First off—it’s looking like I was (as I hoped I wouldn’t be) off base to cut Kevin Spacey even a hint of doubt as further credible allegations emerge. In the interest of not becoming a revisionist I’ve left the original post up with an “update” disclaimer so folks can skip to the “art vs. the artist” section if they wish as it looks like that’s the dilemma one who enjoys the actor’s work now faces. Of course I’m not one for consigning an entire body of work to the flame simply because a cog (or even the whole) in its production was a reprehensible jackass but that’s another argument for another day. I do think it’s odd that some on the right are using the sadly growing list of Hollywood figures (who are most often some degree of “liberal” politically) as evidence of a “perverted” left. If there’s really one thing we can be certain of in terms of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault it’s that it’s a bipartisan issue that affects every community. From the Fox News team of founder Ailes (a major figure in the White House and in every GOP campaign involving Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes) and network cash cow O’Reilly to Hollywood A-listers Weinstein, Spacey, possibly Hoffman (ouch) by way of the church (Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant) and up to the White House (Trump has more credible sexual harassment and assault allegations than even Weinstein) there are no subcultures or groups immune to the presence of abuse. Power is the unifying factor as those with power far too often use it to pressure, intimidate and abuse those with less or excuse questionable behavior. These microcosms now on display showcase behavior that goes on in every industry and in every town in America. So yeah, long story short—I cut Spacey too much slack too early it seems.

I’m beginning to feel it’s almost hopeless to expect more out of anyone. A friend recently posted “are there any famous dudes who aren’t total creeps?” to which I replied that I had a list of many I think (based on everything I’ve read and heard) fit that bill of being as ethical and stand-up as they are talented but that I’d be loath to list them right now for fear an old story would emerge making me eat my words. Folks make mistakes and no real hero exists, I know that. But the entire current climate of information, misinformation, historical and political ignorance, scapegoats and easy (but false) answers is exhausting.

For example, I could refer you to the Atlantic’s recent stellar coverage of the revolt at Reed College. For those interested in “trigger warnings”, “safe spaces”, and the criminalization of ideas it’s a worthwhile read. As someone who empathizes with most left positions but who is also a fan of open full-throated debate, grappling with complex ideas in a fruitful manner, and first-amendment absolutism I have long had a troubled relationship with some of the younger expressions of “idea” protest. This article lays out what’s happened in one extreme example but it at least ends promisingly as a newer generation of diverse students push back against simplistic inflammatory protest in favor of honest debate and education. But more troublingly for the left than the issues many campuses now face is the entire future of the Democratic Party.

Donna Brazile is doing her book tour and part of that is a full attack on the Clintons and the DNC in the wake of her ousting. While it should come as no surprise to any student of government and history the DNC (like the RNC, like every political, religious, and civic organization) is prone to corruption or at least political chicanery. While many of the concerns Brazile raises are troubling they are not surprising nor are they really that “new”. Righteous anger that such favoritism and political maneuvering could occur to affect the primary is understandable but unfortunately many on the left are now playing right into Trump’s hands (and words).

As someone who supported Bernie early on I recognize his appeal. I think that for the most part he is an ethical, honest person though I don’t believe he’s immune to political celebrity and it’s potentially corrupting allure (one can’t really be a politician without that).  If I had the power to wave my hand and replace Trump with anyone it would likely be Elizabeth Warren but Bernie would still be a close 2nd or 3rd. I also never believed Hillary Clinton to be my personal lord and savior and no act of political subterfuge in her pursuit of victory (within reason and with precedent) would really surprise me but I, like Bernie and like Bernie pleaded with his supporters to do, supported her when she became the candidate. Heck, Brazile mentions her conversations with Bernie took place before that endorsement so even in light of the knowledge that he’d been royally screwed by the DNC in funding and preference he still saw the bigger picture because he, unlike many of his supporters, is cause first and personality second.

That’s the thing about the so-called “Berniecrats”. That term was coined not to refer to the most “progressive” section of the Democratic Party or to Democratic Socialists. It was coined to derisively refer to those who built a cult of personality around Sanders, many of whom were frat-boys with more interest in “dank memes” than Democratic Socialism or progress for all.  So while Bernie certainly had support from Boomers, Xers, and Millennials of all styles who would have preferred him but who ultimately voted for Clinton when they had to the Berniecrats instead either stayed home, cast their ballot for some of the worst third-party candidates in a generation, or voted for Trump (an estimated quarter of Bernie supporters ultimately voted for Trump).  There’s a reason Russians included Berniecrats in their targeted audience—it worked. They shared false and inflammatory information and helped usher Trump into the White House.

