Bankrate survey: Many Americans say they can’t afford a vacation
Americans, crippled by debt and seeing signs of a slowing economy, are sitting out on pricey vacations and everyday leisure activities.
A new Bankrate survey found 42 percent of Americans decided not to take a vacation over the past year because of the cost. Nearly a third said they can afford a vacation less now than they could have five years ago, though 26 percent said they can afford to do so more now.
More than two-thirds of U.S. adults opted out of a recreational activity due to the cost at some point in the past year, the study found.
You can’t blame them.
Trade tensions have economists projecting the likelihood of a recession in the next 12 months at 35 percent. U.S. student debt is over $1.5 trillion.
Almost 40 percent of Americans think the economy is “not so good” or “poor.”
Half of respondents said the activities they passed on were too expensive to begin with or not a good value, while 43 percent said they didn’t have enough money left over after paying everyday bills and 41 percent said they wanted to save money for other things.
Parents missed out most of all. More than three-quarters of those with kids under the age of 18 reported missing out on activities, versus 66 percent of nonparents.
The survey encompassed over 2,500 American adults online in July with figures weighted to be representative of all U.S. adults.
Jayne: Change the NRA from the inside
It is an interesting idea. A powerful idea. And it represents the thinking that is necessary these days.
Last week’s column asked when the time will come to talk about gun violence. It was a rhetorical question; that time has long passed. The United States has, by far, the highest rate of gun deaths among developed nations. We also have, by far, the highest rate of civilian gun ownership. It isn’t difficult to do the math.
Anyway, writing about that topic always generates plenty of email, some of it incendiary, much of it thoughtful. And one email this past week was particularly insightful:
I believe that for many citizens in the United States that time is ’bout now. However I also believe for many the question is also how to be heard. To that, I have a suggestion — join the NRA.
Currently the NRA boasts membership of 5 million people. While that sounds like a lot of people, it’s a mere fraction of the total number of U.S. citizens over the age of 18. According to Census Reporter, 78 percent of the U.S. population is over the age of 18. That’s over 254 million people. So, think about it: If, all of a sudden 6 million, 8 million or even 10 million people joined the NRA (Yes! Double their ranks!) with a new voice to be heard, well it may be hard for even Mr. Wayne LaPierre to ignore what the constituency of this organization is striving for.
Membership into the NRA is $45. It may be the most powerful money any of us can spend in the fight for improved gun control and legislative influence.
The writer identified himself as a gun owner and sportsman. That is an important distinction. The idea is not to inundate the NRA with leftists who want to abolish the Second Amendment and seize guns; the idea is to change the organization from the inside into one that better reflects the thinking of gun owners.
Last year, a poll by Quinnipiac University found that universal background checks for firearm purchases were supported by 97 percent of respondents who say they or somebody in their household owns a gun. Among all Americans, a poll last week by Fox News found that 90 percent favor universal background checks and 81 percent desire “red flag” laws that allow police to seize guns from people shown to be a danger to themselves or others. It also found that 67 percent of the public thinks assault weapons should be banned.
These should not be viewed as radical ideas. They are perfectly sensible and would protect the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners, yet they are staunchly opposed by the NRA. The interesting part is that a majority of those responsible gun owners typically support such measures.
And why not? From 1994 to 2004, the manufacture of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines were banned in the United States, and we managed to avoid martial law or tanks rolling down the streets.
But the most important part of the reader’s email might be its usefulness as a thought experiment. Our politics are so beholden to radical self-interest from both sides of the aisle that it is difficult for anybody in the middle to make their voice heard.
For an example from the left, there is the issue of immigration. Even some presidential candidates have advocated for essentially “open borders.” That is a silly idea that leaves moderate Democrats scratching their heads and Republicans foaming at the mouth or saying, “We’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay.”
And on the right, you don’t have to look any further than the NRA to find radical voices wielding more influence than they should have. The best guess is that the organization has about 5.5 million members — the NRA does not release official numbers — and yet it has oversized political influence.
