LeBron James Gets His Comeuppance

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I just love it when the arrogant get their comeuppance, don’t you?  Didn’t we all stand up and applaud when Leona Helmsley was incarcerated for tax evasion, and didn’t we laugh heartily when she proclaimed, “only the little people pay taxes”?  Weren’t we all in the theaters in 1982, rooting for Rocky to whoop up on Clubber Lang in Rocky III and shut him up for good?  Aren’t we all tired of Charlie Sheen’s shtick by now, even if we were mildly amused at first, and we’re all just waiting for his predictable and final implosion?  There is a built-in desire in all of us to see the boastful and bragging among us knocked down a few pegs, to watch the loud and proud become the meek and weak, for the conceited to be suddenly humbled, it’s human nature. 

Then there’s LeBron James, and I can confidently say, on behalf of real basketball fans around the world, James DESERVED his season to end the way it did, as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat tonight, 105-95, winning their first NBA championship in franchise history, four games to two. 

Anyone who watch the preseason extravaganzas, the overhype, the bold predictions of multiple championships before the new Heat team ever set foot on the court, knows what I am referring to.  Here is a cat who got ESPN to play along with his self-promotion, devoting an hour special to his announcement concering leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to go play inFloridawith Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and the rest of the Heat.  Instead of continuing to build the Cavaliers into a contender and staying in Ohio where he was considered a god, he left to chase a championship and, in the process, destroyed the Cavaliers as a franchise and decimated the moral of the city of Cleveland. 

Self-promotion is nothing new in American sport, and professional athletes are bred from the moment they show physical talent to believe the world revolves around them.  Every team in every sport has locker rooms full of such cocky little bastards, and to be honest, who’s going to tell them otherwise?  In all the major pro sports, even marginal players command seven-digit annual salaries.  At home, games are like rock concerts; on the road, they stay in the finest hotels and party all night long with the hottest girls in town.  Hell, if that were my lifestyle, I’d probably get a big head as well. 

LeBron James, however, is arrogance squared.  His most notable quote is, when asked what his greatest aspiration is, he is not remembered for saying he wants to be a great basketball player or a champion, a great Christian, a great husband or father, but a billionaire.  This is a cat who didn’t have just one or two of his high school games on ESPN, but most of his entire senior season.  This is a guy who, once he changed teams and got flack for it, made a commercial that basically said, what did you expect me to do?  He was raised to be arrogant, it is his nature at this point. 

There is a very rare set of athletes who are arrogant and can get away with it, because they’ve shown themselves to be unbeatable in the arena.  Perhaps no one talked more smack than Muhammad Ali, but then again, he backed it up with perhaps the best boxing of the 20th century.  Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player who ever lived, but because he won six championships with the Bulls, his gambling binges and his retirement to play minor league baseball are conveniently put on the backburner.  Barry Bonds was an arrogant sonofabitch for most of his major league career, and while there is nothing the average viewer could do about it as his allegedly steroid-enhanced swing of the bat broke Hank Aaron’s home run record, the same viewer will always retain the satisfaction in knowing he never won a World Series.  Joe Namath, Deion Sanders, Dennis Rodman, they all ran their mouths, they all were cocky bastards on the field and on the court, but they all backed it up with great statistics and championship rings. 

At least for now, LeBron James is not one of those.  

It’s not so much that the Heat lost the series that’s so rewarding, it’s the way they lost it… or rather, the way James lost it.  Going into the season, the Heat were already crowning themselves champions, and James was being touted as one of the greatest ballplayers ever, if not the best.  They had a solid regular season and went through the 76ers, Celtics, and Bulls in workmanlike fashion.  They won Game 1 of the Finals and were up by 15 in the final minutes of Game 2 before the Mavericks caught fire, making an unbelievable comeback to win the second game, and the Heat were never again the same.  They won the third game to go up 2-1 before the Mavs took the next three and the title. 

That comeback in Game 2 might have broken the Heat, but it was James’ performances in the late stages of the game that killed them.  He deferred shooting to Wade, and when he did shoot, he often settled for outside jumpshots.  His game stats were okay for the most part, but then again, you look up and see he had EIGHT POINTS in Game 4.  He was often assigned to cover Jason Terry on the defensive end, and while Terry is a true scorer and no slouch at all, for him to light James up as he did on a nightly basis was just painful to watch if you’re a Heat fan; even Terry was getting into the cocky mouthiness, boldly stating James could not guard him for an entire seven-game series. 

In other words, James proved himself fallible, and that’s the worst thing a man raised to be arrogance incarnate can do. 

At the start of the year, James was considered the leader of one of the most physically talented rosters ever to grace an NBA court.  By the end of Game 6, he was a role player on Dwayne Wade’s team, and a disappointing one at that. 

For the team on the losing end of a championship series, the offseason is usually excruciating, having been so close to a title and a ring, thinking and rethinking what would have been if they had done this differently or that just a little better.  Unfortunately for James and the Heat, the collective bargaining agreement between team owners and the players’ union will expire on June 30, which may mean the same sort of lockouts and potential delay to starting next season, just as is going on in the NFL, which will mean an even longer time to sit and stew over this.  Even worse, if the owners end up getting what they want—a hard salary cap and restructured revenue sharing—it may mean the talent in Miami will no longer be affordable, and the team that talked about multiple titles may be broken up after just one season and no championships to show for all their smacktalk. 

This is all on James.  Few will say the same for Dwayne Wade, he’s always been in Miami, he’s been through the hard times, he’s been the centerpiece in this team that’s gone from the lottery to the Finals, winning it all in 2006; he’s been the soul of this team for years and deserves any and all praise that comes his way.  Chris Bosh will be let off the hook as well, he was considered the one of the Big Three with the most improvement ahead of him, and as this season progressed, so did his rebounding and defensive presence.  James is going to get all the flack for this, on several levels, and it’s probably justified. 

