Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Comedy Writing and the Obama Picture

As a comedy writer I hesitate to think in grandiose terms about the role we're supposed to play. Oh, it's not humility - it's just that it makes it harder to be funny. But there really was something missing during the writers strike, that I hadn't completely noticed before.

Little lumps of disinformation were being thrown out there by the presidential candidates and they seemed to last longer than they should have because there was no comedians to knock them down. I remember one being the highly-nuanced Huckabee theology degree. We could have worked with that. Heck, I thought the whole "I'm a miracle" thing was comedy gold.

Contrast that with yesterday, the Hillary campaign, and this Obama photograph in traditional Somali wear. Hillary finds it "laughable" to suggest her desperate campaign had anything to do with it, but nobody bought that. So we had an attempt to use the picture to depict Obama as something that he is not. This was where the comedy writers stepped up on national TV last night.

Leno said that the Obama campaign had responded by releasing a picture of Hillary in her traditional garb and then showed a picture of the Wicked Witch of the West. Kimmel said the picture was incomplete and zoomed out to show Barack at a Halloween costume party carrying a Jack-O'-Lantern and surrounded by other people in costume. Conan said that the Obama camp has countered by releasing a picture of Hillary wearing a traditional Somali pantsuit.

I suppose you could call it progress that the day after the Oscars we were talking about what a guy had been wearing 2 years ago, instead of a gown worn by a woman, but still. It was a bad moment in Hillary's campaign and the comedy writers jumped on it.

Now, granted - some of these moves cause a subtle shift in perceptions that can't be erased. That's the whole strategy of lying and then moving on. But the comedy writers really do a service to respond quickly before something can linger and become part of the background noise.

When Hillary's people saw their candidate being depicted as a green-faced witch on a broom, they must have wondered if their Barack costume idea had worked. She probably would have been wiser to release the picture during the writers strike.

(Check out the Saving James update linked towards the top of the column to the right >)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Saving James

I just saw that Jack Bogdanski has linked over here. I admit it: I fell off the blog wagon, and I'm struggling to get back into blog rehab.
The reason is that I'm trying to get an effort together to save this friend of mine from a hideous medical situation, and I figured we should play every card on this one.
More details at a new blog I'm also managing with posts by his wife called:
savingjames.blogspot.com (See Link to the right)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Reagan Years: Just Say No

They were at it again on talk radio this morning: Laura Ingraham had on Bob Dole and he commented that Ronald Reagan had freed 500 million people. As with most delusions there's a fun side and a very dangerous side. All you had to do was watch the loving embrace the Conservatives gave Dick Cheney at their big meeting this past week, to realize these people have no clue, and in fact, do not want a clue. For them, it's all about creating a fake version of reality and then repeating it over and over 'til it takes on a mantra-like zen of its own. They even tried to re-brand Richard Nixon as a great statesman so there is nothing the right wing machine will not try to pretend.

One way you can tell it's phony is when Rush and the gang say they will now campaign for Hillary Clinton. You remember the Clinton years, don't you? Could it be the right wing radio set was exaggerating how much they hated the Clintons to reenforce their dream view that all things Republican are good? If they were being sincere, then how in holy hell could they possibly talk about supporting Hillary? Republicans may not have a clue, but one still sneaks out for the rest of us, and this is a clue. The whole thing is self-delusional, lemming-following, posturing. There is no intellectual rationale for the Republican Party. It's all talk. It's all a fantasy without even good sex.

One fun question is how long they will wait before revisiting the joke that is George Bush to begin the long canonization process: "You know, we were right after all. He really was our Winston Churchill." I'm looking forward to it. I want to see the movie called, "The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush." As he himself would say, "Bring it on."

So it is with no particular surprise that I watched Ronald Reagan become a deity to these people: "If Ronnie hadn't been there that mean Soviet Union would still exist. Ronnie defeated it." For me, Reagan represents a compensation for strident Republicans not having genuine personal feelings. He was all warm and cuddly in cinematic classics like, "Bedtime for Bonzo", and Republicans - who clearly exhibit problems handling such squeamish topics as love and mercy - could latch on to him and adore him from a safe impersonal distance. He was the hug they didn't get as a kid. He allowed them to go right on being mean to the poor for not showing more personal responsibility, and yet still feel all warm about themselves because they loved Uncle Ronnie.

I think the fun part is what they really are saying about Communism when they claim it took Uncle Ronnie to bring the Soviet Union down. But that leads indirectly to the dangerous part for America.

Back in my banquet days, I once waited on a breakfast meeting with Senator Packwood - who despite his problems with booze and women - was one hell of an informed Senator. That's part of the tragedy of his downfall. I've waited on dozens of Senators and Packwood, compared to most, was brilliant. At this breakfast his people handed out a single sheet about the economies of the world. It was not widely known information at the time and I kept one. I might still have it somewhere.

