Is Colbert a joke?

What do you think about Colbert’s presidential run? I will tweet the funniest retort.

Stephen ColbertArena Asks: Comedian Stephen Colbert has taken credit for Republican candidate Jon Huntsman dropping out of the presidential race, declaring on “The Colbert Report” that his announcement last week to form an exploratory committee for president has “completely changed the complexion of this race.” Since the announcement, Colbert’s super PAC has already begun airing an anti-Mitt Romney ad, and on Monday night released another commercial urging Americans to “vote Herman Cain.”

Is Colbert’s work raising awareness about campaign finance and elections? Or is the entire thing a joke?

My Answer: Colbert is a joke with a purpose. The question is whether the purpose is realized.

Don’t get me wrong. I love political parody shows like Colbert and Stewart. It’s great that they engage so many people in thinking about the political issues of the day, calling attention to hypocrisy, skewering bloviators, and actually highlighting both the important public debates and arcane nonsense that only political junkies like those of us who write for The Arena care about.

Colbert and Stewart’s brilliant take down of Super PACS and independent expenditures this week is a case in point. After a good laugh, a viewer can feel self-righteous in opposing big, unaccountable money in politics. But then what?

Whether Colbert raises awareness or not, the danger is that people will think they’ve actually participated in the political process when in truth, they’re being passive observers, until and unless they get personally involved on the ground with candidates and issues.

Here’s the link to my original post on Politico

The Difference Between Christmas and Hanukkah (With Bonus Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Video)

Here’s a holiday message courtesy of Madge Stein Woods that explains the differences between Christmas and Chanukah. Or Hanukkah.

Hope you enjoy as much as I did! Feel free to embellish and add your observations about these two holidays, as well as our other great December days, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice.

Just in case anyone asks you what the difference is between Christmas and
Chanukah, you will know what and how to answer.

1. Christmas is one day, same day every year, December 25. Jews also love
December 25th. It’s another paid day off work. We go to the movies and out
for Chinese food and Israeli dancing. Chanukah is 8 days. It starts the
evening of the 24th of Kislev, whenever that falls. No one is ever sure.
Jews never know until a non-Jewish friend asks when Chanukah starts, forcing
us to consult a calendar so we don’t look like idiots. We all have the same
calendar, provided free with a donation from the World Jewish Congress, the
kosher butcher or the local Sinai Memorial Chapel (especially in Florida )
or other Jewish funeral homes.

2. Christmas is a major holiday. Chanukah is a minor holiday with the same
theme as most Jewish holidays. They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s

3. Christians get wonderful presents such as jewelry, perfume, stereos, etc.
Jews get practical presents such as underwear, socks or the collected works
of the Rambam, which looks impressive on the bookshelf.

4. There is only one way to spell Christmas. No one can decide how to spell
Chanukah, Chanukkah, Chanukka, Channukah, Hanukah, Hannukah, etc.

5. Christmas is a time of great pressure for husbands and boyfriends. Their
partners expect special gifts. Jewish men are relieved of that burden. No
one expects a diamond ring on Hanukah.

6. Christmas brings enormous electric bills. Candles are used for Chanukah.
Not only are we spared enormous electric bills, but we get to feel good
about not contributing to the energy crisis.

7. Christmas carols are beautiful: Silent Night, Come All Ye Faithful.
Chanukah songs are about dreidels made from clay or having a party and
dancing the hora. Of course, we are secretly pleased that many of the
beautiful carols were composed and written by our tribal brethren. And don’t
Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond sing them beautifully?

8. A home preparing for Christmas smells wonderful – like the sweet smell of
cookies and cakes baking. Happy people are gathered around in festive moods.
A home preparing for Chanukah smells of oil, potatoes and onions. The home,
as always, is full of loud people all talking at once.

9. Christian women have fun baking Christmas cookies. Jewish women burn
their eyes and cut their hands grating potatoes and onions for latkes on
Chanukah. Another reminder of our suffering through the ages.

10. Parents deliver presents to their children during Christmas. Jewish
parents have no qualms about withholding a gift on any of the eight nights.

11. The players in the Christmas story have easy to pronounce names such as
Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The players in the Chanukah story are Antiochus,
Judah Maccabee and Matta whatever. No one can spell it or pronounce it. On
the plus side, we can tell our friends anything and they believe we are
wonderfully versed in our history.

12. Many Christians believe in the virgin birth. Jews think, “Yossela,
Bubela, snap out of it. Your woman is pregnant, you didn’t sleep with her,
and now you want to blame G-d? Here’s the number of my shrink.”

13. In recent years, Christmas has become more and more commercialized. The
same holds true for Chanukah, even though it is a minor holiday. It makes
sense. How could we market a major holiday such as Yom Kippur? Forget about
celebrating. Think observing. Come to synagogue, starve yourself for 27
hours, become one with your dehydrated soul, beat your chest, confess your
sins, a guaranteed good time for you and your family. Tickets a mere $200
per person. Better stick with Chanukah.

This explains a lot.

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas.

(Merry Kwanzahukahmas)


Jon Stewart as Philosopher King

I struggled to decide on which of my pages to put this fascinating list of the American Journal of Bioethics Editors’ Blog “Top 20 Essays of 2008”. Bioethics criss-crosses disciplines and pushed the edge of thinking in science, health, reproductive rights, public policy–you name it.

Whatever, these articles are important enough that attention should be paid. Will monkey cloning, done successfully in Oregon, lead to exciting medical discoveries or straight to cloning humans? Should Jill sell her eggs? How many, how, and for how much? Organ donation, stem cells, gene therapy, medical research protocols, and that pregnant transgender father. Talk about the personal meeting up with the political.

So it’s no wonder that one of the blogpost cites scholarly theories about the role of political pundits as the philosophers of our day. Citing this article from the Sacramento Bee about Jason Holt’s work on philosophy and the Daily Show:

Just as Socrates‘ and Diogenes’ reason-over-emotion doctrines served as an antidote to the sophists and rhetoricians of their day, Stewart’s nightly reports combat the dissembling of politicians and the blathering of mainstream media’s so-called “chattering class.” At least, that’s Holt’s thesis.

And then, there’s this: Socrates and Diogenes were as snarky then as Stewart is now.

Diogenes once lived in a bathtub to show citizens the folly of the pursuit of wealth and comfort. And Socrates was known for comically feigning ignorance – “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing” – to dissect an opponent’s argument.

Jason Holt, assistant professor at Acadia University in Canada, compiled a book of essays called “The Daily Show and Philosophy”, its title both tongue in cheek and serious.

For his part, Holt says that Stewart can show current philosophers and “public intellectuals,” such as himself, a thing or two.

“Intellectuals in the past used to do a lot more public engagement, reaching out behind the walls of the ivory tower,” Holt says. “Now, many have not taken this challenge up, and they’ve left a gap in the culture. A lot of pundits have taken over.

The Sacramento Bee article concludes: “And, of course, if Jon Stewart is Socrates you know what that makes Stephen Colbert? Plato.