Don Rickles RIP

April 7, 2017

Sad news from Hollywood: the king of the insult comics, “Mr. Warmth,” Don Rickles has died at 90 of kidney failure. He deserves a final standing ovation, not only for giving the world 70 years of laughs, but for continuing to entertain audiences right up until the end and never yielding to the PC thugs who’ve terrorized so many comedians into censoring themselves, lest anyone's feeling be hurt by their jokes. Rickles gleefully offended everyone, like a heckler who’d somehow taken over the stage, addressing his fans as “hockey puck,” and playing off of ethnic and gender stereotypes while always making sure the crowd knew that he was a nice guy playing a jerk. He got us to laugh at ourselves and our own absurd prejudices, which we need more of.

It’s no surprise that Rickles wasn’t cowed by the young hothouse flowers of the SJW movement. He was a lifelong pal of Frank Sinatra, and anyone who would do jokes about Sinatra and the mob to his face had no fear. One of his best Sinatra lines is in the obit, but another story he loved to tell isn’t. Rickles recalled that before he met Barbara, his wife of 52 years, he was dating a young woman he wanted to impress. So when he saw Sinatra in the same Vegas restaurant, he begged him to stop by his table, to show his date what a big shot he was that the great Frank Sinatra would come over and say hi to him. Frank agreed. Later, as he was leaving, a smiling Sinatra approached Rickles’ table and said, “Hi, Don!” Rickles angrily snapped back, “Frank, please! We’re tryin’ to eat!”

Luckily for Rickles, Sinatra cracked up laughing.

Gender Wars

March 29, 2017

Two highly-credentialed Johns Hopkins researchers, Paul McHugh and Lawrence Mayer, released a report arguing that there is no reliable scientific evidence supporting the currently fashionable claims that sexual orientation and gender dysphoria are caused by natural traits and innate behavior. In response, the director of LGBTI Research at Vanderbilt University released a letter signed by about 600 scholars, denouncing the report for not being published in a peer-reviewed journal and claiming that its "conclusions do not reflect current scientific or medical consensus about sexual orientation or gender identity…”

McHugh responded that it’s very hard to respond to the letter because it lists no specific objections, other than that the report, like many medical articles, wasn’t published in a peer-reviewed journal, and that they “just don’t like us” and want to “silence us.” He added, “I am disappointed that 600 people don't like me. But I would like them to explain what exactly in that article we got wrong and where the information is that we should have put in. We are not against anybody. We are a group of doctors talking about the treatment of patients."

I’m hardly an expert in gender research, but this letter does point up one of the growing problems with scientific research in general: There are several areas of science that have become tainted by politics, such as climate research and gender identity. It’s the very essence of the scientific method that the orthodoxy be challenged, but certain subjects are being declared off-limits to questioning. Citing the lack of publishing in peer-reviewed journals as a disqualifier is itself misleading, if the editors of those journals refuse to publish anything that questions the conventional wisdom, no matter how well-researched. Likewise, people who declare, “The science is settled,” are tacitly admitting they know nothing about science. “Settled science” is getting unsettled all the time, as we learn that things we once believed about everything from space to nutrition to fetal development were not accurate. Citing “consensus” also reveals an ignorance of the scientific method. Scientific facts aren’t determined by popular vote. If a million scientists believe something, and one dissenter is able to prove them wrong, then he’s right and the million others are wrong.

For the record, I’m not taking sides on this battle. For all I know, McHugh and Mayer may be wrong. But if you really have 600 qualified scientists who agree that they are wrong, then they should be able to explain why. Simply saying, “Look at how long this list of names that disagrees is!” is not a scientific refutation.

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Sunday, I found myself accidentally at close range of what turned into another big media controversy over President Trump. I was a guest on Fox News’ “Judge Jeanine” (we’ll have a link to that video up elsewhere), appearing right after her monologue in which she called on Paul Ryan to step down as Speaker over House Republicans’ embarrassing failure to pass an Obamacare repeal and replacement bill.

Earlier, Trump had tweeted to his followers to be sure to watch Jeanine Pirro’s show, so the media naturally leaped to the conclusion that he was endorsing her message to Ryan, which had yet to be revealed. Trump has praised Ryan for his efforts, and the White House insists he didn’t know in advance what the Judge would say in her monologue, he was just giving a plug to his friend and supporter’s show.

I think it’s interesting that when it suits the media to depict Trump as a clueless know-nothing, that’s the story; and when it suits them to depict him as a Machiavellian manipulator who was psychic enough to know in advance what Judge Pirro would say, that’s the story.

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