Station Break with Paul Farhi: The Letterman-Palin Smackdown

Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 16, 2009; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi was online Tuesday, June 16, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the latest news and topical issues in the pop culture world of TV, radio, movies and trends.

Today: The Letterman-Palin smackdown. Does Dave deserve it, or is Palin just picking on him? We report, you decide...


Paul Farhi: Greetings, all, and welcome back again. So, the strange case of Palin v. Letterman appears to be resolved with Letterman's very classy apology last night. I say "appears" because, based on my email, some people just won't let it go. They insist, despite TWO on-air explanations, that Letterman really, really was aiming his crack at 14-year-old Willow Palin, not 18-year-old single mom Bristol Palin. I won't defend the joke--even Letterman concedes it's not defensible--but I got news for some of you: The joke makes no sense in reference to Willow. But I guess vendettas and political ax grinding know no logic, or even facts.

I do find this whole episode curious, primarily because of its timing. As I wrote in today's paper (hey, I like quoting myself; at least I won't be accused of a misquote), variations of this sort of "joke" have been around since Palin came to national prominence last summer at the Republican Convention. Yet dozens of both milder and harsher iterations (Saturday Night Live's insinuation that Todd Palin raped his daughter is especially outrageous and revolting) were ignored by Palin, the Republican Party and the outraged types who are now venting in my email box. Sarah Palin even made a now-famous appearance on "SNL" just a few weeks after that skit aired. So what's different this time? I don't get it, either.

Alright, enough of me. Let's go to the phones...


Fairfax, Va.: Didn't I just hear you on WAMU? You move fast!

Paul Farhi: Technology is beautiful, isn't it?


Indianapolis, Ind.: Should Letterman really have apologized? Deconstruct the jokes: They're not about Palin's daughter; they're about Spitzer and A-Rod being lechers.

I lost a lot of respect for Letterman last night. He shouldn't have caved.

Paul Farhi: I think the ambiguous nature of the "joke" (was it Willow or Bristol, he meant?) plus the crude aspect of "knocked up" drove some people (especially Sarah Palin) around the bend. As for Letterman caving, I think he was sincerely sorry. I don't think this was an Imus situation, where advertisers were bailing and his network had to act. Letterman seems to have done this of his own accord.

_______________________ Letterman "Jokes" About Palin's Daughter (N.O.W.)


Chicago, Ill.: Could you comment on this not as a subject for media analysis, but as a political indicator? Can you have a viable candidate for high public office who gets into spitting matches with comedians? I would think a thin skin would be an Achilles heel (apologies for the mixed bio- metaphors), as every tinhorn dictator, political rival, activist, pundit AND comic would know just where to poke for maximum effect.

Paul Farhi: I think Palin was keeping an eye on the politics of this. Which were: Insulted mom stands up for her kids and the decency of all women against a multimillionaire entertainer. Dan Quayle tried this with "Murphy Brown", and Joe Lieberman and Bob Dole got some mileage out of attacking Hollywood "smut." It DOES play well with a fairly sizeable portion of the electorate.


Maryland: I have mixed feelings about Letterman's apology. Of course it was bad judgment to assume that the daughter at the Yankees game was Bristol and not Willow, and of course apologizing was the right thing to do. However, I was hoping that Letterman or CBS would also say something about Palin's cynical grandstanding. Perhaps the reason she didn't condemn similar jokes from Leno or Conan was because she knew that targeting the network of Dan Rather would play well among conservatives.

Paul Farhi: That's why I think Letterman's apology was, ultimately, so classy. He could have pointed out the other side's sins. He could have attacked Palin. But he didn't. Whatever he is, arrogant isn't one of them. At least in this case...


Boston, Mass.: Re: Letterman v. Palin. Sure it was a crude joke exacerbated by the confusion over which daughter he was referring to, but late-night crude humor is not exactly unique to Letterman. Don't you think that the shelf-life on this kerfuffle got an extra weekend because Letterman tapes his Friday show earlier in the week and missed the chance to do his mea culpa sooner?

