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3 Non-Partisan Things America Should Be Doing

1) Helping Somalian Children

I am fascinated by a few stories (or in some cases non-stories) in America today.  One is our non-involvement in Somalia.  We are all scarred by Black Hawk Down, both the actual incident in 1993 and the disappointing film by Ridley Scott.  But every day the news and the newspapers report the fact that around 500,000 children are close to starvation in Somalia.  The options for the innocent in Somalia are go to a Taliban-style Muslim section where freedom is non-existent, or live in a war zone.  Now that would seem to be all the things “real” Americans care about – there are children at stake.  After all, the Super Bowl was never the same after  “the children” saw Janet Jackson’s nipple, so naturally if half a million kids are dying we should surely care.  Plus, it is a chance to take on the scourge of radical Islam, which has provided a nice replacement for the Red Scare in post Cold War era (admittedly real in many cases, but used as a boogyman in others).  But we can do nothing?   It is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.  I was all for fighting in Afghanistan, but once again this is related to the decision to fight in Iraq.  All the money and international good will it cost us is still relevant even though people have “It’s Bush’s fault” fatigue.  Who gives a sh*t if you are tired of hearing that – it doesn’t make it any less true!  And why is it so hard for so many “real Americans” to wrap their heads around the idea that sometimes a problem that took between 7 and 30 years to develop (our Frankenstein-esque de-regulated capitalism), might take more than 2 1/2 years to solve?  As a country we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg of how warped a spoiled nation, with increasing ADD and an overflow of information sources, both credible and absurd, can become.

I hope no Somalian toddlers on their deathbeds saw this!

2) Building A  National High Speed Rail System

This could be the stimulus the country needs.  A WWII level stimulus project that employs people in 48 states, uses real American labor and builds something that doesn’t involve a dot-com, but rather a tangible product to be used by Americans.  It could help reduce the use of oil as a nice bonus.  And it would be a long-term project, not some 12 month replacement of a small bridge (I am talking to you Cleveland).  These are all the advantages I see for building a high speed national rail system.  Admittedly, I have only been to two foreign countries (and neither is Canada or Mexico), but my more well-traveled friends tell me that in developed nations in Europe and Asia the rail systems put ours to shame.  So if we pride ourselves as a nation as being number one (even if only in our own minds) why do we have such a substandard rail system.

Jobs, tangible benefits, pride - we could give this to hundreds of thousands of people.

I am a huge fan of rail travel and have travelled most of this country by Amtrak.  Imagine how many more people would if they tripled or quadrupled the speed of it.  Instead of 21 hours to Chicago from New York it was 6 or 7.  Instead of 17 hours to Atlanta, it was 5?  All presumably built with some form of updated green technology.  Why can’t Amtrak be this decade’s Man on the Moon?  Well, of course there are several reasons.  One is the oil lobby.  Another is the aviation lobby.  Another is we have been conditioned to see the rail as some sort of purgatory between the Heaven of aviation and the Hell of Greyhound.  But how could America not take a renewed pride in the rail system if it was a massive and beneficial national project?  Well, of course that probably sounds like socialism so I guess if we got beyond negative perceptions of Amtrak and intense lobbying we would still have to compete with American stupidity.

3) Use a Dictionary and an Encyclopedia

With the Internet providing any “fact” that anyone wants to support their pre-existing belief I think we need to get back to agreement that words and facts exist and are sometimes not up for interpretation.  A standard Merriam-Webster dictionary and an Encyclopedia Britannica should do (if we can agree that those are not tools of the radical left or right).  These texts used to provide a basic presentation of facts that we could all agree with if we bothered to read them.  I would not go as far as to suggest that the New York Times, which until the advent of Fox News Propaganda (which it is – brought to “real Americans” by an Australian with a pro-business agenda), was known as the public record because of its thorough and excellent worldwide reporting, could possibly be this in our current society.

