AWAKE THE SLEEPING GIANT
So immersed in music, it’s been a while since I’ve felt compelled to crank out a Brief. But a combination of Republican pre-Sequester Petulance and a Post-Oscar Hangover have moved me to words. Strong words. Have at thee!!
OSCAR HEADLINE: SETH MACFARLANE WORST OSCAR HOST EVER!!!
Was the opening bit with William Shatner merely ironic, or utterly prophetic? Perhaps both, but certainly the latter. I will make the case that not only was Seth MacFarlane the worst Oscar host in the 85-year history of the Awards, but that Sunday night’s television broadcast was by far the worst Oscars show in the history of the Academy Awards.
I take my movies seriously. Perhaps not as seriously as I take the US government intentionally sabotaging the US people and economy (see below), but to me, movies matter. And while 2012 was a lot of things, including not the end of civilization as we know it, it was, in my opinion, the best year for motion pictures…Ever.
Seriously. I can’t think of a year with more Oscar-worthy films, including most of the Best Picture nominees, and three more that were worthy of that 10th and final slot: Moonrise Kingdom, Skyfall, and Dark Knight Rises. Since the Academy upped the number of best picture noms to 10, each year there have been films that didn’t quite belong but got that extra marketing push – “A Serious Man”, “The Blind Side,” “Toy Story 3.” Watch those three and then “Moonrise Kingdom” and tell me which of them deserved a nomination. Personally, I’d add “Chicago” to that list, but I digress. Again.
How can you justify the greatness of the last year in motion pictures with the absolute monstrosity of unfunniness, unprofessionalism, and unkindness that transpired last night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood? You can’t, because that Oscars show sucked on every single level except for one. I’ll get to that later.
First, the host. Seth MacFarlane may be a brilliant creator of satirical, politically incorrect TV animation. His first film was a hit. I didn’t see it, but let’s just assume that it was the funniest movie of 2012. That still doesn’t make him a smart choice for hosting the Oscars. Johnny Carson. Billy Crystal. Seth MacFarlane? All comedians. All white. Whatever. But Mr. MacFarlane’s humor is not merely self-referential and highly inside-joke oriented. It’s also mean-spirited in the exact way that another recent Awards show hosting disaster was as well: Ricky Gervais.
Mr. MacFarlane’s jokes made Ricky Gervais stint at the 2012 Golden Globes seem dry, witty, under-stated and self-effacing by comparison. In addition to walking back nearly every on of his own jokes (at least, at some level, he was aware of how not funny his material was), and semi-un-ironically meting up a next day headline that was all too real during the broadcast, Mr. MacFarlane managed to:
1) Be the 9000th comic to not hilariously reference the Chris Brown/Rihanna fiasco
2) Pointedly insult Daniel Day Lewis’ epic performance in “Lincoln”
3) Create the most not funny moment in broadcast television since OJ Simpson was found not guilty (the Lincoln joke; more on that in a moment)
4) Use his own film creation, Ted, to make five infantile, lowest common denominator jokes about Jews and Hollywood
5) Make Mel Gibson seem sympathetic
6) Close the show by calling out all of the “losers” by name in song
To shine just a little bit of a spotlight on MacFarlane’s horrendous Lincoln faux pas before it is swept away into the dustbin of history, here’s the joke:
“This is interesting, Daniel Day-Lewis, not the first actor to be nominated for playing Lincoln. Raymond Massey portrayed him in 1940’s “Abe Lincoln In Illinois.” This is true. I would argue, however, that the actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.”
Without biting down too hard on the sheer stupidity of the joke, it’s non-funniness, the proximity of Stephen Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tony Kushner, Tommy Lee Jones, and the principals from “Lincoln” a few feet away, and the fact that he’s talking about one of the greatest people in the history of the planet getting shot in the head, think a moment about the subtext of so many unnecessary gun related deaths in this country and around the world.
The audience actually booed, in a subdued reaction given the epic-ness of his fail. Was this not the Oscars, it would have been appropriate to hurl rotten tomatoes at the offender. As someone with a well-documented, irreverent sense of humor, I would call that maybe the least funny joke in the history of modern civilization, for its breadth and depth of base offensiveness, the number of people who heard it, and for the miscalculation of context and occasion.
It wasn’t just a bad joke. It was quite possibly a career-defining moment by a man of clearly questionable taste, if not talent. I wouldn’t be surprised if he apologizes for it one day soon, in addition to the almost apology he made immediately afterward, and many other flat out shitty jokes he made throughout the night. If he doesn’t disown the joke, I’d say the guy’s jumped the shark as a humorist and he might want to read a book on comedy to get him back on the funny track. Last night, most of his material was either not funny, flat out pathetic, or worse.
In addition to the wretchedness of Seth MacFarlane’s hosting – which made Letterman’s turn seem sprightly and James Franco convivial by comparison – the show did seem endless, and nearly a dozen comments by MacFarlane noting same didn’t help, didn’t add any much-needed humor, and only served to highlight that he was hosting a show that he thought sucked. On that count, and that alone, he was absolutely right. It did. Suck. Hard.
Also note that the vast majority of presenter jokes were not at all funny or interesting, and the embarrassments that were Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy’s presentation, and The Avengers’ Oscar moment were each beyond squirm-inducing. And while this may be piling on, the addition of Michelle Obama to the Best Picture award presentation came off as politically correct, awkward, and cloying, even for the Oscars.
Without analyzing too, too deeply, those nasty play-offs featuring music from “Jaws” when speeches went a tad too long (speeches we could have enjoyed in their entirety had they cut ten stupid, self-referential MacFarlane jokes and Jennifer Hudson channeling Michael Bolton clubbing the baby seals of good vocal taste in our minds) rudely destroyed several of the most important moments of the night.
Those ominous chords must have been in the mind of both Jennifer Laurence as she rushed toward the stage to get her thank yous in on time, and Ben Affleck’s Evelyn Woods acceptance speech that I’m sure most of the world would have rather heard in real-time rather than at 78 speed. As opposed to, say, a four-part William Shatner gag by, for and about Seth MacFarlane.
Last, but not least, the sound engineering was completely atrocious, smacking of bad production choices, unprofessional technical work, and marring the single biggest selling points of the show: the tribute to the musical film over the last 10 years (really? That many great movie musicals in the last decade?), and live performances by Barbra Streisand and Adele.
If you are, or know, who the genius was who suggested placing the orchestra for the biggest night in television in a tiny room nearly half a mile away from the event at the Capitol Records building at Hollywood and Vine (they even bragged about it during the show) and piping in the sound while Barbra Streisand sang her tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, congratulations!! You are, or know, someone who could be a Republican political strategist!!!
The sound drop-outs on that number had even Barbra – say what you want, the lady is a pro – looking baffled. I’m not sure what it sounded like in the theatre, but to those watching at home, it was like the orchestra was on a voice-call via AT&T. Father, can you hear me…now?
For Adele’s number, easily the most eagerly anticipated moment of the night, her mic was so low during the first verse that no one, not even Adele, could hear her singing. You see, when Adele sings, it’s kind of important that you can hear her voice. And she can’t just pump up her volume because she had vocal chord surgery not too long ago. That’s why we have that amazing 20th century innovation the Volume Knob at our disposal. Someone must have woken up by the time the second verse started, because the volume jumped in time for us to actually hear her vocal on the second go round.
OK, let’s assume the Jennifer Hudson moment didn’t totally suck, and even belonged in the show along with all the “Chicago” mentions (over…rated…). And give some credit to the one actually funny moment of the night – the “Sound of Music” moment with the von Trapp Family – Missing!!
Easily the worst Oscar broadcast ever. Period.
I knew the show was in trouble when producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron inserted themselves in their own Oscar pre-show – chock-a-block as THAT was with awkwardness via Kelly Rowland, Kristin Chenoweth, et al. Chenoweth sings like an angel, even while vocally-apologizing for that nasty closing number with MacFarlane, but speaks like a chipmunk sucking helium from a balloon animal.
The producers gushed that this was the moment they had waited for all their lives. They even had Seth MacFarlane mention them by name in the opening moments of the show. After Oscar 2013, these two should be grateful that their day jobs let them make a living producing the ABC series “Smash.” Because their night job was a train wreck that hasn’t been seen on the Oscars broadcast in 85 years, including radio. And so it came to pass that the best year in movies yielded the worst Oscars ever.
What did you think of the show?
AND IN OTHER NOT FUNNY NEWS >>> Presidential assassinations: not funny. Ever. AIDS jokes: still not funny. Calling a nine-year old Oscar nominee the C-word: definitely not funny, even from The Onion, which usually is funny. And Republican-manufactured fiscal crises that further decimate the lower and middle classes while benefitting the upper class and government bureaucrats – seriously not funny.
LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE >>> The passing of former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who among other things stood up to American Conservative intransigence in the face of the AIDS epidemic in the name of humanity and common sense, is a powerful context for this week’s foolish and completely unnecessary government “sequester” which will once again impact America’s ailing economy – on purpose, by Republicans.
Facing diminishing support from the American electorate, and resorting more and more to the sort of schoolyard dirty tricks pioneered by Karl Rove from his days with the Nixon campaign and forward, the Republicans are America’s political equivalent of a spoiled child holding his or her breath until their face turns blue. Gerrymandering, illegal vote-blocking tactics, holding up legislation and appointments, and changing campaign finance rules to favor its constituents are all tried and true tactics.
