Our Plague of Marginalized Men

It’s been 11 days since the latest insane person (they’re always men) armed with military firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammo commenced a public slaughter. Since then we — American culture — have followed what is by now a completely predictable ritual of ineffectual hand-wringing, stale punditry, pampleteer-style moralizing and finger-pointing. In fact, given the opening of the Olympics, pro football training camps and the nip-slip du jour of some silly pop star we may have dispensed with this particular outrage in record time. (As usual, The Onion had it about right.)

Quite obviously there is no will to do anything about any of the facets of this latest slaughter. The “debate” is so stagnated that even the idea of regulating the ability of anyone being able to buy thousands of rounds of ammunition on-line is too fraught with political peril to consider seriously. The argument that there are too many guns floating around American society, or that there are too many high-powered military-style killing weapons available to anyone with enough brainpower to game the laughable security check system, has been had hundreds of times over and is for all intents and purposes futile. The people who feel the greatest need for exotic weaponry feel that need so intensely, which is to say so irrationally, that they form an impermeable obstacle to writing gun-ownership laws along, say, a Western European or Japanese model. Gun “control” just ain’t going to happen.

For years, I’ve been fascinated with the perceived need for firearm self-defense. Or, put another way, the threat perception of the most adamantine “gun enthusiast”. The American society these people see bears very little resemblance to daily reality.

I suspect conventional wisdom will tell us that we live in one of the most violent societies in human history. But that is simply … flat-out … wrong, by any available metric. In fact, according to every credible statistic I have ever seen, not only is gun-crazed USA circa 2012 experiencing an ongoing. dramatic decrease in violent crime, the northern tier American states — essentially Minnesota east, including Chicago and Detroit — is nearly at a point where their h0micide rate is as low as that socialist hell hole, western Europe. (Sun Belt and western states, still in the thralls of their “rugged individualist”, “pioneer” ethos are a different story, but even those rates are in a steady decline). Moreover, and this is where it gets interesting, the rate of gun ownership, which is to say the number of individual people owning guns … is declining. Fewer and fewer of us own guns, of any kind, even hunting rifles, much less, one presumes, sleep with a Glock under our pillow in anticipation of a home invasion by, (take your pick), a pack of thrill-killing gang-bangers, or a dozen newly arrived “illegals” bent on beheading suburban Americans for the sheer pleasure of it all.

The twist to that last fact is that while gun sales continue to spiral into the ionosphere, (a result of a moderate liberal black guy being elected president, and groups like the NRA fear-mongering about gun grabs by Big Gummint), more and more guns are being purchased by the same people. Arsenal-building is another way of describing it. While most Americans feel secure walking the streets of their neighborhoods, grilling in their backyards and watching junk TV from their Barcalounger with the windows and doors open to a cooling breeze, others are effectively arming themselves to the teeth, in preparation for … what?

At this point you drop down the Rabbit Hole of the psychology of gun fetishists. While each mass killer comes with his own witches brew of demons, including prescription drugs, it is reasonable to describe all of them as “marginalized men”, men who for whatever the reason feel they’ve lost their chance at whatever they wanted/needed most and have no way to restore themselves. In a word: fatalism.

Fatalism was the quality that leapt out at me doing a story about Michele Bachmann’s Sixth District true believers a couple of years ago. One after another after another described the world in semi-apocalyptic terms, with Bachmann and her ilk being prophets of some kind of reckoning, that I suspected, would restore marginalized men to the kind of prominence they enjoyed by right of birth in the 1950s.

My suspicion is that if a thousand owners of multiple gun permits were given a thorough psychological test, the picture that would emerge would be one of a highly fatalistic world view, a world of irrationally perceived threat, full of a pervasive hostility to their interests and beliefs warranting a kind of martial response to every kind of adversary.

