Undissing the Monkees

It seems I have slandered Davey Jones, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Mickey Dolenz. Time to set the record straight.

I wrote a column for the Deseret News entitled “Hey Miley Cyrus, what’s wrong with being wholesome?” The point of the column was that artists who think they’ll be taken seriously by being sleazier usually fall flat on their faces. I cited several examples, including George Michael, Julie Andrews, and, yes, the Pre-Fab Four, AKA The Monkees.

I later recieved a thoughtful email from one Bret Wheadon, the Webmaster of Monkees – The Complete Guide that set me straight.

Here’s what he wrote:

Hi, I enjoy your columns, and generally agree with them wholeheartedly – but one paragraph in your column: “Hey Miley Cyrus, what’s wrong with being wholesome?” caught my eye. You wrote:

If Miley doesn’t want to learn from George Michael, then she ought to pay attention to the object lesson provided by the Monkees, the screwball quartet that took the nation by storm with a goofy-yet-clean sitcom, which they followed up with a filthy, incoherent feature film called “Head” that froze the Monkees’ collective career for a couple of decades. When they came to their senses and embraced all things wholesome again, they achieved new success by reconnecting with the audience they’d alienated.

From that paragraph, I’m betting dollars to doughnuts that you have never seen the movie HEAD that you vilify here. I’ve seen it – and there’s nothing “filthy” about it – there’s no nudity, bad language, violence or gore. Yes, it’s at times incoherent, in a mild psychedelic way, which was a deliberate effort by the Monkees to deconstruct the samey-same scripted act they were known for. But it is rated “G” and watching it today – it totally deserves that rating (unlike something like the original “Planet of the Apes” which is definitely NOT rated G entertainment.

It’s a musical psychedelic comedy where comedy sketches begin, but then fall apart as the Monkees decide they’ve lost interest. And the “head” of the title is Victor Mature’s giant head where the Monkees play dandruff.

Defending my Monkees!

Here’s what I wrote back:

You got me, sir. I have seen excerpts, and I actually had a class with Charles Macaulay at USC, who was in the film, and he dismissed it as a “drug-frenzied nightmare,” so I was going by reputation. I’ll put a correction up on my blog.

Thanks for writing to me!

Longtime readers of this blog will recognize Mr. Macaulay as Landru from the original Star Trek TV series.

Landru

Mr. Wheadon wrote back and said the following:

Well, and let me backpedal (a bit) I seem to remember one clip which features a famous black and white film clip of the execution of a (Vietnamese?) citizen – all while Davy Jones is doing a softshoe in white tie and tails… more of a bizarre social commentary than anything else.

You won’t find that in a Disney movie!

So there it is. Just wanted to correct the record.

Discrimination Goes Underground

Back when I was still in the theater biz, I had an exceptionally awkward conversation with an exceptionally dimwitted producer trying to get my advice as to how he could avoid hiring any homosexual actors.

(As an aside, who would go see a professional theatrical performance that didn’t have any gay people in it? Given that there has likely never been any such production, we may never know the answer to that.)

He was unfazed when I pointed out that he was both colossally ignorant and loathsomely bigoted, so I appealed to his reptilian instincts and told him he’d be in trouble with the law if he were to proceed with this plan.

“Oh, we wouldn’t have to tell them that’s why we’re not hiring them,” he said. “They’d never be able to prove it anyway.”

I thought about that as I read the story of Elaine Huguenin, the New Mexico photographer who, because of her religious convictions, refused to take pictures of a gay couple’s commitment ceremony and ended up losing a lawsuit because she ran afoul of the state’s new anti-discrimination law. Had she claimed to have another assignment the day of the gay wedding shoot, she could have bowed out without raising any eyebrows or prompting any litigation. She’s being punished not just for discriminating, but for being honest about what she believed. In that sense, she’s morally several steps up from the anti-gay producer, except that his theater kept hiring gay people in spite of their pinheaded leader, so it’s hard to tell which situation is more problematic.

