Category Archives: Politics

Weiners, Sex and Politics

This past Monday I watched Anthony Weiner stand behind a podium and confess his sins to the nation. As it turns out, the infamous picture of male genitalia that had overtaken the 24-hour news cycle last week was, in fact, his weiner (pun absolutely, unapologetically intended).

I’d like to say I was shocked by this development. I’d like to say I was aghast. I’d like to say I believed his flimsy storyline about a rogue agent hacking into his Twitter account and tweeting the photo in an effort to embarrass the Congressman. But I can’t.

Why? Because this is America and engaging in questionable sexual behavior is what our politicians do. It’s what they’re best at.

Colleagues on both sides of the aisle are calling for Weiner to resign, but as of this blog post’s publication, he’s standing his ground and holding on to his congressional seat. Can you blame him? Weinergate is certainly resignation-worthy but it’s small potatoes by American political standards. We’re only halfway through 2011 and he’s not even close to being this year’s biggest scumbag.

Just last week, former U.S. Senator and Presidential hopeful John Edwards was indicted for allegedly using campaign money to cover up his affair and love child from his now deceased wife, Elizabeth Edwards. The affair took place while she was battling cancer.

Classy. 

In early May, former California governor and Last Action Hero Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he and wife Maria Shriver were divorcing. Shortly after that, it was revealed he’d fathered a love child with the family’s former maid over a decade ago. Now there are rumors circulating that the Governator may have fathered a few more love children.

Hasta la vista, dignity.

Then there’s John Ensign. The former GOP Senator from Nevada resigned in early May, in all likelihood to avoid the Senate Ethics Committee investigation into the extramarital affair with a campaign treasurer. It should probably be noted that this woman was the wife of his close friend and chief of staff. In an attempt to try and keep the affair on the down low, his parents allegedly paid off his buddy and his wife to the tune of $96,000.

WTF?

These are some of the people we’ve chosen to lead us. I certainly don’t expect perfection from our politicians but can’t these ass clowns at least stay away from their friends’ wives or avoid cheating on deathly ill spouses? Is that really too much to ask?

Anthony Weiner will hold onto his seat for as long as humanly possible. And I’m sure he’ll be taking his moves from the Fallen Celebrity Playbook. He’ll go into rehab and/or counseling, follow that up with a mea culpa media tour and then hope people forget about all those lewdly inappropriate twitpics.

If the Congressman has any luck at all, a bigger, more salacious scandal will come to light in the next couple of weeks and completely eclipse his personal problems. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a political scandal. If the right story came along involving Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump or a Royal Wedding the media would drop everything and start shipping on-air personalities around the globe to cover these non-stories.

And if Weiner does resign, there’s no doubt he’d be back in public life in almost no time at all, if not as a politician then as a highly paid pundit.  And Americans would be all too eager to forgive him. Why? Because it’s what we do. It’s what we’re best at.

Just ask Elliot Spitzer, Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton.


Doomsday, Prophecies and Harold Camping

This past Saturday was like any other Saturday. My 4-year-old disrupted my slumber at his usual early hour and insisted on watching The Sunny Side Up Show while I fell back asleep. Eventually, I woke up, made breakfast and went about my day. In the afternoon my son and I sat out front and watched as our small town’s Viking Fest Parade made its way merrily down our street and into town. The end of the world was the furthest thing from my mind.

By this time everyone knows the story of the faux doomsday that was predicted for May 21st, 2011. Harold Camping, an 89-year-old radio show minister, had forecast this date as the unquestioned end of days. It was supposed to be the day of the Rapture, when all righteous Christians would ascend to heaven in God’s affectionate embrace while the rest of us non-Christians were abandoned; forced to suffer months of earthquakes, famine and deep introspection as we tried to figure out how it could be possible that the Bible thumpers had it right.

Instead, nothing happened. Life went on as usual. Harold Camping was wrong.