Back then, we were in the Cold War and the two superpowers of the world were America and the Soviet Union. But wait, look at these numbers. Look at the GNPs! Tiny, little Japan was in the process of catching, or had already surpassed this mighty Russian superpower. In fact, the Soviet Union had begun to fail. It was going nowhere but down.

Now the key fact is that this was in 1980, before Uncle Ronnie took office. The fun part is that Conservatives - by claiming it took him to defeat them - are actually being soft on Communism. Listen up, folks: Communism is a bad idea. It gets bad results. The reason the Soviet Union failed was because it rotted from within.

You should have gone - as I did once - behind the Iron Curtain in Germany. Same country, same People, two systems. One side was driving Mercedes, the other side had little joke cartoon cars that looked like you could tear them apart with your bare hands.

Yes, the Cold War was a decades-long drag race between our economy and the Soviets, and yes, Ronald Reagan - by spending like a lunatic - helped in this regard. But I repeat: In 1980, the Soviet Union was already beginning to fall apart and we could have saved trillions of dollars if the Conservatives had just had more confidence in the idea that Communism was stupid. They shouldn't have been so soft on Communism.

Superpowers fail when they can no longer afford to exert their spheres of influence. They simply can't afford it anymore, and they pull their perimeters way in. And then it's payback time.

Okay, this is no longer the fun part of the Reagan-Pretend Game. Now comes the dangerous part: Our empire, our America shows many signs of ending superpower status the old-fashioned way by collapsing economically. That's how superpowers end. By having these delusional Conservatives locked into their false hero worship of Uncle Ronnie, we have blinded ourselves to the true reasons the Soviet Union failed, and we are in the process of going down the same path they did. Oh, and Uncle Ronnie's not walking through that door to save us, either.

So when a Conservative tries to say that Communism is a terrific, vibrant system, and that it took Ronald Reagan to come along and defeat it, just say no.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Why Conservatives Deserve to Be Miserable

For most of my adult life, I've been lectured by Conservatives about how great they were at foreign policy, and how fiscally prudent they are. It was all about small government and national security. I'm sure you've heard it all before over and over and over again.
Of course, Ronald Reagan didn't follow the spending part, but Conservatives were quick to point out that he had a Democratic Congress. And of course, he made some horribly stupid foreign policy decisions like what happened in Beirut, but he had already passed into a religion. He could do no wrong.
If only things would line up again and Conservative Republicans could get another chance. If only. Then we'd finally see what great government looked like in this country. You remember all this, right?

Well, they got their chance. When George Bush took over, the Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, the White House, and the Supreme Court. This was their shining opportunity to back up decades of trash-talking. And what did they do? They proceeded to blow the whole thing right out their collective ass. Of course, recently the Congress swung Democratic again, but that's not even a factor. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have been in a head-long rush to out-Bush President Bush, and it's a sickening display. Not even Republicans can blame these last years on the Democrats. Oh, every now and then they still blame something on Bill Clinton, but they've been running the show for too long. This is on THEM. This is their economic disaster, this is their foreign policy disaster. So what do we hear from them now?
Now we have the Conservatives whining non-stop because they don't like their Republican Party nominee. If only they had a real Conservative running. Then we'd finally see what good government looked like.
They're even starting to swiftboat John McCain. I can hardly believe it, but stories are appearing downplaying what happened to him in Vietnam. Have you ever seen the footage of John McCain all busted up right after he was shot down? If these bastards try and rewrite his years as a prisoner in Vietnam they will reveal for all time, the moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party.
Better just to moan and complain, and they're doing plenty of that. It's actually quite amusing. Of course, it'd be a lot funnier if they hadn't put America on the brink, but I'm enjoying it as much as I can.
But you Conservatives should take a break on the same tired trash-talking again. You had your chance. It's petty even by your standards. And if you're wallowing that deep in your own bullshit fine, but the rest of us haven't forgotten. You had all the cards, all the planets were in alignment - you had every advantage a party in power could possibly ask for, and you blew it. You blew it badly.
Frankly, you deserve to be miserable.

Torture Is No Longer Not Torture, But That's Okay Because Now It's Legal

What more do you need, folks? Let me run the official positions of our government as they've descended to where we are this morning: America does not torture. America wants to outlaw torture but that would be bad because - even though we do not torture - we would like to be able to if necessary. Not torturing people then becomes the law of the land, except President Bush does a signing statement saying he will ignore the law, but he insists we still don't torture. Yesterday his CIA director admits that we do torture. Yes, we torture but we don't torture that much. Besides, it depends who is doing it. If Christians are doing it, it's what Jesus wants. If Muslims are doing it, it is because they are evil.
And our latest position - and I do mean position: We do torture and it is now legal because President Bush says so - and he talks to Jesus, remember? And who should know more about torture than Jesus? However America still does not do illegal torture because that would be wrong.
Everyone got that? Repeat it over and over again, 'til there's nothing left of your brain, and then proceed. Do not waste your time dwelling on this. Take comfort in knowing one simple truth: Britney is now wearing her panties again, and all is right with the world.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

If Michael Vick Is In Prison, Why Isn't President Bush?

