June Cleaver died

I don’t know how I missed this until today, but Barbara Billingsley died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 94.

She was, of course, the epitome of the American mom, from her role as June Cleaver in “Leave It to Beaver,” which ran from 1957 to 1963 and made occasional reappearances in made-for-TV movies and reunion specials.

“Leave It to Beaver” was one of the shows I watched every day after school. Growing up poor in Brooklyn, it was fascinating to see how a “normal American family” was supposed to behave.

Episodes dealt with such weighty issues as Wally’s embarrassment over the size of his nose and the Beaver’s desire to raise pigeons. Ward could explain to his sons why a woman’s place was in the kitchen, and there would be no outcry. The biggest threat to family stability was a scheming suck-up named Eddie Haskell. Maybe there was an episode on civil rights once, but for all I know, that might have been “The Andy Griffith Show.” The times were so innocent, June could say, “Ward, I think you were pretty hard on the Beaver yesterday,” and no one would even think of that being risque.

But Billingsley will also be remembered for one of the best spoofs in movies, as the Jive Lady in “Airplane.”

She explained how she got the role and described the help of the two “black fellas” in coming up with the lines.

Her first credited acting role was in a 1948 murder mystery called “The Argyle Secrets” but her first screen appearance was in a film short as a blonde with hives in something called “So You Think You’re Allergic.” Those roles have faded in memory, but people who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s will always remember June Cleaver.

License to kill?

An 85-year-old woman was driving on Interstate 95 near Philadelphia and caused at least four accidents. But that’s what happens when you’re going northbound in the southbound lane.

The local CBS affiliate has video.

One witness said: “She just kept on staring straight and had her hands on the wheel staring straight. Just oblivious like she didn’t even know. It was just so surreal. Hundreds of people. they were extremely lucky they didn’t die.”

The debate on abilities of senior drivers is neverending. Having lived in Florida, I found the worst part of the year was spring break, a constant battle between drunk students and old drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a Powerpoint presentation on elderly crash victims and a study on the effects of aging on drivers. The underlying message, not surprisingly, is the older you get, the more impaired your driving skills are.

People get upset when you talk about taking away their driving privileges, but this situation is pretty clear. When someone drives the wrong way on an Interstate highway, it’s time to seize the driver’s license and the key to the car.

The joke that is ABC News

ABC News has decided that Andrew Breitbart will do live commentary on Election Night, this coming Tuesday.

Breitbart is the right winger who has been totally discredited for accusing Shirley Sherrod of racism and for promoting a dishonest video that led to the collapse of the ACORN community organization.

Teabaggers regularly throw out the “liberal media” accusation. ABC is just proving it’s an undercover version of Fox News.

UPDATE: ABC came to its senses and dumped Breitbart from its election coverage.

Since we need another reason to hate lawyers

This in the New York Times:

Citing cases dating back as far as 1928, a judge has ruled that a young girl accused of running down an elderly woman while racing a bicycle with training wheels on a Manhattan sidewalk two years ago can be sued for negligence.

New York law says children under the age of 4 can’t be sued for negligence, but this girl was three months short of 5. Maybe you sue the parents for improper supervision, but instead the Park Avenue lawyer handling the estate of the injured woman goes after a 6-year-old kid (the accident happened in April 2009). So if the kid loses do the plaintiffs immediately want her thrown in debtors prison? There’s no way the kid can sell enough lemonade to pay of a liability suit.

A friend of mine in New York constantly rants about the city’s legal system being run by greedy lawyers and their accomplice judges. Rulings like this only justify the rant.

Here’s the suit.

(The Times originally story said the 87-year-old woman died of the injuries. That has been corrected in this version.)

The Dick Cheney defense

Tim Profitt, the teabagging Rand Paul supporter who stomped on the woman’s head outside the Conway/Paul debate in Lexington, Kentucky, wants an apology from the woman he stomped on.

Just to make this clear, he wants her to apologize to him because he did this to her:

He’s been reading the chapter by Dick Cheney on how to get someone to apologize to you for shooting him in the face.

