Beer, Politics and Race

I ‘m going with Eric Asimov  from the New York Times on this one.  Today in his blog “The Pour” he wrote

I’ll tell you what I would have done if I were President Obama. First of all, I wouldn’t give anybody a choice. I’d throw political symbolism out the door. Then, I’d import a keg of Guinness Stout directly from Dublin, because the kegs from Ireland are simply superior to anything out of a bottle or can. Then I’d import a Dublin publican to serve the Guinness because drawing a proper pint is an art that requires vast experience.

Then, I’d sit ’em down at a bar (because I’d bring in the actual pub – this is the White House, it can do anything). “Gates, you, over there. Crowley, you, here. Sit. Publican, draw us some pints!’’

And as that smooth, deep, dark stout begins to pour forth, and the publican perhaps tells a few stories in his rich Irish brogue, a feeling of calm brotherhood settles over the room. You cannot fight over the first Guinness. Add in 10 more pints and a rugby match and you’ve got a riot. But a pint of Guinness in a Dublin bar at the White House? Skip? Jim? I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

In the end, the two of them will be doing ads for Guinness.

A possible site of the gathering between President Obama, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Sgt. James Crowley.

No, Gates and Crowley won’t be doing Guinness ads but I see a PBS special on racial profiling in their future.  Crowley is, as evidenced by his press conference after the event, is an articulate guy.

And what I really want to know if why no one offered to take Professor Gates’ and Sergeant Crowley’s jackets.  It is July in Washington.

By the way, I had a Harp – out of the bottle.

So what’s up with the Democrats and Health Care

Will the Blue Dogs kill Heath Care reform or can Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, and the President prevail?

Here is a blog entry by Christopher Hayes from July 28 titled “What the Hell Is Max Baucus thinking!?!”

The following comes from a reader and frequent correspondent. This is not someone with particularly progressive politics. In fact, he only very recently has come to identify as a Democrat. No radical lefty, he.

 I don’t get the democrats on this one. Even if Charles Grassley and Olympia Snowe vote for this deal, the Republicans will still run against it as the Obama/Pelosi plan. Why not stick to your guns, treat the problem from a parliamentary perspective, and put through a plan that you actually think is optimal. The current attempt won’t protect their downside at all and may limit the upside. Very frustrating.

 More than frustrating. Enraging.

That’s it, the entire entry.  A lot of us are asking the same question.

Then there is my health care guy, Howard Dean.

Howard Dean guest hosted Countdown with Keith Olbermann at an opportune time last night, following reports that the Senate Finance Committee–helmed by Montana Democrat Max Baucus–is preparing to exclude a public option from its long-awaited healthcare bill.

“What if the Senate Finance Committee has already done the Republicans’ dirty work for them?” Dean asked rhetorically at the beginning of show.

Dean has just authored a book on healthcare reform–detailing why America needs a public option–and knows quite a bit about the subject from his years as a doctor and governor of Vermont. He called Baucus’s reported bill the “so-called compromise.”

Dean asked Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, why Baucus would “give away something something so fundamental to healthcare reform as a public option?”

“We‘ve got to have a public option in the plan that we send to the president‘s desk,” Van Hollen responded. “We‘re all still hoping that the Senate Finance Committee bill will have a public option.”

Dean noted that 72 percent of Americans, according to a New York Times poll, support a public option. “Is what Americans want already dead in the Senate?” Dean asked.

“No,” Van Hollen answered. “I certainly hope not. It‘s certainly not dead with respect to the bill that we‘ll send to the president‘s desk.” But it isn’t clear what kind of leverage House Democrats have with the likes of Baucus, nor do we know yet whether they’ll be able to keep their own Blue Dog conservatives in line.

“Voters were promised change they can believe in,” Dean told Van Hollen. “Are you concerned about what may happen to our party in 2010 or 2012 if we don‘t get any change at all?”

