11 Reasons People Need to Calm Down About Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton Already

Originally published August 30, 2016 on Paste
11 Reasons People Need to Calm Down About Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton Already
Photo courtesy of Getty

As usual, the Left has its workers-collective-manufactured panties all up in a bunch over Henry Kissinger. This time, the furor is over rumors that Hillary Clinton may be seeking an endorsement from the former Secretary of State.

But, to be fair, for many people, Henry Kissinger just can’t do anything right these days…or for the last four decades. If it’s not one thing, like backing a coup against the democratically elected Chilean government and ushering in a brutal dictatorship and cutting-edge torture techniques, or extending the Vietnam War by five years, or secretly bombing Cambodia and Laos, it’s another thing, like green-lighting the invasion of East Timor, which killed over 100,000 people, or wiretapping his political opponents, or supporting Pakistan’s military dictatorship, which killed between 200,000 and 3 million Bangladeshis.

We learn more and more about Kissinger’s accomplishments all the time. Earlier this month, newly declassified documents showed that Kissinger was even more supportive of the Argentine dictatorship than we knew. He didn’t merely ignore the government’s killing and/or disappearing as many as 30,000 people between 1976 and 1983; when he visited Argentina for the 1978 World Cup, as a guest of junta leader General Jorge Videla, he lauded the government for doing “an outstanding job in wiping out terrorist forces.” This praise, according to National Security Council official Robert Pastor, was “the music the Argentine government was longing to hear.”

And on Wednesday, the CIA released 2,500 previously classified President’s Daily Briefs (PDB) from the administrations of Nixon and Ford, both of which Kissinger served.

So, stay tuned for more revelations and more left wing hysteria. The good news is that some cooler heads are trying to prevail, and are making the bold case that Clinton’s wooing of the social butterfly of a war criminal would not be a “big f***ing deal,” to quote Joe Biden on the Affordable Care Act.

Let’s take a look at some of their most persuasive points.

1. The guy is a monster but…

Michael Cohen, known on Twitter as speechboy71, opens his article “How Democrats Can Learn to Stop Worrying and Still Hate Kissinger,” by saying, “Let me make one thing clear at the outset of this piece: I consider Henry Kissinger to be, morally speaking, a monstrous figure.”

Much like the phrase “I’m not racist but,” signals that a racist statement is soon forthcoming, Cohen’s condemnation suggests that a defense is imminent.

He cites Kissinger’s “backing of the Nixon administration’s illegal bombing campaign in Cambodia and the invasion of the country in 1970, along with his support for right-wing coups in Latin America and anti-Communist leaders in sub-Saharan Africa and the Far East, have deservedly defined his sordid legacy. And that’s not even counting perhaps his worst act while in public office—his actions in 1970 in support of the Pakistani genocide of Bengals in what is today Bangladesh.”

But Cohen goes on to say, “Why should we care about the foreign policy legacy of a guy who hasn’t held public office in 40 years? Well, it seems that in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, being pro- or anti-Kissinger has become a foreign policy litmus test for Democrats.” What gives, Dems?

2. Criticism is also monstrous.

Cohen notes that “the outcry among American liberals” over rumors of Clinton’s Kissinger-courting “was significant.” He deems the “antipathy” from the Left as “completely understandable,” and yet, simultaneously, “more than slightly outsized.” What is totally inappropriate and uncalled for, it should go without saying, is verbal lashing of any sort, especially the ones to which Clinton was subjected. As if we needed any reminding, Cohen takes us on a stroll down a dark and twisted memory lane: “Back in February, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was lacerated by her then-rival Bernie Sanders for saying she considered Kissinger a friend.”

Cohen, is wrong, actually. Clinton in no way referred to Kissinger as a friend. The #HumbleKissingerBrag Clinton dropped during the Feb. 4 New Hampshire debate was professional, not personal: “I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time.”

Sanders did not strike back right away. Nebbish predator that he is, he waited until the next debate in Milkwaukee to pounce: “Secretary Clinton… talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger. Now, I find it rather amazing, because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.”

