Democracy Soup

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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Colbert

David Letterman is the bridge between Johnny Carson and the current late night crop

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Johnny Carson asked David Letterman on the “Tonight Show” in 1991, “Can you envision yourself 20 years from now doing your late night show?”

Letterman laughed, making it clear that he had no interest in lasting as long as Johnny Carson’s 30 years in late night.

The fact that Letterman lasted 33 years in late night speaks to two things about David Letterman. He would have been embarassed to say in front of Carson that he had that level of ambition. And Letterman wanted to outlast Carson in general and Jay Leno in the 11:30 pm Eastern time slot.

So if you are a Millennial and wonder if Letterman has gone past his prime, go back to that Johnny Carson episode in 1991. It’s not that Carson is bad, but that the talk show world was different from when Carson started.

David Letterman was that world for that generation. When “Late Night” started in 1982, the TV world centered around Baby Boomers. Late night TV had made a few pushes such as “Saturday Night Live” (thought the original cast had left), “Fridays” on ABC, and SCTV reruns on NBC. Monday-Thursday was the “Tomorrow” show territory but that show had an intellectual audience and had peaked a few years back.

In 1982, David Letterman was late night. Stupid Pet Tricks, The World’s Most Dangerous Band, Viewer Mail, velcro, legendary appearances (sometimes for the wrong reasons) from Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler as well as Crispin Glover.

Letterman would go outside the studio to dispute other NBC shows, national and WNBC-TV, New York. He would drop various items from a rooftop. This was not Carson by a long shot.

Letterman came up with a late night show that emulated Carson and also gave us something new. Letterman had a monologue and a band, but Carson had a longer monologue and a band that was more interested in old music than new music. Ironically, the shorter monologue and smaller band were demands from Carson to differentiate his show from Letterman’s. Turns out that helped Letterman greatly.

Then again, when Letterman had the opportunity to expand the monologue and band at CBS, he did both.

Letterman’s humor might have been too old for Millennials, but his music taste expanded instead of being held back. Carson would never have dreamed about having on what would have been the 1991 equivalent of First Aid Kit.

If Letterman is missing a beat these days, it’s that his style has lost some of its anger, its edge. Unlike the Incredible Hulk, we did like Dave when he was a little angry.

Letterman challenged his guests. Cher, Madonna, and Oprah had issues with that. Bill O’Reilly as well, but for different reasons.

Letterman might not voted for John McCain, but Dave had the presidential candidate on quite often, asking him better questions than his news counterparts. When John McCain blew Letterman off in 2008, and his people discovered the CBS News feed where McCain was on the Evening News, his feisty nature made for beautiful TV.

Letterman was sincerely hurt but recognized in the moment, and this happened while the show was going, that this was comedic gold. When Letterman shouts at the TV monitor, asking McCain if he needs a ride to the airport, the audience bursts into laughter and applause. The situation was legitimately awkward: pinch hit guest Keith Olbermann, in the height of his MSNBC run, looks shaken at what is going on.

In subsequent nights, Letterman went after the joke about being abandoned. Letterman’s efforts were rewarded as McCain went back on the show and admitted to a national audience that he had “screwed up.”

Jon Stewart had McCain on a lot, but after McCain turned the page, the presidential candidate never went on “The Daily Show” ever again. McCain did go back to Letterman.

That exchange with McCain was less than 7 years ago. Carson never had anywhere near that kind of moment in his last 15 years.

During the Jay Leno vs. Conan O’Brien battles, you wanted to watch for Letterman’s reaction. Watching Letterman’s take on Leno made you forget that they used to be friends and that Letterman helped Leno get famous during the Late Night era. But that anger made Letterman funny.

Letterman’s take on General Electric when the company bought NBC was amazing television. That is the major reason why Letterman didn’t get the Tonight Show. But the idea of taking on your bosses spoke to a generation that couldn’t do that in real life but could on TV through Dave.

Letterman’s comedy was about release. Throwing items off a roof to see what would happen when they hit the ground. Full disclosure: we did that in college though inside down the center stairwell in the process of emptying out our refrigerators at the end of the year. We felt the euphoria that Letterman and his audience did on TV.