It’s not surprising that an octogenarian, God-fearing man of the cloth would claim to know the precise arrival of Judgment Day. What is surprising is that anyone took him seriously. My Grandmother is also in her eighties and had she predicted a date for the End Times, we simply would’ve patted her lovingly on the head and insisted she get some rest. But because this aging crackpot is the president of the Family Radio network his claim was considered legitimate by his loyal followers (aka “idiots”).

Some of the articles I came across documenting Camping’s failed prediction mention a few of these dumb asses by name. Robert Fitzpatrick, the leader in the clubhouse for the 2011 Sucker of the Year Award, apparently spent $140K of his life savings to advertise the rapture around New York City. Needless to say he was a little disappointed when Armageddon failed to materialize.

Also disappointed was a man named Jeff Hopkins.  This genius pissed away his retirement money on $4 a gallon gas, filling up his car over and over again so he and his lighted sign could drive back and forth between Long Island and New York City, informing the most cynical metroplex on earth that the end was near.

And those who didn’t have thousands of dollars burning holes in their pockets simply donated what they could afford to Family Radio International to help pay for the organization’s official billboard and painted RV campaign aimed at getting the word out to the non-believers.

We got the word. And we collectively laughed at it.

You’d think Harold Camping’s utter failure as a doomsday prophet (this was his second apocalyptic misfire) would be enough to keep him out of the public eye. Unfortunately, he’s still going strong. After originally being “flabbergasted” by the lack of fire and brimstone this past Saturday, he’s now saying May 21st was a spiritual Judgment Day and that October 21st will be the actual end of humanity. And since judgment has already been passed, there’s no need to inspire people through advertisements to make their peace with God, which is good because something tells me his closest followers are probably out of money at this point.

I only hope this old man lives long enough to see October 21st come and go as uneventfully as May 21st did. His baseless predictions have caused a great deal of pain and suffering, not to the heathens out there like myself, but to the people who looked up to him and trusted his word. While these people are ultimately responsible for their own stupidity, it would be nice to watch Harold Camping fail so publicly one last time. It’s the least he could do.


Sundays, Bin Laden and the Media

Sundays are great. They’re our day of rest; the final relaxed chapter to our usually hectic weeks. Who doesn’t like sleeping in, spending a couple of hours with the Sunday paper and getting in a little extra family time (you know, if you’re into the whole “family” thing). Sundays are for slowing down, watching sports on TV and going to church (you know, if you’re into the whole “God” thing). The only downside to Sundays is that they never seem to last long enough.

This past Sunday was an all-timer. I slept in, ate a great breakfast and read the Seattle Times. The weather was great so I got outside in the afternoon, watched an NBA playoff game, then read a book on my deck. Dinner consisted of a couple of tasty beers and a delightful meal at my favorite local restaurant. Oh yeah, and then there was that whole Osama Bin Laden is dead thing. That wrapped the day up nicely.

After learning of the Al Qaeda leader’s death at the aforementioned restaurant, I returned home and helped myself to a dessert of breaking news coverage.  Between the public reaction I saw on television and the steady stream of “fuck you, Bin Laden” and “rot in hell” posts that echoed throughout the social media landscape, one thing was clear: people were very fond of  Osama Bin Laden being dead.

Clearly, many Americans saw the demise of one our all-time greatest enemies as a deeply communal and cathartic moment. It was as if his death signaled some type of closure on a frightening and frustrating ten years that began on September 11th, 2001. Other Americans (i.e. college students) seemed to see it as a great excuse to throw down on the Quad.

Me? I was grateful for Bin Laden’s death for a far less substantive reason: it saved us from a week of reliving the Royal Wedding.

Had President Obama and the Navy SEAL Six team not taken out the most wanted man on the planet on Sunday, we’d have faced at least a week of media coverage rehashing William and Kate’s matrimonial celebration from every conceivable angle. Like vultures picking through the bones of some succulent road kill, the news networks would have spent countless hours regurgitating
the “Wedding of the Century” and force-feeding it to the general public. Instead we got something far more newsworthy… actual news.