Huguenin’s lawyers argued that the New Mexico statute preventing anti-gay discrimination violated the First Amendment by suppressing Huguenin’s freedom of religion. Dale Carpenter of the University of Minnesota filed an amicus brief that said, in part:

“Consider, for instance, a freelance writer who writes press releases for various groups, including religious groups, but refuses to write a press release for a religious organization or event with which he disagrees. Under the court of appeals’ theory, such a refusal would violate the law.”

That’s true, but it would also probably never happen. Even if someone complained, the state wouldn’t be likely to prosecute. State crackdowns on religion tend to be a one-way ratchet.

Defenders of this decision equate opposition to gay marriage with racism and claim that Huguenin violated the law precisely “as if [she] had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.” But if that’s the standard, that would mean that the flip side would also be true. Professional shutterbugs in New Mexico could be conscripted into service as the official photographers for the local branch of the Ku Klux Klan.  Or, if it’s opposition to immoral sexual behavior that is uniquely restricted, then what’s to prevent producers of pornography from legally compelling Ms. Huguenin to take pictures on their behalf?

But, again, who thinks either of those scenarios would ever come to pass? Not me, certainly.

This is not to say that gay weddings have anything in common with pornography or Klan rallies.  Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that the First Amendment was designed to protect a wide variety of religious expression, even if, or perhaps especially if, that expression is out of step with the conventional wisdom of the day.

But that doesn’t seem to be how it works in practice.

Fact is, we place clear restrictions on religion when it interferes with someone else’s fundamental rights, and I’m okay with that. I’m glad, for instance, that anyone refusing to let a black person shop at their store can’t justify themselves by saying that racism is part of their religion. With the DOMA decision, homophobia and racism are now considered legally and morally equivalent, so more Huguenin-esque incidents will crop up in the days ahead. But even more likely, you’ll see more of what my gay-hating producer was doing. Opposition to homosexuality will go underground, and gay people will encounter increased discrimination disguised as something else.

I’m not sure what to conclude from this, although I’m happy to call attention to what a slimeball my old producer was.

To Save the Planet, Get Your Hands Dirty

Well, it looks like global warming is real.

Yes, despite a 15-year pause in the process which was not predicted by global climate models and which modern scientists can’t adequately explain, those same infallible scientists are 97% agreed that we are turning earth into a toxic fireball because of all the CO2 we generate, and, when you get right down to it, it’s all your fault. (And, of course, my fault, since I have spawned too many children who exhale carbon dioxide. It’s also probably George W. Bush’s fault, too, but he’s already got enough blame to be going on with.)

In order to avoid being branded as a Flat Earther, you have to stipulate to the above tenets at the outset of any global warming discussion.

So I hereby so stipulate.

I refuse to argue about the underlying science. How could I? I’m not a scientist. I’m no longer going to ask pesky questions about how much of the climatic variability is natural and how much is man-made, even though this monolithic scientific consensus doesn’t agree on the percentage of warming attributable to human activity. I’m happy to overlook the fact that previous climate models were wildly off the mark in predicting our current rate of warming, and I’m going to presume that no such errors exist in weather forecasts ten years out. Squabbling about the underlying science is so yesterday’s news.

Nope. The science is settled. To paraphrase Al Gore, the planet has a fever, and humanity is the virus. (Case in point: Miley Cyrus. Need I say more?)

The debate is over. It’s time to take action!

So here’s what I’m going to do. Every morning, I’m going to get up and go to my backyard. There’s a big patch of dirt over in the northeastern corner of the yard that used to be the kids’ sandbox. That is where I’m going to send a daily message to the Earth, employing naught but the extremities Gaia evolved me with. Using my right index finger inserted into soil moistened by the morning dew, I’m going to write the following words at dawn in big bold letters, all in caps:

“COOL DOWN!!!!”

Four exclamation points seem sufficient, but if the mood strikes me, I may add a fifth.

This primal communication, produced by all-natural means with a minimal carbon footprint, will establish a mystical connection between myself and the dust from which I sprang. The synchronicity of all things will make it impossible for the planet to reject the heartfelt plea of one of its children. And if one lone finger’s daily scrawl will not go unnoticed, imagine the power of every man, woman, and child of this great nation giving Mother Earth the finger on a daily basis.