Old school learnin'

I have a selfish reason for suggesting this.  Yesterday I made the mistake of getting into a Facebook discussion with a conservative on his Facebook page.  His ignorant cabal of friends then proceeded to jump on me with the usual Tea Party rhetoric that is more faith-based than historically based (random assertions of “The Constitution says” as if there are not actual words that can be verified).  Here are some of the highlights that I think an Encyclopedia and a dictionary would have helped:

  1. “Liberalism is all about socialism and stripping us of our Constitutional rights” – Funny, liberals are often accused of giving people too many rights (see the Warren Court).  You know who else is about socialism?  Your police department, your fire department, your public schools, your parks, your sanitation workers and your libraries to name a few.
  2. “What about groups like the Black Panthers that Obama endorses?”  – I am not sure a comment is needed here.
  3. “Liberals bringing socialism is definitely as dangerous a guy with a bomb strapped to his chest” – see #1
  4. “Ask the Brits how well gun control works for them… they can’t own anything to protect themselves. Even if they use a toy gun to seize a burglar the home owner gets arrested for assaulting the criminal. Thats what the liberals want for the USA.” – see also the murder rate and gun violence statistics for Britain.  I know it is Europe and that is “faggy” and “awful” for “real Americans” but fewer dead Americans would seem like a good thing for America.  As of 2000 their murder rate with firearms was 10 times less than ours.
  5. “This is laughable. As if the left hasn’t practiced these same exact tactics (referring to when I said the Tea Party nearly brought our government to default): gay rights, environmentalists, gun control, the list goes on and on. What was it we were talking about again? Small, well-financed groups of people holding a party hostage? – In other words this person (these comments were from several different individuals on the same comment stream) took an unprecedented event and claimed that there were several non-existent precedents.  When exactly did the left brink the country to the brink of economic disaster over “gay rights,” or the environment?  Even though perhaps they should since civil rights and the future of the planet are more important to America’s creed than low taxes for the wealthy.
For example - if you did not, or still do not, understand that this cover was a satire you are ignorant and ill informed.

So in sum, my platform is simple:

  • We should intervene on behalf of half a million dying children before we intervene on behalf of oil interests;
  • We should develop a national high speed rail system as a tangible stimulus plan and;
  • We should all read a major newspaper (that hopefully hasn’t been fact-raped by Rupert Murdoch’s minions – and despite his vast empire this DOES NOT exclude all conservative leaning publications) and occasionally open a dictionary or an Encyclopedia Britannica if we want to verify something that maybe sounds outrageous.

20 years ago this would have seemed sensible.  Today it seems too ambitious.  Sadly in another 20 years it may seem like a fantasy.

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Why The Founding Fathers Would Hate The Tea Party

I have been working hard to understand the debt ceiling crisis (I actually think I understood the 2008 housing crisis and related issues better but that was thanks to lots of books and documentaries).  The basic idea I think was that if we did not raise the debt ceiling we would run out of money to pay our debts and that would have catastrophic effects throughout our economy.  I think the general descriptions from everyone not associated with Fox News was the following:

Of course, economists and Wall Street were not enough to convince the de facto leaders of the Republican Party, the Tea Party, that this was necessary.  The Tea Party basically held their own party hostage (probably making John Boehner cry some more) in order to secure deficit reduction at all costs, as if it is the 11th Commandment.  They secured massive entitlement cuts as a prerequisite for doing something that has been done many many times as a non-political issue.  John Boehner cried that he had “stuck his neck out a mile” but when the crazies leading your party are ten miles from sanity, sticking your neck out a mile to meet them is still 9 miles from sane.

But what is most significant about many of the political conflicts over the last three years is that our politics have finally outgrown what the Founding Fathers could have conceived.

American Capitalism Has Finally Worked.  And That Is A Bad Thing

I think our financial crisis of 2008-present has proven that capitalism as it is constituted in America now is a failed system.  The problem is that the only people it is not failing are the ones with the most money and the most political access.  Let me count the ways:

  • Money controls our politics
  • There are no term limits so the most important relationship to a member of either house of Congress is with those that donate money to them, not their constituency
  • Lobbying money, which is the key to political power, NOT elections, dictates policy, legislation and regulation.
  • The increasing disparity of wealth will only get bigger because those individuals and companies with wealth can dictate the political narrative through advertising (thank you Supreme Court for Citizens United) and have greater access to the lawmakers.  This will lead to an exponential growth in the wealthy controlling policy, which directly benefits them, as well as the narrative, through advertising and local elections, which will manipulate many people into targeting their anger at the wrong people.  Why do you think Americans seem to hate Mexican immigrants working bad jobs and gays who want to get married more than the money manipulators (I mean “job creators”) on Wall Street.  Why do they hate unions more than the company executives who refuse solid profits to conduct business in America, in favor of making wild profits producing things abroad?
  • We have made news coverage a money making endeavor.  That means for advertising dollars we have to put stories about things people are interested in (dumb people apparently still want the occasional update on Lindsey Lohan) and that has allowed stations (most notably Fox News and to an almost equal degree (but far more correct) MSNBC to turn news into a team sport where the message is guided by what crowd you want to hang with.

