I know Evil Mankind is continuing to despoil Mother Earth. I know Manmade GlobalClimateWarmingChange is leading to a catastrophic confluence of unprecedented natural disasters. I know we’re running out of fossil fuels, grain, fresh water, fish sticks and tartar sauce. Still, I’m fascinated by this fact: if you give every man, woman and child in the world a 36-square-feet plot of land, the entire population of the planet would easily fit inside the state of Maryland. I have no idea what that means, but it must mean something.
Speaking of fossil fuels, we’re repeatedly told the following two things: 1.) We’re running out, and 2.) Their use is destroying our environment. Given those two facts, shouldn’t we be encouraging the most rapid extraction and consumption of those fuels as possible in order to exhaust supplies quickly and allow the Earth to heal?
And, finally, another note on counterintuitive policies. We have an aging population that’s placing an ever-increasing strain on our healthcare system and our economy. In addition, worldwide population growth is exploding. So why are we busy passing laws and issuing edicts attempting to make people live healthier—and, therefore, longer—lives? Shouldn’t we be encouraging smoking and obesity? Shouldn’t we be celebrating the joys of trans-fats and the societal advantages of early death?
Well, that’s all I have for today. It’s time for my medication.
One of the biggest challenges facing someone running for the office of President of the United States is looking “presidential.” It’s often tough to imagine a person in that role until you actually see him there. However, in my opinion, not even all presidents look presidential. I was struck by that the other day when Bill Clinton stood beside Barack Obama urging Democrats to pass the tax compromise. It seemed to me that only one of the two really looked presidential, and it wasn’t the current Chief Executive. Regardless of party or politics, the office seems to minimize some men and maximize others, and that contrast was on stark display at the White House this past week.
Jimmy Carter was another man who never seemed presidential to me. I always felt as if he had accidentally stumbled onto a set of Oval Office keys and planned to stay there as long as he could get away with it. When Ronald Reagan ran against him in 1980, it was the challenger who looked presidential.
As good a man as he was, I never felt Gerald Ford exuded that presidential aura. Maybe that’s because he was never elected, or maybe it was because one of our most athletic presidents had been parodied as a clumsy oaf. George W. Bush may not have sounded presidential, but he looked comfortable in the office.
In my adult lifetime, some of those who ran for the presidency and lost had the right look, and some simply didn’t. I could never imagine Michael Dukakis in that role, nor Walter Mondale nor Bob Dole nor Al Gore nor John Kerry. However, I could see John McCain or Hubert Humphrey.
It’s all very subjective, I know, and it’s hard not to be blinded by politics. In fact, I’m not exactly sure what it means to say that someone looks presidential. But, like a lot of subjective matters, it becomes obvious when you see it. And it seemed obvious to me the other day that one president reveled in the office while the other chafed.
I don’t go to a lot of comedy clubs anymore; that’s really a young man’s game. However, for a variety of reasons, I’ve attended three comedy events in the past couple of weeks, and the experiences haven’t been pretty—or funny, for that matter. Maybe there’s just a certain age over which the repeated adjectival use of the f-bomb isn’t quite as amusing as it used to be. It seems to have become filler; the comics’ version of “y'know” or “umm.” I wasn’t offended by the word as much as I was annoyed by this verbal tic that seemed to seemed to affect virtually every performer I saw.
There was a surprising (to me) lack of political humor, and, not surprisingly, whatever such efforts there were tended to be more or less from the liberal side of the spectrum After all, these were, for the most part, relatively young comics struggling to become successful and who wanted to be liked. But it was that lazy kind of political humor, where the audience reacted--not to well-crafted lines or amusing observations--but merely to references. It reminded me of the old joke about the guy thrown into prison who hears other inmates laughing hysterically when one of their own would merely shout out a number. It was explained to him they had been penned up together for so long, they had numbered the jokes, and the number alone was enough to get a big laugh. “How about that (verbal tic) Sara Palin?” Can you believe those (verbal tic) Republicans?”
