The Brendan Eich witch hunt makes HBO’s Silicon Valley must-see TV

Silicon Valley HBOOne of the most awful defenses the usual suspects offered on behalf of Mozilla came (natch) from the New York Times, which opined that Mozilla is “special” and therefore cannot be held to ordinary corporate standards:

Mozilla is not a normal company. It is an activist organization. Mozilla’s primary mission isn’t to make money but to spread open-source code across the globe in the eventual hope ofpromoting “the development of the Internet as a public resource.”

As such, Mozilla operates according to a different calculus from most of the rest of corporate America.

Like all software companies, Mozilla competes in two markets. First, obviously, it wants people to use its products instead of its rivals’ stuff. But its second market is arguably more challenging — the tight labor pool of engineers, designers, and other tech workers who make software.

When you consider the importance of that market, Mr. Eich’s position on gay marriage wasn’t some outré personal stance unrelated to his job; it was a potentially hazardous bit of negative branding in the labor pool, one that was making life difficult for current employees and plausibly reducing Mozilla’s draw to prospective workers.

Short version:  Silicon Valley is a unique outpost of Progressive corporate responsibility and no tech company can afford to offend the delicate sensibilities within that small, unique world.

That sounded nonsensical, but it may well be that Silicon Valley denizens really do like to think of themselves as special in unique and Progressive ways.  Indeed, we have proof of that, and in a pretty funny form that was created and finalized long before anyone thought of anything other than JavaScript in connection with Brendan Eich.

Last night, HBO debuted a new half hour show called Silicon Valleywhich HBO promises will be the Entourage of California’s high-tech world:  five young men will become very, very rich, and then navigate their way through the perils and pleasures of wealth and insincerity in a uniquely rich and powerful environment.  Because I’m not a fan of HBO’s leftist sensibilities, I yielded only reluctantly to my husband’s importuning that I give it a try.  From the first minute, though, I was hooked.

I don’t think I would have been quite so hooked if it hadn’t been for the Brendan Eich witch hunt.  Without that context, the show really is just another Entourage, meaning that you can only remain interested for so long in foul-mouthed, stereotypical young men (computer geeks, as opposed to Hollywood geeks) living the lush life.  But what the show did wonderfully, really wonderfully, was to satirize the banal Progressivism that those who have struck it rich in Silicon Valley believe that they must bring to bear on every facet of life.

When the episode opens, the main protagonist is working as a low-level drone at “Hooli,” a company that’s clearly modeled on Google/Facebook/YouTube/Yahoo or any other Silicon Valley company that seeks to think “out of the box,” by turning the workplace into a playground and the world into a Progressive paradise.  In fact, Hooli’s real goal is to keep its isolated, banal, self-involved founder very, very rich, which various corporate sycophants and tech geeks along for the monied ride.

One of the more interesting characters, and one that the hero opts to work with, is a weird guy who is fanatically opposed to college, which he believes stifles creativity and initiative.  As he points out, most of the tech world’s great ideas came from college drop-outs.  To him, college is a place where the top-heavy administration’s entire goal is to churn out people who are burdened with debt, can’t get jobs, and have had their creative abilities sucked out of them.  When this guy gives a well-attended talk to that effect, the only opposition he gets is from an old hippie who hurls content-free insults.

It was both a surprise to me and not a surprise at all to learn that Mike Judge is the show’s creator.  Judge denies having any political leanings.  That may be true.  He may just be an iconoclast who’s willing to take on the Leftist shibboleths that completely dominant Hollywood and the professional class.  Whatever his motivations and beliefs, his product is refreshing.  

For all that Silicon Valley  satirizes the brainless, corporate Progressivism that oozes out of Silicon Valley, I doubt that even Judge could have envisioned either the fascist attack on Eich for his personal beliefs or the “we’re special” defense that the New York Times offered up on Mozilla’s behalf.  In a world run by Leftists, reality routinely outruns satire.  Nevertheless, if you have access to HBO, and if you are willing to tolerate HBO’s endless obsession with sex and foul language, check out its premiere episode (which you can see online).  In the unlikely event that it manages to maintain its satirical tone for even a few episodes before sinking into the usual Hollywood quicksand of mushy feel-good Leftism, it’s probably a show you’ll enjoy and one that, moreover, deserves support.