James made it clear that he is not what he was built up to be.  He is not the savior of any given franchise.  He couldn’t win a title in Cleveland when he was THE show, and he couldn’t win a title in Miami when he was one of the Big Three.  He left the team he helped build into a contender because he knew they weren’t going to get over the hump, so he did the easy thing and left to go to a team he felt could win it all.  The hard and perhaps more honorable way to a title and true basketball immortality was more than he could handle, so he laid up, sold out, for the sake of what he thought would be an easier ring with the Heat.  In the end, he looked lost on the court he used to dominate.  He gave up his shot on the offensive end and he was getting smoked on the defensive end. 

LeBron James has been exposed, and if and when the next NBA season starts, every team is going to be gunning for him, to take advantage of his now glaring weaknesses, to question his heart, to shut his mouth.  He’s long been called King James, but a king with no crown is no king, and it’ll be interesting how he comes back from this, knowing he’s actually a mere mortal. 

The truly great players acknowledge their weaknesses and use the offseason to work on them.  Magic Johnson always worked on his weaknesses, and every year you found him even better, this year with his three-point shot, the next year driving to the hoop harder, and as a result, the Lakers won five titles.  Larry Bird was never the most gifted athlete, but he spent hours every day, perfecting his fallaway shots, even will into his thirties when he was winning championships and MVP’s.  Ray Allen, the greatest three-point shooter of all time, is still at the court four hours before game time, working on his shot.  This has to be that kind of offseason for James, not just to work harder, but to work smarter, toward something definite, improving on what failed him in the Finals. 

Even if what failed him was his heart. 

All year long, I vocally rooted against the Heat, as I think many basketball fans did.  It was that kind of season, and it was that kind of Finals, where people weren’t so much rooting for the Mavs to win as they were the Heat to lose.  I’ll savor this for a while, even more so in the knowledge that LeBron James is going to have this gnaw at him the whole time.  I hope he comes back, shuts the fuck up, and plays the game with a fresh sense of humility and respect.  Talent alone does not win.  Neither does arrogance.  James found all this out the hard way.

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Even More Excessive than Morgan’s Homophobic Rant

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The fact that Tracy Morgan’s stand-up act has degenerated into puerile observations of oral sex (getting turned on listening to women choking on his cock) and fagbashing (claiming if his son were gay, he’d better step up and talk like a man or Morgan himself would stab him to death) isn’t so shocking to me as it might be to others; most of what passes for comedy these days is shock value, laughter from discomfort instead of thought-through commentary and clever perspective.  If Morgan wants to present himself as a comedian worthy of the gutter, that’s his business, as it is the business of others to not spend another dime watching him on stage or in the movies.  He’s just a sign of the times, ranting against gays last week just as Michael Richards just couldn’t stop himself from repeatedly shouting the word Nigger a few years ago.  It is what it is, the nasty blister that keeps the unspoken ugliness of the American id under control suddenly popping for all to see. 

What irks me in this is the liberal (and I am liberal, which means I can be honest about a tendency in my own ranks) desire to equate hate speech against gays with other forms of hate speech, mostly that against minorities, especially African-Americans.  While most liberals find nothing funny about Morgan’s rant inNashvillelast week, some make the attempt to link what he said to racial slurs, trying to make the point that all hate speech is equal and heinous and thus identical in every way. 

Here’s what addictinginfo.org had to say on the subject: 

Recently, Tracy Morgan, star of Thirty Rock and SNL veteran, went on a homophobic rant. If Morgan had been a White man talking about African Americans, his career would be over, but mocking Gays and Lesbians is acceptable to many in our society. (Tex Shelters, 6/11/2011) 

I agree with the liberal tenet that hate speech is not free speech, as designated and protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Hate speech, especially that which incites violence, deserves to be recognized as pernicious and sociopathic, and there is no place in a civilized society for it.  We can discuss whether or not Morgan’s rant constitutes hate speech, if it was something he truly believed, or if his mouth suddenly ran amok and out of control (he has since apologized for his remarks, realizing he went too far).  What I don’t agree in this aspect is the desire to pigeonhole something as hate speech, call it out, toss it in the generic hate speech trash can, and forget about it, lumping it in with all the other forms, where gaybashing, misogyny, anti-Semitism, race baiting, and all the other insults heaped on those based on gender, religion, skin color, or sexual orientation, are collected and mashed together. 

In many cases, African-Americans are appalled by the comparison that discrimination against gays is equitable with the discrimination blacks have faced throughout American history, and in many cases still facing today.  Making such comparisons dummies down both the gay and the African-American communities, patronizes both experiences, and carves their histories up for ulterior motives.  To compare the murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man brutally killed in Wyoming some years ago, with the murder of Emmitt Till, a black teenager brutally killed in Mississippi in the 1950’s, is apt only if you’re going to talk about how ignorance and hatred led to both murders; you have to go further than that if you’re going to talk about hate speech and hate crime, and when you do that, you realize what led to Shepard’s death (a couple of drunks picking him up at a bar and then killing him) is not the same as what led to Till’s murder (whistling at a white woman, a serious violation in the Jim Crow South, led his murderers to hunt him down, beat him nearly to death, and then weight him down and drown him in the river). 

Hate speech and hate crime deserve further analysis than “That’s hate speech and it’s bad, and there’s no point in talking more about it.” 

Hate speech directed at one faction of society is not interchangeable with it being directed at another faction.  Hate speech targeting gays is not the same as hate speech targeting blacks, or women, or Jews, or Muslims.  Unfortunately, it all gets lumped together, and it’s left there. 

As a result, bloggers use hypothetics.  If Morgan were a white comic, talking like that about blacks, his career would be in tatters, that’s the point in the above-mentioned article.  If Morgan were, say, a conservative comic, talking like that about Muslims, odds are he’d be embraced by Michael Savage, who has a long history of broad-brushing all Muslims as complicit murderers who want to do nothing but kill as many Americans as they can.  What if Morgan were a spokesman for the beef industry, talking like that about vegetarians, would every tree hugger seek to stone him to death?  Yes, that’s a bad analogy, but in truth, so is comparing Morgan’s fagbashing with racial slurs, because they’re apples and oranges. 