The most shocking and depressing aspect of my visits to the world of stand-up comedy, however, was the virulently racist and misogynistic language routinely tossed out by these men and women. I don’t have much patience with political correctness, but these were remarks that should have offended anyone long before the PC business began booming. And yet, they tended to get the only real laughs of the evenings. They were comments I would never even consider writing here and I would be reluctant to quote privately, much less in public. The logic escaped me. Was it, “We’ll show the world just how tolerant we are by using the most degrading language possible to describe others?” I don’t know, but I do know it would end or severely damage a career if that stuff came from the “wrong” person’s lips.
Strangely, other than the insults aimed at blacks, Asians, gays and women, there were very few remarks that generated laughs. There was lot of shouting and screaming and clapping and nods of recognition, but not much real laughter. You know that euphoric feeling a good belly laugh can give you, and that kind of shared joy an audience talks about when filing out of a particularly entertaining performance? Well, there was none of that. It was as if everyone wanted to change the subject. Maybe I just picked some particularly bad performances, and these didn’t really represent what passes for comedy these days. I (verbal tic) hope so.
This YouTube video reminded me that I was the person who introduced Keith Olbermann to America.
Keith was a sportscaster at the local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles at the same time I was doing a talk show for that network. I thought Keith was pretty funny on the air, and I suggested we have him come on the show and talk sports. This was the first of several appearances he made on the show, and he always did a nice job.
Keith tended to wear out his welcome at stations and networks, and he bounced around to several places before he found his niche at MSNBC. When he first went on the air there, he was actually quite entertaining. He was wry and amusing, and he looked at the news at a kind of cockeyed angle that I enjoyed.
I’m not sure how he morphed into the bitter-sounding, hate-mongering name-caller he’s become, but I’m sorry he did. I liked the guy, and he was always a good guest. Maybe it’s just show business and trying to find a place in it and building an audience, but I don’t know. We were never friends away from the show, so I can’t even guess what drives him.
I do know that to whatever extent the political well has been poisoned, Keith has dumped more than his share of venom into the water. I’d like to think he knows that and maybe even regrets it. I liked the Keith Olbermann of 1989. This tape reminded me that I miss him.
In a shrill and ill-advised spasm of audaciousness born of desperation, Democratic politicians and their enablers in the press have apparently decided to try to demonize untold millions of voters as they attempt to invigorate their demoralized base. You see the stories: those scary, extremist tea partiers are taking over the GOP! And that strategy could become a central part of the remaining campaign.
Politics has always been a tough game, and it’s nothing more than business as usual when candidates call each other names and engage in over-the-top character assassination. However, I can’t remember a time when there’s been such a coordinated effort to marginalize and impugn the motives of so many of this nation’s citizens.
I’m not sure how they plan to balance their oft-heralded concerns for the middle class with their attempts to paint so many of its members as ignorant racists, but it’ll be fun to see them try. Then, in a breathtaking display of obtuseness, they can express their post-election puzzlement over why these same voters have deserted them.
The Left seems to be doing its best to turn the upcoming wave into a tsunami.
Earlier this year Attorney General Eric Holder said there was “still a need for dialog” about race. I’m beginning to think he may have gotten it exactly wrong, and that there may be a need for less dialog on the subject. Actually, it was something he said later in those same comments that made more sense: "People feel uncomfortable talking about racial issues out of fear that if they express things they will be characterized in a way that's not fair." He’s right about that, but I think we’ve arrived at this point of uncomfortableness precisely because of our continuing national dialog.
Growing up in Chicago in the early 1960s, I attended a high school in which I was part of the minority; more than ninety-percent of the students were black. I say that not to try to introduce any of my bona fides on the subject of race relations, but to make the point that race was a more comfortable subject in that high school than it is in 2010 America.
On my game show recently, an African-American contestant mentioned that he could teach anyone to be a Hip-Hop singer. I leaned over to him and stage-whispered, “I’m sorry, but I’m hopelessly Caucasian.” It was a joke on me and my lack of “hipness” and my white bread image, but I found myself re-examining the line later. Was I engaging in stereotyping? Could my remarks have been offensive? Would viewers be uncomfortable with what I said? I decided it was a harmless (and somewhat amusing) little comment, but it was the fact I gave it any thought at all that troubled me.
