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The Northridge Earthquake

20 years ago today at 4:31 a.m., the Northridge earthquake shook Los Angeles, especially the San Fernando Valley and Santa Monica.

It felt like a giant jackhammer. The earth’s lateral movement was straight up and down and all around and very, very strong, powerful and fast. The bed shook, the intensity increased and the rumbling went on. I braced myself as I heard breaking, falling and crashing glass, shelves and furniture around me and I was vaguely aware of a baby crying. Minutes later, the world went eerily and instantly dark as the shaking subsided. Everything went black. I heard only a cacophony of shrieking car alarms and, in the distance, the sound of sirens.

NQ1994In the aftermath, I learned that 57 people had died, including residents of an apartment complex called Northridge Meadows. Freeways had collapsed. Infrastructure had been severely affected. The suburban newspaper newsroom where I was a stringer had been damaged. The San Fernando Valley’s 2 million residents were without water for days, then a week, despite assurances from city and county government. Finally, private companies such as Arrowhead Water provided what we used to call charity to those in need. Bottled water businesses, attacked by environmentalists and vilified by the government with punitive fees, transported an ample supply of water to the affected area. The charity was not only Arrowhead’s. Story after story came through of small, medium and large businesses donating food, water, medicine and other desperately needed supplies to southern California. The disaster affirmed my conviction that in general (especially in times of crisis, such as during Hurricane Katrina and attacks at Pearl Harbor, on 9/11 and at Boston), modern U.S. government fails to protect lives and the general welfare. During Northridge, I realized firsthand that society is better off at the mercy of those who seek to make money, who do goodwill of their own private, voluntary free choice.

Personally, the 1994 quake changed the way I live. I came away from the quake with a wealth of knowledge about preparedness. Today, I stock first aid kits, whistles, flashlights, water and other supplies for mobile, home and auto and I encourage others to do the same (I reviewed a fun quake book for kids in this 2009 book review post). I try to hold drills and remember to duck, cover and hold during an earthquake. I know that living in paradise comes with consequences.

Most of all, though, as I wrote in the Los Angeles Daily News after the Northridge earthquake, I gained a deeper appreciation for the city of angels.

Though insurance fraud was rampant after the quake, which led to insurers raising standards and premiums (which in turn triggered the state’s asinine Earthquake Authority, ending private quake insurance) the disaster mostly brought out what I love about these modern, Western pioneers I call my southern California neighbors. Here, people work hard – as hard or harder and more industriously than anywhere – enjoy play and adopt a healthy, positive, laissez-faire, rational and self-interested attitude about life and its trials. The great American cowboy type exists in Los Angeles, where today’s individualist is likely to be proud, productive and self-reliant to the extent possible in an increasingly fascist welfare state. The L.A. attitude is more live and let live than anywhere I’ve seen. There were countless examples after the quake. Day after day, I’ve seen countless examples since. The spirit here is to build. And to rebuild. And to encourage others to make themselves into who and whatever they choose to be.

I have seen this over and over in a city with riots, brush fires, mudslides and earthquakes. Los Angeles, California is in this sense America’s most American city. L.A. is filled with the world’s best artists, entrepreneurs and profit-seekers of all types. They work in industries across the spectrum, from manufacturing, shipping and defense to science, medicine and technology. They are generally benevolent and magnanimous in spirit, strong and resilient in disaster and self-made in character. They tend in crisis to activate, mobilize and help without pretense, fuss or strings attached and, when they help, they do it with awareness that it advances themselves. In short, southern Californians are the embodiment of the best in Western man. I saw this fact in evidence 20 years ago today.

Year in Review: 2013

American whistleblower Edward Snowden courtesy of The GuardianThis year gave us two types of men: Edward Snowden and Phil Robertson, or, the man of reason and the man of faith. The young man represents the spirit of youth; Snowden is an idealist who fled his own country for Hong Kong this summer, told the world about indiscriminate government surveillance on the entire population of the U.S. and made thoughtful arguments against government control over people’s lives. He was praised here first before many others even addressed what he did. He was called a hero by Ayn Rand’s heir. He was passionately defended by a prominent conservative intellectual who reported that Snowden had been moved to act by a foreign film about Communist surveillance.

Yet Snowden was roundly denounced for his whistleblowing act of heroism by leftists, conservatives and others, especially those from the Clinton/Bush/Obama administrations, and attacked by government. Tea Party types who made a movement based on opposing government control, challenging the welfare state and demanding new, radical solutions to U.S. problems were split on Snowden’s status as a hero.