(Should I throw in a few typical review points here?  Yes, I shall.  Production values are expensive; acting is workmanlike; obscenity is rife.  That’s pretty much all you need to know.)

Democrats: Using band-aid remedies to “cure” systemic failures

bandaid-2One of the mantras to emerge from feminist side of the Leftist swamps during the late 1960s/early 1970s was notion that “the personal is political.”  As used by the feminists, it meant that, when suburban women got together to burn their bras, examine their genitals in mirrors, and gripe about patriarchal oppression, they weren’t just engaging in the updated version of coffee klatches.  Instead, this “consciousness raising” was a political act because the conclusions they reached would drive their politics.

As is so often the case when it comes to manipulating the political process, the Leftists were onto something.  No matter what they say, most people don’t approach issues through education and analysis, nor do they abandon ideas just because those ideas actually fail when they finally leave the analysis phase and become operational.  Instead, most people are driven by emotion:  Do I feel like a good person when I do this?  Is the beneficiary of my political act a good person?  And the contrary is true too:  Am I punishing an “evil” person if I vote or act in a specific way (since punishing an “evil” person elevates my “goodness” quotient).

I’m not saying anything all of you haven’t already figured out.  The only reason I mention this is because I’m struggling with the way in which I can counter a compelling, hard Left HBO documentary that my daughter saw, one that has left her inclined to believe that the welfare state is the answer.  The documentary is “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert.”

Maria Shriver, who produced the documentary, chose well when she and her team selected Gilbert as the poster child for single mothers, since Gilbert is a very sympathetic woman.  She got married at 19 (no out-of-wedlock children here) and had three children with her husband.  Unfortunately, her husband was addicted to prescription drugs (no tawdry illegal meth addiction here), wrecking the family finances and destroying their marriage.  The show picks up with Gilbert now in her mid-20s, working hard for $9.49 an hour at an assisted living center for the elderly.  She’s able to do this work because her children attend a government-funded pre-K daycare center in their hometown of Chattanooga.  Further, this loving mother puts food on the table only thanks to the food stamps.

As Alfred Doolittle would have said, Gilbert is definitely among the deserving poor.  When you see Gilbert — who did the right thing when she married her children’s father — struggling to cope with sick children and a flooded house (her boyfriend’s house), you can’t help but feel sympathetic.  You want to help her.  You want her to earn more money considering how hard she works and you want her to have better childcare opportunities.  And you think to yourself, “Heck, if she  lived in Denmark, none of this would be a problem.  (In part, of course, because Denmark’s young people aren’t having children to begin with.)  Gilbert would get free child care, a high living wage, all the benefits in the world, and be able to take endless sick days for her kids, as well as for herself.”

When the documentary ends, by which time you’re firmly rooting for Gilbert, the film hits you with the real numbers.  Gilbert, we’re told, isn’t an anomaly.  She’s part of a crowd:  According to the documentary, Gilbert is the living embodiment of the 42 million women in America who live at or below the poverty line, along with (I believe) 28 million children.  The documentary doesn’t have to say what we need to do.  It’s quite obvious that we ought to raise the minimum wage, make free childcare available to all American children, and provide comprehensive welfare for food and housing.

In case you’re too dim to reach this conclusion by yourself, HBO helpfully provides a guide for you to read alone or discuss with a group.  Some of what you’re supposed to discuss involves smart choices women can make.  Other discussion ideas, though, encourage Big Government as a solution, and advance a highly partisan Progressive agenda:

The Chambliss Center [pre-K childcare] is very important for Katrina. When she picks up her children she says, “The kids are learning so much here. If I went to a normal day care center, it would cost me $300 per week for all three of my children …that’s a whole paycheck.” Child care expenses for families with working mothers can range from 20 to nearly 50% of the mother’s monthly salary. How do you think Katrina would function if her kids weren’t at the Chambliss Center? Do you know anyone who is struggling with childcare needs? What can we as a society do to help? How important is it that the Chambliss Center operates 24/7?