Since the NRA began focusing on politics in the late 1990s, it has held sensible gun control hostage. And when an organization that includes roughly 1.5 percent of the population is able to do that, it is unconscionable for the rest of us to stand idly by.
Look for berried treasure on next vacation
Berries foraged in the forests we pass on the road to somewhere yield a taste of wild places.
Their names are playful: squashberries, wild beach plums, mayhaw, snowberries and the dreamily named cloudberry. Wild berries often have as many aliases as a career criminal, such as mooseberry and chuckleyplum. And they hide out, remaining at large, with their locations guarded as zealously as online passwords by locals who apprehend them for making jams, jellies and syrups.
When we agree to pay the sometimes-steep ransom they demand, after they’ve been tamed into jars, we’re rewarded with delicacies that are a bit like a message in a bottle from a place we once saw.
These edible gemstones of the natural landscape have been sought after as long as man and animal have been combing woods, shorelines, meadows, pine barrens, swamps and mountainsides for food.
In our commercial food system, noncultivated berries seem exotic. These are comestibles you can’t easily obtain at the local grocery in every region of North America. Wild is a luxury.
Among those luxuries is the thimbleberry, named for its thimble shape. It grows in the Great Lakes region, Washington, Oregon, California and Canada’s British Columbia, among other locales.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula fully embraces the thimbleberry. In the U.P., as it’s known, thimbleberries are harvested in woods, along Lake Superior and beside abandoned rail lines. U.P. farm stands display wild thimbleberry jam made by locals and, in one location, by Byzantine Catholic monks who operate the Jampot near Eagle Harbor.
The fruit isn’t commercially cultivated because it has a fragile nature, breaking up almost on touch. As a result, it’s sold for not-cheap prices. Michigan makers include American Spoon, a Petoskey-based company that has garnered five national awards for its wild thimbleberry jam.
“The thimbleberry is remarkably layered,” says American Spoon co-founder Justin Rashid. “The first taste is tannic. Then you get a kind of wild-rose aroma.”
Its seeds, he says, “release a kind of nutty aftertaste.”
The only companion it needs, he says, is a simple piece of buttered whole-wheat toast. He has also had U.P. foragers tell him they like a spoonful of thimbleberry jam with fresh Finnish squeaky cheese as an accompaniment to their morning coffee.
Using fruits from local foragers, American Spoon also preserves wild elderberries, blueberries and blackberries.
He says elderberries taste dark, rich and mysterious.
“The first thing that hits me is a faint, pleasing bitterness,” he says. “Then it kind of fills your palate with a complex flavor.”
Most regions have a berry pride. There are wild blueberries in Maine and Oregon; squashberries in Newfoundland, Canada; salmonberries in California and the Pacific Northwest up to Alaska; beach plums in Massachusetts and neighboring Atlantic Seaboard states; cloudberries in Minnesota, New Hampshire and Alaska; mayhaw in the South, including Louisiana, and dewberry in Texas. Huckleberry is Idaho’s official fruit.
On Newfoundland’s remote Fogo Island, the restaurant at the Fogo Island Inn turns out dishes that reflect the nearly two-dozen varieties of wild berries that populate the surrounding craggy terrain.
“The berry we use most is the partridgeberry, also the wild blueberry,” says the inn’s executive chef, Jonathan Gushue. The inn relies on locals for that stock. “Berry picking is very big here,” Gushue says. “Everyone does it.”
The resulting bounty used in the hotel kitchen also includes cloudberries, juniperberries, marshberries, crowberries — and snowberries, “when we can get them,” he says.
In early July this year, Fogo’s du jour menu offered a fresh meringue with cream and toasted meringue highlighted by partridgeberries with rhubarb. The inn also served roasted red cabbage with a dried blueberry-brown butter vinaigrette. “The tannins in these berries act very much like wine,” Gushue says.
Fogo Island Inn pastry chef Sarah Villamere works amid the aromas of spruce tips and birch syrup simmering on the stove, a reflection of an island where foragers show up at the kitchen’s back door with berries and invoices.