So as Letterman does his last show tonight on CBS, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, James Corden, Conan O’Brien, and in September, Stephen Colbert will be some of the many choices the current young generation will have to mourn their retirement years down the road.

David Letterman is the bridge between the old time talk shows and the current crop. In Letterman’s NBC show, he would often give credit to Steve Allen — the first “Tonight” show host — for borrowing some of his old bits. Every single major late night talk show host has Letterman to thank and credit for their success.

video credit: YouTube/Johnny Carson


Rob Ford retrospective pre-crack and post-crack

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Rob Ford, the crack-smoking mayor of Toronto, has received a lot of publicity for, well, smoking crack. From the time he danced around whether he had smoked crack, Ford became more apparent outside Toronto and Canada. And of course, when the police discovered the video, suddenly Ford was a lot more open.

But the folks at have had their eyes on Ford for some time. We thought you should read about Rob Ford pre-crack as well as post-crack. So enjoy these columns courtesy of our friends at


Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wins Keith Olbermann’s ‘Worst Person in the World’ (11/1/2011)

Toronto has more than usual number of gun deaths, but still safer than U.S. (7/25/2012)

How Rob Ford spent (part of) my summer vacation (8/21/2012)

Battle of intense mayors: Toronto’s Rob Ford visits Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel (9/19/2012)

Toronto highs and lows: Argos way up, Rob Ford down and out (11/28/2012)


Canadian politics notebook: Rob Ford’s alleged crack use (5/19/2013)

Daily Show pokes fun at Rob Ford’s (alleged) crack (5/22/2013)

Rob Ford (finally) admits smoking crack cocaine, but lies continue (11/6/2013)

Rob Ford: Liability to Toronto Argonauts (11/15/2013)

Rob Ford makes negative impact on Toronto’s Grey Cup quest (11/18/2013)

Rob Ford looks better in the eyes of the U.S. media (11/20/2013)

Barack Obama calls for infrastructure fixes 4 years too late

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In 2009, Barack Obama inherited a situation with crumbling infrastructure and a lot of people out of work. In a 2+2=4 world, the logical step would be to take the people out of work and have them build up infrastructure. Even if everyone couldn’t do those skills, there were enough people who could, and if they had jobs, other jobs and businesses wouldn’t have fallen in 2009 and 2010.

In 2009, if CBS or any other broadcast network came out with a show idea about giving someone a job, that could have turned into the next “American Idol” or “The Voice” or “So you think your smart 5th grader has talent.”

In 2013, President Barack Obama, having been elected to a second term, has proposed a “Fix it First” to help rebuild infrastructure. Obama said 70,000 bridges were in need of repair, among countless problems. Jon Stewart thought the bridges were a rather immediate concern.

In 2013, CBS is running a show called “The Job” where they make people go through humiliation for a “dream job” such as being an editorial assistant at Cosmopolitan magazine. As the promo notes — “the employer has all the power” — a rather depressing and not altogether accurate statement.

This feels more about humiliation than help; Stephen Colbert put it best when he labeled the program despertainment.

“And with one hire per show, ‘The Job’ should run for 12.3 million episodes.”

In both cases, the feeling is “too little, way too late.” The difference is that Obama is being sincere and CBS, well, doesn’t look like they really want to help.

Our infrastructure still needs fixing as does our job market. So we can certainly use the help. One bridge and one job at a time is too little, but better than we have had lately.

Getting infrastructure improved and a jobs program requires help from the GOP, and that party isn’t interested. Nor are Republicans game for raising the minimum wage.

Republicans preach about the value of work, yet they aren’t willing to pay for it. The proposed raise to $9/hour wouldn’t be immediate. The minimum wage would go up incrementally over three years to $9. Even then, the minimum wage will be undervalued, worse if someone is a tipped employee.

Liberals joke that the GOP wants the world of “Leave It to Beaver” brought to life. If the minimum wage reflected buying power in 1957, the wage would be well beyond $9 right now.

The United States needs rebuilding, but the GOP doesn’t want to pay for it. Poor people need a raise, but the GOP doesn’t want to pay for it. The GOP wants people to get jobs, but won’t submit any plan to get those jobs.

