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2018年4月13日 星期五

RCP Morning Note, 04/13/2018: Flipping the Fiscal Script; Autism Links; Beijing on the Biscayne; Kovacs' Legacy


04/13/2018
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Carl Cannon's Morning Note

Flipping the Fiscal Script; Autism Links; Beijing on the Biscayne; Kovacs' Legacy

By Carl M. Cannon on Apr 13, 2018 08:58 am

Good morning, it's Friday, April 13, 2018. Yes, Friday the 13th for the superstitious among you. On this date in 1954, Americans with TV sets were buzzing about a late-night talk show that debuted the evening before. "The Ernie Kovacs Show" wasn't its host's first television venture, nor would it be his last, but it introduced his comedic genius to an audience that had missed his showcases in earlier time slots.

Kovacs' talents left their mark on American pop culture, but it was -- ironically and sadly -- his death that had the most far-reaching repercussions, which are still felt in U.S. politics and American public life.

I'll explain in a moment. First, I'd point you to RealClearPolitics' front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

* * *

Flipping Script, Dems Attack GOP on Fiscal Issues. James Arkin reports on yesterday's balanced budget amendment vote, which House Republicans supported, drawing charges of hypocrisy from the opposition party.

Troubling Links Between Autism, Acetaminophen. In RealClearInvestigations, William Parker presents evidence that the disorder could be caused by the popular medication commonly administered to relieve infants' pain from the shots.

How South Florida Became Bullish for China Shops. Also in RCI, Erin Clark explores how a planned 93-acre faux Chinatown in North Miami -- an area with few Chinese-Americans -- reflects Beijing's global reach, and more.

Facebook: Congress Can't Regulate What It Doesn't Get. In RealClearMarkets, Jimmy Sengenberger writes that the so-called grilling of Mark Zuckerberg was a display of political grandstanding, not problem solving.

Five Facts You Need to Know About Facebook's Data Crisis. The bipartisan group No Labels offers this overview in RealClearPolicy.

CBO Forecast Leaves No Room for Wishful Thinking. Also in RCPolicy, James C. Capretta argues that the House GOP's balanced budget amendment is not a real solution to the nation's growing fiscal problems.

A Southerner's Unlucky Place in Civil War History. In RealClearHistory, Richard Brownell tells of the man who gave up his plantation to the Confederacy at the start of the Civil War and offered his parlor for Robert E. Lee's surrender at the end.

* * *

Although Ernie Kovacs was born in New Jersey, he was born for Hollywood. He arrived in Southern California as television was emerging as the ascendant medium in this country, and he put his own stamp on the new technology.

Affectionately described once as a "comedian who looked like a friendly but possibly demented insurance salesman," Kovacs was more than a comedian. He wrote for magazines and television, experimented with sound and visuals, and influenced two generations of television personalities, entertainers and news anchors alike. His influence is still being felt today by thousands of journalists and performers who never heard his name.

Kovacs was uninhibited both in front of the camera and behind it. With his trademark cigar, he often ad-libbed, which came naturally, and he addressed the audience as though they were in the room with him.

"Kovacs did things no one did before," media critic Jeff Edelstein observed. "He spoke to the camera. He set up drawn-out visual gags. He ad-libbed his way around the set. And while these quaint little tics are the domain of just about every TV personality today, you must understand this: Kovacs created these things."

"Nothing in moderation," reads the first line on Ernie Kovacs' headstone. "We all loved him," reads the second. The pallbearers at his funeral included Billy Wilder, Jack Lemmon, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. Much of Kovacs' acclaim came after his death, but those on the front lines in television's pioneering days appreciated his gifts. "We lost a real genius," lamented Lucille Ball.

Kovacs died in the early morning hours of January 13, 1962, when he missed a turn at the corner of Beverly Glen and Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. He and his wife, singer Edie Adams, had been attending a baby shower for Milton Berle and his wife. Ernie and Edie were heading home in separate cars.

Ernie was driving his new Chevrolet Corvair station wagon, probably too fast, when a light rain began. He was not wearing a seat belt, which was common then, and police believe he was killed instantly. A photograph from the time showed an unlit cigar a few feet away from his body, leading to speculation that he was trying to light it, and lost control of the vehicle.

A few years later, however, another culprit emerged: the car itself. The indictment came in the form of a book, "Unsafe at Any Speed," by a young Harvard Law School graduate named Ralph Nader. The book focused on the popular Chevy Corvair, manufactured by General Motors.

GM's ill-considered decision, revealed by Nader himself, to hire private detectives to look for dirt on Nader backfired, helping make the book a runaway bestseller, prompting congressional investigations, and inspiring the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966. It also ushered in new national attitudes about consumer safety.

Twenty-first-century liberals view Ralph Nader with mixed feelings. Democratic Party leaders blame his quixotic 2000 third-party presidential run for keeping Al Gore out of the White House. That is part of Nader's legacy. There is also this: Tens of thousands of Americans, perhaps hundreds of thousands, are alive today because Nader investigated the safety of the Corvair.

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)
ccannon@realclearpolitics.com

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