They shouldn’t be. Edward Snowden is in every sense the best news of 2013, if America is to remain even partially free. Stating that he does not trust the Obama administration, he brought forth bold new evidence at enormous risk to his own life. From his efforts, we know that the government tracks the American people with the latest technology and captures detailed information about every individual without regard to the law. We know that the government lied about doing this. We know that not a single enemy attack or terrorist siege has been prevented, not that it would make mass surveillance right if it had. We know that the ways and means of government surveillance of Americans is enormous, alarming and unchecked. A federal judge challenged the constitutionality and rightly compared the statism to George Orwell’s novel 1984.

All of this is thanks to Edward Snowden.

Snowden brought Americans together in a way that opposing ObamaCare never could, even paving the way for a more unified, principled opposition to that unconstitutional act of fascism. He did so by thinking, speaking and acting on his own judgment, something few Americans do by my observation. He singularly enlightened the West and changed the world and he did it going by reason, of course, not taking Big Government on faith.

Most Americans do the opposite, as we saw in abundance by their rallying to the defense of an archaic old man who thinks, looks and talks like the mass murdering religious terrorist who destroyed the Twin Towers. He goes by faith, not by reason. He is primitive, not cognitive. His name is Phil Robertson. He leads the religious clan at the center of America’s most watched cable TV program.

DuckDynastyoldmanCourtesyofCrossmapDuring an interview with GQ, Robertson said blacks he observed were fine before civil rights laws were passed and gays, drunks and adulterers among others are going to hell. Robertson, a fundamentalist Christian, has previously made similarly ignorant statements, such as promoting the marrying of females as children, and the cable network suspended him when his new comments were widely broadcast. They did so on the grounds that his views are repugnant to their business ethics. When conservatives, including religious conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, erupted in a fury to defend Robertson on improper grounds, i.e., free speech – ignoring that the suspension does not violate the First Amendment – the network buckled to pressure and restored Robertson to the airwaves.

The man of faith triumphed. That he did so at the expense of another group that touts faith (belief without evidence) in dogma, GLAAD, an irrational gay activist group, is irrelevant to what matters. Robertson brought forth vile and repulsive views, in crude expressions reducing sex to the use of orifices,  spreading irrationalism to a wider audience. He singularly darkened the West and changed the world. His dark, malevolent beliefs were defended, sanctioned and accepted based on faith, i.e., in conservatism, in false views of what constitutes free speech, and above all in God, tradition and religion.

Robertson is the opposite of Snowden.

Robertson’s mob is emboldened and they are gathering. What we witnessed in 2013 in the Duck Dynasty media backlash, as with other cultural shifts toward irrationalism, is the mainstreaming of religious fundamentalism. The left’s faith in the welfare state was legitimized long ago by conservatives – the right accepts the left’s morality of altruism – and now the right’s faith in the religious state is being legitimized by the left, and also by secular rightists and libertarians such as Camille Paglia, in return. It’s the convergence of left and right in the name of faith, not reason.

We’ll suffer the consequences soon enough. Phil Robertson’s martyrdom has already paved the way for the emergence of another faith-based media celebrity: former quarterback Tim Tebow, who has been hired as a college football analyst by Disney’s ESPN for college football’s SEC Network in 2014. On Monday, Jan. 6, the athlete made famous more for his prayer than for his ability will make his first appearance as an ESPN analyst. “Tim is a SEC icon with a national fan base and broad appeal,” said ESPN programming executive Justin Connolly.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a devoutly religious person being popular in the culture. What the Robertson/Tebow broadcasting victories represent is a triumph of ignorance over knowledge, humility over ability, and, in Robertson’s case, depravity over dignity. Anyone who read what Robertson said knows what I mean. It’s bad enough that a publication that once heralded the civilization of man is cashing in on an old bigot’s popularity – and Robertson’s disgusting GQ interview is another instance of the coarsening of the culture which in turn feeds the rise of the religionists – and providing a platform for condemnation of gays, alcoholics and those who have sex outside of marriage, let alone marriage of children and Robertson’s other repugnant views and we should not be surprised if the rise of the Robertsons nets new primitives getting their own shows with high ratings, followings and streams of newly disgusting commentary. Nor will those inclined to denounce such primitives find speaking out easier in the wake of the Robertsons’ rising again.

