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Skin In The Game: High Stakes on High Temps

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When there is a big debate I love to hear “the facts” as we know them, but I also love hearing about the passion with which those in close proximity to the item in question conveys their perspective. Does the person speaking have anything to gain or lose in this debate? Like when I hear people talk about the gospel: the most compelling argument (to me anyway) that Jesus was who people say that he says he was is that his disciples, who lived among him, were almost all reportedly tortuously murdered still claiming what they had been sentenced to death for proclaiming. They had “skin in the game”, and it didn’t shake their resolve. This matter of course still requires faith, just as many consequential aspects of life can require faith in planning, but they had first-hand experience with something and they were willing to die horrifically for that thing (or so it is told, and believing in these events does require faith).

This video describes multiple groups with “skin in the game” (whether it be professional, financial, or actual physical skin) in regards to the climate of our planet possibly changing – and they believe that the climate is experiencing change. One thing about “free markets” is that they can indicate much about items unknowable, yet consequential, and how those with skin in the game estimate they should act. Can we guarantee that people in the United States will continue to gain weight, and keep paying for care which allows them to experience less indigestion but maintain too much weight? No, but if you were to bet on it how would you bet? Billions of dollars are bet every year, by people who don’t like losing money, on the idea that people are not going to lose weight, and those people make a lot of money. If you were an insurance company would you haphazardly put billions of dollars at stake for something that is “laughable”? Well, those companies which have the opportunity to bet on whether or not the climate is changing detrimentally to some degree are making the bets that would indicate that they think we have a problem with the health of our little planet’s climate. I guess if the free market can’t inform some conservatives then I’m not sure that it’s going to happen anytime soon.

This speech from Senator Whitehouse is from December of 2013, and it seems to have just recently picked up some more traction in the social media world. He is speaking against Oklahoma Senator (and apparently very nice guy) Senator Inhofe. I have had multiple friends work for Inhofe, and the reports seem to be that he’s sincere, but that doesn’t mean that he’s right.

George Takei: Why I love a country that once betrayed me – YouTube

Having grown up as I have in a very conservative environment, and in many ways I’m very grateful for that, I repeatedly find myself struggling with one a few inconsistencies that I find in the fabric of the culture. As human beings are imperfect creatures I think this would be the case wherever one is to have been from. But seeing as how I was raised as I was where I was I find that I can most easily point out hypocrisies, as well as triumphs, in my home culture.

The moral/cultural hypocrisy that I have repeatedly found myself most frustrated with has been reflected in this question: as Christian theology teaches that we are all imperfect how could it be that our nation and it’s history wouldn’t as well be tainted?

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Stephen Colbert wrote a book in 2012 titled America Again: Re-Becoming The Greatness We Never Weren’t, which I firstly assumed was titled nonsensically just because he is funny, and he was intending to be “ridiculous”. However, after I heard him explain the title in an interview it made perfect sense. It is intended to be a “poke” at the conservative historicity of America for being the best that there ever was, and the best there ever will be – while also perpetually being in the process of going straight down the tubes. I could tell some anecdotal stories about trying to talk with some of my very conservative friends about some of the “wrong doings” of our nation in the past, and even the present, and how those conversations didn’t go very well. Rather however, I think it may be a better idea for me to just say if you don’t think that there is revisionist history about how we have treated human beings (not to mention animals or this marvelously inhabitable planet), I ask you to have a conversation with someone who you know has deep rooted conservative ideals about things like the dropping of the Atom Bomb, or reparations for Native Americans and African Americans. I know it’s a difficult conversation, but look into the history of some of our greatest shortcomings, lest we never forget and repeat them.

And for the record, I am most definitely aware that revisionist history and self-pleasing politics are not unique to Oklahoma, The South, or The United States. I know best about Oklahoma, and so that is the narrative from which my opinion is most founded. There is no question that the North had slave/racism, or any number of hot button items may have a partial or blinded perspective. I just hope that you can forgive me if I’ve hurt your feelings by seeming to bully my home – if I am doing that it’s unintentional.