Actual news is something the powers that be at CNN, MSNBC and FOX News seem reticent to broadcast these days. It’s far easier and cheaper to simply follow the downward spirals of celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan or give Donald Trump an arena to spout his ridiculous bullshit. And, of course, if Sarah Palin Tweets something, they’re all over it.


But now that the details of Operation Kill Bearded Ass Clown are coming to light, actual news seems to be the in back in vogue. Okay, mostly it’s rampant speculation about the effects of Bin Laden’s death and most of it is crap. But at least it’s crap derived from a meaningful, newsworthy event as opposed to being crap for crap’s sake. And that’s really the best we can hope for.

So I say thank you, Mr. President. Not just for having the guts and intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger on a harrowing mission that rid the world of a horrific mass murderer, but for forcing the 24-hour news channels to actually focus their attention on something of actual substance. And much like our glorious Sundays this trend towards actual news won’t last nearly long enough. So I’ll just try to enjoy it while I can.


Trump, Marketing and the Presidency

If you’re someone who keeps up on current events you know one fact to be true: the world is full of assholes. There are the billions of literal assholes, of course, and then the figurative ones that seem to make their way into our daily news cycle.

Sometimes the asshole in question is a badly dressed despot (think Gadhafi) and other times they’re strategically misinformed fear mongers (think anyone appearing on Fox News). In recent weeks, one of America’s all-time great jackasses has managed to commandeer a ridiculous amount of press by threatening to run for the Presidency of the United States.

If there were an asshole Hall of Fame, Donald Trump would get in on the first ballot. The peak of the self-aggrandizing real-estate mogul’s jackass-ery may have been his recent celebrity roast on Comedy Central. As close friends and professional comedians took profane shots at the Donald’s career, enigmatic hair and love life, the guest of honor stared blankly at the audience, staunching refusing to acknowledge that any part of his life could possibly be the butt of a joke.

In the last couple weeks, the man with the world’s most famous comb over has provided future roasters with even more comedic gold by insinuating he might run for President in 2012.  While the idea of a Trump candidacy is funnier than a Jeff Ross put down,  there are many out there who don’t get the joke. The media is covering Trump and his potential campaign like it’s  a missing blonde co-ed and Republican voters have put some legitimacy behind the threat by moving him to the top of the GOP field in a recent poll with 26%.

This would all be very newsworthy except that there’s no chance of a Trump campaign ever getting off the ground. In fact, I’d say there’s a better chance of Lindsay Lohan gracing next month’s cover of Good Housekeeping.

For one, he doesn’t actually want to run. He admitted as much during a weekend interview with CNN. “I love my life. I love what I’m doing. I wish I didn’t have to do it. I would prefer not doing it. But I love this country.”

While I appreciate his selfless patriotism, a true patriot would have spared the American public from having to watch Meatloaf and Gary Busey yell at each other on primetime television. And I could be wrong, but that quote certainly doesn’t make it sound like the host of “The Apprentice” is ready and willing to go through the grind of a long political campaign.

Trump also knows he can’t win. As iconic as he may be, the GOP is not exactly a party known for taking a lot of chances with their presidential nominations. They have a long and storied tradition of putting the “next guy in line” on stage at their convention and I can’t imagine that changing anytime soon. Besides, does anyone really believe that Red State voters are going to come out in droves to cast their ballots for an elitist business tycoon from New York City who’s been married three times?

But the real reason Trump will not throw his proverbial hat into the ring is simple: financial disclosure forms. These documents are a requirement for candidates and Trump’s would be a particularly interesting revelation because of the public’s perception of his empire. No matter how much money the Donald is really worth, there’s always a chance that the figure, no matter how high, would seem inadequate.

The myth of Donald Trump’s wealth and success is perhaps the most important part of his public persona. If the numbers in his documents revealed him to be quite wealthy as opposed to really obnoxiously otherworldly rich it could seriously damage the Trump brand. And that’s something he would never allow to happen.