“When our blueberries and bakeapples and marshberries come in, that’s what we do,” she says. “We dehydrate a lot of berries for granola and trail mixes.”
They quick-freeze berries or make jams, vinegars and cordials.
Villamere says that in Newfoundland, wild berries are about folkways, such as the prized molasses-partridgeberry jam tart and salt-cod sandwich with jam and cheddar. Villamere says she enjoys pairing partridgeberry with dark chocolate. She says the jam also goes well with moose loin or duck breast, “a little dollop on the side like a mint sauce.”
Gathering in wild
Home cooks in search of recipes that reflect a region can check cooperative extension websites associated with a public university where berries are native. The National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia provides a wealth of information on how to safely prepare foraged fruits.
In the berry-rich 49th state, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service provides information, recipes and tips for enjoying a long list of free-range fruits.
Scandinavians, the website notes, “make a ‘cloudberry cream,’ by mixing berries or prepared jam with sweetened whipped cream.”
Before gathering wild berries in U.S. national parks, would-be foragers are encouraged to visit the specific park website or to contact the park in advance.
“National Park superintendents have the authority to designate certain fruits, berries, nuts or unoccupied seashells that may be gathered by hand for personal use or consumption if it will not adversely affect park wildlife, plants or other park resources,” says Jeremy Barnum, acting assistant director of National Park Service communications.
Similarly, those hoping to pick berries on national forest land should contact their local forest or grasslands office to learn whether foraging is allowed and if a permit is required, a Forest Service spokeswoman said.
On their way to our plates and bowls, wild berries can take more effort to locate and handle than their grocery-store cousins.
Elderberries, for example, are challenging to harvest, so they don’t show up in markets as fresh fruit. As a result, consumers don’t know about them, says Marvin Pritts, professor at Cornell University.
Will: Land of free, home of the rent-seekers
Given its surplus of violence and scarcity of resources, Chicago surely has bigger things to worry about than the menace, as the city sees it, of Laura Pekarik’s cupcakes. Herewith redundant evidence of regulatory government’s unsleeping solicitousness for the strong.
Pekarik, a feisty 33-year-old single mother and embodiment of America’s entrepreneurial itch, grew up in Chicago’s suburbs and at age 24 began baking for the fun of it. Eventually, she invested her entire savings ($12,000) in a green truck, called Cupcakes for Courage, from which she began selling.
She was part of the proliferation of truck-dispensed foods that grew in response to consumer demand for the fun and convenience of curbside lunches of all sorts. This was, however, neither fun nor convenient for restaurants, which responded by (guess one): (a) upping their game in order to compete with the upstarts in trucks or (b) running to the government for relief from competition. If you guessed “b,” you get an A for understanding the land of the free and the home of the rent-seekers.
Rent-seeking is private factions manipulating public power to enhance their profits. This is what Chicago’s restaurant industry did, with the help of an alderman who owns several restaurants. In 2012, at their behest, the city revised its vending laws to forbid food trucks from operating within 200 feet of any business that serves food (with fines of up to $2,000), which banned the trucks from almost all areas with office workers seeking lunches. And the regulations require food trucks to install GPS devices so government can track their movements.
The commissioner of the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection says that the city’s food truck regulations — the city’s protection of consumers from more choices than the city thinks is good for them — “strike the right balance” between the interests of restaurants and trucks. Oh? Why is striking such balances between the interests of rival economic factions the proper concern of politicians and bureaucrats?
The commissioner was echoing Illinois’ Supreme Court, which said the city had a “rational basis” for its decision. And the court was echoing the rent-seekers’ self-serving and evidence-free faux sociology.Diversification
The court swallowed the junk-food sociology that asserts, without evidence, two things: that the existence of brick-and-mortar restaurants is threatened by food trucks, and that such restaurants are essential to “neighborhood stability.” Never mind the absence of evidence of damage to neighborhoods or restaurants in food-truck meccas such as New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.