The media end of this wondering why this dramatic reduction in the threat of violent crime is not better understood? As much as I’d like to see Surgeon General PSAs dropped into the middle of “Monday Night Football” showing the remarkable drop in homicide rates, along with the implicit message that those who require a .45 to feel secure at Southdale are to be pitied for their Chicken Little state of high anxiety rather than admired for their cowboy individualism, that too ain’t going to happen. If only because, whether they want to admit it or not, a pacifying America (at least in terms of flying lead) is at odds with the prevailing themes of both popular drama and popular news, which require constantly whetting an appetite for mortal conflict to assure financial success.

Five Good and Bad Sideshows At Target Field

Since the Twins aren’t much to watch on the field these days, the sideshows start to take on more significance.  Target Field itself remains a draw.  Witness the fact that we still feel compelled to post Facebook photos of ourselves making the scene at games.    But beyond the overall venue are the sideshows, both the good and the bad:

The Bad

Mascot Race.  For some reason, almost all pro sports teams feel compelled to feature some sort of cartoon figure race.  Whatever charm they once initially had is long gone.  While Target Field’s mascot race is slightly better than Metrodome’s cartoon tire races, it is still very, very lame.  And does anyone else think it’s just a little crooked that Target’s corporate mascot has won more races at Target Field than Babe the Oxe, Squita,  and the others?  The corporate fix is obviously in.  Are you seriously telling me a mosquito can’t move faster than a bull terrier?

Every Day is Veteran’s Day.  Before I get hammered for this, please know that I’m extremely thankful for people who serve in the military, especially when they serve in places and ways the politicians should never have authorized.  Overall, we don’t thank them enough.  Still, the cynic in me wonders if the fact that pro sports corporations honor veterans every single game has something to do with “patriotic by association” brand building.  I hope I’m wrong, but that suspicion eats at me. I’ve worked in PR and marketing long enough to know that such crassness is a distinct possibility.  Yes, honor veterans on Memorial Day, July 4th and other special days.  But when the honoring is done every single game, several times per game, it starts to feel forced, cheapened and self-serving.  I’m sure I’m the minority on this issue.  But there, I said it.

Interlude Music.  I’m very, very old, but even I find myself longing to hear music at the game from the current decade.  Not only am I sick to death of 70s and 80s classic rock staleness, but the songs themselves just don’t fit the Minnesota venue.  “Just a city boy, growing up in South Detroit…”  Hello, can you say “hated division rival?”

The Wave. From a very young age, my kids learned that if they participate in The Wave, it will make them ineligible for 7th inning ice cream, and they will be suspended from attendance to the next game.  Sometimes parenting requires tough love.  The Wave is never acceptable at a baseball game, but the worst is when it is done when the home team is getting hammered.   Serious fans do not participate in expressions of “Yay, we’re so euphoric about being 10 runs down that we’re going absolutely bananas here at Target Field!”

Applause Signs.  The electronic scoreboard prompts to “ make some noise” also brings out my grumpy.  Call me old school, but I feel like fans themselves should decide when they feel like cheering.  And if fans aren’t feeling it – perhaps because the home team is hitting .150 with runners in scoring position – electronic begging comes across as just plain pathetic.

The Good

Kiss Cam. Though I’m strongly opposed to public displays of affection, I confess I’m a complete sap for the Kiss Cam.  From the “awww”-inducing octageneraian pecks to the twenty something’s scandalous tonsil ticklers, that old Kiss Cam always makes me smile, in spite of myself.

Hecklers.  Thousandaires lighting into gazillionaires with a string of creative insults — “I’ve seen snakes with better arms!”  — also brings a smile to my sourpuss face.  I don’t heckle, because my momma brought me up right.  Plus, I genuinely feel like the guys are usually doing their best.  But the fact that the powerless can feel free to let loose on the powerful, without fear that they will be punished for it…  Aint that America?

Kid Preference.  When ball players flip a ball into the stands, it’s almost always to a young kid.  When an adult fan kills himself to haul in a foul ball, they often give it away it to a kid, often a kid they never met before.  This is us at our best.  Would that our  collective fiscal decisions were borne of such magnanimity.

