Crying Wolf on Kushner

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S1: The following podcast may be a little dirty, but forget about that. Going to tell you to go to our Twitter feed at Slate, just dot com.

S2: Wednesday, May 13th, 20 20 from sleep. It’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca. It is probably good to wear facemasks outside and certainly good to wear them inside when interacting with others from a distance, a safe distance. Let’s say six feet. There is a certain amount of irrational panic about social distancing measures.

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S1: However, for instance, in a recent poll, 38 percent of British people said it was unacceptable for a person to go for a drive to clear his or her mind during the Corona virus outbreak. True. Forty percent said it was OK, but 38 percent said don’t do that. When, of course, it is fine. It would be nice to be able to discuss these things. Perhaps you want to say, Oh, but if you get to drive, you could get a crash. And I could say yes, but that’s very unlikely. And let’s not make the perfect be the enemy of the good. See how that discussion went? Well, because I was with myself, a person who I don’t have suspicions about and who I respect. Well, we can’t do that with other people. It would be nice to be able to have these discussions at a tension level somewhere under eleven. But it seems right now that the debates, not that you hear or have among the people you know, but the debates that you hear in the public are basically on one side ever doing anything out of the house is homicide versus the other side saying to ever protect oneself in any way is giving into fear. It is hard to have a proper discussion when this is the discussion being pumped out by Senator John Kennedy on Fox News.

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S3: I don’t want to have to wear a face mask in the shower. That’s the sort of stuff that oh, so promulgates every day.

S1: Promulgates pretty fancy word to advance an idiotic point. I don’t want to wear a facemask in the shower. Also, another legitimate concern. If I’m a ventriloquist, I don’t want to have to keep six feet away from my dummy. How am I supposed to open and close the yap hole despite whatever the World Health Organization might say? Facemask in the shower. What’s next? Bring a wash cloth to the grocery store. Give myself a sponge bath on line at the post office. I’m not going to do that. I don’t care what the European Union dictates. By the way, don’t wear a face mask in the shower, baby. It has the exact same cadence of this Juice Newton Classic. And I can’t get I can’t not hear that phrase with or without the Juice Newton song underneath me. Ladies and gentlemen, the musical stylings of Miss Joose Newton. By the way, the guy who wrote that song, Chip Taylor, also wrote. Wild Thing by The Troggs. That is Range, a song that is the intro music to Charlie Sheen’s character. And Major League is also written by the same guy who wrote a song that is the exact shorthand for gauzy Len’s love making. And I do mean I mean no other phrase other than love making. The making of love with Vaseline smeared on the lens. Hey. Or where everyone is merit. I’m not your crazy mask in the shower type of guy, but just as I won’t wear a face mask in the shower. Angel just as that is asinine posturing from the right and an overexaggeration on what an actual proposal is wearing a facemask in a restaurant. That’s an actual proposal, wearing a face mask in the office. That’s something we will need to do, wearing a face mask in the White House. I would say something to take into consideration. But just as that is posturing from the right. There is also posturing from the left. And we will get into that in our spiel. But I do have to say that before the pandemic, there were always cultural signifiers, totems, often items of clothing in the culture war. And there were things like red hats vs. crocheted pussy hats or carrying a cloth shopping bag or wearing pants suits or wearing camouflage or displaying truck nuts on the back of your pickup. And these things were maybe stupid, maybe annoying. Maybe they helped the people who were toting them. But now the accessory that expresses where you stand in this culture war, it’s not a bumper sticker that says coexist. It’s not a bumper sticker that says lock her up. It’s a mask. And a mask isn’t a symbol or a display. It’s literally the thing that can save your life or kill someone. So we’re treating it as an acute remar. But what it really is, is more a vital tool of survival. This is fantastic. Cloth is now a cudgel. A garment is the new gun. For the love of God and Osama. Do not wear a facemask in the shower, Senator. And don’t rinse, lather, repeat. On the Senate floor. Now that we’ve got the basic instructions down. Can we go about not being even heroes or leaders. But just go about being minimally sensible human beings on the show today? Hey, don’t worry. Like I said, some elements of the left have their own over the top exaggerated moments of panic, a thing Jared Kushner never said, but it would sure be troubling had he said it. But first, Mike Kaplan is a stand up comedian who has a philosophy of life. Unlike most other standups, Mike doesn’t rely on punch lines that really slap the smile onto your face. He’s a kind of kind. He’s kind of kind. And I’m asking, does that even work? He’s uplifting. He makes the room better off for him having entered it. And I got to say, that just doesn’t seem right. That’s not the comedy I know. We’ll get into it. Up next here to promote his new album, A.K.A. It’s Mike Kaplin.

