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The Solution for Democracy is More Democrats

I have a bit on my special Tall Boy, where I compare Democrats to struggling single moms and Republicans to deadbeat fathers who have abandoned the family. With expectations lowered to the basement for Republicans, Democrats represent only 50% of the elected officials in Congress and 99% of the elected officials trying to accomplish something other than impeaching Joe Biden’s gardener and tax cuts for their donors.  The country could be a great, functioning and productive democracy if the modern GOP were never elected. Because all factions of the Democratic party at the federal level at least, believe in, and demonstrate, a desire to do SOMETHING to help people and the country. The GOP is a hypocritical party of obstruction. Nothing more.

Since the Obama Presidency I referred to the GOP as political suicide bombers because they offer no ideas, no values and certainly no legislation or solutions, but if they can drag Democrats down and render the public cynical and disillusioned then they score relative wins. As Mitch McConnell memorably said early in Obama’s tenure, he wanted to make Barack Obama a one term president. The sole motivation and consistent principle for the GOP the last 16 years has been “not Democrats.”  And now we live in an America where independents and democrats will scream “do everything!” at Democrats before they whisper “do anything” to Republicans.

Before I continue, I am not writing for the cynics. The people who have chosen the appearance of high-minded disillusionment as a front for bitterness in some cases and intellectual and moral laziness in others.  This is for the people who say they cannot vote for Joe Biden on principle.  I am sure some of the cynics believe they are part of the principled and I cannot waste time trying to distinguish them for them.  I am also not writing for Trump supporters, because to quote Maximus in Gladiator, “I think you’ve been afraid all your life.”  The entire MAGA movement is an overcompensation for inadequacies, insecurities and inabilities manifesting itself as cartoonish ideas of masculinity, absurd interpretations of Christianity and infatuation with malevolence.  So, as I address the invested, but disillusioned, I would like to borrow from my my friend Rod of The Black Guy Who Tips podcast, and ask the moderates, progressives and far lefties, what among these will be better with Donald Trump than Joe Biden in your opinion:

  • Climate Change
  • Gun control
  • Abortion access
  • democracy
  • voting rights and access
  • the economy
  • our next pandemic
  • Israel and Gaza

The first five are no-brainers, the sixth is also a no brainer if you examine the data and not just the vibes, the seventh is an even bigger no brainer, which leads us to the final issue and the one creating the most moral outrage among the Left: Israel and Gaza.

I do not pretend to be even knowledgeable enough to lecture on this topic, let alone to be some sort of expert, but as a human being I understand the fear, outrage and rage of Jews based on the increasing hate crimes committed against them and the brutality of October 7th. And on the other hand, the loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives at the hands of a government spearheaded by a self-serving war monger in debt to far right militants (if not terrorists) to maintain his tenuous grip on power, with weapons made by the US, is its own moral outrage. I understand the rage and anguish, but also think Netanyahu has shown he is the worst person to honorably execute a defensible response to that rage and anguish.

Joe Biden is a long-time, genuine supporter of the state of Israel. And I think he believed in defending allies, supporting allies and keeping an ally close so that he might be able to affect and impact that ally’s prosecution of a war.  Was his strategy on Israel wrong? Perhaps. Was it naive? Certainly seems so. Was it done in good faith? I think so.  Can anyone think of an American president, Democrat or Republican, in the last 50 years who would have done something drastically “better” (in the progressive opinion) in stopping Israel? Jimmy Carter perhaps? Who put his whole presidency on the line to broker peace between Israel and Egypt, succeeded, and then was voted out anyway.

So the alternative to Biden, if you care about these progressive issues and especially about the treatment of people in Gaza is Donald Trump.  Donald Trump’s bold and progressive statement on Israel’s conduct was to suggest that Bibi Netanyahu needed better public relations.  Wow – I can already see the Nobel Peace Prize headed his way for that!

Flippancy aside, no matter how awful you think Joe Biden is, if your decision to note vote or vote for someone other than Joe Biden leads to a second Trump presidency, are the additional lives lost due to Trump not on your conscience?  Why do you get a pass at this late stage of American Democracy to place your principles over lives while Joe Biden is a monster?  I am not saying to shut up, or not protest or anything like that. In fact, the polling and the protesting does seem to have hardened Biden’s rhetoric and actions against Israel. But is the goal moral purity at the cost of a better option?  Is the goal no deaths (not possible) or fewer deaths?  is the goal a perfect world or a better world?  If you are truly disturbed and upset and outraged over Gaza then it will take courage to vote for Biden. I am not denying that.  But not voting for Biden, staying in your righteous panic room and avoiding confronting the consequences of your own abstention? That’s cowardly.