Of all the sexist “violence” Bernie and his bros unleashed against Hillary Clinton, this ranks among the worst. If Hillary were a man, would Bernie have had the chutzpah to denounce…Henry Kissinger?

3. We’re all on the monster spectrum.

Cohen cautions us against judging Kissinger for his war-crime tendencies. After all, we’re all on a spectrum and lots of other political figures have dabbled in human rights violations. With a couple million deaths under his belt, Kissinger is, of course, especially prolific. But, Cohen writes, Kissinger “is hardly the first U.S. foreign policy figure with an odious past.” Cohen then goes through a who’s who list of powerful people with bloodied hands:

“The Eisenhower administration routinely supported anti-communist dictators… John F. Kennedy tried… to have… Fidel Castro assassinated and supported a coup attempt in South Vietnam that led to the death of the country’s president… Lyndon Johnson… initiated the U.S. war in Vietnam that ultimately led to the deaths of more than 1 million Vietnamese… Jimmy Carter, urged on by National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, began American arms shipments to the Afghan mujahedeen, with the clear goal of bloodying the nose of the invading Soviets and prolonging the conflict. The Reagan years saw support for the contras in Nicaragua and a right-wing government in El Salvador under which death squads massacred thousands of civilians.”

This is true. And yet… a bit apples and oranges in a few different ways. On a technical level, five of the six examples offered by Cohen are presidents, not the major foreign policy makers. Also, the whole “routinely support[ing] anti-communist dictators” is hardly unique to the presidency of Eisenhower. It was kind of a Cold War thing.

Sure, Eisenhower, LBJ, JFK, and Reagan all have some blood on their hands. You know what else they have in common? They’re dead. And, with all due respect to the dead, ghosts aren’t as easy to find and prosecute as the full-bodied, still-living Henry Kissinger. The human rights violations committed by our dearly departed lack the urgency of those committed by a man who has never apologized for a single crime against humanity and yet continues to be revered, respected, quoted, awarded, published, and invited to conferences, lecture halls, and fabulous parties.

4. You need to check your monster-dar, fam.

What Michael Cohen seems most outraged by, ironically enough, is the lack of outrage at people who are way worse than Kissinger.

All of this is not to say it’s wrong to loathe Kissinger. Indeed, I count myself among those who view him with contempt. But there are far worse people to get upset about when it comes to endorsing—and counseling—Clinton, many of whom have escaped the wrath of liberals now up in arms over her alleged outreach to the former secretary of state.

What’s odd is that nowhere in the entire piece does Cohen point to anyone “far worse,” who has or might endorse Clinton. You’d think this would be a good thing to include.

5. The guy is a war criminal but Clinton isn’t seeking his endorsement

The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky chose a headline so cavalier it makes Cohen’s look like it was written by a relative of a desaparecido: “Clinton Has Not Sought Henry Kissinger’s Support. But So What if She Had?”Tomasky wants readers to know there isn’t that much truth behind the rumor about Clinton’s seeking a Kissinger endorsement. “First things first: A source close to the Hillary Clinton campaign tells me that there has been no outreach to Henry Kissinger.” Like Cohen, Tomasky includes the obligatory “I get it. This guy has his issues” disclaimer about Kissinger. Using the whimsical tone that befits discussions of human rights violations and genocides, Tomasky writes:

Granted, Kissinger occupies a, ah, unique position. He’s a war criminal. Not convicted of course, but in my view and the view of millions. And although he has never faced the bar of international justice over East Timor or Chile or his sabotaging of the Paris Peace Talks, he is very careful about where he travels and lives with the ignominy of knowing that when The New York Times posts his obituary, there are going to be some well-earned negative adjectives in the very first paragraph.

This guy’s got some major negative adjectives coming to him… once he’s dead.

6. Endorsements! Good god, y’all! What are they good for?

Continue Reading…

How Bernie Sanders Won Hillary’s Vote & 13 other Deep Thoughts on the Democratic Debate

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 10.25.54 PM

Originally posted October 13, 2015 on RawStory

If you read one summary of the Democratic Debate, don’t read this one. But if you read a few and want to hear some observations and thoughts, insights and questions, straight from the gut, via the twitter, of Katie Halper you won’t be disappointed.

