Comedy and politics

Donald Trump interviews himself (Jimmy Fallon)

Donald Trump interviews himself (Jimmy Fallon)

Remember the line,”I can see Russia from my house”? Who said that? Chances are you said Sarah Palin; most people do. Yet, most people get it wrong. It was Tina Fey, caricaturing Palin on “Saturday Night Live.” The comedian’s impression of the vice-presidential candidate went viral and became almost better known than the candidate herself.  It’s not an overstatement to say that political satire may have contributed to her defeat.

With so many candidates this year, comedians are having a field day. Donald Trump in particular likes to be outrageous — it boosts his poll numbers. His uniquely strange thatch, the pouting contortions of his mouth and the flamboyant extravagance of his implausible claims give comics a wealth of material. Jimmy Fallon played Trump interviewing the real Trump in the mirror. SNL chose him for its season opener. They pounced on his unwillingness (or inability) to give details on policy, his megalomania (he knows what’s wrong and can fix everything) and his narcissism (“I’m very smart” and “I’m very rich”).

Seeing candidates on television is nothing new, except that they used to be interviewed by “serious” newspeople, whereas now they are found on late-night shows attempting to improve their images by trading wisecracks (when they can) with their comic hosts. Appearing with Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Fallon or until recently, with John Stewart, is a double-edged sword: the candidates get a lot of exposure to a demographic that may have no other other opportunity to see them, but they also risk being lampooned and put on the hotspot. Late-night hosts are much less deferential than the mainstream media.

Everybody wins: the big-name politicians pull in a large audience and raise the  ratings, making sponsors and producers happy. The audience is entertained and, even if only subliminally, educated.

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Filed under Politics, American Society, Satire

Pope Francis unites religious leaders at 9/11 Memorial

Now that the whirlwind visit of Pope Francis to the United States has come to a close, I urge people of all faiths, including Christians, Jews and Muslims, to watch and contemplate video of the pontiff’s visit to the September 11 Memorial.

Pope Francis watches Rabbi and Imam embrace

Pope Francis watches Rabbi and Imam embrace

The multifaith service was deeply moving, perhaps more than any other event on his schedule, because it showed avowed enemies embracing one another and praying for peace together.


Catholic cardinals sing along with Jewish cantor in Hebrew

The service (not “interfaith,” but “multifaith,” because each religion keeps its own identity) was awe-inspiring and painful. Painful, because the memorial brings to mind the bitter conflicts and hatred that rage in many parts of the world and that were brought directly to us at Ground Zero. At the same time, the visual proof that human diversity can be mobilized to work together for the common good is awesome.

Continue reading at Women’s Voices For Change

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Filed under Climate change, Environment, Islam, People

Are you a #GlobalCitizen? Think of what

Are you a #GlobalCitizen? Think of what YOU can do to end extreme poverty by 2030, promote gender equality and make education available for every girl

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Holding on to summer

Dried oak leaf hydrangeas

Dried oak leaf hydrangeas

Autumn is a time for collecting — thoughts, memories, leaves and flowers left behind by an ebbing summer. It was time, I decided, to cut hydrangeas as a reminder when winter’s icy clutches seem to hold on forever that spring will eventually follow. Though the flowers’ colors fade like suntans and lingering evenings, the memories they elicit take the chill off the long night.

Flowers strung out to dry

Flowers strung out to dry

After choosing, cutting, gathering up, carrying in and stripping the leaves off the blooms, I chose one of the two main methods of drying the flowers without letting them wilt and brown. I decided to hang them upside-down. You need space for that. If you tie them in bunches, the air won’t circulate around them, and they won’t dry properly. If you simply lay them flat, one side will be as flat as the surface they lie on. Thus, the idea of stringing them up along a line stretched across the kitchen.

If they don’t dry successfully, next year I’ll try the water method: leave them in water until water evaporates and petals become papery.

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Big Oil’s long history with climate change

Birds killed by oil from the Exxon Valdez spill

Birds killed by oil from the Exxon Valdez spillBig Oil

Was anyone really surprised last Wednesday when InsideClimateNews (ICN) revealed documents confirming that Exxon Mobil has known for almost 40 years that fossil fuels pose a lethal threat to Earth and all its inhabitants? ICN, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning web-site, published the first installment of an exposé of Exxon’s role in suppressing research on climate change and disseminating disinformation. (Exxon [then Esso] and Mobil merged in 1999.)