It has also come to my attention just how ignorant of civics and history so many people are. In the last century, all major eras of progressive power and action had one thing in common: LOTS OF DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS TO SUPPORT A DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT.  FDR. LBJ. And to a lesser extent, BHO (Obama is not really known by his initials, but I wanted to keep the pattern going).

Roosevelt has a massive Democratic majority and he did massive things with it.  Were some people left behind due to racism? Absolutely.  But did he move the country in a positive direction? Yes.

LBJ had massive majorities and was probably the most consequential domestic president since FDR, or maybe even Lincoln.

Obama had just a big enough majority to pass major health care legislation.  But as said above, Republicans like Mitch McConnell had studied their history and knew that if they didn’t put party above country, Obama might have been wildly successful like those other democrats so they obstructed, nurtured the racism animating lots of the tea party and birther movements and voila, Obama was rendered a respected, but less impactful two term president than he might have been.

Republicans have given us Nixon, Reagan, HW Bush (probably the best of all of them and the one with only one term) and W.  Corruption, Great Rhetoric while cultivating racism, Christian nationalism and inequality, imperfect statesmen and the man who brought us the Iraq War and the Great Recession.

But as time goes on, Americans follow a truly pathetic pattern that I believe smart phones and social media have only augmented by weakening out attention span and capacity for detail and long-term thinking.  With 20/20 hindsight Americans love to criticize the Clinton presidency, and I believe when it comes to economic deregulation, it is well-deserved.  But on things like welfare reform and the crime bill – these were complicated issues politically and, Clinton was elected with a minority of the vote and had to deal with the dawn of the conservative congress (and even the Gingrich congress was still willing to pass laws and come to the table, as opposed to the Kevin McCarthy/Mike Johnson congress, which is the worst in history). Clinton triangulated, compromised and did some great things (biggest job creation since FDR I believe) and some bad things. But he won, which Democrats had not done since 1976.  And winning, to accomplish some things can often require compromise in this system of government.

Now we get to President Biden, who has been the most impressive domestic president since LBJ, with a ZERO VOTE MAJORITY IN THE SENATE.  He passed a huge infrastructure bill, the biggest climate bill and has put more Black women on the federal bench than the previous 45 presidents combined.  He did this while wrangling Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin and depending on VP Harris’ tiebreaker vote a record number of times.  He has used executive power to protect people of color, LGTBQ folk and the environment. After being stifled by the Supreme Court, he has still forgiven billions of dollars in student loans. Black unemployment and the economy overall are at record lows and highs, respectively, and yet Donald Trump continues to brag about his inferior numbers because he knows perception is quite literally trumping reality.

The truth is progressives and moderates have taken Democrat-earned progress for granted and have not given the credit to Democrats for being the driving force AND defenders of that progress. Sometimes progress looks like passing the Voting Rights Act. But sometimes it looks like having an Attorney General who will not act to further erode voting rights acts by siding with states that are trying to do that.  Defense may not be as glorious and headline worthy, but as the saying goes in sports, it can win championships.

I think young progressives (and some older ones) today, like suburban women in 2016, have started to take for granted the rights they have as automatic and inviolable. If the country lived up to its theoretical creeds, they would be. But apathy, lack of empathy and ignorance of our system was no help to all those women who voted for Trump in 2016 because “he wouldn’t get rid of Roe… (whispering) and if he does I will still be safe in my town or state”).  Well after 50 years of assuming Roe was the law of the land and a Constitutional right, all of a sudden (only suddenly to the Left – the Right had a constant, unrelenting 5 decade movement) it was gone.  What makes you think that if abortion can fall, that same sex marriage cannot? On the Left we praise things like legalization of same sex marriage, but the defense of that right is a never-ending fight.  And for those rights and so many other things, a vote for Joe Biden says “at best President Biden will continue to aim for big improvements in American life like more jobs, a better environment, safeguarding the rights of women, people of color and LGTBQ people, IF WE GIVE HIM A CONGRESS. But at worst, he will defend what we have fought for so far and hold the line against more encroachments on those rights until we can get a Congress again.”

Vote for Democrats. Vote for Joe Biden.  These two things are essential. Together, a Democratic government can do great things and history shows, WILL DO GREAT THINGS.  Because if Trump and MAGA has shown us anything it is that everything is now on the line every time you vote locally, statewide or federally.  And you are either protecting liberal democracy and all that comes with it, or you are helping damage it. There is no third option. Because when people “didn’t like Hillary” they lost abortion rights.  What do you think you will lose if you help send Trump back to the White House? As the kids say, Fu*k around and find out.