Paul Farhi: I think the weekend interregnum (I love that word, though I'm not sure I'm spelling it right) was actually critical to this whole thing. It gave Dave a chance to reflect on the whole mess, I think. In fact, he referenced that in his apology last night, the business about seeing Mark Shields taking him to task on TV. Kudos to Letterman.


Boycotting Dave: I've been a Letterman fan for years and years, even going back to when he did the weather in Indy in the 70s. With my first (Beta!) VCR, I used to watch Dave every night after work. But now I have no choice but to boycott Dave until further notice.

Last night was the last straw: Dave compared the head of the Statue of Liberty to "that thing on the head of Donald Trump," and the screaming sycophants in the audience howled their approval.

One has to have benchmarks, and after 10,000 references to Trump's hair, I'm done with Dave. When (if) he decides to be funny again, I'll reconsider, but for now it's the sweet relief of sleep for me.

Oh, the Palin thing? Who cares? Dave's a hack, she's a dolt, and this conservative couldn't care less.

Paul Farhi: Okay. But I still like Letterman. And I think he's now poised to (finally) become the late-night ratings king. This is Palin thing is probably going to be remembered as his "Hugh Grant" moment--i.e., the thing that propelled him past his competition, for good.


Falls Church, Va.: Regarding Palin, isn't the more interesting question, "why did the National Organization for Women finally come out on her side?" Not that you'd know this from reading the Post, which hasn't reported on it.

Letterman "Jokes" About Palin's Daughter (N.O.W.)

They had nothing to say about the sexist abuse she took while on the campaign trail, and it's hard not to be cynical and suggest that they're only willing to draw this line now that Obama is safely in the White House.

Paul Farhi: Interesting sidelight to the main event. Thanks for posting that...


Kennesaw, Ga.: I was reading your article on Sara Palin's "Gag" on the rude, crude and unacceptable jokes David Letterman made about her daughter (and/or daughters or how ever you would like to spin it). Your whole article is based on the fallacy of composition and division. Since when is it O.K. to do something wrong, because other people also did something wrong? Also the other times those comedians made jokes, it was not to the extent the Letterman's joke were, nor not even close to the content of these unacceptable jokes made by Letterman. You attempt to make Letterman the victim does not work. He is the villain and now he will have to pay for his actions. You can try to spin the truth all day long, yet we can read through your deception and this is just another example of misleading journalism. Shame on you. Palin Gag? Comedy's All in the Mis-Timing (Post, June 16)

Paul Farhi: I won't defend Letterman's "joke." Never have. But I think it's fair to point out that the same joke got no reaction from Palin, or her supporters, just a few months ago. And, frankly, "Saturday Night Live's" bit on this was much, much worse than Letterman's. Not only was there no protest about it, she went on "SNL" a few weeks later. Sorry if these facts are inconvenient to you in your state of outrage, but they are facts.


D.C.: Obviously Palin and Letterman have milked this "controversy" for all the publicity they could get, and Palin has some legitimate reason to resent a crude reference to her 14-year-old daughter, even if Letterman thought he was talking about the older one. But when I first heard Letterman's remark during his monologue I really thought the butt of the joke was Alex Rodriguez, not young Palin. After all, Letterman basically said a famous athlete with a checkered past either seduced or assaulted a teen-aged girl. Not so funny if you're the athlete. Has Rodriguez weighed in on this?

Paul Farhi: Haven't heard from him, but I may have missed his reaction. And, yeah, I could see why he wouldn't want to be part of that joke...


D.C.: I think your premise re: Palin was wrong (that she demanded an apology in part because she was truly angry).

This was a 100 percent cold-hearted political calculation that it would be politically effective. And, I give her credit, it sort of worked. These pols are always on the lookout for over-reaching by the other side that they can exploit, and she found it. She's just doing her job.

The idea that she was specifically angered by this joke, compared to the hundred of other nasty things that have been said about her and her family, is silly. She found an opening and exploited it.