Here is a story about one of our greatest injustices that seems rarely to be told, and fortunately for us it is being told by a very funny and well-liked American, George Takei.

via George Takei: Why I love a country that once betrayed me – YouTube.

The Trials of Ted Haggard

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Over the last several months I have found myself trying to write, but sometimes I don’t feel that I can fully express what I’m trying to write about, and at other times I find myself discouraged by our scalding discourse. I go through different phases of curiosity, and they are often fueled by logic games and divergent philosophies. Over the last several months I’ve felt myself having a greater desire to hear people’s stories. For the life of me I can’t get passed this recent feeling of sorrow for people who believe in the sincerest of ideals, but they know that they cannot live up to those ideals. There has been one person who I have had trouble getting out of my mind as I think about falling short of great expectations, and that man has been Ted Haggard. I haven’t found that I agree with Mr. Haggard on plenty, but for multiple reasons I just can’t get his “fall from grace” in his community out my mind. I know i haven’t shared much lately, but I felt that this was worth worth sharing.

 

World’s Toughest Job Interview…

Well, this is awkward for a moment there… ;-)

Nazi-Era Snapshots and the Banality of Evil

The world of human life is complex, and articles like this really help me sit back and consider some of the challenges of the human condition.

 

Nazi-Era Snapshots and the Banality of Evil

No Lakotas in the picture. All photos courtesy of Daniel Lenchner’s collection.

“Do you know about the Lakota Indians?” asked Daniel Lenchner, handing me a slightly faded photograph from the early 20th century. It was a class portrait with a location printed at the bottom: Lakota, North Dakota.

“Now,” challenged Lenchner, “can you find an Indian in this picture?”

I scanned the rows of Caucasian faces.

“Not going to happen,” he continued. “We got rid of them, you know. No more Lakotas in Lakota. It looks like a class portrait, but you could also say that this is a picture of genocide.”

That theme of implicit absence dominates Lenchner’s found-photograph collection. Scouring flea markets, estate sales, and the internet, Lenchner has collected over 500 snapshots of Nazistaken by Nazis that document their daily lives: their families, their friendships, and their leisure activities.

As a Jewish man with ancestors who perished in the Holocaust, these intimate glimpses into the daily lives of his family’s persecutors bring him face to face with what political philosopher Hannah Arendt called  “the banality of evil.”

I met the 68 year old Lenchner last month in his sprawling New York apartment to look through his collection and discuss its implications.

VICE: What’s striking about so many of these images is that without the uniforms you really can’t tell that these people are Nazis, can you?
Daniel Lenchner:
 Yes, that’s really what my thesis is: These people are normal in appearance, but appearances are deceiving. There is the modern news phenomenon of people being interviewed in the street after they discover that their neighbor is a mass murderer. They’re always expressing surprise, that they didn’t realize it, that they should have known. The underlying assumption is that they could’ve known. But, if the truth is that there is no way to know, then you shouldn’t be surprised.

I interviewed the great-niece of Nazi leader Herman Göring once, and her family albums are filled with pictures like these. She talked about feeling the love that’s evident in so many of the scenes: fathers holding their children, spouses embracing, friends laughing. How do you confront the presence of those kinds of emotions?
Yes, these guys went home to their wives and children, and maybe they sang them nice German lullabies, but it’s not an exoneration. I mean, Hitler loved dogs, and he was a vegetarian. Great. But, it’s all kind of irrelevant. At the end of the day these things are reconcilable. No, not exactly reconcilable, but they coexist. The evil and the not-evil coexist in a person. But, in Nuremberg, it didn’t come up that they were nice to their wives because it didn’t matter.

It looks like the man in this picture wasn’t such a great husband. Is this a Dear John letter written on the back?
A Dear Johann letter, so to speak.

Can you describe what we’re looking it?
Well, here we have this handsome studio portrait of a German officer, and on the back is this message from a woman, apparently his mistress. She writes that she’s giving back this photograph because it’s brought her back luck. He’s a playboy. She refers to his “wanderings in Weimar,” and makes reference to his wife.

What do you like about this picture?
It’s just so normal, so banal, just a man screwing around on his wife—nothing so unusual there. He’s a regular scoundrel, but put him in a Nazi uniform and all of a sudden we have a special kind of scoundrel.