  • Having GOP debates before is terrible event planning. You put the funnier act last, not first. Dems have no chance.
  • Waiting for the narrator to say, “in a world!”
  • I’m fluent in New York accents and am available for simultaneous translation of
  • Lincoln Chafee is so awkward it’s endearing. He could be a sleeper. Dunno whether to cry or vote for him or both.
  • It’s hard to get excited about a debate when everyone on stage believes in things like vaccines & evolution.
  • “Is anyone else on the stage not a capitalist?” – Music to my ears!
  • “You supported Sandinistas, you said you’re not a capitalist.” Anderson Cooper questioning a candidate? Or me vetting boyfriends?
  • The block of granite known as Lincoln Chafee & the robot inside of Jim Webb’s skin are doing surprisingly well.
  • You know Jim Webb can’t keep the terms “people of color” & “colored people” straight.
  • hearing Bernie Sanders say, “I come from a rural state” in his thick Brooklynese accent is amazeballs.
  • Say “R” where there is no “R”: (idear) Don’t say “R” where there is one: (motha).
  • And that, little children, was how Bernie Sanders won Hillary Clinton’s vote!
  • Did Hillary just humblebrag that she’s made an enemy of a country consisting of over 70 million people?
  • I’m still waiting for to peel off Jim Webb’s skin suit and declare that he’s throwing his hat into the ring.

 Are Colbert’s New Politics Softer, or Just More Subtle?

A political comedian reviews the first of the new Late Show.

Colbert_Late_Show_otu_img
(The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
Originally posted September 16, 2015 on The Nation

It was a no-brainer that Stephen Colbert as The Late Show host would be less politically edgy or hard hitting than he was on The Colbert Report. After all, The Colbert Report was arguably the most relentlessly, fiercely political, and, dare I say, partisan (in a good way) television show ever. Because Colbert never broke character, nearly every sentence he uttered was a political statement in which he simultaneously mocked right-wing values, or lack thereof, and implicitly advanced his own humanism and progressive political orientation. As Colbert explained in his Late Show debut, “I used to play a narcissistic conservative pundit—now I’m just a narcissist.”

But it’s not just that he’s taken off the character mask. Colbert has gone from cable to a major network. Cable is always less restricting than network television, but on top of that, Comedy Central, a channel dedicated exclusively to, well, comedy, is especially irreverent. Strong political opinions aren’t as tolerated on network television, which is why NBC (the network) has MSNBC (the cable channel) and Fox (the network) has Fox News (the cable channel). (I’m in no way equating MSNBC and Fox News, by the way—Fox News is a lot further from the center and from the facts than its so-called liberal counterpart.)

So, given these limitations, how did Stephen Colbert as political critic fare this past week? As expected, the first week of the show revealed a more politically restrained Colbert, and even some clichéd bipartisan statements and gestures. But given the new context, he managed to keep the show’s politics fairly pointed. And maybe, just maybe, his more bipartisan tone will prove to be a strategic way for him to deliver his more politically daring messages. A girl can dream.

Already, the focus and overall content of Colbert’s Late Show has been far more political than that of other late night network talk shows, including David Letterman’s. Colbert’s guests for the first week included Jeb Bush and Joe Biden, and the guests for the second week include Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. While David Letterman did interview then–Vice President Al Gore during his second week hosting The Late Show in 1993, none of his other early guests were involved in politics. When Jay Leno took over The Tonight Show in 1992, his early guests were Billy Crystal, Emilio Estevez, and Christian Slater. When Jimmy Fallon replaced Leno in 2014, he had Michelle Obama on, and even asked her about the Affordable Care Act, but the rest of the interview steered clear of politics, while Fallon’s other first week guests—Will Smith, Jerry Seinfeld, Bradley Cooper, and Justin Timberlake—all fit the mold left by his predecessor. Continue reading “ Are Colbert’s New Politics Softer, or Just More Subtle?”

 Trevor Noah Says He’s Not a Political Progressive. He’d Be Funnier If He Were.