Numerous studies have shown the long-term benefits of high-quality early education for young learners. However, fewer than 30% of American 4-year olds attend high quality preschool programs. President Obama expressed his support for universal high-quality preschool and many states have been developing universal pre-K legislation and programs. What do you think are some of the advantages and disadvantages to government sponsored universal pre-Kindergarten programs?

[snip]

What did you know before about federal programs like Head Start, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit? Has this changed after viewing the film?

What are the social services in your area for families in need of financial assistance? Do you think it’s not enough, or too much? How are they affected by budget decisions at the State and Federal level? Do you think people are aware of what government programs provide? How do you think people feel about receiving assistance? Can you think of other programs that could be helpful to women on the brink?

The study guide ends with a list of resources, the second of which is the hard Left Center for American Progress, which some describe as the “shadow Democrat party,” and which sets the agenda for many of the Obama administration initiatives.  People troubled by the hardships Gilbert faces will quickly learn that Big Government is the only thing that can save her.

After my daughter saw the show, she was pretty sure that we ought to have more free education for the pre-K crowd, more free daycare, more free food, and mandated higher wages.  She was certainly correct that each of these things would have been an immediate benefit to Gilbert.  My task was to get my daughter to see that these are all band-aid remedies that might staunch small individual wounds, but will  not stop the fatal hemorrhaging in the American economy.

The problem I had is that there’s nothing sexy about free market fixes.  They’re abstract and the benefits fall randomly, rather than on specific, targeted people, such as Gilbert.  It’s this last fact that means that market reforms cannot guarantee immediate — or, indeed, any — aid to sympathetic figures such as Gilbert.

People who watch the documentary want Gilbert to be fixed immediately and her personal life becomes an overarching political argument.  When I said that single motherhood is the biggest dividing line between rich and poor, my daughter pointed out that Gilbert had her children within a marriage.  When I said mothers should stay married if at all possible, she pointed out that Gilbert’s husband was a drug addict who destroyed finances, so staying together was not an option.  When I said that education is important, she noted that Gilbert was trying to go back to school, but could do so only with government help.

My prescriptions were a free market (as opposed to the over-regulated market we now have), which has proven repeatedly to provide increased economic opportunities for everyone, not just government cronies; education, marriage, and children, in that order; and sticking with a bad marriage, provided that it’s not violent or otherwise abusive, because that is the best way to avoid poverty for both women and children.  My daughter’s prescriptions after getting a close-up look at Gilbert’s sympathetic struggles were Big Government.

I didn’t increase my sympathy quotient when I explained to her that there will always be poor people, no matter the system.  (In North Korea, outside of government circles, everyone is poor.)  In a strong, free-market, capitalist system, fewer people will be poor and even poor people will do better than in non-capitalist countries.  For example, I said, while Gilbert is struggling by American standards, the reality is that she shares a big house with her boyfriend, complete with a modern kitchen and nice electronics; she has government-subsidized food; she owns a car; and she has a smart phone, as do all the other adults in her low-income world.  It’s almost ludicrous to call her experience “poverty” when one looks at poverty in Brazil or India or Cuba or North Korea or large swathes of Africa.  Yes, she’s struggling, but life is struggle.

ThornsIt would be lovely to give an economic band-aid to the hardworking Gilbert.  But when the Democrats demand 42 million band-aids for all the other single mothers, you’ve got a problem.  If the body politic or body economic really were a body, this would be the scenario:  The American body (we’ll call it Sam) gets entangled in economic brambles, and poor Sam ends up bleeding from millions of scratches on his arms and legs.  He looks at the scratches and thinks, “Yikes, I need some band-aids.”  Fortunately for him, a mobile blood bank rolls by and offers to buy almost all of his blood in exchange for 42 million single-use band-aids.

Sam is delighted with this offer.  He’ll be able to stop the blood flow, even though he’s probably giving to the bank almost as much blood as he’s losing to the cuts.  What Sam ignores is that, when the bandages are applied and the mobile blood bank rolls away, he’ll still be stuck in those brambles.

Economic reality says that, if you’re mired in brambles, you don’t sell all your blood for band-aids, while remaining deep in the thorns.  Instead, you first get out of the brambles Only then do you deal with the worst cuts, ignore the rest, and get down to the business of regaining your health and staying away the brambles that got you into trouble in the first place.