Paul Farhi: Fair enough. But why Letterman? Is he particularly disliked by Palin supporters? Is he uniquely "vulnerable" to this kind of attack? Again, no defense of what he said; I'm just interested on how people, or maybe just Palin supporters, view him vs. Conan, Leno, Stewart or whomever...


D.C.: Letterman's joke WAS stupid: everyone knows Alex Rodriguez prefers OLDER women. Just ask Madonna.

Paul Farhi: Well, yes...


Arlington, Va.: Wait, are you saying that political ax grinders should pay attention to FACTS instead of just yelling whatever suits their case? Seriously, you must need a vacation. How dare you not rush to protect poor Gov. Palin. I mean, she would NEVER use her family as props for advantage in a campaign, so the media should just leave them well enough alone and print what she tells them to print.

Paul Farhi: Well, she DID touch a nerve with this one. Bully for her, I guess.


Kettering, Ohio: I sense your disappointment in Letterman's apology, but it was the class thing to do. The alleged joke was not funny, except to the most rabid Palin-haters. Even NOW let him have it, finally. You should lighten up yourself. Sometimes doing the right thing means doing the right thing, no matter what kind of garbage has already flown past the bridge.

Paul Farhi: What part of calling Letterman's apology "classy" sounds like I'm disappointed in it?


Philly, Pa.: Why can't the prestigious Washington Post ignore this story and let Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight cover this kind of news?

Paul Farhi: Are you kidding me? This is waaaay too juicy to leave to those punks.

And, in all seriousness, there are too many good elements here to ignore: National political figure, national TV celebrity, "exploitation" of young girls, limits/appropriateness of late-night humor, etc.


Annandale, Va.: I watched Dave last night, and do see his apology as sincere. It did go over the line, like saying the governor looked like a "slutty flight attendant."

That being said, the whole episode once brings into question the reluctance of comedians like Dave Letterman to say anything barbed about Obama. Surely there must be something funny there -- like the 57 states comment.

Paul Farhi: I'm not picking sides in this, but I will point out that Obama was the subject of far fewer jokes from the late-night guys than McCain or Palin was last year. Not sure what that means--that Obama is more boring, that there's a racial issue, that late-night comics hate/get better material from McCain and Palin--but I'm sure you've got your own theories.


Does anyone ever complain: about the millions of jokes Leno tells about teachers sleeping with their underage students?

Paul Farhi: I have not heard that denounced on "The Today Show" lately, no.


Fairfax, Va.: My mother can't stand Letterman and though he got his comeuppance and that Palin was absolutely right in challenging him. She'll (my mother) refuses to watch Letterman ever again. She's fed up with his foolishness and silly jokes that he thinks he's being intellectual about.

Paul Farhi: I've never thought of Letterman as a Democrat or a liberal--he just wailed on Bill Clinton and Hillary, and still does--but apparently this whole controversy tapped into some latent Dave-is-a-lousy-liberal wellspring among conservatives. Weird.


Blatant publicity stunt: Palin is out of the headlines... now she is back in the headlines. I really don't think this is rocket science. During your previous examples she was already in the headlines.

Paul Farhi: That's very cynical. I like that.


Washington, D.C.: What's your point, that Palin is a hypocrite for finally doing what she have done from the start, and calling out somebody for mocking her and her family? Maybe she didn't know about some of the jokes (she actually is a governor of a state), maybe she thought that if she kept her mouth shut, they would stop, maybe the McCain campaign asked her to grin and bear it until after the election, maybe she thought she had to be "one of the boys." Who cares? Making jokes about the sex lives of teenagers is still wrong.

And if you thought it was wrong, why didn't you write an article about it?

Paul Farhi: A hypocrite? Naw. But if I insulted you a 100 times and you ignored it every time, I might think I could get away with the 101st insult. Again: I don't blame her for being upset, but the timing is curious. And all of your suggested reasons for her delayed reaction are interesting in themselves.

Oh, and news reporters tend not to write stories about people who AREN'T outraged about something. I guess we're weird that way.