The new Daily Show host doesn’t have much to say, which leaves him making jokes about tramp stamps and body weight.

trevor_noah_daily_show_cc_img
(The Daily Show with Trevor Noah / Brad Barket)
Originally posted October 9 on the Nation

Unlike Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah doesn’t ground his comedy in a political ideology. This is of course politically disappointing to people who saw Jon Stewart as someone who not only raised awareness but influenced politics and sometimes even policy. But what’s less obvious is that the lack of political perspective makes the show less funny.

Like millions of viewers in the United States and across the globe, I depended upon Jon Stewart, night after night, to excoriate people in high places who had messed with ordinary people during the day. When Comedy Central announced that Trevor Noah would replace Stewart, I knew that the odds of someone doing as good a job were slim. But I defended Noah when he came under attack for a handful of tweets that ranged from offensive to not at all offensive (just critical of Israeli policy), and from unfunny to really, really unfunny. It seemed an unfair point of focus. I was hopeful that his background, so different from Stewart’s, would bring a fresh perspective. And I thought it went without saying that Noah would continue the show’s political focus and insight.

But then a week before the new Daily Show launched, Trevor Noah told a group of reporters whom Comedy Central had invited to the Daily Show studio that he was “not a political progressive,” but “a progressive person.” Noah said,

What makes me a progressive, in my opinion, is the fact that I try to improve myself and by and large improve the world that I’m in—in the smallest way possible. I know that I cannot change the entire world, but I’ve always believed I can at least affect change in my world. So I try and do that. Progression, in my opinion, is often identifying shortcomings—whether it’s views or the things you’re doing in your life, your relationships—and trying to find the places where you improve on those.

The personal is, of course, political, but Noah wasn’t referring to identity politics or advocating an intersectional analysis. He seemed to equate progress with self-improvement. And he sounded like a self-help guru, or a student-government candidate just starting out.

The first weeks of Trevor Noah’s Daily Show have revealed a host whose perspective is unclear. This isn’t just a political problem but a comedic one. Despite being consistently affable and charming, Noah rarely puts forward a personal perspective about politics, or anything. And this lack of perspective makes the humor of his monologues and interviews feel haphazard. The sooner he figures out who he is, what he’s going for as a person and a host, the sooner he will be able to find a voice for conveying his vast comedic gifts.

We had a preview of his bro-ish humor during the backlash to Noah’s tweets last spring. Noah was accused of being a misogynist and, again, not funny, for his tweet from 2011: “ ‘Oh yeah the weekend. People are gonna get drunk & think that I’m sexy!’—fat chicks everywhere.” While he didn’t do or say anything nearly as overtly offensive on the show, there were echoes of bro-ish sexism and body shaming. Noah set up a segment on Lena Dunham’s interview with Hillary Clinton by saying, “Hillary knows how to win the nation. First you have to win the butt-smotherers.” With as much nuance as displayed in the joke, the screen behind Noah showed a partially blurred image of Allison Williams’s character receiving analingus on an episode of Girls.

The joke was pretty sophomoric and slightly slut shaming, in a vague and thoughtless way. Then he showed a clip in which Dunham asked Clinton if she was a feminist, to which Clinton responded, “Yes, absolutely.” When Dunham laughed in glee, Noah paused the footage and said, “I haven’t seen Lena Dunham that excited since HBO made its office clothing-optional.” Really? Lena Dunham’s highly political, feminist, and ground-breaking decision to show a character with a “normal body” naked on TV is reduced to a punchline about how much she likes to be naked.

Noah went for an easy punch line and some body-shaming when he interviewed Chris Christie, too: Recalling the first time he met the governor, Noah says, “You were wearing shorts. I will never…forget it. You look good in shorts.” Christie responds to the implicit fat joke by rolling with it and making fun of his own appearance: “There’s no requirement to lie in your first week on the job.”