None of the above is sexy.  Advocating a free market capitalist economy so that there will be fewer poor people is not sexy.  Encouraging marriage, even unhappy marriages, for the sake of the children is not sexy.  Acknowledging that there will always be poor people and they will always suffer is not sexy.  And trying to explain that, in a healthy economy, fewer people are poor and fewer people remain poor isn’t sexy.  Appearing to turn your back on the Gilbert’s of the world isn’t only un-sexy, it appears downright sadistic.  And explaining that economic reality means that it’s impossible to be, simultaneously, both a comprehensive welfare state and a thriving free market is un-sexy too.  (Not to mention the fact that you have to explain that Europe managed to have a welfare state with a capitalist gloss only because America paid for Europe’s defense during the long Cold War years.)

I’ve described one show and one child who was moved Left by its message.  However, this close, personal focus is a chronic issue when dealing with the Left.  To gain sympathy for its larger agenda, the Left always focuses on the one child who’s illegal immigrant father is deported (although never the one child whose redneck father goes to jail following drunken revelry); or the one single mother who did all the right things; or the one single Gitmo detainee who was a mere child when the Taliban forced him to kill Americans.  The focus is always tight, obscuring the rest of the message.

I mentioned the other day that Ben Shapiro has written an excellent book about arguing with Leftists, How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them, which you can get free by registering at Truth Revolt. The book presupposes an argument. My question is how does one challenge this type of gooey, emotional propaganda, which gains a wide television audience and promises that the world can be healed, one government band-aid at a time?

Friday factoids (and Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesI have lots of intelligent thoughts swirling in my head.  The problem is that they haven’t settled down and become coherent.  Mostly, I’m focused on an upcoming outing with my mother.

My mother is an inveterate shopper.  At almost 91, shopping isn’t just the main pleasure in her life, it’s her only pleasure.  Sometimes I take her (which is truly a test of my love because I hate shopping); sometimes a friend takes her; and sometimes (actually, weekly) she boards the bus at her managed care facility for an outing to her favorite store.

Her most recent solo outing, however, left her distraught.  I got a confused tale about lost receipts, switched-out clothing, purse-snatching sales clerks (although she still has her purse and everything in it), kissing sales ladies, and a general feeling that “something is wrong there.”  I’m sure something is wrong, but I’m not sure whether this mainstream, reputable store is having a management failure or if my mother’s mental capacity has suddenly diminished.  I suspect the latter, but am open to the former — so I’m taking Mom to the store today to see what’s going on.

Meanwhile, there’s interesting stuff out there.

***

By now, I’m sure all of you have heard that Dinesh D’Souza was indicted for alleged campaign funding malfeasance to the tune of $20,000.  A couple of comments:  To the extent his lawyer is talking about innocent mistakes, my reading is that D’Souza almost certainly committed the act as charged.  And to the extent that a John Edwards’ friend did the same, and was only charged with a misdemeanor, the over-the-top attack on D’Souza is political revenge.  Check here for Maetenloch’s list of a long line of Mafia-style policing from the Obama administration against conservatives and here, at Gateway Pundit, for Chuck Schumer’s explicit call-out to the IRS to attack conservative groups (but not Organizing for America, of course, Obama’s political arm).

***

Zombie has a shocking (no Casablanca-style irony here when I use that word) report about San Francisco’s decision to continue paying a pension to a former city employee convicted on felony charges for storing and sharing the most vile kind of child pornography.  In addition to the images on his computer, the official included excited comments on the photographs giving his enthusiastic support to violence inflicted on children as young as infants and toddlers.  He reserved special approval for situations involving black adults abusing children or black children being abused.  According to the City, his acts didn’t constitute “moral turpitude.”  To which one can only say, “Huh”?

As for a reason behind the Progressive City’s continued support for the felon, it might have something to do with the fact that he’s a gay rights advocate who spearheaded nationwide recognition for “domestic partnerships” and, ironically enough, campaigned vigorously against alleged discrimination against blacks at sex clubs.  In other words, despite his crimes, he’s still politically untouchable.