Morgan has shown contrition concerning his rant, and whether NBC orHollywoodseek to distance themselves from him is their business.  Others can get themselves twisted up in their vitriol over this.  Me, it’s just a sign of the times, another comedian losing his mind and ripping open an American scab.  I take it for what it is and don’t seek to make it into something it isn’t.  Morgan’s conduct, while reprehensible, should be taken in its own context.  It may be considered hate speech, spewing violent rhetoric against homosexuals, but the conversation should stay on that track, about how gays are still perceived and talked about in an America that alleges to have grown up in the last fifty years, an America that tolerates Gay Pride rallies and went through Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  That’s a worthy discussion to have, how our society can claim to be tolerant and open-minded on one hand, yet in many dark corners still equates AIDS with homosexual deviance and the television stereotype is of flamboyance, obsession of image, and reckless promiscuity. 

But let’s keep it in perspective.  Morgan is not a white comic, and his dialogue was not directed at blacks.  The path the collective African-American community has taken to reach 2011 is very different than that of the gay community, hence the insults and violence heaped upon them come from different places.  Morgan, at least to me, is not a hatemonger; he merely fell into the American trapping, the belief that homosexuals are the only minority in this country not protected by political correctness, so it’s still acceptable to make fun of faggots.  We can define the act as hate speech if we wish, and we can consider whether or not that’s what Morgan truly believes in his heart of hearts, but the conversation must remain within that context.  We show the whole episode much more respect when we talk about it on its own merits and not make shoddy comparisons in order to make it look even more heinous.  Morgan should not be let off the hook so easily, hopefully there will be some consequences for his actions, but that’s up to his employers to decide, and that’s up to those who pay to see his stand-up act to decide. 

His remarks, however, should be seen in their own light, in and of themselves, and not bastardized to fit bad logic, hypothetical comparisons, and political agendas.  It dummies down the whole broad discussion of hate speech, and it’s undignified for both the gays he insulted and the blacks the bloggers poorly attempted to compare this to. 

I do find it a little funny and ironic, a grown man with a girl’s name having the temerity to get on stage and lash out against gays.  Here is a man who once played a caricature of a prison homosexual, blowing kisses at Adam Sandler in the remake of The Longest Yard; it makes me wonder if THAT was a hint into the real Tracy Morgan, and his rant in Nashville last week was just fagbashing for the sake of appearing butch, self-loathing run amok, that sort of thing.  I don’t know about any of that, it’s all speculation, but what I do know is, for as excessive as his rant was, it’s even more excessive to try to compare it to similar remarks directed at African-Americans.  It’s all hate speech, but it deserves more than slapping the label on it and moving on.

Harold Camping and His Personal Jesus

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Dear Harold,

What part of Matthew 24:36 don’t you understand? 

Sincerely, Jesus. 

Harold Camping can’t be a stupid man.  His eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, and he’s tried several times to set the date of His arrival, including his May 21 prediction, one he was so sure of that Family Radio sought to buy up billboard space around the world to cry out the news.  He’s been on the airwaves for five decades, offering his teachings to world audiences.  He has a degree in engineering fromBerkeley.  By no means is Harold stupid, and yet, in the weeks leading up to the fizzled fulfillment of his latest prophecy, he’s been mocked by most, or at least by most people I know. 

Being a man of God, he no doubt knows his Gospels, which begs one to wonder, if Jesus Himself said this 

But on that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels in Heaven, but my Father alone. (Matthew 24:36)

then who the hell does Harold think he is to arrogantly try to do what the angels themselves cannot do and declare he himself knows the hour of our Lord’s arrival? 

This is not the first prophecy of this kind, and unfortunately, it won’t be the last, for Christians have been trying to predict the Second Coming since Jesus ascended.  It’s also not the first outlandish declaration Harold has made, apparently cutting-and pasting scripture to make it fit his growingly erratic world view.  As the story goes, Harold believes he can do what only God can do because he considers his predictions the “unsealing” of special knowledge:

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. And He said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. (Daniel 12:4,9)

This is the sort of thing that turns many people away from religion and erodes the faith of many others, the notion that a Pharisee can take scripture and completely disregard it when it becomes inconvenient.  The Bible is the unerrant word of God UNLESS IT DOESN’T FIT MY AGENDA.  Even the words of Jesus Himself can be tossed aside at leisure, even though the very definition of Christian is to be one who emulates Christ, who cherishes His words, who follows His example.  Harold’s methodology gives the entire religion a bad name, and it fuels the growing belief that Christianity is a sham, a cynical game of control and hypocrisy, with passages to be taken out of context or taken out completely as it suits the presenter on a given day.  Somehow the words of Christ do not apply to Harold because he said so, and for his audience on Family Radio, that’s good enough for them. 

I don’t dismiss Harold as a doddering old man, an evangelist gone haywire, I don’t cast him aside as senile or foolish.  Truly, I consider Harold with disdain, even anger.  He is the ultimate dicktease, using the most beloved name in recorded history, the deep inner desire in all who call themselves Christian to see their Savior in all His splendor finally arrive, rid this world of the mediocrity and corruption and true evil we’ve done to it, and take us all in His loving arms and take us away, and for what? 

I don’t know of anyone who believed in Harold’s prediction, obviously there were plenty who believed in it fiercely enough to engage in a major advertising campaign, but none of them were in my circles.  I didn’t believe it.  I believe in Jesus, His own words, and the all-too-obvious truth I’ve come to have faith in, that once you shed all the dogma, all the history, all the theology and manipulation and madness conjured by men and monsters, all the false idolatry and true wars, there is still something good and decent, a pristine kernel, great and pure, untouched by the fingers of imposters, unblemished by centuries of neglect, and that, my friends, is Jesus Himself, His deeds, His words, His acts as His feet touched His world.  As such, when He tells me 

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:7) 

I tend to set aside all men, all prophets, all charlatans like Harold.  We are in an age of literacy, there is no need for middle men, no used car dealers trying to sell us a lemon and call it salvation.  We all can find the Lord for ourselves, and as such, I don’t let anyone, no matter how high he’s risen in society, stand between me and my Jesus.  I am empowered, as are all who read the Gospels for themselves and discover that what one shares with Christ is not a religion, but a relationship. 

