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Brown Town

With the election of Scott Brown to the United States Senate it appears that the Republicans will get what they have wanted – nothing.  The 59 votes will not be enough in the Senate to pass the health care reform legislation over the 41 conscience-driven Republicans who will be willing to filibuster. 

I have said it before and if you read this blog you really should go on Amazon.com and purchase Nixonland.  The lesson is that the last time a Democratic President tried to push forward a sweeping and needed social agenda – middle class white anger rose up to deliver monstrous losses in the midterm elections.  Lyndon Johnson won big in 1964 and then watched most of his congressional gains disappear in 1966.  And LBJ had the advantage of not being a confident black man in an era of constantly streaming information and misinformation.  Perhaps if Don Draper were running a 24 hour-a-day campaign against the Civil Rights Act and the country had a troubled, centuries-long relationship with Texans then LBJ would have known what Obama is up against.   Seriously – if you have not read Nixonland you are cheating yourself at a chance to predict the future.

What would the Tea Partiers (and their co-voters) have thought of LBJ? "He's bad, buuuuuut it could be worse..."

Martha Coakley certainly ran a poor campaign, which hurts even more given that she is a Williams Eph.  However, just 9 years after George W. Bush took office, I am hearing “Scott Brown drove a pick up truck” and “Coakley didn’t know who Curt Schilling was.”   This stuff still matters? 

Republicans are taking the country to Brown Town.

The Republicans have become the party that cheers when a perfect game is broken up.  Sure you can’t win, but in a sense neither can the other guy.  And that is now our politics – since when did every single piece of legislation of any meaning require 60 votes in the Senate – oh right, 2009.  I don’t remember liberals like Ted Kennedy fighting George Bush on No Child Left Behind – W.’s signature act in his first term not related to unjust war or tax cuts for wealthy people (until Bush underfunded it).  But Scott Brown is coming to town on a “no cap and trade,” “no health care reform” platform.  The health insurance industry has spent $100 million fighting health care reform to convince people that it is a fundamental threat to our society, second only to Islamic fundamentalism.  The Democrats bent to pro-life concerns and to Joe Lieberman and still not one Republican came over.  Republicans have become a party of hypocritical (really – how can you buy the Republicans as the party of populism in practice – it would be like believing those Exxon commercials where their “workers” talk about helping to create fuel efficient vehicles) obstructionists, which I guess if you consider environmental protection and expanded health care coverage the “wrong direction for America” then you probably think these guys are just voting their consciences.

And I was out there calling Obama a little arrogant during the campaign (because he seemed to have a few moments), but claims that he is acting arrogantly from some voters I think is coded language and false.  The man was elected with the most votes in United States History and has tried to push an agenda (and will likely fail) reflective of that mandate.  These folks might as well say uppity because I think that is part of what some of the backlash is about, at least in terms of the speed and intensity with which it came.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that in our country’s history there has always been a middle class white backlash following massive strides for black people.  After the Civil War and Reconstruction came the Compromise of 1877 which ceded the South to Democrats (the old pre-Strom Thurmond Democrats, the ones that hated Lincoln) and Jim Crow; The Great Society which yielded The Voting Rights Act and The Civil Rights Act gave way just a few years later to sweeping middle class white anger spearheaded by Sarah Palin’s uglier, smarter, better educated and more paranoid predecessor, Richard Nixon; and then the election of Barack Obama gave way almost instantaneously to zealous anger.

Furthermore, in a society of iPhones, blackberries, YouTube, etc. people say they want change, but are no longer conditioned to wait for it.  As George W. showed, fear from terror makes people loyal to you (at least for a time), but when people’s wallets are hurting it’s every man and woman for themselves.   Our lack of patience is another factor that has led us to Brown Town. 

Of course now most Democrats are running for the hills at this point because the only thing more important in DC than doing what you think is right in the face of manipulative lobbying campaigns is holding on to your power.  So unfortunately, we are all headed to Brown Town soon.

