"Excellence" my ass.
First, a follow-up to our previous post: I can recall the 80s-era campaign to elasticize the 40-hour work week. For the most part, that campaign originated with a handful of Silicon Valley Randroids who were, at the time, considered very clever and very hip.
The buzz word, then, was "excellence."
And now? Now, America is not known for the excellence of its products or institutions. Germany is. In the words of the Sham-Wow guy: "They always make good stuff." Germany has prospered by specializing in high-end manufactured goods.
And Germany has long had a 35 hour work week.
Germans also get at least a month of paid vacay every year.We
could be living like that, if not for the libertarians.And now for the Maher-Limbaugh-Palin thing:
Everyone seems to be talking about ABC's interview with Bill Maher
, who has been put on the hot seat -- or at least the uncomfortably warm seat -- as a result of the Rush Limbaugh firestorm. The Republican argument is simple and (for once) fair: If Limbaugh can be slammed for calling Sandra Fluke a prostitute, shouldn't we slam Maher for calling Sarah Palin a "cunt"?
My answer: Yes.
I like Maher, but he has made some dunderheaded moves in the past, and no doubt will again. "Dunderheaded" is hardly a sufficient word to describe what he said about Palin.
I've rarely discussed Palin on this blog. Initially, I viewed her with sympathy, if only because the first attacks on her were demonstrably low and unfair. Reporters and "oppo" researchers flew into Alaska and interviewed grudge-holders who trafficked in rumors, some of which were inane and downright vile. Those rumors were fed to an outside world which treated them as verified facts.
Exactly the same thing happened to Bill Clinton, as Joe Conason and Gene Lyons have documented in their book The Hunting of the President
But there's a difference between Clinton and Palin. Clinton, for all his faults, is brilliant. Palin really was -- and really is -- out of her depth. Way
Back when the nation was fixated on Mark Fuhrman and O.J. Simpson, a lot of people forgot that it is quite possible to frame a guilty person. Something of that sort happened to Sarah Palin: Initially, the evidence against her was salted, hyperbolized, and concocted. The media framed her. Yet she was also guilty -- guilty of being genuinely unworthy of national or state office.
Is she stupid? I don't think so. There's a difference between stupidity and nescience. Picture a man who carries two pounds of potatoes in a sack which can hold no more. Now picture a man who carries two pounds of potatoes in a ten-pound bag. It all comes down to the question of unused capacity.
Sarah Palin obviously learned about the world from the alternate media universe of right-wing/Christian broadcasting. In other words, she administered her own lobotomy. Now she is characterizing the film "Game Change" as the work of pro-Obama conspirators, even though the most damning claims come from McCain staffers.
Does any of this excuse Bill Maher? No.
Here's how he justifies himself:
I let the audience be the guide. The bit I did about Palin using the word c—, one of the biggest laughs in my act, I did it all over the country, not one person ever registered disapproval, and believe me, audiences are not afraid to let you know.
So a profane punch line got laughs. Big deal. These days, I'm often a little sickened by the things that make people laugh. All film comedies are now filled with "jokes" about misplaced cum and poop because the moviemakers have convinced themselves (perhaps correctly) that any other type of humor makes an audience yawn. Well, I've lost my tolerance for that sort of thing. A cheap yok is no excuse.
Of the word "cunt," Maher says...
...it’s a word you can and lots do (all the British, for example) use for both sexes. It has a very specific meaning.
Bullshit. The Brits apply that word to males only when the intent is not just to derogate but to emasculate. "Cunt" is both sexual and dehumanizing -- always and inescapably. Comics should consider that word and "nigger" to be equally radioactive.
To compare that to Rush is ridiculous – he went after a civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a party that has systematically gone after women’s rights all year, on the public airwaves. I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets, who’s called people “terrorist” and “unAmerican.” Sarah Barracuda.
Maher is on stronger ground here. Fluke was an unknown; Palin ran for Vice President -- and later for President, albeit unofficially. Different rules apply. And it is true that Palin had no business using the label "terrorist" to describe someone who is not, strictly speaking, a terrorist. This is not a word politicians should use poetically.