Trump is a brilliant self-promoter who has an uncanny ability of knowing when and where to rear his ugly head. He’s recognized a power vacuum amongst Conservatives and has pounced at the chance to fill it. Not because he has any serious ambitions for the highest office in the land but because badmouthing Obama and questioning the legitimacy of the President’s citizenship is good for business.

By endearing himself to the birthers and tea party faithful at the most extreme end of the political spectrum, he’s opening up new markets for all things Trump. He’s speculating on the anti-Obama crowd, knowing that these are consumers who have yet to drink from the Trump trough. But now that’s he’s gained their trust they’ll be ripe for the picking the next time he’s selling a book or promoting a reality show.

Donald Trump’s faux run at the White House is not about patriotism or love of country. It’s not about righteousness or outrage. It’s not even about politics. It’s about ego, money and little else.

And if that doesn’t make him one of the great American assholes then I don’t know what would.


Charlie Sheen, Cobras and Winning

Sometimes life sucks. How much it sucks and how often it sucks depends on where you fall on the human misery scale. The people at the highest end of this scale live in soul-crushing poverty in war torn nations. Close your eyes and point at a map of Africa and you’re likely to find one of these countries.

The people at the lowest end of this scale are the rich, famous and powerful. Close your eyes and point to a copy of US Weekly (or the Wall Street Journal for those of you too good to glance at checkout tabloids) and you’re likely to find one of the blessed. But sometimes even the very fortunate have to deal with defeats and setbacks. Just ask Charlie Sheen.

The actor who turned his vices and his dispute with the producers of “Two and a Half Men” into a treasure trove of unintentionally comedic interviews and catch phrases was recently reminded that even wealthy actors surrounded by goddesses sometimes have a bad day. The debut of his traveling one-man show apparently did not go very well. According to reports, midway through Saturday night’s performance at the Fox Theater in Detroit the sold-out audience turned on Sheen like Marlo Stanfield turned on Prop Joe. The man that turned “winning” into a national slogan for, well, winning, was booed mercilessly and some in the crowd even demanded a refund.

With 19 more dates left on the “The Violent Torpedo of Truth” tour, Ricky Vaughn better start thinking about providing his audience with some actual entertainment. Perhaps he can fly in Kristy Swanson, have her sit next to him and they can reenact each and every scene from “The Chase.” While I haven’t spoken to her agent, I’m quite sure she’s available.

However, a highly anticipated Sheen-Swanson reunion might not be enough. If he really wants to entertain his fans I suggest touring with the Bronx Zoo Cobra. Like Sheen, the escaped reptile was a nothing story that instantly became the darling of any and all media. So it’s only natural to assume the public would want to see these two ubiquitous personalities on the same stage. And if the audience were to tire of Charlie’s rants and the cobra’s incessant hissing, Sheen could always go for the ultimate showstopper: letting the snake bite him.

Sure, cobras are highly venomous, but I think it’s safe to say that this particular thespian has probably had worse things coursing through his veins. Plus, surviving a snakebite on stage would bring the crowd to its feet and prove once and for all that nothing can bring down a man who has tiger’s blood and Adonis DNA.

This stunt — particularly if performed over and over again — would garner an unprecedented amount of attention from the inept American news media and create a frenzy in the twttersphere. Clips of the performance would inevitably go viral and the Warlock’s legend would continue to grow. Eventually he and the snake could spin their popularity into a new sitcom (produced by Chuck Lorre, of course) or at the very least a buddy cop movie.

Problem solved. You’re welcome, Mr. Sheen.

And now that this spoiled jackass’s problems are a thing of the past, perhaps we can all turn our attention to more pressing matters, like our crumbling infrastructure, unemployment, climate change, energy dependence, skyrocketing health care costs, wars in the Middle East (and Libya!), and nuclear contamination in Japan. Not addressing these issues could be devastating for our future.

Or we can just wait for the next celebrity meltdown or interesting zoological adventure to pull our attention away from the things that truly matter.

What’s that? A pretty young blonde girl has disappeared again? Nevermind.


Party Crashers, Tiger Woods and the Price of Fame

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  Party crashers, Tiger Woods and the price of fame.