But the “manufactured crisis” ploy, outlined by Naomi Klein in her book “The Shock Doctrine” and utilized now for the third time in less than two years – Government Shutdown 1, Debt Ceiling 1, and Sequester 1 – are only serving to diminish American’s opinions of Republicans. The party has the lowest approval rating in the history of approval ratings polls, and the Republican House’s approval rating has somehow managed to dip below 10%.
President Obama, who is neither perfect, nor a Saint, is taking the right tack here by pushing Congress to solve this problem rather than letting it fall to the automatic cuts that were never intended to come to pass. We need to get our government whipped into shape in terms of solving these problems proactively, rather than dragging out to the deadlines which are hammering markets, hiring, productivity, and creating a sluggish economy that Republicans are marketing back to us as a result of Obama’s failed policies. It’s the Republicans fault. We know it. And it’s time for us to do something about it.
They sold us on the Iraq War. They were wrong, and it cost us more than $10 trillion. They convinced America that Obamacare was a bad idea, and took the House on that sentiment. Yet Obamacare is going to save this country billions, eventually trillions of dollars. And giving the House back to conservatives was the third worst election choice this country has made since Nixon.
So in addition to getting past these issues, we need a campaign to convince America to eject stagnant Republican leaders from Congress and give the President a Democratic majority that he can use to get this company moving. A campaign to STOP REPUBLICAN INTRANSIGENCE. It’s time. It’s the only way.
One of my favorite quotes of Dr. Koop – “What bothered me most, as I reflect, was the lack of scholarship by Christians – as if they felt that by leaning on a theological principle they didn’t have to be very accurate with the facts. People talk about knee-jerk liberals. The liberals have no corner on that market; I’ve learned there are also knee-jerk conservatives. Christians should be involved in politics, and use their Christian principles, morality and ethics in the process. But they shouldn’t jump over the process and voice their beliefs as the only possible outcome.”
It’s time to rid this country of the knee-jerk conservative policies of obstinacy, of my way or the highway, and the perpetual Republican roadblock. Time to stop the opaquely racist, anti-women’s rights, pro-rape dialogue that has become a cornerstone of the Republican platform. Conservative cries that legislating controls on assault weapons that kill innocent citizens in increasing numbers amount to abridging some sort of constitutional right for each citizen to possess the means to mass murder.
It’s time for conservatives to join the discussion, join us in this millennium, and stop breaking our system. And if they won’t do it, and frankly, there’s little hope that they will, we need to vote them out of office ASAP so we can get this country moving forward again.
REMEMBERING AN ALL-TIME GREAT >>> In 1985, I was in Durham, NC for the Dinah Shore Classic, and it was my first day on the job as a news intern at WTVD Durham. I was sent to do a remote interview with Dinah to open the 6:00 news on a Saturday night. With less than five minutes before the hour and the start of the show, Dinah tapped out and I had a real problem. An opening segment interview, with no interviewee.
I went to the front desk in a panic, and they let me scan the guest list for a quick substitute: are there any celebrities staying here? I spotted Stan the Man Musial’s name, called his room, told him I was from St. Louis, and we were in a bit of a bind. He instantly agreed to join me for a remote with the studio. With less than a minute till the start of the six o’clock news and the very real possibility of three minutes of dead air dawning on the entire news team, Stan walked over to the cameraman and I by the pool. We mic’d him in an instant and he was ready to go.
Without a shred of ego – no surly questions like, “Why are you asking me now?” – Stan graciously filled in for Dinah Shore to do the interview, rescued our 6:00 news show from a three minute improv by the lead anchor, and helped a St. Louis-born newsroom rookie in a moment of need. Humble, honest, and real, Stan stood in for the interview, and in less than 200 seconds we wrapped. The consumate pro. I was told that everyone in the newsroom stood up and cheered. They cheered again when the camera guy and I returned later that evening.
A few hundred yards away by the Jacuzzi, Harlem Globetrotter great Curly Neal and his daughter were taking in the action on the hotel’s front lawn, and when we were done with the remote, Curly walked over to us and enthusiastically asked Stan for his autograph. Stan, in turn, asked Curly for HIS autograph, and joked that if I’d just walked over that-a-way I would have gotten a “real” celebrity to open the show. I then had the privilege to spend thirty minutes of my first day in the broadcast news business shooting the breeze with two of the greatest athletes and nicest people you’d ever want to meet.
As an athlete, and a human being, Stan Musial was the epitome of integrity, humility and graciousness. In an era where athletes are paid millions and aggressively decline the designation of role model, recognizing a Stan the Man in our midst – male or female, in any profession – signifies that being of outstanding character and leading by example makes one worthy of the mantle. No, you don’t become a role model by virtue of what you do. You become one, and I believe the best kind of example in our world, by being great in addition to doing what you do. Epitomized by Stan Musial in words, actions and spirit 100%.
BOB COSTAS ON STAN THE MAN >>> Here is a video link to Bob Costas’ brilliant eulogy for a great athlete, and an even better human being:
FILM FAVORITES OF 2012 >>> The best films of the year in the best year for movies in many years:
1. Moonrise Kingdom – A masterpiece. Best of the new millennium
2. Beasts of the Southern Wild – How did director Benh Zeitlin get a performance like that out of a 7 year old?
3. Life of Pi – A visual and spiritual feast
4. Zero Dark Thirty – Politically shaky but a motion picture tour de force nonetheless
5. Silver Linings Playbook – A quirky relationship story raised to high art
6. Argo – Terrific telling of a unique and true story
7. The Dark Knight Rises – Christopher Nolan should be Peter Jacksoned
8. Skyfall – Best. Bond. Ever.
9. Lincoln – Daniel Day-Lewis IS Lincoln
10. Django: Unchained – Quentin’s funniest picture is patriotic yet problematic
11. Cloud Atlas – Ambitious, sprawling, splendid
12. The Avengers – Non-stop fun
TBD – on my list of films to see ASAP.
1. The Hobbit
2. Searching for Sugar Man
3. The Master
UNSUNG HEROES >>> With so much auspiciousness on a single day — the re-inauguration of Barack Obama on MLK Day — it’s a reminder that we are surrounded by greatness and abundant potential. So much to do and so little time. And while we celebrate the doers, as we should, it’s also important to acknowledge those who support those who do.
For every person who gets things done, there are many unsung heroes who helped to get them there. For the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for President Obama, there are so many people who gave, voluntarily and involuntarily, helping them ascend to greatness. As they said in “Grease” — if you can’t be an athlete, at least be an athletic supporter!
So here’s to those who help others reach the top of the mountain. The karmic assist. The tough and unsung part of the job. The dirty work. The pencil pushing. The boring stuff. They may not get the glory, but the greatness and gratitude are theirs for all time.
HOT MOVIE TRENDS >>> With Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer and Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters pointing toward a new trend in film, let’s take a look at upcoming releases with terrifying twists on history coming to a Cineplex near you:
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: Zombie Decapitator
Manti T’eo in “The Vanishing Part Deux”
Noah’s Ark of Death and the Giant Giraffe Eating Sperm Whale
Barack Obama: Boehner Buster
Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh: Gridiron Sibling Death Match
Saw 07: Dick Cheney’s Torture Chamber
Lance Armstrong in “I Never Called You a Fat Witch”
The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Chainsaw Massacre
Bulletz, Ballz and Bitchez — The Ray Lewis Story
The Last White House on the Left
CALAMITY JONES >>> Having survived the Millennium Bug, the Rhapsody, Armageddon and The End of Days circa 2012, perhaps now America can get back to the process of slowly and selfishly destroying the world via materialism and ignorance. Or we could take a deep breath and begin working towards solving the world’s problems as individuals and a society. It’s not sexy, or great television, and it won’t sell a lot of papers, but it’s a plan with a future.
GUN VIOLENCE REALITIES >>> It doesn’t really matter what you, or I, or even the more sensible members of the NRA want. The American government has allowed the gun sales industry, which dominates the NRA but doesn’t comprise the majority of its members, to dominate our domestic policies. These policies have turned America into the biggest propagator of weapons in the free world, and the home of more gun homicides and more mass shootings than any nation in the world.
Social theory predicts this, and we are – by blind greed and undisciplined profit motive – enabling gun tragedies every day we don’t slow down the sale of guns and bullets and the management of the sale of implements of death. Americans have a choice. For too many years, we have allowed the will and resources of a minority of profiteers to cajole and manipulate our government into commoditizing our social well-being and public safety in exchange for personal financial benefit.
The choice is ours. By acting today, we can stem the tide of violence and loss that profits the few who make millions every time innocents are slaughtered in our society. Or we can allow the basest among us to keep what could and should be the leading nation of the world on this and other issues a laughing stock when it comes to guns. It should be an easy choice. Let’s fix our gun problem, America!!
THE $1 TRILLION PLATINUM COIN >>> In case you needed actual proof that the people running this country are the dumbest in the history of civilization:
We can spend $10-30 trillion on a completely worthless war.
We can go $16 trillion in debt because of this war.
We can sit idly by while the people who generated the war vote not to pay off the debt that they created because we really need to stop spending on stupid things like healthcare, education, and government benefits we all paid for.