Furthermore, who elected Grover Norquist to anything?  If Obama were adhering to pledges from a private citizen or an unelected group do you think that would be palatable to Americans?

My solutions would be simple and would never happen.  Term limits for members of Congress.  2 terms for Senators, 3 terms for House of Representatives.  It is supposed to be public service, not a path to long term enrichment.  If a member of Congress were not nearly as worried about re-election then they would not worry about constant fundraising and would worry less about annoying their lobbying interests and focus more on the people who sent them to office.  Some people may say, that elections are enough, but with money controlling everything (even the gay marriage legislation in New York was a victory for money in politics, not civil rights.  The left applauded, but it was only because financial carrots were placed in front of swing votes by well-financed proponents of gay marriage that it passed), elections are no longer enough when incumbents are so flush with decades worth of cash stockpiles, which only increase as their time (and influence) grows in Congress.

The Founding Father’s Lack of Vision

But thanks to the Tea Party’s hostage of the already extra-conservative Republican party, they have now demonstrated that our very form of Republican government may be failing.

Most likely tell the Tea Party to shut the fu*k up.

We know that the leaders of the Tea Party, like Michelle Bachman, are lovers of the Founding Fathers, at least in theory, since she seems to be less than schooled in what the Founding Fathers actually believed and did (see Founding Fathers fighting slavery).  And perhaps if Bachman and her crew knew that the Founding Fathers they would not speak of original intent so much, mainly because from the Founding Fathers’ own words, they could not conceive of a political minority being able to manipulate government the way they have.

In Federalist 10, from the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote that the danger to a Democracy was the faction, whether it be tyranny of the majority or the minority.  Here are some of the highlights from Madison:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority
or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse
of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the
permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the
republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by
regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but
it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the
Constitution.

In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may
be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard
against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be
limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a
multitude.

Reading those passages it would be hard to believe that the Tea Party would be lovers of the Founding Fathers.  From these quotes from Federalist 10 it goes beyond Madison disapproving of what the Tea Party has been doing to our government.  It is as if he could not conceive of what they are doing! Now of course, ask a member of the Tea Party what the originals intended and they can tell you how all their words can apply to today, but could they really have envisioned our current society if they could not have even envisioned the tyranny of the Tea Party?  Madison clearly believed that our Republican form of government could stop a cabal from controlling or at least clogging the workings of the government.  Madison did not think a minority faction could hide their actions and interests, but thanks to fake grass roots organizations they can.  In short, Madison was wrong.  He just had no idea that he could be wrong because he figured that a majority decision for the nation’s interest could not be subverted by a ideological minority.  It is almost Oedipal.  For the Tea Party to thrive they had to kill an idea of their cherished Founding Father.  And we already know some Tea Partiers have probably slept with their mothers.  Or at least their sisters.

Another person who loves to talk about the Founding Fathers is Sarah Palin, who I believe is the political equivalent of a store front preacher who also sells snake oil elixirs.  I don’t think she will run for president, unless her agent tells her it could raise literary sales.  She is touring the country earning speaking fees and selling books.  She is selling Patriotism the way a preacher sells healings – the only one who actually benefits at the end is Sarah Palin.  But this is who many Americans believe has America’s interests at heart.

Sarah Palin is feeding a load of BS to the Tea Party. I almost felt bad for some of her misled followers, but then my Mom said, "If they are fans of Palin then they deserve to be led astray. Fu*k 'em." Amen.

The Republicans in general have demonstrated over the last three years that they will allow a minority to control and freeze government action.  In the House, the Republicans allow themselves to be controlled by the Tea Party.  Why?  Because they are all afraid that they could be the target of the well-funded interest groups in the next election (the midterms of 2010 saw many Republicans who did not meet the ultra-conservative litmus test lose in primaries).  Of course, once again, if there were term limits they might not be as worried about clinging to the power of elected office.  In the Senate, the entire Republican party has turned 60 votes into the new 50.  If they have any disagreement the filibuster is called in.  Once again Madison 0 for 2 on the current Congress.

So to sum up the Tea Party – they believe in the Founding Fathers’ vision, which they don’t seem to understand since the Founding Fathers would be at a loss to explain the Tea Party’s death grip on the House of Representatives.  But they probably would have equally perplexed reaction to a black president, which in all honesty is what really spurred this on.  The Founding Fathers would have called Obama a slave, today the S word is socialist.