Consider the source

Conservative commentator Charles Murray had an essay in Sunday’s Washington Post on the Tea Party’s campaign against the “New Elite” in America. Murray was to co-author of the controversial book “The Bell Curve,” which involved the role of IQs in American society.

Anyway, in describing the New Elites, he says: “One of the easiest ways to make the point is to start with the principal gateway to membership in the New Elite, the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities.”

He says the teabaggers’ beliefs have merit, and backs it up by saying the New Elites are out of touch with real Americans because they go to fancy schools, and they don’t know who replaced Bob Barker on “The Price Is Right” (Drew Carey) or what MMA stands for (mixed martial arts). You know: important crap.

So you read through the Sunday essay and its condemnation of elitists and elitist schools, and you ask yourself, where did Charles Murray get his education?

Bachelor’s degree at Harvard. Ph.D. from MIT.

Why are we listening to this guy? He’s a self-hating elitist.

UPDATE: An interesting commentary on this in the Economist.

I fully agree with this observation:

What we are now seeing is not a showdown between the vast non-ideological middle-class and some rising Acai-swilling, assortatively-mating bobo aristocracy, but a standoff between rival elites. The tea party is a movement of relatively well-to-do, relatively religious citizens aroused by the conservative identity politics of a handful of elite right-wing opinion-makers who seek to unseat their liberal counterparts.

It is a neat trick. Conservative elites pretend to be part of a marginalised cultural force while at the same time orchestrating an electoral bloodbath led by America’s least marginalised people. The fact that this is working so well tells us a lot about who the elites really are and where the power really lies.

Coming attractions

Big day coming up next month. Millions of people will be turning out all over the country to find out what the results are. I plan to make my choice multiple times.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)” opens Nov. 19. (What? You thought I was talking about the election?)

To get ready, I’ve been rereading all the books and rewatching all the movies in order. Right now, I’m reading “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” and today, I watched “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” (I’m making sure I’m done with the books before I rewatch the movies).

It really sucks that the studio (Warner Brothers) decided to milk this franchise for all it’s worth and is breaking the last book into two movies. Not because I don’t want to see the whole story, but because the Hollywood greedheads didn’t think of splitting earlier books in the series into two movies.

The first two movies (Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets) were both short enough to only require one movie, but after that, each book was long enough to be split. There are entire subplots missing from the “Goblet of Fire” and the “Order of the Phoenix.” I see from the trailer above that Dobby the house elf is back on film, but he’s completely missing from the Goblet and Order films even though he and the house elves are major characters in both books. Remember Hermoine’s campaign for house-elf rights and her knitting of elf clothes that Dobby has to clean up every night? Remember how Dobby gave Harry the gillyweed for the Triwizard Tournament, and how he found the Room of Requirement for the secret meetings of Dumbledore’s Army? You don’t? That’s because you only saw the movies and didn’t read the books.

So the studio couldn’t dip into the hundreds of millions of dollars it got from the earlier movies to pay an elf salary? It’s only a Galleon a week!

Someone will say that if they had split the movies, it would have taken forever to complete the series. Wrong.

The past movies came out two years apart. If they had  done additional filming, re-edited and released each movie year by year, you’re where we are at now. It happened with the Twilight saga. It happened with “Back to the Future.”

And why aren’t they releasing this movie on Halloween? It’s about witches, wizards, monsters and magic. When else would you release it?

Anyway, the stories have gotten darker over the years. Everyone who’s read the books (and that’s pretty much everyone) knows major characters are now going to die. Little kids are going to be traumatized.

But the kids who grew up with the books are now old enough now to go to see “Saw 3D.” This will be a lot less gruesome, but really a better collection of movies and much more heart-breaking when it’s all over.

Oh, and for those of you who thought I was talking about the election at the beginning of this post, here’s an appropriate line from Professor Dumbledore:

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

I truly hope on Tuesday we do what is right.