Candid Sales Pitches.  I always bought from the beer vendor who called out “Beer here, fifty-one dollars per six pack,” until he mysteriously disappeared.  I also love “Free Root Beer!  $4.75 delivery.”  Thankfully, that guy is still on the job.  I appreciate candor in the face of thievery.  If only the banksters were that transparent and self-effacing.

Take Me Out To the Ball Game.  I never tire of it.  I always sing it, badly.  That quote “a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day at the office” must have been conceived during the sentimental singing of baseball’s national anthem.  “I don’t care if I never get back” indeed.  Bring us home, Buck:

– Loveland

The Vice-Presidential Puzzle Box

Rumor has it that Governor Romney has settled on – and will soon announce – his vice presidential candidate.  The conventional wisdom is that the list is down to Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and – maybe – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.  Florida Senator Marco Rubio and former Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice were floated either as trial balloons or to demonstrate the alleged breadth of their selection process before they pick the white guy (no, Jindal is not a “white guy” but read below why he won’t be picked according to the logic of vice presidential picking).

What a yawn fest.  Any group in which Tim Pawlenty is judged to be the most dynamic and energetic member has a serious personality deficit.

In truth, though, vice presidential nominees tend to be on the uninspiring side of the ledger and are usually picked for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Safe (i.e. no skeletons, no surprises)
  • Bland (doesn’t overshadown the top of the ticket)
  • Balance (geography, experience, political spectrum, age, religion)
  • Key attribute (ethnicity, swing state residency)

Let’s review the list of some of the most recent vice-presidential nominees and see where they fit:

  • 2008:   Biden – balance (age, experience), safe; Palin – (see below)
  • 2004:   Edwards – key attribute (swing state), balance (geography, religion)
  • 2000:   Lieberman – balance (political spectrum); Cheney – balance (experience, geography, age), safe
  • 1996:    Kemp – balance (political spectrum, geography), safe
  • 1992:    Gore – safe, bland, balance (experience)
  • 1988:    Quayle – bland, balance (age, political spectrum); Bentsen – balance (experience, political spectrum, geography), safe
  • 1984:    Ferraro – (see below)
  • 1980:    Bush – balance (age, political spectrum, experience, geography)

Thirty-two years of electoral politics is enough to make the point, but the pattern is discernible in every election.  The most common reason for picking a vice president is “balance” in terms of geography, experience, etc. Only rarely does picking a vice presidential candidate deliver that person’s home state – Lyndon Johnson being the only example that comes to mind.  Other attributes come into play when there are particular flaws at the top of the ticket.  George W. Bush, for example, had to pick a Cheney-esque figure to counter the perception that he was too much of a lightweight to be president.  By contrast, George H.W. Bush picked Quayle in part because he was so lightweight that there was no possibility that he would overshadow his boss.

Which brings us to the last reason why vice-presidential candidates are chosen: as “game changers.”   There are only two people in this category in the last eight presidential elections – Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sara Palin in 2008.  Both were picked by campaigns desperate enough to throw Hail Mary passes in the hope of an end zone miracle.  Both failed: Ferraro’s selection couldn’t possibly hold back the landslide that re-elected Reagan in ’84 and Palin made the ’08 loss a little worse (though a “safe” pick from one of the traditional categories wouldn’t have made a difference).

Mitt Romney is NOT John McCain and even without the immediate example of Sara Palin as a warning there is no chance of him picking a game changer.  First, he has an actuary’s dislike of risk and has never as far as I can tell taken a high-risk step in either his personal or professional life.  Second, he’s in no way desperate; the election is still a jump ball and he has $1 billion or more on his side to help him jump higher than the other guys.

So…applying the logic of vice-presidential candidates to the current crop, Jindal is out.  Portman is tempting, but I think in the end our own Tim Pawlenty will be the guy bounding onto a stage somewhere in a swing state sometime soon to tell us how proud he is to have been asked to join Mitt Romney in reclaiming America.