So as I look at America today, I see an experiment that has failed.  This does not mean America sucks or anything like that, but we have proven that capitalism is not a rising sea that lifts all boats.  Combined with a new Democracy that the Founding Fathers could have never envisioned, we have turned America into a country where the financial minority can deliver power to a political minority and own the entire process.  The progressives who are attacking Obama need to realize that this is now how the country works and that it is way bigger than anything he can do.

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From Celebration to Hi-Tech Lynching: The Reverse Sports Comedy…

Most sports comedies start with some sort of historical context, either real of fictional, dealing with some sort of tragedy or woe that has befallen a team or city.  Then the team gets together and commits a series of blunders and near successes.  Then after some magical moment, of either forced racial harmony or the emergence of a collective enemy to rally against, the team begins to play well.  In a series of montages, with some humor, the team begins to play great with each member showcasing the specific talent that they had shown potential for all along.  By the conclusion of the movie there is some obstacle that the team must overcome and thanks to some clutch performance the team achieves their goal and has a big celebration.  Major League is the best example of this, both because it follows the formula perfectly and for extra irony, took place in Cleveland, the city Lebron James left.

Watch Major League in reverse and you might see the season Lebron James had this year.

With the conclusion of the NBA Finals last night it became clear to me that the Miami Heat’s season was literally the reversal of a sports comedy.  And LeBron James was the star.

Before examining the most fascinating story line in the NBA since Magic Johnson announced that he had HIV, some credit needs to be given to the Dallas Mavericks.  And me.  I had had a big debate with Knick fan friends about the future of the NBA.  They all panicked with the advent of the Big 3 in Miami and declared that the NBA was now exlusively a superstar arms race.  Ignoring teams like the 2003 Spurs and the 2004 Detroit Pistons, my friends assured me that the Knicks, built around Amar’e Stoudemire with a slew of potential super role players could not compete in the NBA and that the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony for half of their roster was necessary.  What followed was the disappearance of Amar’e Stoudemire and an early exit for the NY Knicks.  If one team has the two best individual players (Wade and Lebron) in the game it makes no sense to try to out-star power them.  The Mavericks have proven that the Hakeem Olajuwon/early Tim Duncan model can work.  Get a dominant superstar and build super role players around him.  This is a great tribute to Dirk Nowitzki’s will and talent and a relief to NBA fans who were afraid that the league would automatically become 6 super teams and a bunch of teams wasting their time.  But back to the anti-sports comedy.

A well earned title.

The Beginning Is The End

So after The Decision, which apparently now outranks OJ murdering his ex wife and a waiter as the worst crime ever committed by an athlete if one reads the Twitter feeds of most basketball fans, the Heat had a celebration in front of their fans in Miami.  This was obviously premature being that it was the first, rather than the last, thing they did as a group (the Big 3 at least).  By the way, if you Google “The Decision,” the first result is Lebron James’ announcement.  The second is “the decision to drop the atomic bomb.”  This could not more perfectly illustrate America’s misplaced priorities and anger towards Lebron.

If he was accused of rape or murder he would have had more public support.

Tough Finish Is Tough Start Instead

The Heat went 9-8 in their first 17 games, much to the glee of most NBA fans.  In the proper order of a sports comedy this would be the tense finish, barely eeking out a victory in the end.  Instead they struggled to open the season and despair seemed to be reigning in Miami.  Dwayne Wade was injured (sports comedies often have a late injury that forces everyone else to step up their game, so naturally the reverse has an early injury), which also led to their early struggles.

The Success Montage

This part of the film would basically last from late December to the beginning of June.  It would show the Heat rolling, there might be some comedy clips of Joel Anthony hitting free throws, as the audience laughs and says, “Hahahaha – even THAT guy is doing work!”  LeBron and Wade would provide oohhh and ahhhhh moments for the audience.  The only difference is that in the sports film the montage would start with a big win against Dallas and then end with a thrashing of the champion Lakers, leading to the tense, final third of the movie.  Instead, this montage began with a Christmas win against the Lakers and finished with a solid win against the Mavericks in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

The Rick Vaughn In Reverse Moment

In the aforementioned Major League, a major turning point for the Indians is when their talented, but erratic pitcher, Rick Vaughn, finally learns that he needs glasses.  From that moment on, he meets his potential and dominates.  But before that moment he is a bumbling idiot and it is not clear why.  That was LeBron James in the last three games of the playoffs.  It was an inexplicable display on par with Vaughn, who could throw 100mph, but was nowhere near the plate.  Whether you hate him or love him, the fact is Lebron had delivered tremendous performances both consistent and clutch for the first three rounds of the playoffs.  He even played well in the first three games of the NBA Finals.  And then, in this reverse sports comedy, he lost his metaphorical glasses.  It did not look like someone quitting consciously.  It looked more inexplicable.  Like someone stole his soul.   Meanwhile the last three games became worse and worse displays by the Heat that would have been comedic if they weren’t so sad.  Too many passes, too much Mario Chalmers, too much celebrating by Deshawn Stevenson (in a sports comedy a doofus like Stevenson would open the movie talking garbage and then get served late in the movie or at least during the heroic montage part), Dwyane Wade dribbling off his foot, Chris Bosh crying (hey at least he cares), etc.

