Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Luncheon Society—SF/Academy Award winning Jeremy Larner and the 40th anniversary of “The Candidate”/Palio d’Asti/November 5, 2012

“Son, you’re a politician.”

It’s the look of horror that appears on Robert Redford’s face that says it all.  Redford’s character, Bill McKay, has beaten up Crocker Jarmon in a statewide debate.  Jarmon, now running for his 4th term as Senator, now realizes that he is the race of his life.

After the debate, McKay’s father—a former California Governor—pays him the ultimate compliment, knowing that his comments would probably cut to the bone.  By becoming a politician, McKay has now gone the route that he would never travel; he has essentially sold his soul for little in return.  On the evening when Redford’s McKay pulls off the upset over Jarmon, he escapes to an empty hotel room with his mercenary campaign manager, a Stanford classmate played by Peter Boyle, and asks, “What do we do now?”

Since we were on the eve of the 2012 presidential election, we thought it would be fun to look back at a political campaign classic.  In 1972, director Michael Ritchie and Robert Redford debuted “The Candidate,” a film released to strong reviews.  It was a script written by Jeremy Larner and we got together with him at Palio d’Asti in San Francisco.

“The Candidate” is to political junkies as “The Godfather” is for everybody else. There are certain moments within that movie that are acted so realistically and filmed with an eye of a documentarian.  Most films about political campaigns have an artificial feel about them as if they were created by those whose only connection with the political world came from stepping into a voting booth. Continue reading

The Luncheon Society-NY/Neil Barofsky–Chief Watchdog of the government’s TARP program and author of “Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street/Blue Water Grill/October 18, 2012

Bailout Book CoverJim Day, a great lawyer, a good friend, and longtime member of The Luncheon Society suggested that we should have Neil Barofsky join The Luncheon Society for a conversation.  It was a wise choice. His book, Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, was published in July 2012.  In this excerpt, Barofsky explains the problems he saw with the Home Affordable Modification Program. HAMP — implemented in March 2009 as part of the Making Homes Affordable Program — was a loan modification program designed to reduce monthly payments for homeowners who were delinquent or at risk for delinquency in repaying their mortgages.  This excerpt was “borrowed” from the Bill Moyers.

Below is an excerpt from Bailout

“The flood of trial modifications caused the servicers’ systems to first buckle and then break as borrowers seeking to make their modifications permanent flooded the underequipped servicers with millions of pages of documents. The servicers’ performance was abysmal: they routinely “lost” or misplaced borrowers’ documents, with one servicer telling us that a subcontractor had lost an entire trove of HAMP materials. Borrowers routinely complained that they’d had to send their documents to their servicers multiple times — a survey by ProPublica found that borrowers had to submit documents on average six times — but the servicers would still claim that the documents had never been received and then foreclose. The sheer volume also meant that fully qualified borrowers got lost in the storm; servicers would later confess to us that the sheer volume from Treasury’s verbal trial modification surge made it nearly impossible for them to separate the modifications that fully qualified and had a chance to be successful from those that were hopeless.

Making matters even worse, Treasury all but paved the way for outright fraud by ignoring my recommendation that it kick off HAMP with a broad nationwide television and radio advertising campaign that would educate home owners about program details and warn them of the dangers of program-related fraud. Continue reading

The Luncheon Society—LA/Tom Hayden and the 50th anniversary The Port Huron Statement/Napa Valley Grille/October 8, 2012

tom-haydenThe 1960’s began when The Port Huron Statement was completed.

Years ago, folksinger Phil Ochs wrote a biting song titled, “Love me I’m a Liberal,” that skewers the 1950’s and early 1960’s suburban liberals whose actions never rose to their ideals.  Ochs wrote about liberals who were in favor of Civil Rights so long as it happened in somebody else’s neighborhood or people who favored their union but would not fight for others as they strived for social change.

What Tom Hayden and his colleagues crafted in 1962 was an attempt to put these abstracts into action. With that, The Port Huron Statement was born. He document became the founding statement of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).  Written in the Michigan community that bears its name, it was a series of thought pieces that desired to address the racial segregation and Cold War ethic that drove decisions coming out of Washington.  As we look back with modern eyes, some of the most glaring social ills of the 1960’s are one yet others remain.Port Huron Statement

We forget that when the decade began, we still lived with our own explicit version of apartheid in the South and a quiet more subtle and implicit variety up North. If you were African American or non-white in the South, there were daily reminders of antebellum life seen through modern slights and social insults because life might have been separate but it was never ever equal. African Americans in the South were legislatively barred from many of the fruits of liberty those on the other side of the color line freely enjoyed.  While Jim Crow did not legislatively extend itself into the North, racism was alive in well in places like Chicago, Boston, and New York, as well as in towns and hamlets throughout every state north of the Rappahannock. It was easier for Northern fingers to point at the South because the Bull Connors and the Orville Faubus’ of the world never cloaked their hatred in the polite language used elsewhere.

Below is an excerpt from “Eyes on the Prize” from PBS

Continue reading

The Luncheon Society—SF/ Hanna Rosin and The End of Men/Palio D’Asti/September 20, 2012

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End of Men bookEditor’s Note: We are catching up on our narratives after a long absence. Over the next few weeks we will have updates from our past Luncheon Society gatherings.

Since the dawn of time, it seemed that women always found themselves several paces behind men.  Part of it was societal, most was legislative, but writer Hanna Rosin makes the case that in this Post-Industrial Information Age, women have the intuitive tools, the skills, and the drive to pull ahead.

Only a generation ago, women found it hard to get their own credit cards or to purchase a home, without the signature of a husband or the explicit consent of her father.  However, as Hanna writes, something earth-changing took place in 2010 which was essentially ignored in the mainstream media.  This was first year that women surpassed men in the workplace.  More tellingly, the trendlines suggest that this is not some fluke.  When it comes to earning undergraduate degrees, three of the five diplomas issued go to female graduates.  In her book “The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin makes the chase that we are living in the eye of one of the most transformative gender shifts since man emerged from the caves built the modern world; women are poised to take over.

So what does this mean? In Rosin’s book, she makes the case that women have latched on to the opportunities unavailable to their mothers and grandmothers generations earlier. Her book began as a 10,000 word thought piece in The Atlantic in the summer of 2010 and based on the chatter that developed, she was encouraged to expand it into a full length book.  Rosin is no stranger to the revolutionary idea and as the co-founder of Double X Blog for Slate Magazine, she has explored gender issues for more than a decade. While she may paint with a broad brush at times, she elevates a discussion both men and women alike should read.  She even brings the gender conversation into clearer focus by including her husband and son.

We have lived in a world where there has been an appreciation for things male.  Who can forget the opening scene of The Godfather, when Luco Brazi—who served as The Don’s brutal muscle—practiced his lines, hoping that Connie’s first child be a masculine son.  We see it in the crowned heads of Europe who proffered the rights of succession to a male child, even if there were several older (and able) princesses in the wings.  Had George VI and Queen Elizabeth produced a male child—even years after the birth of Princess Margaret—he and not the then-Princess Elizabeth would have succeeded her father. This week in The Netherlands, Queen Beatrix abdicated in favor of her son Willem-Alexander.  After serving 33 years after her mother in 1980, the rights of succession of the Dutch Royal family are now gender neutral.  Princess Catharina-Amalia will someday succeed her father, regardless of gender and any other children which may emerge. Change even comes to institutions that have been frozen by centuries of tradition. Continue reading