Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Out of Step

I tuned into "Dancing With the Stars" the other night to see how our new Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade, Cloris Leachman, was getting along.

But before I get to Cloris, a confession:

I think "Dancing With the Stars" is the worst thing on TV since "My Mother the Car." It consists of a bunch of Grade D celebrities and washed up jocks competing in a trumped up ballroom dancing competition while the judges engage in breathless exclamations and the dancers blow air kisses to one and all.

It makes "Hollywood Squares" look like "Masterpiece Theater."

"Dancing With the Stars" is the ultimate embrace of mediocrity. One critic summed it up nicley when she described a male dancer as "stalking his hottie partner on stage like the creepy uncle you always avoid at wedding receptions."

A recent competition featured Heather Mills, the former Mrs. Paul McCartney, dancing with a prosthetic leg. I suspect many people watched for the same reason they watch auto racing. To see a crash.

A lot of people like it. But then again, a lot of people voted to reelect George Bush.

Cloris Leachman, God bless her, is a quality actress with a long (she began appearing on television and in films shortly after competing in Miss America as Miss Chicago 1946) and distinguished career. She won an Oscar for "The Last Picture Show" in 1971 and a bunch of Emmys.

On "Dancing With the Stars," however, the 82-year-old actress looked like somebody's grandmother who had one too many champagne cocktails. I guess it's what passes for humor these days.

Is she really the embodiment of "Hats Off to Entertainment"? It makes me wonder who finished in second place.

My choice for grand marshal is and will be Dodger announcer Vin Scully, a beloved national icon who is arguably the best announcer of all time. I'm betting he wouldn't be caught dead on "Dancing With the Stars."

But once again, Show Biz or what passes for it will triumph over all on Colorado Boulevard.

As they say in baseball, maybe next year.

I was astonished recently to hear Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin say that Barack Obama "... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."

Since I wouldn't want to see some fellow traveler in the White House, I decided to investigate.

It turns out Palin was referring to Bill Ayers, one of the founders of the Weather Underground, a bunch of 1960s radicals whose members took credit for explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol during the Vietnam War.

Obama was the first chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a school-reform group of which Ayers was a founder. Ayers also held a meet-the-candidate event at his home for Obama when Obama first ran for office in the mid-1990s.

Palin cited a New York Times story that detailed Obama's relationship with Ayers. But according to the Associated Press, the Times concluded: "A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Ayers, 63. But the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Ayers, whom he has called 'somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.'"

As for the foundation, Walter Annenberg, who provided a grant to start the foundation, was a lifelong Republican and former ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Richard Nixon. His widow, Leonore, has endorsed McCain.

Under the deal with Annenberg every dollar from him had to be matched bytwo from elsewhere. The co-funders were a host of respected,mainstream institutions, such as the National Science Foundation, theJohn D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the W.K. KelloggFoundation and the Chicago Public Schools.

According to PolitiFact, a project of the the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly, among the other board members who served with Obama were Stanley Ikenberry, former president of the University of Illinois; Arnold Weber, former president of Northwestern University and assistantsecretary of labor in the Nixon administration; Scott Smith, thenpublisher of the Chicago Tribune; venture capitalist Edward Bottum;John McCarter, president of the Field Museum, and Patricia AlbjergGraham, former dean of the Harvard University Graduate School ofEducation.

Not a bomb thrower among them.

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