Sure, the unenlightened will scoff, claiming that collective dirt doodles aren’t going to actually accomplish anything.

Pffft.

When did efficacy become the standard by which we measure efforts to combat global warming? 100% of scientists agree that cap-and-trade, a carbon tax, and every other political solution being championed by Al Gore and his ilk will be just as effective as my dirty digitary demonstrations, but they don’t abandon their silly proposals just because they will have no impact on global temperatures, either. Indeed, they applaud the effort because, well, at least they’re doing something.

Well, I’m doing something, too!

Furthermore, my something is just as effective as their something, and, really, it costs a whole lot less than cap-and-trade’s multi-trillion dollar price tag of new taxes and diminished economic output. Plus, under my plan, you to get to put your fingers in dirt. So it’s win-win all around!

In the future, this is where I will make my stand whenever this issue is discussed. Wasting time diagnosing the problem over and over again is pointless when every cure you propose is nothing more than environmental homeopathy.

Everyone wants to do something about global warming. Great. But what’s the point of doing something really, really expensive that doesn’t work?

Stupid Senatorial Threats

Utah Senator Mike Lee recently wrote a piece for USA Today where he laid out the case for defunding the Affordable Care Act, AKA ObamaCare.

I’m no fan of Senator Lee, certainly, but he does manage to squeeze in several cogent points.

“By a margin of two to one, Americans say ObamaCare will make their family’s health care situation worse, not better,” Senator Lee said. “Just 12% support the individual mandate. Doctors don’t want it. Businesses oppose it. Unions say it’s bad for workers. Studies show it will drive up premiums and force Americans off their health plans.”

Wow! Look at that! His Obamacare diagnosis is right on the money. Where we differ is in the details of the proposed cure, which is, in a word, stupid.

“Congress controls the power to appropriate funds,” writes Senator Lee. “The House can add language to the next spending bill… that says Congress will fund all the functions of government… except ObamaCare.” He concludes that “Senate Democrats will have a choice: Fund the government or shut it down to protect ObamaCare.”

See? Stupid.

Undoubtedly, Senator Lee realizes that even if Senate Democrats agree to this, which they won’t, President Obama would have to sign such a bill into law, which he won’t, so all he’s left with is an empty threat, which he claims is no threat at all. At a recent town hall, Lee was pressed on this by his ardent supporters, who are apparently smarter than he is, and he responded  by saying “A lot of people have blatantly mischaracterized it as a shutdown threat,” Lee said. “It is not.”

Um, it’s not? What happened to “Senate Democrats will have a choice: Fund the government or shut it down to protect ObamaCare […?]” How is that not a shutdown threat? Did he even bother to read his own op-ed?

I suppose it’s not a shutdown threat if the president willingly signs a blackmail bill that guts his signature legislation and throws the entire health care system into even more turmoil than it is already weathering. That might happen just as soon as baboons burst forth from my bowels and wing their way to the Caribbean.

Even a fifteen-year-old girl can figure out just how stupid that is.

For it was at this same meeting that teenager Samantha Jensen asked him, “If you don’t want a shutdown, why are you proposing a bill that will do just that, that will shut down the government if they don’t defund Obamacare?”

Lee’s answer: “I never, ever, ever proposed a shutdown.”  See? Never ever ever! Rather than clarify his incoherent argument, he piles on the intensifiers. Ask him again tomorrow, and he’ll insist that never in a million years, never ever ever times infinity would he propose a shutdown. And then he’ll push forward with his loopy government shutdown proposal.

As of now, he’s enlisted a whopping 14 Senators for his non-shutdown shutdown threat, which means… um, well, not a lot. 51 votes constitute a majority, but you’d need 60 votes to end an inevitable Democratic filibuster of this nonsense. That means you need another 31 Republicans  willing to embarrass themselves, as well as five Democrats willing to betray their party and their president for a lost cause that will enrage the nation and not actually do anything.

Anyone want to bet me that this will happen? I promise to give really good odds.

No, the end result will be an exercise in futility that, in the nigh-unto-impossible event it proves successful, would only manage to make it more difficult for people to get access to Social Security or Medicare but will have no practical effect on ObamaCare’s implementation. In reality, this push will make Lee look like a bigger impotent joke than he already is, which will be difficult, given his legislative vapidity until now.