All it takes to counter the rising tide of the irrational is one voice of reason to object. Like the child in the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, Edward Snowden pointed and named the reality of Big Government and gave America cause to rally for justice. His heroic example may lead to new, bold acts by radicals for a society based on reason and rights, though there will undoubtedly be new, bold acts, such as the continuing faith-based death spiral ObamaCare, by those in the opposite camp. 2013 delivered in two men powerful evidence of both.

Culture Breeds the ‘Knockout Game’

UO Greeting cardA recent visit to Hollywood provided more evidence that our coarsening culture feeds new depravity such as the so-called knockout game, which ran through the news cycle last week.

Knockout game ought to be called what it is: random physical assault. By most accounts, the game, which apparently pays cash to those who “play” and “win”, targets people based on certain factors or physical characteristics, such as being white. It is executed predominantly by blacks.

Attacks have been reported from New York to California – I’ve heard about at least one death from an assault in Chicago – and the game is spreading.

I’m not at all surprised. Of course, those who are responsible should be apprehended, arrested, tried and punished accordingly. I also blame bad culture.

Let me be specific: coarse, thug culture encouraged by products such as those pictured here, which I found at an Urban Outfitters store in Los Angeles, and shows such as The Simpsons, South Park and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. These crude, foul cable comedy programs are devoid of value other than to sneer at the world. They beg viewers to reject taking any idea seriously. I’ve been complaining about them for years – I think there’s a cultural connection to the rise in nihilism – to the chagrin of some readers, who say they laugh at various displays of depravity.

GC2I’m not saying I don’t understand why people find certain jokes humorous. I am saying that cynicism spawns cynics and absurdists such as Greg Gutfeld, Dennis Miller, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and their godfather Jerry Seinfeld. The zero worship spreads, festers and seeps into people’s minds, as I wrote about here when covering a person’s suicide. It has real consequences. This is because ideas do, in fact, matter. Ideas matter because life depends upon having them. So glorifying the anti-mind, including in exhibitions such as the brutality-worshipping Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) which may to some extent involve real talent, skill and ability, is ultimately repugnant to the rational mind.

Random physical attack has been happening throughout history, from roving gangs to wilding in the 1980s, bumfighting in the 1990s and today’s so-called knockout game. But it is undeniable that life and liberty are under intensified attack in today’s culture.

IMG_3541It’s bad enough that government from TSA and NSA to the ObamaCare violates individual rights.From pop to sports, we should think twice about what we choose to say, do and consume and the consequences of those choices. Like a rational parent who makes an effort to stop using profanity – even when it’s justified – around the kids so that they don’t pick up bad habits, we should be aware that enabling a rotten culture breeds cultural rot and this, in turn, feeds nihilism which contributes to the spread of cynicism and so forth. It’s a vicious cycle. Rational thinking and philosophy can stop it.

Book Review: Johnny Carson

johnny-carson-book-cover

A new biography of Johnny Carson by the lawyer he fired, Henry Bushkin, is ultimately too shallow and calculated to be credible.

The book, simply titled Johnny Carson, is a major publishing event. There’s not much that’s known about the talented Midwestern comedian and host of the Oscars, President Reagan’s inauguration and, of course, The Tonight Show (1962-1992). He was famously private. He lost a child to addiction and married several times and he pioneered both television and the entertainment industry, with highly profitable deals – apparently made after learning lessons from some bad deals – in media, real estate and men’s fashion. The reader learns about the business of Johnny Carson’s show business.

But something’s off. Author Bushkin, whom Johnny hired through a referral early in his career for no apparent reason, as reported here, delivers a crisp, curt narrative. In fact, it’s too clipped. Sentences feel overly edited, as if important information is deliberately left out, and in every chapter it seems like there must be more to each story. For example, Bushkin writes that he lets Johnny win at tennis because he says he’s afraid of being fired, but Johnny hasn’t fired a single person without cause in the past. By Bushkin’s telling, which comes early in the telling of this tell-all, he fears for his job when he says he has no reason to worry. So, one already has reason to suspect his motives. Something doesn’t add up.

As I read on, the sense of omission increased. A minor error, the misspelling of boxer Joe Frazier’s name, made me wonder if there were other errors as well as omissions, which may have escaped notice or scrutiny by publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Johnny Carson was a powerful, intensely entertaining host and humorist. His nightly monologue was, like Carson, groundbreaking in wit, depth and relevance. Decades later, the format he perfected dominates late night television. At times, he was silly. Other times, he was serious. He interviewed the nation’s top stars and intellectuals, bringing both a touch of lightness and a graceful dignity to everything he discussed. And he did discuss. Unlike today’s smarmy TV cynics masquerading as comedians, such as Jon Stewart, Greg Gutfeld and Stephen Colbert, Johnny Carson took ideas seriously.

