Where Do We Draw the Line? All Things Are NOT the Same

The events of the last month or so – hell, if you want to be serious, it’s dating back to the 1990s – have opened the door of Pandora’s Box. Whether it is in the world of relations between men or women or even something as small as what constitutes a joke, it seems we want to eradicate the impropriety, even the ability to laugh at ourselves. If it delves into a needle of a person’s appearance, a stereotype, or a myriad of other situations, it seems as though it has become verboten. This has caused me to wonder a few things:  just where do we draw the line? And that led to my second thought:  all situations are not the same.

A couple of months ago, I saw one of my favorite films of all time. Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles was on AMC (and unedited at that!) and I laughed my ass off all the way through it. The performances were priceless in the film, from Cleavon Little’s streetwise (and black) Sheriff Bob to Gene Wilder’s drunken Waco Kid, there wasn’t a dull moment in the film about a black man assigned to be a sheriff for a racist town. There was also a litany of jokes about Mexicans, Indians, blacks, Jews, and a host of others that would be considered “inappropriate” today.

CleavonLittleGeneWilder

Imagine my surprise when I heard Brooks discuss the issue in an interview soon after. In an interview with the BBC, Brooks commented that he could probably have done Young Frankenstein, but Blazing Saddles could never have been made. “Never ‘Blazing Saddles,’ because we have become stupidly politically correct, which is the death of comedy,” Brooks stated to the BBC. But Brooks’ groundbreaking and legendary comedy isn’t the only piece that might be “wrong” to watch today.

AMC was also the home of another cinematic classic I viewed recently. The original M*A*S*H, with Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce and Elliott Gould as Trapper John McIntyre, depicted the Korean War with all its warts. It is arguable that there were enough things to twist the panties of today’s sensitive souls, with just the name of one of the characters (‘Spearchucker’ Jones), the usage of drugs and treatment of women by…well, virtually everyone…to get outrage going.

DoctorDetroit

You think this was just something from the 70s? Another favorite film of mine is Doctor Detroit, a middling 80s comedy starring Dan Aykroyd as a nebbish college professor who, when plied with alcohol, drugs, and sex by a bevy of beauties (that included his future wife Donna Dixon), becomes a chiropractor/crime lord (and the women’s pimp) to not only save them but his college. In the 90s, it was Ace Ventura:  Pet Detective, the story of an inept detective chasing a transgendered (and very sexual, if you’re to believe one scene) former football player. The 21st century hasn’t changed this brand of comedy, or did you miss the Harold & Kumar series?

The movie industry in 2017 has been ravaged by the accusations of some of the most powerful men in Hollywood and the long-rumored “casting couch.” This trend caught one of the most powerful men in Tinseltown, Harvey Weinstein, who was alleged to have attempted to use his position as a “make or break” player in the movie business to have sexual relations (sometimes even forced) with women looking for their big break. Add in other alleged situations such as actor Kevin Spacey, director Brett Ratner and hip hop legend Russell Simmons, and now actor Jeffrey Tambor and it all is coming to a head.

This same year the same accusations have rocked the media and political professions, some proven, some “paid off.” Former Fox News president the late Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, now Charlie Rose…all have been alleged to have committed some form of harassment of women. In politics it dates back even further to the peccadillos of John Kennedy and Bill Clinton. For it to come around to today’s incidences, with both Al Franken and Roy Moore being castigated for their actions, isn’t surprising. And remember, more than a dozen women – and a rape allegation of a 13-year old – are awaiting the person who sits in the most powerful seat in the land (remember right after “grabbed them by the pussy” on the Access Hollywood bus?) To this day, he has never answered for those transgressions.

AlFranken

I am reminded of when I was back in my radio days. At that time, the biggest name in the game was (and arguably still is) Howard Stern. Stern’s programs routinely featured (and still does) in-depth discussion of sexual actions, women’s anatomy, the derision of the handicapped, and basically set the format for “morning show” radio (the “morning crew” days). As someone who worked in those days, the different “morning show” crews were constantly trying to gain the edge over each other with who could put up the sleaziest, sexiest, most outrageous morning show, making the most fun of the most people that are in existence. And you know what? The audiences LAUGHED ALL THE GODDAMN WAY with them. (And if you want a look at what it was like for a woman in the music business, check out Lita Ford’s autobiography Living Like a Runaway for all the gory details.)