Noah did cover John Boehner’s retirement and made a statement about how right-wing Washington has become: “Even John Boehner, the man once ranked the eighth-most-conservative man in Congress, wasn’t right-wing enough.… It’s like crack telling meth that it’s not addictive enough. ‘Yo, man, you got to step your game up, crystal, you make teeth fall out, big deal. I put down Whitney Houston.’” But the joke was timid, at least politically, and the only risky part was the Whitney Houston reference, which got a groan.

The retirement of John Boehner and Jon Stewart, which should have been a short joke, or perhaps a few jokes, was stretched into a meta and self-referential report from correspondent Jordan Klepper, who told Noah, “I get how you feel. Taking over for John—Boehner—is hard.” Noah replied, “Pretty soon everyone will be saying, John please come back.” The Boehner/Boner jokes didn’t have a real perspective, political or otherwise. There was no personality. And so it fell pretty flat.

In contrast, correspondents Roy Wood and Jordan Keppler brought an angle and some character to the show, which made them funnier. It wasn’t earth-shattering (no pun intended), but Roy Wood Jr.’s report on NASA’s discovery of liquid on Mars was the first time I laughed during the debut episode. It was also the first time racism (and not just race) was addressed on the show. When Noah asks Wood what he can tell us about the story, Wood responds, “I can tell you I don’t give a shit.” When an optimistic Noah says, “Doesn’t this raise the possibility that one day people can live on Mars?” Wood responds, “People like who? Me and you? How am I going to get there? Brother can’t catch a cab, you think we can catch a spaceship?… Black people ain’t going to Mars! And that includes you, Trevor.”

The other funniest segment of the show was a joint investigation by white Jordan Keppler and black Roy Wood into police bias. Again, they had strong perspectives, which drove the comedy and the political message. During an interview with former NYPD detective and Fox News contributor Bo Dietl, Keppler says, “This is a tough question to ask Bo, but I gotta ask: Are cops racist?” When Bo responds, “No,” Klepper gets up to leave, saying, “That’s good enough for me.”

Continue Reading…

7 Ways Donald Trump and 50 Cent Are the Same Person

The unlikely presidential candidate and the rap star share eerie similarities

Donald Trump and 50 Cent
Donald Trump and 50 Cent Alexander Tamargo/Getty; D Dipasupil/FilmMagic/Getty

Originally posted on Rolling Stone

Bill Maher recently described Donald Trump as “the white Kanye.” But Maher, who’s not known for his in-depth hip-hop knowledge, is a little off with that comparison. If anything, Trump is more like Kanye West’s sometime frenemy 50 Cent. The overlap between the two larger-than-life figures is so far-reaching that it’s a little eerie. Come to think of it, have you ever actually seen 50 Cent and Trump in the same place at the same time? The Nightly Show‘s Mike Yard called Trump “the 50 Cent of the Republican Party” this week. We’ll go even farther: We propose that the Donald and 50 are actually the same person. Here’s our airtight case:

1. They both represent Queens.

Not only did Trump and 50 grow up in the same New York borough – they’re both from Jamaica, Queens. To be fair, the two men are products of very different parts of the neighborhood. Trump was raised in the bucolic Jamaica Estates, a moneyed community founded at the turn of the century, while 50 Cent grew up in working-class South Jamaica.

2. They’re both renaissance men of business.

Trump followed in his wealthy father’s footsteps, working for his old man’s real estate firm, which he eventually took over and expanded. In addition to owning worldwide residential real estate, hotels, resorts and, of course, golf courses, the Donald has developed products and ventures including Trump Restaurants (located in Trump Tower and consisting of Trump Buffet, Trump Catering, Trump Ice Cream Parlor, and Trump Bar), GoTrump (an online travel website), Donald J. Trump Signature Collection (menswear, men’s accessories and watches), Donald Trump the Fragrance, Trump magazine, Trump Golf, Trump Chocolate, Trump home (home furnishings), Trump Productions (a television production company), Trump Institute, Trump the Game (a 1989 board game), Donald Trump’s Real Estate Tycoon (a business simulation game), Trump BooksTrump Model ManagementTrump Shuttle (an airline), Trump Ice (bottled water), Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks. And, until recently, The Apprentice on NBC!

