Monthly Archives: August 2017

OH! OH! Steen

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.
Howard Beal/Network (1976)

You have to admit, there is more than enough to be mad about these days.  Yet, from time to time, there is reason to believe the world and its inhabitants are basically good.  Even when Mother Nature turns her back on us (e.g. Hurricane Harvey), there is a bright side.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals are putting themselves at risk to help those in need in the wake of this apocalyptic storm.

With one highly visible exception.

One of my favorite Lewis Black routines comes from his performance at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C., a stop on his “Red, White and Screwed” tour (2006)  One segment in particular takes aim at televangelists who use the Old Testament (aka Jewish Bible) as a prop.

On Sunday morning, I turn on the television set and there is a priest or pastor reading from my book. And interpreting it. And their interpretations, I have to tell you, are usually wrong.  It’s not their fault cause it’s not their book.

You never see a Rabbi on TV interpreting the New Testament, do you?  If you truly want to understand the Old Testament, if there is something you don’t quite get, there are Jews who walk among you and they, I promise you this, will take time out of their very Jewy, Jewy day and interpret for you anything you are having trouble understanding.  And we will do that if, of course, the price is right.

Now I am not a Rabbi, nor do I play one on TV.  However, maybe it’s time a member of my tribe takes to the airwaves to explain the New Testament to hypocrites and the faux righteous who have no problem telling others how to live their lives.

Take Joel Osteen, please.  In the midst of the most destructive natural disaster in Houstonians’ memory, when most churches opened their doors to feed, clothe and house displaced residents, Osteen’s Lakewood Church canceled services and shuttered its doors. Instead of taking in the homeless, Osteen took to Twitter.

August 25/How you respond to a situation will influence those around you.  When you have peace on the inside, you’ll bring peace to the outside.  (Dr. ESP Response: Forget volunteering.  Follow my example. Time to Tweet.)

August 26/God uses people to push you to where you’re supposed to be.  Without them, you couldn’t fulfill your destiny. (Dr. ESP Response:  Guess your destiny led you to the nearest keyboard.)

August 26/Victoria and I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey.  Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family.  (Dr. ESP Response: Not quite a substitute for actually doing something that would make a difference.)

August 26/Give people the grace to change.  Don’t judge their whole life on one season, one mistake. (Dr. ESP Response:  Is this your response to the universal anger at your lack of compassion during the storm?  Damn right, YOU need to change.)

August 27/There’s a simple phrase you have to get down in your spirit.  “God’s got this.” (Dr. ESP Response: Now that’s what I call passing the buck.)

August  28/Jesus promises us peace that passes understanding.  That’s peace when it doesn’t make sense. (Dr. ESP Response:  The only thing that doesn’t make sense are these inane platitudes.)

August 29/Our hearts break as we see the damage and destruction in out city.  Please join us in helping Houston recover.  Visit  (Dr. ESP Response:  A fundraising appeal.  Does this modern day P. T. Barnum really believe I would send money to a church who’s leader lives in a $10.1 million mansion?  Lakewood is the last place I would consider for charitable giving.)

August 29-10:52am/Lakewood’s doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter.  (Dr. ESP Response:  It is amazing what a little, or in this case a lot of, shaming can do.  If Jesus led the flock, Mr. Osteen was at best a straggler.)

Mr. Osteen, instead of Tweeting, may I suggest you pick up your Bible and re-read James 2:14-17 which reminds us faith is not enough.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.
16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 You’re welcome.  And in light of the current situation in Houston, feel free to send my “New Testament Interpretation Fee” to the American Red Cross, Salvation Army or any other trustworthy organization engaged in the relief effort.

For what it’s worth.

Heavyweight Champion


There was quite a fight this weekend.  Two of the biggest names in their sport going head to head.  It was the kind of athletic affair portrayed in movies like Rocky.

No, I’m not talking about the Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor boxing match in Las Vegas.  That was more akin to Aesop’s “Tortoise and the Hare.”  McGregor raced out of the gate in Round 1.  By Round 4, he was spent.  Once again, steady beat flashy.  Perseverence defeated raw power.

The real heavyweight spectacle took place at the Glen Oaks Golf Club in Old Westbury, New York.  The contenders?  Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson.  These two links pugilists battled to a draw through 13 rounds after Spieth squandered a five point lead on the judges’ scorecards.  In the 14th round, Spieth connected on a short upper-cut to take a one point lead matched only by a similar punch by Johnson in the 15th round.  Tied again with three rounds to go.

Related imageAt the end of a prize fight, it is not always about winning.  Sometimes it is about surviving. In the 17th round, Johnson set up what appeared to be a knockout blow.  Spieth was on the defensive.  Yet, out of nowhere, Spieth once again did what he has done on so many occasions.  He held Johnson off, throwing a difficut left to right hook from 18 feet 11 inches, which barely connected with its target.