SATX: I've not read the other comments yet, so someone else may have made this point, but I think Letterman set this whole thing in motion so that he could take the spotlight off of Conan O'Brian. Last week all anyone interested in this stuff was talking about was Dave's "joke". There was some minor sparring with Palin's organization, and la Palin herself said something.

Then, what? Was it Friday that Conan's group sent out a press release stating that he was "King of Latenight"? Yeah, right. Nobody said boo about Conan all week.

So for Dave, the whole thing was win-win. He got LOTS of free PR, Palin got lots of PR, and he does a simple apology last night and we all kiss and make up, though one doubts Palin will be on Letterman's show anytime soon.

In the meantime, Conan who? Mission accomplished.

Paul Farhi: Yep.


Falls Church, Va.: She hurts herself by fighting with a TV personality.

Whatever happened to being above the fray? I (44, suburban mMom) sees this as a failure, on her part.

Who on earth is advising her? Sean Hannity...oh yeah, he speaks to the mainstream...NOT!

Paul Farhi: Maybe the political question here for Palin is whether this expands her base of supporters, or merely satisfies her existing base. I'm not sure I can answer that. It certainly raised her profile.


The true victim: is Conan O'Brien. He is trying to get some much-needed traction for his new show and Letterman is absorbing all the air in the media oxygen chamber. Granted, it's not all positive attention, but how many people tuned in last night to see how he would respond after the weekend's worth of Palin's escalation of the conflict?

Paul Farhi: I watched Conan every night during his first week. I watched Letterman every night during the Palin mess. I don't know if I'm typical, but I suspect (from the ratings) that I'm not atypical, either...


Sarah Palin even made a now-famous appearance on "SNL" just a few weeks after that skit aired.: Yep. The proof is in the pudding. She wasn't insulted, her limelight was fading and she needed to get back on the evening news. What a hack.

Paul Farhi: Well, I wouldn't necessarily say that. As someone said yesterday (and earlier in this chat) she may have been taking orders from the McCain campaign on media strategy at that point. In other words, she may have been fuming about "SNL's" skit (or been unaware of it) at the time she made that appearance.


Silver Spring, Md.: Jon Stewart has been giving Obama the business about his numerous policy about-faces, e.g., gays in the military, releasing the detainees, releasing the torture info, etc.

Of course, these aren't really jokes, because it isn't really funny.

Paul Farhi: It's true that the person in the White House will always be the butt of late-night jokes. Comes with the territory. But Obama has gotten fewer of these, overall, than other presidents. Or at least he got far fewer during the campaign than his opponents.


Ward Circle: I watched Dave through the Clinton years, and, yes, he made jokes about Bill and Hillary. But nothing, ever, as nasty and personal as he was with Bush, Palin and McCain. He has definitely chosen sides, at this point.

Paul Farhi: More so than Stewart, Leno, Conan, etc.? Again, I'm not so sure about that.


Arlington, Va.: Doesn't this just smell of a grasp at the spotlight for Palin? Not that I can blame her -- she's found a way to galvanize her supporters and she is using it to her fullest extent.

But still -- I just can't see this anything other than an attempt to grab the spotlight and nothing more than outrage for the sake of outrage.

Paul Farhi: As a reporter, I'm not supposed to ascribe motives to people whom I haven't talked to and don't even know. That's why you call up people and ask THEM to ascribe motives to people they don't know....


Summerfield, Fla..: NO ONE -- absolutely no one has the right to make crude remarks about teens that might have a lasting effect on them. CBS is now on the bottom of my list along with the IDIOT they employ -- Mr. Gutter Mouth Letterman.

Paul Farhi: Fair enough. But is NBC (Conan, Leno, Saturday Night Live) and Comedy Central (Stewart) on the same list? Why single out CBS and Letterman?


New York, N.Y.: I feel as though Palin is too willing to play the victim card. During the campaign, it was the liberal media, this week it's Letterman, tomorrow who knows? She cannot catch a break! I don't know if she feels she can get away with it as a woman, but frankly, she would earn more respect if she just acknowledge politics is a tough, tough game any which way you look at it.