– Austin

Start the Clock

Sunday morning George Will spoke for an increasing number of Americans who believe Willard Mitt Romney needs to release more than two years of tax returns.  Consider that moment the start of a running clock that will record how long it will take Team Romney to give in to the pressure that will grow and grow…and grow…to provide this information.

Odds are overwhelming that Team Romney will indeed give in to these forces; I believe this because I see this sort of behavior all the time in organizations that are facing tough issues but resist for internal reasons taking decisive action to address a problem.  The discussion at the senior management meeting goes like this:

Subordinate #1:   “Boss…I know this is going to sound crazy, but I think we should admit we were wrong, fire the guy who screwed up and invite the guy we screwed over to come in for a conversation about how to set things right. If we don’t it now, we’ll get credit for doing the right thing, for acting decisively and on our own term.  Yes, there’ll be a hit in the short term, but overall the story will be over and done in three days.”


Subordinate #2:   “Way too soon!”

Subordinate #3:   “No way should we be accepting responsibility for this.”

Subordinate #4:   “We should wait; there’s a good chance this will blow over without us having to do anything.”

Subordinate #5: (sotto voce):   Wow, that took a lot of balls…or maybe he’s too stupid to realize he just recommended firing the boss’ nephew.”

After the hubbub dies down, the CEO leans forward and says something along the lines of, “OK, does anybody have any real suggestions about how to handle this one? If not, let’s move on to the next item, repricing everyone’s options to reflect the recent stock price drop…”

Flash forward a week, a month, whatever…after the protests, the unceasing media scrutiny, the blog postings, the fake Twitter account, the threatened legal action and the same group of executives gets the CEO memo announcing the departure to “pursue other interests” the guy who screwed up and the press release that contains the brain-numbing phrases like, “After careful review of the circumstances involved and listening to the recollections of a number of first-hand observers, we have concluded that our procedures were not followed in this instance.  For this lapse in our standard, we express our apologies to [WHOEVER] and we promise to redouble our efforts in this area to make sure there is no recurrence of such an event.”

The net result: the organization ends up doing what it should have done a month ago but does so too late to receive any credit for the action.  It has distracted itself, its shareholders and customers for a month and has created the following perception in the minds of key constituents:

“We’re not terrible competent.”

“We deny we’ve screwed up even when the facts might indicate otherwise.”

“But…if you make it make things painful enough…we’ll give in and show that we’re incompetent, arbitrary and craven.”

Too bad for Mitt that he’s already too far down that path on the tax returns.  He could release all of his tax returns at this point and would get scant credit for it.  That said, it’s only going to get worse the longer he waits.  As the saying goes, when you realize you’ve dug yourself into a hole, the first step is to stop digging.

There is, of course, the possibility that Team Mitt will not release the tax returns, but I rate that possibility very low.  The ONLY reason that they won’t be released by the man who has demonstrated he’d do most anything to be president – change positions on a full range of public policy issues, inflame xenophobic sentiment, pander to the most extreme members of his party – is because there’s something truly damning in there.

And, as a matter of public policy (rather than communications tactics), I would like to see Mitt’s returns from the years when he wasn’t running for president (pretty much the last eight years).  I have a sneaking suspicion that pre-candidate Romney’s returns look considerably different from those filed by candidate Ronmey.

– Austin


It was a Mitts-krieg!

Mittens is in a long-term bind of his own long-term making. I have been saying — for a long time now — that Mitt Romney is the absolutely ideal candidate to run against in the prop wash of a worldwide recession driven by … the self-serving casino-like gaming of guys exactly like Mitt Romney.  Romney and Bain Capital’s form and style of business may befuddle the mythical Average American, but Joe and Sally Venti Latte know a few things for sure, among them that they could never benefit from the byzantine tax dodges, shelters and debt-leveraging strategies Romney used, and that Bain in some cases lobbied into law.