Laura Pekarik was lucky. She diversified her business early on by opening two brick-and-mortar stores. When the weather is clement and business is good, she has 40 employees. But others have not been lucky: The number of food trucks in the Windy City has dropped by 40 percent. She hopes the U.S. Supreme Court, where she will continue to be assisted by the Institute for Justice, will hear her argument against government picking winners and losers, and doing so on behalf of those who have already won advantages.
The court should assert that the rational basis test does not require courts to be willfully oblivious of disreputable legislative motives.
McFeatters: History repeats in Russia, China
It’s beginning to feel like 1980s news tape showing America’s despotic enemies running amok.
In Russia, a mysterious fatal explosion a few days ago in one of the country’s 10 secret cities where nuclear research takes place has caused an uptick in radiation and raised alarm around the world.
It also raises memories of the 1986 meltdown at Chernobyl, which Russia tried desperately to hush up, lying repeatedly about how serious it was. An estimated 4,000 people died; new cancers are still appearing. It could be 20,000 years before the site is safe.
In Hong Kong, a huge Chinese military presence is threatening to put down the pro-democracy movement, bringing to mind the 1989 slaughter at Tiananmen Square in Beijing when military tanks fired on and rolled over students, killing and injuring thousands.
The current incident in Russia involved a disaster over Vladimir Putin’s promise to his people that he would build a cruise missile with a conventional warhead powered by an onboard nuclear reactor with a range that easily could take it to the U.S. It’s called Skyfall. Whatever the project, five Russian nuclear scientists reportedly died, possibly thrown into the White Sea. Two other state employees were killed.
In Hong Kong, long a British protectorate now controlled by China, demands by protesters for democratic reforms, including dismantling a new law that permits Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to and prosecuted by mainland China, are being met with full-blown police violence.
“I hope it works out for everybody, China included,” President Trump said, noncomittally, after tweeting that China is massing troops at the border. He did not echo the State Department’s statement endorsing the freedom of protesters to assemble.No idea on real policy
Actually, we have no idea what Trump’s policy is on China. He has started a trade war that is slowly choking U.S. farmers and costing the average American family about $700 more a year for everyday goods. He says he and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a great relationship, but there is no agreement on how to resolve the trade dispute. We have stopped demanding that China subscribe to international codes of human rights.
We also don’t know what Trump’s real policy is toward Russia. He has not sympathized with pro-democracy protesters challenging Putin in Moscow. He has dismantled decades of arms control agreements with Russia. His campaign had dozens of contacts with Russia, lying about most of them. He has held private meetings with Putin without permitting any U.S. officials in the room.
Trump seems to have no words of wisdom for Russia as it continues to obfuscate and tries to contain the damage from its latest nuclear explosion.
Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it.
McManus: Say no to Canada’s drugs
Last week, I walked into a small-town pharmacy in rural Canada in search of lifesaving medicine: insulin.
I don’t suffer from diabetes. But an estimated 30 million Americans do, and 1.5 million of them need insulin injections to stay alive. They’re facing a catastrophe: the price of insulin has nearly tripled over the last decade. Many cash-strapped diabetics without good insurance have resorted to rationing their supply. Some have died.
That shouldn’t happen in the world’s richest country. Nor does it need to happen. The proof is next door in Canada.
At Pollard’s Pharmacy in Parry Sound, Ontario, I asked if I could buy a 10-milliliter vial of Humalog, a fast-acting form of insulin that retails for $280 in Los Angeles.
“Sure,” the pharmacist said, and pulled a tiny bottle out of the refrigerator. The price was about 33 U.S. dollars, roughly 12 percent of what it would cost in the U.S.
“Pretty good price,” I said.
He laughed. “The government regulates what we charge,” he said.
No prescription required, either.
“Who’s going to buy insulin if they don’t need it?” he said.
I asked for a price check on another medicine: Ciprodex, an antibiotic I recently used for an ear infection. I paid $255 at home with a prescription. In Canada, I could buy the same drug for about $49 with a prescription from a local doctor.