Some of that sensibility can’t help but come through. More than a few of Johnny’s jokes, which are best described as witty observations, are retold. They’re still spot on. I laughed out loud at several of them. His ability to grasp the irony and humor in a given topic was extraordinary, a fact which is ignored in these pages, and his timing and delivery were perfect. Johnny Carson had both a twinkle and a reality-driven, Midwestern accessibility that made his knowing look and distinctly controlled lack of expression communicate a response to something in an instantaneously universal way. After Johnny visited London for Wimbledon and found himself in a hotel without air conditioning during a prolonged and sweltering heatwave, Bushkin came with his wife to pick him up and found him in a tub filled with ice and water. The author writes that Johnny Carson looked up at them and said: “I don’t care what you have to do but get us the hell out of here tomorrow. Charter a 747 if you must, but get us out of Dodge.”

Bushkin speculates with some degree of plausibility that the Tonight Show host was driven in some fundamental way by his inaccessible, unloving mother’s lack of approval.“Ruth Carson was a person who was impossible to impress and impossible to please,” he observes. “She seemed to take no pride or pleasure in her son’s accomplishments.” He suggests that Carson, who he says could be biting and cruel, became like his mother: “There came to be too many moments when Ruth Carson’s chilly influence abruptly took over his disposition.”

There are too many instances to the contrary to count. According to Bushkin’s version, Johnny Carson, who died in 2005, was also meticulously kind and generous. Of course, Johnny was fastidious about his work and reputation, the responsibility for which appears to have been lost on Bushkin, who as Carson’s attorney was the recipient of the barbs, kindness and attention to detail. When Johnny Carson sued a manufacturer of “Here’s Johnny” toilets for trademark violation of his individual rights, the lawyer accuses Carson of being petty. Never mind that the signature phrase powered Bushkin’s countless escapades and indulgences. Among these include the author’s extramarital affairs – he writes about Johnny’s infidelity in more detail – and trips around the world. But constantly and insidiously Henry Bushkin drops the context that he, unlike Johnny Carson, was not the king of late night television and a brand unto himself for over 30 years.

Never mind, too, that, as Bushkin reports, his boss was singled out for attack time and again. For instance, Carson, a father of three boys, was threatened with a grenade by a German couple demanding money at a time when the children of Sinatra, Hearst and Getty had been kidnapped. When Los Angeles Police advised Carson to defy the criminals’ demands and let police deliver a bag to a location on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood near NBC’s Tonight Show studios in Burbank, Johnny Carson said No, insisting that he personally deliver a decoy bag of money rather than risk harm and injury to his wife and her child. Whether being targeted in bars or being the second name on John Lennon assassin Mark David Chapman’s list, “Here’s Johnny” carried with its instant association of good humor and an upright posture a huge target for pure post-New Left envy and hatred of ability, achievement and success.

Bushkin himself seems to realize this, though he doesn’t grant Johnny much understanding, which reinforces the impression that he sought to profit from his association with Johnny Carson without regard to what made Johnny great. It’s a common flaw in today’s celebrity biographies and in Johnny Carson it’s less obvious, which makes the omission worse. Without any interest in Johnny Carson the artist, we are left with a cold and calculated assessment of Johnny Carson the brand that seeks to cash in on Johnny Carson without earning it. So the narrative reads like a bean-counter passing judgment on an artist. In the scope of the entire book, there is not a single sentence or thought describing Johnny Carson at work on his monologue, for example, or preparing for an interview with one of his guests, so we’re left empty of any examination of his ability to create humor and induce laughter, which is a tremendous skill. Johnny Carson’s talent and ability are taken for granted.

All that’s left is celebrity and that’s the appeal of this book. Writing about a cultural icon of late 20th century America does have an upside and it’s fun to read about someone who was a titan of comedy and television. When Johnny and his third wife, Joanna, decided to spontaneously marry in private at the posh Beverly Hills Hotel on a day he was being honored with some other award for achievement, Bushkin writes that Johnny informed the gathered guests: “A lot of columnists have been asking why me and my gal haven’t set a date for the wedding, so I think I will tell you that we were married at one-thirty this afternoon.” Bushkin continues: “Johnny then leaned down and kissed Joanna. Flip Wilson, wearing his Geraldine drag, kissed Johnny. Noting that all three of Johnny’s wives had names that started with the same letter, Bob Newhart concluded, “Obviously Johnny didn’t want to have to change the monograms on the towels after every marriage.” The secret had been kept, romance had triumphed, the laughs were plentiful, and the party rocked. No marriage ever had a more promising beginning. In time, when the marriage ended and the divorce was settled, this romantic gesture would cost Johnny $35 million.”