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S4: Mike Kaplin m y. Q is a cerebral comedian, cerebral is usually what the people who like him say and it’s not. Am I. Katie Kaplin. Although at one time it was. And this sheds some light on why the name of his new album is a K. A Mike is a guy I’ve liked for years and years because he does two of my favorite forms of humor on apologetic puns and challenges us to think about the next level of comedy, i.e. not the don’t you hate that kind of comedy? So Mike’s involved in a little bit of a don’t you love that comedy to the extent that I don’t want to ruin too many jokes. But the punchline of one of his jokes is just the word tender and it hits and hits.

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S3: When you say that that is a I love what you have done there, which is both two of my favorite things, which is not spoil a joke and deliver the punchline of a joke that you’re not spoiling.

S4: When someone who hears this interview then listens to your album, they’ll laugh at the joke for being the joke and then they’ll have, I think, an extra wave of appreciation. Oh, my God. That was that was the joke that was in the trailer.

S3: It’s it’s beautiful. And can I also say another thing that I like what you did. Your interpretation of the name of my album, a.k.a. is very like perfect and very perfect. Add more than perfect in that it’s imperfect, which is the name of actually what will be my next album. But this album called A.K.A. the reason that it’s called A.K.A. actually until now had nothing to do with me. Mike Kaplin having an a.k.a. of a different spelling of Mike Kaplin and actually everything to do with the album’s name itself being an a.k.a. for its original name, which was all killing aside, which is the name I was touring at with the name that I brought it to Edinburgh, the Fringe Fest with in 2018. All kidding aside, because as you may know or anyone who’s listened the album, the content of the album is about love and kindness and not murdering. A big theme is that if I had to participate in a murder and I rather not, but if I had do, I would rather be the victim, the murderer, me than the murderer. So killing is a major theme of the album. And in these times, these uncertain times where death and disease and suffering are real things that people are concerned with, that I’m concerned with that out of context. If you saw the name of that album, I talked to my mother and my mother, I said, what do you think of the name? All killing aside, the album’s coming out during a global pandemic before I even finished is like killing. I don’t like that of the name. What about calling it all kidding aside? And I was like, that sound I get. I hear you. I do think it’s better in some ways. So that’s why we chose a.k.a.. Which is obviously short for also known as. So it’s another name for the album. It’s also short for all kidding aside, for my mom. All kidding aside, to represent if you hear this whole story, like the original intent of the material and the album’s name and also my initials are M.A K and I’m basically trying to answer everything. So thank you for coming to my a.k.a. mrk amaa describing everything about this album.

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S4: Yes. F y. That is the effort. Q That was good. That joke or that series of jokes where I don’t want to get it wrong. The premise made me laugh. I thought you were maybe going to take it in another way, but the premise could be a punch line and the premise where you introduce what you are part in the murder maybe. How do you say that exactly? Oh, I’m a get murdered guy. I’m a get murdered guy. I immediately I guess how jokes one way jokes work is you fill in stuff for yourself and your brain and congratulate yourself on knowing what the speaker is implying or means, or you at least convince yourself that’s the case. So I think I got it immediately. And I laughed at much as much at that as I do with most jokes. I might get murdered, guy.

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S3: Oh yeah, I, I think that my goal is to obviously, you know, when you break down comedy in one way, that ends up not being funny. When you break it down, there is a setup and a punch line that’s like classic joke structure setup and punch line. And then I’ve found over the years of like if people didn’t laugh at the punch line, I would be like, well, how about another punch line or another punch line? And then it would turn out that sometimes the original intended punchline just became part of the setup. And then sometimes because it was also a punch line, or I would eventually add punch lines to the setups. My goal was to, you know, have a setup, have a punch line, and then also have as many more punch lines as possible while also hopefully saying the thing that I want to say, yes.