Paul Farhi: For whatever reasons, conservatives have gotten more mileage out of attacking the news media and "Hollywood" over the years than moderates and liberals. I guess conservatives would say this is because the news media and Hollywood are filled with liberals who are hostile to conservatives. Nevertheless, liberals can always find something to hate about us, too, but they can't seem to make their complaints stick the way conservatives can.


Washington, D.C.: "Paul Farhi: As a reporter, I'm not supposed to ascribe motives to people whom I haven't talked to and don't even know. That's why you call up people and ask THEM to ascribe motives to people they don't know...."

This is going to sound snide, but I am just genuinely curious. Did you try to contact Palin's camp and ask her why she first chose to complain in response to Letterman's jokes, while ignoring earlier (and worse) examples?

Paul Farhi: Yes. My attempt to get a comment from Palin's people didn't pan out (I mentioned this in the story today).


Kansas City, Kan. : It doesn't matter which daughter the "joke" was aimed at. It was wrong. Period.

Paul Farhi: Actually, it DOES matter, on some level. Again, I think the daughters should be off limits, but if anyone is going there, the only way that joke makes sense is in reference to the older daughter, who is, in fact, a single mother. People who keep insisting that it was about the "rape" of a 14-year-old--as Palin said last week--are just blatantly ignoring the facts.


Alexandria, Va.: I couldn't see the apology... because of WUSA's badly fumbled conversion to DTV! (How's that for a segue?) I'm surprised no one has complained about this here. (Until me.) But then maybe everyone else who is savvy enough to play in this chat gets cable or satellite. Letterman Apologizes To Palin: "I Told A Joke That Was Beyond Flawed" (VIDEO) (The Huffington Post, June 15)

Paul Farhi: There you go. We're all about universal access to information here on the Station Break.


McLean, Va.: As a "pop culture" guru, perhaps you can explain the following phenomenon to me.

Some co-workers and I were recently discussing cars. One member of our group said that he thinks the new Acura TL is especially ugly and compared its styling to "Judge Dredd." What baffles me is that we all knew what he meant, even though none of us had actually SEEN "Judge Dredd" -- only trailers and promos.

How is it that a 20-year-old box office flop could create an aesthetic as readily-identifiable as "Bladerunner"?

Paul Farhi: Did they really know the specifics of the "Judge Dredd" look, or was the reference to that movie a signifier of something more general and vague--i.e., "generic futuristic design"? I mean, if you said, "That looks like something out of 'Casablanca,' I'd have a rough idea what you meant ('40s clothing and grooming), but couldn't tell you what Bogart and Bergmann wore in that movie. Same thing here, maybe?


Arlington, Va.: I am so over Flo and Progressive Insurance. And Verizon. Please make them go away. Or get new campaigns

Paul Farhi: I used to like Flo. But she doesn't appear to have any new moves. Time to freshen up the character, Progressive!


During the campaign, it was the liberal media: No, no, it was the "elite" liberal media, not just the liberal media.

Paul Farhi: Ah. I think I get the distinction: A reporter from the WaPo and New York Times are the evil "elite" media, but a reporter from a small newspaper or TV station are decent, hard-working, honest reporters who couldn't possibly do the terrible things that we here at the Post do. Sure. Makes perfect sense.


Arlington, Va.: So does this mean jokes about Chelsea Clinton are allowed now?

She IS over 30 and has helped campaign for her mommy.

Paul Farhi: Sure they are. She's an adult, and a (semi-) public figure. Knock yourself out.


Frederick, Md.: Letterman basically apologized for mistaking one daughter for another -- not for the reference itself. Does it really matter about which daughter he was referring? A stupid utterance is a stupid utterance. Dave used to be cutting edge. Now he is just cutting.

Paul Farhi: Good point. Though I doubt that he'll ever tell another Palin-daughter joke of any kind again.