My comments should not be construed as a swipe at “domestic partnership” laws, which I think are a much better idea than gay marriage, a notion that risks a devastating clash with First Amendment religious rights.  Instead, they’re meant to attack a Progressive world view that forgives any sin provided that the person committing the sin has the right political credentials.  (Roman Polanski comes to mind as another example of this attitude.)

***

How about, instead of talking about blacks as the sexual playthings of a disgusting human being, we talk about them as fully realized human beings who do what the rest of us do, which is making political and social choices based upon their life experiences?  If that’s how you view people of other races, religions, cultures, sexual orientations, etc., please read Lloyd Marcus’s article about his upbringing and journey to conservativism, all of which took place inside a home with a hard-working father, and some of which took place in a sparkly new housing project that swiftly devolved into a Hobbesian nightmare.

***

If you ever get into an argument with a Leftist about anything — not just about politics, but about anything — you’ll notice one inevitable hallmark of their arguing style.  It’s always personal.  For example, a Leftist will say “That new HBO show Looking is really good.”  You’ll respond “I didn’t like it much.”  A non-Leftist might say, “Oh, that’s too bad.”  Or he might ask, “Why not?”  Or he could say, “But it’s a really good look at the ordinary life of ordinary gays, and is worth watching for that reason.”  But that’s not what a Leftist will say.  He’ll say, “You’re homophobic.”  Or he’ll say, “That’s because you’re too stupid/narrow minded/unreasonable/backwards to appreciate good television.”  It’s never about the show; it’s always about you.

Thomas Sowell has noticed this habit too, a habit that isn’t about the personal being political, but goes beyond that:  Everything is personal when a Leftist is involved — and you’re always the wrong or damaged or stupid or prejudiced or all-around evil person.  After looking at the roots of this practice and giving examples in both 20th and 21st century politics, Sowell, who is a humanist, offers a possible explanation:

The vision of the Left is not just a vision of the world. For many, it is also a vision of themselves — a very flattering vision of people trying to save the planet, rescue the exploited, create “social justice,” and otherwise be on the side of the angels. This is an exalting vision that few are ready to give up, or to risk on a roll of the dice, which is what submitting it to the test of factual evidence amounts to. Maybe that is why there are so many fact-free arguments on the left, whether on gun control, minimum wages, or innumerable other issues — and why they react so viscerally to those who challenge their vision.

I’m not a humanist.  My possible explanation is that Leftism is attractive to deeply insecure people who don’t have a solid sense of their own worth and values.  They latch onto a political ideology that spells out expressly what’s right and wrong, and that gives them permission to function as their own God-heads, casting nonbelievers into eternal damnation.  In other words, it’s a political ideology of, by, and for malignant narcissists.

***

Speaking of Looking, a half-hour long HBO dramedy that looks at young gays in San Francisco, it turns out that audiences didn’t want to look.  We actually turned it off in the first 30 seconds of the first episode, when a character sneaked into the bushes to meet another man who attacked his zipper and headed (literally) for his crotch.  This is always going to be the problem with the gay lifestyle.  Even people who are not homophobic and believe that they are entitled to full civil rights really don’t want to know too much about the sexual excesses in which so many gay young men engage.

And while we’re on the subject of salacious productions, enjoy this video (which is extremely good satire, but is not safe for work).

***

I don’t think the college bubble is going to burst in time to spare me the cost of sending my two upper-middle-class suburban kids to college.  But it will burst.  Two articles mark the way to bubble collapse.  The first, in The Atlantic, focuses on kids with big debts and no job prospects.  The second, in Forbes, gives voice to one person who thinks he made a smart decision to skip college.  I know that, in my neck of the words, more and more parents are encouraging those of their children who aren’t that academically oriented to look into working for a year or two before going to college or to get their first two years done at the local community college.

***

At IBD, both Michael Ramirez and Andrew Malcolm examine Obama’s latest position in the war on terror:  trash-talking al Qaeda.  Neither is impressed.  Richard Baehr has a few compelling and pertinent thoughts on the subject too.

