The Appearance of Being Earnest: Democrats, Climate Change and…

I looked up the most recent Real Clear Politics aggregate poll (averaging all the polls) for the 2020 Democratic nominees and was shocked and dismayed by what I saw.  I saw that Governor Jay Inslee of Washington was dead last. Behind Gillibrand. Behind Yang and Gabbard. Behind Tom Steyer and John Delaney. And yes, behind the star of The Dark Crystal(s) – Marianne Williamson.  I knew he was not yet at the 2% threshold, but I was not prepared to see that he was listed last, even among those only averaging 0.3%.  So this blog is not a call for donations for Inslee, which I have been doing (and will continue to do so) like it’s my job over the last several months.  This is a plea to the Jay Inslee team to face reality.  Democrats say they care about climate change.  At best they are committed in word, but not deed. But it may just be that Democratic voters are liars. It’s time for you to find out.

In November 2018 a CNN poll revealed that the issue that ranked as most important to Democratic voters was climate change.  82% of respondents listed it as “very important.” Second place, right after it, was health care.  Now I understand that this doesn’t mean that everyone who said it is “very important” means that it is their #1 issue.  But more than any issue, according to Democratic voters, it was recognized as a priority.  So I don’t begrudge Governor Inslee for believing there was a viable candidacy in climate change focus, both because he believes it in his heart as THE priority, and because Democratic voters indicated so in polling data.  But he was wrong.

Now, a friend yesterday showed me 2016 data indicating that climate change was barely a top 10 issue to voters at the time of the Clinton-Trump matchup.  But a few things as to why that data is misleading. One, it included Republicans. Less than 20 percent of Republicans view climate change as a very important issue.  Two, since 2016 there has been even more dire data about climate change as well as a host of epic natural disasters that have heightened the public’s awareness of the “climate crisis” as Kamala Harris Jay Inslee originally dubbed it among the nominees.  So because it is the Democratic nomination I am concerned with, there is literally no reason to consider GOP voters in this discussion.

Democrats/Progressives have a grand tradition of saying the right thing and insisting that someone else do it. Starting with desegregation – the North adopted a strong NIMBY approach. They loved pointing the finger at the South, as well they deserved. The North had the historical benefit and moral authority of fighting slavery in the Civil War, but when it came to desegregating housing (“Chicago could teach Mississippi something about hate,” said MLK Jr when marching to desegregate housing in the Windy City), schools (e.g. Boston) and even windfarms (Ted Kennedy did not like the eyesore of windmills) Democrats have been much better at launching rhetoric against the worse villains, but not adjusting or sacrificing on their own end.  This is not to say that progressives have not made sacrifices or changes, enforced change and done many good things.  But the modern progressive generally excels at things like marriage equality, civil rights legislation, etc. – things that require political will and moral strength, but no real tangible sacrifice unless you are a bigot crippled by prejudice (the same energy that Trump has weaponized – a robot took your job, but it feels more tangible and actionable to your hate if you can blame it on a Mexican). In other words if it doesn’t cost any money and won’t require you to pause Netflix, a majority of Democrats are warriors for justice.

Now the GOP is basically a lost cause at this point, but needless to say I believe they are a lot worse than Democrats on issues of justice, equality and the environment.  But no issue more than climate change and no candidate more than Jay Inslee demonstrate the disconnect between Democrats’ words and deeds.

As a quick recap, Jay Inslee has the best track record and experience of any candidate running for the Democratic nomination. 8 terms in Congress with a great progressive voting record, 2 terms as the governor of Washington and a brief social media campaign of thirst for the strapping, bespectacled man:

  • Lost his first seat in Congress supporting the assault weapons ban of 1994 (and yet the New York Times failed to mention him in an article today about the 1990s battle over assault weapons – but they managed to mention Steve Bullock, John Hickenlooper. Tim Ryan, Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand.  HALF OF THESE PEOPLE WERE IN HIGH SCHOOL WHEN INSLEE WAS SACRIFICING HIS JOB ON THIS EXACT ISSUE AND THE NY TIMES CANNOT EVEN MENTION HIM
  • voted against the Iraq War, the repeal of Glass-Steagall and against the Hyde Amendment
  • As Governor he has pushed through gun control laws, the country’s best clean energy plan, the first public option health plan, the best teacher pay increase in the country, a long term care plan for seniors and has pardoned thousands of non-violent drug offenders while also banning the box. Oh and his state has the #1 GDP in the country, the highest minimum wage and is rated #1 in business AND employee satisfaction.