And we can watch it all go to hell while those people bring it all down because they can’t win an election any more.
Or we can print a $1 trillion platinum coin and move on.
I say, let’s move on. Print the freaking coin.
WHOLE FOODS CEO CRIES FASCIST >>> Then apologizes. After a national boycott effort is born.
Knowledge is power. I now know that the CEO of the chain where I buy 80% of my good is selfish and an ignoramus. America’s healthcare problem is more than just a debit on Whole Foods’ corporate ledger. Mr. Mackey, as the CEO of a major corporation, you need to educate yourself on both the realities of healthcare in modern America – it’s not just about Doctors getting paid. It’s about a system corrupted for years by bad government policy, bad business practice, and inhumane principles that have made our country less healthy.
That a company such as Whole Foods – its intrinsic and extrinsic values created in context of the problematic system its CEO is blathering about so unintelligently – is led by someone who doesn’t get it is a reason for customers to question their loyalty and stockholders to question their investment. Mr. Mackey stuck his feet deeply into his own mouth on this one, again, and needs to shed his Libertarian dogma to understand the issue as a human being, not just another elitist corporate executive multimillionaire whose politics validate his economic circumstance.
And while he’s at it, Mr. Mackey ought to enroll in a course on socioeconomic theory so that when he opens his mouth on relevant issues something salient and factual comes out.
SAID THE POT TO THE KETTLE >>> Did Fox News really criticize Al-Jazeera for selectively airing and omitting stories as a form of bias? Perhaps all broadcasters should drop all news networks that do that. Right, Fox?
ANTICLIMAX MUCH? >>> After 30 days and 25 Bowl games of basically no consequence, the national championship game was a game for about 3 minutes. Time for a tournament. Again. For real.
FILM ECON 101 >>> 2012 was the best year for quality American Motion Pictures in recent memory. And, not surprisingly, it was also the best year for the film business at the box office in years. Can we draw any conclusions from this? How about, make product, and your business may limp along, ups and downs. Make the best product, and you will expand your possibilities to experience great success. So for the US Film Industry, here’s the five, ten and 25-year plan: Make Better Films!
FAVORITES OF 2012 >>> The best films of the year in the best year for movies in many years:
1. Moonrise Kingdom – A masterpiece. Best of the new millennium.
2. Life of Pi – A visual and spiritual feast.
3. Zero Dark Thirty – Politically shaky but a motion picture tour de force nonetheless.
4. The Dark Knight Rises – Christopher Nolan should be Peter Jacksoned.
5. Silver Linings Playbook – A quirky relationship story raised to high art.
6. Argo – Terrific telling of a unique and true story.
7. Skyfall – Best. Bond. Ever.
8. Lincoln – Daniel Day-Lewis IS Lincoln.
9. Django: Unchained – Quentin’s funniest picture is patriotic yet problematic.
10. The Avengers – Non-stop fun.
TBD – on my list of films to see ASAP.
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
2. The Hobbit
3. Searching for Sugar Man
4. The Master
If ever there was a time for Americans to stand up to the tyranny and wrongheadedness of the Republican Party, it is now. How wrong do they have to be how many times for us to say, ENOUGH!?!
In 2000, under President Bill Clinton’s this country had balanced its budget for the first time in decades. We stood by while the Bush Administration applied its voodoo economics “mandate” to the US tax code (a phrase coined by W.’s father), immediately turning our surplus into a deficit and initiating a downward spiral to the American and World economies that reached its nadir just a month before G. W. Bush left office in 2008.
America had $3 trillion in accumulated debt back in 2000, and by the time Bush left office, 8 years, three wars and a full-scale worldwide economic meltdown later, America was $12 trillion in debt, and counting. Where were the deficit hawks back when Bush cut taxes in the midst of the best economy in the history of this country? And how do you get to be a deficit hawk, a supply-sider and an anti-tax conservative all at the same time anyway? Policies like those could ONLY benefit 1 or 2% of Americans, at best. And they have.
Republicans have been wrong about every major policy decision in this country since the millennium began. From racist and sexist rhetoric, policies and campaigns, to tactics of obstruction and the publicly stated #1 strategic objective of “preventing Obama from winning a second term.” To brinksmanship and downgrading the American economy in 2011 to the Citizens United lawsuit that enabled politicos to waste north of six billion dollars in the 2012 elections. With all of that, Republicans lost those very same 2012 national elections, and they lost big.
So what makes John Boehner and Mitch McConnell think, with all of that history so freshly burned into American minds, that they can take the American economy hostage AGAIN without repercussion? Republicans have been holding back America’s economy from leaving the Great Recession Republicans started, and now they believe they have the juice to maintain all of Bush’s wrongheaded tax cuts AND force spending cuts to “entitlements” (which aren’t really entitlements at all; they are services we’ve paid for) and be willing to flush the US economy down the tubes yet again and get away with it?
Well, they can’t do it again if we don’t let them. And we can’t let them this time (or ever again if you ask me) because the stakes are too high and it isn’t what We the People want. In fact, the mandate belongs with Obama, the Democrats, and the vast majority of Americans who have been reeling from bad Republican policy for the last 12 years, and who spoke loudly and clearly less than a month ago at the ballot box.
The Good News is that Republicans are between a rock and a hard place this time. Truly. An agreement before January 1 that does all the things that Democrats were elected to do — keep middle class tax cuts intact, increase taxes on the wealthiest 2% (c’mon – the 2% who have done unbelievably well while the entire rest of the country has suffered), and keeping government services like Medicare and Social Security largely on track for those of us who have paid for them – is the critical next step in an economic comeback architected by the Obama Administration and Democrats. Government can reform programs for the old, poor and needy once it solves the revenue problem. When we get past this needless melodrama we will be on track to see growth in both American and World economies. Until Republicans screw it up again.
If no agreement is made before January 1, things get even more interesting. The ramifications of the fiscal cliff deal impact everyone, but Republican constituents will feel the brunt. Taxes will go up most on higher incomes, but the middle class will also be stung by rising tax rates and an increase to the Payroll Tax. And that’s something all parties have been told American voters don’t want. Loud and Clear. I believe raising taxes across the board will actually help our Debt problem and the country. But politicians aren’t arguing about whether or not the middle class should get further tax relief. And by the time taxes for 2013 get paid, rates likely will not have gone up on the middle class regardless of whether cliff negotiations end before or after the New Year.
So we’re really arguing about letting tax rates on the wealthy few revert to the Clinton era. That may impact upper-income conservatives (half to two-thirds of the 2%ers?), but it won’t hit the majority of Americans who are growing more and more frustrated with Congress, its less than 15% approval rate, and the lagging recovery which if it hasn’t dawned on them already, Democrats and voters will soon be able to pin squarely on the Republicans for holding up a deal to fight tax increases against a tiny portion of the population. The writing is on the wall. It’s so obvious, even moderate conservatives are starting to get it.
No matter how or when it goes down, it’s likely that none of the “fiscal cliff” provisions will ever see the light of day. Rendering all of this public hand-ringing political theatre, albeit theatre in very poor taste. However, if we don’t get a deal before the New Year, or even as we approach the Christmas holiday, what IS going to happen is that the stock market is going to tank and holiday sales – which this economy counts on in a big way – will suffer. And THAT will hurt the economy and all of us far more than the pittance of tax increases or cuts politicians are quibbling over.
Who has the biggest stake in the stock market? Is it the lower or middle class? No, it’s retirees counting on their 401Ks for long-term security, and the wealthy. Just like the Recession of 2008, and the Stalemate of 2011, the Fiscal Cliff represents a huge financial boondoggle for the wealthy few. If you know it’s coming – tipped off by Boehner’s “stalemate” comments, for example – you can get out of the market before the bloodletting begins, have your cash on the sidelines, and buy cheap when the “crisis” becomes “real.”
When things go back to normal, which happens inevitably, and they have to before the 2014 mid-term elections or Republicans will lose the House, too, the upper-most class will have made enough investment gains to offset any new taxes on those gains and the relatively modest tax increases Republicans have been crusading against like it’s the Spanish Inquisition. In truth, the only thing we have to fear is Republican policies themselves. This is why Democrats need to frame this showdown NOW as a compelling reason for America to vote Republicans out of its House majority in 2014.
What can the rest of us do? With Congress as it is now and no further pressure brought to bear, the Republican minority has a license to print money for its upper-class constituents simply by holding the economy hostage every year or two.
1) Insist loudly and strongly to all who will listen that Congress DO IT’S FREAKING JOB and fix this impasse IMMEDIATELY.
2) Do not give into the dogma that results in panic whenever the US government manufactures a crisis. Do not pull your money out of the market AFTER it drops because that’s how you lock in a loss. Those who make money in these crises either get out long before the rest of us know what’s coming and get back in cheap, or they see it through until the market normalizes and the fog from the self-inflicted wound lifts.
3) Encourage Democratic legislators not to capitulate to Republican minority demands that benefit a tiny fraction of Americans. Tell them to get the economy back on track by reverting to Clinton-era tax rates on the wealthy that had our economy roaring until we the Bush tax cuts and War on Iraq sent us tumbling.