I’m not quite sure why the Blue Dogs and the Republicans are so afraid of the public option.  Health care for veterans which works pretty well is public as is Medicare.  So back to Chris Hayes and his post from today.

This has got me thinking: Republicans opposed Medicare when it was created. They hate socialized medicine, government-run health care and the public option now. So why don’t they put their money with their mouths are and propose scrapping Medicare? Any bills like this been introduced? If not, why not? I seriously think every single conservative and Republican caught railing against government run healthcare needs to be asked if they support disbanding Medicare.

Doing the Beer Run

Yesterday, amid all the release of the 911 tape, the radio chatter, and the arrest report (which appeared to show that the arrest report may not have been 100% accurate) came the big news :  The profiler, the profiled and the President will be having a beer and a chat at the White House on Thursday night.  I think this is an excellent thing and maybe some greater good will come out of it, if not for the country as a whole, but  for the City of Cambridge.  Perhaps Mayor Simmons can get Crowley and Gates to lead the public forum she is planning.

And according to Robert Gibbs’ discussion with a reporter at his briefing yesterday, he and the reporter will be doing the beer run.  This exchange reported in

The planned reunion was the subject of light-hearted banter at Gibbs’ briefing on Monday:

Q: Okay. And another subject, Officer Crowley is drinking Blue Moon, we hear Professor Gates is drinking Red Stripe or Becks — what’s the President drinking?

 MR. GIBBS: The President had a Budweiser at the All-Star Game, so — why are you looking at me like that? That’s what he drank.

 Q: We’re talking Blue Moon, Red Stripe, Becks —

 MR. GIBBS: What’s wrong with Budweiser? Why do you hate Budweiser? (Laughter.)

 Q: Well, he could get —

 MR. GIBBS: Why do you hate Budweiser, Wendell? (Laughter.) Wendell, how about this — how about you and I, we’ll go pick out the beer, we’ll do the beer run. Uh-oh, hold, please. (Laughter.)

 Q: I’m happy to do that.

All joking aside, I think this is an important meeting and, as someone, maybe the President himself, said a teachable moment.

I’ll be having either a Harp or a Red Stripe.

James Edward Rice at the Hall of Fame

Sometimes pictures tell the story.  Pictures from the Boston Globe.

A picture of the plaque, honoring Jim Rice, that will be displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jim Rice with his placque.

Rice posed with his Hall of Fame plaque.

Jim and Rickey Henderson.


Rickey Henderson (left) and Jim Rice posed with their Hall of Fame plaques.

From his speech

You always feel that after every great once-in-a-lifetime moment, there could not be anything else to top it. You find your life-long partner, that one true love. You have your first child and you spend hours wondering at the perfection of tiny little fingers and toes. You rejoice and cry through pre-elementary, middle and high school and, if you’re lucky, college graduation. You marvel at how sanity endures. Right when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you have grandchildren and a new astonishing love blossoms.

And then after 15 years, you get a phone call that you thought you’d never get. Your aspiration’s realized. Your tears overflow. Because you know now that the highest honor of your career means so much more than you ever thought it would mean before. Because what it feels like most is being welcomed at home plate and after hitting a walk off home run. You find yourself repeating the same phrases over and over:

“We made it, we made it. We made it.”

Just think about it.  Jim Rice spent his entire career with the Sox.  Is there anyone playing right now you will be able to say that about 10 or 15 years from now?  Jon Lester?  Dustin Pedroia?  Hard to say and probably not. 

I look forward to the retirement of his number 14 at Fenway and to his return to the pregame show.

And by the way the John Smoltz experiment needs to end now.  It was a good try – didn’t work.

The Police, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Racial Profiling

I know the controversy is just beginning.  Volumes will be written about the incident in Cambridge.  Both sides will defend themselves and blame the other side.  Everyone will play the race card.  People who already mistrust President Obama because of his skin color will use his remarks as proof they are right.