This past holiday weekend is usually one of my favorite times of the year.  In addition to the embarrassing amount of food I consume on Thanksgiving, I get to use my gluttonous behavior as an excuse to sit around for hours while my stomach slowly digests the excessive feast.  And as that simple act of biology takes place, I watch football and look for the Black Friday news stories that illustrate why allowing mobs of overzealous shoppers into your stores at dawn is a horrifically bad idea.

Needless to say I was disappointed this year.  Sure, the Turkey Day smorgasbord took hours and hours to make its journey through my digestive system and there was no shortage of football on TV, but apparently America’s shoppers were on their best behavior.  As far as I could tell, there were no significant reports involving parents engaging in hand-to-hand combat in order to get their hands on a Wii or a Playstation 3.  Nor did I hear any complaints from the wife after she ventured into a shopping mall and a Target on Black Friday.

I suppose this is actually good news.  Perhaps we’ve turned some kind of symbolic corner as a society.  Perhaps we’re on the verge of straightening out our collective priorities and committing to a way of life that isn’t all about rampant consumerism.  As I was pondering the idea of this new world order, I was introduced to the Salahis.

Mr. President... can you make me famous, please?

If you haven’t heard of the world famous Salahis, then you either haven’t checked in with a news outlet in awhile or you just didn’t bother to catch the surname of this newly famous couple.  These two yahoos are better known to the world as the White House party crashers.  These wannabe high rollers somehow managed to outsmart federal agents and infiltrate the Obama Administration’s state dinner thrown in honor of visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Breaches in Presidential security are a very serious matter.  So the fact that this couple managed to just walk in off the street should be very disconcerting for the American public.  However, what should be even more alarming is the media tsunami that’s about to crash upon all of us.

It’s been reported that Tareq and Michaele Salahi once aspired to be cast members on the Bravo reality show The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C. It’s also been reported that the Salahis have a publicist and are shopping “their story” to the highest bidder.  I think we all see where this is going.  As much as I’d like to believe in the concept of journalistic integrity, it’s pretty much inevitable that some network executive will pony up the cash to interview this couple.  I think it’s equally inevitable that they’ll have nothing of any substance to say.

Can’t we stop this from happening?  Isn’t there some subsection of the Patriot Act that allows us to waterboard these bottom-feeders?  Probably not.  That’s why the only hope our nation has right now is Tiger Woods.

The one thing that seemed to bump the Salahis off the front page of CNN’s website was the world’s best golfer crashing his car in the wee hours following Thanksgiving.  While alcohol was said not to be a factor, there’s been much speculation regarding what Tiger was doing driving at such a late hour and how he managed to bounce his very expensive car off a much less expensive fire hydrant.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t dislike Eldrick Woods and I wish nothing but good things for him.  But in this case, I’m asking him to jump on the grenade and do America this one favor as a public service.  If he could just confess to doing something untoward it would really mean a lot to people like me who just can’t stand the thought of these party-crashing weasels becoming the next Balloon Boy family.

And perhaps in confessing to something even remotely newsworthy, Tiger could teach the Salahis and the Hennes and the Jon and Kates of the world a valuable lesson.  Be careful what you wish for.  Because while these oxygen-wasters seem to desperately want to feel the white-hot spotlight shining on them, I don’t think they’re in the least bit prepared for the consequences that come with worldwide fame.

Tiger Woods knows a thing or two about those consequences.  For him, being famous  means he’s never ever alone.  It means there’s always someone watching him, ready to capture his most vulnerable moment and post it on TMZ or YouTube.  It means even something as harmless as an insignificant fender bender is newsworthy and fodder for public debate.

It's not easy being Tiger. I mean, who wants to sign hats?

I’ve never heard Tiger complain, and I’m sure if asked he would rightfully say he was blessed.  Being the best golfer in the world has earned him the admiration of millions of fans and so much money it probably takes a team of highly paid accountants to keep track of it all.  But make no mistake about it, being Tiger Woods isn’t easy.  And why people with no discernable talents keep pursuing this lifestyle is beyond me.