Comparisons between species are difficult, but I'm going to assume you agree that a human life is much more important than a dog's. After all, we kill dogs everyday in the pound, right? Then there's the question of free will. Michael Vick's dogs had no choice. That compares somewhat to our young people after they enter the military. It's all about following orders, isn't it? So let's see what Michael Vick did, compared to George Bush:

Michael set up a criminal enterprise, an illegal fighting operation. He mistreated dogs, sometimes to death, and he lied about what he was doing. George Bush set up a criminal enterprise called a preemptive strike. Even Neo-Cons like Richard Perle now admit the invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law. In doing this George and his cohorts lied repeatedly to the American People, and they continue to lie about aspects of it. President Bush also mistreated human beings under his control. He lied about torturing them, but his own CIA director admits that wasn't true, although he cites only 3 instances when waterboarding was used. He is no doubt lying about that number. "Taxi to the Dark Side" chronicles our use of torture in Iraq. The title refers to a taxi driver there whose official cause of death was listed as homicide while imprisoned by coalition forces.

Incidentally, I'm not blaming our soldiers for what happened in Iraq - so don't even go there. I believe Iraq was a crime against our men and women in uniform, just as it was a crime against Iraq itself. The Dark Side reference in the title is the place Dick Cheney said we would have to go, and believe me, he took us there.

Michael Vick did his illegal gambling for financial gain. You could argue that President Bush has gambled with the future of America and the world. Worse than what Michael Vick did, President Bush has gambled with our national soul. And just ask Halliburton or EXXON if there's been financial gain involved. President Bush would claim he acted in the interests of national security, and he has a slight point. I guess you could argue that Iraq was more of a threat to our national security than Michael Vick's pit bulls. But not that much more. The national security thing is just more spin.

The end result in Michael Vick's crime was the death of dozens of dogs. In President Bush's case, the latest scientific survey estimates one million dead Iraqis, plus thousands of American soldiers killed or wounded. In this there is absolutely no comparison. President Bush is a million times more of a criminal than Michael Vick is on his worst day.

As with most scoundrels, President Bush hides behind religion and patriotism so he no doubt claims Jesus wanted him to do all this. Well, look at the Bible's opinion of dogs - not very flattering.
Matthew 7:6 "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." Or as to who will get into God's kingdom from Revelation 22:15, "For without are dogs and sorcerers and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."
In short, Michael Vick can make a solid Biblical argument for what he did - many times more solid than President Bush's. President Bush doesn't even make it past, "Thou shalt not kill."

Am I arguing that Michael Vick should be pardoned and let out of prison? No, what he did was sick enough to merit some time. But if Michael Vick ends up serving 18 months, President Bush should serve 18 centuries. And those aren't dog years, either.

Monday, February 04, 2008

FOX TV Network Calls for Bush Overthrow

The Super Bowl pre-game show was chugging along through Hour 17 when it happened: FOX went with a dramatic recitation of the Declaration of Independence. Why? Because the Super Bowl is one of the best events America has given the world, and it was a good time for the pompous phonies at the network to play the patriotism card. Why phony? Because the FOX network has served as official cheerleaders for George Bush and Dick Cheney - and nobody has done more to damage the ideas that set America into motion. Did FOX seriously want to remind us of the Declaration of Independence? Did they really want the following words to come out of the Big Brother TV screens?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Imagine the shock at the White House. President Bush could have choked on another pretzel. "The consent of the governed? What are they talking about? We've spent 8 years setting up authoritarian rule in this country and now FOX is trying to blow it."

That's right. The system of government we now have bears little resemblance to what the Founding Fathers envisioned for America. The consent of the governed is supposed to be expressed by our representatives in Congress, but President Bush has issued 100s of signing statements that ignore new laws - our laws.

Bush is - in effect - a monarch, deciding what he'll do based solely on his whims. In short, when it comes to our rights, he has become "destructive of these ends." So the FOX Network - by pointing this out - was actually advocating that we "alter and abolish" the Bush/Cheney administration and "institute new Government." Why else would they bring this up? Now I admit, it was a little surprising hearing this given the FOX position on things but the network has shown poor mental aptitude before. That's why they think President Bush is so bright.

But even the dumb-asses at FOX knew they had a problem. See, they wanted to include the John Hancock anecdote: The story where he says his signature is big so that even King George could read it. This has grown so that people say, "Let me put my John Hancock on it," when they're signing something. Plus we've all heard the King George line many times.

So yesterday when FOX had the words changed from "King George" to "Fat George", I knew why. The reference was just too close to the King George we have now. This proves FOX knows there's a problem, and that by citing the Declaration of Independence they had basically called for the overthrow of our current monarchy. The quote change was their feeble attempt to cover their tracks a little. After all, our current King George is a lot of things, but nobody can say that he's fat.

Despite all this, it was still nice to hear those words yesterday. Sort of nostalgic, really. But we don't need to recite documents like the Constitution and this one. We need to resuscitate them.