But above all, Inslee has staked his campaign on an issue he has fought on for 25+ years and that polls say is “very important” to Democratic voters: climate change.  He has a progressive record of accomplishment second to none in the campaign (all due respect to Kamala Harris’ mile wide, inch deep policy knowledge and Elizabeth Warren who was a registered Republican when the 1994 crime bill was passed (just a fact to illustrate the point that not everyone is a “perfect Democrat”… though Inslee is as close as I have ever seen).  Well I am here to tell Governor Inslee that I think he is wrong.

Not wrong that climate change should be the number one issue.  He has issued the best plan and most comprehensive climate plan because it addresses everything from the environment to climate justice to enhancing organized labor and using the USA’s prestige and leverage to move the world along.  But all that has fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes.  Let’s start with everyone’s favorite punching bag: the media.

Other than MSNBC, Inslee has been an afterthought on CNN and in the New York Times.  He was the first to call Trump a “white nationalist,” during the debate ON CNN, and yet a few weeks later he was not even listed on a very crowded graphic of Democrats who had called Trump a white nationalist.  The Times last week had 3 straight days of climate change related articles on the front page and yet in every article about candidates on issues that Inslee is a LEADER on, including climate, he is never mentioned.  That is a fu*king disgrace and disservice.

CNN leaving out the candidate who said it first… on their network WTF

But the real and deeper problem is Democratic voters.  Jay Inslee will likely make it to the donor threshold by the August 28th deadline to qualify for the September debates, but it will take a miracle for him to get to the polling threshold. And I think, quite simply that Democratic voters don’t really care about climate change. They care about saying they care. It’s what a good Democrat does. You sound better than the GOP, who admittedly seem to want to poison the Earth. You have the same opinion as Leonardo DiCaprio! Tesla and Prius!

Inslee made the ethical and moral decision to campaign on what he actually believes. But if he also believed that Democratic voters were more than talk he should be dissuaded of that opinion now.  He has two options and I think he should do both:

Highlight His Entire Record

I suggested months ago, assuming budget constraints, that Inslee’s team should make a series of YouTube videos – at least 5, where he splices leading candidates talking about their plans, followed by a clip and graphics of Inslee making that policy law as a legislator or governor. His tag should be “Vision to think it. Experience to get it done. Jay Inslee – ready on day 1.” I suggested he go after Warren during debate 1 with this backhanded compliment technique. He chose to make it generic of “plans vs accomplishments,” which was good, but not good enough. I still think his digital team should make these videos ASAP.  They would be cheap, insightful, informative and headline grabbing.  What is the defense to an “attack” of “I like your idea. I already did it”? There is none. And when just trying to get to 2% it is inexcusable to not be audacious.

Call the Democrats to Action

Jay Inslee strikes me as a truly good man. But also a man who could beat the sh*t out of Donald Trump’s Type II ass if he creeped behind him during a debate.  And it is time for that combination to be turned on the Democratic electorate.  I am not optimistic about Inslee qualifying for the September debates.  I have given him more money than my Manhattan rent so don’t take this as a retreat.  It is a strategic shift.  He should be planning on the October debates (and if September happens then that is a bonus) and on top of the guerilla digital approach he must deliver an address to galvanize the real progressive spirit in all Democrat voters.  I wrote in early July a speech that I thought tapped into this. Obviously it was not used or adopted, but THIS IS IT if you want to read it.  Right now I feel like the Inslee campaign is being run like Shiny Happy People:

But it needs to be a more desperate version of JFK’s plea of asking “what can you do for your country?”  I suggest months ago a possible large speech – bill it to the media as a major address.  Do it in your home state if you need to, in order to guarantee a larger crowd.  And make the theme that it is time to call all Democrats to re-capture the spirit of JFK.  In the speech I wrote I make the connections to the great things Democrats and progressives have done but also link climate change inaction (or mere words of support) to issues like affordable housing, windmills, etc that Democrats have often NIMBY’d (Not In My Backyard).  I would title the speech “The Time of NIMBY Progressivism Has To End Now.”  Climate change is the big issue, but unless Inslee can inform more voters of his second-to-none record of accomplishments ACROSS THE BOARD and how climate change is the chance at redemption for a party that, while driving change, has often slow-walked change in their own world, all while talking a good game against Republicans and their sins.  Governor Inslee is at the cross roads of no time left for the planet and nothing left to lose in his campaign. It is the time for bold action – he is asking the country to take bold action and he is right. It is time for his campaign to do the same damn thing.


Chappelle on Broadway

On Thursday morning I woke up to read my NY Times and started with the Arts section when I saw a large picture of Dave Chappelle and what I assumed was a review of his current 2 week stint on Broadway. The article was by NY Times comedy writer Jason Zinoman and from the headline I decided I did not want to read it. The vibe I got from the headline and first paragraph was that Chappelle was retreading old ground and punching down.  Also I did not want a spoiler for a performance that I had paid an exorbitant amount to attend (doggystyle seating – my girlfriend was sitting in the aisle seat in front of me).  My basic assumption was the Zinoman was just following the current, Nanette-infused sensibility of what should be comedy, what is good comedy and how 18 different progressive buzzwords should be dictating what stand up comedians perform.  Having enjoyed Chappelle’s recent Netflix efforts and defending that material against accusations of transphobia I just assumed this was more of the same. Well… (*Malcolm Gladwell podcast intro voice*) it turns out… maybe Zinoman had a point (still haven’t read it though).

The show did not start until about 8:25 (8:00pm show) when DJ Trauma (Chappelle’s road DJ, a concept I hate as I type it) began playing his own songs before Chappelle’s opener, Wil Sylvince did a 20-25 minute set.  Then DJ Trauma began a medley of hip hop to get us all pumped up for Chappelle.  He did something that I found hilarious – you know how bands will stop singing so the audience fills in (Steve Harvey, I believe, mocked this in The Kings of Comedy)?  Well DJ Trauma decided to stop playing the records so we would fill in – so I guess in 2019 DJs are tired of doing all the work of playing a song on their MacBook.  And then, finally, the man came out.

Chappelle started his set insulting the New York Times, which despite having had two relatives work for the NYT in the past, I laughed at because I assumed he was going to stick it to another progressive (where I lie politically on most things, but not nearly as much within the art of stand up) writer who wants to dictate to a master what is and isn’t OK.  I am going to try and not spoil any jokes, but the vibe I got from Chappelle’s set was of a guy who was a little angrier than normal and felt it was his job to be Louis CK’s proxy or defender. What I mean by that is his topics included trans people, the use of the word fa**ot and school shootings – he was almost going through a checklist of what got CK in trouble after one of his first post-hiatus performances.  And I will admit I was never a huge fan of CK, but I actually laughed at his material that the comedy police decided was now “hack” and “disgusting.”  Now, for most of Chappelle’s set it was A level material on some very touchy subjects. Exactly the type of hilarious tight rope walk a lot of people like me want to see in stand up comedy (his dismissiveness of white opioid addicts, his discussion of getting a gun, his school shooter material, his insulting of the women’s soccer team and many other things were legitimately great comedy and well within what should be allowed for comedians to joke about and risk failing while attempting).  But during some of the material, for the first time in my watching Chappelle for decades, I felt like he was veering into Edge-Lord, “Hey Man I’m a fucking comic – this is what we do bro” kind of “own the libs” peacocking. The appeal for me of Chappelle has always been the laid-back genius of what he does and how he does it. This was absent during the bits of the show that were the weakest.

Now there is a chance he was still working on material, but based on the price of the tickets and the high profile of the residency I have to imagine it is close to a finished product.  And I must say – two sections of the show actually made me cringe both because of the laziness of the material and the reaction of the crowd.