The reason for those gaps in cost is simple: Canada’s federal government imposes price ceilings on prescription drugs.
Under Canadian law, the government can declare high prices an illegal abuse of patient rights. Drug companies can challenge the rulings, but they usually settle without court proceedings. Despite Canada’s low prices, its drug companies still manage to turn a profit. Prices are even lower in most European countries.
The U.S., by contrast, places few restrictions on what drug companies can charge.Solve problem ourselves
Thanks to brilliant lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry, federal law even prohibits Medicare, a major buyer of drugs, from using its purchasing power to negotiate prices directly. Manufacturers negotiate with private health insurers, but that’s a secretive process that produces the highest prices in the world. It’s a system that gives the industry the benefits of a free market, but strips consumers of bargaining power.
No wonder many Americans, especially from border states, are heading north to buy their prescriptions. It’s illegal to bring the drugs home, but hardly anyone is prosecuted.
And no wonder so many politicians, including Bernie Sanders and President Trump, have stampeded toward what looks like an easy solution: Allow U.S. drugstores to import drugs from Canada. Last month, Trump announced that he has ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to propose rules under which states, wholesalers and pharmacies could buy from Canada.
It sounds like a smart idea — but it’s not.
First, the plan Trump announced won’t cover some of the most expensive drugs, including modern forms of insulin and many cancer medicines.
Trump didn’t actually change the rules; he merely asked HHS to support “pilot programs” in states that want to try importing drugs. It may take years before any plans are up and running, and that’s if the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t succeed in stopping them first. (The head of PhRMA, the big drug industry lobby, denounced the proposed plans as “failed policies” that could “jeopardize public safety.”)
Even then, Trump’s rules won’t allow individuals to buy across the border. The plan is aimed at states, wholesalers and pharmacies, so the Food and Drug Administration can make sure the drugs are legitimate.
Second, we forgot to ask Canada what it thinks — and Canada isn’t capable of supplying the whole U.S. market. There are more than 329 million people in the U.S.; Canada’s population is 37 million. The Canadian pharmaceutical sector was never designed to handle our needs.
Are price ceilings the answer? Universal drug insurance? Better, more transparent subsidies for low-income patients? Freeing Medicare to negotiate prices down?
Maybe all of the above. We’re a big, smart, entrepreneurial country. We ought to be capable of solving this problem on our own.
Harrop: Candidate Bernie Sanders needs a shot of dignity
I have never been a big fan of Bernie Sanders. His authoritarian tendencies and aggressive attacks on any who would disagree have outweighed the good in him.
The good is his working-class voice, emphasis on economic issues and some solid ideas. But his recent lashing out at The Washington Post, where he accused the progressive beacon of punishing him, carried an air of populist paranoia — so much so he’s being likened to Donald Trump.
Sanders’ day in the sun was the 2016 presidential race when he seriously challenged Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for the party nomination. That day is past.
Among Democrats, Sanders trails Joe Biden by 13 percentage points, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, is nipping at his heels.
Sanders may do OK in the first two contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, where the liberal white gentry wields many Democratic votes. But he will undoubtedly crash in the Southern primaries to follow, where African Americans are the deciders. Sanders generally does not bond with black voters, who tend to be more conservative. Quinnipiac puts him at only 8 percent among black Democratic primary voters.
Sanders did himself no good in 2016 when, having been trounced by Clinton in the Southern primaries, he waved away those contests as unimportant. In his worldview, what helps him matters. What doesn’t help him doesn’t matter. You’re for him or against him.
Still, it was surprising to hear Sanders decry persecution by The Washington Post. Amazon paid no taxes last year, he told a crowd in New Hampshire. “And then I wonder why The Washington Post — which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon — doesn’t write particularly good articles about me.”Parallels
The Post publishes far less good articles about Trump. And Trump wields a far greater threat against Bezos’ business interests than Sanders ever could. The parallels between Trump and Sanders blaming liberal news sources for their setbacks is glaring. Trump issues frequent tweets against “the Amazon Washington Post.”