50 Cent, meanwhile, followed his late mother into the drug trade around age 12. Beyond his own lucrative rap career, he’s founded G-Unit Records and G-Unit Clothing. Like Trump, he dipped into the beverage business, releasing an enhanced drink called Formula 50 with Vitamin Water. On the olfactory front, he joined forces with Right Guard deodorant to put his name on Pure 50 RGX body spray. He tried, and failed, to penetrate the prophylactic market with Magic Stick Condoms. And he had his own Apprentice-esque show called 50 Cent: The Money and The Power on MTV.

3. They’re both bestselling authors.

Donald Trump has written over a dozen books, including the bestseller Trump: The Art of the Deal. Less well-known but equally transformative titles include Think BIG and Kick Ass in Business and Life, Trump: How to Get Rich and Trump: The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received.

50 Cent launched his own publishing imprint, G-Unit Books, and is the author of successful volumes like The Fiftieth Law, Formula 50: A 6-Week Workout and Nutrition Plan That Will Transform Your Life, and 50 X 50: 50 Cent in His Own Words. Unlike Trump, however, 50 has also branched out into fiction, writing novels like Death Before Dishonor and Harlem Heat.

4. They both love to brag about how rich they are.

It would take all year to compile all of Trump’s boasts, so let’s focus on four gems – all taken from his presidential announcement speech last month. “I’m really rich, I’m really rich,” he observed at one point. “I’ll show you in a second. I’m not saying that in a bragging way.” And: “I’m proud of my net worth. I’ve done an amazing job.” And: “I have the best [golf] courses in the world.” Also: “One of the big banks came to me and said, ‘Donald, you don’t have enough borrowings. Could we loan you $4 billion?’ I said, ‘I don’t need it.’ ”

50 Cent is proud of his net worth, too. Since we stuck to four examples for Trump, we’ll do the same here. From “I Get Money”: “Have a baby by me, baby, be a millionaire!/I’ll write the check before the baby comes, who the fuck cares?” From “Piggy Bank”: “Clickity-clank, clickity-clank/The money goes into my piggy bank.” From “Money”: “I’m eating, I get money…I shit money/It smells like Benjamins, it boosts my adrenaline.” From “Straight to the Bank”: “I’m laughing straight to the bank with this…./I keep nothing but hundred dollar bills in the bankroll/I got the kind of money that the bank can’t hold.”

5. They both declared bankruptcy.

What makes all of this bragging kind of awkward is when you have to declare bankruptcy. Donald Trump’s companies did so four times: Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City in 1991, Trump Plaza Hotel in Atlantic City in 1992, Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts in 2004 and Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009. Whoops!

Funnily enough, even though Forbes estimated that 50 Cent had a net worth of $150 million just this May, he had to file for bankruptcy in July. Coincidentally, his financial woes occurred right around the time a jury was determining how much money he would have to pay in damages to a woman whose sex tape he allegedly posted online without her permission. The jury decided on $5 million. In response, 50’s lawyer said his client’s net worth is just 4.4 million! What are the odds? So how could a man worth so relatively little have such a brag-worthy lifestyle? The rapper testified that he borrowed his cars and jewelry. They were lies! All lies!

6. They both have lots of beefs with other famous people.

The lawsuit above was the end result of an old feud between 50 and Rick Ross: The only reason 50 leaked the sex tape at all is because it allegedly featured Ross’ ex. 50 Cent has also had public beefs with rappers from Ja Rule to Fat Joe to Jadakiss to Cam’Ron to Lil Wayne to his own former protégés the Game and Young Buck …and many more.

We’ll never know exactly how many people Trump has picked fights with, but a few of his targets include President Obama, Rosie O’Donnell, Russell Brand, Jay Leno, Cher, Neil Patrick Harris, Lawrence O’Donnell, Arianna Huffington, Jon Stewart – and most recently, John McCain. Last weekend, Trump went after the Arizona Senator for having been a prisoner of war (classy!): “He’s not a war hero… I like people who weren’t captured.” On Tuesday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham responded by calling Trump a jackass. Hours later, Trump gave out Graham’s private phone number during a speech.