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S4: Then there’s a series to break down humor. There is a series of jokes which hinge. On the fact that so many of the rationales for murdering someone are also ways to die or be murdered. And I’m wondering if part of it started is that, hey, you know, these words, these phrases for getting murdered are also phrases for why you’d want to murder someone at this point.

S3: You know, having started working on the material that would become this album in 2016, I, I could point to like I recorded my last album before this in 2016. And then the next night after that recording, I went onstage and started working on the seeds of this material. And then over the next several years, it became what it would essentially be when I recorded it in twenty nineteen. Having brought it to Edinburgh in twenty eighteen, it’s pretty much almost for sure. Finished form. Which is all to say that now in 2020. I don’t entirely remember the order of how the jokes like I do remember 100 percent that I had a psychedelic experience sometime after 2014 in which I thought about a slogan of like, always love, always forgive. That is something that I wouldn’t say to somebody who had just experienced a massive loss. It was for me at that time. Like everything is context dependent. In a way. And I imagined people saying to me, like, but what about in this situation? Nope. Always love. Always forgive. And I thought about that. And I thought about how the acronym of of that would have been a laugh and like, oh, maybe I could do some comedy about always loving, always forgiving. And that was like the ultimate seed. The idea behind my not that rather getting murdered then murdering, which some people might be like, is it possible that it’s because you’re a tiny, tiny person that couldn’t murder anybody if you had to? That is just a practical thing. But that sincerely. I’ve thought about it like logically. Like I think that I honestly think that most people if you could be like if you could live your life the way that you wanted to and be able to be fulfilled and have your your family, your career, if you could have all of your dreams come true, then why not? Also, if it wouldn’t impact you negatively, like, why not also have other people be able to have enough food and enough places to live and clothing and be able to fulfil their dreams like, you know, in studying Buddhist teachings? I’ve learned that, you know, like the goal of being enlightened is in part or maybe in total to also then use that wisdom to help other people achieve that wisdom and enlightenment. And I’m not saying that I have achieved these things. Certainly, I think I am farther along the path. I know more things now than I did before because I’ve lived longer, had more experiences. And so basically, it is a practical thing that helps me like in these times with the corona virus, like staying inside protects yourself and protects other people. It’s a complete win win. Used to be to be a hero. You had to run into a burning building and pull people out of it. Now you just have to stay inside your own building and leave it. And you you are helping. You are saving people. If you look at the numbers, like people will be alive because more people stay inside. And so I didn’t know this at the time, but the material that I was developing, I was like, yeah, if we all don’t murder people, if we all agree to, like, label ourselves instead of labeling myself like a pet peeve person and not even just a positive person, because, again, like not saying to ignore that there are challenges that there are suffering, but for my own personal way of looking at things. Do my best to help everyone as much as possible to do what I think is right and kind as much as possible. And that through doing those things, if other people are like, yeah, that makes sense, then instead of operating from like a fear mindset, we’re like, let’s say our government might be like that. Government might try to attack us. So we should attack them. And if they’re thinking like that, if everyone is preemptively attacking each other, then everyone’s attacking each other because they think that everyone is going to be attacking them. But what if no one was going to be attacking them because you’re only attacking them because you think that you’re going to get attacked. And if you have an attack mindset, then you keep thinking that I can only control myself on a local level. Like I I’m not going to attack people if they haven’t done anything to me. Certainly. And if people ask me, how do you recommend living, I be like, this is what I do. I like this idea, you know? So I think that a lot of my comedy throughout my career has started with just a seed. And I couldn’t tell you what it was. But then it grows and then like things get added to it, things get edited and then it might end up looking completely different than where I started. But this is the first hour of comedy that has been the most cohesive for me in the writing of it, in the conceiving of it, in that I know I didn’t want to go too far on a tangent away from the general themes that I wanted the material to express. Like right now I’m not doing comedy, so I’m not there’s not a punch line every. I’m saying things that I mean and feel and think and care about. And if I wanted to make this into comedy, I’d be like, I also need to make this be funny. And so when I do comedy, the goal now is to say the funniest things and the most me things and the truest things and the kindest things like whatever the equilibrium of that that I can manage. So for this, I really do think it didn’t start with those words. That could mean a couple of different things, where 10 years ago the answer would’ve been 100 percent. That is correct. But now I discovered those, I think, after the fact.

