Tuesday, November 21, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Russell Baker


American writer best known as a newspaper columnist and author of memoirs on his life and times.
Russell Baker
A group of politicians deciding to dump a President because his morals are bad is like the Mafia getting together to bump off the Godfather for not going to church on Sunday.
Baker quotes
We watched some of the movie. It was shocking. Sex is apparently hard labor. Various persons supported crushing weights in agonizing positions for what seemed like endless blocks of time. Exhausted men grunted and toiled like movers trying to get a refrigerator into a fifth floor walk-up.
Baker
President Reagan brought us to the ultimate: America As Total Television. During his governance the printed word simply ceased to matter. White House dynamos had once telephoned newspapers to complain about unfair reporting. Not anymore. Now they telephoned network bosses. Even then it wasn't poor reporting they complained about, but poor pictures.
A network reporter who thought her report on shortcomings in Reaganland would anger the President's cadres was amazed when the man in charge of propaganda thanked her for doing them a good turn. But, she said, that was a tough piece of reporting.
Oh, the words may have been, said the gentleman, but on television words didn't matter. What mattered were pictures. And the pictures had been wonderful.




Baker Russell quotes
It seems to be a law of American life that whatever enriches us anywhere except in the wallet inevitably becomes uneconomic.
Baker Russell
Some years back, all the best people came to bipartisan agreement that the most shameful thing a person could do with power was not to use it.
Since then everybody who wants to get ahead in Washington has made a great show of being a fierce fellow when left alone in the room with a little power. There seems to be a fear that if there is somebody around so low that it is all right to dump the garbage on him, and you hesitate, everybody will call you a sissy, and you will never be invited to lunch with Professor Kissinger.
Strange values result. Great killers are esteemed for good citizenship. "Not afraid to use power," people say of them.
Russell Baker quotes
Watergate left Washington a city ravaged by honesty.
Russell Baker
Being solemn has almost nothing to do with being serious, but on the other hand, you can't go on being adolescent forever, unless you are in the performing arts, and anyhow most people can't tell the difference. In fact, though Americans talk a great deal about the virtue of being serious, they generally prefer people who are solemn over people who are serious.
In politics, the rare candidate who is serious, like Adlai Stevenson, is easily overwhelmed by one who is solemn, like General Eisenhower. This is probably because it is hard for most people to recognize seriousness, which is rare, especially in politics, but comfortable to endorse solemnity, which is as commonplace as jogging.
Jogging is solemn. Poker is serious. Once you grasp that distinction, you are on your way to enlightenment.
Baker Russell quotes
People seem to enjoy things more when they know a lot of other people have been left out of the pleasure.
Baker
I went to the Rayburn Building the other day on trifling business. It was an appalling experience. I had forgotten how preposterous the thing is with its pretentious megatonnage of rock and steel spreading acre after acre down the slope of Capitol Hill in sullen defiance to eternity and man.
It dwarfs the forum of the Caesars. Mussolini would have wept in envy.
Inside, one is compelled to dwell upon the insignificance of humanity. Not a single tiny wisp of beauty, nothing that is graceful, or charming, or eccentric, or human presents itself to the senses. Trying to imagine Clay and Webster in this celebration to the death of the spirit, erected to the glory that was Congress, is an exercise in comic despair.
What do we have? Banks of stainless-steel elevators. Miracles of plumbing. Corridors of cemetery marble stretching to far horizons under the most artificial light millions of dollars can create, a light that abides no shadow, grants no privacy, tolerates nothing that is interesting in the slightest degree.
Occasionally a small figure appeared in the distance, grew larger, then larger, then assumed human proportion, then passed and became smaller, and smaller, and smaller. Two ants had passed in a pyramid.
Baker Russell
Americans don't like plain talk anymore. Nowadays they like fat talk. Show them a lean, plain word that cuts to the bone and watch them lard it with thick greasy syllables front and back until it wheezes and gasps for breath as it comes lumbering down upon some poor threadbare sentence like a sack of iron on a swayback horse.
"Facilitate" is typical of the case. A generation ago only sissies and bureaucrats would have said "facilitate" in public. Nowadays we are a nation of "facilitate" utterers.
"Facilitate" is nothing more than a gout-ridden, overstuffed "ease." Why has "ease" fallen into disuse among us? It is a lovely little bright snake of a word which comes hissing quietly off the tongue and carries us on, without fuss and French horns, to the object which is being eased.
This is English at its very best. Easing is not one of the great events of life; it does not call for Beethoven; it is not an idea to get drunk on, to wallow in, to engage in multiple oleaginous syllabification until it becomes a pompous ass of a word like "facilitate."
Russell Baker
I am unclear what a "role model" is, but those who used the term seemed to be saying that teachers are people children tend to emulate. In any event, many Miamians must have thought their children would become homosexual if subjected to homosexual teachers.
That prompted me to ponder teachers I haven't seen, and scarcely thought about, for decades, and for the first time I reflected on how their sex lives had affected my own. My first thought was that it was curious, perhaps perverse, that I have not turned out to be a spinster.




Russell Baker quotes
Urban people, of course, are terribly scared nowadays. They may yearn for society, but it is risky to go around talking to strangers, for a lot of reasons, one being that people are so accustomed not to have many human contacts that they are afraid they may find out they really prefer life that way.
Russell Baker
Old people at the supermarket make you wonder about all those middle-aged people you see jogging the streets to preserve their vascular systems for another fifty years.
And about all the people of all ages all over the country who are eating less, drinking less, smoking less, driving safer and in general looking for a death-proof safety suit to get them over the peak years and down into the valley of old age fit to enjoy the fruits of their abstention and labor.
Will anybody care when they get there?
Will they be able to afford an orange?
Baker quotes
The odd thing is not that we are in the business of overthrowing other people's governments, but that we can still be surprised when somebody reminds us of it. In Asia, in Latin America, Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East we have been propping up and knocking down governments more or less openly for the past twenty-five years.
It is an established policy. Everybody knows it. It is supposed to be done covertly, which is only sensible if you hope to succeed since publicity in matters of this sort can only make the natives restless and defeat the project. Imagine the chauvinistic rallying around President Nixon that would have occurred if Canada, say, had announced that her agents were going to destabilize United States society so that discontented Americans could heave the Nixon Administration out of office.
Baker Russell
No less a philosopher than Chief Justice Burger was outraged by Ellsberg's publication of classified documents. They belonged to the Government, Burger reasoned, and Ellsberg had no more right to give them to the people than he would have to filch another man's property off a taxicab seat.
The Government, of course, commonly leaks classified documents when it deems publication convenient to manipulate public opinion to its advantage. Only the Government, it seems, has a legal right to manipulate opinion with hot documents.
Baker Russell quotes
There is no business like show business, Irving Berlin once proclaimed, and thirty years ago he may have been right, but not anymore. Nowadays almost every business is like show business, including politics, which has become more like show business than show business is.
Russell Baker
In America nothing dies easier than tradition.
Russell Baker quotes
This may be why New Yorkers instinctively avoid making eye contact with each other in crowded places, why they "look right through you," as dismayed visitors often complain. They are not looking right through you at all; they are discreetly avoiding an intrusion into your space. They sense the danger in a place where a one-degree temperature rise can mean an explosion.
Russell Baker
While it is very sturdy of comfortable men to point out that life is unfair, the people it is unfair to are not apt to be morally or philosophically elevated by the announcement.
If you are going to preach that unfairness is inescapable for some, good sense suggests that you also accept the inevitability of beastly behavior by people who have to carry the burden.
Baker Russell
I frankly admit to not knowing who I am. This is why I refuse to buy clothes that will tell people who I want them to think I am.


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