The Historical Tragedy Is Epilogue, Not Prologue

I have maintained throughout this whole Heat spectacle, but I wanted Lebron to stay in Cleveland.  Everyone likes the hometown hero story.  And Cleveland has had it tough with their sports teams.  And the city felt betrayed.  I famously wrote (famous meaning to the 13 people who read the post) that I would root for Kobe this year, which was up until The Decision was unimaginable to me.  But then three things happened.  One, I watched Kobe again and realized he’s Diet Jordan and it is impossible for me to be a fan of a cover band with a rape allegation.  Two, NY Knick fans, who surround me, were the most awful people in the Lebron fiasco.  They were ready to suck Cleveland’s soul as long as Lebron came to NYC.  But when he opted for South Beach, Knick fans became the most self-righteous bunch of fans in America.  Hypocrisy reigned supreme in NYC.  Much like the steroid scandal in baseball, America, led by the NY fan base, had turned into a bunch of people who could not wait to trash someone else.  America is a bunch of cheats, whether it is on your spouse, your taxes or your math test, but show us some people living a life we are jealous of and we will annihilate them once they don’t live up to standards we don’t hold ourselves to.

America cannot control this strong buck the way they used to, but they can teach him his place in other ways.

As a friend mentioned to me yesterday, how many people have left Cleveland for better cities or better job opportunities that were born there?  I know comedians from Cleveland.  Could you not make it on to Letterman while living in Cleveland?  Why not?  There are clubs and open mics in Cleveland.  Maybe you should have just worked harder.  An interesting point in the very least.  But Lebron got to go to South Beach with his buddies and live a dream life.  So we went overboard.  And that is the third thing that cemented me rooting for Lebron again.  The hi-tech lynching that occurred.

Clarence Thomas made the term "hi tech lynching" famous. Lebron experienced it.

Yes, I know I am using the term made infamous by Clarence Thomas in his 1991 confirmation hearings, but in this case it is actually true.  Lebron did one thing that annoyed people – he had a television special to announce that he was going to Miami.  He did not murder anyone.  He did not rape anyone.  He did not take drugs.  He made one decision and handled it in a less than gracious manner.  What he incurred (speaking to everyone not in or from Cleveland), however, was on par with the Tea Party’s response to President Obama.  Following on Facebook and Twitter, people who I never knew even knew what basketball was or had ever made a comment about sports, let alone basketball, were all too ready to bash LeBron James and wish ill will upon him.  It felt like a cyber posse that became a cyber lynch mob – people just seemed to know that they were supposed to hate Lebron.  And about 1% of the comments I read were from people in Cleveland.

And this is not just how some people hate on brash wide receivers in football for being cocky (and backlash). This was deeper and angrier.  Something about LeBron has made Americans angrier than they should be.  Is it the fact that he has been blessed with gifts that we will never have and he doesn’t use them to their full capacity?  That is what bothers me or at least perplexes me.  I feel like watching Lebron is like watching a superhero who sometimes randomly decides that he doesn’t want to be a superhero.  Is it the fact that a young, rich black man held the NBA hostage with a televised special, foolishly wielding his power without realizing the backlash that would ensue?  Will there be the same hatred and bile for the whole league and the vast majority of white owners when they manifest a lockout next season?  Or is that fair business?  And to be fair the hatred is not just from white people, the same way black cops can mistreat black suspects.  But it is unlike anything a white athlete has ever faced. 

Even today, his post-game press conference remarks are being twisted and turned into some sort of “I’m rich and you’re poor” sour grapes speech, which seems to be a stretch to say the least.  But maybe this is just part of the American pop culture playbook.  We built up a high school athlete because he had incredible talent.  Then we begin tearing him down as an arrogant Frankenstein that if true, means we bear significant responsibility in creating his image.  Now all that is left is the redemption story.  But judging from past examples, only history will view him more favorably. 

That is, unless he shows that has learned his “proper place,” but after seeing this season in action and the vitriol spewed last night against him, hopefully he never learns it.