Trump is now pushing the most far-right agenda to ever come from the White House. The damage he is doing to the environment, our relationships and standing in the world, and to the very legitimacy of our institutions is staggering and potentially irreparable. The bigger picture was to keep that from happening while working for reform and the bigger picture remains replacing Trump with a less noxious and damaging President ASAP (while seeking reform and incremental progress). Yet if a subsection of the left is happy to do Trump’s work for him (as they are today while Trump calls for the prosecution of Hillary Clinton live on TV), spread his message and share his Russian created memes then where are we to go? It would be easy to just say ignore this sub-section as they don’t show up in significant numbers at mid-term elections to keep the actual local and community gears progressing further towards equity but I don’t think that’s wise at all. I credit Bernie and his supporters for pushing Hillary to the left on many issues so that she ultimately ran on the most progressive platform in modern history. Those that were “Bernie or Bust” need to be in the fold because a mainstream liberal party that slides back to centrism is doomed it’s just that we need the most boldly Bernie or nobody folks to get behind the cause not the person and to find (and advocate for) young and new party figures. Sadly, however, it’s looking more and more every day like Trump, the most “unpopular” President in history will win a second term even as his entire cabinet faces indictment.

So yeah, it’s feeling hopeless. No “heroes”, no admirable institutions, no middle-ground, no respect for facts or the possibility thereof. A generation of students is coming up who report no real love of the freedom of speech or of the right to disagree. I’m thankful to love metal, horror, noir, literary tragedy and the oddly life-affirming qualities these art forms promote at a time like this while all seems to be turning to crap. So I’ll likely be picking up my lists and genre analysis as I ready my end-of-year “best of lists” and give my half-assed political commentaries another much needed rest.

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It’s been a big week or two. Like 1960s level big,  particularly in the context of all other social-political issues going on in America. On the one hand the supreme court finally stepped in and cleared up the matter for the divisive states by making gay marriage legal in all 50 states. They also upheld the President’s Affordable Care Act, struck down portions of the “three strikes law”, and the President authorized progressive overtime pay-rates for workers shifting things in that arena closer to their levels pre-Reagan era erosion. National discussions are leading to the removal of the Confederate flag from government sites. On the other hand, violence against African Americans in their places of worship have accelerated with the Charleston shooting and the arson of historic black churches across the south. As if to show they can’t deal down only on the Progressive side the Supreme Court struck down EPA regulations and ruled against clean air safeguards thus giving the dirty energy lobby and industry a big win. They also upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection. Some progress, some slip-back, and miles to go before we even approach justice and equality.

I understand most responses to these issues even when I do not agree with some of those responses. Here I want to address the most baffling and in some ways most infuriating response as it in its subtlety does damage and undermines progress in any area. The response I’m referring to I dub the “reptilian overlord” response. Obviously that’s a bit tongue in cheek because not everyone that gives this response is deep into conspiracy theories. In short, this response is: “While you and everyone else are worried about (fill in the blank), this (fill in the blank) is going on.” To the one giving this response, every issue reported anywhere with enough reach to inform the general public is simply distracting the masses from the real issues at hand. At the extreme end of this line of thought are those who think there is indeed a real conspiracy by a group of political, financial, and news industry leaders to control, manipulate and utilize the news to keep civilians unaware of the “real” issues. Now, there are of course many kernels of truth in this rationale. Certainly there’s no shortage of bad journalism corporately owned and used to spread particular views with definite agendas. And yes, there is always something else going on that is arguably “bigger” than any other issue at hand. Unfortunately there are always ongoing wars (declared or not) and conflicts around the world that result in death, destruction, and all levels of damage. There are always “bigger” systemic issues and societal ills as well–poverty, class-ism, unchecked corporate greed, ecological destruction, etc.