The good news for the Republicans is that Barack Obama can’t run for president in 2016. So they might as well give Obama the chance to succeed or fail based on his requests. Don’t worry, Obama won’t get as much horrible stuff as you think he will, or anyone else for that matter.

We need help, but the GOP doesn’t want us to get that help. The GOP House controls the House. So as the saying goes, “Lead or get out of the way.”

Mitt Romney doesn’t get that people use food help only when necessary

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“There are 47 percent … who are dependent upon government … who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” — Mitt Romney

“Entitled to food” is a rough concept to accuse an individual for doing, much less a larger paint brush of 47% of the country. People don’t gleefully say they are receiving food assistance. Nobody holds up their heads with pride or whistles in line at a food pantry. You are there because you feel like you have no other choice.

As much as people who paid $50,000 for a plate of food to hear Romney speak at that Florida fundraiser in May would like to view the world, no amount of private outlets can satisfy the need for food assistance even in pretty good times.

Government has the resources to step in and help people, especially since the Recessive Depression of 2008. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to sharply cut that alleged “gravy train.”

For more coverage, check out this column from our sister blog,

Stephen Colbert finished ahead of Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman in South Carolina, but MSM doesn’t care

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2012 South Carolina GOP primary

Candidate Votes % of total
Herman Cain 6,324 1.1
Rick Perry 2,494 0.4
Jon Huntsman 1,161 0.2
Michele Bachmann 494 0.1
Gary Johnson 213 0.0


If you stayed home on a Saturday night to watch the South Carolina coverage, you heard a lot about the top 4 finishers. Though for the one millionth time, Ron Paul got asked (by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer) which of the other candidates he likes best. Ron Paul get asked this question because the MSM loves to pat him on the head like he’s a child wearing a tie or a grown-up dress. To Wolf Blitzer and any other overpriced MSM person: if you want to ask Ron Paul that question, ask it to all the other candidates first and see what their reaction is to your stupid lame question.

What the MSM left out of the conversation was how Stephen Colbert, er, Herman Cain did on Saturday night. True, if you only get 1.1% of the vote, you won’t get much attention. But South Carolina is an unique scenario in the last two election cycles thanks to Stephen Colbert.

The MSM is massively confused by what Colbert does. They don’t even see it as being worthy to be a distraction. Diane Sawyer, reading the story of Colbert’s exploratory committee, had the same look as your dog after someone farts. When Colbert spoke at the White House Correspondents Dinner, the MSM went out of their way not to mention what Colbert did or even his existence. That attitude hasn’t really improved.

Colbert runs for, as he puts it, president of the United States of South Carolina. His attempt is never terribly seriously since he would try to get himself on the ballot. So even during all of what happened, everyone involved knew Colbert couldn’t get on the ballot, and South Carolina rules don’t allow write-in candidates.

Colbert caught a break in 2012 as Herman Cain’s name was on the ballot but had dropped out of the race. Cain’s campaign seemed slightly more legitimate than Colbert’s, yet the MSM gave him much more credit than he deserved. As difficult as it is to believe that a United States state doesn’t accept write-in candidates for the highest office, someone who leaves the race over 45 days before the election can’t be removed.

Herman Cain got 6,324 votes in the South Carolina primary. While that number sounds low, Cain had more votes than Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman (both active when the week began), Michele Bachmann, and Gary Johnson combined.

Even if you think that Colbert was responsible for 80% of Cain’s total, a really conservative estimate, 80% of Cain’s total is still more than the other 4 candidates combined.

Naysayers would note that Colbert was scoring 5% in a South Carolina poll, just before Huntsman dropped out of the race, and only got 1.1% in the election.

Established candidates with staffs and campaigns that just withdrew from the race days before the election did poorly than a late-night comedy show host under a nom de plume that ran a campaign for a week. Colbert didn’t hit the ground in South Carolina until the day before the election, and still outdrew 4 presidential candidates.