So why can’t I just go along with the mocking crowd, laugh at Harold and not feel more?  I feel that Harold is doing all Christians a great disservice by stringing them along like this, giving one bogus prediction after another, because it gives a certain segment of believers a false hope.  It plays on that one aspiration we all share once we start calling ourselves Christian, and that is the desire to see our Lord, to know our faith is valid, to understand that the hard work, the devotion, the heartache, was not in vain.  Harold pulled that string, and we all were yanked, even those who mocked, even in the slightest, they too held their breaths when they woke up on Saturday morning, hoping, just so minutely, that maybe, incredibly, he was right. 

I don’t see the Second Coming as a validation of faith, that’s perhaps what others seek, but not me.  For me, the event means cleansing, erasing, the end of the old, the wicked, the corrupt, and the start of something new.  It means, no matter how bad we wreck this planet, no matter how cruel we’ve all been to one another over the years, no matter how man has bastardized the Gospels and done the most evil things imaginable in His holy name, we get a do-over.  Everything before is a Mulligan, and with fresh eyes, with revelation and enlightenment, with everyone on the same page for once and no more doubt as to who governs the universe, we can do His work, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  

And if He doesn’t come as I live, I’ll come to Him as I die, and that’s fine by me.  

Harold owes the Christian world an apology, not for being wrong, but for being arrogant in the first place, for tweaking the most precious longing in all our hearts, for spending his life on a fool’s errand and taking so many of God’s children along for the ride.  Worse, to call himself a Christian, and to completely ignore the word of Christ, would have been called heresy in a different era.  He is everything we’ve come to despise in American evangelism, the excuse many give to losing their faith, the taint that too many point to as the epitome of all things Christian.  How many followers did he dupe, how many listeners to his radio show gave their savings so billboards could go up all over the world, how many souls rejoiced at the possibility and broke at the reality, and how many atheists pointed a finger at him and snidely said THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR YOUR BELIEF IN AN ABSENT MESSIAH AND THE SNAKEOIL SALESMEN WHO PIMP HIM.   

Ultimately, all he did was paint another strange chapter in modern Christianity, and he is destined to be ridiculed along with Fred Phelps and the God-Hates-Fags crowd that boisterously pickets the funerals of dead soldiers and says killer tsumanis are God’s punishment for tolerating homosexuals; with Jerry Falwell and those who believe Tinky Winky and Spongebob Squarepants are pushing the gay agenda on toddlers; with Pat Robertson and the politicos who have made Jesus into a wedge issue and sought to do the very opposite of Christ’s teachings in driving people apart; with Joyce Meyer and Creflo Dollar and the rest of the prosperity preachers who push the materialist line that your financial success is 100% proportionate to your salvation and that your poverty is proof of your lack of faith; and with Franklin Graham, who has inherited his father’s legacy but not his father’s inspiration and would rather use his position to strut on Fox News instead of postulate on the Gospels. 

This silly zoo is Harold’s deserved fate, even he has to know it to be so, he’s not a stupid man. 

When a prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah has not spoken: the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:22) 

Well, maybe not stupid, but after a lifetime of preaching, certainly no longer worthy of anyone’s attention.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Laugh at FOX News

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There’s a little game I play with myself when I go to my mother-in-law’s house.  She always has FOX News on the big screen TV, and not wanting to be polite in asking her to change the channel, I’ve developed a mind trick.  Whenever the pundit shows are on, whenever Sean Hannity starts his shtick on how liberals are maniacal and subversive, when Bill O’Reilly gives his version of no-spin which is to criticize Democrats and leave Republicans off the hook, when Glenn Beck pulls out his chalkboard and start his smarminess that would get the average 12-year-old slapped, I imagine the whole production set to a laughtrack, and the pundits are actually comedians.  It turns the whole network into a long episode of The Colbert Report, and just as I’m laughing heartily at Stephen Colbert, I can also laugh at the Right-Wing Noise Machine. 

I have to be able to laugh at them, because if I didn’t, they would drive me crazy, just as they’ve driven me crazy in the past, just as they continue to drive people crazy today.  The complete crap that comes out of their mouths is often mean, false, and downright ludicrous.  The lengths they go to in their pursuit of demonizing Democrats and leftists boggle the mind.  That’s their whole raison-d’etre, to be the pitbull for the American right, running interference for Republicans, saying the vicious and preposterous things GOP Senators and Congressmen are thinking so they don’t have to actually say it themselves.  Half of what comes out of their mouths is spoken just to piss off liberals, you have to know this to be true by now.  

You have to laugh at them.  Don’t give yourself over to hyperbole, this is not world-class propaganda, and Roger Ales is not a nouveau Joseph Goebbels.  This is shtick.  FOX News is a one-trick-pony, they are naked about it, they don’t even try to hide it.

But you have to put this in the proper context.  FOX News is just one network.  They are not noted for journalistic integrity.  Their show hosts are hired on two qualities:  attractiveness and willingness to say whatever the producers put on the prompter.  While there is a string of right-wing blogs out there with modest popularity, like The Free Republic and The Drudge Report, most Americans don’t consider them newsworthy enough to take them serious.  Everyone knows their business by now. 

Liberals and other sane citizens need to learn how to turn THIS...

Every so often, though, because too many liberals consider them dangerous in their ability to get into American living rooms, they are taken seriously, probably more so than FOX takes itself.  A prime example was last year, during the Shirley Sherrod fiasco, where the FOX intelligentsia took a small snippet from a speech she made and tried to make it seem she and the NAACP were racist; it was so successful that the NAACP berated her and she was fired from her federal job; it took CNN, a network still clinging to journalistic integrity, to set the record straight, to show the entirety of the speech in question, to interview Sherrod and others mentioned in the speech, and instead of this being an issue of racism, it became an inspiration on how one can transcend racist thought.  At the end of the day, FOX was ROTFLOL, saying transparently, if liberals contend this network is just lies and propaganda, why did they jump so high to initially condemn Sherrod when we aired our story?  Instead of apologizing for their actions, FOX simply spun the story to make it seem like there was something, nothing they could put their finger on, but something still amiss in the whole affair, something still smells fishy about Sherrod, and the story went away. 