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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

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/opinion/05wed1.html?_r=1&hp

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

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/business/economy/05letters.html?ref=business

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

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/business/05auto.html?ref=business

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

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/friends-with-benefits/?hp

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.”

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Good Week vs Bad Week

Last week started out terribly with the sweeping of the Utah Jazz at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.  If you missed it I tweeted incessantly, which just compounded my sadness (but I still feel I am less sad than the people who tweet about the weather, their meals, and other mundane things – namely a majority of people on Facebook and Twitter).  But that was just the beginning of the week.  I then had to cancel my show Always Be Funny that Thursday because we had 6 comics, 1 bartender and three people sitting at the bar, two of which were openly against the show and one who is a regular at the bar and is usually a decent audience member, except the time she heckled Jon Fisch.

This would not have been so bad if the show I was scheduled to be on earlier that evening was not also cancelled.

Comedy shows beware of J-L. Or call Atreyu if you have his cell number.

So feeling like The Nothing from The Neverending Story, as shows were destroyed in my path, I took Friday off from comedy to go to the Bronx DA’s Office for my former bureau’s annual Yankee Game party.  It was a good event, especially since A-Rod hit a Grand Slam to put the Yankees ahead in the game late (let’s look at the two live sporting events I have attended this year – the game of the year so far in the NBA in Utah and a clutch grand slam from A-Rod against the Twins – it is as if God is telling me that I should quit comedy and just go to sporting events professionally).

Well, it was time to get back to the grind of comedy on Saturday – I had a show at O’Hanlon’s on 14th and 1st, which I learned upon arriving, was… you guessed it – cancelled!  Fortunately I was able to observe 4 white guys threatening to beat up a black guy so that was entertaining.  The four white guys looked like they might have been firefighters – not the heroes that women want to have sex with of course. No, these guys looked more like the crew-cut, Irish, raised in effectively all-white neighborhoods, voting Republican their whole lives, racist type of civil servants.  Those guys, not the heroes.  Now I have to allow for the possibility that they weren’t, but they looked the part anyway.  The black guy was a black Israelite, who are known for their congeniality and open mindedness, but this guys was quadruple teamed and they were throwing his property in the middle of the street, hitting cars and cyclists while doing it.  So I did what any former DA would do – I called the police.  I offered a very detailed description, but I made two mistakes – one – i Said I did not see a weapon.  Two – I said it was four white males attacking a black man (I was not dumb enough to say he was a black Israelite).  I waited 20 minutes, which the four Klansmen did as well, but the police never showed up.

Perhaps if he had attacked, instead of being attacked there would have been a better response time.

A more effective call on my part might have been:

“Yes, I see four black men attacking a white woman!”

“Do they have weapons?”

“Yes, if you consider their large, angry black cocks weapons!  Hurry quick!”

I think the police would have been there quicker.

So that was the end of my bad week.  But with Sunday comes renewed optimism.

First I was shooting my new video.  The story is about black guy wants to date a daughter of a rabid Tea Party member and the agency that helps acclimate Tea Party members to ethnic boyfriends.  Of course, it started out poorly because one of the actors backed out at 10:07 am via text for an 11 am call time because he had to wait for furniture for his move with his girlfriend.  Sounds like a valid excuse, assuming people  move on 30 minutes notice and lack a nervous system.  So after setting a new volume record for how loudly I could yell fu*k, comedian Matt Maragno came to the rescue at the last minute and delivered laughs.  The shoot went well and it looked like the week was off to a great start.

My sketches are in good fun because obviously there is no racially-based anger within the Tea Party.

It got even better when I got an offer yesterday to open for Jo Koy in Cleveland starting this Thursday and running through Sunday.  That means big crowds and payment of money for my jokes.  Of course, without eating for the 4 days I will only net a little over $100 for my efforts. 

Tomorrow night I am making my tape for college submissions and I am confident that will go well.

So, in sum a bad week in my comedy life is witnessing a hate crime and going 3 for 3 in having shows get cancelled.  A good week, by contrast, is doing a YouTube video, netting $100 for half a week’s work and doing a bringer so I can one day entertain college kids, with diminishing social skills and emotional connections.  Like I have told friends – if you have a choice between your son or daughter being in gay snuff films or being a comedian, go with the snuff.

Sunday will be the start of a new week, but it begins with the season finale of Lost (a show that proves that like Dane Cook comedy, as long as you have a premise with no logical conclusion you can actually make millions, even if everything following the premise ranges between nonsense and stupidity) so I am not too confident in the prospects for a good week.

