Category Archives: Politics

What’s My Lyin’?

In the infancy of broadcast television, game shows were a popular prime time staple. There were two varieties. Big money quiz shows like “The $54,000 Question,” which really was big money in its day. The grand prize is more than $650,000 in current dollars. The second category was an excuse to watch unscripted celebrities showcase their knowledge and wit while solving a contestant’s occupation (“What’s My Line?”) or deciding which of three contestants was who he or she claimed to be (“To Tell the Truth”).

I thought about these programs while watching the reboot of “Night Court” and viewing a promo for the return of “Magnum, P.I.” Games shows are also part of this trend. Michael Strahan is the new Allen Ludden on “The $100,000 Pyramid.” To give you some idea how important Ludden was to the game show genre, it takes THREE Manning brothers –Peyton, Eli and the third guy (Cooper)–to fill his shoes on “College Bowl.”

Maybe it is time to bring back “What’s My Line,” which aired on CBS from 1950 until 1967. The final segment of each show required the panel be blindfolded before a famous “mystery guest” came on stage. So close your eyes, adjust those rabbit ears and tune in as host John Charles Daly (not to be confused with golfer John Daly) welcomes tonight’s celebrity contestant to be interrogated by the panelists–publisher Bennet Cerf, journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, actor Arlene Francis and original Tonight Show host Steve Allen.

Daly: Now we come to the special feature of our program and welcome our celebrity, our big and important guest. Our panel would certainly recognize our guest on sight. So we provided them with blindfolds. Will you please come in mystery guest and sign in. (Audience gasps and then wildly applauds.)

Alright panel, as you know, we get right down to the business of the mystery guest, so we’ll begin the questioning with Bennett Cerf.

Cerf: Judging from the audience reaction you are a very famous person. Are you in the entertainment world?

Guest: Sim, senhor.

Cerf: Have you been an actor?

Guest: Sim.

Cerf: Are you still an actor?

Guest: Sim.

Cerf: Would I recognize any of the plays, movies or television shows you have been in?

Daly: That’s a no. Miss Francis.

Francis: Are you famous for your ability to sing and dance?

Guest: Absolutely.

Francis: Do you play parts in different accents since you’re so well equipped for it?

Guest: Oui, madam.

Francis: Have you ever won an Oscar or a Tony.

Guest: Yes and yes.

Francis: Are you Lawrence Olivier?

Guest: (Hesitates) Non.

Daly: Mr. Allen.

Allen: Can I assume you graduated from lighter things and have gone on to something more pretentious?

Guest: Yes.

Allen: Is your acting of a more serious nature at the present time?

Guest: No.

Daly: Miss Kilgallen.

Kilgallen: If your acting is not serious at the moment, is it comedic?

Guest: Not intentionally.

Kilgallen: Have you appeared on the New York stage in the past year?

Guest: Yes.

Kilgallen: Are you a former athlete?

Guest: Yes.

Kilgallen: Are you also a philanthropist?

Guest: Yes.

Kilgallen: I think I know. Are you Anthony Zabrovsky?

Guest: No.

Cerf: Are you Anthony Devolder?

Guest: No.

Francis: Are you Brazilian drag queen Kitara Ravache?

Guest: No.

Allen: Are you George Santos?

Guest: No.

Kilgallen: Are you all of the above?

(The guest begins to answer but is interrupted by Daly.)

Daly: YES! It’s none other than the poster boy for the Republican Congress and man of a thousand falsehoods. George, you fooled our panel just like you fooled the voters of the 3rd district of New York. And I understand you may soon appear on a special edition of “To Tell The Truth” with guest host Margaret Garnett, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Santos: Only if they let me take the Fifth.

Daly: That’s our show for tonight. Thanks to the panel and our very special guest whoever he may be. And join us next week when we ask members of the 118th Congress GOP leadership, “What’s My Lyin’?”

NOTE: Much of the dialogue and many of the questions in this post were taken verbatim from a 1952 episode of “What’s My Line” on which Desi Arnaz was the mystery guest.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Fifty Shades of Crazy

Throughout the transcripts released by the House January 6th Committee there are references to “Team Normal” and “Team Crazy.” Team Normal consisted largely of members of the White House Office of Legal Counsel and Deputy Attorneys General at the Justice Department who time and time again warned Team Crazy (1) there was no evidence of election fraud, (2) every federal judge, regardless of who appointed them, agreed there was no evidence of election fraud, (3) the alternate electors scheme was illegal, (4) perpetuating the “big lie” could lead to violence and (5) they could be held responsible if they continued their attempt to halt the certification by Congress of the electoral college count.