...into THIS.

And apparently, so did liberal memory of the event. 

This is not an attempt to bash FOX.  They are a known quantity.  We know them for what they are.  They are the untrained dog that poops on the floor and tears up the couch when you’re gone for the day, and then looks at you like it was your fault for bringing it home in the first place, you knew I was going to do this, why are you blaming me? 

This is, however, a criticism of American liberals who still, after all these years, get so bent out of shape whenever FOX says something ridiculous. 

This week, while the world is praising the United States for finding and killing Osama bin Laden, and while much of the world is patting Barack Obama on the back for showing leadership and determination in collecting intelligence and ordering Navy Seals to pull this off, FOX is trying to gain political points for former president George W. Bush.  I’m reading liberal comments on the Internet, primarily on Facebook, agog with FOX’s attempts to spin all this into a GOP win.  My response to those comments is, are you really that surprised?  You know they’ll never give Obama respect, you know their entire reason for being is to spin anything and everything to favor Republicans and demonize Democrats.  Why, then, are you dismayed when they act as they’ve acted for the last twelve years? 

Here’s the answer.  Because liberals think FOX’s lies and dirty tricks are effective, and any American who watches one of their pundit shows for five minutes will be whirled away into their web of deceit.  Yes, there’s a sucker born every minute, and no doubt there are viewers that take their broadcasts for gospel.  They have yet, however, to truly damage American politics, with Democrats competing just as well with Republicans on a national level, thank you very much.  FOX does not accurately depict conservative values; they only accurately reflect the viciousness of Washingtondiscord.  What is going on in this country, from a tanked economy to tanked foreign policy to never-ending wars for vague reasons, these are all problems started long before FOX put together their news network, and now they’ve all come to their natural conclusions.  FOX did not put Tea Party candidates in Congress, that was a reaction to the status quo, and voters primarily vote by their pocketbooks.  They did not get George W. Bush in the White House, the Supreme Court trumped the Constitution to do that.  Everything you see today is the push-pull of politics, and after enjoying most of the 20th century with sane, equitable liberal politics, the last thirty years have seen the conservatives push back, until they’re on the brink of undoing the New Deal and destroying people’s rights to collective bargaining. 

All of this, however, took decades to come to fruition.  FOX did not cause these problems, they’re only taking these problems and spinning them to make Democrats look bad.  Had FOX had real influence, the Democratic Party would have died years ago, with Republicans enjoying one-party rule, and theUSwould have become Ayn Rand’s wet dream, a conservative paradise. 

This is only my opinion, but FOX only has power if we give it to them.  We get irritated by them because we allow them to irritate us.  At this point, I’ve come to believe that FOX, like Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, thrives on having two audiences, a small but loyal audience that gets real entertainment from the show, and a larger one that hangs on their every word to find the lies, to debunk the propaganda, to discover new reasons to get pissed off.  Liberals form the latter, and at some point, we have to recognize this and pull the plug. 

Thus, I have to tell you, if you watch Glenn Beck with the premise in mind that he’s a comedian spoofing conservative zealotry, you will be able to laugh at it.  You won’t need Jon Stewart to do it for you, as he often devotes much of The Daily Show doing.  You’ll be able to do it yourself.  Thus, when you’re flipping stations on the TV, and you inevitably linger on FOX for a few seconds to see what crap is flying from their cakeholes today, you’ll be able to move on with a chuckle, because you’ll see it as comedy, not propaganda.  Life’s too short to worry about this, and you have to remember, we’re liberals, we champion the First Amendment, we support diversity of thought, even if we don’t agree with it.  Knowing half of what comes out of Sean Hannity’s mouth is said just to piss you off, you can’t give him power over you, you have to laugh it off, you have to see him as a comedian instead of a liar. 

Or just change the station and move on. 

Either way, keep FOX in the proper context, and don’t make them into more than they are by giving them power over you.  Kill them with laughter.

LIBS! CONS! For Once, Don’t Screw Up the Celebration!

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Happy Americans--not happy liberals or happy conservatives

CONSERVATIVE SYCHOPHANT:  You liberals have no business giving Obama credit for killing Osama bin Ladin.  If you had your way, we would have quit the War on Terror years ago.

LIBERAL APOLOGIST:  Obama finished what Bush and the conservatives couldn’t.  You all had your chance to get him, and you blew it.  Get on your knees and kiss Obama’s butt, once and for all. 

CON:  We all know liberals hate America and were rooting for bin Laden all along.  You bitched and whined for eight years, and now you’re suddenly on the bandwagon.  Who do you think you are? 

LIB:  And we all know you’re going to say Obama didn’t really get bin Laden, that this is all a lie, a hoax, a counterfeit.  Are you going to demand to see bin Laden’s birth certificate as well? 

CON:  Osama, Obama, you know they’re the same kind of cat.  You know Barack Hussein Obama is hiding something, admit it. 

LIB:  The only thing we’ll admit to is that we live in a country where too many people who just happen to be right-wingers will stretch themselves into any shape necessary to undermine a president who was voted in with a majority. 

President Obama hadn’t even stepped into the East Room at the White House to deliver his statement that American forces successfully killed Osama bin Laden.  The political partisans were already on Facebook, delivering their shots at one another, trying to score points over one another.  Rigor mortis hasn’t even set in on the body of the leader of Al-Qaeda, and already the hacks are trying to make this event just another round in the never-ending nitpicking duel that defines American politics. 