How Johnny earned the money is left essentially unsaid, probably because Bushkin doesn’t know or care to know the source of Johnny’s wealth. The deals are one thing and Bushkin may have arranged, papered and closed them as he says. But the talent that made the deals – and profits – possible is something else. Instead, we get glimpses of glimpses of Bushkin in Vegas with women. Bushkin in the south of France with Mary Hart (Entertainment Tonight). Bushkin in Hawaii with Joyce DeWitt (Three’s Company). The story of Carson Productions, the business failures and success, the Hart, Schaffner and Marx company’s Carson suit designs are left untold, listed in dollars, cents and snippets. Again, there’s next to nothing about how Johnny worked, studied and made choices – did he watch clips of comedy routines, listen to songs or albums or read book excerpts before guests appeared on The Tonight Show and was he involved in creative meetings? – let alone deeper insights. Only in the last chapters does Bushkin disclose that “the man smoked four packs a day or more.” Why? Did he try to quit? Blank out. The death of Johnny Carson’s alcoholic son, Rick, is barely mentioned let alone explored.

Politically, Bushkin writes that Johnny Carson – who interviewed everyone from Bobby Kennedy to Ayn Rand on The Tonight Show – was “strong on integration and civil rights, skeptical of the military and war, big on personal responsibility. Overall, you’d have to say he was anti-big: anti–big government, anti–big money, anti–big bullies, anti–big blowhards.” Carson’s politics sound interesting. So does his friendship with flamboyant gay writer Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany’sIn Cold Blood). So does the fact that Johnny chose not to attend either of his parents’ funerals. Bushkin never goes into any of that.

The man, the artist, the host, the master of ceremonies – all remain elusive to the man who was Carson’s longtime lawyer and it isn’t hard to see why. Bushkin reports that his then-romantic partner, actress Joyce DeWitt, once suggested to Johnny that he should play Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bushkin writes that Carson responded by lecturing DeWitt in why his audience would never want to see him in that. It’s probably one of the most interesting untold stories in this biography. But again, we never get to read a word of Carson’s lecture, which might have contained his philosophy of humor or at least his approach to doing comedy or at minimum understanding his appeal.

At the end of one chapter, Bushkin says that Mary Hart called Johnny Carson insane. We are expected to take her word for it via the author, but in the very next chapter Johnny Carson is angling to get a job for his alcoholic son in order to help him recover. He doesn’t sound remotely irrational let alone insane.

This sense of there being more to the story and huge gaping holes in Bushkin’s account is especially true when it comes to Joan Rivers. The comedienne was once Carson’s handpicked substitute host and presumed heiress to The Tonight Show‘s hosting. But she went behind Johnny’s back and took a late-night show gig with then-fledgling Fox. Why she did do what she did, which led to a ratings disaster and may have contributed to her husband Edgar’s suicide, is another untold story here. Elsewhere, Bushkin describes himself as the middleman between Johnny Carson and Carson Productions chief Ed Weinberger, then admits that he asked Ed to be the one to tell Johnny that his son Rick had been fired. Bushkin clearly expects the tale to reflect poorly upon Johnny. Instead it reflects poorly on Henry Bushkin. Did Bushkin forget that he was the middleman? Or just that he’d told us he was?

Tellingly, when speaking of Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson, Bushkin intersperses the terms envied and admired.

In the end, the lawyer who waited until Johnny Carson – and his TV sidekick Ed McMahon, who hardly rates a mention here and there – died to write his superficial Johnny Carson confesses that he went behind Johnny’s back and tried to undersell Carson Productions by $30 million. He says he did it because he thought he was suited to run Carson Productions and therefore didn’t think it was “that big of a crime”. But he didn’t object when Carson found out about the double-cross and called him into his Malibu beach house to fire Henry Bushkin. The author describes Johnny Carson as “the most interesting man I had ever known.” He doesn’t come close to exploring or explaining why.

(Read my 2005 obituary for Johnny Carson here.)

