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by Steve Young

Steve Young columns
"We must be careful about what we pretend to be"
-- Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

In the brilliant 1987 James Brooks film, "Broadcast News," news director, Paul Moore (Peter Hackes), tells his producer, Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) that, "It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room," to which she bemoans, "No. It's awful."

That her character so sincerely believes she is "the smartest person in the room" and sees it as an exhausting burden, might give some insight as to what seems to be a burgeoning 21st century pandemic that's spreading throughout politics, entertainment and -- sigh -- this column. In fact, it just might be infecting your very house -- if you have a teenager growing there.

It once resided largely in neighborhood bars, infecting anyone who had moved past a third beer. But today, it appears to afflict every facet of our society.

It doesn't matter what side of the aisle, politicians always know better.

You can't be a successful radio talk show host without SPIRD.

Rosie O'Donnell's View-undo was more a result of SPIRD than contract disagreement.

It's a baffling psychosomatic disorder, as being the smartest person in the room doesn't mean that you're actually the smartest person in the room. Only that you believe you are. It's not so much about being smart as much as feeling you're always right.

SPIRD symptoms include, but are not limited to: thinking you have all the answers, thinking you should know all the answers, bulging forehead blood vessels, shouting down the opposition and an impulsive need to demonize or ruin your adversary.

Speaking of Bill O'Reilly, The No-Spinster may be the ultimate SPIRD. He not only admits that he knows what's best, but he uses it to look out for you. And it's not like he shouts down everyone. He is quick to praise others. ‘Course those being the ones who agree with him -- another earmark of someone smitten with SPIRD.

When I had my radio show, I often referred to it as the "I Stand Corrected Show." You could change my mind at the drop of an fact. Perhaps a good reason for my present lack of radio employment today.

This past week, Presidential candidate, John McCain, who had been out of the room for months campaigning, told a senatorial colleague that he (McCain) knew more about the pending Immigration issue than anyone in the room. He punctuated it with one of a SPIRD's most trusty summations, especially when debating a fellow SPIRD: f@#! you.

Some might consider SPIRD a virtue, one we would desire in our leaders; a confidence or conviction that stands up against coercion or evil. Problem is that SPIRD is not grounded in integrity as much as ego; being right despite pounds of information that reveals huge holes in your logic and/or beliefs.

President Bush has long said that he would "stay the course" even if only Laura and Barney were with him. And now, if the polls are correct, even Barney is beginning to question that course, but it won't change his mind. Sadly, this President's SPIRD is terminal.

Fact is, having SPIRD is not about being smart at all. It's built out of the need to win above all else. Winning becomes more important than being right even though that type of winning many times carries with it the burden of being less right than whomever you feel you've defeated. And that isn't winning at all.

SPIRDs are not hard to spot, mostly because they tend to carry a spotlight to shine on themselves. It is the truly smart people who are more difficult to notice, at least right away. They neither shout down nor try to diffuse an adversary's argument by turning off their mike. To do otherwise might keep them from actually learning a new piece of information, something someone with SPIRD is incapable of.

Probably the most deadly consequence of SPIRD is that it keeps us from admitting that we've made a mistake; a fear of letting anyone know we're not perfect. Despite the trepidation of revealing you may not be so smart, SPIRD denies the carrier from becoming smarter. For it is in most any mistake, misstep or failure that we find an opportunity to learn. So as with Brooks's "Broadcast News" character, the burden of being the smartest person in the room is not about smarts, it's about an unwillingness or an inability to learn. And like second-hand smoke, the damage done is not only to the person with the cigarette in their mouth, but to those who don't realize that the poison that spews from the SPIRD-affected can effect those who breathe it in, without question. Need any more proof that it is a vast and flourishing epidemic. Take a look at talk radio's ratings.

It is ultimately important to understand that you need not be a celebrity, politician or a talk show host to suffer from SPIRD. It effects everyone. Even the parent of a teenager. There is no known cure, but you can prevent it from affecting you and your loved ones. Turn off the TV, switch off the radio and as soon as you realize that there is no way for you to get in a word edgewise, leave the room immediately. Above all, don't pretend to know everything or be something you're not. It's downright draining.

Then take two Vonneguts and call me in the morning.

Did Bush Admit to Considering Treason?

In one sequence during Friday's press conference, President Bush was able to twist reason so savagely that I'm surprised that the press didn't get up and dance. That is, except for the two correspondents whose children who were in danger from the terrorists.

Follow me here, because this is just precious.

1. President Bush reiterated that if we left before we defeated al-Qaeda that they would follow us here.

2. He said that we would leave if the Iraqi government told us to.

So, the guy who's looking out for us (when O'Reilly is on vacation) would allow al-Qaeda to come here if the Iraqi Government said so.

If the President believes that #1 was true (no reason to disbelieve him as he's never lied to us before), and #2, he really means that he would pull the troops out based on what a foreign government decides (not the majority of Americans), then it would seem that he's placed our future -- including David Gregory's children's future -- and our safety, in the hands of a foreign government, that afterall, is only one year old.

Treason? In the least, it would seem that this is outsourcing our country's very security to a country that isn't even toilet trained.

So Iraq, which can barely upload their own security can dictate ours.

Yep, I'd say it's treason.

Steve's latest blatant infomercial is available on YouTube and well worth five minutes, eighteen seconds of your time

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Albion Monitor   May 25, 2007   (

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