Politics

Donald Trump is a Terrorist

A middle child of privilege. A man with deep contempt for the majority of Americans and its principles.  A man who used a warped vision of a world religion to produce fanaticism among his followers. A man whose leadership has led to the death of thousands of Americans.  This is a description of Donald Trump, though you could be forgiven for thinking I was referencing Osama bin Laden.  In America, we have become reflexively accustomed to equating terrorist with Muslim and/or Brown, but make no mistake: Donald Trump is a terrorist.  His whole life he has lacked both courage and faith, but do not think of him as a fanatical warrior engaging in actions that strike fear into people. Think of him more as the leader who issues orders and spouts religious platitudes while committing adultery and looking at porn in his private quarters.  Dictionary.com defines terrorism as “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.” By that definition can there be any doubt?

Religion

I think I need to acknowledge the fact that many people colloquially think of a terrorist as a sort of violent, religious fanatic, or at least someone conducting their terror with religious undertones.  Obviously the definition does not require this, but real life and dictionary definitions can often diverge.  For those more inclined to link terror with religion, I would ask: doesn’t Donald Trump often wed a religious fanaticism to his political objectives? Donald Trump has no religious convictions, but is very happy to weaponize religion to suit his pursuit of power.  As I have often thought of some fundamentalists (I am a Mass-attending Catholic for what it’s worth), faith becomes a post-fact rationalization for desired effects.  For some it is violence. For many it is misogyny. For some it is to repress things about themselves.  For Trump it has been an easy way to weaponize a group of people who want to win more than they want to embody Christ.  He clearly believes in none of it, but he is willing to conduct violence on peaceful protesters just to send signals to his true believers that he is a tip of their religious spear. Combine that with lies and misrepresentations about abortion and inane declarations like “Joe Biden wants to hurt God” or “get rid of Churches” and you have effectively primed your religious fanatics for a Holy War (likely with trademarked merchandise).

Violence For Political Purpose

Donald Trump issues calls to violence repeatedly but because he and his followers are white, “Christian” men they are called patriots instead of armed fanatics following their leader’s fatwas  From claiming “2nd Amendment people” could take care of candidate Hillary Clinton, to demanding Michigan and Virginia be “liberated” (and a non-vague reference to the 2nd Amendment in Virginia’s case) he has consistently encouraged violence on the part of his followers as the way to fight for his cause (himself).  He could not even bring himself to condemn the racists in Charlottesville because it would have contradicted his one and only goal: retaining his most fanatical and solid supporters.  The political aim is always about him and his reelection and he will both encourage violence and ignore violence if it clashes with his sacred purpose of protecting Donald Trump’s power.

But beyond his direct calls for, or ignoring of, actual violence Donald Trump’s self-absorbed “leadership” has also cost tens of thousands of lives.  Not pursuing Russian bounties on U.S. troops, lying about the risks of Covid to protect his economic numbers, failing to properly provide for the American people and then diminishing the risks of Covid again as the election nears he has shown at best, a grave indifference to the lives of American people, especially those in Blue states.  In other words, those who did not support him were expendable.  If “Terrorism by omission” were ever a thing he would be its supreme leader.

In summary, Trump encourages violence, looks the other way when his supporters engage in violence and prioritizes his reelection over the safety of Americans, especially the ones from places that do not support him.  And as the cherry on top, sometimes, “friends” of his like Herman Cain are simply collateral damage. Unwitting suicide bombers in a Trump 2020 jihad.

Donald Trump Serves Donald Trump

These words will come off as sensationalist or incendiary to some, but I mean them.  If Donald Trump were running another Democracy this way we would be encouraging new leadership. If he were in charge of a young democracy or a developing nation I think we would either have the CIA or SEAL Team 6 seeking his ouster and would cheer his downfall as a victory for Democracy. But he is a white, American, self-proclaimed Christian and he is afforded all the protections those labels provide while representing a daily threat to human life, Democracy and the founding principles of this country.  Fans of Trump, like the rabid moron Alex Jones, love to claim that 9/11 was an inside job. Well, Trump actually is an inside job. We put him in office and he is causing more death and lasting damage through commission and omission than any terrorist ever has or ever could.