***

Also at IBD, an editorial saying that the California drought is not a product of all-encompassing climate change, just as the Polar Vortex isn’t.  It’s happened repeatedly before, and it will happen repeatedly again.  Both are parts of earth’s ever-changing and completely natural cycle.  I hate the drought, but I’m not railing at evil corporate conglomerates.  And in any event, if I want to rail at evil conglomerates who pollute our world, I should yell at the Americans and Europeans who ship their dirty factories to China and at the Chinese fascist government that lets them.  (I’ve decided that China is no longer communist, since it has shifted to a market-based economy.  Instead, it’s now fascist, since the government continues to control the people and the ostensibly privately-owned marketplace.)

***

It’s great to be the messiah.  Even as you drive the US economy into the ditch, you and your family enjoy the high life — and charge it to the demoralized, broke American people.  When Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette did that, they lost their heads.  Obama and Co., however, get away with it without even having a dent put on their halos.

Leftists don’t believe in the constitution and they’re pretty sure a Democrat-run federal government is the People’s master, not their servant

Here’s the thing that the progressives in media and government want to hide from you: The federal government is America’s servant, not its master. This means that the National Park Service is a caretaker, not an owner. To the extent it is denying people access to outdoor monuments (including blocking the roadside vista points from which drivers can see Mt. Rushmore), it is grossly overstepping its bounds.

Barrycades blocking roadside viewpoints of Mt. Rushmore

Barrycades blocking roadside viewpoints of Mt. Rushmore

While the Mt. Rushmore barrycades are the most graphic example of the federal government’s failure to understand that it is the American people’s employee, the most disgusting example is the way the National Park Service has spent tens of thousands of dollars (during a shutdown) to barricade the World War II Memorial, an open air park, in Washington, D.C. The purpose is to prevent members of the World War II generation, sometimes called “the Greatest Generation,” from having access to a memorial honoring their courage and their dead during the battles across Europe, the Pacific, and the Mediterranean during World War II.

Veterans ignoring the NPS power play and visiting WWII memorial

Veterans ignoring the NPS power play and visiting WWII memorial

Those men and women from the Greatest Generation who are still living have overcome enormous physical, financial, and emotional challenges to visit their monument – a monument built to honor them and their comrades, and that sits on public land that the American people have allowed the federal government to care for. And what does the caretaker do? In a grotesque example of spite, it uses its power – the power we gave it – to block the veterans. No wonder the men who stormed Iwo Jima and fought the Battle of the Bulge, even though they’re in their 80s and 90s, thought nothing of storming Obama’s barrycades.

And speaking of the World War II memorial serving as an example of the federal government’s arrogant overreach and cruelty, HBO’s Bill Maher is the poster child for the arrogant viciousness behind that attitude:

The other thing that apparently was so important for the Republicans to keep open was the World War II Memorial in Washington. That was closed, so a bunch of the World War II vets knocked down the barriers and stormed it.

And then I loved this, they posed for pictures with Michele Bachmann who showed up. Michele Bachmann, one of the people most responsible for shutting the fucking thing down. They’re the greatest generation – nobody said they were the brightest generation.

This is not only cruel, but it’s a gross misstatement of what’s going on: Republicans in the House, exercising their constitutionally granted “power of the purse,” have offered repeatedly to fund every aspect of the federal government except for Obamacare. (Incidentally, Obamacare’s opening days have proven that it is not ready for prime time and may never be.) Democrats from Obama on down have responded by refusing to fund the government and by trying to bludgeon the American people into thinking that the House’s constitutional conduct is somehow “illegal.”

In a perfect world, people all across America would engage in massive civil disobedience by doing such radical things as viewing Mt. Rushmore, standing at the stone-carved feet of Lincoln and Jefferson as they sit in stately dignity in their memorials, touching the names carved into the Vietnam Wall, and walking onto through, around, and over the outdoor World War II Memorial. The Democrats running the federal government need to be reminded that this land is our land, it is not their land.

(This post  first appeared in somewhat modifed form at Mr. Conservative.)

A new show makes me wonder about life in the Gore Veep House

We have been watching a new HBO show called Veep, a comedy that stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a fictional Vice President.  The show isn’t about politics (we never see or hear from the President, although a goofy jerk is his liaison to the Vice President’s office).  Instead, it’s about office dynamics.  Louis-Dreyfus’ character is the ultimate narcissist, and those who serve her are manipulative, narcissistic, cruel, and pathetic.  Humor derived from such an unsympathetic group of malcontents kind of eludes me.