In this case, the story is right there on the image itself, but most of these pictures have very little context. How much of what you see comes from the pictures themselves and how much is your own projection?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Let me show you something that addresses that. This is one of the most stunning pictures I’ve ever bought and there’s absolutely nothing on the back. Take a look and tell me what you see.

I see a massacre.  
Yes, a little massacre, with what I believe is a rape. This is surely a woman with her babushka. She’s laid on this table with her legs splayed, and she’s been made a little comfortable with some straw under her head. I think everybody’s dead here: bodies, bodies, bodies. And, the Germans are done now. They’re heading to what looks like a small train station. Their backs are all turned away. “We’ve done our work and now we’re leaving.”

What might be most disturbing of all is this detail of putting the straw under the woman’s head. It looks like an attempt to make her comfortable as they raped and killed her. It seems like a recognition of her humanity.
Also, it looks like this dead man has his arm around this person here, in a protective pose.

As if he could shield them from bullets.
As I said, there’s nothing on the back of this photograph, but the story is very clearly there. I don’t think we have to read too much into it.

And yet, it’s hard not to project, isn’t it? This is not so different from the kind of war photography that we’re all familiar with…
Right, this almost could have been taken by Robert Capa.

The composition is excellent and the focus is razor sharp.
That’s right. One thing you can say about the Nazis is that they went to war with good cameras. They didn’t go with any goddamn instamatics. They went with Leicas: good cameras with good lenses. You can see the number on the train. You can see the blades of grass. You can see the dead man’s eyes.

It’s similar to a Robert Capa, as you say, but—and this goes back to projection—knowing who took this picture gives it an intimacy that takes it beyond photojournalism. The photographer is part of the photograph. That almost gives it the quality of a family snapshot, except instead of standing and smiling, everyone is dead.
And then, the question you’ll never answer: why did they take this picture?

Why do you think?
Sometimes you wonder, are they proud? Who knows. This I have no answer for.

Well, they certainly didn’t take it for your benefit. There’s something profoundly subversive about this ending up in your hands. I mean, the photographer could never have even imagined your existence.
No. But, who was it meant for? His superior officer, his friends, his wife, his children?

It’s jarring to see that photograph in the same collection as this other one here. This picture here seems delightful, really: a crowd of people laughing at something outside the frame.
Except, look there. Do you see the swastika? Suddenly it becomes sinister. What are they laughing at? We will never know. And, they are really cracking up. It’s great. You have examples of all the different ways that people laugh. Some people cover their face, and some bend at the waist, some hold their stomach, and here he’s leaning backwards, she’s covering her mouth, and she’s pointing to draw her friend’s attention.

You must be primed to see the swastika. It took me a second.
Yeah, that’s absolutely true. I’m so sensitive that I occasionally see swastikas where there are none.

With that kind of priming, what do you see when you look at the German people of today?
Well, I lived in Germany for five years as a college instructor for the American military. I taught comparative literature to GIs. That was during the mid-70s, so many of the people that I passed on the street had lived through the Nazi era. It was a little weird to say the least. You get on a German train and you can’t help but think about cattle cars packed with human beings. But, you’re also struck by all of the good things. The place is clean, and the trains run on time, and the people are so honest.

In what ways were they honest?
On the autobahn, for example, the bathrooms all had plates where you would leave a tip for the cleaning person. So, you walk into the bathroom, and there is a plate full of money. Now, you put that on the New Jersey Turnpike and it wouldn’t last three minutes. They’d steal the money and the plate too. But, in Germany not only do they not steal the money, but they put more in. You look at that and you think, Are these the same people responsible for the Holocaust? How can this be? Yet, some of those people must have been honest. They must have been honest in that narrow sense: placing money on the plate on their way to build a concentration camp.

The Lenchner family in Lodz, Poland in 1935. Only Daniel Lenchner’s father (back row, second from right) survived the war.

Roc’s new book, And, was released recently. You can find more information on his website.