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S1: Is there something Buddhist about wanting to circle back and return to themes, not just leave any out there?

S3: Well, an image that I like is the chop wood carry water koan with respect to comedy. Like, how do you do comedy? Well, the chopping wood and carrying water of becoming a comedian is like writing and performing. That’s all you do. You don’t know anything. So just yet, cling to that. And then eventually five years in 10 years, in 15 years. And whatever it is at some point, you know more than you did before, you might not have achieved enlightenment, as it says in the koan. But you are more enlightened than you were about the thing that you’ve been doing. So you’re like, oh, now that I know at least a little bit more how to do comedy. Now what do I do? And the answer is, well, continue to do comedy the way that you were doing it before. I write and perform. That is the answer, which seems like it’s circling back to the same place that you were. But the image I like is what if it’s like a spiral? You’re going around in a circle, but you’re ending up in the same place on one plane, but you’re above it on another plane or deeper on another plane, depending whether you’re spiraling up or spiraling down. I know now I’m spiraling out, but that is a Buddhist Cohan’s. I do think that there is something Buddhist in returning to the place that you were with perhaps more insight and more knowledge, more wisdom than you had when you were there the first time.

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S4: Now about the comedy of kindness and generosity and not taking umbrage and building instead of tearing down. It does strike against, I think, what most people’s concepts of comedy would be, just things like punch line or the jester tearing down institutions. You know, comedy is tension, right? But it’s not that your comedy is a lack of tension. It’s that it’s a little bit different. My question is, did it become almost an interesting thought, exercise, challenge, puzzle to try to apply that to every situation? Perhaps I could imagine where at first you would say, well, that’s a comedy non-starter to find niceness and everything, but maybe it actually becomes the sort of way that you can in order to apply that to situations where you don’t think it can be applied. That’s where you find really good comedy.

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S3: For me personally, one hundred percent, there are wonderful comedians who I love who are tearing down institutions, and I want them to keep doing that. I like your Doug Stan Hopes or Kamahl Bel’s or Hari Kondabolu. You know, like people who are really, you know, doing that classic thing, that not trope. But like, you know, being themselves uniquely in that speaking truth to power, you know, taking down authority is like. And here’s the thing is this is kind of maybe it’ll sound like a trick. But immediately when you said, you know, the comedy of not taking umbrage, I’m like I take umbrage against umbrage. Like so it’s kind of just a flip side where I don’t think that every comedian should be doing what I’m doing. I think actually no comedian should be doing what I want to.

S4: You know what? You’re right. You take umbrage against coverage, but you don’t give umbrage. And a lot of comedians do. That’s what I’m trying to do.

S3: I love that. I want everyone to uniquely be themselves. And it’s also kind of a funny thing that I’ve talked about this with maybe Gary Golman, who I think is also, you know, following a similar muse, you know, or Josh Gandelman, like there are people out there. There’s so many kind comedians. Yeah. And some of them, like Lewis Black, is a kind of comedian who yells a lot and expresses righteous anger onstage. Carlin expressed righteous anger onstage and was, you know, a soft spoken, kind man offstage. Chris Rock isn’t yelling all the time in his life. So there is certainly a place for these, you know, avatars, these archetypes like I think Lewis Black once talked about it as like your personality is like a pie. And each slice of the pie, like he’s like, I amplify this slice of the pie for performance and we’re all doing that in all walks of life. You talk to your grandmother differently than an audience, than a job interview, than at work or at home with a loved one. And so I love especially that there is this idea that comedians are like, you know, these outsiders. Like if every comedian is following that, then I’m like, oh, well, then I can be an outsider to the outsider. Like all of us, every comedian, I think every artist is hopefully following, like, the things that they believe in that are true to them.

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S4: Yes. Listen, Mike, I wanted to ask you, do you have any ratio’s you try to maintain with your mustache and your eyebrows? Do they go, oh.

