Last week I gave a talk before a local theatre's production of Neil LaBute's play "Fat Pig." The play revolves around a workplace romance between a conventionally attractive (read: slim) man and a fat woman.
In today's society this plot represents an informal taboo vaguely similar to that explored 40 years ago in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, when the suave but very black Sidney Poitier shocked the very white Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn by showing up as their daughter's dinner date.
My talk involved points I've made hundreds times over the past few years, to audiences ranging in size from a dozen high school students to a few million TV viewers.
When I was kid, many TV shows and films at the cinema were Westerns, and to this day I cannot think of family entertainment without thinking of horses and cattle. Sometimes I moo just to get into a G-rated frame of mind.
These were fine shows featuring good, clean violence in between shots of cows and sagebrush. They were based on the premise that Americans looked back fondly on an era when shooting people was a popular pastime and did not involve the ACLU afterward.
Today we are piecing together two seemingly unrelated news stories that ran on successive days -- because they will lead us to a solution for finally getting to the bottom of the financial crisis that has crippled our nation and the world.
The first story appeared on November 11. Just one day after the federal government announced its restructuring of the bailout of insurance carrier AIG (American International Group, Inc.), bringing our total rescue effort to of the insurance and financial services giant to $150 billion, ABC News' crack investigative correspondent Brian Ross reported that executives of AIG held yet another executive retreat at yet another luxury resort.
While America's auto manufacturers and other companies are begging Washington for bailouts, the liberal-derided Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is making money hand over fist, providing the nation with more jobs than any other employer and doing something else very, very positive: serving the poor.
Times are getting harder, people want cheap stuff, and the place they find it is at Wal-Mart, which boasted a 9.8 percent increase in earnings and a 7.5 percent increase in sales the third quarter, according to The Wall Street Journal.
This could only happen in America.
The insurance giant AIG that is more than a little responsible for the current economic crisis reportedly has decided to lay out $503 million of early deferred compensation to top employees so they won't abandon a ship that is being kept afloat only by billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars.
Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting "Assassinate Obama." Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.
Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.
From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.
Michael Eisenstadt is a nonexistent senior fellow at the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy, a nonexistent think tank, but he has a blog and the "Institute" has a Web site and for parts of the blogosphere that's credibility enough.
Eisenstadt is actually Eitan Gorlin, half of a team of aspiring film makers who over the course of the campaign generated loopy Web postings that, while something of a stretch had a hint of plausibility: plans to build a casino in Baghdad's Green Zone, the assertion that Joe the Plumber was related to McCain nemesis Charles Keating, angry calls to the McCain campaign from Paris Hilton's family.
When Congress established the $700 billion bailout fund, it promised strict and thorough oversight. Over a month later, with $290 billion already committed, we have our answer: There isn't any.
The legislation called for a special inspector general within the Treasury to audit and investigate the bailout, reporting on what assets the government is acquiring, its reasons for doing so and their value. The special inspector has yet to be named, although the Bush administration is said to have a candidate lined up, but there's a question whether the Senate can confirm him in a timely fashion.
The nation's 21 Republican governors are in defense mode. They know they're the best and the brightest but fear the rest of the world doesn't understand that.
Meeting in Miami after the election, now solidly the minority party, the governors embraced Haley Barbour's statement: "When I became chairman of the Republican National Committee after Bill Clinton's election, I quickly found out that our governors were the most popular, influential people in the party. When the other party has the White House and both houses of Congress, as it did then and will now, the only place people can actually see Republican ideas being implemented is in the states."
Barbour, of course, is now governor of Mississippi.
It wasn't too long ago that most Americans accepted the adage that what is good for General Motors is good for the nation. That symbolic concept of U.S. industrial might certainly has slipped dramatically over the last four decades, but at this moment it just may be truer than it ever was.
For those of us of a certain age, the possible demise of the nation's auto building giant and its remaining competitors in Detroit, Ford and Chrysler, is inconceivable. The loss of national pride alone is almost as devastating as the impact on jobs, GDP, taxes and personal income and those figures are enormous. American entrepreneurship and ingenuity so long admired around the globe would lose what credibility it has left. No longer would we be the geniuses of industrial development as evidenced by our remaining brands still represented on the world's highways.