Saving Young People From Themselves – Steve Rattner

StevenRattner.com: Saving Young People From Themselves


Saving Young People From Themselves

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 11:38 AM PDT

Originally published in the New York Times.

RETIREMENT is a financial obligation that today’s younger generations are not handling well. That may be through no fault of their own — they suffer from lower incomes, after being adjusted for inflation, and student debt that makes it a struggle to save. But regardless of the reason, the failure to save for retirement is setting up Americans in their 20s and early 30s for financially stressed golden years.

The statistics are startling: Only 43 percent of eligible workers under 25, and 62 percent of those between 25 and 34 participate in 401(k) plans, compared with 70 percent or more of those over 45. And the young contribute less — 4.3 percent of income for those under 25 and 5.5 percent for ages 25 to 34. In contrast, Americans between 55 and 64 direct 8.7 percent of their incomes to these plans.

Skimpy retirement assets might be manageable if they were being offset by other wealth accumulation. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, adjusted for inflation, members of Gen Y — those born after 1980 — are poorer than their parents were at similar ages.

We should address this looming crisis via a radical restructuring of our retirement plans, including mandated savings.

While the saving problem may be acute for young people, it’s hardly limited to them. After rising during the financial crisis, the overall savings rate of Americans has once again declined to paltry levels. For those who have saved and invested in equities, the surge in stock market prices since the recession ended has helped, which has pushed up the value of retirement holdings.

But in an unfortunate irony, many millennials, who watched share prices collapse in 2008, then steered clear of the market, thereby missing out on its rise. Typically, these young Americans keep about half of their portfolios in cash — not a sensible long-term investment strategy.

Earlier this year, to take a stab at addressing the retirement issue, President Obama proposed a new form of Individual Retirement Account that would allow Americans with household incomes below $191,000 to put aside money that would accumulate tax free. Unfortunately, the Obama idea is only a symbolic and inadequate gesture. For one thing, its cap of $5,500 per year is too small, and it lacks automatic enrollment or mandatory employer-contribution.

For another, contributions would initially be invested at low Treasury rates. Younger workers should be investing mostly in equities, which, over time, should provide higher returns.

Under the Obama plan, when an individual’s account reached $15,000, funds would be moved into an investment offering from the private sector, which would confront people with the same daunting and unfamiliar choices that face holders of 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts.

A better idea, but still offering only marginal improvement, is the one proposed annually by the president and ignored annually by Congress: requiring employers who do not provide 401(k) programs to offer automatic enrollment in I.R.A.s.

I’d love to see the restoration of defined benefit pensions, which combined automatic saving and sensible, long-term investment strategies. But that’s not going to happen. So at the least, we should take the responsibility for managing retirement funds away from ill-equipped individuals.

To that end, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, has proposed a plan that would offer a more certain retirement benefit than existing individual plans provide, together with automatic enrollment, universal coverage, portability from employer to employer and professional management.

However, Senator Harkin’s plan has its own flaws — it doesn’t require any employer participation, and participants would be allowed to reduce their contributions or opt out entirely.

The best solution would take up the question of mandated savings. I understand that in today’s world of stagnant incomes, forced savings mean less money for individuals to spend now. But would we seriously prefer that our children become impoverished senior citizens? The approach I like is Australia’s superannuation program, which requires that 9 percent of workers’ pay be diverted into retirement accounts. Tax incentives are also provided, to encourage additional deposits.

The superannuation funds collectively have $1.7 trillion in investment assets. Adjusted for population, that’s the equivalent of $25 trillion for the United States, over twice what Americans have parked in 401(k)s and I.R.A.s. That’s an idea worth considering.

Young Americans are on track to be worse off in retirement than their parents. Let’s not just sit by and watch that happen.

Saving Young People From Themselves.

Tired of That “I Want To Go To Church And Not Be Called Dumb Or Bigoted” Feeling? You’re Not Alone.