As a media hand I was greatly amused by last Friday’s end-of-the-week “Mitts-krieg”, wherein the notorious bubble candidate, Romney, appeared in a quick succession of satellite interviews with five networks, (although not with those impudent knaves at MSNBC). Everyone in the news game is familiar with the Friday afternoon data/news dump, wherein something that is going to cause problems or play badly is thrown out at the very moment most reporters are heading to Happy Hour. The strategy being that by Monday, chances are, whatever had to be said will be flattened by a new story and quickly forgotten.

Good luck on that with your financial history, Mittens.

Even more amusing, for anyone who knows the TV news game is the choice of the satellite format, with each network dropping in for a tightly allotted slice of time, rather than a press conference — with reporters from the same networks who are most likely within walking distance of wherever Romney is in a given moment.

The satellite-interview shtick pretty much guaranteed that each network would ask exactly the same question — every candidate can rely on journalistic group-think to ease the dike patching in an emergency. With each asking that same question, Romney could, and did provide each with exactly the same answer. He could stay on script, bloviating away most of the allotted time.  In an open press conference he would have risked some scurrilous bastard, perhaps a pot-smoking Lutheran or atheist hedonist from something like Mother Jones who snuck in under the velvet ropes, to blurt out a follow-up or pursue a more specific facet on the standard line of questioning.

While Average Americans like you and me try to define exactly what “retired retroactively” means, we can be assured that Romney’s troubles explaining both how and when he made his fortune are not going to go away, probably ever.

Team Obama had to have kept a supply of fresh napkins close by to deal with all the drool conjured up by the thought of running against Mitt Romney. I mean, think about it. After a job-crushing, debt-inflating financial sector meltdown caused by the casino culture of a highly insulated financial class that put “shareholder value” and their own lavish bonuses before actually making stuff — that required middle-class workers — the GOP couldn’t stop itself from nominating a … financial “services” guy. A guy whose business was creating fantastic profits for himself and his closest associates, often with the collateral damage of shutting down functioning American industries … in the interests of productivity and efficiency, you understand.

(And the GOP couldn’t help itself because despite the noisy babble of the Tea Party lunkheads, it is big money, dependent on “worker productivity” — more work, less pay — and the shift of taxation from them to the middle class that sustains  the party.)

Running against sex-obsessed Rick Santorum wouldn’t have been half as much fun.

Team Obama’s real problem will be pacing themselves through the rest of campaign, doling out the right quality of “attack” (i.e revelation of Mittens’ career work) at precisely the right moment, each one fresher than the last yet oddly familiar

The business of Romney’s taxes alone will be gold for weeks to come, at least. Again, ask yourself why he hasn’t simply released them, “taken the hit”, as George Will suggests, and moved on? We all know he’s rich. We already know that he’s only paying a 13%-15% tax rate — thanks to the lobbying of Bain Capital to drive those rates that low — and that he/Bain has over 100 off-shore accounts in the Grand Cayman alone. How much worse could it be?

I’m guessing,”quite a bit”. And in ways that Team Romney can’t calculate, given the microscopic analysis those returns will go under once out in the open. If ten years worth of returns (and his 2010 return alone was 500 pages) produces only 10 uncomfortable questions for Romney, a guy who embodies sweaty discomfort in the face of impudent questioning, that’s almost one a week until election day.


But until then Mittens has other critical decisions. Like, for example, how to get Sarah Palin up in front of his convention, with him, in a photo-op that satisfies the Teabaggers, without torching himself with the persuadables, folks who may not be happy with Obama’s inability to work an economic miracle, but think the modern Republican party is a ship of toxic fools.






The Real 1 Percenters

Forget the polarization of the parties.  Never mind the growing gap between the superrich and the rest of us.  Race relations?  Child’s play.  The generation gap?  A matter of inches.  Rural/urban, left coast/right coast, Betty or Wilma, Savannah or Anne, Tom or Katie..pah!

No, my friends, the most polarizing divide – the real one-percenters in America today who stand against the rest of us – are the roughly 3 million voters who will actually decide the November presidential election.  Chances are you aren’t one of them.