I do realize that this is a new age, a new era, but it is beginning to get a bit out of hand. Can anyone reading this tell me what they did 20 years ago? How about 30? Do you remember every interaction you’ve ever had with the opposite sex (or, in some cases, with the same sex)? Were they all innocent engagements with absolutely nothing memorable about them? Then ask yourself this:  is there a possibility that someone else you were with that they remember the situation completely different than you do?

There needs to be some lines set out. In a court of law, there are differing degrees of murder – first degree, second degree, manslaughter, all the way down to legally allowing a person to kill another human being (self-defense, or “Stand Your Ground”). Sexual assault and harassment can go in the same ways as there are differing standards that could be set.

To compare the pedophilic acts of Moore to Franken’s nobody comedy writer dream of getting to lock lips with a Hooters waitress who made it (and acting like a 15-year old virgin in the process of rehearsing it) is completely asinine. The actions of both men are a FORM of sexual assault. But to hold Franken up as “the same” as Moore – who allegedly fiddled with some 14-year-old child and cruised malls to score teenage girls as a 30-plus year-old man (and a District Attorney at that) – is outright lunacy.

RoyMoore

And just what should be the punishment for these actions? In the case of those in Hollywood, their careers have been destroyed, their reputations in tatters, while the women haven’t emerged any better for telling their stories. Franken may very well lose his seat in the U. S. Senate, while Moore should never be seated if elected next month. Is it worth destroying someone’s very existence for something that happened when they were at a completely different stage in their lives?

I don’t pretend to know the answers and, after reviewing everything, I myself am cloudier on the issue than when I started. But if we’re looking for saints in our politics, we’re going to have very empty chambers to decide the laws. If we’re looking for saints in business, comedy, entertainment, and the news, then there’s going to be a very bland life ahead for our progeny. Brooks said it best in that BBC interview when he said, “It’s okay not to hurt feelings of various tribes and groups. However, it’s not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks. Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering into the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.”

We still have to find how far those risks can go, in comedy and other arenas in life, and, if they were violated long ago, what the appropriate punishments should be.

Advertisements

The Democrats: Calm as a Duck On Top of the Water…

DNCPhiladelphia

After the debacle that was the Republican National Demolition Derby last week (really didn’t think it was possible to bottle up that much hatred in one room), the Democrats get their turn in the barrel for the next four days. Starting today up until former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is nominated on Thursday, the Democratic National Committee will throw their shindig in Philadelphia to nominate their choice for President and the proceedings have the appearance of a duck. If you know anything about ducks, they look calm and placid on top of the water, but they’re paddling like hell underneath it to keep everything moving.

It pretty much seems that, at every step along the way, the Democrats have tried to shoot themselves in the foot at every opportunity that they get. 2016 was supposed to be the year that they were supposed to reward Clinton for her patience after getting beaten in 2008 by Barack Obama and, for the most part, the major players that could have given her issues stayed out of the way. Vice President Joe Biden didn’t have it in his heart following the passing of his son and other prominent Democrats lacked the national name recognition to be able to mount a charge (looking at you here, Martin O’Malley). But the DNC was definitely caught with their pants down when it came to a certain septuagenarian from New England.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont caught on to the wave of voter disdain for those in Washington (despite him being a part of the Washington scene for the past 25 years) and threw the first of several monkey wrenches into the coronation of Clinton. The first warning shot came in Iowa, where Clinton eked out the slimmest of victories over Sanders, and continued onward. At some points, Sanders would pull off the impossible – evidenced by his win in Michigan – and many, especially younger voters, were enthused by the policies espoused by Sanders (free college, $15/hour minimum wage, etc.).