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Obamacare is the New N Word

I joked in a tweet a couple of nights ago that Fox Opinions (because it is not really news except for that Shep Smith guy – I wonder when they will fire him?) would try to link Kanye West to President Obama after he upstaged the angelic 19 year old country singer Taylor Swift.  And Kanye was wrong and Taylor Swift seems remarkably (and refreshingly) un-Hollywood for such a big star (perhaps, her humble Christian roots have something to do with it, or perhaps she just hasn’t been paid enough for a sex tape yet).  Whatever the case was I had this eerie feeling that white people in parts of the country would see beyond a vain entertainer upstaging a humble one and see it as yet another arrogant negro ruining a moment for a white woman (e.g. Sarah Palin, Emmit Till to name two such incidents).

I told you this would happen if we elected a black guy President
I told you this would happen if we elected a black guy President

But the larger truth is that small town, small minded white people feel incredibly threatened by Barack Obama.  When he was a humble, conciliatory campaigner who aspired (but did not and could not guarantee) bipartisanship he looked like that talented black man who could do wonderful things, but still had the tone on one who recognized that he could not do it all alone.  But now that he has decided to make change that not everybody agrees with, he magically transformed from Jackie Robinson to Malcolm X (pre-Mecca trip) for a lot of Americans.  There used to be a socially acceptable way for angry white people to vent their frustration at blacks.  But most mainstream racists now know that saying the N word is debate suicide, so they just attack the man shouting “Obamacare” (I will probably stop using it because I have just realized through a twitter search that it is used too often in derision and not as an easy shorthand as I thought it was) as their slur. 

Democrats rooted against George W. Bush and derided him, but mostly because he spoke in a manner often unfit for POTUS status, waged an unnecessary and lie-based war in Iraq, mismanaged the war in Afghanistan, an honorable and necessary war, to the point that now Obama is facing incredible pressure to abandon it, which may imperil America’s safety, allowed Dick Cheney, who appears to be the only man more evil that Nixon’s squad of goons in the early 1970s, to run roughshod over the Constitution and sold the environment to industry.  There are 5,000 dead troops, over 4,000 from the Iraq War.  Global Warming is real.  These are the classic issues that have always brought on tough words and tougher protest.  But now, universal health coverage has become the lightening rod that pushed these people over the edge.  Not war (and if it was a white country, or at least non-Muslim nations, would these people have been as gung ho about it).  Not environmental degradation with disastrous and cataclysmic consequences.  Health care for all.  With numerous controversial proposals introduced by Republicans.  This is their best shot at Obama and sadly, there may be enough industry whores on both sides of the political aisle to derail it, which will be like getting a do over at the Civil War for some of these morons.

Well, at least racism is not clouding the issue of health care.
Well, at least racism is not clouding the issue of health care.

I will admit that I think economic fears have something to do with it also.  I think this country is greedy at its core.  If the economy had not tanked in September of last year, the election would have been A LOT closer.  People vote their wallets and their instincts in this country, in that order.  So when the economy tanked, some people who may not have wanted a black president voted their circumstances and decided their ideology could fight another day.  Well, now that the economy is not recovering in terms of jobs for people it is time to let the racism kick in, in its socially acceptable form – shouting angrily over anything that you can.

I recently read the book Nixonland, which is a weighty tome and sometimes difficult to wade through without a real substantive knowledge of all the political players of the 1960s and 70s, but Richard Nixon rode to the presidency on white frustration.  Not all of it was racial, some was economic (the way Republicans have continued to fool poor and middle class people that their economic best interests are with Republicans), but much of it was racial.  In the 1960s civil rights enactments along with racial riots made the Republicans the party of safety and the re-establishment of white order.  Well now that there is a president of color that battle has been lost, but that does not mean that equality’s victory over intolerance cannot be frustrated.  And that is what these TEA party folks are doing.  Their victory is unattainable so they’ve redefined their goals very simply: if we cannot win, then neither can he/they.

Even if you believe that Obama & Co. are going about health care in the wrong way, is health care for every American such an abomination on its face that it requires the same intensity of protest that Vietnam had, which these people are giving it?  And why do we have to cover these losers as if they matter.  Below is my recent interpretation of a Health Care Town Hall:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAyUoDEX0GE

Richard Nixon tapped into a feeling of helplessness that white people had.  Liberal causes almost always win the day eventually because to quote George W. Bush, “I believe freedom is the deepest need of every human soul.”  But those moments don’t really exist for ordinary white people because they have been on top since the country’s birth.  However, black people have come up from such depths that every milestone is a feel good celebration, culminating, of course, with the election of Barack Obama.

