"This is a horrible thing that's going on," says Franklin Spinney. "All it's going to do is reward the pathological behavior that created the problem." What's going on?
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Thursday's question (No. 174)--"Odd Lott":
You be the decorator.
In a 1992 keynote speech, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said: "The people in this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy. Let's take it in the right direction and our children will be the beneficiaries." Describe the room.
"Descriptions are not permitted because they would violate the sacred oath of Klan secrecy."--Barry Crimmins
"White, padded, and one biblical quote away from declaring itself a sovereign nation."--Herb Terns
"Filled with people who stand up for what they believe in no matter the cost, and so who in protest last week reluctantly canceled their subscriptions to all Hustler publications. Even Barely Legal."--Daniel Radosh (Gene Geer had a similar answer.)
"He was told it stood for 'North American Married Brotherhood League of America.' Really."--Julie Anderson
"Oh, for Pete's sake! Just because a man addresses a few white-supremacist organizations, is that any reason to harp on and on about it? Why, Albert Einstein addressed the same group! Or, anyway, he would have, if he'd been a race-baiting, knuckle-dragging reactionary."--Andrew "Pink curtains!" Solovay
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Devoted to metaphors of field and stream, News Quiz won't shoot sitting fish or ducks in a barrel. Good jokes surprise you, and what's an unpredictable comment about racism: that it's bad? Perhaps the task is not to shoot the sitting duck but to sneak up on it, loop a rope around its webbed feet, hang it upside down, and hit it with a stick until it bursts apart, raining toys and candy on the kids cavorting below--something surprising yet delightfully violent.
And what if the Lott piñata dropped grits, spit, and tiny trailers, the artifacts of debased Southern culture? Would the grits be ducks, or are they fair game for News Quiz scorn? Fire away, but only if you wrote your reply between acts at the Metropolitan Opera, after laying down your edition of Plato, in Greek. If you composed your response within eyesight of a TV set or a slice of pizza, it's time to reconsider your sense of regional superiority and just go fishing.
Lott gave the 1992 keynote speech to the national board meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the retro-successor to the Klannish White Citizens Councils. Despite frequent appearances at its meetings and photographs of him smiling with its leaders, Lott persistently denies any association with the "pro-white" group.
And after a hard day of lying and racism, then what?
"Trent Lott likes order, neatness, things in their place. So he has developed little routines, one of which is this: When he arrives home from work each evening, he drops his briefcase, heads upstairs to his bedroom, and changes into his cotton pajamas. Then he bounds back down the steps to have dinner with his wife, Tricia," writes a cheerfully nonjudgmental Kevin Merida in the Washington Post. (Thanks to Kate Wing.)
Or to put it another way, the Capable and Attractive Attorney inquires: Why does every black leader who ever shook hands with Louis Farrakhan have to apologize, but Trent Lott is walking around free? In his pajamas?
Garment workers and human rights organizations filed suit Wednesday against 18 companies, charging that their clothing is manufactured in appalling Saipan sweatshops. But apparently it was all a merry mix-up, judging by the response of the companies involved.
THE GAP "does not tolerate this type of conduct in the factories where we do business." I'm convinced.
WAL-MART has a "zero-tolerance position with regard to illegal or unethical working conditions." Good enough for me.
J.C. PENNEY said Saipan offers a "consistently reliable source of reasonably priced, high-quality fashion items for their retailer customers." I'm sorry I doubted them.
TOMMY HILFIGER said, "Music is my strongest inspiration, and I feel that it encompasses the true style of fashion. The Rolling Stones are the greatest rock band in the world, and I cannot think of another group of artists who have made such an impact on the world of fashion. Departing from my past ad campaigns, the rock pictorials portray models who are fresh, young, and all-American, in a cutting edge, high energy, and modern environment." This may refer to a slightly different aspect of his operation, but any friend of Mick's ...
Other undoubtedly innocent companies named in the suit--Associated Merchandising Corp., Cutter & Buck, Dayton-Hudson, Dress Barn, Gymboree Manufacturing, J. Crew, Jones Apparel Group, Lane Bryant, The Limited, May Department Stores Co., Nordstrom, OshKosh B'Gosh, Sears Roebuck & Co., and Warnaco.
Cell Phone Finals--Anecdotal Evidence Extra
Light, inexpensive, and contemptible, the cell phone inspires stories, sneers, and songs, except for the songs.
"Recently in a university lecture I was giving, a student in the front row got a call on his cell phone, and took the call, letting the entire class wait and stare at him while he chatted with his girlfriend."--Jonathan E. Snow, Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie
"Standing in the wine section of my local market, I listened to a woman call someone in the meat department (about 10 yards away) to check on whether she should buy white or red. Why have a face to face conversation when you can exist as a disembodied voice on their remote answering service? The only plus about cell phones is the way they make their owners look like the rest of the folks who shuffle around the park talking to themselves."--Kate Wing
"I am befuddled by those who think that the public use of a cell phone is a status symbol. Rather, a cell phone is a device of convenience, clear and simple. Folks who ascribe more importance to it than that are the same folks who think that cars are for more than driving, vacations are for more than relaxing, and clothes are for more than wearing. What I find interesting is this: Those who think that cell phones are more than two cans with an invisible string are those who want others to see them with a Vuitton bag on their arms as they slide into the buttery leather of their Range Rover on the way to that Vail getaway. Give it a rest, Mr. and Mrs. Insecure."--Brad Spencer
Top target: Southern junk culture.
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