4) Recognize that the problem with our government time and time again is bad Republican policy designed to benefit the over-privileged few and work toward ending the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. This should be the long-term strategic objective of Democrats during this impasse and they must not budge.
5) Ask Congress to handle the revenue issue now, the government programs later, and also to look into other sources of revenues from protected classes such as oil companies and religions like many debt-free countries do to address our Debt going forwawrd.
The fiscal cliff isn’t nearly as cliff-y as many would have us believe. As long as we don’t get jumpy, and don’t give into Republican demands, there’s no need to fall. At all.
With last Tuesday’s decisions finalized, thankfully without the need of Supreme Court intervention, let’s take a look at the hits and misses of the campaign and the vote so we can learn our lessons and focus on the future.
The Undecided Voter Isn’t So Dumb After All
You can’t really blame a voter for not loving their choices in the past election. In my opinion, Barack Obama has done a fantastic job as President, under epically difficult circumstances. But the Democratic Party, Obama’s campaign, and $6 billion dollars worth of mostly negative campaign FUD never really clarified what we were voting for. So when it comes down to a few million people not thrilled with what they’re hearing having to make a decision on imperfect to downright untruthful campaign fodder, we are all lucky they got it so very right.
Americans Aren’t Engaged Enough in the Process
Ultimately, the American people are going to have to do some reckoning about their politics. The Parties are too narrow and not serving our interests. Moreover, the People are fundamentally disinterested, uninformed, and unwilling to engage in meaningful debate about the election process, except for those times when “crisis” is invoked. Politicians are not proactive in responding to their constituents (unless the constituent is money), and Citizens are not proactively taking action to ensure a government that works. For example, the House of Representatives has a 15% approval rating, and yet we elected the exact same majority we did two years ago. Are politicians to blame? Yes. Are the American people to blame, too? Yes again.
Being Rich and/or Powerful Doesn’t Necessarily Make You Smart
Thank you Karl Rove and Donald Trump for putting cherries on top of a nearly perfect Election Day. Victories by Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren (perhaps the most compelling candidate in the whole election) along with defeats by Rape Foot-In-Mouthers Akin and Mourdock, the unseating of nimrod Allen West and the near-defeat of ding-a-ling Michelle Bachmann all give America much to be thankful for heading into Turkey Day.
Rove’s on-camera meltdown may have been one of the most satisfying (if temporary) political reversals of fortune ever. And it happened on Fox! If any of you ever have the pleasure of dropping $400 million of influence on a country’s election, and if you happen to support a bunch of losing candidates with that investment, I hope you will wind up with $400 million or more of valuable self-knowledge. Having the most voi$e out of 300 million other fellow Americans is as privileged a position as there is in the world. If you can’t handle that with grace, class, and an understanding of simple math, maybe you shouldn’t be in charge of so much capital.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s deranged Tweeting rampage further reinforces the conviction that above and beyond the money, the property, the self-promotion, the bluster, the ego, the hair, and the general misanthropy, Mr. Trump is himself a Deranged Tweet.
You want Smart? Try Nate Silver, Elizabeth Warren, Jon Stewart, Joe Biden, and our own President Obama for starters.
Rules of Social Etiquette Apply in the Macro and Micro
It’s one thing to be cynical enough to run a Presidential Campaign on alleged standing as a Financial Genius when your wealth and reputation were built on the calamities of millions of your American peers. It’s another to whisper sweet nothings to voters in public while speaking pure ill of the masses (i.e., 47%ers) in private. And it’s yet another thing to make up a story about how cutting taxes on yourself and all your wealthy peers will actually result in more revenues for the Federal government when the math says otherwise. Personal integrity matters. Don’t talk behind others’ backs. Do unto others. And not just the wealthy others.
Lose With Grace and Dignity, Please
Mr. Romney’s concession speech was the most honest and sincere moment of his entire campaign. I was turned off by the cynicism, lack of real ideas, unwillingness to disclose pertinent information, and the overall shallowness of his campaign. But he conceded admirably and I’m almost certain his failings are as closely linked to a lack of self-awareness as they are to a pathological lack of integrity (see Rove and Trump, above).
My hopes and prayers are that the vocal minority will take at least a step toward the greater good, setting a course for individual and collective success. Obstruction has gotten us nowhere from 2010 to 2012. If constructive collaboration becomes the best phrase to describe the next two years, we will all be the better for it.
The Social Agenda of the 20th Century Won’t Cut It in Century 21
Maybe there is a New Majority in the US. Maybe it isn’t just about white men and the people they influence when it comes to vote. Perhaps the increasing numbers of Asians, Latinos, Women, Young Adults, Gays and nearly every other demographic other than Caucasian Men (the one I happen to be in) voting overwhelmingly for Democrats is a transparently wrapped message for Conservatives, especially Ultra-Conservatives. And the message isn’t, let’s deport everyone who isn’t white.
The rape dialogue was a disgrace. Alienating women by massacring women’s rights vis-à-vis abortion backfired badly. Thinly veiled racism isn’t very invisible when the discrimination is pointed at you. The immigration policy war of words has had an impact on the national level. It may even lead to Republicans losing power in Texas. Read that twice just to be sure: It may even lead to Republicans losing power in Texas. Ooh. Ow.
Math and Science are Real
The Ultra-Cons don’t believe in Climate Change. And they didn’t believe the polls going into the election. Although they do believe in owning the voting machines on Election Day. No one has ever accused Conservatives of not knowing where the bread is buttered.
Which is why it’s not surprising that some conservative pundits, including Dick Morris, have fessed up to making up election data to sway undecideds with the “news” that Romney was doing better in the polls than he really was. If you don’t believe in numbers, there’s nothing wrong with making some up.
After this election, in which New York Times math wiz Nate Silver correctly predicted all 50 states (he got 49 right in 2008), the polls were actually under-stating Obama’s popular vote and electoral vote leads, and everything went pretty much the way everyone (who believes in math) thought they would, Conservatives who can count have increased their power base within the party.
Then there’s the electoral math whereby a candidate focused on 1% of the voters (some of whom are Liberal to begin with) proceeds to alienate women, the youth vote, every single race that isn’t the Caucasian one, Liberals and the 47% would seem unlikely to carry a majority of votes in the States and/or the Electoral College. Which makes one wonder how they got 48% of the vote when all was said and done (ahem, Tax Cuts).
And if Math 101 in 2012 wasn’t enough, Hurricane Sandy’s profound timing put an exclamation point on Climate Change Doubters’ question mark by inundating the city of New York and the Jersey Coast. God? Nature? Science? Maybe All of the Above?
The Only Way To Go is Forward
The 2012 Elections were one good idea away from having one good idea. Had any candidates – other than Elizabeth Warren, who has lots of good ideas, and the big-picture success of the Obama Administration – shown a knack for forward-thinking or big ideas, Tuesday might have been a decidedly different day. Mitt Romney’s Five-Point Plan was 5 points shy of having a point. 3 points shy, a specific tax loophole mentioned here or there, and who knows? That’s too close for comfort if you ask me.
I have a few not-so-original ideas about how the next four years might look (like 1996-2000 minus the Lewinsky scandal; slash military spending, return tax rates to 1998, less regressive social dialogue…) and, for starters, one original, new idea that I’ll share with you now:
There is approximately $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in U.S. revenue currently in foreign countries, and a debate about whether to tax that money at 35% (current policy), 5% (the Republican plan), or somewhere in between.
I’m a fan of somewhere in between. Five-percent is a non-starter. We are $16 trillion in debt. No radical tax holidays until that number is below, say $10 trillion, OK? But the way to make sure that the money we repatriate in any level of tax discount is put towards job creation is to make policy that specifically rewards job creation.
You want a tax discount to 30% plus incentives? OK. Put the tax money in an escrow-type account and distribute the funds back to corporations who create new jobs. They can pay down new salaries (rather than re-hire already existing positions) as well as healthcare benefits using the credited taxes. Let them do whatever they want with the remaining 70%. If we’re going to take a penny less in taxes from corporations who have leveraged America’s standing to make big bucks overseas, let’s push as many dollars as we can towards job creation.
Conversely, if we don’t want the government in the job creation business, let’s not pretend that tax cuts are a viable form of job creation. Tax cuts for the wealthy are entitlements for the rich. Let’s start moving entitlements for the wealthy towards incentivized policy that will benefit everyone and we will all be better off. And why should all of us be better off?
I’m not going to make this about what might happen if Mitt Romney is elected President, because, frankly, it’s unthinkable. I’m not going to make this about Republican racism, or sexism…the Republican War On Women or the Republican War Against FreeWill, or the Republican War to Redefine the Definition of Rape and Other Thinly Veiled Conservative Hate Speech. I’m not going to do it, and you can’t make me.
I have no intention of reminding you about the diseased economy that the Bush Administration handed President Barack Obama in 2008. Or discussing the Karl Rove Foundation to Enslave Humanity’s $300 Million Campaign to trick American voters in 2012. Or bringing up the Republican Congress’ Conspiracy of Obstinacy.
I’m not going to take the last few moments before Decision 2012 to dwell on any of those things because they are negative, and nasty, and quite frankly beneath the dignity of this country. They’re beneath the People of the World who desperately need America to rise above the shenanigans of a vocal minority of pathological Ultra-Conservative zealots and pseudo-ignoramus theocrats so we can continue the slow but steady process of fixing what Bush and Co broke. So let’s be clear about that.