But it’s not just The Post’s picking on Sanders, according to his campaign. It’s “the media.”
“The hyperoverreaction from many in the media to Senator Sanders’ critique reveals a bias,” according to campaign manager Faiz Shakir, as reported by Politico. “There is a sneering, contemptuous disdain that infuses those comments and a willingness to put words into Bernie’s mouth that he just didn’t use.”
Whoa. The Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, would have none of this.
“Sen. Sanders is a member of a large club of politicians — of every ideology — who complain about their coverage,” Baron said in a statement. “Contrary to the conspiracy theory the senator seems to favor, Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence, as our reporters and editors can attest.”
Sanders supporters now have Elizabeth Warren to carry the torch on such ideas as “Medicare for All.” Not that it’s wise politics. It polls poorly once the public understands it would mean losing private coverage. Warren does have an electoral advantage over Sanders in calling herself a capitalist as opposed to a socialist. Her speeches are also less of a looping tape.
Interestingly, though, more Sanders supporters back Biden as their second choice than they do Warren. This may reflect Sanders’ populist appeal to working-class voters rather than interest in his programs.
Sanders was never much of a team player in the Democratic Party; he seeks the affiliation only when he’s running for office.
Anyhow, his comet is on the way down. It’s legacy time. Sanders should stop the angry thrashing and start a slow stroll for the gates with dignity.
Letter: Pave before painting
Today I went shopping and drove on Fourth Plain, going east from Grand Boulevard, and I saw that painting strips were done both east and westbound. Why are they wasting paint and manpower on a road that needs paving work done now? There are severe cracks and potholes everywhere and the weight of those articulated buses does not help. No, that much weight breaks down the pavement in heat and cold. But to get back to my question, why was Fourth Plain not on the repaving schedule this year before painting strips? Bad management!
Commentary: Delay of some tariffs cold comfort for retailers
It looks as if the Trump administration didn’t want to be accused of ruining Christmas.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office said Tuesday that it would delay until Dec. 15 the imposition of tariffs on certain goods coming to the U.S. from China. The government said products such as cellphones, laptops, as well as some toys, clothes and shoes would be spared temporarily, though it plans to move ahead on Sept. 1 with a 10 percent levy on other items from a batch of $300 billion worth of goods.
It’s no coincidence that the products subject to the delay are common Christmas gifts, the kinds of products that are essential drivers of consumer spending in the retail industry’s most important season of the year. President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday the timing was revised so it “won’t be relevant to the Christmas shopping season,” a change that all but ensures that crucial merchandise that stores have ordered for this year’s holiday shopping rush will not be subject to new levies.
On some level, I’m sure retailers welcome the reprieve. These tariffs leave them with a host of difficult decisions to make, including how much they can raise prices before consumers balk and how much they can let tariffs eat into their profit margins before investors start running for the exits. At least they get to have more of a business-as-usual holiday season before they have to find out. It also gives them just a little more time to work on mitigation strategies, such as negotiating with suppliers, and to work on longer-term goals such as moving manufacturing away from China.
That said, this latest development should be seen as nothing more than cold comfort for the retail industry. Trump keeps giving corporate America whiplash on trade. There were similar timing delays with earlier tariffs on goods made in China. Trump spooked some sectors in May with a threat to slap tariffs on goods coming to the U.S. from Mexico as part of an attempt to get that country to bend to his will on immigration policy. The threat was neutered within days after they reached a deal to avert such levies, at least temporarily.
With each of these episodes, the Trump administration keeps proving itself impulsive and unpredictable on trade-related matters. This most recent tariff delay simply serves as a reminder that it will continue to be so. The White House is essentially a giant cloud of uncertainty over how the retail industry should manage everything from pricing to supply chain to inventory.