One bit was about the word fa**ot.  He said that Comedy Central did not want him to do a sketch centered on the word. He then asked Comedy Central why he was allowed to say ni**er all day on air, but not fa**ot.  The woman’s answer at standards and practices was that he isn’t gay. Chappelle’s answer to that was “But I’m not a ni**er either.” And the crowd, full of a cross section of people who apparently want the freedom to call people fa**ots, cheered like he had just said something profound and brave. He then said that a lesson he (and now Kevin Hart – the other comedian he seemed intent on defending through word and deed) learned is that you cannot make fun of LGBTQ people because “they” run Hollywood.  I don’t say this lightly; this moment sucked. First off, the analogy that Chappelle made to defend himself was so lazy and wrong it doesn’t work.  Clearly the implication was “you are black, so you can say the N word, but you are straight so you can’t throw around the F word” and he turned it around in a stupid way but that still got Church “mmmhmms” from the Black members of the audience and “whoops” from the NY Post reading White people in the crowd.  Then there was the direct claim that a group running Hollywood was stifling only slurs against themselves.  And then there was the whooping of the crowd at it.  I don’t care if you think this is hyperbole or snowflake shit, but I’ve basically defended everything in comedy that isn’t Kramer’s N word rant and unlike Zinoman, have been a comedian for 16 years, but this felt like being at some Trump rally for a few minutes.  Unlike a lot of the great comedy Chappelle shared last night, this did not feel like pushing the envelope to prove a point about comedy and speech. This felt like a white person asking to say the N word (which tellingly a white person did after the show during a Q&A which was resoundingly booed by white and black alike).  Except in the case of Chappelle, it was a black man demanding the right to use a slur of a group he doesn’t belong too and then claiming some racism/adjacent white privilege for why he wasn’t allowed to. And the crowd loved it.

The second bit that bothered me was probably the worst joke in the whole show, just on a comedic level.  I thought his trans jokes on Netflix were funny.  Problematic, but funny and at the end of the day that is my metric for a comedy special. But he starting basically retreading the CK bit (if I identify as a woman, why can’t I identify as an Asian person – CK did it as a tree or something) that got CK into some heat recently. One of the reasons why I think Chappelle was trying to avenge CK in some way with this hour. And the crowd was loving it (he had other LGBTQ jokes that were much more skillful and funny).  And then he just started doing an Asian person impersonation that felt like a 1950s stereotype and the crowd ate it up (having worked plenty of black rooms on the road and in DC when I started I do know that for some reason doing basically racist impressions of Asians still seem to kill in a lot of those rooms).  Now – maybe he was just doing this to stick his finger in the eye of political correctness.  This one felt so simple and offensive that that might actually have been what he was doing.  But it was beneath most open micers, let alone a legend.

The rest of the show was great, Chappelle is an all time great, but for the first time I felt like I could see the beginning of the end of Chappelle as an artist at the peak of his powers.  At least for me.  Our country has shown there is a deep thirst for offensive commentary and someone who will stop sensitivity and political correctness from being used as dual cudgels to hammer people into a future they haven’t signed on for.  And maybe I am wrong – Chappelle clearly has lots to say and a lot of talent with which to say it.  But he stopped doing Chappelle Show because he felt like he was giving white people too much license to laugh AT black people.  But has middle age, millions and the current climate shifted him into a guy who now finds it OK to rally the MAGA folk and his loyal fans into a group that dismisses all political correctness and other marginalized groups?  It wasn’t OK for white people to laugh at ni**ers in 2004, but we can all come together and laugh at these politically correct fa**ots in 2019?  My credentials and past writings speak for themselves so I don’t need to heed anyone who thinks this is some soft, PC bullshit blog.  In those two bits Chappelle was being lazy and worst of all unfunny – maybe to prove a point, but the point to his audience, based on their reaction was not “we need more honesty!” It was “yeah I should be able to say fa**ot!”  And I am not against using any language in comedy. I have laughed at entertainers’ usage of the fa**ot in some movies and comedy, but the point of  that usage was not to defend the usage of the word.

I don’t normally dissect comedy like this or treat it like a term paper, but I am only doing this because it felt so stark. If I had just listened to a Chappelle album with last night’s set I might have just said “Great album, but tracks 4 and 6 sucked,” but being in a theater with thousands of people applauding not the humor, but the perceived truth of those words, was a lot more uncomfortable than I expected to be at a Chappelle stand up show.


