That’s Funny

March 13, 2009

“Funny,” at it’s core, describes some variance between what you expect to happen and what actually happens. A monkey is dressed like a baby. A prehistoric man has trouble buying car insurance. A prepubescent kid headlines a meeting of serious conservative thinkers. On some basic level, these things are funny.

Over the past few days, I’ve heard myself saying “that’s funny” more often than usual, despite the growing absurdity of our economic moment.  Even with the world upside down, I didn’t expect most of these things, which I’m deciding is a hopeful sign. Some facts still have the power to surprise:

  1. Sears has had an open CEO search for 13 months and is now soliciting people to apply for the job if they feel “up to the challenge.”  Apparently there is very little interest.
  2. Almost all of the top posts under Geithner at Treasury are still vacant — the Herald Tribune reports it’s because the White House has become so worried about potential tax problems that it has nominated only a handful of people. It’s hard to find more compelling motivation for a flat tax.
  3. Ryanair is considering charging passengers for use of its in-flight bathrooms.
  4. Michael Steele is pro-choice.
  5. Ryanair is also launching a new transatlantic service.  Bring your quarters. 
  6. David Brooks is using his extraordinary platform to attach meaning to Michele Obama’s arms, and has named them “Thunder” and “Lightening.”
  7. Ryanair is also pressuring pilots to fly with less fuel. Don’t assume the flotation device will be free. 
  8. After playing an active role in pushing plastic on America, American Express is paying some customers $300 to close their accounts and walk away.  
  9. Jack Welch calls the obsession with shareholder value the “dumbest idea in the world.” 
  10. Real estate may also be crashing in Second Life

Michael Steele’s Big, Floppy Shoes

March 10, 2009


Every circus needs a clown.

But let’s start with the state of the big tent. It’s in the country’s best interest for the GOP to recover as a serious alternative to the Left.  Regardless of your ideological leanings, I suspect we can agree that ideas will be better if there’s a political cost to getting them wrong. The two-party system breaks down if one party unravels.

In the meantime, Michael Steele is left to entertain the audience between acts, since he is not yet representing a party with a coherent response to reality. He says ridiculous things (which we repeat). He struts and preens (which we follow with delight). But he is not among Republicans’ major problems (which we forget every time he grabs the spotlight).

Steele buys the GOP some time until the actors take their places, until the party is ready to deliver a more substantive performance.  His role – which can be loosely understood as clowning — has a long and serious tradition.  Do a quick Web search on clown history, and Steele jumps out at you in almost every description. Wikipedia summed it up nicely:

all-knowing (even if not particularly smart), bossy and cocky… [clowns] meet some deeply rooted needs in humanity: violation of taboos, the mockery of sacred and profane authorities and symbols, reversal of language and action

Some part of us needs Michael Steele and people like him. The challenges of fixing a country and planet are daunting. The truth and consequences of our choices are devastating. Send in the clowns. Now let’s get back to work making sure the show indeed goes on.