So the the TEA Partiers and their selfish and/or small minded sympathizers, my message to you is relax.  You are still white and in America.  Appreciate the natural advantages that still abound because of it and let people have health care and a president of color.   It reminds me of the scene in Goodfellas where Tommy (Joe Pesci) gets very angry at his girlfriend for over complimenting Sammy Davis Jr.  TEA Partiers and their allies at Fox Opinions are like Tommy (white, angry with no legitimate place for their real frustrations).  Obama is Sammy Davis Jr, but only worse, he is a Democrat.  And worse, he is trying to do something other than  dance, sing or shoot a jump shot.

Of course the Candy Man can! (wait, we're not talking about him dating my daughter, right?)
Of course the Candy Man can! (wait, we're not talking about him dating my daughter, right?)

If you read this and like it (or the video) – please forward on or re-post.  And if you don’t like it…

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Asheville Recap: From TSA to TNA

This weekend I was in Asheville, North Carolina for the Laugh Your Asheville Off Festival.  Here is the whimsical recap:

I woke up at 530 AM to get my flight from Newark.  Not my first choice, but when it is a free flight from American Express you go to Newark.  For anybody that doubts the toughness of Newark, NJ you need to look no further than their TSA agents.  A woman in her early 50s obviously gave a Napoleanic TSA agent some guff when she was told that she would need to have a separate screening.  I did not hear what she said, but she received a “you got something to say?” from the TSA agent.  Actually she received about 4 “you got something to say’s,” with each one drawing the TSA agent closer until he was literally in her face, which was followed by her silence.  He then said, “that’s what I thought,” and started walking away, to which she started saying something, which was followed by TSA agent turning around and walking back saying, “Don’t start talking when I turn around baby girl.” Now to clarify the tension this was not some sassy black queen talking to this woman, but a slightly more thuggish young man, so it probably didn’t help when I kept muttering, “hit the bitch.”  When it was my turn I looked at him and said, “You think you bad?  You ain’t bad!  You ain’t nothin’!”  So my trip started with an inauspicious start, as I thought of something that sounds like a tag from a terrible horror or thriller movie, “The TSA protects you from terrorists, but who will protect you from the TSA?”

Newark TSA: Let me see your motherfu-kin' boarding pass bitch!
Newark TSA: Let me see your motherfu-kin' boarding pass bitch!

So I arrived in Asheville on one of the smoothest small plane rides I can ever remember and had plenty of time to kill before my 930 pm show.  I had lunch with the producers of the show, which was nice and allowed me to get the scoop on the Asheville scene (bottom line – if you are a comedian and get a chance to do a show there – do it).

Then I spent the next few hours in my Super 8 Motel room working on my set, but then I got hungry. Seeking an authentic Southern experience I went to the only non-Waffle House across from my motel: Hooters.

There are several things strange about my trip to Hooters.  I brought a book to read, which already can indicate homosexuality to certain neanderthal thinkers at anytime, but bringing a book into Hooters is like going to a Neanderthal meeting and saying I prefer tales of Richard Nixon’s election in 1968 to breasts.  But I brought the book simply to avoid gazing into the dead eyes of the waitresses.  Another strange thing was that the televisions were playing That’s So Raven on the Disney channel.   It seemed ironic to me, but maybe Hooters can be a family restaurant,considering that signs at the restaurant indicated that today was Conceive Your Daughter At Work Day.  I kid the Hooters waitresses – but I felt like I should be pimping them to come to New York, “Ladies you know what pretty girls with big boobs can get in NYC?  Anything you want!  But you’ll want to lose that cheerful attitude.”

PYOT: Pretty Young Objectified Things!
PYOT: Pretty Young Objectified Things!

Then it was time to go over for the night’s shows.  The shuttle from the Motel was basically a golf cart, but less masculine and cool (my door closed by Velcro).  It would have been less humiliating to arrive at the show dressed as Professor Dumbledore riding a Big Wheels truck.  This was at 6 pm, which only meant that I had 6 hours until my set.   After waiting for what felt like an eternity I went on and had a great set in front of an amazing crowd.  Really amazing. 