Trump is also in a public spat with the entire country of Mexico after his tasteless anti-Latino comments. So, there’s that.

7. They’re both Republicans . . . sort of.

Donald Trump is currently seeking the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. During a speech delivered from the border at Laredo, Texas, on Thursday, Trump said, “Look, I’m a Republican . . . I’m a conservative. I’m running. I’m in first place by a lot, it seems, according to all the polls. I want to run as a Republican. I think I’ll get the nomination.” But loyalty is a two-way street, as Trump made clear in an interview with The Hill on Wednesday: “The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy. The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.” A third-party run is a possibility if he fails to secure the GOP nomination.

50 is also a man of political contradictions, and is probably the only rumored Republican to make a PSA in support of Occupy Wall Street. He also espoused some Jerry Falwell-esque views on Hurricane Katrina in 2005, saying, “The New Orleans disaster was meant to happen. It was an act of God.” But that’s nothing compared to the praise 50 heaped on George W. Bush the same year, calling Bush “incredible . . . a gangsta. I wanna meet George Bush, just shake his hand and tell him how much of me I see in him.”

Comedy as criticism: Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah and the issue of Israel

via youtube
via youtube

Who, in the media, will have the courage to call out Israel once Jon Stewart leaves the Daily Show? (On Monday, the date of Stewart’s final show – August 6 – was announced.)

As a secular Jewish woman who has been called self-loathing for both my comedy and writing, I’ve always had a particular appreciation for Jon Stewart’s brave critiques of Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Considering his background as a bi-racial, South African comedian who came of age during apartheid, the incoming host of the Daily Show, Trevor Noah, could bring a refreshing perspective to many political issues, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But I worry that the same kinds of people who try to stifle legitimate debate about Israel with unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism will silence Noah. (I fear the silencing campaign has already started.) The irony, though, is that silencing the discussion around Israel is bad for both Israel and Jews. Continue reading “Comedy as criticism: Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah and the issue of Israel”

On Equal Pay Day, a 1970s Batgirl could teach today’s GOP a lesson about equal pay

image via batman wikia
image via batman wikia
Originally posted on Feministing

I guess it’s utopian of me to think that today’s politicians and mainstream media would be as radical as a Batgirl from a 1970’s Department of Labor PSA. But a girl, bat or otherwise, can dream, can’t she? Either way, it’s Equal Pay Day! 

In the 1970s the radical, gender-norm-challenging-binary-questioning Batgirl character came out in support of equal pay. Today, decades later, the gender pay gap stands at 78 cents to the dollar and hasn’t narrowed in the last decade. Every April, Equal Pay Day marks how far into the year the average American woman must work to make what the average man made last year.

It’s sad that many of today’s politicians and so-called journalists aren’t quite as progressive as this character from over 40 years ago.

For instance, when I search Google News for “equal pay,” the first thing that comes up is an opinion piece by Diana Furchgott-Roth, a free-market fundamentalist who rails against feminism and the environment. Her book Regulating to Disaster: How Green Jobs Policies are Damaging America’s Economy is a page-turner, I’m sure. Her op-ed, published in Market Watch is called “Feminists overreach with Equal Pay,” and it argues that “in many ways, women already are ahead, but feminists won’t acknowledge that.”

Furchgott-Roth opens her opus by writing, “April 14 is feminists’ misconceived Equal Pay Day. That’s the day of the year, they say, when all women’s wages, allegedly only 78% of all men’s, ‘catch up’ to what men have earned the year before. The fairy tale is that women have to work those extra months to get their fair share.”

Just listen to all the terrible things we feminist extremists are agitating for:

Paycheck Fairness Act would allow women to sue for unlimited compensatory and punitive damages. It would encourage class actions by requiring workers who do not want to participate to opt out, rather than opt in, a radical change from conventional law and practice. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would collect data on the race, sex and wages of workers to test for and prevent discrimination.

In other words, Furchgott-Roth argues that this law would…wait for…discourage discrimination. What could be less lady-like and more unAmerican?