Sarah Palin even made a now-famous appearance on "SNL" just a few weeks after that skit aired: When someone sues on grounds of, say, defamation or discrimination, one of the legitimate defenses that respondents can make is to challenge the complainant as to why s/he didn't speak up sooner. That certainly applies in Palin's case -- reinforcing her reputation as a publicity-hound (there's a pattern here: she hired a publicity consultant after being elected Mayor of Wasilla!).

Paul Farhi: I think the bigger-fish-to-fry theory has some validity here. If she had complained about it at the time, it would have been a huge distraction for the McCain campaign. On the other hand, she didn't have to go on "SNL" if she had a problem with their jokes about her and her family.


St Joseph, Mich.: A couple of things come to mind regarding Farhi's comments on Palin and Letterman's sincere apology:

1. If the joke had been about any of the Obama girls, would it have been so funny?

2. What's so wrong about a mother (or any parent) defending her child, particularly from such vile indefensible type of humor?

3. If you're going to make jokes at the expense of a public figure, then make it against that person, not their family. Even Barack said the same thing, at the beginning of the campaign. Although I didn't vote for the guy, I think it was classy when he came out supporting Palin's unmarried (at that time pregnant) daughter against the smear campaigns that these so-called legitimate media perpetuated.

4. I'm glad that Letterman did apologize, and he seemed sincere, but I think this is his jump the shark episode. Buh-bye, Dave.

5. It's funny how the liberals were being attacked for speaking their minds during the Bush administration (Natalie Maines, Susan Sarandon/Tim Robbins, Martin Sheen), and yet, now, when Conservatives speak (or those opposed to the Obama administration or NOT a liberal), they get defiled and defamed in the media (Angie Harmon, Carrie Prejean). I didn't think it was right during the Bush administration and I still don't think it's right during the Obama administration. Let people speak their minds (comedians aside for the moment) and not have them reviled in the media, regardless of what type of administration is sitting in the White House.

Paul Farhi: 1. If it had been about the Obama girls, it would not have made sense (neither has been pregnant).

2. Nothing wrong with defending your family. But the timing does seem selective.

3. Very few, if any, legitimate media engaged in a smear campaign against Palin's daughter. Some in the "illegitimate" media might have, but I don't remember anything in the mainstream news media. Unless by "media" you mean late-night comics. And I wouldn't defend those jokes.

4. Whatever the opposite of "jump-the-shark" is, I think Letterman is there now.

5. Being "reviled" and attacked in the "media" (really, on fly-by-night web sites) for speaking your mind seems to be an unfortunate aspect of our age. But that's the price of free speech, and I think we'll be able to live with it.


Silver Spring, Md.: P.S. You are super thoughtful and I really enjoy reading your responses to the partisan rants, by the way. Thumbs up, Mr. Farhi!

Paul Farhi: I think--hope--this is a sentiment we can all get behind. I know I'm behind it...


Silver Spring, Md.: Chelsea won't be 30 until February.


Paul Farhi: Thanks for the clarification...


Arlington, Va.: Is there any chance that Redskins Report with George Michael, Michael Wilbon, Sonny Jurgensen and John Riggins will show up on some channel other than WRC-TV this fall? It is hard to image Redskins season without the show, especially when it was top in its time slot.

Paul Farhi: Unlikely, I think. One of the issues was money--WRC thought the show cost too much to produce. So unless everyone on that panel is willing to take a pay cut, it won't be on WRC again anytime soon. And I'm not sure anyone else is willing to pay the freight, without some concessions.


Arlington, Va.: Hey Paul, Do you have any more scoop on what is going on with WJFK? Will Mike O'Meara and his crew be ousted when they switch over to all sports lineup next month? Maybe Mike and Robb can go work on the new Don Geronimo show if they are out of a job.

Paul Farhi: I think the station would like to keep Mike and crew around in some fashion. But what that fashion will be is still a work in progress.


Dallas, Tex.: Talk is cheap. What substantive thing can Letterman do to prove his sincerity? Perhaps he could donate a portion of his salary to a crisis pregnancy center or something like that. This would help turn a negative into a positive.

Paul Farhi: That would be great. But I think he's probably done enough.