Let’s meet them.

Test #1 – Where’s home?  If you live in one of the 13 states listed below, game on; you get to play another round.  If you live in one of the other states….crickets…crickets…crickets…sit down.  Oh sure, go ahead and vote if you want – there might be some other candidates or issues on the ballot, but as far as the presidential race goes, just sit still, watch closely and don’t touch any of the buttons.

The swingingest swing state appears to be Florida as it is rated a toss-up by every news organization I checked in with – 270toWin, FiveThirtyEight, CNN, HuffPo, MSNBC, the New York Times, Real Clear Politics, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal – and Arizona is the least as only the Journal classifies it as a swinger. Frankly, I have trouble seeing Michigan, Missouri, Arizona or Pennsylvania as swing states; the first three seem pretty solid for Romney and Pennsylvania looks pretty good for Obama.

So…if you want to really make a difference in this presidential election, haul ass to the swing state of your choice, establish residency and register to vote there.  Nate Silver over a FiveThirtyEight (which is – for the third or fourth election in a row – one of the best web sites for polling analysis and prognostication) has even helpfully calculated which states offer the most bang for the buck per vote (New Hampshire and Nevada lead the list).

Which brings us to…

Test #2 – Are you an eligible voter?

If you’re one of the approximately 77,000,000 eligible voters living in those 13 states, keep standing, you’re still in the game.  Know, though, that the rest of us are expecting you to stay on top of this and to do the right thing not just for yourselves but for all of us.  We’ll pay you back next time.

Unless, of course, you fail the next screen…

Test #3 – Will you actually vote?

The reality is that not everyone votes in our democracy.  In the last comparable election – 2004 – only 55.7 percent of those eligible to vote actually voted.  Among the swing states, Wisconsin’s civic minded residents led the way with 71.9 percent of eligible voters making it to the polls while just 47.6 of eligible Arizonans punched their tickets.  Using these historical percentages as predictors, I’m guess only about 46,214,000 eligible swing state voters are going to make it to the voting booth come election day.

Which leads me to the last important question…

Test #4 – Are you persuadable?

Even in the swing states, the reality is that the vast majority of voters are more or less already decided on how they’re voting come November.  Only a small number – probably less than 10 percent of eligible voters – are undecided or are still truly open to an argument from one side or the other.  We can quibble over what percentage of the voting population this group represents, but I picked 7 percent because that’s the percent of respondents who keep telling pollsters they’re undecided.

The population of the U.S. right now is about 314,000,000.  The number of people who will decide this next presidential election – the people who passed all four tests above – is about 3.25 million or about 1 percent of the general population. It is this group who will be the target of the roughly $2 billion dollars the candidates, parties and their fellow travelers have starting slinging around, a spending level that works out to…wait for it…$618 dollars per voter.

The rich just keep on getting richer.

– Austin

Let’s Give Sorkin and “The Newsroom” Due Credit.

The underlying irony of Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO show, “The Newsroom”, and I’m sure he’s well aware of it, is that as much as he wants to use it to frame a discussion about the half-assed, highly compromised job so many outlets of professional journalism are doing in this country today, he too has to dilute and diminish his product to keep it commercially viable.

I had to play catch up with the three episodes that have aired so far. The first, where lovable-but-curmudgeonly cable network anchor Jeff Daniels (aka Will McAvoy), goes off on a Northwestern coed for her “let’s all reaffirm each other” question about why America is the greatest country on earth, was ripped about a hundred new ones by virtually every critic on the planet. The knives were obviously out for Sorkin. (There are even video mash-ups of “Sorkinisms”.) Having caught up … the fault I find with the main thrust of the criticism is that it gives too little credit to Sorkin’s larger ambition. The guy has ambitions beyond making another fortune. In its best moments it is plain that he wants to elevate the grade-level discourse of modern commercial entertainment from the fifth to maybe the eleventh, with a dash of college prep work here and there. Can we at least acknowledge that he has other interests than padding his bank account with yet another cop or hospital show stocked with maximum-allowable beef and cheesecake?