Watching CNN tonight (as I often due when there’s news to be had), I witnessed the crowd gathering at the White House fence, slowly growing in size, becoming more and more exuberant, singing The Star Spangled Banner, chanting USA! USA! USA! and waving placards and flags for all to see.  No one was wearing shirts that said BUSH IS A MORON or GO BACK TO KENYA, OBAMA.  There were no fights to be broken up, no zealots saying the most caustic things, no adolescent bickering, just an impromptu party to celebrate a long-awaited event, an event a lot of us thought wouldn’t come.  After years of hunting for bin Laden, even the most patriotic and stubborn among us had to wonder if he’d ever be caught, if he’d be able to grow old and die of natural causes.  This is an event all Americans can and should rejoice, and as I watch that crowd gather, I’m not thinking they’re all conservatives who feel exonerated for supporting the War on Terror, or they’re all liberals who believe this will be a major step toward Obama’s re-election next year; they’re all Americans, with a capital A. 

It’s come to cliché status, how major events are supposed to inspire us to drop our political differences and embrace one another as brothers and fellow citizens, Americans across the board, we are all in this together.  Perhaps it was that way in the days following 9/11, when we were all shocked to the bone to turn on CNN and watch the World Trade Center burning, both towers no less.  We all wanted to get the bastards who did this, and we all were rooting for our government, the Bush administration, Republicans and Democrats alike, to pursue the villains to their deaths, hopefully sooner than later, but nonetheless, with dogged relentlessness and unbridled passion.  Truly, that was probably the last time this country has felt such togetherness, the last time partisans might have dropped their ideologies for just a day or two and reflected that what we have inAmericais special and rare, and it deserves protection.  What have we seen in the nearly ten years since?  We watched conservatives turn cold and bitter toward liberals, and we’ve seen liberals nitpick every single freaking thing the Bush administration did.  We watched other major crises hit our country—blackouts, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, economic catastrophes—and in each case, instead of camaraderie and unity, we’ve been at each other’s throats.  Partisans defend their president and ridicule critics, and hacks see the president as an enemy of the state. 

This event, however, must be different.  FOX News must stop the perpetual assault on Obama and give him a modicum of credit.  He was the one who called on his national security team to gather information on bin Laden, and for the six weeks leading up to today, there were no leaks to the press, there was no political posturing, just the gathering of information and the forming of a solid plan that was practiced in the hope of eliminating the terrorist without collateral damage.  As such, no Americans were killed in the firefight, and our soldiers were able to take bin Laden’s body into custody and confirm his identity.  For those who questioned Obama’s leadership, he stepped up to the plate when the opportunity arose, and without blinking or tipping his hand, his team came through. 

CON:  No way.  All the credit should go to our men and women in uniform.  The soldiers that risked their lives deserve all the gratitude, not the guy sitting comfortably and thousands of miles away from the fight. 

LIB:  That’s what we said for eight years, when Bush was sending soldiers to fight and die in two quagmire wars.  If you’re going to give Bush credit for anything, you’d better give Obama credit for this, or you’re all just a bunch of hypocrites. 

Truly, there will always be a set of Americans who will take to their graves the belief that Obama is not an American citizen, that he was born in Kenya, that he is a communist / terrorist sympathizer who hates the United States, and no matter what birth certificates are presented, no matter what bold achievements are gained, this will stick in their craw forever.  No, liberals, this is not racism, this is just old-fashioned pigheadedness and cognitive dissonance.  It’s not something to get irritated over, but truly, it’s something to admire and chuckle over, how rational people, even with facts pushed to their noses, will negate them for political convenience.  It is simply easier for some people to cling to their pernicious beliefs, no matter how obsolete they’ve become, than admit that, in the face of undeniable evidence, they were wrong. 

Likewise, there will always be a set of American who will believe with their dying breath that George W. Bush was the worst president in American history, that he was the poster boy for nepotism, the ugly frat boy who drunkenly stumbled forward, the legacy that got military preference and into the Ivy League because his father was a Congressman and Senator.  Bush was neither a pawn of corporate interests, nor was he the sinister ringleader of the NeoCons.  Whatever he faced, it came from the previous three administrations and snowballed into something large and fast and aiming right for him.  If there’s anything you can blame him for, it’s for allowing political discord to become so caustic, so fanatical and frenetic, that there’s no longer reason in the conversation; yes, this is something he could have addressed, just as previous presidents had when they sensed the mood of the republic was waning and needing of a word from the top. 

That’s the mood of the republic tonight, so used to infighting and smarmy one-liners that, when a moment like the death of Osama bin Laden arises, people are unable to drop their ideologies for a nanosecond and embrace one another in joy.  It’s borderline instinct at this point, our second nature to take a moment of pride and jubilance and turn it into just another political football to kick around, thus dummying it down to the level of gays in the military, global warming, animal cruelty, or any other of a couple dozen issues partisans use as wedges to drive sides apart.  This is an event that should transcend party politics.  

LIB:  That’s right.  FOX News needs to lay off of Obama for once and let him enjoy this moment in the sun. 

CON:   Obama doesn’t deserve a second of a break.  Bush had to deal with liberal whining for eight years.  You say he wasn’t legitimately elected, so we’ll say Obama isn’t a legitimate citizen.  What’s the difference? 

I’ve almost given up on national politics because of this back-and-forth, this childish bickering.  Truly, listening to conservatives and liberals argue is like listening to two bad kids who are trying to make the other look even worse and thus, in some form of pretzel logic, would make him the GOOD kid.  It’s inane and tired and so 2004.  While many would say American politics has always been raucous, coarse, and downright dirty at times, I would say it’s never been so adolescent, so persistently catty. 

This should be the one time that happens every decade or so, when the petty and the catty among us simply shut the fuck up and enjoy the moment. 

CON:  Who are you calling petty, liberal?  You and your political correctness have been nothing but petty for decades, sanitizing culture so that no one can so much as think without getting your permission. 

LIB:  Hey, don’t lump us in with those right-wing nutjobs.  We’re not perfect, but we didn’t completely sell ourselves out to corporate tyranny like THEY did. 

CON:  And you should thank God for corporations.  There is no aspect of your life that isn’t touched by a corporation.  You get cheap food, reasonable gas prices, goods from around the world, all accessible and all affordable, thanks to corporations. 

LIB:  And the price we pay for all that convenience is watered-down jobs, outsourcing, closing of plants, the rape of the environment, and CEO’s making millions while workers live on subsistence. 