The Righteous Prick Top Eleven Things of 2013

Every year in December I announce my favorite things from the year.  It is sort of like a reminder that my blog and podcasts are not just 52 weeks of cynicism and hostility (just 51 1/2).  2013 was the best year of movies I can remember in my lifetime.  It was also a year where I read less than previous years because of less travel (not to mention several months spent reading a 900 page biography on George Washington), which is my usual time to go through books.  And last, but not least, it was a year where I went from under 80,000 YouTube views to closing in on half a million views.  So this year’s list will range from sports to video games to books to personal accomplishments, but all things on the list were successes on some level.  So without further adieu here is my top 11 things of 2013 (I learned from Buzzfeed to make my lists consist of prime numbers):

11. Stephen Colbert’s Dance Marathon to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky – Not only is Colbert the most talented individual on late night television by light years, but he also strikes me as the guy you wish was your uncle at a wedding. Unlike the awkward uncle who makes an appearance at almost every wedding in America, he seems like the one who actually would tear up the dance floor and not just think he is tearing up the dance floor while dancing like Elaine on Seinfeld. Enjoy this clip before it gets taken down:

10. The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America – This Thomas Packer book just won the National Book Award and I read it in San Antonio, TX this year while on the road in the Summer.  It is a compelling, non-partisan (though as Stephen Colbert famously said to President George W. Bush, “facts are well known to have a liberal bias”) tale of how the promise of the American Dream is proving more and more to be a fantasy for ordinary Americans.

9. Alt Wolf/Tim & Aaron/Biggie – This year was a big year for my comedy career (in every way, but financial).  Louis CK Tells the Classics was by far my biggest hit on the Internet, but I had a three way tie for my favorite video of the year (that I made). So if you missed them or want to enjoy them again, here are Alt Wolf, Tim & Aaron and Biggie:

8. Obamacare – You are probably wondering, huh?  The website was a mess (sorry GOP, but the site is working a lot better now) and most Americans, according to Fox News polls, believe the Affordable Care Act is slightly worse than Uday Hussein’s rape room.  But from this blogging comedian’s perspective it was a big success.  My new health care plan will save me $169/month over what I paid in 2013 for health insurance.  I will have smaller co-pays and have a plan that is accepted by all the doctors I already see.  The only sad thing is that in my head I still think I am one of the “young people” that the Act needs to enroll. Then I realized that at 34 I might be older than that demographic.  So now the President and Comedy Central have no need for me.

7. Captain Phillips – My favorite film of 2013.  And the last 10 minutes of acting by Tom Hanks is the best work he has ever done and I do not care what sentiments or feel good stories emerge at the Oscars – Tom Hanks deserves the Best Actor award.

6. The New York Times Series on Dasani – This five part series in the New York Times about Dasani, an 11 year old girl living in a Brooklyn shelter is an incredible and intimate look at the struggles of the poor.  Similar to The Unwinding, it takes a look at the poor and the struggling, not through political or economic theories or through statistics, but through an on-the-ground look at the cyclical struggles of the poor and how difficult it can be for people, even with motivation and talents, to rise above their circumstances in an increasingly unequal society. Check it out HERE

5. Lebron James – With my Utah Jazz in a re-building and irrelevant phase of their franchise, it has allowed me to become more of an NBA fan and appreciate the stars of the NBA (unlike in the Jordan era where the Jazz were actually title contenders and I could only view Jordan from the perspective of hostile opposing fan). And no star has shined brighter than Lebron James.  If the Olympics were every year perhaps Usain Bolt would be on this list, but the most exciting, entertaining and compelling athlete on a year-to-year basis is Lebron James.  And in 2013 it was particularly enjoyable seeing him shut down his haters for good.