Like Dane Cook - I respect the effort put into the work, but not really the final product.
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Tea Party Comedy Show

This weekend I was featuring at Magooby’s Joke House in the greater Baltimore area.  I emphasize “greater” and “area” because if you are thinking an urban crowd (a/k/a Omar, Bodie and the rest of the cast of The Wire) would show up you would be mistaken.  There were four shows.  The two shows Saturday were my kind of crowd and I was very happy with my sets.  But Friday offered many lessons in comedy and life, which is why I will share those with you now.

Season 2 of The Wire was the closest thing the Friday 830 pm show had in common with pop culture's best Baltimore reference - and it was not close

Friday April 9, 2010 – 830 pm Show

First show demographics  2.5 people of color, including myself (.5), 160 white people.  50% of the crowd was over the age of 48.  This would not damn me because I have been pleasantly surprised by crowds with not so different stats before, but this crowd would be an animal that I have never had before.  If the show were a children’s book it would be called “Where’s Negro?”

My second bit of the night was this:

So Sandra Bullock’s husband cheated on her.  Let’s just be honest – if you marry a tattooed man-whore and he goes out and sleeps with a bunch of whores that have tattoos, can you really claim to be surprised?  (Laughter) And come one Sandra – 46, no tits and expects to keep a man in Hollywood? (Silence with start of murmuring)  How arrogant Sandra!  You obviously made a deal with the Devil to win an Oscar of Meryl Streep and now it’s time to pay the price. (Silence broken by a couple of boos).

My girlfriend had warned me about making any jokes that got near the star of The Blind Side, which is treated by white people in Maryland with the same reverence that Hoosiers is treated with by rural basketball players in Indiana.  But one of the decisions I made with these shows this weekend was that I was going to do my best to not compromise a lot on the road.  I have the material to do NYC rooms and road rooms, but who I am as a comic is closer to the NYC material and I need to make crowds meet me a little bit more so at least my reputation will start to be based on who I really am as a comic and not just on an ability to be Jay Leno-ish one night and then more personal and edgy when I feel safer doing so.  But this crowd obviously loved Sandra Bullock because she saved a big black dude from eternal damnation, etc.

They probably would hate my short film, The Blind Side 2:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_oK6EPc6QA

My 5th bit of the night:

I took Megabus here tonight… I can’t take Greyhound anymore because it is like travelling with Hollywood celebrities – Hey there’s Precious (HUGE LAUGHTER), there’s a creature from Avatar and there’s that dude from that old movie Mask (laughter almost completely dies).

My comedy can sometimes be conservative, but it does not necessarily mean I want the support of fringe conservatives.  Another parallel is when I watch Jim Norton perform comedy.  I think the guys is absolutely brilliant, but he is also dirty, which draws a lot of fans to him that I don’t like.  He may tell a joke involving the words “pussy” and “cock,” but it is also brilliant comedy in there.  Some of his fans get it and some of his fans I think just get off on the usage of the words “pussy” and “cock.”  I feel the same way about some of my jokes that maybe take more conservative angles on abortion or entertainment or religion.  I want comedy fans to appreciate the comedy and thought in the joke, not necessarily to take it as an endorsement or a statement for a certain group.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t, so the real point is to not bring all your agendas to the show and just laugh if it is funny.

Like the seam of her pants, Precious split a clear line between the two Friday crowds.

However, when I heard the all white crowd almost cackle at the Precious reference what I heard was, “Yeah, that fat black bitch is gross.” Which of course, she is but that is not the point.  This crowd was so sensitive to a millionaire white lady who helped an exaggeratedly helpless black man, but not to an impoverished obese black teenager.  You laugh at both or you laugh at neither in my book.

My final exchange of the evening:

I know you may not like this, but I’m not being political when I say I like Obama-

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Hey – great I just turned the show into a Tea Party rally –

a few laughs and some claps

Your closing act – Sarah Palin (joking)

Applause Break

I eventually got to my Obama bit and it went over well enough, but I was startled to be what amounted to a Tea Party rally.  I genuinely don’t understand people who are Sarah Palin fans.  I understand (diminishing every day), but disagree with many Republicans, but Tea Party people are from another planet to me.  Booing Obama, but an applause break for Sarah Palin, who is that magical combination of stupid and increasingly smug/arrogant the more money that gets thrown in her face for “speaking” engagements.  But that also explained why my comedy went over so poorly at that first show.  I was performing for a Tea Party.  Because I like the owner of Magoobys and enjoy playing there I will not connect the dots, but if you have read my blog I think you know what other “R’s” I associate with Tea Partiers besides Republican.