What I’d like to do is take a moment to say THANK YOU to Barack Obama, who has somehow managed to turn the tide of stupidity that marked the first 8 years of this millennium and give us at least a tiny bit of HOPE via CHANGE. Just like his campaign promised. Barack and Crew put a tourniquet on the hemorrhage of unemployment, helped to reverse the freefall of the stock market and increase the value of the dollar. Since 2008 we’ve had upticks in consumer confidence and private sector jobs, and corresponding increases in American pride, along with the vastly improved standing of our country in the Eyes of the World.
At long last, the beginnings of a viable Health Care Package to upgrade an inhumane health care system that had become the number one source of bankruptcy prior to deregulation crashed the banking system. Barack Obama’s administration finally put an end to the multi-trillion dollar Ultra-Con boondoggle that was the War in Iraq — the real culprit leading to the explosion of the U.S. National Debt. President Obama ordered the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
The first four years of his presidency have rehabilitated the perception of this country and the U.S. Presidency itself by virtue of his diligence and hard work. By the way, through last Wednesday, President Obama took 72 days of “vacation” in his first 3 5/6 years in office. Compare that to 1020 days for George W. Bush in 8 years. That’s one thousand and twenty vs. seventy-two.
Not that it matters because it’s not going to happen, but no one can tell you what a Mitt Romney Presidency would actually look like because he has retracted or contradicted every assertion he made on the campaign trail in his shameless, integrity-free, desperate chase for the brass Oval ring. On the other hand, we can be pretty sure what the next four years will look like, especially if we continue to out the Todd Akins and Richard Mourdocks and Scott Browns and Paul Ryans of the world so that we can dislodge the Republican obstructionism that’s held us back from an even faster recovery.
The second four years of the Bill Clinton Presidency might have been the best four years of the last 40. Let’s hope the next four years with President Barack Obama can extend the process of unlocking this country’s tremendous potential and continue to undo the damage of the Ultra-Cons. So I can continue to not have to talk about their epic mis-deeds for many years to come.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for voting today. Thanks for being a part of this Grand Experience.
If you watched the first of three Presidential debates last night like I did you likely came to the same conclusion that many have, including all sides of the mainstream media – Mitt Romney won.
Let me repeat that: Romney won the debate. I won’t say fair and square because it wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t square, but he kicked President Obama’s ass up and down that stage last night in Denver and it’s as much Obama’s responsibility that it got away from him as it is to Romney’s credit that he won in just about every category you can a debate in. Except for a couple of very important ones.
Last night’s debate was the equivalent of a baseball team losing Game 1 of the World Series 10-2. We better not be looking at a sweep because we can’t afford to have a Mitt Romney presidency, a fact even more apparent after last night. But first, let’s take a look at what the President did wrong and needs to improve upon if he’s going to turn around the massive turn-around that happened last night.
First, he needs more and better energy. The President seemed at turns tired, frustrated, annoyed, flustered, ineffectively long-winded, searching to organize his thoughts while he spoke, and generally not in good fighting form. If we lived in a more advanced society with a more informed and engaged electorate, some of these things might not matter so much. Though many of them would. But the President’s energy and demeanor were almost as much a cause for him losing the debate last night as the two more substantial reasons, and has got to change in debates two and three.
What are the two more substantial reasons, you might ask? First, Obama had no meaningful, concise takeaways from the night. Call them zingers, call them talking points, call them Madison Avenue-style taglines, the President has got to be able to sum up his policies, his record, and his vision in a way that can be spoon-fed to the American public or he will fail in his bid to gain re-election.
One of many things Mitt Romney did well last night was speak directly to the people who can help him win the election. He lied his ass off from start to finish, both about his “plan” (or lack thereof), the President’s record, and a ton of statistics about the American economy, but it only matters inasmuch as having real facts in play will effect our real lives should this incredibly dishonest and irresponsibly unqualified socio-political aristocrat ascend to the Presidency.
However, getting elected President right now is as much (or more) about selling the idea of your Presidency as it is selling yourself as a good candidate to do a tremendously difficult job. How else can you explain how America elects and re-elects a George W. Bush President? Other than the fact that he stole the first election in Florida.
George W. Bush is the worst President this country has ever seen, by several country miles, in its illustrious history, and Barack Obama may be one of if not the best. But if Mitt Romney can sell the American people the idea Barack Obama is the worst President ever, he will win in November. That’s the sales job he’s trying to do, and he was the winning salesman Wednesday night.
If President Obama believes that because he’s President, because he’s done a tremendous job under difficult circumstances, because he ultimately has truth and competence on his side, and because what Mitt Romney is selling is bullshit about the past and blatant fantasies about the future, he is wrong. Dead wrong. There is a sales job to be done here, and even a sitting President can’t be above that.
Selling sucks. It’s hard work, requires lots of lying and BS, and can often be a truly thankless job, especially when you don’t get the sale. It’s OK, even great, to be the salesman who doesn’t lie, BS and oversell. But it makes the job even harder, and thus you have to be willing to work even harder to make that “good” sale. After four years of carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders every day, does President Obama have the energy to execute on the sales part of this election? I certainly hope so.
Issues and ideas Obama left almost completely untouched last night: the 47% fiasco, government shouldn’t tell people what medical services they can have and yet the Republicans emphatically oppose a women’s right to choose, Romney hasn’t mentioned one loophole he would close. Not 1!! The President should have outright dared Mitt to name a specific in his plan. He should have asked for three, and said he’d be encouraged to hear one. Slam-dunk not even attempted.
The second substantial place where the President failed to get the debate job done last night is arguably more important than the first, especially in this election. Sure the absence of a clearly articulated vision is an issue, along with his meandering prose, the lack of concise take-aways, and the maddening penchant for waxing on and on about his beloved Great Aunt who, along with 47-90% of the American people) Mitt Romney and his elitist conservative billionaire friends could care less about.
Romney’s Job One last night was articulating a vision, as well as climbing out from under the well-deserved impression that he was an incompetent asshole with utter disdain for the majority of the electorate. Obama is a sitting President who has done an extraordinary job under near-impossible circumstances, and the truth is on his side, and the side of the work he’s doing.
Which is why President Obama should be armed mentally and literally with tons of information and real, verifiable statistics that he can refer to supporting both the factual achievements of his first four years in office, and refuting the unprecedented avalanche of lies that Romney uttered all night long. The truth is on Obama’s side, but if he can’t summon up the information to back up his achievements he’s going to lose the election. Right or wrong.
Points last night where Obama needed a long and verifiable list of facts to refute Romney’s lies and tremendous twists of factoids included: the dollars worth of closed loopholes it would take to offset a $5 trillion tax break (could take $20 trillion in closed loopholes to make up for that revenue…), Romney’s $760 billion healthcare claim (a hugely deceptive comment left completely unrefuted), the $100 billion in green tax breaks versus $2 billion a year for the oil companies (how about a $10 trillion war in Iraq fought for the oil?), and the 42% of GDP comment from Romney comparing us to Spain when the real number is that we spend 24% of our GDP
Romney dropped his un-facts, by the way, with an affable-enough grin on his face which, though forced, also reinforced that not only was this candidate capable of articulating an idea or two (vague or mathematically impossible though they may be), he’s also not the socially inept ideological horse’s ass he’s betrayed himself to be for the last month of this campaign. Had Sarah Palin pulled off an act like this in her debate, who knows who would have been debating on that stage last night, both as incumbent, and as challenger. Shudder to think that.
And yet, shudder to think that the President can’t come up with efforts in the next two debates that will leave last night’s lackluster performance in history’s dustbin. One concern is that the President may be insulated by Yes-Persons and staffers who will convince him that he needs to remain “above the fray” and thus more Presidential. Or even worse, that last night’s debate was not a fiasco. It was. Last night’s debate was one of the low-lights in the history of this country, while at the same time one of the highlights of Mitt Romney’s life. Much in the same way that 9/11 was a low-light for New York while simultaneously being the greatest gift America’s Radical Right ever received.
Did Obama seem more Presidential to you last night? In the real world, he’s the guy who’s doing a great job leading this country. In the imaginary world of faeries and unicorns, where a disturbingly high percentage of the American public both lives and votes (47% is too high; 5% is too high), the President’s challenger clearly has the ability to lie like Nixon, seem not fully responsible like Reagan and W., and act like he’s got a plan like Palin and at the same time win the first Presidential Debate.
Let’s hope, for all of our sakes, President Obama brings a more vital offense in the form of easy-to-understand statements of his achievements and vision, along with a much stronger defense, namely, facts to refute Mitt’s cavalcade of lies, to the next of these Dog-and-Ponies. Because while winning a debate doesn’t make Romney qualified to actually be President, not winning a debate makes Obama vulnerable to lose the election. And America simply can’t let Romney finish the job George W. Bush and Company started.
I’m itching to talk about what an historically, epically incompetent candidate Mitt Romney is. But he’s done such a good job making the case all by himself. Is it safe to say he’s making George W Bush seem like the Martha Stewart of the Right?
Now that the cynical — not to mention mathematically impossible — strategy of cutting taxes in the name of Debt Reduction will henceforth be known as The 47% Solution, are we finally safe from this double-talking, silver-spoon wielding, infinitely out of touch elitist-ocrat?