Yet…some things that make the news are still a big deal. Some news is worth reporting. Hell, some things are worth celebrating, debating, discussing, and being aware of–and regardless of the issue, when really discussing a particular issue it’s usually best to initially limit one’s focus only to that issue in context and peripherally at most the issues that directly intersect with that issue. Global warming and ISIS are still threats but do not factor into the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. Let’s debate, discuss, and celebrate that decision in isolation of such other discussions for a moment. It’s historic. It matters. If you think it does not matter in any form or fashion good or bad I am thoroughly confused and have to assume you do not know or care about a single LGBT person.

Yes, I know–we should all be worried about the TPP trade deal that the President and a shadowy council of villains have met secretly to devise in order to bring about the Armageddon. Truthfully, there may be a good deal to debate about that trade deal–its precedent, Clinton’s NAFTA bill, certainly didn’t benefit US blue-collar workers in the long run. But most people who point at TPP before (and instead of) the issues of Charleston and legal gay marriage show a certain level of callousness and lack of compassion. For such naysayers, issues of equality and justice for particular groups are unimportant whether progress or pitfall and only large, overarching goals without a particular immediate human face are what matter most.

So sure, the celebritarianism aspects of Caitlyn Jenner’s public coming out might strike some as PR overkill in light of the Kardashian media machine from whence many first came to know her but that doesn’t make Transgender issues, rights, and celebration any less important nor her re-introduction “not news”. Sure the legalization of gay marriage in all 50 states does not spell the end of the struggle for LGBT equality but it is historic, it is a big deal and it is news. No the removal of the confederate flag from government institutions will not spell the end of racism in America but it is right to have this conversation now and more than that to go ahead and move those flags from public spaces to museums. These things are news and are worth talking about. I can’t help but wonder if the same folks angry at these topics being so widespread would have wondered why everyone was talking about Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedy assassination and Vietnam in the 1960s.

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I’ve been vaguely bummed out ever since Dave’s last show. My wife and I DVR-ed the last couple weeks of the “Late Show with David Letterman” and it was some of the best pure television (in a classic sense) I’ve seen in some time. Certainly each episode, especially the last, was touched with a bit of sadness as each of Dave’s favorite guests said goodbye. But it was funny, warm, and entertaining. I guess more than anything it was nostalgic in the best sense of that word (I’ve written here a few times about the dirty side of nostalgia).

Yet it’s that nostalgia I suppose that is most causing my vague sense of bummer. Dave has been on TV since I was born. He’s hosted “the Late Show” on CBS since I was a child/pre-teen. Pretty much every time I watched a late night talk show for the first 20-25 years of my life it was Letterman’s. Leno always had the top ratings but I never really met a Leno fan in my life, so that’s always confounded me (and pretty much every other fan of comedy). Of course, Leno was middle-of-the-road always making the safe jokes in a generally likable way so that’s probably the biggest explanation for his success. Letterman was a wiseass, but a loveable wiseass. My wife was an even bigger Letterman fan than I was, watching it on a pretty regular basis through her childhood and teen years. The other kids in her family and their friends were little comedy students and comedians in their own right so it’s obvious the appeal Dave had for them as he’s responsible for so much of the comedy that came after him. She even had VHS copies of his 10th and 20th anniversary specials which she  watched religiously.
But I really haven’t watched the “Late Show” other than a random moment here and there for the past 5-7 years. Watching it these past two weeks reminded me of why I loved it, but had it not been coming to an end I know I wouldn’t have tuned in. Letterman was something I always watched when I was near the TV at that time before or after a night out, when in a hotel on the road, or when up watching TV when I was home for the holidays. It’s been since my college years that I’ve caught the show much at all. Not that I replaced it with one of the Jimmy’s or Conan’s TBS show. I’m simply not up at that time since I hit 30 and work in the mornings. I’ve always caught “The Daily Show” when possible, particularly in the age of DVR as it’s a quicker next morning catch-up process (and alas my trusted news-anchor Jon Stewart is also retiring). But knowing that Dave is no longer on the air is just sad. Network TV (and TV in general) are just so different now—fractured, niche, on-demand, internet spliced for YouTube)- Dave’s show ending feels like the end of an era—and I feel older.

So thanks, Dave. You were the best to do this whole late night thing (and I’ve watched all the old Carson highlights). I hope Letterman has a long happy retirement with his family and that maybe his fans will get a chance to see him do a special or something in some capacity in the future.