For the past two days there have been similar references by reporters and commentators. They suggest the battle between Team Normal and Team Crazy is still in full swing, only the venue has changed. The new theater of operation is the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. I beg to differ. There is no Team Normal. There is only Team Dark Crazy, Team Light Crazy and every shade in-between.

Team Dark Crazy consists of the 20 Republicans who, having practiced violating  18 U.S.C. 1752. Section 1752(a)(2) of Title 18, intentionally disrupting official government business of January 6, 2021, picked the election of House Speaker as their next target. Why? Because the guy who broke the 1,000 mile dash record to genuflect before the person he only days before accused of being responsible for a violent insurrection, was not MAGA enough for them. Furthermore, they refused to take “yes” for an answer. Even when Kevin McCarthy offered them everything they wanted, they refused to budge.

Team Slightly Less Crazy consists of McCarthy and the six Republicans–Elaine Stefanik, Jim Jordan, Steve Scalise, Mike Gallagher, Warren Davidson and Kat Commack–who nominated him on the first half-dozen ballots. Einstein would be proud. Having failed to move the needle in McCarthy’s favor, they continued making the same arguments in hopes of a different result. That different result? One LESS McCarthy vote.

What do these 27 people have in common? With the exception of representatives-elect who were not part of the 117th Congress, everyone on this extreme end of the Team Crazy scale voted to decertify the 2020 presidential election. Oblivious to the echoes of the 2022 mid-terms, the GOP decided it was a good idea to showcase the very people who, but for safe districts, would likely have been repudiated by American voters.

And unlike thieves, there is no discernable honor among members of Team Crazy. Several major newspapers referred to the House GOP caucus as a circular firing squad. It is more like a banquet in which all participants are both the cannibals and the entrée.

Which brings me to Team Light Crazy, the other half of the Republican caucus which did not vote to decertify Joe Biden’s electoral college victory. You might ask, “Doesn’t that make them Team Normal?” Hardly, dear reader. This was their latest and maybe last chance to rid their party of the Trump virus.

All they needed to do was coalesce around one of their own for House Speaker. If you claim you want to move past the attack on the Capitol, you do not back anyone to be your poster child, who by participating in the big lie contributed to that event. Furthermore, they did not recognize McCarthy’s previous enabling of Team Dark Crazy as a sign of what would surely come next. Despite all the red flags, EVERY single one of them voted for McCarthy as their nominee on November 15, 2022. That is far from normal. It may be less so, but still crazy.

Meanwhile, Florida Representative Cammack accused the Democrats of bringing “popcorn and blankets and alcohol” into the chamber, somewhat ironic as Ms. Cammack, based on her wild gestures and voice volume, appeared to the only person in the chamber who may have had one too many. [For the record, Cammack’s remark was in response to a photo of California Democrat Ted Lieu, who was holding a bag of popcorn during a presser outside his Rayburn Building office. A validation prop comedy is still effective.] You want to know what is NOT crazy. When your opposition is destroying itself, just sitting back and enjoying the show.

So grab your blanket, popcorn and adult beverage of choice and tune in at noon today for Episode Seven of “Who’s Not the Boss.” And be prepared to binge watch Episodes Eight and Nine.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Artificial Intelligence

ALICIA FLORRICK: Mr. Dudewitz, are we in danger of A.I.?

ANTHONY DUDEWITZ: I think its getting smarter every day. Learning our boundaries and its boundaries. It’s evolving. I think there will be an adjustment period after it takes over. But eventually…

FLORRICK: Wait, I’m sorry to interrupt. What do you mean by “takes over?”

DUDEWITZ: The singularity. When the system is capable of recursive self-improvement, when it is better at recalibrating, expanding and spawning than we are. The brief blip of humanity’s reign will reach its inevitable conclusion…I’m just saying, they won’t have much use for us.

The good wife, Season 7, Episode 5, “DRIVEN”

The above exchange occurs during a deposition in which Florrick is questioning Dudewitz, who was responsible for designing the driverless software being tested by a fictional Tesla doppelganger. A version of the test car is involved in an accident in which the corporation claims one of its employees failed to override the software when it did not operate as programmed.