The best commentary I’ve seen on the incident so far is from Joan Vennochi writing this morning in the Boston Globe.  In her regular op-ed column Vennochi wrote

The arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. by a Cambridge police officer is playing out along racial lines. But it’s also about power and machismo – on both sides.

Machismo.  That’s the key.  Gates, whether true or not, felt he was being treated differently than a white man would be in his own home.  Years of disparate treatment combined with the ego that comes from being an important and respected person in your field, caused him to lose his temper.  The police sergeant, James Crowley, faced with a potential break-in and a tired angry man reacted, not by backing down, but by arresting him.

Gates was in his own home when a Cambridge police officer responded to a call about a possible break-in at that address. The professor had just returned home from filming a documentary in China. His front door was stuck shut and his taxi driver helped him pry it open. Then, Sergeant James Crowley appeared at his door and demanded to see identification. Gates provided it, although some facts about how and when are in dispute.

The police report states that Gates was arrested after exhibiting “loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer who was investigating a report of a crime in progress.’’ Gates disputes some information provided in the police report, but does acknowledge that he responded with anger.

Human beings of all races have a tendency to react as Gates did, especially when they are tired, frustrated, and privileged. Police officers usually don’t like it. The question is whether this police officer responded more harshly because of skin color.

The answer isn’t obvious, but both men could use some sensitivity training. Gates shouldn’t have yelled at the police officer; still, what he did was irritating, not criminal. Once the officer determined Gates did live in the house, he should have left, no matter what the professor was shouting.

Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense lawyer, civil liberties defender, and Harvard Law School graduate, believes Gates’s arrest should be investigated, but not only because of its racial implications: Was Gates arrested and held as a way to teach him a lesson? If so, asks Silverglate, “Is this acceptable, regardless of whether the citizen is white or black?’’

In an ideal world, no. When it happens to a black man, racism may be the easy explanation, but that doesn’t make it the only explanation. Life and power in 21st-century America are more complicated than that.

President Obama at his July 22 press conference offered this

Wednesday night’s press conference seemed to be a different deal as the president leaped into a highly charged controversy that has ignited passions across talk radio, the blogosphere and the old-fashioned water cooler.

But in fact, racial profiling was a major issue for Mr. Obama when he was in the Illinois legislature. He was the chief sponsor of a bill, which became law, that requires police to record the race, age and gender of all drivers they stop for traffic violations and for those records to be analyzed for evidence of racial profiling.

Mr. Obama, asked Wednesday what the incident said about race relations in America, noted up front that Professor Gates is a friend and that his comments might be biased. He said “words” had been exchanged and added:

“Now, I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that, but I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know, separate and apart from this incident, is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. And that’s just a fact.” He added later that the incident was “a sign of how race remains a factor in this society.”

He also used biting humor, grinning broadly as he imagined being in Professor Gates’s seemingly preposterous circumstance of being arrested after trying to get into his own home.

“Here, I’d get shot,” Mr. Obama said, referring to his new address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The whole racial profiling question becomes curiouser and curiouser as we learn that the officer involved spent time at the police academy teaching racial profiling.

I heard a discussion this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in which Joe Scarborough talked about the serious question of racial profiling and admitted that he would have probably had a similar reaction to Dr. Gates’ and likely would not have been arrested.  Perhaps what we need is a discussion of racial profiling and we can begin with a civil dialogue between Sergeat Crowley and Dr. Gates – an expert police profiler and one who has been profiled.  They both need to lose their machismo and have a serious talk.  No one would have to lose face and no one needs to apologize. Oh and yes, as Joan Vennochi suggested let’s throw in some sensitivity training.

Lessons from the Sotomayor Hearings

Over the weekend two very interesting pieces appeared.  One was Frank Rich’s column  in the New York Times, the other Melissa Harris Lacewell in the Nation.  Both approach the subject of Senatorial attitude toward a Latina woman.  One writer is a middle aged white male and former New York Times theater critic, the other a young, African American professor at Princeton. 