Minneapolis, Minn.: David Letterman has gotten less and less funny over the years. His late-late show was alright but his current venue has gone steadily downhill since he started. The last couple of years he has lost all original comic value and seems content with 'same-old, same-old' with a twist of politics. And now this problem with jokes about politicians' children just proves that I've been correct in not watching him for the last few years.

It's time for David to step down.

Paul Farhi: If you haven't watched him "for the last few years" how do you know that he's gotten less funny?


Letterman joke: There's a qualitative difference between the Letterman joke and the others you quoted. The other jokes used the pregnant teenager as a vehicle to highlight male foolishness: an unfaithful husband and the alleged sexual appetites of hockey players.

Letterman's joke asks one to agree that the Palin daughter (either one) is a slut -- indiscriminately promiscuous, driven to have sex whenever, wherever and with whomever. (And, coupled with the joke about Sarah's makeup, one could infer "like her mother.") Bristol's history doesn't suggest that, I don't think, so the joke was particularly cruel as well as crude.

Paul Farhi: The "SNL" skit directly insinuated that Todd Palin had an incestuous relationship with his daughters. I don't know how you can get more vulgar and ugly than that.


Palin and CBS: "So what's different this time? I don't get it, either."

I think the issue for Palin is CBS. Republicans have alleged for years that the network has a liberal bias. Palin may also be trying to pay back CBS for that embarrassing Katie Couric interview from last fall.

Paul Farhi: Maybe. But I saw nothing unfair about that interview. Those WERE her own words, weren't they?


The Airless Cubicle: Hi, Paul.

I bought a Commodore 64 computer in the 1980s for $600 I could scarcely afford, only to see the price of computers drop and my 64 become useless.

I bought an HD radio for $300, and I find I merely use its excellent speakers for listening to classical music on demand on the Internet. The stations I want to hear aren't powerful enough to receive reliably at Chez Cubicle. (That means YOU, WAMU.)

I learned early adapters get burned. Wait two years... even three years...So I haven't bought a DTV converter box yet. I will, but only after the local broadcasters shake out the problems they have pumping out a reliable signal. I hope this is done before football season.

"But Pookie, look at all the television you're missing!" Such as...?

Paul, what if we're being over-entertained? We aren't thinking critically. We aren't reflecting. We are in a constant cycle of action-reaction-thrust-parry-riposte-remise-counter-remise. The Letterman-Palin controversy is a very good example.

I believe that the children of elected public figures are private citizens. It is not right to bring them into the public eye. Minor children don't set policies, except perhaps in North Korea when Kim the Third is about to take over. Sasha and Malia Obama will never receive any chaff from me; nor will the Bush twins. If they decide to run for office, let them stand and fall on their own merits.

Gov. Palin is the Barry Goldwater of her generation in her effect on the public. Conservative Republicans love her. Liberal Democrats loathe her. She, like all humans, has flaws, and the private life of one of her children is inconsistent with some of the political positions she takes. Therefore, it's tempting to throw Bristol's pregnancy up to accuse to accuse the governor of being hypocritical. (This, of course, is a misrepresentation of what hypocrisy really is. Some ideals are worth pursuing even if they are not humanly possible.)

Letterman should not have made the joke. Who fact-checks jokes? Had he apologized the next day, it would have made him look better in the eyes of the public that supports Palin. This is where the polarizing effect of Palin came into play. If you don't like her, why apologize? Thus, the delay in apology, and the more this started to become a tool for Palin's supporters to attack CBS and Letterman.

It was Letterman's fault he let it go on so long. He's apologized. Now the matter should be dropped.

We're being over-entertained. We're acting as if this case of poor manners was a matter of life or death.

Step back from the TVs, ladies and gentlemen, and no one gets hurt.

Paul Farhi: Once again, the wise Airless Cubicle has spoken! Hats off to you, AC...


Paul Farhi: Folks, thanks for the lively give-n'-take. Let's find something to be outraged about next week, and we'll grind our teeth together in next week's chat. Thanks much for the fun this time around! Until then, as always...regards to all! --Paul


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