Assuming Tiger’s crash is as it seems, much to do about nothing, the Salahis will probably get their fifteen minutes.  Then, once their lives are put on display and vigorously deconstructed, they’ll probably tire of the attention and slither away into sweet obscurity.  After a few years, perhaps they’ll appreciate their lack of fame and look back at their publicity stunt as a horrible mistake.

So as my weekend came to an end I decided I’m thankful I’m not Tiger Woods.  And thankful I don’t have the last name Salahi.  Hopefully, next year’s post-Thanksgiving news cycle will be a little more traditional, with stories of crazed parents elbowing each other in the face for vibrating Elmo dolls taking center stage.

Then I’ll really be thankful.

Author’s Note:  Less than 48 hours after posting this, Tiger Woods released a statement that basically (though not technically) admitted to having an affair.  Needless to say my sympanthy for his “situation” has wained  quite a bit.  But now that he’s revealed his “transgressions” my assumption is that the media will turn all their attention to Tiger and the Salahis will disappear from my television set.


The Simpsons, Familiarity, and Our Fear of Change

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  The Simpsons, familiarity, and our fear of change.

Back in college, my friends and I developed many rituals.  Most of them involved imbibing alcohol.  Songs we would listen to before going out to imbibe alcohol.   Games we would play while imbibing alcohol.  Places we would eat after imbibing alcohol.  There were probably more but I killed too many brain cells to remember them all.

I do, however, have very fond and lucid memories of our longest lasting ritual, which involved a large number of us gathering weekly to watch The Simpsons.  Many in our group were aspiring writers and to us there was no better show on television.  The Simpsons was brilliantly funny, smartly written and it lampooned American norms, values, and institutions.  It was the type of cutting edge entertainment us fresh-faced youngsters hoped to someday create.

homer-simpson-with-doughnut

Hmmmm... familiar donut.

But when I recently stumbled upon a Yahoo article celebrating The Simpsons 20th anniversary, all I could think was: “Holy crap, that show’s been on a long time.  Who’s still watching that thing?”

I checked out about ten years ago and haven’t really looked back.  After all there’s only so many times one can watch Bart’s devilish mischief wreak havoc on Springfield as Lisa righteously fights to power, Homer drinks copious amounts of Duff beer, and Marge quietly groans disapproval.

However, I shouldn’t really be surprised The Simpsons has lasted this long.  After all, if Simpson fans had to watch a new show, they’d have to learn new character names, figure out these characters’ personalities and quirks and even potentially adapt to a different storytelling rhythm.   All this newness might be too much to grasp.  And why put forth that kind of effort when it’s just easier to reflexively laugh whenever Homer says, “D’oh!”

And it’s not just The Simpsons.  Glaciers have migrated significantly in the time Law & Order has been on television and E.R. was only put to rest after Hollywood realized every working actor had already been on the show at least once.

tacobell-kfc

Hmmmm... familiar food.

And it’s not just TV.  Americans simply love stuff we’re already familiar with.  That’s why we have things like chain restaurants, sequels, and Baldwin brothers.  Our thirst for familiarity drives us in almost everything we do.  It’s why we elect politicians with familiar last names, why our cars still run on gasoline and why we settle for subpar health care.  We’re always more inclined to settle for the devil we know as opposed to the devil we don’t, even if that new and improved devil might not be a devil at all.

We collectively fear the unknown.  And because of this, we don’t culturally evolve nearly as quickly as we should.  We’re basically stunted by our own intellectual laziness.  It’s no wonder we’ve chosen to keep an animated sitcom about a dysfunctional family on the air for twenty years yet refuse to let gay couples get married.

We suck.

But as much as I lament The Simpsons continued primetime presence, I guess I should just be happy it hasn’t been replaced by a reality show.  After all, something tells me the geniuses over at FOX probably have a show in development that involves D-level celebrities learning how to dance while trying to find love on a desert island.

God help us if that show lasts twenty years.