Related imageRound 18 was Johnson’s turn.  After two uncharacteristic lapses, the world’s #1 ranked golfer faced a 17 foot 5 inch punch no one expected him to master.  After all, the last time he and Spieth had been locked in battle, Johnson missed a much easier three and a half foot putt to lose the 2015 U.S. Open.  But connect he did with a right/left hook which grazed its target at the last moment.  After 18 rounds on Sunday (72 overall) both competitors demonstrated they were worthy of the Northern Trust Championship belt and a lead in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

In one respect, golf resembles professional boxing before a limit on the number of rounds was imposed after the Jack Johnson versus Jim Flynn matchup on July 4, 1912.  There are no ties or decisions.  Like the earlier era of boxing, it is sudden death (or at least sudden knockout).  In those days, the longer the match went, the competitors tended to take more chances.  Matches would often end with a successful haymaker or as the result of a wild miss followed by an effective counter punch.

When Dustin Johnson lined up on the tee on the first extra hole, you knew he had decided to go for broke.  It turned out to be a one-two punch for the ages. Taking a shortcut over the lake which abuts the 90-degree dogleg in the 18th fairway, Johnson landed just 90 yards from the pin which was 470 yards from the tee.  A  quick jab stopped within three feet of its mark.  A near gimme birdie and the match was over.

Throughout the day both players appeared to be down for the count.  Both bounced back and battled gallantly until the end.  Now that’s what I call a real heavyweight prize fight sans bloody cuts or bruises.  And the only weight that mattered in this tale of the tape was that of the heart.

For what it’s worth.


UN-Cool Medium


In 1994, Marshall McLuhan introduced the term “cool medium” in his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts).  The term is relevant in the Age of Trump, particularly as it refers to “low definition” information which affords the listener/reader a chance add to the presented data.  According to McLuhan, television was supposed to be a cool medium.  Time to report the news was limited and viewers were left to fill in the gaps, make their own decisions about what was being said and how it was presented.

That has changed with the advent of 24 hour cable news.  Viewers are bombarded with information. But of greater concern are efforts by all the cable news networks to sell a perspective as well as the facts.  Let me share two examples over the last four days.

Following Trump’s first address to the national Monday night, cable news was contrasting his delivery to the rant a week ago Tuesday related to the Unite for Right march in Charlottesville.  Every news network suggested this was a pivot (how many times have we heard that).  Yet, while the tone may have been different, there was a sameness to both that eluded the broadcast and print pundits.

On Monday night Trump laid out a wish list, what he hoped would happen in Afghanistan and neighboring region.  Had he issued an order to send more troops in? NO!  He would leave that to the generals.  Had he already talked to Pakistani officials about their cooperation? NO!  He hoped they would come to the table some time in the future.

This is what candidates do on the campaign trail.  Presidents take action.  Compare Trump’s “national address” to those delivered by past (dare I say legitimate) U.S. presidents.

  • Seven days after his inauguration in 1933, Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation to announce he had ordered an extended bank holiday to stave off a panic driven run on financial institutions.
  • In 1957, Dwight Eisenhower, in response to the growing unrest in Little Rock, Arkansas over the Supreme Court school desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education, told a national audience he had ordered the National Guard to ensure a peaceful implementation of the court order in Little Rock public schools.
  • In October, 1962, John Kennedy went on national TV to announce he had ordered a naval blockade to prevent Russian ships from delivering offensive weapons to Cuba.
  • Following the Tet Offensive in 1968, Lyndon Johnson announced he had ordered a unilateral cessation of bombing which would continue if North Vietnam joined in efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the hostilities.
  • In a national address on energy shortfalls in 1973, Richard Nixon announced he had signed the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.  Real presidents use national addresses to notify the public of actions they have actually taken, not to make the equivalent of one more campaign promise.  So instead of telling me Herr Trump seemed more presidential Monday night, where was the historical perspective.  A “cool medium” would have compared Trump’s first national address to those of his predecessors.  Then I could decide whether it passed the standard for being presidential.

The second incident involved MSNBC’s reporting of yesterday’s more than 10 hours of interrogation by Senate Judiciary Committee staff of Glen Simpson, co-found of Fusion GPS, who helped compile the now infamous opposition research dossier on Donald Trump.  Morning host Stephanie Ruhle used the word debunked in the same sentence in which she referred to the dossier.  NOOOOOOO!  To the contrary, both CNN and BBC have corroborated specific claims.  On February 10, 2017, CNN’s Jim Sciutto reported that U.S. investigators confirmed some of the communications detailed in the report.  While the more salacious accusations have not been confirmed, neither have they been debunked.

Herr Trump is wrong when he claims the media are the enemy of the people.  But it would be fair to say that on occasion, they are not the people’s friend either.  And at a minimum, they are UN-cool.

For what it’s worth.


West Wing Story


west-wing-storyWith the mass exodus of staff and advisers from the Trump administration,  there is only one word to describe Herr Trump.  My apologies to Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

To the tune of “Maria” from West Side Story.

Pariah . . . 
The most accurate description I ever heard: 
Pariah, Pariah, Pariah, Pariah . . . 
Exactly describes how I feel in a single word . . 
Pariah, Pariah, Pariah, Pariah . . .

We’re stuck with Herr Trump the Pariah..
And isn’t it a shame 
Herr Trump can be so lame
It’s true. 
It’s time to dismiss that Pariah, 
And suddenly we’ll see 
It doesn’t have to be
’63!  (1863 that is.)
Say it loud and America’s thinking, 
How much Kool-Aid the alt-right is drinking. 

I’ll never stop saying Pariah! 

The most appropriate sound I ever heard. 

For what it’s worth.