TV Review: The Kelly File

Fox News (which, at its best, is better than its competition, though CNN is making improvements) continues its decline. With more piffle on the air in its prime time lineup, more self-aggrandizing segments and more of the same style over substance in shows, guests and topics, the 17-year-old channel’s programming is less informative than ever. The newest addition, a piddling piece of fluff titled The Kelly File, went blank for an hour in its awful premiere last night and wound up with less value to offer than an episode of Three’s Company. At least that lousy ABC comedy didn’t pretend to be anything decent or satisfying, just an excuse to ogle well-endowed women and puzzle at the Ropers or chuckle at Mr. Furley.

Fox News’ newest darling, Megyn Kelly, whom they’ve been breathlessly grooming and promoting for years now, is another cable television blonde with a law degree and not much else. In other words, she’s like Chrissy from Three’s Company but not as thoughtful. At least dim Chrissy tried to make sense of the world around her. Ms. Kelly, who’s been at her best in fragmented legal segments when she’s pitted against the network’s chief personality, Bill O’Reilly, in his lead-in The O’Reilly Factor, doesn’t approach Chrissy in sincerity or dedication to her task. Megyn Kelly’s as hard and narcissistic as Chrissy Snow was soft and magnanimous.

TV_Fox_Kelly_at_Night_inev_t607Only The Kelly File is presented as factual, not fictional. With heavy promotion, and after her flatlining debate moderation during the 2012 presidential campaign, Ms. Kelly began with a softball interview with Tea Party hero Sen. Ted Cruz, (R, Texas), who has led a rebellion against the nation’s most far-reaching government dictate (ObamaCare), sparked a small government shutdown and challenged Republican Party leaders to confront and defy the President who negotiates with Islamic dictatorships but not duly elected Congressional leaders. One would think the TV personality in charge of the show would have something serious and interesting to ask of such a man.

Think again. Thinking is on the way out in this dumbed down culture – which is not just dumbed down by Fox News – and The Kelly File like its name is merely the latest example of the Oprah-ization of American television and the disappearance of serious, let alone objective, broadcast journalism. The Kelly File joins Fox’s The Five and The O’Reilly Factor in the spread of vacuous if alliterative shows that are more show than news or analysis. If TV feels like Network (1976) come to life, with Howard Beale (Peter Finch) raging while Black Panthers and mystics pop off for higher ratings in a culture down the tubes, it’s not your imagination. In fact, O’Reilly teased a “Mad as Hell” segment earlier this month.

It’s not that Ms. Kelly is not intelligent and certainly there’s a place for attractive people on television. The problem with her show is that she tries too hard, constantly talks about herself and mugs for the camera and none of this adds up to fair, balanced or useful programming. She showed a clip of a race car wipeout video that’s been looping all day long. She talked about Miley Cyrus. She teased her news reel several times. She eventually interviewed three people who question the government’s decision to shoot to kill an unarmed woman in Washington, DC in the most compelling segment, which felt like the shortest segment. Ms. Kelly hardly scratched the surface. When one of the guests, a black man who pointed out that one does not lose one’s individual rights when stopped by police near the White House, Megyn Kelly had nothing else to say or ask. She showed no more interest in the shooting and death of a mother recklessly driving alone with her child for no apparent reason than she did in Sen. Cruz, shutting down government or defaulting on the nation’s debt. It’s as though everything to her is blurry, fast and best left unexamined.

She proceeded without disclosure to share a headline printed by a newspaper owned by the same company that owns Fox News. The headline posed a question that was debunked by her two legal guests in another short segment about a serious, big-city threat to life and a child in a moving vehicle before migrating to her favorite subject, herself, her 10-year-old audition footage and pictures of her spouse and children, one of whom is a baby she calls her “little man” (a demeaning expression which would be unacceptable had a father called his infant daughter his “little woman”). On top of that, the hard-charging cream puff smirked and mugged her way through a free-for-all with Fox’s cast from The Five in which she got facts wrong and wanted to know if the panelists had ever “hooked up.”

Megyn Kelly ended her show by urging us to “continue the conversation” apparently without realizing that, like most in today’s perceptual-bound culture, especially TV, she hadn’t started one. She hadn’t came close. In fact, Ms. Kelly in her Kelly File premiere never seemed for a second like she wants to, or knows how to, think for herself, much less give the audience the facts and analysis with which to do the same. Her predecessor with his self-proclaimed influence factor boasts every night that “the spin stops here.” Increasingly on Fox News and in what’s best described as a lighter version of the preceding show, so does news, thought and intelligent conversation.