Maybe not, but it’s looking a lot better for the “rest of us” with his campaign on the ropes. With his Let Them Eat Cake 2012 gambits, Romney has put a number on his disdain for all non-billionaires. Thanks to hidden camera technology outing the self-serving narcissism behind his Less-Taxes-For-The-Rich-With-Loopholes-To-Be-Eliminated-Later stratagem, a lot of questions are being answered (de-facto):
Q: Why so few details in the Romney Economic Plan?
A: Because the “Plan” is called Screw the Other 99% Without Letting Them Know.
Q: Is Trickle-Down Economics really another name for the Screw the Other 99% Without Letting Them Know Plan?
Q: Can a candidate who is shifty like Nixon, sheltered like Reagan, latently unintelligent like Quayle, smug and condescending as a W., and willfully ignorant a la Palin lay low long enough to avoid exposure as supremely unqualified to be President of the United States?
A: Um, No. Hopefully.
Now that Romney has pooched this race so badly he’s even gotten the mainstream Republican media on his case — something W. managed to avoid until long after he’d been “elected” twice — we’re getting the chance to see what a cornered Mitt looks and sounds like (hint: it’s not pretty), plus the rare moment that the Democrats can go for the jugular. It’s easier to do so when the other party is so off-the-charts cuckoo.
Apparently the conservative platform includes the following planks:
1) There is a difference between “rape” and “forcible rape.” Nice use of semantics, Guys.
2) A woman’s body is able to selectively fend off pregnancy from unwanted insemination, therefore negating the need for that out-dated twentieth century invention, birth control.
3) The lazy, under-achieving 47% who don’t pay taxes because sales tax and Social Security tax and real estate taxes, etc. aren’t really taxes (?), don’t get the genius of the trickle-down economy and thus don’t deserve the sporadic stream that the upper class have been trickling down on them for the last several decades. (Tag-line: This Trickle-Down Economy Needs Flomax!)
4) When 1% of the country controls 90% of the wealth, that’s The American Dream in action. When the other 99% attempt to address these economic inequities, it’s Class Warfare.
5) If you don’t have anything nice to say, obstruct the President, accuse him of being a Muslim, and keep on cutting your own taxes.
6) Any religious ideology that isn’t Judeo-Christian is pure evil. Any religion that is Judeo-Christian (or the ordained Capitalist ministry of the holy $$$) is inherently righteous.
Religion: not a fan. I believe it’s the cause of 90% of the world’s war and strife, and 95% of all human hypocrisy. But if we don’t learn how to be the leaders of the free world in terms of respecting everyone’s right to practice their personal religion freely in private, we are going to escalate violence every single time.
Yeah, it’s not great that the penalty for blaspheming the Islamic deity is death. Kind of harsh. But is it the most important part of our freedom of speech that we get to blaspheme other people’s Gods? I would argue that our freedoms end when other’s freedoms begin. For example, it’s great to express yourself by juggling chainsaws, but not when you’re in a crowded movie theatre.
The anti-Muslim propaganda film/trailer “The Real Life of Muhammad” appears to exist solely to offend the sensibilities of the Middle Eastern culture that’s still angry with America for our brutal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq. If you’ve watched this film, actually watched it, you would see how blatantly inflammatory it was meant to be. And it worked.
I would liken the intent of this film to the intent of, say, Saturday Night Live airing a sketch on Yom Kippur portraying the holocaust as a complete and utter fiction, making light of the mass murder of 6 million Jews in WWII and making Hitler seem like a misunderstood genius. What would the reaction be to that, do you think? I’m not saying it should be illegal to do so. It probably shouldn’t be. But I’m also saying, “Why do it?” Because if you do, you’ll be asking for it. And the director – Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, aka, Sam Bacile (aka Im Becile?) - got it.
You haven’t really arrived as an anti-Islam propaganda director until you’ve got your own fatwa. Rites of passage, indeed.
Nice of Mitt to step into the fray by immediately inserting his foot into his sliver-spoon coddled mouth. The former governor of Massachusetts – nice one, Massachusetts! – and his mean wife Ann are finding that it’s much easier to win a nomination from the Newts, Hermans and Sanitariums of the world by spouting myopic clap-trap than it is to get elected against a guy who’s done a pretty good job under lousy circumstances bequeathed by the last belligerent, out of touch Conservative Chief Exec.
Not that we’re out of the woods yet. Like a tick whose best friend is Rush Limbaugh, Mitt and Co have six more weeks to convince us that their particular brand of Lyme Disease is really ObamaCare on steroids. Hey, his “Shoot First, Ask Questions Later” foreign policy plan is still extremely popular in Florida. So I’m not counting my chickens till all the votes are counted. And not counted. And re-counted.
As ever, I am astounded, baffled and extremely extended by my sojourn to and from Burning Man. Say what you want, plan all you will, you never know what you’re going to get from that dusty box of chocolates till you take a bite. And even then who really knows for sure if it’s the luscious crème of cocoa, or just…dust.
Unlike many, whose journey included the process of finding a 2012 ticket out of scarcity (which ultimately morphed to abundance), my ticket and commitment to a 7th consecutive burn was sealed in Round 2 of the controversial, all but forgotten lottery. Going all the way I was, which is usually a good thing for this Gemini.
Ah, but good or bad…who’s to say? I’m sure I’ll be pondering this Burn for a great long while, playa-moments moving in and out of consciousness like psychic soul puzzles as the next 50 weeks of calendar time unfold. We ignore the messages of the playa, and our friends and peers and everything else for that matter, at our own peril. One trick I’m trying to teach myself is to ponder without obsessing, to analyze without picking to death, and to do my best to turn all the moments and lessons, high and low, into the rocket fuel of my lateral existences.
I’m a big believer in the transformative nature of the Playa. I have seen first hand how Burning Man has planted seeds in individuals, and in turn these individuals become catalysts within our society. Burning Man is much bigger than going to Burning Man, as evidenced by the numerical truth that there are more people who want to go than there are tickets. Its guiding principals transcend Playa-time and inform our evolving sense of community and culture.
As ever, I am always impressed by the ability of the Burning Man community to band together, co-create, and deliver an unrivaled experience to all who attend. It is, I reckon, a container and we are the payload. More power to all who make the pilgrimage, and commit whatever we will to the greater community, as well as the benefits to the evolution of ourselves. One of the biggest prizes of the journey. Difficult to explain, and way way more than sex, drugs and rock and roll. Promise.
If you’re curious, and you’ve never been, indulge yourself one day, buck up, and get there. I promise you the challenges have nothing to do with what you think the challenges will be. And the rewards are on a level beyond all other vacations, adventures, road trips, etc. when you commit, participate, listen, and let go.
Big lessons of the last year going into 2012 Burn:
1. When I say something about someone else, I’m usually also saying it about myself.
2. Butterflies mean you care. I am learning to treat performing like an athlete treats a big game. Physically and mentally.
3. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
4. Checking my ego with humility.
My commitment for this year’s Burn:
1. To curate the best possible lineup of music for the biggest and one of the best run institutions on the Playa – Disorient.
2. Be there to facilitate the performance, and experience, for all to cross-pollinate international talent connections with the Disorient crew and vibe.
3. Offer these opportunities to play music to fellow DJs without expecting anything in return.
4. To live with integrity within my commitments, and experience the rest of Burning Man beyond DJing, curating music, and participating in camp.
5. Take care of myself physically, without enabling injury or exhaustion.
6. Come back ready to rock and continue to produce new material from Day 1.
7. Take a look at the way I react to challenges and crises to continue being the best I can be “in the moment.”
Intentional take aways from this year’s Burn (related to my personal commitments):
1. Wrangling cars can be tricky.
2. The playa provides.
3. Preparation is our ally.
4. I only need half the things I bring with me. Next year, bring less.
5. The playa diet always works.
6. If it seems like a bad idea before leaving for the Playa, it will probably turn out to be an even worse idea on the Playa. Maybe not, but probably so.
7. Ask first, how have I created this?
Unintentional take aways from this year’s Burn:
1. For someone who has the ability to delight and sometimes even astound, I can – in my worst moments – be a bitter pill to friends and casual observers.
2. It’s both what I do, and the way that I do it that counts.
3. I almost never quit, contrary at times to good sense but usually to my benefit (and occasionally the benefit of the greater good).
4. Try as I might to keep my best-intended commitments, doing things that call for collaboration require an understanding that all who participate may not share my agenda and priorities, well-intentioned or otherwise.
5. Expectation and entitlement are not our allies. As ever.
That’s all I’ve got for now. May amend later.
Attempting to provide a list of friends and colleagues to give thanks. People, and our collective experience, are what matter, and I am completing a lap that took me to the darkest regions of wanting and having things to respecting the amazing gifts that we and our connectedness bring to each precious day.
With love, humility, self-reflection, pride and gratitude…
Rebecca/Ruby – co-pilot extraordinaire
Steve and Giggity
Michael – Driver to the Stars
Matt P for being in the right place at the right time; knew you’d figure it out
Deidre (thanks for the ice!! More than I could ask for
Jesse – Nice rally!!!
Arturo – great voyage for you. Very proud.
Bacon and Victoria
Eva – partner in crime Delivers.