Here is Rich

Yet the Sotomayor show was still rich in historical significance. Someday we may regard it as we do those final, frozen tableaus of Pompeii. It offered a vivid snapshot of what Washington looked like when clueless ancien-régime conservatives were feebly clinging to their last levers of power, blissfully oblivious to the new America that was crashing down on their heads and reducing their antics to a sideshow as ridiculous as it was obsolescent.

The hearings were pure “Alice in Wonderland.” Reality was turned upside down. Southern senators who relate every question to race, ethnicity and gender just assumed that their unreconstructed obsessions are America’s and that the country would find them riveting. Instead the country yawned. The Sotomayor questioners also assumed a Hispanic woman, simply for being a Hispanic woman, could be portrayed as The Other and patronized like a greenhorn unfamiliar with How We Do Things Around Here. The senators seemed to have no idea they were describing themselves when they tried to caricature Sotomayor as an overemotional, biased ideologue.

And here Harris-Lacewell

The hearing was a performance of a broader set of social rules that govern race and gender interactions in American politics. Women, and most especially black and brown women, have to prove their fitness for public life by demonstrating the ability to endure harsh brutality without openly fighting back. The ability to bear up under public degradation is a test of worth. America’s favorite black woman heroine is Rosa Parks, a woman who is remembered as silently enduring the humiliation of being ejected from a public bus for refusing to comply with segregated seating.

Sotomayor passed the test. She met the Senators’ questioning with thoughtful responses. Her voice did not quiver. Her face did not scowl. Many women of all races feel inspired by her. But I wonder about this lesson that continues to teach women that we can only have space in the public realm as long as we control all emotion.

They are both describing what Harris-Lacewell calls “the politics of public humiliation.”  The practice of this kind of politics in the year 2009 says more about the Republicans than about Sotomayor – or the current status of women of color.

Rich ties the Republicans to the Class of  1994, the Class of the Contract with America, the Newt Gingrich class.

That the class of ’94 failed on almost every count is a matter of history, no matter how hard it has retroactively tried to blame its disastrous record on George W. Bush. Its incompetence may even have been greater than its world-class hypocrisy. Its only memorable achievements were to shut down the government in a fit of pique and to impeach Bill Clinton in a tsunami of moral outrage.

…Today the G.O.P.’s token black is its party chairman, Michael Steele, who last week unveiled his latest strategy for recruiting minority voters. “My plan is to say, ‘Y’all come!’ ” he explained, adding “I got the fried chicken and potato salad!”Among Sotomayor’s questioners, both Coburn and Lindsey Graham are class of ’94. They — along with Jeff Sessions, a former Alabama attorney general best known for his unsuccessful prosecutions of civil rights activists — set the Republicans’ tone last week. In one of his many cringe-inducing moments, Graham suggested to Sotomayor that she had “a temperament problem” and advised that “maybe these hearings are a time for self-reflection.” That’s the crux of the ’94 spirit, even more than its constant, whiny refrain of white victimization: Hold others to a standard that you would not think of enforcing on yourself or your peers. Self-reflection may be mandatory for Sotomayor, but it certainly isn’t for Graham.

Harris-Lacewell puts it this way

All Supreme Court nominees endure tough, ideologically driven questioning. It’s as true for white male conservative justices as for Sotomayor. But this public display took on different meaning as white men repeatedly asserted that Sotomayor was capable of making legal judgments based only on her personal experience and ethnic identity.

I was proud of Sotomayor’s restraint, but I also wanted her to counter attack, to punch back, to show anger. She couldn’t do so in part because she is bound by the rules of judicial decorum. She also couldn’t do so because of the racialized, gender rules of political engagement that allow white men, from senators to firemen, to express outrage, indignation, and emotion, but disallow those same expressions from women of color.

So what have we learned?  We have learned that maybe Lacewell-Harris is right when she compares Sonia Sotomayor to Little Rock Nine student, Elizabeth Eckford.