Aside from finding the show un-amusing, I also find it somewhat offensive insofar as the “F-bomb” constitutes about 25% of the script.  The staff in the Veep’s office is almost as obscene as a gangsta rap song.

What’s interesting about a show that presents a Veep’s office as chaotic, narcissistic, mean-spirited, and obscene is the fact that Louis-Dreyfus spoke with Al Gore to help prepare for her role:

Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus got some help from famous friends before taking on her new role on HBO’s “Veep” (premiering Sunday, April 22 at 10 p.m. ET).

In a new The New York Times Magazine interview, Louis-Dreyfus, who plays “Veep’s” Vice President Selina Meyer, revealed she spoke to Al Gore, various chiefs of staff, speechwriters for vice presidents and fellow “Saturday Night Live” veteran Senator Al Franken about everything — including whether the Secret Service goes to the bathroom with them.

I’m sure a lot of the information Louis-Dreyfus got was indeed of a practical nature, such as info about the Secret Service and potty breaks.  I wonder, though, how much of the show’s mean-spiritedness and potty mouth is also attributable to information gleaned from the Gore Veep House.

Incidentally, Louis-Dreyfus is very good in the role.  I just happen not to like shows in which the characters are too unsympathetic.  Even if there’s real humor there, I’m so uncomfortable spending time in the presence of such people, fictional or not, that I’m not laughing.  This is why I don’t like Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.  I get the jokes.  I’m just not laughing because I’m so revolted by the icky, mean premise.

The Bible’s humanity

This weekend, Mr. Bookworm and I finally got around to watching “Koran by Heart,” an HBO documentary about an annual Koran memorization contest held in Cairo during Ramadan.  The documentary followed three ten-year old children — a boy from Tajikistan, a girl from the Maldives, and a boy from Senegal.  All three children were manifestly bright, curious, and possibly possessed of photographic memories.  And all three were trapped in a system that makes memorizing the Koran in the original Arabic (and none of these three children spoke Arabic) the apex of education.  In other words, this was a sheer memory exercise, unaccompanied by understanding and analysis. Indeed, the boy from Tajikistan was functionally illiterate in both Arabic and Tajik.  This show, more than any other we’ve ever watched, got Mr. Bookworm thinking about the vast chasm between the Western and Islamic worlds.

Spending an hour and a half watching a show about the Koran, which included periodic translations from the text, got me thinking about the Bible.  Around the world, billions of Christians and Jews read the Bible.  It is a living text.  Although last updated two thousand years ago, with the New Testament, it is as vital today as has been at any time during its history.

I don’t believe the Bible’s continuing vitality is simply because people of faith teach it to their children, and have done so for thousands of years.  I believe its ongoing relevance and resonance come about because the Bible is an intensely humanist document.  I cannot think of another religious treatise that is so people-oriented.  God is certainly there, as the creator, covenantor, moralist, teacher, guide and judge, but the Bible is fundamentally a story of human kind:  its virtues, foibles, fears, frustrations, good and evil.  It remains valid today because, while cultures change, people don’t.  We recognize ourselves in the Bible.  Our times may dictate the morality and other lessons we take from the book, but we are all there, every one of us, in all our permutations.

In the same vein, Yiddish is an intensely human-oriented language.  While the Inuits may have a lot of words for snow, jungle dwellers a range of words for animal and plant life, and farmers an endless repertoire of weather and crop words, Yiddish has words about people.  Not blunt, broad words, but myriad delicate words that contemplate the nature of humanity and all shades of human behavior.

Only Yiddish has such words as schlemiel and schlemazel.  You may already know the difference between those words:  the schlemiel spills the soup; the schlemazel gets it in his lap.  Or chutzpah, which is defined by looking at the man who kills both his parents, and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.  And how about mensch, which sounds exactly like the German word for person but, in Yiddish, means so much more:  a Yiddish mensch is a truly decent human being.  He’s not just a sentient ape; he is the apex of what ordinary people can aspire to be in their daily lives.

I don’t have anywhere else to go with this post.  I just thought that both the Bible and Yiddish are unusual insofar as they are intensely aware of human nature.