CON:  Typical Marxist, turning everything into class warfare.  Didn’t the collapse of theSoviet Unionteach you socialism was an utter failure? 

LIB:   Giving a damn about working people—which is most ofAmerica—isn’t class warfare.  Stop crying about having to pay taxes and start pitching in to rebuild America. 

There’s always something to fight about when it comes to American politics.  Can we just leave this one event alone?  Just this once?

LIBYA: War Makes Hypocrites of Us All

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The Right-Wing Noise Machine is pulling President Obama from both sides. On the one hand, they’re badgering him for intervening in Libya, enforcing the UN-sanctioned no-fly zone and engaging Libyan units in aerial combat. On the other hand, they’re saying Obama doesn’t care about democracy because he hasn’t intervened on behalf of pro-democracy protesters in Yemen and Bahrain. I’ve long dismissed conservative pundits as modern pre-Socratic sophists, throwing all the mud they can and hoping some of it sticks, regardless of the twists in logic—if it exists in their arguments at all. It’s contradictions like this that turned me off to them a long time ago.

NeoCon pundits are a known quantity. What I have a hard time reconciling is, why are many of the same liberals who excoriated the Bush administration for starting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq now defending Obama’s use of air cover to help the Libyan rebels?

This is one case where nearly every American becomes a hypocrite if he favored intervention when one party was in the White House, but opposed it when the other was in.

I’ve tried to wrap my brain around this, and though I voted for Obama and still believe, despite Republicans trying to trip him up at every opportunity, he will ultimately be remembered as a solid American and a good President, I can’t go along with him on this, for the same reasons I couldn’t support Bush when he invaded Iraq in 2003.

I remember when Bush addressed the nation in ’03 as battleship groups set themselves up in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. I was reluctantly supportive of the act in its initial stage, considering it a necessary evil. As the war drug on, and all the nasty little evils men do to one another mounted and mounted, I was vocal in my opposition—nay, detesting—of the way the war was handled, between use of contractors that shot civilians for fun, profiteering, waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Halliburton, and all the other critters that we saw crawl when we lifted the rock. I generally oppose war, period, and pretty much all wars in human history were fought for bullshit reasons; this was just one more.

Let me add a little more depth to this. Concerning the Middle East, I’ve been opposed to most every American incursion. From Reagan’s bombing of Tripoli in 1986, to Desert Storm, to Afghanistan and Iraq, to today, I believe American policy in the Middle East has been wrongly enforced and should be scrapped. During the Cold War, the US propped up despots for their own interests (protection of Israel and, more importantly, protection of the flow of cheap petroleum), turning a blind eye to the tyranny they imposed on their own people. While Americans still cringe at the thought of the Ayatollah Khomeini assuming power with the flight of the Shah of Iran in 1979, I’ve come to realize it was an event 25 years in the making, starting with the US installing the Shah in the 1950’s and overthrowing what was then a fledgling democracy.

That’s the hard lesson Americans have to learn, and with Obama’s actions in Libya, it looks like they still haven’t. Since the 1950’s, the US has either turned a blind eye to Middle Eastern tyranny, outright supported it, or manipulated politics to ensure it, for the sake of its own ends, and at some point, you had to believe the people there would eventually get pissed off enough to fight back. What we’re seeing in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere in the region is a mass movement, an entire generation of Middle Easterners, who want to free themselves from despots who have overstayed their welcome, in many cases because Western powers, particularly the US, benefited. Have a prisoner you want to interrogate without getting your hands dirty? Send him to Egypt, our buddy Hosni Mubarek has no problem rendering them for you. Need to keep the fundamentalists in Iran in line? Arm Saddam Hussein in Iraq, let him fight a war of attrition that has arguably been the bloodiest war since World War II, and shake his hand until he becomes inconvenient. Who cares if women are second-class citizens in Saudi Arabia, who cares if most of the hijackers from 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, gas is getting up past two bucks a gallon, so the Saudi family gets a pass.

In terms of the Middle East, Americans have to decide what is more important, maintaining the status quo and thinking only in terms of national interest, or allowing these countries to sort out their own affairs and create governments of their own making?

Truly, the protests in Tunisia and Egypt that led to the overthrow of governments and heads of state that were American allies for decades demonstrates that citizens can indeed organize themselves, defend themselves, and even oust the tyrants, all by themselves. It’s an argument that tosses the grand argument of the previous decade, that Iraq and Afghanistan inherently need America to kick the bad guys to the curb, out the window.

Don’t misunderstand me. I want the rebels in Libya to oust Moammar Qadhafi as bad as anyone else does. I root for the everyday man, the working class stiff, the guy who is overworked and underpaid, because that’s most of the world, and there’s something far more noble in a day of labor than a day of leisure. As such, I want the people of Libya to forge their own destiny, one that may or may not include the United States, and for the US to respect that destiny and not warp it for their own selfish cravings.

I will always root for self-determination; that should be a staple principle in all things American. Our history, however, proves us lacking in commitment to that ethic.

If democracy is something we seek to spread throughout the world, it should be through our example, our championing, our excellence in the craft. It should not have to be something we enforce at the point of a gun. Were democracy truly something to treasure, we wouldn’t have to force countries to accept it; they would steal it, just as they would any other precious commodity. They should see the shining example America is setting and say, that’s what we want for our own people, let’s overthrow the bastards and do it for ourselves, even if we have to die trying.

Maybe, once upon a time, we set such a shining example. Now? Eh…

This is a fight for the Libya people to fight, but it was also a fight for the Iraqi people to fight, the Afghani people to fight, the Tunisian and Yemeni and, back in the day, the Iranian people to fight. As Lyndon Johnson said (and later renigged), we shouldn’t be sending American kids thousands of miles around the world to do what Asian kids (or Libyan kids, for that matter) should be doing for themselves.

While I understand and even enjoy the thinking that led the Obama Administration, the French and British governments, and the UN to the resolution that installed the no-fly zone over Libya, it doesn’t matter. As much as anyone, I want Qadhafi gone, and I want the Libyans to create a government of their own choosing, but it’s THEIR government of THEIR choosing.

