2005, some 65% said we have a leadership crisis in the country. By 2006, the number had risen to 69%. And last fall, no less than 77% declared there was a crisis of leadership. Moreover, 79% said the United States would decline unless we get better leaders… We cannot assume that a new president, whether Barack Obama or John McCain, can magically wave a wand and solve our problems. It is clear that we need to rebuild leadership in institutions and groups across the board. And unless we do so, America’s greatness as a nation will be severely challenged.
And last but not least, two articles about Sarah Palin. Remember a couple weeks back when five prominent conservative bloggers called her out on her inexperience? Well, a sixth has joined them. I’m a little late on the story, but last week, Kathleen Parker called for Palin to drop out of the race.
Palin's recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.
No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I've been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I've also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted…
Only Palin can save McCain, her party and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.
I’ll leave you with Paul Campos of the Rocky Mountain News. Cany, you of all people should definitely click through; you’ll love Campos’ last paragraph.
If Palin knows anything at all about national politics or foreign affairs or history or economics or almost anything else one would want a president to know something about, she has till now kept that fact remarkably well hidden.
She is, in other words, the ultimate representative of a kind of out-of-control populism. In its more extreme forms, populist resentment of elites flows from the belief that any ordinary person knows enough to be a good political leader, since political leadership is all about having the right values, and good character, and a pure heart.
This is of course nonsense. It makes about as much sense as saying that performing open-heart surgery or piloting a jumbo jet is all about having the right values.