We’ve seen in other sectors how the government’s waffling on tariffs can create real headaches. My colleague Brooke Sutherland covers industrial companies, and she pointed out that when those businesses were affected by earlier tariffs, some U.S. companies tried to get ahead of the policy change by stockpiling inventory. Then, tariff hikes ended up being delayed, uncertainty kept customers on the sidelines and they were left sitting on excess goods. Retailers might find themselves in the same position, and that might offset or outright negate any relief they feel over this latest delay.
The retail industry is already trying to navigate an extraordinary period of instability and change, given the rise of e-commerce, the fall of once-ubiquitous chains and other shifts in consumer preferences, such as the rise of healthier eating and lifestyles. It’s unfortunate that they have to add erratic trade policies to their list of potential stumbling blocks.
Bruce Lee’s daughter unhappy with Tarantino
Bruce Lee’s daughter has heard enough from Quentin Tarantino, thank you very much. It’s time for the director to be quiet or be apologetic.
“He could shut up about it,” Shannon Lee said when asked by Variety about how the director could quell the brouhaha over Bruce Lee’s portrayal in “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” which has topped $110 million at the box office since opening July 26.
The martial-arts icon’s depiction in the film, set in 1969 Hollywood, has been criticized as “disrespectful” and “a mockery” of the late Lee’s legacy. Lee is shown as a cocky man who brags that his fists are “registered as lethal weapons” and that he could “cripple” Muhammad Ali, only to be thrown into the side of a car by Brad Pitt’s stuntman character, Cliff Booth.
“While I understand that the mechanism in the story is to make Brad Pitt’s character out to be such a badass that he can beat up Bruce Lee, the script treatment of my father as this arrogant, egotistical punching bag was really disheartening — and, I feel, unnecessary,” Shannon Lee told The Times in July, adding that Tarantino seemed to have “gone out of the way to make fun of my father and to portray him as kind of a buffoon.”
The martial artist’s daughter is chief executive of the Bruce Lee Family Co. and heads her father’s namesake charity.
Talking to Variety on Wednesday, she also offered Tarantino other options to make things right.
“[H]e could apologize or he could say, ‘I don’t really know what Bruce Lee was like. I just wrote it for my movie,'” she said. “But that shouldn’t be taken as how he really was.”
Tarantino spoke up in defense of his portrayal last week at a Moscow press event, labeling Bruce Lee “kind of an arrogant guy.”
“The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up,” Tarantino said. “I heard him say things like that, to that effect. If people are saying, ‘Well, he never said he could beat up Muhammad Ali,’ well, yeah, he did. Not only did he say that, but his wife, Linda Lee, said that in her first biography I ever read. … She absolutely said it.”
The director, now 56, was 10 when Bruce Lee died in July 1973.
Tarantino said that while Pitt couldn’t beat up Lee, maybe stuntman Booth could. “If you ask me the question, ‘Who would win in a fight: Bruce Lee or Dracula?’ It’s the same question. It’s a fictional character. If I say Cliff can beat Bruce Lee up, he’s a fictional character, so he could beat Bruce Lee up.”
Lee’s training partner Dan Inosanto also countered Tarantino’s vision, though he hadn’t seen the film at the time he initially spoke. (Shannon Lee had seen it.)
“He was never, in my opinion, cocky,” Inosanto told Variety. “Maybe he was cocky in as far as martial arts because he was very sure of himself. He was worlds ahead of everyone else. But on a set, he’s not gonna show off.”Reputation, memory
Lee’s family has a history of defending his reputation and memory. The martial artist’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, took issue with her late husband’s portrayal in an August 1998 piece by the L.A. Times marking the 25th anniversary of his death. She accused the paper of “sensationalizing the life and death of an extraordinarily gifted human being.”
“I am not purporting that Bruce was a perfect human being, only one that did more good than harm in his short time on this Earth,” Cadwell wrote in a letter to The Times. “He faced many obstacles in his life — overcoming racist attitudes, surviving dire economic circumstances, surmounting physical injuries — and in so doing distinguished himself as someone to be rightfully admired and emulated.”