EZ and the Crew of the Blackbird
Mindy (ink & pencil)
Topher – Good Man!
Camp Charlie and the Unicorn Crew
Pumpkin (your sunrise set rocked and ruled)
The entire crew of the Blackbird – love, respect, empathy and thanks
Coyoti – our communication turned the tide
Nemo & the crew of Nautilus X
Diva, Wolfie, Cos, Jeff, Jackie, BC, Todd and Ron for a perfect Thursday night
Syd – thanks for understanding; you will reimbursed literally and kharmic-ly many fold.
L & J Greenbot – many-fold
The Steampunk Saloon
Donald – Spaceman, you grew 10 years younger on the playa; happy to see it
Adam Freeland – great as you are, better than imagined
Marques Wyatt for 3 hours of pure bliss after the Burn
Rox – awesome Burn!
Saadhu/Peter – you are always there in spirit, Bro
CTC/CT3 – Large and in charge
Ally – back at ya!
Nick – thanks for a hook-up on the Unicorn Tuesday night
All who gave all at Disorient
Cos, Ana, Jeff and Joane
Pope and Napalm
Felguk and Lazy Rich – gotcha!
Professor Lacroix – heard it all; best Dome set of the week (for me)
Beau Robb – except for Beau
Fleetwood Smack – respect!
Brandy – rock star moment!
Wall Street – they rocked it so hard Thursday night they couldn’t burn it down till Saturday
Jessica – Temple Burn moment
Corey Endeavor Rosen
Warring – the eyes have it
Farilla & See
Diggs - with a <3 as big as the Playa
Bring The Awesome
Coachella 2012 Week 1 is in the books, and for those who wanted a do-over because they were unable to catch one or more of Weekend 1′s can’t miss moments, Coachella 2012 is for you.
There’s no getting around it: the vibe has changed. Yes, Coachella is still an important festival, and a great time. But it’s also increasingly become more rave-like as opposed to the eclectic, music-lover’s experiment it started out to be. Not just because of the dance music influence. In fact, Coachella could use another dance experience for a range of up and coming DJ/Producers more akin to the Gobi than the Sahara. The median age of festival-goers is dipping into the low 20s and as it approaches the teens, it’s going to be difficult to tell the difference between Coachella and pure raves like Electric Daisy Carnival, save for the Feists of the world.
That said, even the worst weather of the festival’s history couldn’t put a damper on Friday. Parking in Lot 2A (find it) by 3, I slogged through not one but two security checks and badge scans (why one wasn’t enough I do not know) and jumped into the fray with James on the Main Stage. I like the band, and their set was solid, but one of the secrets of my Coachella success is the AwesoMeter. Because there’s so much going on at one time (especially after sunset), if it ain’t awesome, I keep moving.
So I moved on into the Sahara Tent for SebastiAn’s likeable “Vote SebastiAn” set. French Electro House is big and getting bigger. And SebastiAn’s schtick was engaging and energetic without too much bombast. So I hung out a bit until the fist-pumping seemed superfluous and swung by the Outdoor Stage for Neon Indian. I was pleasantly surprised by the quirky but not too precious pop sound and the sly originality. Back to Sahara for Feed Me and some delectable electro-breaks that quickly became Big Dubstep. Good, but by no means ground-breaking. So onto Jimmy Cliff, cheerfully attempting to summon the sun with “I Can See Clearly Now,” and scoring with classics including “The Harder They Come” and “Many Rivers to Cross.”
Brief stops by GIRLS and Dawes, and then onto Madeon, a 17-year old electro house phenom who proceeded to drop what was, for me, the best set of the entire festival. The performance was beautifully paced, building in tempo, tone and drama, and ultimately delivering the emotional impact that I hope for when I catch a live music performance. One of the few acts was able to, and chose to, watch from beginning to end at the show, and the one I liked the most. Highest recommendations.
From Madeon to Madness, at the Outdoor Stage. Technically a ska band that crossed over by the end of the 80s, Madness’ stage show and sound felt big with its phenomenal horn section, and I loved it. M.Ward was too quiet for my mood at the moment, and Alessohad it going until the sound in the middle of the room fried out so I took a lap,
grabbed a bite to eat (Coachella really needs to work on the food options and pricing), caught a bit of Andy Caldwell rocking the Heineken Dome and headed over to Mazzy Star.
A fan of Hope Sandoval, and Mazzy Star’s earlier records, I was excited to see them live for the first time, and really enjoyed their set. The band was smoky and smooth, and Ms. Sandoval’s stage presence is epic. I caught most of the show, which closed with a swirling miasma of Awesome, before swinging by Atari Teenage Riot, whose blend of J-pop, punk rock, and MC Disco was both super cool and extremely funny. Loved it.
Afrojack‘s set at the Sahara was ultra-crowded, and his live set is good but not great, so I dropped by the Mojave Tent for a previous Coachella revelation, M83, but the sound there wasn’t loud enough for the crowd assembled (an issue that came up a couple of times over the weekend, especially at the Mojave and Sahara Tents), allowing me to catch plenty of The Black Keys on the Main Stage and the soaring guitars of Explosions in the Sky at the Outdoor Theatre, two of my favorite performances of the day.
I also was able to catch Stephan Jacob’s set at the Do Lab Stage, and thought it was one of the best I’d seen all day at any of the Coachella Stages. Stephan has had a great year as both a producer and a live performer, and his glitch-EDM set was loaded with the variety, energy and originality I’ve found lacking from a majority of the glitch-dance genre that’s become ubiquitous in the last few years. Great stuff, and proof positive that Stephan has arrived.
Swedish House Mafia’s much anticipated set was very good and a lot of fun. A rare Sahara-caliber act appearing on the Main Stage (others I recall are Chemical Brothers and Tiesto), the trio sounded great and the stage show was very cool. I sensed the aspiration of a Daft Punk moment and while that didn’t happen, the show did bring the Awesome and closed a very good day of music with a sizable bang.
A swing by Amon Tobin’s incredible visual art installation with music was also worth while. The visuals are some of the best and most beautiful I’ve seen at a major musical artist’s show. However, I was a little under-whelmed by Amon Tobin’s soundtrack. Clearly this is an artistic experience first, as opposed to a musical one. And as such, it is a breakthrough. Had the music brought the awesome the show would have also been among the day’s best.
Friday’s Top 10
- Explosions in the Sky
- Swedish House Mafia
- Mazzy Star
- Atari Teenage Riot
- The Black Keys
- Neon Indian
- Stephan Jacobs
I got off to a late start on Saturday, which ended up being a good thing, but did cause me to miss two acts I’d really wanted to see: fiREHOSE and the Buzzcocks. If you go to weekend 2 and manage to get there on Saturday by 4, please make some noise for the inimitable Mike Watt.
On the Polo Field, I began at the Do Lab stage and Pumpkin‘s always sunny performance. Pumpkin is also ready for prime time, and his set would be at home on several of the Coachella main stages. At the Sahara, Martin Solveig showcased the catchy, pop mentality that infused his dance-floor hits, culminating with last year’s monster “Hello.” Odd to end a show with a track called “Hello,” but it’s quite possible that if he played it first everyone would have left to check out other acts. Note to performers: if you’ve got that one huge hit in your repertoire, don’t drop it right away, build up to it.
Crossing back to the Main Stage I quickly sussed that Noel Gallagher’s Gnarly Wankers was basically an excuse to trot out a couple of Oasis oldies and put the burly-browed bad boy back on stage. Not Awesome. Speaking of Beatle-esque, I enjoyed Squeeze‘s sweet trip down memory lane. If you don’t know who Squeeze is, imagine a band that plays all the novelty songs from the Beatles catalogue like “Yellow Submarine” or “I Am the Walrus” without any of the “heavy” stuff.
Swedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso is much better in Swedish House Mafia. His solo material sounded brainless and ultra-ravey. In a little bit of a Saturday funk, I stopped by a curiously quiet set by Jeff Mangum on the Outdoor Stage and got one of the best surprises of the festival. Beautiful show, great discovery, and a magical little closing number that brought down the house. The Shins were good, as they usually are, and Kasabian brought the Awesome in a big way and will certainly be rewarded with a great tour this summer.
From here on out Saturday’s music was sensational, and I really had to hustle to catch the better part of all the great stuff happening up to Radiohead’s Main Stage closer. Flying Lotus was very cool, and is a blast behind the decks, though I’m still not sure he distinguishes himself in the increasingly crowded glitch-hop genre like SBTRKT, which followed him. Brief stops at Feist and David Guetta (ravey electro) and an extremely satisfying 30 minutes of Bon Iver (far more Awesome than I’d imagined) before a precious few moments of Miike Snow (a huge Coachella favorite).
Much as I like Miike Snow, I was extremely curious about Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and found their 12-piece industrial rock improvisation to be a jazz-influenced take on acts like Sigur Ros or Mogwai. One of the reasons I love Coachella. And after four hours of terrific variety, I, and around 100,000 of my new best friends were treated to a 90-minute Radiohead set.
No need to describe it, really. 90 minutes of Radiohead is a big Yes any day of the week. And on Saturday, unless you absolutely must check out ASAP Rocky, SubFocus (who I heard was terrific) or Kaskade, if you happen to be on the Polo Field in Indio, CA you should probably brave the crowd and enjoy one of the best rock bands in the world.
