Life, Death, and the Media, or Farewell to a Friend

by Jim Geraghty

Life, Death, and the Media, or Farewell to a Friend

It’s always sad and shocking when a friend passes away, worse when that friend is your age, passing far before her time. It’s positively surreal to see her life and death become a social media phenomenon.

You may have seen the coverage of Cindy Stowell, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 41 Monday of last week. She didn’t live long enough to see her appearance on the quiz show Jeopardy!, and that sad, bizarre facet of pre-taped game show dynamics turned her passing into a viral social media spectacle, with articles about her popping up in People, Us Weekly, CNN, Cosmopolitan, USA Today, and too many others to count. I don’t mind the coverage, although almost all of it reduced her 41 years on this earth to just her cancer and her Jeopardy appearance. A Google News search finds 51,000 references to her in the past week, almost all of them slightly-tweaked variations of the initial story.

If this didn’t distort her, it certainly flattened her. Hundreds of of thousands of people who never met her will feel sad that she died, without knowing much about the real her, other than her dream to appear on Jeopardy! someday. For a “human interest” story, the endless coverage of her everywhere seemed strangely lacking in any interest in her as a human being.

(My words won’t really do her justice, either. God bless the obituary writers who can somehow write something fitting and complete, on deadline.)

Cindy was a good friend of my wife’s from high school and a friend of ours throughout the years. When you meet that special someone, you always want her friends to like you; if they don’t, it’s guaranteed to be sand in the gears. I shouldn’t have worried about Cindy, who was one of the most easygoing souls to walk the earth. If she ever clashed with anyone, I never saw it.  She was a bridesmaid at our wedding, one of the goofy, laughter-stirring souls in our wedding party who surprised us by showing up to our rehearsal in Jets jerseys.

She didn’t just march to the beat of her own drummer, she danced. She was the super-smart PhD who could understand things like “colloidal nanocrystals,” but who was far too laid back to ever show off. Some brilliant people feel the need to demonstrate their brilliance, to remind you of it, to not-so-subtly nudge you to declare it and affirm it, but Cindy had nothing to prove to anyone. She was the freest of free spirits.

Forty-one years is far too little time to have on this Earth. Cindy packed about as much as she could into those years – particularly considering the unjust misfortunes and health challenges thrown at her along the way.

Her passing is one of those twists of fate that leaves me trying to make sense of the senseless. The only discernable lesson so far is to let your loved ones know they’re loved, even if they probably know already. The option of that next phone call, letter, or visit can slip away without much warning.

Her episode of Jeopardy! airs tonight. A charity that was important to her was the Cancer Research Institute.

Rex Tillerson, Carbon-Tax-Backing Climate Change Believer

In further “this is why people don’t trust the media” coverage. . .

What do you know about secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson based upon the coverage of him so far? Probably just that he’s head of Exxon and he’s close to Vladimir Putin, right? He once was given the Order of Friendship decoration by Putin.

Would you have expected for Tillerson to first be recommended to Trump by… former Defense Secretary Robert Gates?

Would you have expected for the recommendation to be strongly endorsed by… former Secretary of State Condi Rice?

Rice, speaking out on Facebook this morning:

Rex Tillerson is an excellent choice for Secretary of State. He will bring to the post remarkable and broad international experience; a deep understanding of the global economy; and a belief in America’s special role in the world.

I know Rex as a successful business man and a patriot. He will represent the interests and the values of the United States with resolve and commitment. And he will lead the exceptional men and women of the State Department with respect and dedication.

I look forward to supporting Rex through the confirmation process and then welcoming him to the family of Secretaries of State.

Would you have expected former Vice President Dick Cheney to support the selection?

Kind of an unusual fan base for a guy who’s supposed to be a puppet of Putin, isn’t it?

Has any of the coverage so far pointed out that Tillerson believes in climate change and supports a carbon tax?

From a Tillerson speech in October:

At ExxonMobil, we share the view that the risks of climate change are serious and warrant thoughtful action. Addressing these risks requires broad-based, practical solutions around the world. Importantly, as a result of the Paris agreement, both developed and developing countries are now working together to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, while recognizing differing national responsibilities, capacities and circumstances. In our industry, the best hope for the future is to enable and encourage long-term investments in both proven and new technologies, while supporting effective policies.

Which is what we are doing. We have long supported a carbon tax as the best policy of those being considered. Replacing the hodge-podge of current, largely ineffective regulations with a revenue-neutral carbon tax would ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy. It would allow market forces to drive solutions. It would maximize transparency, reduce administrative complexity, promote global participation and easily adjust to future developments in our understanding of climate science as well as the policy consequences of these actions.

At some point, some Democrat will inevitably demonize him for heading up one of those evil greedy oil companies, one who villainously caters to the world’s ravenous hunger for fossil fuels. From the text of this speech in May, it sounds like Tillerson will be prepared to smack down those Greens who forget that human life itself requires energy:

According to the latest figures from the International Energy Agency, about one in six human beings still has no access to electricity. And about two out of five people must rely on biomass such as wood, charcoal, or animal waste for basic cooking needs.

In other words, over a billion people in the developing world still live in a state of “energy poverty.”

The costs of this energy poverty are steep – especially in terms of lives lost. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2012 alone, more than 4 million people around the world died from household air pollution resulting from the use of solid fuels – like wood and biomass – in their homes.

Such sobering statistics remind us that there is a moral imperative to expanding energy supplies. And that the millions of people working in the energy industry are playing a critical role in transforming the world for the better.

Never Take Investment Advice From Jill Stein

To sum up: Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein fleeced her gullible donors for $3.5 million to pay for a recount in Wisconsin, which expanded Donald Trump’s margin of victory by 131 votes… which comes out to $26,717.55 per marginal vote.

It doesn’t sound like anyone is too pleased with Stein up in Wisconsin…

Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s victory in Wisconsin was reaffirmed Monday following a presidential recount that showed him defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 22,000 votes.

Clerks around Wisconsin rushed to recount nearly 3 million ballots ahead of a federal deadline on Tuesday, but in the end little changed, with Trump adding just 131 votes to his margin.

“We all knew from the beginning that the outcome wouldn’t change. We said that from day one,” said Wisconsin Election Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen, a Democrat.

The commission finishes with a day to spare before a federal deadline for the state to finish and ensure that Wisconsin’s 10 votes will be counted in the Electoral College, which decides the presidency.

Green party presidential nominee Jill Stein paid $3.5 million to force the Wisconsin recount and has tried unsuccessfully to get statewide recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where courts have stopped them. Wisconsin’s recount uncovered no massive problems and no hacking of any Wisconsin election device or computer as Stein and her supporters had suggested, without evidence, that there might have been.

There are a lot of reasons to criticize Stein right now. Perhaps the most significant one is that calling for recounts in noncompetitive races delegitimizes recounts in the eyes of the public. They stop being a tool to ensure the correct winner and start becoming a tool for sore losers to live in denial for an extra couple of weeks. They start becoming a cynical fundraising tool instead of an emergency tool in rare cases of extremely close results.

Which is more frightening, that no one around Stein thought of this, or they did and she just doesn’t care?

ADDENDA: Quite a few people liked this piece, pointing out that the Right’s alleged “Patriotic Correctness” isn’t “stifling” anyone, and that comparisons to the Left’s “Political Correctness” cannot hold water.

The Morning Jolt

By Jim Geraghty