Gratuitous name-dropping paragraph … so I asked Sorkin over drinks in a Pasadena restaurant … why he had so consciously avoided the truly unhinged, insane levels of naked partisanship of the Clinton era while cooking up scripts for “The West Wing”? Earlier, I had asked him much the same at press gatherings. His answer remained constant. He wanted to imagine and paint a better world, a world where large-stage politics wasn’t primarily about venal rat-fucking and shameless self-aggrandizing. (He didn’t use the phrase “rat-fucking”, but I knew what he was talking about.)

My counter argument was that if he wanted the frisson of stark reality to drive audience interest (and pundit attention) how could drawing lessons from a protracted bogus scandal like Whitewater, with all the craven demagoguery and serio-comic arm-flapping involved, hurt the ratings? His basic answer was that “West Wing’s” ratings were just fine, thank you.

The commercial dilution factor of “The Newsroom” isn’t in the “speechifying” which seems to annoy both TV critics and general audiences, (but really is pretty entertaining), but rather the “personal relationship” factor. Translated: “Romantic interest” for those forced by their spouse or date to sit through McAvoy railing on about how, in actual fact, more Americans believe in angels than understand their own health insurance. Even Sorkin has said that the success of the show hinges on how much we care about the characters.

Well, dude, on that point you do have some problems. I freely admit that at my advanced age I have only limited patience with still more self-consciously whip smart post grad students agonizing over their romantic choices and failings. But then, that stuff kinda bored me when I was 24. Is life really made better by over-analyzing every remark and statement you make and is made to you? More to the point, while Sorkin’s opening dialogue in “The Social Network”, (via 50-plus takes by director David Fincher), was quite clever, let’s not forget that Mark Zuckerberg was/is trying to “out-asshole” everyone else, including nice girls who might have modified him for the better, though maybe not the wealthier.

Week Two of ‘The Newsroom” was particularly ghastly in terms of the latter-day Tracy-Hepburn ratta-tat-tat battle-of-the-genders dialogue between the kiddies. The contrast between the big, serious, fat-and-ripe news and culture story lines and the cutie-pie love stories for the masses stuff is so extreme whenever the kids come on the screen they might as well put up a card saying — “Adults Are Advised to Use the Next Four Minutes for Bathroom Needs”.

This past week’s episode, with Jane Fonda as the network boss, re-balanced the show in favor of the stuff that Sorkin, who is now 51, (so a ways past grad-school flirtation and angst) knows best, thinks most deeply about and therefore best distinguishes “The Newsroom”.

There are plenty of things to quarrel with in terms of how the newsroom in question functions. Let’s not get started again on the likelihood of any newsroom on any planet advancing the Deepwater Horizon story as far as Sorkin’s crew did on Day #1. But the larger point in Sorkin’s favor is this: At a time when both mainstream entertainment and mainstream journalism, TV in particular, tip-toe only reluctantly and fretfully into large festering cultural issues such as — how the not so bright base of the Tea Party has been radicalized to protect and serve powerful forces largely indifferent to their quality of life — Sorkin not only has identified that trend as epochal, but has the talent and industry standing to produce it as mass entertainment — America’s best form of lubricated instruction.

Were I his producer … I would strongly advise him to shift focus steadily away from the kids’, “OMG! Did he just say that to me?!” jabberings and devote steadily more energy to the conflicts inherent in trying to/daring to describe (as opposed to avoiding) the roiling ocean of dramatic material informed adults see playing out in front of their eyes every day … and night on TV news.

This century needs another Paddy Chayefsky, not another John Hughes.

The show also needs a Tucker Carlson-like character to be foisted on McAvoy as a “balancing” foil, a la the early days of MSNBC, when the network suits looked up from their demographic research and told Phil Donahue he had to book two conservatives for every liberal guest he (unwisely) placed in front of their network cameras.