It's 'spinach' -- from Ukraine and Crimea to new SAT and college admissions -- world's a mess

Amy Kellogg reports from Kiev, Ukraine


The most famous New Yorker “drawing” appeared over a quip written by humorist E.B. White and shows a cowed little boy of about seven sitting at the dining table while his mother stands over him, hands on her hips, glowering. In front of him is a plate with a lump of food on it, and he is speaking, while refusing to eat.

White’s wisecrack reads…”I say it’s Spinach and I say the Hell with it.” That drawing comes to mind as I look around at what seems to be taking place in our society.

I say we are in a mess, and I say the Hell with it. 

The news is full of Putin and Obama, our world leaders, posturing like litigators while debating points of international law. 


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Putin says he has the legal right to support the plea for help from the duly elected but deposed former President of Ukraine. 

Obama says Putin’s lawyers are incorrect and the intervention in the Crimea violates the legal norms against military intrusions across accepted borders.  It looks like spinach to me.                  

History is replete with examples of aggression carried out under the pretext of asserted legal authority but one has to be careful citing precedents. 

It is not generally acceptable to cite German misconduct in the 30’s for anything these days , but the law of nations is hardly clear. 

One thing history teaches—the ability of nations to resist aggression is politically limited and mistakes abound.  

In 1914, Europe and Russia misplayed a small time killing of an archduke into world war.

In 1939, Europe wanted to believe Hitler was a man of peace despite his actions. 

This crisis in Crimea has a sense of the unreal about it. Europe is most threatened but it worries about energy costs and dithers. Obama is reduced to talking of sanctions that Europe will not agree to impose.

Perhaps the only thing this latest dust up will do is to remind us of an area of the world in which the battle of Balaclava, the charge of the Light Brigade and the siege of Sevastopol took place. 

I do not believe any serious person believes war is even a remote possibility. 

This all seems like a play in which we know the whole thing is false and yet we are expected to cry. 

I say it is spinach.              

Then, last week the College Testing Board decided to redo the SAT exams to delete the written essay requirement and to reset the exams to make them more in line with high school courses.

Among other changes will be deletions of vocabulary words that are deemed too esoteric and the substitution of other words that seem more relevant. 

One objective is said to be to make the exams less amenable to the affluent who can afford to take coaching courses to help them prepare for the exams. But if there is something unfair about the affluent trying to prepare for these exams why not punish kids from wealthy families or from costly schools private schools who have an unfair advantage.  

We could scale the test results by income so the rich kids would have to do better in order to stay equal. 

Why not be direct? Why adjust the exams when there are more “open” ways to address this issue of affluence. 

Punish the wealthy and be done with it. 

Spinach again. This class warfare is reaching into deep corners.  

College admissions will soon become a hot topic when the Supreme Court issues its ruling on affirmative action and spells out what it determines are the extents college admissions can be affected by race. Yet whatever the result in that looming decision, the interplay between diversity and admissions rigor presents challenges.

Diversity is to be supported but not at the price of excellence. To try to make the SAT exams more even handed may be to invite a lessening of the standards and rewards for superior performance. 

I cannot help but wonder how many high school seniors could find Crimea on a map. 

The nation can hardly say the Hell with that kind of ignorance even if I say it is spinach.

Fay Vincent is a former CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries. He served as the Commissioner of Baseball from 1989-92.