In 1977, James Black, a top technical expert at Exxon, informed a group of top-level oilmen at Exxon headquarters that

[T]here is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.

The following year Black persisted. Speaking to a wider audience, he warned that the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continued to increase and would raise temperatures everywhere, but especially at the poles. Continue reading

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Filed under Climate change, Environment, Global Warming, Politics

Bring in the clowns and be wary

I stand by my assessment of the second Republican debate as “fun,” though most people disagree. I had fun watching Trump’s antics, both his words and his body language; Christie’s sharp wit and Bush’s evasions. Perhaps I was able to enjoy the marathon debate because I can’t bring myself to take these people seriously, I can’t wrap my mind around the possibility that one of these clowns could potentially be President of United States. I still have faith in the electorate.

I admit that’s not fair to Fiorina, Paul or Kasich. They were the grownups in the room.

CarlyFiorinaIf only Carly hadn’t described the Planned Parenthood videos with such relish. Her intent to discredit an organization that provides health care — including, but by no means limited, to contraception and abortion — for women is shameful. The videos are indeed gruesome and shocking, but they were assembled and highly edited by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress. Until she began to talk about the videos, I was admiring her preparation and steely gumption in facing down Trump.

But she totally lost me when she lunged into her fear-mongering vilification of Planned Parenthood. I’m left with the two alternatives: Either she, a smart and well-read woman, knows the truth about PP but decided to cater to the far-right wing with deliberate lies; or she’s not so smart, not capable of critical thinking, not able to distinguish propaganda from truth and facts, which would have rendered the rest of her performance and previous accomplishments impossible. Either scenario disqualifies her as an aspirant to the highest executive position in the world. She has some nerve accusing Hillary Clinton of lying at every opportunity.

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Filed under American Society, People, Politics, Women

GOP Debate II: too long, but fun

Carly Fiorina is unmoved as Trump invents excuse for his disparaging remarks

Carly Fiorina is unmoved as Trump invents excuse for his disparaging remarks

Most Entertaining

The Donald, of course. He has two generic responses to every question: “I’m the richest / the smartest / the most successful” or a gratuitous snipe. He doesn’t seem to want or know how not to be offensive. And the contortions of his face as he listens to someone else speak never fail to amuse.

Best Prepared

Carly Fiorina, by a long shot. She’s clearly clocked many hours studying and writing responses. Far more than any of her rivals, she demonstrated detailed knowledge of military deployment, foreign policy and domestic issues. She was dignified throughout and even eloquent in her comments about the Ladies Liberty and Justice.

Most uncomfortable

Jeb Bush often looked ill at ease, especially standing next to Trump. He answered most questions by repeating his talking points, touting his tax-cutting and vetoes when he was governor of Florida. What has he done since then?

His most quotable remark: “You know what? As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe.” And no one challenged him! They can’t all have amnesia. Not even Jake Tapper remembered that W was president on 9/11!

Most thoughtful

Rand Paul provided a sensible foil to the saber-rattling of Marco Rubio. He was one of the three (with Trump and Carson) who opposed the Iraq War. On legalized pot, he sounded like a liberal, recognizing that two-thirds of the incarcerated population are in jail for drug-related offenses, and that most of them are Black and poor. “Rich kids don’t get arrested.”

Most fiercely conservative

Ted Cruz was playing to the most radical Right on every issue important to them — guns, immigration, right-to-life.

Most evangelical

Mike Huckabee insisted that Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who refused a marriage license to a gay couple, was completely within her rights. Personal beliefs trump the law, and the case against Davis is “an example of the criminalization of Christianity” and “judicial tyranny.” If Davis had been a Muslim who refused to obey the law because of her religious beliefs … ?

Most belligerent

Chris Christie: New Jersey, New Jersey, New Jersey: vetoes and tax cuts, but mum on bridge lane-closing scandal, natch. He’s quick on his feet, though, ad-libbing wisecracks and one-liners.

All in all, Carly Fiorina gained the most. Trump slid under the communal onslaught and Jeb Bush, despite a better performance than in the first debate, didn’t quite rise above his lackluster image.

CNN offered comic relief at the end, asking what nickname each would like the Secret Service to give them. Bush and Trump were the best.

Trump likes Bush's choice of "Eveready."

Trump likes Bush’s choice of “Eveready”

Countering Trump’s assessment of him as low-energy, Bush responded, “Eveready, because it’s very high energy, Donald.” Trump’s choice was almost as good. He’d like to be called “Humble.”

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Filed under American Society, Politics