The Colbert/Cain rally was described by seasoned political reporters as larger than rallies of major presidential contenders. The idea that people are frustrated with the avalanche of Super PAC ads and that a random billionaire has more power than actual voters is foreign to the MSM. Colbert recognizes this and so does his audience. Colbert’s Super PAC (with Jon Stewart in control) have run spot-on ads criticizing the dependence on money.

We assume that people who run comedy shows are trying to be funny. Colbert and his staff want you to laugh, but his audience is smart enough to know there is a message behind the humor. They are pulling the curtain to expose the madness of millionaires and billionaires who are not “coordinating” with each other.

The Colbert Report has done more to show people the significance of Citizens United on the presidential race. We criticize the MSM as being highly lazy. All we ask is that they watch the Colbert Report Monday-Thursday nights at 11:30 pm Eastern, take notes, and report what you see. MSM people: if you can follow what Colbert is doing, you will be so much smarter.

South Carolina notebook: Candidates rushing to leap rather than be pushed out of the race

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We knew that some of the 2012 GOP presidential candidates would be practically eliminated after South Carolina. Two of them jumped before they were pushed.

— Jon Huntsman’s timing was bad because it looked like he dropped out as he realized he would lose to Stephen Colbert. Huntsman endorsed Mitt Romney, which seemed sad since most independents, if they had to vote for a Mormon former governor with great hair, would have picked Huntsman over Romney.

— Rick Perry’s timing was bad because it looked like he dropped out as he realized he would have to debate one more time. Perry endorsed Newt Gingrich, which seemed sad since if the coin had come up tails, Rick Santorum would have had the endorsement. Perry likes coins because they offer only two options; he never remembers the third option for some reason.

— Herman Cain’s timing was great because it looked smarter for staying out. Cain endorsed Colbert’s bid to campaign under his name, which seemed sad since Colbert is a better candidate as a fake candidate than Cain was as a real candidate.

— Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich combined would represent a serious threat to Mitt Romney. Not quite in a Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton kind of race, but the tightest race the Republicans have had since, well, William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt. The problem is even though they are vested and experienced politicians, while they know they are splitting the conservative vote, neither of them can get the other one to leave. Santorum’s Iowa win, now confirmed, would give him that momentum, but Gingrich’s loudness overshadows Santorum’s attempts to get noticed. After all, Santorum didn’t have an ex-wife on “Nightline” this week. Gingrich should be thankful it was only one.

— Gingrich got a partial standing ovation for confronting John King on asking the question about an open marriage in Thursday’s debate. As offended as Gingrich appeared to be, he had to love the question so he could react the way he did. As for Gingrich, when you protest that way, we assume your ex-wife’s charge is true.

Gingrich puts his marriages on the record because he preaches family values, the “sanctity of marriage,” and his hypocrisy during the Clinton years. So he shouldn’t pretend to be miffed.

If politicians really could admit what they’re thinking, especially GOP politicians, wouldn’t it have been great for Gingrich to say, “Yeah, I wanted a open marriage. What does that have to do with running the country and getting the economy back on track.” The problem for Gingrich and other “holier-than-thous” is that they would have to admit that family values and “sanctity of marriage” have nothing to do with running the country.

— If you had to name the two most consistent GOP presidential candidates besides Mitt Romney, Rick Perry is the most obvious choice for finishing consistently bad and saying really horrible things but Ron Paul has had two solid finishes and is looking for a third in South Carolina. This isn’t to say that Ron Paul will win or should win. The MSM’s curious coverage of Ron Paul lends itself to conspiracy theories from people who aren’t normally paranoid. The voters have spoken in Iowa and New Hampshire, and later today in South Carolina; the MSM should start listening. If you are running for president and score as high as Ron Paul does, attention should be paid to you. If not, then you aren’t doing your job.