S3: Each other, you know, I I haven’t thought about it explicitly. Like the eyebrows we let go. Like, we don’t trim them. We don’t. And I say we my girlfriend and I are a team. These are our eyebrows. I have them like I used to get them trimmed whenever I would get a haircut. They would say not even a. They would say like a question, but it was more a statement like, you want us to trim your eyebrows, right? You want us to trim your eyebrows. You want to trim your eyebrows. But now I have to explicitly be like, no, my girlfriend wants you to not trim my eyebrows. And I want what she wants. I want to look like I want my face to look the best. According to the person who looks at it the most and who I care about the opinion of the most. If I had my own preference, I would take like the mustache a couple of weeks ago. Because nothing matters. I started shaving. And then when I got down to only mustache, I. I showed it to my girlfriend and I said, What do you think? Because most of the time I’ll do that. I’ll have a mustache for a minute. I’ll take a picture. I’ll I’ll do it for like one time. I dressed up as Marc Maron for like a Halloween comedy schtick or treat show.

S4: And did he put you in a weirder headspace? I’m good. We’re good. But did you invent beefs with other comedians that you didn’t have?

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S3: I guess I guess I just leaned into the the imaginary beef with Marc Maron that I that I did once imagine. But. So I my girlfriend, though, was like, I like this mustache, like legitimately. Like I wrote a joke long ago about how whenever I see someone with a mustache, I think, are they joking? Because whenever I have a mustache, I am joking. But then in the middle of that joke, once onstage, I notice two giant men with giant mustaches. That didn’t seem to be joking. And so I, I changed the joke that night to be whenever I see a guy with a mustache, I think great choice. And what’s the next topic? So now my girlfriend, like since I think I’ve grown into in age and a demeanor that I was like, oh yeah, this this could be a real mustache. And so I think this is the first the remnants of the real mustache that I have. And the beard has sort of grown in, if you look at it closely or maybe anybody can see, they’re like, is that mustache like larger than the beard is the month the mustache is in charge? Right. Like, but I say, yes, everything outweighs service.

S4: Everything else is in service of the mustache. It’s the church of the mustache. And maybe, you know, the first apostle is the beard.

S3: Yeah. And I do think that in some ways, like if I go out and I’m not wearing a mask, which I would be, I’m going out wearing a mask these days. But if I didn’t have my mask on, I think that I could probably get away for a moment by saying, oh, this is actually a gradual mask. Look at look at the eyebrows. Look at the mustache. These can’t be real. It’s almost like an equals sign. I’m a big math fan, otherwise known as a Jew. So then while they were confused, I would run away.

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S4: Mike Kaplin m y. Q His new album is called A.K.A.. We found out why. Thank you, Mike. Thank you, Mike.

S1: And now the spiel Time magazine issued its list of the time. One hundred and Jared Kushner was on it. The one hundred people who’ve benefited the most from nepotism in America. Various Macy’s and Huffman were left off the list. Wait. Hold on. I’m being told it’s just 100 most influential people. That’s a shame. So, anyway, in this interview with Jared Kushner, the head of the White House’s office of Son in law, Kushner was asked about how his corona virus preparation. I know that’s a phrase that makes you shudder. But how his corona virus preparation may come up against the November 3rd election. TIME magazine asked him exactly about that.

S5: Is there any scenario, including a second outbreak in the fall where the election may be asked November 3rd? That’s too far in the future to tell. Nothing that I’m aware of now. But again, our focus right now is just getting elections will happen on November 3rd.

S6: It’s not my decision to make site. I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other.

S1: Huh. Hearing that reply. Former White House ethicist and vice chair of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Richard Painter, tweeted. Jared Kushner says he can’t commit one way or the other on whether there will be an election on November 3rd. He’s nuts. And Representative Carolyn Maloney tweeted, Jared Kushner is not in charge of when U.S. elections are held. Right. Which is why when they asked him, can you commit to elections on November 3rd? He answered, I am not in charge of that. It is not my decision to make. Oh, no. Oh, no, you don’t. That is not your decision to make. Mr. Yeah, that’s what he said.