Saturday’s Top 10
- Bon Iver
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor
- Jeff Mangum
- Miike Snow
- Flying Lotus
Between Saturday and Sunday, I had the good fortune to perform a sunrise set at Coachella. Thanks to Grasshopper, Spaceman D., Jared, and Rudelgin (who also got to do a rockin’ set) I played at the Silent Disco in the campgrounds which wasn’t so silent. We played all night and I was on through to the sunset, which we all reckoned was the first time anyone had ever gotten to do that because they usually shut off all the sound well before 2 a.m.. Strike up another win for the silent disco, and all the good folks who are making it happen.
The sun being up and all, I decided to stay at the Polo Field through Sunday to make sure I could catch as much music possible. Noisia rocked the noon hour with heavy drumstep and breaks. First Aid Kit, the female Peter, Bjorn and John, played their hit Emmylou and a few other songs that reminded me of the hit song by First Aid Kit, Emmylou. I’m a big fan of Flux Pavilion & Doctor P, but I think they were not well placed at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. They should have been a closer, or at least playing after dark.
I love Santigold, and her set on the Main Stage was one of the best of the weekend. The band, her singing, her dancers, the tone, and that larger than life feeling made it a huge winner in the Sunday sunshine. Beats Antique had a great turnout at the Mojave, and I enjoyed the set both from up close in the tent, and from a distance, which gave the music some room to breathe. Check it out — if you move back a bit the music sounds really good in the open air of the Sunday afternoon.
This year, Sunday in the Sahara Tent is truly awesome. From 4 p.m. you have Porter Robinson, Dada Life (playing it a bit safe for my taste) and Nero, the booming dubstep duo that rocked it big time. Gotye plays a bunch of songs that are cleverly arranged and quirkily precious just like his big hit “Somebody That I Used To Know”. I’m a big fan of Justice, and their sunset show was fun if not consistently Awe-Inspiring. Girl Talk is excellent in the DJ format, and though it didn’t seem to make sense for that show at the Outdoor Stage, he really did a great job of building the set and taking his audience on a journey.
At the Drive-In (precursor to The Mars Volta) was solid but doesn’t blow doors like Mars Volta do. Florence + the Machine, who haven’t impressed me in the half dozen TV appearances I’ve seen them on, were great live and I feel like I’ve finally “got” them. DJ Shadow, who I think is one of the great performers in the world, didn’t really get me going this time around. Not sure if it was the night, or my mood. Seemed a little down-tempo to me. Modeselektor closed out the Mojave Tent with a killer performance. I’ve seen Modeselektor be good, and I’ve seen them be great, but their set at Coachella on Sunday was miles above.
To close the night, Mega-headliner extravaganza Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg was a lot of fun. Joined in person by Eminem and via hologram by Tupac, it was bigger and brighter than I would have guessed, and I enjoyed bouncing back and forth between Dre’s pop sensations and AVICII‘s big, happy house set that lasted over two hours at the Sahara. AVICII has something, and he’s going to get a chance to show the world on his big big tour coming this year. I’m not quite sure why he’s playing on a riser that’s a big, scary replica of his face morphed with the face of Michael Myers from the Halloween movies, but that detail aside the sound is really nice and eminently danceable. A sweet way to close down the weekend.
In conclusion — I’m a big fan of Coachella, and I’ll always believe in my heart that 36 hours of sunshine and a cross-section of some of the best musical acts in the world is a great way to spend a weekend in the spring. But the festival is also at a cross-roads. Having gone a long way to make it affordable as a music and camping event for teenagers and twenty-somethings, the promoters have maximized their event as a money-making machine at the expense of offering adults a less than awesome experience. It wouldn’t take all that much to change the trend — more seating, restrooms and shade for non-VIP customers, better and more reasonably priced food options, and a better entrance and exit experience for non-VIPs. For a $400 ticket, I don’t want to feel like a second class citizen. But I sure do love all of that music.
Sunday’s Top 10
- Florence + the Machine
- Beats Antique
- Girl Talk
- Dada Life
- Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg
Festival Top 10
- Bon Iver
- Explosions in the Sky
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor
- Swedish House Mafia
- Mazzy Star
Sorry I Missed…
- Sub Focus
- The Rapture
- WU LYF
- Hello Seahorse!
- We Were Promised Jetpacks
- Hello Seahorse!
- Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
Biggest Upside Surprises
- Bon Iver
- Jeff Mangum
- Explosions in the Sky
- Florence and the Machine
- Atari Teenage Riot
- Neon Indian
- Florence and the Machine
Biggest Downside Surprises
- Sebastian Ingrosso
- DJ Shadow
We know, U.S. UltraCons.
We know that it was you who built and brought down the house of cards that was the Iraq War, the Mortgage and Credit Bubble, and the Wall Street massacre to jump start the biggest American financial quagmire in nearly a century.
We know that it’s been you who has built the lion’s share of our $13 trillion deficit by cutting taxes on the rich, starting an illegal war in Iraq, spending nearly $10 trillion off-budget to fill your own military-fueled financial interests, and digging a hole so deep that we’ve had to have emergency sessions to protect the world’s biggest economy from a bankruptcy you yourselves have master-minded.
We know that it’s not just disingenuous of you to claim that Barack Obama is the cause of these economic and social maladies. We know that it’s not just politics or gamesmanship. We know that what you’re doing is nothing short of Orwellian double-speak, a well-poisoning lie crafted from your ever-expanding conservative dogma of lies — The War on Terror, The War on Drugs, Tax and Spend Liberals, Obama’s failed policies, The Liberal Media. On and on and on. We know how easily, ruthlessly, and consistently you perpetrate these lies, and we know for whom they are intended.
We know the reason why you are willing to spend money on everything under the sun except education, the arts, and social safety nets. We know why you hate the idea of making medicine more affordable and why you would sooner blow up the world than share all the money you make on guns, oil, bombs and death with the people whose sacrifices have given you the opportunity to control their money and their futures.
We know what you mean when you question the “birthplace” of Barack Obama. We know that even a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation there are many of you would love to have, in addition to all of your money, land, capital and power, the ability to make people who are not like you, whom you believe to be inferior, your servants. And we know that you have as many code words to mask your racist polemics as you do political maneuvers to make sure that the value of equality is as far from the American social dialogue as you can possibly displace it.
We know how much you hate everything that isn’t you or of you. And we know that it’s that hatred that, thanks to you, has brought much if not all of the Republican generated, completely unnecessary hardships we are facing in this country today.
We know that the political candidates you have trotted out for the 2012 election are easily the most shameful lot this nation has ever seen. Having set the bar so incredibly low with George W. Bush, you have managed to offer us nearly a dozen “hopefuls” who are – in defiance of logic and taste – as utterly lacking in intelligence, morality, integrity, good ideas and human warmth than W. and his angry overlord Dick Cheney.
We know that a two-man Republican race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich for the world’s most powerful elected office is akin to asking Dan Quayle and Karl Rove to compete in a winner-take-all mud wrestling contest. And we know why you give your constituents choices that pit Mean vs. Dumb while the rest of us try valiantly to clean up the mess you selfish ultra-conservatives have made.
And finally, we know that while all of us are ultimately responsible for the condition of our country and world, past, present and future, and we all need to work together to fix these problems, the obstructionism shown by the Congress and the subjectivity displayed by conservative judicial nominees has kept us stuck in a ditch while you figure out how to achieve your one and only political objective: taking back The White House.
We know. Yes, we know, and we know something else. We know you’re not getting away with it. We know that ultimately you probably won’t nominate Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon and your parochial and prejudicial character won’t stand for it. And we know that you probably will nominate Newt Gingrich because he’s a good old boy who will viciously attack President Obama and continue to perpetrate the veil of confusion you find infinitely more expedient than hard work and good ideas.
We know that your brand of anti-dialogue with racist undertones is as dead as the military-industrial economy you keep valiantly trying to resurrect. We know that an old, mean, hypocritical racist like Newt Gingrich is going to fight like a hungry pig with rabies but ultimately fail because he has no good ideas that look forward. At all.
And we know that, in spite of the obfuscation, the doublespeak, and the cries to the contrary, the faster we move your bad ideas to the dustbin of history, the sooner we will accelerate what President Obama has already accomplished — preventing a depression, staunching the economic bleeding, and slowing the unemployment rate that exploded under Bush/Cheney by shifting resources from the over-compensated and the military back to the under-represented 99%. And, no thanks to you, he is trying to shift the burden of the biggest debt in the history of humankind back to the people who created it: you, the selfish, the mean, the mercenary rich. Perhaps if enough of your lousy candidates lose their offices, as they should, we’ll see some more progress on that.
We know. We know, Republican Party. We know, Tea-baggers. We know, Mitt and Michelle. We know, Newt and Herman, how you use your power to make up for your shortcomings as men. We know, Rick Santorum, you racist. We know, Sarah Palin, how much you like to kill things. We know, John Boehner, crying man, that your entire agenda is to obstruct and defeat Obama. We know, Big Media, why you’d sacrifice the free speech of everyone to recoup a few million dollars you’ve been too lazy to earn with innovation, the way that Apple does.
We know. And because we know, we will find a way.