Dudewitz is a modern day Victor Frankenstein. Except his monster is not made of body parts. His creation consists solely of zeros and ones. However, his testimony becomes much more relevant if you stop thinking about artificial intelligence as a mechanical substitute for the human brain. It becomes a metaphor for today’s body politic when you view the adjective “artificial” as the opposite of “actual.”

To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, you might be an example of artificial intelligence if…

  • …you run for the U.S. Senate from Georgia but take advantage of a homestead exemption in Texas which you must claim as your principal residence. (Herschel Walker)
  • …you compare the Russian invasion of Ukraine to asylum seekers on the U.S. southern border. (Marjorie Taylor Greene)
  • …you oppose forgiving $10,000 in student loans after supporting forgiveness of COVID relief loans which totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for some individuals. (GOP Governors, Senators and Representatives)
  • …you tell Pennsylvania voters to go to the polls before Sunday’s Steelers’ home game on their bye weekend. (Mehmet Oz)
  • …you advocate establishing a mandatory retirement age of 70 for the president of the United States, but never mentioned it when TFG ran for re-election at age 74. (Local newspaper columnist Howard Pine)
  • …you run for governor on the platform “Keep Florida Free” but punish businesses that do not support your policies. (Ron DeSantis)
  • …you do not understand how you can lose the Arizona governorship after telling former McCain supporters to get lost and mock the 82 year old victim of a violent attack in his home. (Kari Lake)
  • …you admit TFG was largely responsibility for the January 6th violent insurrection but would still vote for him if he is the 2024 Republican nominee. (Mitch McConnell, Mike Pompeo, Bill Barr, etc., etc., etc.)
  • …you run on a promise of bringing down inflation, reducing crime and securing the southern border, then announce the day after winning control of the House your priority is impeaching Biden administration officials and Hunter Biden’s laptop. (Kevin McCarthy and the GOP Freedom Caucus)
  • …and finally, to be non-partisan, you think your party lost House seats in competitive districts because the candidates were not progressive enough. (Extreme left-wing Democrats)

Anthony Dudewitz may be right. These purveyors of artificial intelligence have made it pretty clear. 2020 was a learning experience. They are capable of recursive self-improvement. They will have a better understanding of voters’ boundaries and their own. They will adjust. And when their singularity arrives, they will have little use for us.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

The Intercourse Tax

Eleven years before Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the case in which the Supreme Court sanctioned same-sex marriage, my students at Miami University reached the exact conclusions it took the U.S. Senate another seven years after Obergfell to adopt.

In 2004, I taught a summer session of my “Imagination and Entrepreneurship” course which included the following exercise based on the false concept “there are two sides to every story.” There are always more than two sides. To prove this, I asked the students to explore a controversial topic and identify the extreme positions, i.e., the two sides. Their choice? Same-sex marriage which was viewed on one extreme as an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and on the other, an unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness delineated in the Declaration of Independence. I then told them they should not seek a compromise on that continuum. Instead, they should look for answers ‘outside the line.’

If you think all universities are bastions of liberal dogma, you do not know Miami University. The student population is 72 percent white and they come from households with an average annual income of over $200,000. Sixty-two percent of the students are Ohio residents, a state we know from the recent mid-terms is ruby red. Not surprisingly for a school with these demographics, College Values Online ranks Miami as the 11th most conservative university in the United States.

In that environment, I feared our discussion of marriage equality would be a dogfight. Not even close. As is so often the case, the critical point came when a student asked an important question. What is the purpose of a marriage license? A not unexpected response came from class members I knew to be actively engaged in religion-based student organizations. They viewed government sanction of a marriage secondary to that of God’s. Which led to the suggestion it was not about the license but the fee to obtain the license. In other words, this was just one more way for local governments to raise revenue by taxing the formation of a household.

Yet, they pointed out lots of non-married couples form households. College students live together in off-campus rental housing. Co-workers form households to share the cost of shelter in cities where the sale price or rental fees are beyond the reach of many who work there. Why shouldn’t they be taxed as well? Which brings me to the title of this post. The tax was only applied to those household occupants the government assumed were having intercourse. Without stating the obvious, you can see where this is going. Government regulation of relationships makes no sense.

