Behind closed doors

Well, the national economy is still terrible, and the situation in Michigan far worse. The deal under which Roger "Superman" Penske would have saved the auto manufacturer Saturn fell apart, which probably means thousands more jobs down the drain.

And in Lansing, the dysfunctional set of wretches known as the Michigan Legislature still haven't agreed on a state budget, even though the legal deadline to finish the job was a week ago. 

Every indication, however, was that they will eventually agree on something that will badly hurt elementary and high school education and slash funding for early childhood development.

The Michigan Promise scholarship grant was killed, breaking the state's promise to 96,000 kids now trying to get higher education. (In some cases, the universities have already issued them the money, leaving them, as well as the kids, in a dilemma.) 

The major parties in the Legislature, in other words the far right-wing Republicans and the Andy Dillon imitation Republicans, are working hard to make Michigan competitive with Haiti, where workers without health insurance make baseballs for the major leagues for, last time I looked, something like $1.07 a day.

National health care reform is being weakened, and the war in Afghanistan is going badly. But it is impossible to care about that any longer now. No, we can't spare any time for that stuff ... because we learned last week that ... Dave Letterman had sex!

Specifically, we found out that someone tried to blackmail Letterman, the late-night comedian, for having had sex with women who worked for his company. Letterman did the correct and sensible thing and called the cops. In short order, they arrested the alleged blackmailer, a CBS producer who had lived with one of these women.

This caused a far bigger media sensation than the devastating events that killed thousands in the Philippines and the Samoas. Which ought to baffle anybody with any sort of functioning brain. Consider this: David Letterman was single at the time his affairs occurred. Yes, it isn't a great idea to get your meat where you make your bread, but guess what? People are people.

Nobody, at least as of last weekend, alleged that he raped these women, or threatened them with their jobs or fired women who didn't have sex with him. Nobody has suggested any of these women were underage. They apparently wanted to have relationships with him. 

It is important to note, too, that Dave Letterman has not ever held himself out to be a moral authority. He doesn't tell people how to live their lives. He is not a religious figure. He is not a politician. He is not a government employee. He's a fucking comedian! 

Get a grip! An unmarried comedian slept with a bunch of women. For this, we should stop the presses? Nevertheless, The New York Times put this on the front page Saturday and listed the names of other women he may have been with, using this weasel formulation: "Some veterans of the show said it was well-known ..."

Congratulations. The New York Times seems to have adopted the standards of the supermarket gossip tabs. One can just picture Perry White, Clark Kent's old editor, throwing down the paper and yelling, "Great Caesar's ghost!" 

What is more baffling is that the very day before, The New York Times splashed another, far more legitimate story involving sex and extortion across its front page. The world's best newspaper had investigated U.S. Sen. John Ensign, a sanctimonious, Bible-thumping Nevada Republican who had presidential ambitions. 

That is, until it was learned that he'd been humping his campaign treasurer. Friday, the NYT reported Ensign had pressured a consulting firm to hire his lover's husband, then intervened to help his clients, a seemingly clear violation of an ethics law. Nevertheless, the rest of the world paid scant attention. Few people outside Nevada know who the senator is. He may be a powerful Washington figure, but he doesn't have a network TV show.

Here's the problem. The two biggest distractions in modern life today are sex and celebrities. Put them together, and the combination somehow blocks out our ability to concentrate on anything else. Back in early 1998, some intellectual publications started writing about an interesting guy I had never before heard of who hated America, and wanted to do it much harm. He had money, he had followers, and he was ordering them to do everything they could to kill Americans, in America if possible. His name was Osama bin Laden. 

That was the first I ever heard of him. Most people never heard of him that year. Even the best papers and magazines took very little notice, because there was a much more important story. The president had gotten his jism all over the dress of some young woman who begged him to let her give him a blow job. This almost brought down our government.

What we need to do as a nation is to grow up.

Grown-ups know this: Humans have sex, ideally with appropriate partners they meet at appropriate times of their life without any conflict of interest. I guess there are six or seven people like that in the country. Everybody else has a somewhat checkered past. What's more, they have bowel movements. Even Taylor Swift.

We fortunately don't write about what people do on the toilet, and now we need to stop talking about sex. When sexual behavior is felonious, that is different. When folks mess with children or animals, we should expose them and try to get them jailed. If they are elected or appointed officials and their behavior causes them to abuse the public safety or public funds in some way, we should out them vigorously.

Otherwise, leave everybody's sex life alone.

My guess is that what Dave Letterman does with his penis will have no impact on your life. You are, however, about to be painfully screwed by the jerks in Lansing. So whom do you think your media should pay more attention to? 

Obama and the Olympics: Last weekend, talking-head land was full of commentators speculating that President Obama had dealt himself a terrible blow by going to Copenhagen to support Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. One moron even compared it to Lyndon Johnson's decision to escalate the war in Vietnam.

What this really demonstrates is why the 24-hour-news cycle, where a new sensational headline is needed every five minutes, is a bad thing. First of all, Rio de Janeiro got the Olympics — as well it should have. The Olympics have never been in South America, and it is high time they were. Nor would it have been a good precedent if they had given the games to Chicago after the president showed up.

This would have meant that, from now on, every leader of every country with a city in the running would be expected to hightail it to wherever the International Olympic Committee holds court next. However, there is something a bit endearing about the president, who is from Chicago, making an appearance to plug his hometown. Washington is full of lesser politicians who have forgotten their roots. 

My guess is that a lot of the home folks appreciated his effort. There was one glimmer of good news: Nobody accused the president of going to Denmark to secretly seek a sex change.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]