Wednesday, July 27th, 2022



My brand of humor is usually self-deprecating, but today I'm going to start with some bragging bluster as I flaunt and vaunt what I think is one of my greatest qualities: I know Norman Lear. (Guys like me we had it made.) I was once lucky enough to attend a birthday party weekend that included a then 93 year-old Norman as a guest. (Those were the days.) I spent so much time nervously honing my toast that I earned a compliment from the man himself. (Yeah, we're moving on up!) Norman telling me I was funny remains my greatest comedic achievement. (Ain't we lucky we got 'em - Good Times.) That moment led, somehow, to me reading for the part of Schneider for the remake of One Day at a Time. (Now we're up in the big leagues. Gettin' our turn at bat). I was terrible. Beyond terrible. (There ain't nothin' wrong with that.) But that takes nothing away from the fact that I know Norman Lear. As much of an honor it is to have met and interacted with the man himself, it's an even greater honor to have experienced Norman Lear's groundbreaking, memorable, television. The great Norman Lear turns 100 today, marking one hell of an American century for a remarkable artist and a really good person. And as is his nature, Norman is celebrating his hundredth by sharing a gift with us: this column in the NYT (which is a gift article from me, and I know Norman Lear, so that's really something): On My 100th Birthday, Reflections on Archie Bunker and Donald Trump. "Reaching my own personal centennial is cause for a bit of reflection on my first century — and on what the next century will bring for the people and country I love. To be honest, I'm a bit worried that I may be in better shape than our democracy is." And on Archie Bunker: "If Archie had been around 50 years later, he probably would have watched Fox News. He probably would have been a Trump voter. But I think that the sight of the American flag being used to attack Capitol Police would have sickened him. I hope that the resolve shown by Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and their commitment to exposing the truth, would have won his respect." And a final show theme lyric that Norman Lear has defined for a century and that I hope he's experiencing today. This is it. This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball.


You Want a Piece of Me?

"After years of being ideas people to the world's ideas people, the brothers had come to New York to fund-raise for a big and lucrative idea of their own. In Central Park, they told me that, with Maria and Anna, they'd created an entity called Libermans Co. It held all the income from their enterprises; any debts, assets, and profits they might gain; and any investments they might make or companies they might start for the next thirty years. They had gathered all these elements and sold shares in the whole, offering investors, effectively, a stake in their entire financial future—shares in their life ... Improbably, though, the Libermans see this endeavor as part of an effort to stem twenty-first-century inequality. If they can sell life shares, they think, others can, too" The New Yorker's Nathan Heller with the story of two pretty odd brothers who are giving new meaning to sharing is caring. Is Selling Shares in Yourself the Way of the Future? The Liberman brothers might be worth the investment for the entertainment value alone, but if you buy the notion that this model could be a useful way to stem inequality, I'm going to make a mint short-selling shares in you.


Just Yanking Your Chainsaw

"It hurts people's hearts. But we have to use every tool at our disposal to save the forests and to save the park and to restore a healthy ecosystem and to keep people safe." NYT (Gift Article): At Yosemite, a Preservation Plan That Calls for Chain Saws. "Ms. Muldoon says that more aggressive steps need to be taken than before to make the forests of Yosemite more resilient. But she and the park's management will first have to prevail in court. A judge this month temporarily halted the park's biomass removal efforts, as the tree cutting was euphemistically known, in response to a lawsuit filed by an environmental group based in Berkeley." If people can't see the forest through the trees, the Yosemite Chainsaw Massacre will turn into the Nightmare on Elm Street.


Wall Heat

"US banks have released a spate of climate promises, committing to achieve net zero by 2050 and reduce emissions by 2030. But the hard truth remains: Wall Street's financing of coal, oil and gas was higher in 2021 than it was in 2016, the year after the Paris agreement was adopted." Corporations are greenwashing like crazy. But you can't fool Mother Nature.


Extra, Extra

Drawn and Three Quartered: NYT: "The central bank is betting that it can slow growth just enough to tame inflation yet not so much as to trigger a recession — a risk that many analysts fear may end badly." The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by a hefty three-quarters of a point for a second straight time.

+ And Justice for All: "The prosecutors have asked hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021; his pressure campaign on Pence to overturn the election; and what instructions Trump gave his lawyers and advisers about fake electors and sending electors back to the states, the people said. Some of the questions focused directly on the extent of Trump's involvement in the fake-elector effort led by his outside lawyers, including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani." WaPo (Gift Article): Justice Dept. investigating Trump's actions in Jan. 6 criminal probe. (The only thing worse than bringing a criminal case against a former president would be not bringing one.)

+ Gas Backwards: "The plan highlights fears that countries will be unable to meet goals to refill storage and keep their citizens warm during the winter months and that Europe's fragile economic growth may take another hit if gas will have to be rationed." Russia cuts gas flows further as Europe urges energy saving.

+ Jailhouse Terror: "Numerous male detainees used the keys obtained from Lowe to enter Pods 4(E) and 4(F), where they raped, assaulted, harassed, threatened and intimidated the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, and other women, for several hours, resulting in significant physical and emotional injuries." 'Night of terror': Female inmates raped when male detainees bribed guard, lawsuit says.

+ Roe Against the Current: "The White House assembled a team in 2021 to prepare for the fall of Roe. Nearly a year later, the administration's response has been deemed listless and slow." Hard to argue. Though it's also hard to come up with a response other than people voting like crazy so rights can be codified into law.

+ Byte Your Tongue: "For years, lawmakers and commentators have feared that the Chinese government could use TikTok — which is owned by a Chinese parent company, ByteDance — to secretly distribute content sympathetic to the Chinese Communist Party in order to shift public opinion in the United States. According to new claims by four former employees of the company, ByteDance already has used one of its apps to push pro-China messages to Americans: its now-defunct English-language news app, TopBuzz." (There's too much competition from American politicians and news outlets pushing propaganda.)

+ Passenger Manifest: "Robotaxi safety operator is an occupation that exists only in our time, the result of an evolving technology that's advanced enough to get rid of a driver—most of the time, and in controlled environments—but not good enough to convince authorities that they can do away with human intervention altogether." A day in the life of a Chinese robotaxi driver.


Bottom of the News

"Plenty of people are sitting around their houses and apartments, weighing their pandemic purchases — sometimes the house or apartment itself — and wondering, 'Huh, what was I thinking?' Consider it a Covid-specific flavor of buyer's remorse." The pandemic impulse purchases we grew to hate. (Luckily, I tend to research prospective purchases for about 2-3 years. So I still haven't made my pandemic impulse buys.)

+ "It was the local egg delivery man who spread the spiciest gossip about the mustard shortage. Someone in a small French town had found a way to buy two jars at the grocery store — despite the one-mustard cap imposed by many shops as the country faces a shortage of its beloved condiment." WaPo (Gift Article): France's mustard shortage fuels drama and panic in grocery stores. (The decimated seed supply has the mustard industry playing ketchup.)