— We would like to welcome back Keith Olbermann to anchor coverage of the South Carolina primary tonight on Current TV. Coverage gets underway at 6:30 pm Eastern and runs 90 minutes. The coverage resumes at 9:30 pm Eastern for another 90 minutes. You might remember that Olbermann sat out coverage of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Building a news operation takes time; even within that, Current TV has been off to a bad start. The graphics issues and lighting problems are real, and Olbermann has every right to be concerned about the professional approach of the cable channel. Cenk Uygur and The Young Turks, Jennifer Granholm, and former Vice President Al Gore, head of Current TV, has done a pretty good job, though their coverage has been sidetracked at times, especially when you want results. I drifted back to MSNBC at times. It does help that MSNBC is in HD and Current TV isn’t, but Rachel Maddow was focused. Olbermann had that potential to keep the focus; Olbermann has done a lot more anchoring than everyone in this paragraph combined. The best solution would be to combine the two approaches into one, but it looks like everyone we’ve seen so far in coverage won’t be there tonight.

MI Governor Rick Snyder wants to meddle in Benton Harbor, but has no plan to fix the city

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The debate in the emerging “emergency financial manager” syndrome under new Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has been about the right to autonomy over failing cities vs. the loss of democracy. But the unasked question is what happens if this works and how will we determine when this doesn’t work.

I will stand up now and declare that perhaps I am too close to Benton Harbor, Michigan to be considered a unbiased expert. I grew up in the area and have written about the area several times over the years. However, because I am as familiar with the city, unlike most outside people, I bring inside knowledge to the debate.

And I will toss Gov. Snyder a bone and assume that Joseph Harris has what it takes to save Benton Harbor. Harris will get manufacturers to settle within the city limits and get the jobs flowing toward the northern banks of the St. Joseph River. Oh, and Harris will improve test scores in the schools, cut down on dropouts, and of course, reduce drug use and dealing in the streets.

Abandoned houses will be bulldozed, grass will be cut, and parks will be rehabilitated.

What? Joseph Harris will do none of these things? Then how will he save Benton Harbor?

Benton Harbor has had the short end of the stick, even in a state such as Michigan, for 2-3 generations. The idea that one person can come in and save this city would be Superman-ish. The problem isn’t that Joseph Harris is brought in to “save” BH; the problem is that the goal isn’t to save BH.

Harris isn’t there to improve the long-term economic growth of the city. He may do some flashy things, and probably screw over the city on a controversial golf course involving a swap for city land. But when Snyder gets tired or bored about being tough, Harris will leave and the city will still need help.

As Stephen Colbert has noted, Harris has talked about combining the police and fire departments. Yes, this is what has been wrong with a city where the official unemployment rate for African-American men in the city has hovered around 40%.

What does Gov. Snyder want Harris to do with Benton Harbor? How much would Harris need to do before Snyder proclaims, “Mission Accomplished”?

Whatever miracles Harris will do won’t take long. Harris said he could be finished with his job in the city as early as next year.

The governor was the grand marshal at the Blossomtime Parade last Saturday. This parade is the harmonious meeting of the mostly white St. Joseph and the mostly black Benton Harbor. Not surprisingly, the governor was met with boos and protesters.

The people of Benton Harbor would like to live in a better city. Even if the people in the surrounding area often make fun of Benton Harbor’s plight, they would like Benton Harbor to be in better shape.

Unfortunately, the two people who don’t want the city to be in better shape are Rick Snyder and Joseph Harris.

Snyder would be considered a genius, both in Michigan and nationally, if he could fix Benton Harbor. Harris could be king of Benton Harbor, well, okay, right now, he is king, but this time, king in a good way.

But Gov. Snyder’s plan to fix Benton Harbor is…. Oh, yeah, there is no plan. And Harris doesn’t have a plan, either.

State officials of both major parties haven’t done a whole lot to help Benton Harbor. National politicians haven’t done a whole lot to help. Benton Harbor has suffered enough over the years to be a pawn in a political chess game. For all the audacity of risking democracy, you better have a serious plan. And Snyder’s plan is as much empty as it is outrageous.

Curing desperate situations requires well-thought out plans that happen over a period. Putting down a “king” into a desperate situation and having him stay less than a year — the people of Benton Harbor, the Twin Cities, and all of Michigan deserve a lot better.

And if this is a ruse to bust unions, as one might suspect from a Midwestern governor, Benton Harbor (nor anyone else) can be “fixed” that way. Hopefully, Snyder and Harris will be judged by what they do in Benton Harbor once the people again have the right to vote.