One of the most enduring images of the Civil Rights Movement is of Elizabeth Eckford. She is being harassed and taunted by a group of white students, parents, and police on her way to desegregate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. On that morning Eckford missed connecting with the eight other African American students of the Little Rock Nine and their NAACP leader, Daisy Bates. Eckford was alone when the angry crowd surrounded and confronted her

Only now the mob is the composed of white, mostly southern, Republican Senators.

We have learned that women, regardless of race, regardless of how successful they may be,  still have to behave differently than men, that there is still a double standard.

We have learned, again, that the Republican Party is mostly clueless when it comes to race.  And I believe that their fear and dislike of Barack Obama will drive most of their behavior over the next eight years.

Virginia Sweet and Henry Allingham

Today, forty years ago, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.  In the last few days two pioneering pilots, one from World War I and the other from World War II have died.


Virginia Sweet’s obituary as published in the Boston Globe is short so here it is in its entirty.

Inspired by a story she read as a young girl about Amelia Earhart’s trans-Atlantic flight, Virginia Sweet became a pioneering female aviator in her own right.

She was a pilot with the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, ferrying every imaginable type of military aircraft from factories to air bases during World War II to free male pilots for combat overseas.

Sometimes Ms. Sweet was assigned to fly shot-up, barely functional aircraft in for repair. Thirty-eight of her fellow female fliers were killed during duty.

After the war, when these Rosie the Riveters of the skies no longer were needed, the nation essentially turned its back on Ms. Sweet and hundreds of Women’s Airforce Service Pilots like her.

The longtime Schenectady resident died July 12 at 88, two weeks after President Obama signed a law that offered recognition and Congressional Gold Medals, the highest award Congress can give to a civilian, to the WASP fliers.

Ms. Sweet prided herself on a five-decade flying record without an accident

Henry Allingham was one of the few veterans of World War I still alive when he died at aged 113.  The New York Times obituary tells his story.

An iconic figure to many in Britain, Mr. Allingham did wartime service including stints on land, in the air and at sea. In 1915, he flew as an observer and gunner in the Royal Naval Air Service, hunting zeppelins over the North Sea. He was aboard one of the Royal Navy ships that fought in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, in which Britain lost 14 ships and 6,000 seamen.

Mr. Allingham was born in London in 1896. He lost his father to tuberculosis the next year. After his mother also died, he was raised by a grandmother. He became a trainee maker of surgical instruments before moving into the motor trade, training as a mechanic. After his wartime service, he worked until retirement for the Ford Motor Company. Judged to be too old to serve in combat in World War II, he was assigned to a project that sought to neutralize German magnetic mines.

The Associated Press  news account of Mr. Allingham’s death has this wonderful account

He spent the war’s first months refitting trucks for military use, but when his mother died in June 1915, he decided to join after seeing a plane circling a reservoir in Essex.

Only a dozen years after the Wright brothers first put up their plane, Allingham and other airmen set out from England on motorized kites made with wood, linen, and wire. They piled on clothes and smeared their faces in Vaseline, whale oil, or engine grease to block the cold.

“To be honest, all the planes were so flimsy and unpredictable – as well as incapable of carrying large fuel loads – at the start of the war that both British and German pilots would immediately turn back rather than face each other in the skies if they did not enjoy height supremacy,’’ Allingham would later write.

As a mechanic, Allingham’s job was to maintain the rickety craft. He also flew as an observer on a biplane. At first, his weaponry consisted of a standard issue Lee Enfield .303 rifle – sometimes two. Parachutes weren’t issued. He fought in the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of World War I. He served on the Western Front.

We owe Virginia Sweet and Henry Allingham not only for their service during war, but for their part in advancing aviation.  As anyone who plays Sid Meir’s Civilization knows:  you have to have flight before you can get rocketry.