And that is EXACTLY what the Senate compromise on an amendment to the Respect for Marriage Act proposes, an amendment that garnered the bipartisan support of 62 senators including 12 Republicans. An amendment based on the same conclusion reached by my students 18 years earlier. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from mandating that any sectarian institution which opposes marriage other than that between a man and a woman must conduct a union for a same-sex couple. But those who had their marriage ratified by either a civil or religious authority must be honored nationwide. The government should keep it nose out of the marital business.

I know some may be offended by the fact the revised bill codifies the right to religious discrimination. But that has always been the case. Most orthodox rabbis will not officiate in an interfaith marriage. Catholic priests will not bless a second marriage unless the first has been annulled. And somehow there are still interfaith unions and second Catholic weddings. In other words, “forum shopping” is not reserved for those in search of a sympathic judge to hear their case.

My wife occasionally reminds me how often, as an agnostic, I cite scripture to make my point. And I am sure she will remind me again when I point out, the Senate amendment to the Respect for Marriage Act is just one more example of the Biblical underpinning in Matthew 22:21 that justifies the separation of church and state. “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Perhaps, the spouses of the 27 GOP senators who voted against the amendment need to remind them to open both their Bibles and the pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution they always carry with them.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Poll Fault

The last thing America needs during the 2022 mid-terms is more ammunition to affirm election deniers’ charges elections are stolen or rigged. Yet that is exactly what every major polling organization is doing.

What better reason to call “foul” than situations where a candidate with a multiple point lead in the polls is defeated by an underdog. Of course, there could be good reasons for that happening. Undecided voters break strongly in one direction during the final days of the campaign. A candidate’s overachieving ground game produces a higher than expected turnout in his/her favor. First-time voters who are motivated by a single issue, e.g. a woman’s right to choose, are underrepresented in the polling sample. A candidate makes a major gaffe in the closing days of the campaign.

However, if you are looking for a reason to challenge the outcome, it is much easier to simply say, “My candidate was ahead in the polls and lost. Something is rotten in the State of (pick your favorite battleground arena). A perfect example is the special election last August in New York’s 19th Congressional District between Republican Marc Molinaro and Democrat Pat Ryan. All six polls had Molinaro ahead. Data for Progress, which conducted its poll the week before the election, had Molinaro winning 53 to 45 percent with a margin of error of plus/minus three points. On election night, Ryan, riding the wave of dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, came out on top by a 51-49 margin.

Or the ballot iniative in Kansas to repeal the state constitution provision protecting reproductive choice. Inital polls showed a seven percent plurality of Kansas voters in support of the measure. The actual vote turned out to be 60-40 percent opposed. Fortunately, the margin was large enough to make any challenge laughable.

But there is an even more serious problem for the mid-terms. Due to timing, sampling techniques and the design of the survey, in some cases the polls contradict one another. Take the generic vote for Congress. Yesterday, the Politico/Morning Consult poll gave Democrats a five point edge. This morning, a USA Today/Suffolk poll said the Republicans have a four point advantage. Further confusing the situation is internal inconsistency within these same polls. P/MC show Joe Biden with the highest disapproval rating (55 percent) of any major poll. On their same survey, USAT/S found Biden leading Trump by four points if the president election was held today.

There is only one conclusion. There are so many dynamics affecting voter sentiment in these mid-terms, nobody, and I mean nobody should be predicting the outcome. And by doing so with so much inconsistent data, pollsters and pundits set up the worst of all possible outcomes. No matter who loses, there will be circumstantial evidence from voter surveys which can be used to justify claims of possible election tampering.

Too bad none of the surveys include the following. “Do you believe America would be better off if political consultants, polling organizations and the media waited until I voted before telling me who will win?”

POSTSCRIPT: A PENCE FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

I live in a very “red” area of Florida with 3:1 GOP voter registration that favored that other guy by a wide margin in 2020. However, I see fewer and fewer Trump signs and bumper stickers. Perhaps the House Select Committee hearings, if not changing minds, has made it more embarrassing for MAGA World to admit their allegiance to the Donald. What I find more puzzling are those cultists who have not removed their Trump/Pence bumper stickers. Do they really think Pence will be on the 2024 ticket if Trump does run again? Or that Pence would get his endorsement in an open primary?

If not for the possibility of getting arrested for vandalism, imagine taking a Sharpie and adding the word “Vote” in front of Trump and “Hang” before Pence. At least then, it would reflect MAGA World’s current reality.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP