F. W. de Klerk and respect for the office

Today’s Johannesburg Memorial for Nelson Mandela has been the culmination of the last few days of presidents, prime ministers, former world leaders and the inevitable celebrities providing commentary and reflections on the freedom fighter and former president of South Africa. One of the first commentators I heard from was former president of the nation (and Nobel Peace Prize winner–jointly with Mandela) F.W. de Klerk. His comments about that crucial period when the transition to democracy fell upon Mandela’s shoulders and its difficulties have been mostly what one would expect, but I was surprised to hear from him before Mandela’s immediate successor President Mbeki.

Obama and de Klerk greet Methodist Bishop Ivan Abrahams at Mandela's Memorial today.

Obama and de Klerk greet Methodist Bishop Ivan Abrahams at Mandela’s Memorial today.

However, one thing that really struck me is how virtually every news outlet: CNN, SABC, BBC made no hesitation to refer to him as “former president de Klerk”…occasionally even using the honorary title of “president” when asking him a question. This included interviews in the South African press. Think about it. Certain news outlets and commentators can barely stand to call Obama “President Obama” when he won with a clear, fair majority. Yet who is F. W. de Klerk? A leader duly elected in 1989 in a nation where less than 20% of the population–the white population plus a few others–were allowed the franchise. He didn’t even win that minority by a landslide, either, but with a healthy margin to be sure.  So, at best, around 12% of the adult population of South Africa had cast a ballot for de Klerk and his party. If ever there was a situation where the current media could justify ditching formalities it would be the case of an apartheid-era president of South Africa: a regime/era that has long been internationally discredited.

And yet, they haven’t. There have been the asides from commentators and presenters referring to him as “South Africa’s last white president” or even “South Africa’s last minority-rule president”, yet making a point to respectfully refer to the man as “president de Klerk” or “former president de Klerk”. I am not disagreeing with this, but rather whole-heartedly supporting it. It goes to show the wisdom of Mandela in not completely dismantling the old framework as has happened in other transitions.

Yet the last few years in the USA there have been sitting congressmen who see fit to shout out and interupt a State of the Union address mid-speech. The 2012 picture below of the president with Arizona governor Jan Brewer came to mind in sharp contrast with the respect I’ve seen shown de Klerk the last few days. Can anyone provide me a photo of another incident of an American governor doing the same with his/her president? No matter how much they disagree? I am not saying it hasn’t happened before, I just have yet to see a photograph of Johnson, Nixon or Reagan being lectured this openly or crassly. If one exists I’d be much obliged to see it. ObamaBrewer

The American system has hit a level of crass and open disrespect for the office I would argue we haven’t seen since the middle of the 19th century.  Some of it did begin under President Clinton, and amplified under Bush. President Bush did not win a nation-wide majority vote in 2000. However, he was the rightful president in accordance with system and, as a whole, other politicians and journalists were deferential to the office (if not all folks at the grassroots level).

Another example I would bring up is President Gerald Ford. Remember, upon his swearing-in on August 9th, 1974 not a single American had ever voted for him as president OR vice-president. He was selected by Nixon during his second term as a replacement for VP Spiro Agnew in the light of financial controversies. Yet Ford was given the respect and deference by other political figures, governors, and the media that any majority-elected president would have received. Obama decisively won in 2008 with a larger majority–and a larger % of the white vote–than Clinton did. No sane observer can claim first-term Clinton was treated as an illegitimate usurper in some quarters the same way Obama was in his.

If black South Africans who grew up under the yoke of Apartheid can give former president de Klerk the respect traditionally accorded the office I should think the likes of Justice Alito or Rep. Joe Wilson could handle doing the same in this country.




New Kid on the Block

It’s always seems like when I get hooked on a new passion the universe seems to send me all sorts of information about that topic. Beginning in 2012 a bit of a Teddy Roosevelt obsession began for me when I finally got around to reading the final volume in Edmund Morris’ trilogy on the 26th President. Out of that grew a year fixation on the Spanish-American War and Philippine Occupation. Side note: Did you know we can thank the Phillipe Occupation for introducing the USA to waterboarding and mass circumcision of non-Jewish male babies? Yeah, me either!

Coincidentally Seattle Asian Art Museum (which is situated in Seattle’s Volunteer Park, named for the volunteers who signed up for that “splendid little war”) hosted an excellent talk about the Philippines under the Spanish, then US. Next came the recent publication of Silencing Race: Disentangling Blackness, Colonialism, and National Identities in Puerto Rico by UW History professor Ileana M. Rodriguez-Silva. I can’t recommend this one enough. To cap off about a two-year phase, I figured it was high time for me to visit Puerto Rico.  I’ll be leaving tomorrow for my first ever visit to the island!

I found two really clever political cartoons that relate to my current obsession. Both use offensive imagery, but take opposite views on the same topic of newly found imperial possessions. In this biting critique below Uncle Sam attempts to school his new, scared pupils acquired from Spain on democracy and self-determination (see the chalkboard). The Native American hunched in the Victorian version of a “time-out area” and the African-American child stuck washing the windows makes sly commentary on the USA’s hypocrisy of espousing self-determination. Many newspapers at the time harangued against the idea of the United States aping Europe who in the late 19th century was at its height of carving up Africa, the Middle East, and Asia into exploitive colonies.ColonialPicUncleSam

This 1899 political cartoon below takes the opposite view about the US and its new overseas possessions like Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and others (Ladrones refers to the Mariana Islands, also won from Spain in the war). Here Uncle Sam demonstrates that the USA has finally made it to the A-League of world powers! The audience of Germany, France, and other powers look on as Uncle Sam shows off his new talent of Imperial Rule. To the Americans’ credit there was an active, public debate about the ethics of colonial possessions (see above) not really seen in European nations where colonial possessions were mostly viewed as de rigueur. A decade or so later, in fact, the main reason many Danes publicly opposed selling the Danish West Indies (today the US Virgin Islands) to the United States wasn’t because of their profitability to Denmark but because of the feeling that to be respected as a “real power” colonies were essential.

The snide caption “Why only the other day I thought the man unable to support himself!” is making note that a mere generation ago the US was torn apart in Civil War and threatening to splinter into pieces. Much was made in the press during the conflict with Spain about how sons of Union veterans and Confederate veterans were fighting shoulder-to-shoulder, united. This “splendid, little war” (Secretary of State John Hay coined that one) could serve as the final healing balm between North and South according to the pro-war newspapers.


How I learned to stop worrying and love the aPODment

My neighborhood of nearly a dozen years has recently been subject to much hand-wringing and much national attention for several cities allowing the development of high density housing. While I think the outward appearance of these building could benefit from a little creativity I have to say how amusing I find it that even one of the densest residential areas has trouble embracing an idea that is as American as apple pie.

I have long been a fan of 1930s American popular literature, many of which are out of favor today and probably would get the label of “middlebrow” at best. I heavily mined that same period and genre for my historical thesis of limited scope back in 2002-2004.  A central feature to these novels has always been the boarding house and the urban flat: dwellings for singles, salesmen, kept women, new immigrants, divorcees, spinsters and “confirmed bachelors“, and other colorful characters creating a new dynamic in a busy urban setting. One consequence of the post-war cult of the automobile and flight to the suburbs is, I believe, this concept faded from popular consciousness. When I think of early 20th century US I think of families living in New York apartments with high density, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, a harried mother getting Mrs So-and-So Upstairs to watch the baby an hour while she runs to the store for something special. This was the era of strict demarcation between urban density and rural life–the American suburban standard that I feel a lot of us still carry with us as the “norm” (yard, garage, basement) hadn’t taken hold.

Seattle aPODments, 2012

Seattle aPODments, 2012

The aPODments may end up being the sort of transient housing the NIMBY activists fear.  Also, I really wish the developers would stop trying to defend themselves by claiming they are some sort of community activists set on creating affordable housing. If you compare a shared-full-kitchen 240ish square foot aPODment with a 490ish square foot studio the price comes out to less bang for your buck, not more. However, I think they have a valuable place in the urban core and Capitol Hill of all places–home of beautiful vintage early 20th century apartments–needs to accept them and fold them in as part of the local landscape. Many of the motel-style apartment homes built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair (that event that brought us the Space Needle) seemed just as jarringly out of place mingled among the 1920s terra cotta apartment buildings and brick Tudor-style flats. Yet fifty years later there is an Americana nostalgia to these constructions as well. Part of what appeals to me with city living is observing several layers of time on a 20 minute walk. So long as some historic building of note isn’t being demolished, I have no problem with aPODments filling in the gaps and empty lots in an already dense and vibrant neighborhood.

Fannie Hurst and Edna Ferber are two authors whose heyday would have been from about the First World War to the late 1930s. Their novels of immigrants, working-class girls, fallen women, and confirmed bachelors strongly feature the boarding house:

Fannie Hurst in the late 1950s, after her peak in popularity
Fannie Hurst in the late 1950s, after her peak in popularity

hallways smelling of foods from different cultures. Washing hanging on iron radiators. Milk delivery doors and ice boxes.  All of these things exist at my current home. Granted, the immigrant neighbors down the hall are more likely to be Somalian or Vietnamese than Polish Jews or Italians, and we all use our 1922 ice boxes as cool built-in liquor cabinets now. The scents in the hallway might also be cannabis (it’s legal in Washington State) but the spirit and connectedness is the same.

I live in a 500 square foot studio apartment built when Warren G. Harding was president. It’s by far the smallest place I’ve ever lived, as a child I assumed the older you get and the more you pay the bigger your place will be! I think a lot of people still assume this. This weekend I am feeding the cats of two of my neighbors: a young couple with a toddler upstairs and a 30-yr old single professional down the hall. This week on two separate occasions I had friends over who live less than three blocks away to enjoy dinner and wine–cooking for one is never as fun as cooking for others. Today I helped another neighbor to hang a picture (and learn from my mistake RE: laff paster and making effective use of the oak picture rail). This is not the life I envisioned I would have at 40 (and yes, I made the early 2000s required detour to Real Estate Bubbleland of condos and granite countertops). Yet, part of the reason I think I am embracing it and loving it is because it is precisely the life a part of me always imagined for myself during my teen years. I just could never reconcile it with modernity. Fannie Hurst died in February of 1968, Ferber died less than two months later.  While neither would recognize many aspects of my modern life I am tickled that the urban lifestyle they so often chronicled–albeit with a modern twist–is more alive in Seattle today than when they died.

Relaxing in my 1922 vintage studio apartment, 2013

Relaxing in my apartment, 2013

Vaccinations, Xers, & Playing with Nature

This story is but one of the latest about the consequences of distrust and misinformation regarding vaccinations. From Jenny McCarthy’s antics (joining the table on The View this fall) to liberal Washington’s whooping cough to a conservative Texas Megachurch’s rampant measles there is a common thread I’ve noticed: the ratcheting-up of anti-vaccine believers has mostly come out of Generation X.

Of course, you could argue this is because currently most American parents are Xers. Yet, I think that there is more to it than that. Anti-vaccination hysteria has found such fertile ground on the those born 1962-1981. Because this generation has not experienced, say, polio or German measles the insidious “playing with nature” trope seeps in, attached to typical Xer individualism.

The polio vaccine was announced to the world by Dr Jonas Salk on April 12, 1955

The polio vaccine was announced to the world by Dr Jonas Salk on April 12, 1955

What’s interesting to me, and a little amusing, is that anti-vaccination advocates seem to emerge out of the political Left and the Right. Washington State is a pretty solidly blue these days, and has one of the lowest church attendance rates in the nation, yet there was recently the biggest Whooping Cough outbreak in 70 years due to the relative ease of “opting out” on public school mandatory vaccinations. Some of these parents were conservative home-schoolers, but many more were left-leaning hippie types who shun vaccinations. Often it is due to complex conspiracy theories, but often it is just that vague distrust of modern science and an even vaguer sense that everything was better “naturally” until Western Medicine came along to muck it up.  Here’s where it gets really interesting: you will have an ultra-progressive Liberal be vehemently against genetically modified food (“it’s playing with nature!”) yet simultaneously are fierce advocates for stem cell research and embryonic research.  Like with vaccines, opposition to public fluoridation of the water often comes via a strange alliance of right-leaning, government-conspiracy prone Libertarians and ultra-Lefties fearful of “playing with nature”.

I have a feeling ABC probably has something in Jenny McCarthy’s contract to limit (or prohibit) her from using The View to espouse her vaccination misinformation. If not? For one of their first guests I would like to nominate Bangor, Maine resident Dennis Stubbs.

Who still refers to Reagan Democrats in 2013? Pat Buchanan, that’s who!

Ordinarily I don’t use this space to link to other articles of note (I’d be at a dozen or more links a day at least) but since I did start this project with one of those links praising (sort of) Pat Buchanan I thought I would put this piece here.

A young Pat Buchanan, advisor to the 1968 Nixon campaign.

A young Pat Buchanan, advisor to the 1968 Nixon campaign.

I don’t care for the strong scent of Know-Nothingism that seems to always hover around Buchanan’s writing. However, I do think it is interesting to point out how one of the very inventors of the “Reagan Democrats” in the 1970s seems more or less agreeing with my thesis that for the lower white working class the very recession that helped pushed them to vote Republican (Reagan) in 1980 never really went away.

I have recently taken a new position at the University of Washington and the challenges of being the new guy are really keeping me on my toes! I’m hoping by the time Fall Quarter begins I will be able spend more time writing here again. It’s been the one thing missing from a great summer!

It's not been ALL work for me this summer.  Mt Rainier on July 5th.

It’s not been ALL work for me this summer. Mt Rainier on July 5th.


Soaps & Silents

Last week I was surprised by the amount of mainstream entertainment press given to the death of actress Jeanne Cooper. She played the role of Katherine Chancellor on the CBS daytime drama The Young & the Restless for nearly all of the show’s 40 year (and counting) run. The coverage mainly was referring to the 84-year-old as the show’s matriarch. For some reason that moniker didn’t sit well with me: Grande Dame? Yes. Longtime veteran? Sure. Reigning Diva? Okay. Something about “matriarch” doesn’t seem like the right fit for the feisty, sometimes spiteful and petty, on-again/off-again alcoholic Kay Chancellor.  Then last night while watching my other favorite–Mad Men–I realized why. Unlike other older soap veterans that have passed away over the last decade or so Jeanne Cooper/Kay Chancellor wasn’t part of the older, homemaker, matriarchal figures my cohort remember as the grandmothers when we were watching soaps in the 1980s. Jeanne Cooper/Kay Chancellor was Silent Generation through and through: that oft-ignored generation squeezed in between the bigger, louder Greatest Generation (WWII) and the Baby Boomers.

Let me back up a minute and talk about my relationship with The Young & the Restless, a daytime program roughly the same Kayage as me: a “new soap” of the 1970s created by Bill Bell (as opposed to the earlier generation of soaps–General Hospital, Guiding Light–those that span as far back as the era of the fifteen-minute episode or even radio).  Like most soap opera fans, closeted or not, my introduction to the genre was watching episodes with my grandmother one summer in the late 1980s. This is an often-discussed element to this medium: it is usually passed on to someone in childhood or adolescence.  I’ve yet to meet someone who decides to just take up a new daytime soap opera at age 35. If you ever watch one it’s going to be that very one you remember being introduced to by your mother, grandmother, or babysitter one summer years and years ago. Home from work sick? If you are going to tune into a soap it’ll be the one passed onto you like a family heirloom.

Anyway, my tastes soon diverged but then a couple years later as a teenager working a summer job with a daycare center I realized all the African-American women I worked with watched Y&R! Jumping back in, I was able to share in the workplace gossip revolving around Cricket, Victor, Paul, Drucilla, Jill and (of course) Kay Chancellor! Throughout university I could pop in now and then depending on my class schedule, there was always a slew of newbies but there would always be the core families to check up on which could get you hooked back in for a time. The Chancellor mansion set (pictured at left circa 1975) was as much a familiar mainstay as the characters of Genoa City. Fittingly, Jeanne Cooper’s last scene as Katherine has her climbing the stairway on that set that has more constancy than any home I’ve lived in.

Soaps can serve as a “safe place” during a breakdown or transitional period in life.  That was definitely the case for me during 2010 and so that (to date my latest) brief dip back into Y&R occurred simultaneously with a new, freakish devotion to Mad Men–arguably the best written thing on television joan-holloway_lright now. Mad Men is living proof that the best elements of daytime soap writing have all migrated to cable and primetime. It’s strange to think only 25 years ago it was extremely rare to have multiple, continuing plots during primetime. Summer re-runs could scramble the order of a drama with little confusion. Hill Street Blues began that primetime evolution to arching, overlapping storylines in the early 1980s. There is so much great analysis of Mad Men out there I have no need to replicate it, but fundamentally I think there is an appeal (to me) because the core characters and conflicts are nearly all Silent Generation focused. Boomers like to claim the Sixties, but only that slice at the end is truly theirs. I really think Matthew Weiner’s creation is an acute exploration of this often sidelined cohort born roughly 1928-1945. The newer, younger characters coming onto the canvas now in Season 6 are just starting to represent the generational shift that was taking place as the decade wound down. Joan Holloway, Betty Draper Francis and, of course, Don epitomize the Silent Generation’s adjustment to the “Boomer-60s” (which I would say is roughly 1967 to 1973) with varying degrees of success.

Back to Kay Chancellor. When she was brought onto the show in its first year she was the ultimate desperate housewife. Wealthy, although not as wealthy as the show later made its core families when (foolishly in my opinion) daytime started aping glossy 1980s primetime soaps like Dynasty and Knot’s Landing, she wanders around her mansion in kaftans and jewels, usually with a drink in her hand. Here’s an early scene when her husband leaves her for Jill (and yes her husband Philip is none other than Battlestar Gallactica’s Doc Cottle, don’t you love when obsessions overlap?). By the 1990s Chancellor Industries had become a big corporation, with Katherine as CEO. In 1984 Cooper wanted to have a face lift so the writers wove it into the plot for Katherine, utilizing footage of the actual surgery. Other soap matriarchs like As the World Turns’ Nancy Hughes or Days of Our Lives’ Alice Brady often were given substantial plotlines in their older years but they mainly stayed in the mold of the kind, mentoring grandmother. Mrs. C, in fact, never had an actual blood grandchild on the show until post 2000 when some very creative retroactive continuity (“retcon”) gave her a couple! One of them the African-American illegitimate son of the illegitimate son she had during an alcohol-induced blackout. Deliciously soapy? Sure. Kindly matriarch? Not so much. 

Joan's license renewal cattily posted on Sterling-Cooper's bulletin board to expose that, yes, unmarried Joan is in her 30s.

Joan’s license renewal cattily posted on Sterling-Cooper’s bulletin board to expose that, yes, unmarried Joan is in her 30s.

Today will definitely be highest security Southen Methodist University has ever seen

All five living presidents of the United States & their spouses including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

All five living presidents of the United States & their spouses including former Secretary of State (and possible future POTUS?) Hillary Clinton. April 25th, 2013

Why Patti Davis and Michael Reagan are both right–and wrong–about their father

I am finding this light family spat between our 40th president’s two children fascinating. It highlights a generational difference that is more nuanced than partisan marriage equality supporters (and detractors) care to admit and highlights the inevitable folly of bringing one’s own outlook to those of your deceased predecessors.


Patti Davis posing provocatively in 1994.

Davis (born in 1952), is (as is common for her Boomer cohort) naturally trying to make the personal political. In her view because her father had no personal animus toward his gay friends, many of them in long-term couples, of course he would be supportive of same-sex marriage if alive today! From everything I’ve read about President Reagan his nonchalant attitude toward gays is indeed accurate and matches what Davis recalls. The first I’d read about this was in the biography of silent movie actor William Haines. Not only did Ronald and Nancy Reagan seem to concur with Joan Crawford that William Haines and Jimmie Shields were “the happiest married couple in Hollywood” the author’s interviews with Nancy Reagan confirmed a close friendship and sincere outreach to Haines’ partner after Haines died. Patti Davis in her interview mentions a lesbian couple they who babysat and housesat for the Reagans, openly as a couple.

Davis plays to the (at least historic) GOP position on less government to say: “He was well known for wanting less government. He would truly be baffled at what the problem is.”  While this may be true, I think it downplays Reagan’s legacy of throwing more than the occasional bone to the religious right-wing of his party, at least once in office. Davis should know her father was a politician and just as the modern GOP overstates the man’s staid conservatism (he raised taxes when necessary and demurred from armed conflict in Beirut in the face of terrorism, for instance) she shouldn’t overstate his Social Libertarianism either. When it came to 1978’s Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays from being public school teachers in the state of California, Reagan did ultimately oppose legislating discrimination and spoke out against it. His response/reasoning appealed to basic sense of privacy plus distrust of government meddling in personal lives and employment opportunities. While brave for someone who was soon to be entering the primary battle for nominee of the Republican Party, gay issues had not yet been established as a partisan litmus test either way. Reagan was not boldly flouting his base in 1978 as he would have been in 1988 or 2008. The current level of engagement on that issue is something Reagan would not have even fathomed. For that matter nor would have his openly gay colleague William Haines. Plus, being accepting of individual gay people does not always translate to brave political moves on their behalf. While I appreciate Patti’s warm memories there really is no way of knowing how publicly he would have came out for marriage equality in the last days of his dementia (when marriage equality was only just beginning to be presented as a serious issue) or how much he would have (perhaps begrudgingly) accepted the ever-rightward lurch of his party through the 1990s.


Michael Reagan posing provocatively in 2005

However, if you set aside the absurd homophobic slips and slopes in his rebuttal, deeply conservative son Michael Reagan actually has a fair point when refuting his sister and speculating himself: “He would have pulled both sides in and found the common ground of what everybody was looking for.”  I can go along with this because Reagan did have a spectacular ability to keep the various factions of his party under the same big tent. He–unlike Bush 43–was a master at keeping the extreme Right aboard without alienating the socially moderate, fiscal conservatives in the older Rockefeller/Ford tradition. People forget there was serious talk of bringing ex-POTUS Gerald Ford onto the ticket in 1980 as VP in order to bridge the Far Right and Rockefeller Republican factions! I doubt that Reagan would have called for a divisive Constitutional Amendment to define marriage (as Bush did in 2004 and is still GOP official platform), but that really is just my own speculation.  During the GWB era I did notice, generally, the older the Republican the less strident on the social issue legislation they tended to be. Think of McCain’s tepid support for gay marriage bans in the 2008 campaign or Alaska’s giant Senator Ted Stevens as pro-choice anachronism within the GOP. While the reverse was, generally, true for Democrats: the older the Democrat the more reticent or coy they tended to be on marriage equality.

That said, I suspect Reagan would have had plenty of ready platitudes and dog whistles to religious conservatives about traditional values, child-rearing, God’s unique place in America, et. al. since he played that balancing act so expertly through the 1980s with issues like abortion and school prayer. For all Patti’s assurances there is no reason gay marriage would have fared any differently once it picked up momentum a decade after Reagan’s death as a hot-button issue. During Reagan’s presidency it simply wasn’t a mainstream debate, and so Patti has the comfort of deferring to her father’s personal benevolence. Never a heavy church-goer, Reagan was still readily willing to speak the language of the Evangelicals even while rarely bringing their pet issues to the front burner. Many have blamed his odd silence on the AIDS crisis on this fearful balancing act. In their different ways Michael and Patti are both awkwardly grafting Boomer 90s culture war perspectives on someone far older and more complicated.

Stuck in the 90s

I admit I do sometimes find Ann Coulter wickedly funny. Yet, the last 8 years or so she seems to be ramping up the rhetoric and the outrageousness and the cheap shots–and falling completely flat. More shrill, less funny. Why is this? The vitriol about Latinos and immigration in particular seems unhinged. Her latest race book? Eye-rollingly terrible. Or maybe I’m just jealous, if I’d known merely pointing out the Senate Republicans of 70 years ago were better on Civil Rights was enough meat to get published I’d have jumped on it too!

I didn’t mind this recent piece by her. Why? I think this harkens back to Ann Coulter circa 2000 when she was at her “best” (I put that in quotes because 9 times out of 10 I still fundamentally didn’t agree with her, but would at least muggedchuckle once or twice and grudgingly admit she got in a good dig at Democrats/Liberals/etc). However, the fact she had to take on New York City Bloomberg subway ads to get an old-school Ann Coulter piece demonstrates that the landscape has changed. Ann–an older Gen X–came of age in the era of Michael P. Keaton young conservatism.  When the overarching narrative, with some truth, was that conservatism offered the common sense approach during the Reagan years. Conservative talking heads like Limbaugh and Coulter milked the perceived hypocrisy, pettiness, and corruption on the Democratic side for comedy gold. People forget that in the 1990s Rush Limbaugh was much less angry and bitter and more of a common sense conservative with a sense of humor (something those dour Liberals were perceived as not having circa 1991).

Yet, everything has changed. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart cannot be over-credited with that. Liberals ability to make fun of themselves (and conservatives, of course) has become well-entrenched for some time. South Park as well. Things like the soda ban in NYC does harken back to the 1990s condescending PC debates that Limbaugh and Coulter made a living off of exploiting for humor.  However, that’s the exception more than the rule today.  Let’s face it: 90% of the mock-worthy stunts today come from the conservative side of the aisle. From things like “legitimate rape” to believing gay marriage will embolden North Korea’s pursuit of the bomb. How can you NOT make fun of the hypocrisy or people like Larry Craig? Or Sarah Palin? Pat Robertson? The jokes write themselves. Outrageous comments made by every local bigot or moron with an “R” after his or her name can spread across Facebook faster than an STD. I thought Ann Coulter’s tweet about Sandra Fluke getting impregnated by Bill Clinton backstage at the Democratic Convention was funny. But let’s face it: it was a dated Lewinsky joke re-spun. The jokes are mostly coming from the Right these days, and I think she knows it. This is why the sharp humor has, for the most part, degenerated into cheap shock value.