Health Care: A couple of things to think about

I’m like most Americans:  I have employer paid health care with pretty decent coverage and better than average care.  I belong to a doctor run HMO.  I like my primary care doctor who shares my philosophy that less can be more when it comes to drugs, but she makes sure that I get all the necessary tests amd tracks the results which I can see online.  But the cost of my coverage keeps going up and what I contribute to the cost will be a big part of our next union negotiations.

So this whole debate about reform boils down to two things for me.  First, can care be provided more efficiently and at less cost for everyone.  Two, we need to solve the question of the uninsured because we all pay when they use the emergency room for care. 

I live in Massachusetts and we have made a stab at universal coverage which is now under a great deal of pressure given the fiscal situation for the state.  But one thing I have observed is that without national reform on things like Medicare and Medicaid, states will have trouble balancing coverage with cost.  Somehow we have to control costs and improve quality.  I posted about this in my piece on Health Care as a Subprime Mortgage.

So here are a couple of other things to consider.  Nate Silver  did an analysis of where the largest concentrations of uninsured are living. 

Throughout last year, Gallup included a module on health and well being in their standard tracking surveys. This meant they had tens of thousands of interviews between all 435 Congressional Districts. One of the questions on the well-being module was about whether or not people had health insurance. Eric Nielsen at Gallup was kind enough, a while back, to send me these results broken down by Congressional District.

The median Congressional District has an uninsured population of 14.6 percent, according to Gallup’s data (the average is slightly higher at 15.5 percent). Of the 48 McCainocrat districts, 31 (roughly two-thirds) have an above-median number of uninsured. A complete list follows below (actual Blue Dogs are denoted in … you guessed it … blue):


So why are the blue dog Democrats so unwilling to vote for reform? 

 The second thing to consider is the Dennis Kucinich amendment.  Joshua Holland writes on Alternet

No time today for a lengthy analysis of the Tri-Committee health bill. My quick-and-dirty take is this. Those who think the bill is a wonderful progressive victory with a robust public option are wrong, and, on the flip side, the charge that it’s a “bailout for the insurance industry” is totally divorced from what the bill would actually do if passed.

 It is the most progressive, comprehensive and significant health care legislation to come down the pike since Medicare was passed in 1965. If it were enacted as written, it’d go a long way to solving a lot of our problems (but by no means all) and wouldn’t break the bank in the process.

 But it also fails some of the basic criteria that most progressives have long said is a red-line that can’t be crossed. First and foremost, it doesn’t have a public option that can compete with private insurers and result in significant cost savings. 

Enter the Kucinich Amendment,

Obviously, a public insurance plan for which 10 million are eligible to enroll isn’t going to serve as an example of the efficiency that comes with a single-payer type system. And the fact that they designed a pretty good public option for which most of the public will be ineligible to enroll (and that wouldn’t have as much potential for cost savings as one would hope) was enough to make me consider opposing it. Howard Dean told me recently that he thought a bill without a robust public option wasn’t worth passing, and I agree.

 And that’s where Kucinich, a supporter of single-payer, comes in. He’s trying to save the whole promise of this project.

 On Friday, an amendment he authored was added to the House bill that allows states to create their own single-payer systems instead of adopting the federally-run exchange system. The original bill allowed states only to enact their own exchange system — it was a nod to federalism — with the proviso that if a state (think a deep red one in the South) refused to adopt the plan, the feds could step in and set it up.

 The Kucinich amendment is really key. If it were to survive the legislative sausage-making and be enacted into law, the we might expect a progressive state to take advantage of the opportunity and enact a single-payer system in the coming years. And, if those of us who have been pushing such an arrangement are correct, the result will be greater access and better outcomes at a lower price tag for that state’s residents. 

Health care reform is going to cost us, but I think doing nothing will cost more in the long run.  I am looking forward to President Obama’s Wednesday press conference where this will probably be topic A.  Stay ‘tooned.

Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, and Vicki Barr

Nancy Drew figured in the recent hearings for Sonia Sotomayor to become a judge.  It seems that Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ruth Ginsberg, and Sonia Sotomayor all read the series when they were growing up.  I have to say that I hated the Nancy Drew books.  Oh, I’ve read one or two when they were there and there was nothing else to read, but I much preferred Cherry Ames (the nurse who solved mysteries) or Vicki Barr (the flight attendant who did the same).

In her article in the New York Times, Jan Hoffman recounts the many successful women who read, enjoyed and consider Nancy Drew a role model.

Touchstone, pole star, reflecting pool. Often what women remember about the books speaks to who they were — shy girls seeking inspiration; smart girls seeking affirmation. The series even gave voice to girls who rebelled against the Girl Sleuth’s pearl-necklace perfection.

All told, the women’s recollections capture the impact of a formulaic, ghostwritten series approaching its 80th year.

Since its debut in 1930, the series has thrived in a germ-free bubble, scarcely brushed by time and social upheaval. Nancy Drew, 16 or 18, depending on the edition, is a daddy’s girl, living with her father, Carson, a lawyer — her mother conveniently died when she was 3 — and housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, in a comfortable home in River Heights where the words “Amber Alert” have never been heard.

With curiosity and confidence, she attacks mysteries and solves them, helped by her friends Bess, who is always “pleasingly plump,” and George, a slim tomboy. There’s a harmless boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, about whom the actress Ellen Barkin once snickered, “He was like her driver to me.”

But others feel the way I do about Nancy

“Nancy is too perfect,” said Laura Lippman, 50, who writes a popular series about Tess Monaghan, a detective with questionable taste in boyfriends and an aversion to rules. Even Nancy’s father “is helpless in front of her perfection. She requires Bess and George to constantly talk about her perfection. Bess is fat and George is unfeminine and they are not as fabulous as Nancy.”

In the very early days of the internet and email, I participated in a discussion group with a number of women.  The topic of Nancy Drew came up and I famously wrote that I didn’t like her because you never felt she ever used the bathroom.  This is the perfection Lippman is speaking about.

Vicki Barr and Cherry Ames were also mid-westerners with supportive families but they left those families to pursue their professions and dreams.  They had interesting friends and were not the center of their own universe although they were the center of their cicles. 

Cherry Ames became a nurse to serve during World War II.  The first six books, Student Nurse, Senior Nurse, Army Nurse, Chief Nurse, Flight Nurse, and Veterans’ Nurse specifically discuss the war, the war effort, and her role.  Her brother went to fight in the war.  I liked her because she actually did stuff. Instead of Ned Nickerson, Cherry had doctors and other professional men hanging around.  But Cherry also taught us that one has to study to achieve our goals.  The first two books are set during her nurse training days.

But my favorite is Vicki Barr.  The books are set just after the end of World War II when passenger flights were becoming more popular and less of a novelty.

She reads this ad and talks her way into the class as she in not quite old enough.  In fact, she has to get a letter from her parents giving permission.

“If you are twenty-one to twenty-eight, and single – if you are a registered nurse, or if you have at least two years of college or of business experience in dealing with people – then here’s the most appealing job in the world!  Apply tomorrow!”


Vicki Barr, like Cherry Ames. had a profession for which she had to be trained.  She lived in an apartment in New York City with other stewardesses as they were then called.  The first book is about their training which was quite extensive and talked about responsibility for passenger safety.  The women who were Vicki’s frends and roommates were diverse, if not racially than in background and even age.  She flew a lot of different routes and involved herself in the lives of her passengers which is how she came to solve mysteries.  Like Cherry, Vicki had cool boyfriends like the pilot, Dean, and newspaper man, Pete.  The boyfriends were always enlisted to help her solve the case, but not to rescue her.

I still read mysteries and I still prefer women sluths, but in response to Jan Hoffman’s question,  “And who was your Nancy Drew?”  I have to say Vicki Barr.  Besides, the first one was published the year I was born.