I expect the Teap Party audience to bring their guns next time.

Oddly enough on the 1030 pm show that same night – the Precious joke got near silence because about half the crowd was black.  That did not anger me as much, but it still angered me a lot because the joke is funny and the same way the Tea Party crowd let their cruel humor run rampant on Precious, the second crowd decided, as if they were a liberal arts college in the northeast, that they would let me know how attuned to the plight of poor and sad people they are and would not laugh.  The second crowd was overall 100 times better than the first crowd, so one annoyance did not break an otherwise good show and good crowd, but I still thought I should mention it lest a Tea Party Comedy member read the blog and comment, “See he’s letting all the African-American Nig-ers get off without any complaint.”

Overall it was a fun weekend at Magoobys (3 out of 4 shows a success – previous lessons of shaking off bad shows quickly came in handy), but just another reason for me to hate the Tea Party.  Before it was just business, but now… it’s personal.

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Conan & Obama – Hard Work, Nice Guys &…

It was a tough week for professional comedians and half black men, but it was also a tough week for Conan O’Brien and Barack Obama.  Conan O’Brien’s dignified speech towards the end of The Tonight Show was very impressive and inspirational, but at the same time felt like a scolding for me.  He said not to be cynical (too late) and that nice people who work hard do have good things happen to them (apparently he missed the Cohen Brothers’ “A Serious Man”, and the bringer system of NYC comedy clubs).  I feel like the motto this week should have been “Be Careful What You Wish For” for two of America’s most prominent public figures.
See you on Fox Conan.

In The Untouchables, Robert DeNiro’s Al Capone said to a reporter, “We have a saying in my neighborhood, ‘you get a lot further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.'”  Despite its cynical undertone, Conan and Obama would be wise to consider it (metaphorically, at least in Conan’s case) from here on out.

Here are a couple of other lessons I think they could learn:

1) Young People Can Get You To The Top, But Cannot Keep You There

Obama – all the new voters, especially in the young and African-American communities, (as I stated when he was inaugurated) were excited about Obama the idea and Obama the fad, but not enough were interested in Obama the policy maker or Obama the executive.  Here is an analogy – when Jay Z or Green Day come out with an album it sells well in the first week, but then tails off greatly because of iTunes and an overzealous anticipation of that first week.  However, if you want to sell a lot of albums today you want someone like Susan Boyle – someone who benefits from the media saturation of today, but whose base is old school and will support their artist in a substantial way that lasts longer and in a more traditional way (i.e. massive CD purchases).  Obama played the new technology in a great way making him a superstar, but a lot of his supporters will not support the old, boring white (albeit inspiring to some people) Susan Boyle’s who make the laws year after year (midterm elections).  They are just waiting for 2012 when the new metaphorical Obama album drops.  And by then he will have lost Congress and they’ll be complaining about his ineffectiveness.  See, Republicans are not to blame for all of Obama’s problems.  Just most.

She's not cool, she's not pretty, but no one has been more valuable to a record label in the last year.

Conan – his fans woke up when it was too late.  In the end the folks that eat up the road comics’ jokes on GPS navigation systems, erectile dysfunction and how odd white people can be to black people (and vice versa) have decided they want the safe guy back.  And like Congressional Republicans, Jay Leno had no interest in what was right and only interested in getting (more of) his. 

2) Getting Tough Works

Obama – I hope he stops his moderate, reach across the aisle rope-a-dope and lives up to his recent speech in Ohio.   He will help himself and his country in the long run if he digs in and says enough is enough.  The word moderate has to have an objective value, which it does not for Republicans.  Instead, when Republicans hurl the term “moderate” they really mean, “We will prop up the Glen Becks, Sarah Palins and Tea Parties, pretending they speak for mainstream Republicans, even though we really believe they are far-right crazies, but then we will claim ‘the middle,’ by comparison, which is actually very right of center.  We will then bash the president for not moving halfway between rational and batsh*t crazy.”  But he should also get tough with the far left morons who are calling him George W. Obama.  They still need to live in the real world and not in a progressive utopia that is impossible with the Internet, 24 Hour News and the Constitution.

A tad much progressives

Conan – It may have seemed cynical or mean-spirited, but dropping the hammer on NBC was great (and funny)television.  He may not want to, but I think becoming the anti-hero of late night television would be great.

3) If all else fails, be a little cynical.

They both work in a country where a guy named The Situation may have more enduring popularity than either of  them.

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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…