As heinous as 9/11 it did not break us as a country. In fact it unified the country, at least in the pre-Iraq War days.  Donald Trump’s brand of terror is not an isolated incident. It is a governing strategy and personal philosophy and it is ongoing.  Donald Trump’s terrorism does not profess to serve God or Yahweh or Allah. He serves himself and is willing to sacrifice all in that service and that should earn him at least as much scorn and condemnation as the agents of death and fanaticism that have preceded him.

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Road Comedy Recap: Philadelphia’s Joe DiMaggio of Comedy

Last week (Wednesday thru Saturday) I was performing at one of my two favorite clubs in America: Helium in Philadelphia (the other being the DC Improv, where I will be performing Feb 26th-28th).  The problem was I had to commute all week because I am working a day job and there is no hotel for features at Helium so it is more economically feasible for me to use Amtrak points to commute each day than to get a hotel.  I referred to myself as “the Joe Biden of comedy” on stage 4 times – it killed once, got some applause twice and bombed once (Biden famously, or not so famously according to 75% of crowds in Philly, commuted on Amtrak every day back to Delaware from DC to be with his family). What followed was the most successful merch haul of my comedy career and the most exhausting week of comedy of my life. For those not lucky enough to be in attendance here is the recap:

Wednesday

Run out of work at 4:25 – get on the A train to Penn Station to catch a 5:10 Amtrak to Philly. The single scariest experience of my life on the NYC subway occurred (even scarier than when a 400 lb black woman tries to squeeze into a seat space made for an anorexic dwarf and more scary than the time on my 7th birthday when I got on the 1 train without my mother and had to be comforted by a nice Latin lady, which may explain my life long affinity for Latin women). The train was fairly crowded and then at West 4th Street a man with no shirt on, with the build of Tommy Hearns who may have been high on bath salts (not kidding). I have never been on a subway so quiet because this guy was yelling at the top of his lungs (thankfully to no one in particular) the following (just examples, not a full transcript):

  • Don’t you fu*king look at me
  • You think I am a fu*king ni*ger?
  • If I had a knife I would fu*king slash you (especially scary because there has been a rash of slashings on the NYC subway in the last month)
  • Does this train stop at 59th street? (Ok, this one is a lie)

When I say yelling I mean Samuel L Jackson “I hope they burn in hell” times 10 yelling.  As I sat there I said to myself  “don’t look at him and only get physical if he attacks you or a hot chick sitting near you.” He moved to another car at 14th street, but that was the longest 80 seconds of my entire life.  And with that fun start to the week it was time for Philly comedy!

Nothing too interesting to say about the show other than the fact that I killed, sold CDs and avoided Shake Shack next door.  Also it was my second time opening for Bob Marley (New England comedian, not a hologram of the dead guy with one good song – I am a huge fan of Could You Be Loved), who is a funny guy, really nice and should absolutely be cast as Bill Burr’s nice older brother on a sitcom.

I got home around 12:30 am and fell asleep quickly after setting my alarm for 6 am.

Thursday

I woke up Thursday at 6 and took Cookie (my dog) out for her morning piss. I then made it to work at 8 am, allowing me to get my 8 billable hours in before going to Amtrak again.

There were no homicidal maniacs on the train on my way to Penn Station or Philly (unless I have some inner demons that have not yet surfaced).  The show went great and I sold a lot of CDs.  It was at this time that all the comedy pundits began to realize something special might be happening in Philadelphia.

My personal record for merch in a week is $410 – 6 shows in Philly in 2013 I sold that amount of albums ($10 per album or all 3 that I bring for $20). Well after good sales Wednesday and Thursday the experts began to wonder if this could be the week I break my own modern day record for CD sales by a middle act (these are unofficial stats).  I just told myself to take it one show at a time and not to worry about the week.  Went home same way and when I walked in Cookie did not even greet me, presumably because she already thinks she has a deadbeat dad and because she likes my girlfriend more than me and that is who she was getting quality time with in my absence.

Friday

When I got to the club on Friday, both shows were sold out and I made a killing after the first show.  I also had a guy come up to me and tell me he liked my appearances on The Adam Carolla Show (now the key is to turn my media presence into people who intentionally come to see me perform, not just get pleasantly surprised).  The record looked to be in my sights. But like any no-hitter in baseball – you cannot talk or think about it or you can jinx it. Well, as it turns out the second show started 30 minutes late which meant I would have not be able to sell merch because I had to catch the last train to NYC at 12:10 am.  So I left the club and walked to 30th street station and found out that my train was 40 minutes delayed. So now I had missed my chance to sell and had to sit in majestic 30th Street Station with just a pack of peanut M & Ms and some docile homeless dudes until my train arrived.

