First Dude on the Great Stage of Fools

Political commentator Jon Stewart is at a zenith of power.  His rally today in D.C. dramatized Stewart’s place in the zeitgeist for anybody who still needed convincing.  Now I’m not saying this is THE zenith for JS.  Like Mavis Staples or Tony Bennett, or any of the geriatric entertainers he paraded on the Washington Mall, Stewart may enjoy a series of up moments.  But October 2010 is one for sure.  His Rally for Sanity and/or Fear, with Stephen Colbert riding shotgun, is a national inflection point for relatively well-to-do, educated, urban young America, including those of us still young only in spirit.  This is true no matter whether you deem the rally rousing success or flop.  And it is also true that Jon Stewart is not merely a comedian.  He is just as much a political pundit as any of the opinionators on the New York Times op-ed page; for the large slices of our demographic who relate best to an ironic, sly deconstruction of argument Stewart is much more influential.

So why in Heaven’s name did President Obama, who is not enjoying a zenith, walk on the stage set of The Daily Show a week before the midterm elections?  An Obama-Stewart encounter, with all the inchoate top dog/underdog possibilities, was not a conversation the Control Masters of the Obama Universe would have allowed during the presidential election.  The Wednesday show, where Obama was earnest and Stewart was delectably witty–quelle debacle. (more…)

Alaska Blogger Bash

Finger-pointing dramas between politicians and media make delicious entertainment. Oh how fortunate we Americans are to have one such little playlet running right now!  The perfectly-named Alaska blogger Tony Hopfinger was handcuffed by a private security guard after a Sunday afternoon town hall meeting in Anchorage featuring Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller. Exactly what transpired is unclear, although everybody involved agree that post-meeting Hopfinger hurried after Miller to ask a question, bumped into a guy or two in the chase and got himself in trouble with the kind of officious, bossy and over-zealous operatives with whom campaign press are all-too familiar.

Today we have a President so off his game that he’s imagining Masonic-size conspiracies involving the Chamber of Commerce, a Republican tsunami rolling towards D.C., Iraq sucking up to Iran, our premature greenhorn Middle East peace initiative exhaling its last preemie gasps, and what story gets 11,000+ comments at The Huffington Post?  You got it. Forget jobs. Bread & circuses is, as ever, the people’s need. (more…)

Litany of Republican Moving Violations

Sometimes it’s the small quirks about a President that are the most telling.  The remarks of Barack Obama at a dinner for Senator Barbara Boxer at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History on April 19 will be remembered for one thing:  it was the first time the President used his favorite metaphor for 2010.

“And Barbara [Boxer] hasn’t wavered.  And she wants to cooperate with folks on the other side of the aisle where she can, but she’s willing to fight where she has to.  And that’s not a bad adage, by the way, for the Democratic Party.  In this entire year and a half of cleaning up the mess, it’s been tough because the folks very responsible for a large portion of this mess decided to stand on the sidelines.  It was as if somebody had driven their car into the ditch and then just watched you as you had to yank it out, and asked you, ‘Why didn’t you do it faster—and why do I have that scratch on the fender?’  And you want to say, why don’t you put your shoulder up against that car and help to push?  That’s what we need, is some help.” (more…)


The big question now for Parker-Spitzer, the CNN political gab show that made its debut Monday and was savaged by media critics, is whether anything can be salvaged.  We live in recycle mode—or at least we pay lip service—so I’m confident there must be a way for CNN not to throw its investment out with the trash.  I’ve watched the show four days running.  As an outsider who does not have to deal with contract clauses and other picky details, I have a plan for you, CNN.

First.  The good news.  The show is worth saving.  Definitely, there is a hunger out there for a less partisan political talk show.  Although it is not to my taste, the manic pace of the show is probably right for our increasingly attention deficit disordered fellow citizens, a growing segment of the populace (but that’s a story for another day). The device of male & female co-hosts always has inherent dramatic possibilities that can be mined. (more…)

Thinking about Thought-Shapers

Yesterday President Obama signed into law S.2781, “Rosa’s Law,” which changes all mention in federal law of mental retardation to references to an intellectual disability.  On the surface, this change appears uncontroversial; in fact, the law passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent.  Spokespeople for the Special Olympics have hailed the change in language.  For their sake, I would like to agree; however, I cannot.  This is but the latest example of the way in which legislators, with the best of intentions, circumscribe us, hampering our ability to comprehend and to describe.

Rosa’s Law, in its equation mental retardation = intellectual disability, premises a simplistic world of the brain.  But intellectual disability is a large category in which mental retardation is only one small part.  Individuals who from childhood are unable to progress through the developmental stages to adult-stage reasoning (what used to be called “born with a low IQ”) are not the same as people who acquire Alzheimer’s or other forms of adult dementia.  Both are intellectual disabilities and yet are different.  A common side effect of stroke is intellectual disability. Post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, alcoholism, attention deficit disorder, compulsion disorders and heavy marijuana use during puberty all present evidence of intellectual disability.  But none of these are the same as mental retardation. (more…)

Tuesday Natter

This past week offered more than the usual platter of hectic.  Here are a few of the other issues I’ve been pondering.

Malcolm Gladwell’s observations about social media, currently a subject of discussion, are most relevant for hyperlocal news sites. Gladwell’s New Yorker essay “Small Change” suggests to me that local news ventures, mushrooming now in part on the expectation of volunteer reporting, are going to run into trouble . . . just . . . there.  Gladwell takes a poke or two at what until now has been a largely unexamined assumption: social media can effect big political change.  He calls Facebook and Twitter “weak-tie” phenomenons, as opposed to “strong-tie” networks like the activism groups of the 1950s and 1960s that brought about civil rights.  Gladwell’s distinction is relevant for media because the new hyperlocals that last will be strong-tied. (more…)

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