BernieSanders1

Sanders proved to be an excellent foil for Clinton, whipping her into shape for the general election as she had to campaign hard in the Democratic primary to ward off Sanders’ run. Neither would be able to garner the number of delegates outright to be able to earn the nomination, so the choice came down to the super delegates, the members of the Democratic Party who serve as the final arbiter of such decisions. Despite the cries that it was unfair – but, to be honest, Sanders knew the rules and failed to attempt to even woo them before the primaries began (probably because he just joined the Democratic Party to run for President, not because of a long affinition for the group) – super delegates overwhelmingly supported Clinton and, as a result, she will be the nominee Thursday evening.

All is not calm in the Democratic world, however. There are factions of Sanders supporters that, despite what their candidate has said about supporting Clinton and defeating Cheeto Jesus, are behaving like petulant children who will pout because they didn’t get their way. These “supporters” have threatened to either not vote or to vote for another candidate, such as the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein (who ran an underhanded campaign in offering to give up her nomination for President if Sanders would join their party), to “make their protest known.” There’s only one problem with this:  by doing so, they would be giving the election to the Orangutan Mutant, who would destroy the system far worse than Clinton ever could.

Throw in the perceived voting irregularities, Clinton’s investigations by the Republican-led Senate over Benghazi and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over her private e-mail server, Clinton’s less-than enthusiastic approach to campaigning (the female Clinton has always been a policy wonk, unlike her husband and former President Bill Clinton, who enjoyed the campaigning) and the idea that it was “ordained” by the DNC that Clinton would be the nominee (among other things) and there’s plenty of “paddling like hell” under the water that is occurring.

That doesn’t even begin to add in the latest Democratic shooting of foot. Leaked e-mails from a Russian hack show that the DNC at the minimum wasn’t happy about the Sanders campaign looking to usurp the nomination from Clinton and, at the max, actively was wondering how to stop Sanders’ rise. While none of the e-mails were from Clinton, one e-mail in particular from the Chief Finance Officer of the DNC, Brad Marshall, questioned Sanders’ religious background and whether he was an atheist (many socialists, as Sanders purports to be, are at best areligious and at extreme atheist) and how it could be used against him in certain areas of the country.

Although there is little to no evidence that any action was taken on this or other e-mails, the chair of the DNC, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, has been ushered out as the chairman of the DNC effective following the convention (not a big deal as she would have served her term by the end of the November elections) because of the viewed impropriety. This has been something the Sanders campaign has sought for some time because of several perceived slights from Wasserman-Schultz towards the campaign and the scheduling of debates (something that the Sanders campaign agreed to before the campaign started). The actions following Wasserman-Schultz’s announcement aren’t going to soothe anyone’s feelings, however.

DWS

The hiring of Wasserman-Schultz by the Clinton campaign as “honorary chair” of the campaign isn’t going to settle any ruffled feathers. Instead of just letting Wasserman-Schultz lurk behind the scenes and advise the campaign – much like what many think deposed Fox News honcho Roger Ailes will do with the Drumpf campaign since his dismissal – the announcement by the Clinton faction is a stick in the eye to the Sanderites. It is a sign once again that, instead of a placid lake, there are at least ripples in the water.

Alas, as the Democrats converge on the City of Brotherly Love for their convention, their attempts at showing a “united” front seem to be coming apart at the seams. Over the next week, there will be the usual parade of party hierarchy and celebrity speakers (including Lady Gaga – take that, Mr. Oompah Loompah, for star power!), but it is going to be the thoughts of two people that will draw the most attention.

First off will be Sanders and his speech on Monday night. Sanders has already appeared with Clinton on the campaign trail and fully endorsed his former opponent, but it will be how well he can convey that same message, after all of the turmoil of the past few days, and be taken as sincere with his speech. Several other people in the Sanders camp, including his wife Jane and former campaign manager Jeff Weaver, would also be great advocates for Sanders supporters to move on to Clinton.