I fear we’re all becoming super-sensitized on the subject of race precisely because we focus on it too much rather than too little. As an older white male, I’m not sure just how qualified I am to say it, but I think there’s little doubt that racism has diminished dramatically in this country, especially among the last two generations. Does racism still exist? Of course it does, and it always will among some people, just as ignorance and evil will always exist in some. But it seems to me we’ve reached the point at which racism is considered, at the very least, unacceptable. We will never be able to eradicate every last vestige of it, just as we can’t completely rid ourselves of any evil.
At some point, however, we have to stop looking at everything through the prism of race. We can never have a colorblind society, and we shouldn’t. Color, like language, is a part of our heritage. The idea—or so I thought—was to get to a point where the color doesn’t matter, but we’re in danger of making it matter more than ever.
We don’t need more “dialog” or anything else quite so high-sounding; we need to be free to live and react and experience each other without thinking about every word and every action and examining them for hidden motives. Though I may be “hopelessly Caucasian,” I still believe we’re on the right track in terms of race relations, and I don’t think we’ll ever go back. But we’re at the point where we’re more likely to reach the station through evolution rather than legislation.
All signs point to a rout of the Democrats in November, but the Republican Party can do itself a big favor by avoiding the “M” word. When a party begins to believe it has a mandate from the people, all good sense seems to fly out the window, and the feeling that it can do no wrong flies in.
While I believe it’s true that voters will want to put a stop to many of this administration’s initiatives and its profligate spending, it doesn’t necessarily translate into a mandate for the other side’s wide-ranging initiatives and their own flood of expensive legislation.
Americans seem to like incrementalism and, even when they lurch from one party to another, it doesn’t mean they expect a lurch from one extreme to the other from their government.
There is a large and growing suspicion that neither party is up to the task, and, while the Republicans may be the beneficiaries of Democratic overreach in this upcoming cycle, they need to beware of misreading the message. Imagined mandates merely lead to hubris and, as both sides are learning, voters are far more willing than ever to “throw the bums out.”
Manmade global warming, like so many other social and economic issues, has become hopelessly politicized. Each side has dug in its heels and has accused the other of acting irresponsibly and dishonestly. For the believers, the other side has become the equivalent of Holocaust deniers; and for the doubters, the other side has become a cult intent on manipulating mankind to remake the world in some sort of natural Utopian image.
The divide has become so great, it seems virtually impossible to bridge the gap. However, I’m not writing for Ricochet merely to outline problems; I’m here to offer real solutions. And I’m not just blowing carbon dioxide.
Let’s assume that a third of the world’s population really believes mankind has the power to adjust the Earth’s thermostat through lifestyle decisions. The percentage may be higher or lower, but, for the sake of this exercise, let’s put it at one-third. Now it seems to me these people have a special obligation to change their lives dramatically because they truly believe catastrophe lies ahead if they don’t. The other two-thirds are merely ignorant, so they can hardly be blamed for their actions.
Now, if those True Believers would give up their cars and big homes and truly change the way they live, I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be some measurable impact on the Earth in just a few short years. I’m not talking about recycling Evian bottles, but truly simplifying their lives. Even if you were, say, a former Vice President, you would give up extra homes and jets and limos. I see communes with organic farms and lives freed from polluting technology.
Then, when the rest of us saw the results of their actions—you know, the earth cooling, oceans lowering, polar bears frolicking and glaciers growing—we would see the error of our ways and join the crusade voluntarily and enthusiastically.
How about it? Why wait for governments to change us? You who have already seen the light have it within your grasp to act in concert with each other and change the world forever. And I hate to be a scold, but you have a special obligation to do it because you believe it so strongly. Then, instead of looking at isolated tree rings and computer models, you’d have real results to point to, and even the skeptics would see the error of their ways and join you.
So start Tweeting each other and get the ball rolling. We’ll anxiously await results. See, I told you I had the solution. My work here is done.