 

 

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In 2008 I moved to China to live with a group of Americans in China (including my sister) who had pledged to live amongst the Chinese, and teach English in their schools as a form of ministry. We of course couldn’t be overt,  that would have been illegal, but we would live our lives and set examples so that they might find themselves curious why we loved so freely, and shared what we had with such ease – well that was the goal at least. While I was living in China someone introduced me to the teachings of Tim Keller, and at first my pride prevented me from giving it a shot and listening to my friend’s advice (and I think this same know-it-all mentality is a one of the biggest plagues of the human condition).  Ever since I began listening to Mr. Keller I have found great comfort in people having differing opinions, and in the idea that God made me curious and surely wants me to ask as many questions as I genuinely am able!!!

I just ran across this clip recently, while I recommend watching longer talks of his, I know about this “know-it-all” human condition from which all people seem susceptible of falling victim, so I figured I’d post a short and sweet video as an introduction for anyone willing to listen for a hand full of minutes on this beautiful Sunday. If you are interested in hearing more from Tim I recommend watching his talks at Google, which were reported at the time to have been the most crowded lectures by an author at Google (which surprised me). I will post one of them below from when he went to Google to discuss his book “A Reason For God”. I hope you enjoy.

 

Tim Keller at Google

6 Times Stephen Colbert Got Serious About Faith

I don’t know if I could love this anymore than I do… I think that an article like this can serve as a good reminder that nobody deserves a claim to faith over anyone else, as Mr. Colbert would likely be assumed to be an enemy of the Christian population. I don’t think that he is, and I don’t think that he we find himself to be either.

 

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6 Times Stephen Colbert Got Serious About Faith

When Colbert dares to get real, he’s surprisingly passionate about his beliefs.

 

Next year, when David Letterman signs off as host of The Late Show for the last time, Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert will take over, positioning himself as the new face of CBS late night.

Though he’s made a name for himself by creating an over-the-top persona satirizing the hyper-conservative on The Colbert Report, the real Stephen Colbert—the one headed to CBS—is very different from the character he’s created. When he’s not in front of the camera, Colbert is frequently teaching Sunday school, attending mass or spending time with his family, who are all devout Catholics. Here are six times the funnyman got serious about one of his favorite topics: faith.

The Time He Talked about Faith and Tragedy with The New York Times

Back in 2012, The New York Times profiled Colbert, who reveal details about the man behind the persona.

At one point in the interview, Colbert talked about the experience of losing both his father and two brothers in a plane crash when he was just 8 years old. Colbert said it was the example of his mother’s faith that has helped him process the tragedy: “She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the Cross and the example of sacrifice that He gave us. What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain—it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice.”

 

The Time He Explained Hell on NPR

When Colbert was a guest on NPR’s Fresh Air, host Terry Gross asked how Stephen Colbert—the real, religious father, not the persona—explained complicated issues like God and hell to his own children. And though not all Christians may agree with his personal interpretation of what hell looks like, his thoughtful response is a reflection of someone who has genuinely wrestled with big ideas surrounding faith: “I think the answer, ‘God is love’ is pretty good for a child. Because children understand love … My son asked me one day, ‘Dad, what’s hell?’ … So, I said, ‘Well, if God is love, then hell is the absence of God’s love. And, can you imagine how great it is to be loved? Can you imagine how great it is to be loved fully? To be loved totally? To be loved, you know, beyond your ability to imagine? And imagine if you knew that was a possibility, and then that was taken from you, and you knew that you would never be loved. Well that’s hell—to be alone, and know what you’ve lost.’”

The Time He Embarrassed a Guy that Suggested God Caused Evil

Poor Philip Zimbardo. When the Stanford professor appeared on The Colbert Report in 2008 to promote his book The Lucifer Effect, he clearly didn’t know what he was in for. Despite a jab at Dr. Zimbardo’s villainous facial hair, the interview—which focused on a behavioral experiment that the book is based on—started out civil enough. Then at the 3:30 mark (warning, the video contains a bleeped-out explicit word), things take a dramatic turn when the discussion turns to the origins of evil in the Garden of Eden. When Zimbardo suggested that, “Had [God] not created hell, then evil would not exist,” Colbert broke character and snapped, breaking into an impromptu theology lesson. “Evil exists because of the disobedience of Satan. God gave Satan, and the angels, and man free will. Satan used his free will and abused it by not obeying authority. Hell was created by Satan’s disobedience to God, and his purposeful removal from God’s love—which is what hell is. Removing yourself from God’s love. You send yourself to hell. God does not send you there.”