Hillary Clinton Begins Presidential Campaign In Iowa

The final person who will be able to make an impact is Clinton herself. No matter how many people say good things about her, whether it is family, coworkers, friends or rivals, it will be Clinton’s speech on Thursday night that will sway many opinions. Can she find a way to present the current course of the United States in an optimistic light and show how her Presidency would further the goals of the country? This will be important because of the “doom and gloom” speech that was sputtered last week (hell, the entire Republican National Demolition Derby sounded like the Hellmouth had opened and demon spawn were ravaging the world). If Clinton can show that there is an “adult in the room” and project a solid, stable base for the next Presidency, it could go a great way to winning over people.

But that’s not coming until Thursday. Until that time, we’ll have to see if the Democrats can put it together and not just give the appearance of unity but actually show that it exists. If they are able to overcome their own self-inflicted wounds, then they will come out of Philly with the rockets roaring. If they can’t, then there’s the 4:1 chance that Cheeto Jesus might rise up from the brimstone.

What to Expect from Tomorrow’s GOP Debate

Republican-Presidential-Candidates-2016

They are beginning to happen so frequently – not only on the Republican side but also on the Democratic – that it is becoming a bit mind-numbing when they come up. For the fourth time in the past three months, however, the Republican Party will be gathering at the Milwaukee Theatre in Wisconsin for another two tiered debate. The debate, hosted by Fox Business Channel and moderated by FBC’s Neil Cavuto, Maria Bartiromo and Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker, may appear to be the same on the surface, but there are underpinnings that have changed some of the dynamics.

The change will be apparent from the pregame show, otherwise known as the “kiddie table” debate. Gone from that stage will be former New York Governor George Pataki and current South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who have both been polling in the microscopic digits and were deemed as no longer viable in the race by Fox Business. Despite both candidates complaining that the Republican National Committee is looking to knock out candidates rather than have their constituency decide (Graham stated on MSNBC that the RNC “couldn’t run a one-car funeral”), neither man will be in attendance when former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and current Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal take the stage for the opening act on Tuesday.

It isn’t just going to be Santorum and Jindal on the stage for the pregame show, however (despite the high comedy of how they would attempt to “out-righteous” each other for the evangelical vote). Coming down the ramp like wrestlers in the WWE to battle against The Religious Way (oh, wait…they’ll be looking to join the team!) will be two veterans of the “Main Event,” former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (at a combined weight of 600 pounds!). These two gentlemen have been cast away from the main debate for the same reasons that Pataki and Graham aren’t around anymore; their poll numbers have plunged to a depth that they no longer are considered serious contenders for the GOP nomination.

This will leave eight players – political outsiders Dr. Ben Carson and businessman billionaire Donald Trump (tossing the lead back and forth between each other), Florida Senator Marco Rubio (garnering more support from the “establishment” wing of the GOP as they desert another candidate), Texas Senator Ted Cruz (clinging to the Tea Party vote while he waits for Trump to leave the campaign), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (losing that establishment vote while eliminating exclamation marks from his campaign slogan in favor of “fixing” something, just what isn’t known), Ohio Governor John Kasich, former businesswoman Carly Fiorina and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul – to take the stage for the “Main Event” on Tuesday night. Debate organizers probably could have cut Paul, Kasich and Fiorina (who has plummeted after making her run out of the “minor leagues” to the Adult Table due to her inability to find a subject to run on) for the same low poll numbers that they have been using in dismissing others, but they (and the RNC) probably didn’t want to appear that they were trying to manipulate the game too much. As such, they will be trying to wedge themselves into discussion amongst the Top Five candidates, who are viable in that they control roughly 75% (76.6% to be exact, according to Real Clear Politics) of potential GOP voters.

Not only have the dynamics of the participants changed for this fourth debate, there will probably be noticeable changes to the general tenor of the questioning from the Fox Business Channel moderators and staff.

The first debate, basically a “get your feet wet” affair, was on the home turf of Fox News Channel, but some of the candidates still found something to bitch about even though their questioning was rather low-key. The second debate, conducted by CNN, amped up the pressure on the candidates over a three hour span (the longest debate so far of the 2015-16 primary season) and has generally been recognized as the best debate to this point. The candidates complained – especially Trump and Carson – that the debate was too long (in reality, it actually forced them to have substance rather than fluff to their statements in requiring explanation). Then there was the debacle of last month’s CNBC debate, an unruly affair that featured inane questions from the panel and outright refusal to answer questions from the candidates.