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S7: CNN’s Chris Cillizza said he should have said yes, absolutely. November 3rd, firm commitment because we absolutely want elections on November 3rd. And therefore it would be good to be told they were absolutely happening on November 3rd. The problem is he can’t say that because he doesn’t know because we’re living in a time of corona virus. What he did say was, you know, I’m the wrong guy to ask, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t be held then. Now, I understand Kushner is not exactly a good faith actor. So it strikes me that many people wouldn’t credit any response that he gave as trying to promote democracy above all else. But there was actually literally nothing in his answer, in that actual answer that you heard that hinted at a thwarting of democracy. So it’s the conflation of a perfectly acceptable answer into a threat to the republic that does a road, a little bit of the credibility that people like Painter and groups like his have. How about the Yahoo! News headline? Top News Trump aide Kushner suggests delay possible in U.S. election. He didn’t. He just didn’t. He said it’s not my call.

S6: And he added, This is not my decision to make. I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other. But right now, that’s the plan. And I get hopefully by the time we get to September, October, November, we’ve done enough work with testing and with and with all the different things we’re trying to do to prevent a future outbreak of the magnitude that would make a shutdown in time to actual write up of that interview, which we got to see for ourselves.

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S7: Here is how that sentiment was relayed when asked if there was a chance the presidential election could be postponed past November 3rd due to the pandemic. Kushner said that it isn’t his decision, quote, I’m not sure I could commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan, he said. That is fine. That reporting is accurate. Also of note, it’s the second to last paragraph in a 15 paragraph piece, which is about where it deserves to be. So there’s nothing of an answer. Became a call to be outraged for no good reason, to be sure. Trump has flirted with loose and irresponsible talk of unconstitutional deeds. He does so specifically to provoke. And it’s hard for serious public officials and the media to totally ignore these violations of norms. Yet when you do cover them, you’re kind of playing his game.

S8: So when Trump says, I’ll be out in 2024. So we may have to go for an extra term, that puts the press in a bind.

S7: And then he adds, always only joking. But that doesn’t really loosen the bind. All right. That’s called a conundrum. When Jared Kushner says something anodyne that it’s above my pay grade to decide if there is going to be an election. But I think there’s going to be when that anodyne thing is said, it really is no bind. It’s pretty much nonsense during a pretty big crisis. And that nonsense is designed to unnecessarily whip up anxiety, which isn’t really hard to do these days. And just as I gave Trump’s rhetorical shenanigans as regards term limits and accepting election results, just as I gave them a big heaping of to be sure. Or I will now give Jared’s total position at. To be sure, to be sure. Jared Kushner is unqualified to offer his opinion about U.S. policy, let alone to run any aspect of U.S. policy, to be sure. But guess what? Here we are. And because we’re here pointing out that the media and current and former government officials are being inaccurate and a wee bit incendiary does not mean that I put it past Trump to finagle, weasel or threaten his way out of a just election result. But the thing that’s wrong with crying wolf, it’s not that wolves don’t exist or that I don’t take wolves seriously or that the Krier is a wolf apologist or that wolves won’t steal your sheep. It’s that the problem with crying wolf is in that specific time, in that specific place, there actually ought to be a wolf. And seeing there is a wolf when there is no wolf weakens the credibility of the Krier. And unlike Aesop’s parable, here in America, there is something akin to a wolf contingency. And they wear Make America growl again garb. And they have an ongoing campaign to undermine the media because they claim the media is inaccurate and out to get wolves. Well, in this case, the Trump right house would be right to complain. It isn’t accurate to say Jared Kushner suggests delay is possible in the U.S. election. You cried wolf. And that does undermine the overall effort toward government accountability at a time when the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been in our lifetimes.

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S1: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Kelly is the associate producer of The Gist. Her health tips include Don’t Eat a Bagel After Morning, baby. Daniel Shrader, just producer advises don’t read Franz Kafka in the bathroom. Brenda Why not? Why not? Brenda is always doing that. The Jeste we nominate as the songwriter with the greatest range. The Scorpions or possibly the CIA. Who wrote Winds of Change and their lesser known ballad about a certain Panamanian strongman. When a man well loves a woman in Peru, Deborah de Peru. And thanks for listening.