After the show a guy came up to me to tell me that he thought the Obama impression was really good and that he is an impressionist and is struggling to get an Obama.  I very much wanted to go Kenny Powers on him and say, “Actually I don’t understand you.  I’m a comedian, not trying to be the best at imitating,” which is a lie since I like doing impressions, but it would have been funny to me to say that.

The next morning was Waffle House time, where I ate a ton of food for $7 before getting on my flight back to Newark.  it was very bumpy the whole way back and then I realized that we had a female pilot and co-pilot.  I have never seen that before, but other than the emotional instability of the flight it was pretty much a normal flight.

Water, no ice and some peanuts ple-ohhh sorry.  Awwwwkward.
Water, no ice and some peanuts ple-ohhh sorry. Awwwwkward.
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Racism In & At Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

Pardon me if I am a little sensitive on racial issues today.  I picked up my New York Times an hour ago and on the front page is an article about Richard Nixon’s ambivalence on abortion.  Newly released tapes showed that he feared giving Constitutional protection to abortion would foster permissiveness, but that he also felt that it might be necessary in cases of rape or when the baby was half-black and half-white!   Well, at least it’s good to know that on Nixon’s watch, even if it was illegal there would have been some sensible exceptions.

This is only the second most disturbing racist thing I have experienced in the last 12 hours.  Last night I saw a midnight IMAX showing of Transformers (not a good movie) and now the makers of Birth of a Nation and the crows from Dumbo can welcome new members to the pantheon of overtly racist cinematic characters.  The twins in Transformers, two cars/robots come fully equipped with:

  1. ebonics
  2. charcaturish “black voices” as if they were from a bad early 1980s or late 1970s film
  3. lisps – somewhere between Tim Meadows’ The Ladies’ Man and how members of Don Imus’ morning show have made black people sound in impersonations in the past
  4. an actual line of dialogue where they admit not being able to read

I was expecting their names to be Samboand Stepinfetchit as I watched the film; it was that stupid and overt.  The first Transformers film had an overtly “black” Transformer (Jazz), but he didn’t sound like a heroin addict or pimp from Serpico. 

Ted Danson's audition headshot for Transformers 3: Return of the Blackface
Ted Danson's audition headshot for Transformers 3: Return of the Blackface

But that might have been the most disturbing caricature of black people of the night if not for the guy sitting next to me.  He spoke during approximately 75 minutes of a 150 minute movie.  Here is a sample of his dialogue and actions throughout the movie (names have been removed so as not to spoil the film):

Why are they doing all this talking – damn!  – Ironic quote of the night – said about the excessive two minutes of dialogue giving plot  background before returning to incoherent confusing fight scenes.

Oh NO! –said approximately 45 times

DAMN WHERE _____’s backup!!!!!!  HOW THEY GONNA LEAVE HIM!!! – shouted several times during a pivotal fight scene

FU-K HIM UP!!!! YEAH _____!!! FU_K HIM UP – same scene and a later scene

HOW THEY GONNA HAVE ME PAY MONEY TO SEE ______ DIE!!! – during major fight scene

(grunts with lost of hopping in his seat and punching motions during a fight scene) – during climactic fight scene

DON’T STAND UP THE MOVIE AIN’T OVER!!! – more irony – taking a stand against people walking during the closing credits because there were some clips playing over the ending credits.

I don’t even think this guy knew he was a stereotype in action because of a few reasons: there were a lot of black people talking and shouting during the movie and he did not seem to mind or pick up  on the racist Transformers so I guess he wouldn’t pick up on his own stupidity.  I chose not to stop him because I sensed a great blog topic.

Question of the day: why are black people so much more likely to be talking during a movie than other races?  See I am half black, but my father is not from America and he raised me white, meaning my Mom and Dad both agreed that people would not talk during movies for the most part.  When I went to see Taking of Pelham 123 a few nights ago an argument broke out between a white couple, who wished permanent hearing loss on their antagonists, and a group of three talkative black people (older black woman in the latter group responded with – “if you don’t like it watch the movie at home” – which would be great if that worked when you did something wrong that annoyed someone else.  “Oh you don’t like me urinating on you – perhaps you should stay home then.”). 

So go to Transformers for the racist caricature robots, but stay for the possibility that there will be raciallycaricatured audience members. 

But seriously the movie is sort of bad.  Not Wolverine bad, but not good either.