The Time He Argued for Christ’s Divinity

Stephen Colbert is not a fan of Bart Ehrman. The religious scholar came on The Colbert Report to promote his book Jesus, Interrupted which questions the credibility of the Gospel and the divinity of Christ Himself. It got brutal. For nearly 7 minutes, Colbert deftly explained seeming contradictions in the New Testament, showed how Scripture supports Christ’s divinity and intellectually embarrassed the scholar in Zimbardo fashion. You can watch the entire exchange here.

The Time He Discussed the Importance of Humor in Faith

In 2012, Stephen Colbert took part in an event called “The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy and the Spiritual Life” at Fordham University. Moderated by Rev. James Martin—Jesuit and priest and author—the event featured a light-hearted, but intelligent conversation about faith and humor between Colbert and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

“If Jesus doesn’t have a sense of humor, I am in huge trouble,” Colbert joked at the event. Though the two discussed a variety of issues, the one thing Colbert made clear was the genuine love he has for the Body of Christ and being a part of the Church: “Are there flaws in the Church? Absolutely. But is there great beauty in the Church? Absolutely … The real reason I remain a Catholic is what the Church gives me, which is love.”

The Time He Used the Bible to Advocate for Immigration Reform at Congress

Though much of his testimony before Congress—advocating for immigration reform and farm workers—was played for poignant laughs (“Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read [the bill]”), Colbert also used a another strategy to get his message across—quoting Scripture.

After talking about how he spent one day as a farm worker (making him an expert, of course), Colbert got serious about his motivations. “I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and this seems like [some] of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave. And that’s an interesting contradiction to me. And, you know, ‘whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers,’ and these seem like the least of our brothers right now …. Migrant workers suffer and have no rights.”

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/6-times-stephen-colbert-got-serious-about-faith#ubP5caTTYJi58Bgc.99

Here’s what the other late-night hosts had to say about Stephen Colbert replacing David Letterman — VIDEO

Originally posted on PopWatch:

[ew_image url="http://img2.timeinc.net/ew/i/2014/04/11/daily-show.jpg" credit="Comedy Central" align="left"]

The comedy community is busy congratulating Stephen Colbert, who has earned the coveted role of  Late Show host. The news came Thursday afternoon, just one week after outgoing host David Letterman announced his plans to retire in 2015 — and just in time for other late-night hosts to send their regards during Thursday’s new episodes.

Jon Stewart offered the fondest farewell to his Comedy Central colleague, reminiscing about Colbert’s time on The Daily Show with a ridiculous old clip in which both comedians completely blow it because they’re making each other laugh so hard. But Stewart’s ensuing tribute to the man he calls “a very talented actor, writer, dancer, and improvisational comedian” was touching:

“Truly one of the great pleasures of doing this show has been trying to maintain professional composure whilst Mr. Colbert is making me laugh uncontrollably,” Stewart said on last night’s Daily Show. “So, the exciting news…

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Guess Who’s Taking Over For Letterman on Latenight!!!! It’s Exactly Who It Should Be :-)

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Wow… There are those moments in entertainment that can really make you pause for a moment to consider generations passed, and generations to come. The retirement of David Letterman was one of those moments for me. I have always enjoyed his show, mostly for the interviews that were so uncanny. Having had the chance to talk with him, and being on his show for a split second, he will be burned into my story ever so slightly. I posted about this when it happened, but I will be including the video and the post from when I was on his show for a moment in time.

With all of that said, there is not a more talented person in show business in my mind than Stephen Colbert. I understand that there exist people who like neither of these men for political reasons, but they are both enormously talented in their own ways. I can’t wait to see how this turns out! And I can’t wait for Stephen to shed his character for the new show, he will end up being one of the all time greats I think…

Morning Joe Discusses Letterman Retirement:

How David Letterman And I Became Best Friends… Ok, We Just Met.

If you’d like to see the whole post from right after I got to meet Dave, click the link RIGHT HERE.

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