You would think that a lawyer like Senator Lee would be willing to pay attention to precedent.

Recall that in 1995, Newt Gingrich made a similar calculation that President Clinton would yield to Republican demands in order to avoid a government shutdown. He didn’t, and the Republicans took the blame. Yet back then, the Republicans had commanding majorities in both houses of Congress. Today, the Democrats have the Senate and the White House, and the political blowback to this kind of posturing from the minority party would undoubtedly be far greater than what the GOP experienced last time they tried a boneheaded stunt like this.

Yes, ObamaCare is a mess. It’s too expensive; it’s unworkable, and, as the latest jobs reports suggest, it’s pushing people away from full-time employment and into part-time work. So I’m happy to applaud Senator Lee’s motives. His methods, however, are idiocy on parade.

Glenn Beck Is Provably Dishonest

Since I officially broke my own taboo about mentioning biographical details yesterday, maybe it’s time to pull this off the shelf. It’s an op-ed I wrote a few weeks back and submitted to various newspapers with no success. So I present it here to you in all its unedited glory.

Enjoy.

_______________

In April of 2010, my father, Senator Robert F. Bennett of Utah, was fighting for his political life, and, as his campaign spokesman, I was on the front lines of the battle. Dad remained popular with the Republican Party at large, but his fate was in the hands of a relative handful of delegates that selected the party’s candidates in Utah’s quirky caucus system.

These delegates were chosen in neighborhood meetings held two days after the passage of Obamacare, which my father vigorously opposed. Disgust for the so-called “Republican Establishment” that had proven incapable of preventing this debacle motivated thousands of Tea Party activists to flood their caucus meetings with a single mission – get rid of Bob Bennett.

Many of these delegates were members of Glenn Beck’s “9/12 Project,” which was one of the most influential groups on the vanguard of the Tea Party movement. Our campaign recognized early on that Glenn Beck’s opinion carried a tremendous amount of weight among Utah conservatives, most of whom shared a common faith with Mr. Beck as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of them go so far as to give credence to discredited Mormon folklore and presume that Mr. Beck will be instrumental in rescuing the Constitution as it hangs by a thread. So when Mr. Beck took to the airwaves on April 27, 2010 and said he would “vote for a mouse over Bob Bennett,” we knew we had a serious problem on our hands.

Personally, I had been a longtime Glenn Beck fan. I loved his sense of humor, and I never missed an episode of “Moron Trivia,” where Beck would call convenience store workers to ask them ridiculously simple questions and marvel at their uninformed answers. But Beck’s tone shifted considerably with the election of President Obama. I felt he had become far more strident than he had been during the Bush years, and I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with his apocalyptic rhetoric.

Then I discovered that he wasn’t willing to let the truth get in the way of a good story.

The same day he expressed his preferences for rodents over Bob Bennett, Glenn Beck castigated my father for voting to confirm Cass Sunstein as the Obama administration’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

“You have Bob Bennett, “ Beck said with contempt. “You have a guy who looked me in the eye, a guy who looked me in the eye and said, ‘You know what, Cass Sunstein, he told me that this was all academic stuff. I mean, I looked him in the eye, Glenn, and Cass Sunstein, that’s all academic.’”

The problem with all that looking in people’s eyes is that Glenn Beck’s eyes and Bob Bennett’s eyes have never been in the same room at the same time. My father has never met Glenn Beck. He has never spoken to him on the phone. There has been no direct communication between these two men in any way, shape, or form. To hear Glenn Beck claim that Bob Bennett looked him in the eye and called him by name was nothing short of astonishing to me.

I fired off an email to Glenn Beck twenty-four hours after the broadcast, identifying myself and recounting his words from the day before. Borrowing from George Will, I asked, “Given the fact that you have never met my father, in what sense was your statement true?”

I received no reply.

Mr. Beck’s fortunes have risen and fallen over the years, but his influence on Utah politics remains potent, despite the fact that he predicted a civil war in the summer of 2012 – there wasn’t one – and his insistence that the government will soon confiscate your scriptures, which they won’t. His recent conspiracy theories about the Boston marathon bombings should be enough to persuade reasonable conservatives that this is not a man who is helpful to their cause. As he grows increasingly messianic, he is unlikely to be hampered by things as trivial or mundane as facts.