4. Breaking Bad – The series ended and I did not think the final season was its best (that would be either season 3 or 4, both of which I would give A+ grades to).  And many people believe that Episode 14 of Season 5 – Ozymandias was the show’s all-time best episode (for me it is top five). However, my favorite moment of Breaking Bad this season, and perhaps the entire show, were the final two minutes of the second to last episode of the series.  (SPOILER COMING IF YOU ARE WATCHING THE LAST SEASON ON DVD NOW).  Walt calls Walt Jr. at school seeking some sort of reconciliation that he does not receive.  So defeated, he calls the police to turn himself in, sits down at the bar and awaits his destiny.  However, he sees his former partners in the business he left (as Vince Gilligan said in an interview, he believed Walt “broke bad” when he refused a job and full care for his treatment from his former business partners in Season 1, purely out of pride – because if family was most important than the decision should have been made easily) minimizing his contributions to the company on Charlie Rose.  It triggers in him a proud rage and as the theme music to the show swells, and we see the police closing in on the bar, the last frame shows an empty seat and an unfinished drink, indicating that Walt is not done yet and that we will, in fact, have one more episode of one of the greatest shows of all time.

3. Hello Ladies – For any show to be ahead of Breaking Bad, given its quality and my sentimental attachement to it, it would have to be damn near perfect.  And like Season 1 of Eastbound and Down, which topped my end of year list several years ago, Hello Ladies was comedy and sentimental perfection.  The show was 8 episodes of sly humor, great acting, uncomfortable awkwardness and pure brilliance.  And I am not just saying that because the lead actor is 6’7″.  Who knows if the show can continue its brilliance, but for 8 episodes it was my favorite thing on television this year.

2. Blurred Lines – Here is how you know a song is good – it is number 1 on the charts for two months before feminist blog sites finally stop dancing and tapping their cyber feet to issue denunciations of it.  The song is fantastic.  And the video is even better.  And the unedited video is even betterer (the brunette could have had her own spot on this list to be honest).

1. The Last of Us – It may seem weird to have a video game as the number one thing of 2013, but The Last of Us was the single best piece of entertainment I experienced this year.  A script worthy of Hollywood’s best, great vocal talent, incredible graphics, great gameplay and an ending of moral ambiguity that would make Vince Gilligan envious.  I know now everyone that reads this plays video games and not everyone who plays video games has a PS3, but this game alone is worth the purchase of a PS3 and it is my #1 thing of 2013.

Take a bow.

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Fight The Useless Fight?

The great film Inside Job, which was my #1 movie of 2010 has a peculiar ending.  After about 90 minutes the movie asks people to keep fighting and that things can change.  Perhaps the director is an optimist or perhaps he just thought no one would want to see it if it was 100% gloom and doom.  Well, it is less than a week into 2011 and just today there are four articles in the New York Times that have me incredibly depressed (admittedly I have not finished reading the paper today):

Pomp & Little Circumstance

John Boehner and the Tea Party are a fu*king joke.  I cannot pussyfoot this point.  The Tea Party give Republicans populist street cred while the Republicans are the tit to American business’ greedy baby (some Democrats may be the rattle or toy for that baby, but the Republicans are startling unified in their unyielding support for big business).  It is stupid and sickening.  And turn the page to the business section…

I wonder if Boehner will tear up when he has his staff sworn in by Chief Justice Roberts.

GOP asks Businesses Which Rules To Re-Write

So the lessons the Republicans have learned over the last 10-30 years is that there has been too little regulation of business?!  Poor business – record corporate profits last year, high unemployment of average Americans – yeah, what we need is too let corporate America be more free of regulation.

Detroit Carmakers Post Robust Sales Increases

Now that I am done fuming at Congressional Republicans, this one is for the American people.  Congratulations Detroit auto sales are up.  I guess Americans have smartened up and are now buying fuel efficient cars and are helping power Detroit into the next century as an automotive world leader.  Oh wait no, because gas prices are no longer as high people do not give a flying fu*k about the environment or giving billions to regimes in the Middle East and are buying up trucks and SUVs at high levels again (with the exception of the Ford Fusion).  Great job America.  Just like I believe we need Congressional term limits (3 terms in the Senate, 10 terms in the House would be a good start) we need a gas tax.  The majority of people in America care about their wallet, their bank account, maybe their family and nothing else.  So it is time to speak in a language America understands.

Don't like minivans and/or your own penis? Well then you should pay for it.

Friends With Benefits

Goldman Sachs.  Enough said.  Good luck non-billionaire investors.  I wonder if there any internal e-mails at Goldman calling Facebook a “piece of crap.”