That CNBC debate, however, will hover like a smoke cloud over the Fox Business proceedings. The ineptitude of the CNBC moderators will probably remove any character questions from the Fox Business panel’s repertoire, meaning that there will be no answers to Carson’s consistently false claims in his books and in his speeches. Carson, who has come under fire for inaccuracies and perhaps fabrication of some of his past actions and achievements (most people do this but, then again, most people aren’t running for President; for the ultimate job interview, you pretty much have to be scot-free of scandal nowadays or at least have “plausible deniability”), has continually ducked those questions. Cavuto, Bartiromo and Company aren’t going to be able to query Carson on these inaccuracies lest they be besmirched with the Scarlet “G” of “gossip.”

This also means that the panel will not be able to point out differences between the candidates regarding their policies. They will probably stay far away from any sparring sessions between Trump and…well, anyone on the stage…regarding his draconian plans on immigration. There is the slimmest of possibilities that there will be some discussion between the candidates as they delve into their differences, but Fox Business doesn’t want to give the candidates the ability to say they were “set up” to fight with each other (as Cruz alleged in the CNBC debate).

Although there won’t be the circus atmosphere on the stage in Milwaukee, this is a chance to see some actual discussion on the issues (that is, if the candidates will answer the questions as they are presented to them). I WOULD like to see Trump’s feet held to the fire regarding how he plans to round up 11 million people without it looking like he’s sending an entire race to the gulag. I’d like to see Trump explain where the money is coming from for this and his other fantasyland projects such as the Great Wall of Mexico. I’d like to hear from Carson how his tax plan isn’t going to put an even larger crater in the national debt; hell, this is something I’d like to hear from all the candidates in how, if they cut taxes to the bare bones, how it is supposed to translate to more revenues actually coming into the government (the “trickle down” economics from the Reagan Administration have been proven time and again to be false).

In this explanation, I want more than “increased buying power of customers,” “repatriation of money from overseas companies” and “small business growth” as platitudes. Explain in simple terms how cutting taxes without an appropriate or deeper cuts in the spending is supposed to either stanch the growth or lower the national debt. Then also explain to me what some people are to do when those cuts are so deep that they can no longer keep their heads above water and stay in the game (re:  actually stay alive).

Rubio, Cruz, Bush, Paul, Fiorina, Kasich…there are a host of inquiries about policies that they have stated to the public that could be the basis of a myriad of questions from the hosts at Fox Business. My only hope in the debate is that we don’t get a castrated Fox Business panel that either can’t or won’t ask the tough questions in fear of “offending” the candidates. This is a Presidential debate, for fuck’s sake, and not a coquette’s debutante ball. The questioning is supposed to be harsh, unnerving and probing…you are going to be leading the strongest nation in the world and, as such, you’d BETTER be able to handle the heat of the job rather than running to a pulpit to seek permission from a “higher authority.”

Unfortunately, this is what I believe we are going to see on Tuesday night. Cavuto will have a choker on him from the Fox Business brass (or perhaps even Fox News chairman Roger Ailes himself will have his hand on the jerker chain) and will have all the strength of a neutered Chihuahua. Bartiromo will bat her eyes as she “seriously” looks into the numbers, while Baker will rubber stamp things as long as he can lock up the candidates for an op-ed in the WSJ in the near future. The debate will not be providing anything substantive that people can examine in depth, allowing the candidates themselves to crow about how “they have control of the message” (what that message is really is anyone’s guess), at least until the next debate.

Those looking to be a leader of ALL people, not just one segment of the people, have to be able to answer the hard questions and with something more than platitudes or dismissals. If a group isn’t challenged to show their abilities in leadership, then they don’t earn that chance to be a leader. If those that question them – and those that listen to the answers to those questions – allow them to bypass this process and immediately put them into leadership because of other non-leadership qualities, then you get what you asked – or didn’t ask – for.