For me, his credibility was shattered on April 27, 2010, the day he demonstrated that he was willing to make things up if it suited his purposes. He ought to be shunned by principled conservatives, regardless of whether or not they agree with him on any or all issues. No amount of ideological purity can justify deliberate dishonesty in the service of the cause.

What I’d Do About It

The comment referenced below came in for moderation last night at 10:09 PM. Since then, I have wrestled with my conscience to determine whether or not I ought to allow it to see the light of day.

Bill A’s message to me came in response to my “I Hate It” post, where I lament the vicious hatred exposed by the Trayvon Martin case. Bill A quotes me – accurately – as saying ““We’ve reached a point in America where we can’t disagree without presuming that the disagreements are rooted in malice. It’s not enough that I be proven wrong; I have to be evil besides.”

To which Bill A responds:

Yes. So what’s your point, Jim? What do you plan to do about it?

Now, already, “Jim” is a red flag for me, as I have tried to maintain some veneer of anonymity here. The rest of the comment goes on to reference my family and my personal circumstances in a way that would have previously caused me to delete the comment in moderation and block the commenter from ever writing anything again. But times have changed. Now that I write a Deseret News column in my own name – the latest of which is in the paper today and can be read online here – it seems silly to balk at the use of “Jim,” especially since each column links back to this blog. In addition, I’ve referenced my father and my personal circumstances repeatedly in that column, so I don’t really have a leg to stand on if I try to prevent such details from appearing here.

So here’s the rest of Bill A’s comment/indictment, highlighted in green:

This is the place we’ve been headed now for decades. It’s where Democrats have been taking us. It’s where RINOs (including your father) have been letting them take us with little objection.

So how were you fighting these attitudes when you abandoned the GOP and went off to support Sam Granato after they dumped your father for Mike Lee?

I ask this not just as a Utahn, but as a resident of the state senate district you once tried to represent.

Well, there it is.

I want to begin my response by stepping back from the personal nature of the comment and call attention to its stark logical deficiencies, which should be readily apparent to any dispassionate reader. Remember, my “I Hate It” post, and the sentence Bill A pulls from it, focused on the viciousness of our current political discourse, where all disagreements are rooted in the presumption that those who disagree with us aren’t just wrong; they’re evil. Bill A places the blame for this solely on the Democrats, and then he asserts that my unwillingness to be sufficiently partisan is a major contributing factor.

In other words, the way to diffuse ideological hatred is to be more rigidly partisan, excoriate RINOs, and place the blame solely on the left side of the aisle.

Does that make any sense to anyone else? Because it certainly doesn’t make any sense to me.

Of course, I could be blinded by the personal viciousness of the comment, which I will now address in detail. I’ll begin by answering Bill A’s second question – i.e. “So how were you fighting these attitudes when you abandoned the GOP and went off to support Sam Granato after they dumped your father for Mike Lee?”

In my mind, that’s precisely what I was doing in supporting Sam.

I talk about some of this in my Tribal Politics post, but I want to go on record as saying that my work on the Sam Granato campaign was, personally, one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had in the political arena. It opened my eyes to the fact that most Democrats are, in fact, not evil, and that they want what’s best for the nation, too. Indeed, that experience was the direct catalyst for the sentence that Bill A quoted at the outset. On the Granato campaign, I was in the line of fire of the very partisan hatred that I rail against and which Bill A embodies.

Also, for the record, I do not think Mike Lee is evil. I think he is wrong. I think his brand of Tea Party extremism is not what the GOP ought to be championing, and I believe he has proven to be every bit the embarrassment to the state of Utah that I thought he would be. I’m also watching, behind the scenes, as Utah Republicans who agree with me line up to challenge him in 2016. But that’s a discussion for another day.

So to answer the first question, which is the title of this post – i.e. what am I going to do about it?

I’m going to make every effort to presume that people who disagree with me are doing so in good faith. I’m not going to let the fact that someone’s a Democrat dissuade me from acknowledging and appreciating any good ideas they may have. I’m going to refuse to pick my friends on the basis of party affiliation. I’m going to support and work with good Republicans and good Democrats to make a better nation and a better world. I’m going to oppose people like you, Bill A, when you try to advance the idea that the Republican Party has a monopoly on virtue. And I’m going to support you wholeheartedly when you’re right, which, unfortunately, in this instance you are not.

So what are you going to do about it, Bill? Because your comments are emblematic of the problem of which you are a part.

 

All a-Twitter!

I voluntarily tweeted about five times today.

I kept it pretty simple. Everything I said was stupid and inconsequential. I used no hashtags or @ symbols, and I offered such wisdom as, The future is meat” and “Sharpening the saw with armpit farts.”

Why, you may ask?

Well, in migrating this blog to a new server, I found a plug-in that will allow me to show my Twitter feed on the sidebar. My Twitter feed consists entirely of links to this blog that are automatically generated each time I make a new post. So I wanted to populate it with something even more exciting, hence the dada-esque recounting of my past 24 hours.

Will I keep it up? Maybe. Heaven knows I have plenty of stupid thoughts that occur to me over the course of a day, and I don’t always want to inflict them on my actual friends on Facebook. I think I have about five Twitter followers who are people I actually know, and the rest are anti-Mormons who berate me for believing in ancient American chariots. If Mike Norton and his pals like hearing about my armpit farts, then who am I to deny my public?

Honestly, I don’t get Twitter at all.

On Facebook, you can create conversations with actual people you know in a semi-closed environment. With Twitter, you can only spew 140 characters at a time into the ether, and much of that cyber-real estate is eaten up by links, hashtags, and other illiterate detritus. Everyone can see it, and everyone can respond, which is a bit too exhibitionistic for my tastes.

I know, I know – what is this blog except for an outlet for a middle-aged goober to make a fool of himself? Talk about exhibitionism! But here I control the universe, and I can block, ignore, or manipulate comments I don’t like. I can go on at length, and I don’t have to hashtag anything.

Seriously, I don’t get hashtags, either.

But as long as I have that feed on my blog, I ought to do something with it, right? I’m building the brand! So you should probably expect more updates. Just don’t expect anything of the updates.

Next tweet: “What’s the deal with shoes?”

Dismembered Riker Auction

I never liked Will Riker.

I’m not sure if it was how Jonathan Frakes portrayed him, or whether it was part and parcel with how bland “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was in total, but the fact was that the Enterprise-D’s first officer always struck me as a bush league James T. Kirk rip-off, minus the charisma and cojones.

So when my fat dog chewed up my Will Riker action figure, I wasn’t too upset about the whole thing. The guy deserved it. Especially after he grew the beard.

So I posted the results of my canine’s handiwork on Facebook, like so:
694227790_o
I had originally planned to keep this as a cheap token recording my dog’s dental records, but a friend offered to put it up for auction on eBay! It has a starting bid of only $.99, with a reasonable $2.00 shipping and handling fee.

Here’s the eBay description:

WILL RIKER HAS BEEN DISMEMBERED!

This vintage action figure of the Star Trek: The Next Generation figure met its demise when visiting an alien planet.  Thankfully, the crew of Enterprise were able to transport the remains back to the ship!

Due to a special camera embeded in his uniform, the crew has identified the alien and are currently planning revenge for their fallen comrade (please see photo #2)…  Will they cut off its biscuit or water supply?  Will they load weapons with fleas and ticks and venture to the planet’s surface?  Can they withstand the lovability and kisses they would receive when they got down there?

Here is your opportunity to own the remains of this figure’s last adventure.  You will receive Riker in his current condition (photo #1).

Please see photo #3, which shows Riker in better days.

This item definitely comes from a home with a pet.

Live long and prosper, my friends.  At least longer than this poor Will Riker figure.

No takers. Maybe everyone hates Riker just as much as I do. But I’m surprised that most people aren’t jumping at the chance to by a mutilated piece of plastic. I was hoping the sale of this thing would put my kids through college.

I mean, seriously, would it kill you to bid?