That’s what self-determination, as foreign a concept as it might seem to Americans, is all about.

So let the conservatives play the contradictions and pull Obama from both directions. Let the liberals support Obama for doing more or less the same thing they criticized Bush for doing. War makes hypocrites of us all. The consistent view is the rare view, and if you’re beholden so tight to your party or ideology that it blinds you, you have to accept your hypocrisy for what it is. Don’t play spindoctor, don’t overexplain yourself, just acknowledge and move on, hopefully with a little more humility than when you started the day.

Criticizing the Tea Party and the “China 2030” Ad

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I admit to not watching a whole lot of TV the last six months, working your ass off and having a family doesn’t allow much time for flipping stations on the remote.  Hence, you must forgive me for just now seeing the “China 2030” ad, the one staged at a fictitious university in Beijing, the professor talking about failed superpowers, and at the end, laughing at how Americans are now working to serve China by virtue of them buying our debt.  It’s one of those political commercials you see every decade or so that cuts through the crap and gets to the very heart of the matter. 

I don’t deny the power the ad has, I wouldn’t preface an article with it if it didn’t have real bite to it.  My big question about it is, why now?  Why has it been over the last few years that political bands like the Tea Party have taken hold in America?  Why is it now, after decades of reckless deficit spending that now enters fourteen figures, is this being taken seriously? 

I have to say it.  The only reason is because Barack Obama is president. 

I’m not going to kid myself on this.  Our national debt has been the 400 lb. gorilla that has been only given lip service over the last thirty years.  Every since Ronald Reagan replaced the tax-and-spend philosophy in Washington with his borrow-and-spend agenda, the debt has accelerated to monstrous proportions.  In those thirty years, we can count perhaps three where the deficit went down and we were able to pay down the debt; that, of course, was during Bill Clinton’s second term.  When George W. Bush initiated his tax cuts for the wealthy, again, the deficit was ignored. 

The first so-called “Tea Party”, according to Wikipedia, was organized on January 24, 2009, FOUR DAYS AFTER OBAMA’S INAUGURATION, in protest of New York Governor David Paterson’s new tax proposals.  It was organized by Trevor Leach, chairman for the Young Americans for Liberty, and it begs the question, why at this point did he decide enough was enough?  Why didn’t he organize this protest three months before, when the Bush Administration used $700 billion in federal money—OUR money—to bail out the banking industry?  Where was his concern when our debt level broke five trillion, six trillion, seven trillion dollars? 

The answer, to be blunt, is that they didn’t care, so long as a Republican was in the White House. 

Barack Obama chose to run for president at a very precarious moment in America’s history, and for that, he chose to take over responsibility for correcting this massive recession and solving our budget problems.  It must be made clear, however, that he has inherited economic problems no president has had to walk in cold and address since Franklin Roosevelt.  The only president this country ever had that was able to balance the ledger once and for all was Andrew Jackson, which means debt has been amassing since the 1820’s, slowly but surely, and in more recent times, only Bill Clinton has been able to get us in a position to pay down the debt.  This history has to be calculated into the context of the new Obama Administration, taking over this overwhelming task. 

Of course, it’s a lot simpler to eliminate context if you believe it undercuts your political mission.  

During his campaign, Obama never made the mistake Walter Mondale made in 1984.  It was political suicide, but it was the most honest thing I’ve ever heard a presidential nominee say.  Standing before the venerable Reagan, he said before the audience, “He’s going to raise taxes, I’m going to raise taxes.  He’s not going to tell you, I just did.”  For his honesty, he won one electoral state, his home state of Minnesota.  He was a long shot to win in the first place, Reagan was a popular president that every Republican and a good many Democrats were ga-ga over, and the country was rising out of the stagflation and unemployment of the 1970’s.  Those in the know started talking about how future generations would have to pay for the excesses of the times, but with people making money, few with power gave it much thought. 

Obama is like the janitor who has to clean up after a weekend-long frat party. 

As such, his stimulus spending was, in my estimation, no better or worse than Dubya’s stimulus spending.  It’s just that he had a much deeper hole to dig out of than Dubya did in 2001. 

Criticizing Obama at all for his economic policies is one thing, and we can pick them apart as we like.  Forgetting the previous three decades of fiscal recklessness and ignoring the context upon which Obama took office, that’s the blind evil of American partisanship. 

Anyone who has the gall to berate Obama, but ignored the debts racked up under previous Republican administrations, ought to be ignored as the partisan hacks they are. 

By no means does that let Obama off the hook.  Yes, he has to work with a generation of Republicans who said even before he was elected that they were going to reject anything and everything the Democrats put on the table in order to make them look bad politically.  Yes, he has these Tea Party politicians in Washington that are fueled entirely on ideology and have no room to spare for context or reality.  Yes, he’s tried to be the better man and reach a hand out to those who would sooner cut it off than shake it.  But this was his choice, to take on this burden, knowing the opposition would turn into sharks smelling blood in the water.  Should he get the economy back to some semblance of normal, should any jobs at all appear out of the ether, he’ll be considered a hero by many and win a second term; should he fail, despite the mutinies and sabotages he’s had to tangle with, who knows. 

It’s hero or goat time.  He could end up being Franklin Roosevelt or Jimmy Carter. 

I’m trying to fathom the other side of the “China 2030” ad.  I’m trying to picture the America that has turned into a vassal state for the new Chinese economic empire.  I can’t imagine it being much different than it is today.  The working folks will be scrounging to make a living, working one bad job after another, barely staying above the poverty line.  Those who could outsource their labor have finally left the country for good.  Pundits from the left and the right will still be pointing fingers at one another, continuing to blame and demonize instead of starting to solve the problem, even as more of our wealth ends up in Chinese banks.  And you’ll have a professor from some university in Washington, having to explain to his student body why they should not expect the lifestyle their grandparents, who got rich and fat during the so-called Conservative Era, both enjoyed and refused to take responsibility for. 

That professor of America 2030 will be far more honest than any partisan hack today.

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