The good news: This may be the funniest Thursday since Jerry Seinfeld abandoned us, more than a decade ago.
The also-good news: There's an excellent -- and non-funny -- CNN documentary that same night. I'll include a story about it in a moment.
And for people in the Lansing, Mich., area, the best news: The East Lansing Film Festival has started; please read my previous blog. Now about the other two:
1) Big laughs: You start by watching "The Big Bang Theory" (8 p.m., CBS) and "30 Rock" (8:30, NBC). Consider that a standing order on Thursdays. Then you tape either "The Office" (9 p.m., NBC; I've seen this episode and it's a good one) or the start of "Night of Too Many Laughs" (9-11:30 p.m., Comedy Central). The latter has many of the world's best stand-up comics -- Jim Gaffigan, Lewis Black, John Oliver -- plus NBC's Thursday stars (Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Steve Carell) and Jon Stewart as host. It should be fun.
2) Big issue: Fortunately, "Almighty Debt" runs three days this week -- Thursday and Sunday against heavy competition, Saturday against non-existent competition. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
To the Rev. DeForest Soaries, not all
answers are found in the Scriptures. Some are found in bank books,
credit reports and church parking lots.
“One Sunday morning, I came to church
later than usual,” Soaries recalled. “I noted for the first time
all the luxury cars in the parking lot.”
They are part of a crisis viewed in
“Almighty Debt,” a new CNN documentary.
This is under the “Black in America”
banner, but reporter Soledad O'Brien grants that the crisis isn't
restricted to blacks. “We all thought that the party was going to
continue forever,” she said.
People bought and borrowed; when the
boom ended, some experts say, blacks were hit hardest.
Some whites had a relative who could
help out. Some had inherited money; for black families, new to
middle-income, there were fewer safety nets.
That links to the restrictions of
generations past. A suburban home, bought generations ago, might
bring $250,000 in inherited wealth; a black person – limited in
where he could buy – might have less to pass on. “We have to
understand the effects of Jim Crow,” O'Brien said.
She brings a mixed perspective. O'Brien
grew up with a black Cuban mother, an Irish father and a Catholic
background. She marvels at the Baptist activism, including Soaries'
church in Somerset, NJ. “He had a 7,000-member congregation; he's a
businessman; he's a political person.”
The political part came easily, Soaries
said; the business part didn't.
He's 59 and wasn't quite a teen-ager
when Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Soaries worked for Jesse Jackson's “Operation PUSH,” then
followed the vocation of his father (and King and Jackson), becoming
a pastor. Well-educated and worldly (he's been New Jersey's secretary
of state and an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Congress), he
still wasn't strong in finances.
That was crucial when the new church
facility soared over budget. Board members asked him for ideas.
“My response was, 'I'm not a
fund-raiser; that's not my job,'” he said. “That didn't sit well
He studied the problem and found money
problems everywhere; “there is a culture of debt.”
That has hit blacks who didn't come
from generations of finance, he said. “We have gone from 'We Shall
Overcome' to 'you have been pre-approved for a credit card.'"
Among black families, Soaries said, 22
percent have no bank account; another 32 percent do have an account,
but end up using payroll advances and other services that bear enormous interest rates.
The problems peaked with easy
home-financing, he said. “You saw the worst of consumer consumption
and the worst of financial greed …. It was like the sub-prime
credit cards of the '90s on steroids.”
In 2005, Soaries began preaching about
being debt-free. “He's been working on this for five years, but
only now do people really seem passionate about it,” O'Brien said.
Now the church has its own economic
development office. In the CNN special, we see it trying to help
parishioners – a man still looking for work, two years after losing
his job as vice-president of an insurance company … a teen, trying
to afford college … a couple with jobs in which the commissions
(selling cars and luxury homes) have vanished, leaving them unable to
pay the mortgage.
“I approach this as a
cultural-spiritual-emotional problem,” Soaries said. And for now,
the debt culture is smothering the spirit.
– “Almighty Debt: A Black in
– 9 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 21), CNN; repeats that
night at midnight and 3 a.m.
– Also, 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday;
both nights, repeats at 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.