Saturday

Now with all attention firmly fixed on me as I entered the last day with a chance to pass $410 (at this point it was the comedy equivalent of DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak – and just so you know, t-shirts and other non-CD/DVD items are like the juiced ball era of merch sales. I am trying to be Hank Aaron, not Barry Bonds #Purist #Hero). I had some good and bad omens.  On the good side there was a third show added on Saturday at midnight. Not that I expected to stay to sell after that, but it meant I would have to stay for the  first two shows, both of which were sold out, since my only transportation option was a 2:20 am Greyhound.  But a bad omen occurred also. My train to Philly was at 5, but my Fresh Direct order, which was supposed to arrive between 1 and 3, was severely delayed due to computer error and would not arrive until 5 at the earliest. So I had to cancel my food order, meaning that Sunday I might not be able to eat, unless I walked two blocks to a local supermarket. But like any great athlete or performer, I blocked out this stress and just focused on having great shows.

I killed with the first crowd and sold a ton of albums and had several repeat fans come up to me saying that they had seen me before and were happy to see me opening (once again, 2016 is the year of the intentional fan support, instead of the accidental). In fact, my total stood at $340 going into the second show.  I went to Shake Shack next door to Helium to take my mind off the historic accomplishment awaiting me and order a burger.  A woman in the kitchen came up to me and said “You really killed it the other night at Helium.” I said thank you and she then told the cashier to punch in a code that gave me $3 off  of my burger.  I then headed back to Helium with the swagger of Steph Curry playing a WNBA team knowing that it was not a matter of if, but when I would break the $410 barrier.

The second show went great and I pushed the total to $450. Confetti came down from the ceiling and I got a call from President Obama.  I then had a good show on the third show despite being in a sleep deprived semi coma. I left the club and made a 1.2 mile walk to the Greyhound bus station, which, surprisingly was fairly clean and did not have the feeling of a Taliban or Crips meeting place like many bus stations around America.  When I boarded my bus at 2:15 am I realized I was on a bus that President Trump might actually drone strike.  It was a few black people, 377 Mexicans and 220 Asians.  I heard almost no English spoken and realized that this Greyhound bus was basically the 2016 Underground Railroad or a Latin/Asian re-boot of Mad Max: Fury Road.

The bus arrived ten minutes early in NYC and I made my way home for a restful night of sleep, probably already awash in the Zika virus from that bus ride, but also swimming in cash like Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal.  All in all a net gain.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!

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Wake Me Up When September Ends

A lot of big things in September that can potentially lead to incremental success as a comedian or months of bitter regret.  I have not done any new writing since returning from Denver in a hopes to avoid what is often the death-knell for me in any audition/competition in the past.  It goes something like this: I think of a funny premise, which will be funny in a month, a week before an important show.  I then say to myself – this is my best joke!  I then do it and it ruins part of a set that would have been good, but for the prematurely born joke.  I then punch inanimate objects and write about my frustration.  Not this year.  Here are my upcoming trials:

The Boston Comedy Festival – August 30th-September 6th.  This is aspirational.  If I am performing on September 6th it will have been a success.  If I am not angry on September 7th it will have been a huge success/possible miracle.

An Obamacare Tale– We just finished filming my latest spoof/video and not only do I think this will be the best, but also actually semi-relevant.  Imagine a health care town hall with all the worst elements of Obama haters, then imagine a guy who looks like Beck playing Joe Biden and the best Obama impression you’ve ever seen by a member of my family.  Then model it after the scene in A Bronx Tale where Chazz Palminteri beats up a group of bikers.  What do you have?  A video that should go viral and be on Olberman’s Countdown and launch my new career as SNL’s Obama.  What will it actually get – 14 Facebook comments and 500-600 hits.  But it should be up this week and will make me momentarily happy.

San Francisco Comedy Competition September 9, 2009 – November 4, 2013– This is a prestigious comedy competition that lasts for a very long time if you are good/lucky.  I hope to go far (it actually ends October 3, 2009 – see Boston Comedy Festival above for similar description).   I have never been to San Francisco, but I hear it’s a nice city.  I am sure I will enjoy my friend’s couch and the nearest 24 Hour Fitness club and Starbucks.  But don’t worry, I will tell everyone that it is awesome when I return, the way people returning from Europe trips show how much they were changed by experiencing Europe by saying things like Barthelona.

Hope to have good news to report in September/October.  Probably will be more entertaining if I don’t.  Stay tuned.