She continues, “Feminists want Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced in this Congress on March 25 by Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both Democrats.” Like the best of journalists, Furchgott-Roth makes her point by using incredibly unflattering images of the two Congresswomen. Because doing your darndest to make so-called feminists look unattractive is a great way to compensate for your lack of logic or integrity.

Since we’re mentioning political parties, you may want to know that Furchgott-Roth served under George W. Bush as the chief of staff on his Council of Economic Advisers and as the chief Economist of the United States Department of Labor. Her position make sense, given that the Republicans in Congress have voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act four times since 2012!

Here is an updated Batgirl-based PSA from today’s Department of Labor, which is sadly as relevant today as it as back then. The text below the video reads, “40 years ago, Batgirl fought for equal pay for equal work, a fight that persists today. While the wage gap has closed slightly, women still earn 78% of what men earn, on average. And for women of color the gap is even wider. We can — and must — do more for #EqualPayNow.”

Here is the transcript for the original video:

Batgirl Teaches Batman a Lesson about Equal Pay

Announcer: A ticking bomb means trouble for Batman & Robin.

Robin: Holy Breaking and entering it’s Batgirl!

Batman: Quick Batgirl! Untie us before it’s too late.

Batgirl: It’s already too late. I’ve worked for you a long time and I’m paid less than Robin. Same job, same employer means equal pay for men and women.

Batman: No time for jokes Batgirl.

Batgirl: It’s no joke! It’s the Federal Equal Pay Law.

Robin: Holy Act of Congress!

Batgirl: If you’re not getting equal pay, contact the Wage & Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor.

#ThrowBackThursday: Ted Cruz, Bush supporter, thespian, closet liberal?

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Check out this photo of Ted Cruz checking off George W. Bush’s win in the Texas governor’s race in 1994. Cruz was then a student at Harvard Law School. But what you may not know is that Cruz was a thespian. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen! During his first year at Harvard Law, Cruz was in a play. And not just any play. Cruz was what is arguably one of the most famous dramatic indictments of McCarythism… Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. True, he played Samuel Parris, a villainous character. But, still Ted Cruz endorsed the work of a Jewish, liberal, Blacklisted playwright.

Continue reading…

What if a Muslim comic said about Jews what Joan Rivers said about Palestinians?

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A week after her death, Joan Rivers remains in the headlines. The exact cause of her death is still being debated. And reports of her star-studded theatrical funeral continue to emerge. Howard Stern delivered the eulogy, Hugh Jackman sang and people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Carolina Herrera, Whoopi Goldberg, Barbara Walters, Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Kelly Osbourne, Andy Cohen, Donald Trump, and Diane Sawyer paid their respects.

Rivers deserves the attention she is getting. She was hilarious, brave, and an undeniable trailblazer. And the funeral was  a perfect fit.  But I can’t help but wonder how different the event would have been if a Muslim comedian had said about Jews what Joan Rivers recently had said about Palestinians.

In August, when a TMZ reporter approached Rivers at an airport and asked her what she thought of the casualties in Gaza, the comedian responded,

Good. Good. When you declare war, you declare war. They started it. We don’t count who’s dead. You’re dead. You deserve to be dead. You started it. Don’t you dare make me feel sad about that. You can’t get rid of Hamas, you have to say you do not recognize them, they are terrorists … They were re-elected by a lot of very stupid people who don’t even own a pencil… They were told to get out and if you don’t get out you’re an idiot. And at least the ones who were killed were the ones with low IQs.

Rivers issued a statement that was more damage control than apology. But, the truth is, it’s not Joan Rivers’ statements, per se, that I find so horrifying. It’s the response, or lack thereof, from Rivers’ peers and the double standard and pervasive dehumanization of Muslims that it reveals. Let’s imagine that there was a very famous  Muslim-American comedian, of Joan Rivers proportions. Then let’s imagine this comedian  had been asked to share his thoughts on an attack which killed over 2,000 Israelis, the majority of whom were civilians. Imagine that the response was,

Good. Good. When you declare war, you declare war. They started it. We don’t count who’s dead. You’re dead. You deserve to be dead. You started it. Don’t you dare make me feel sad about that. You can’t get rid of Israel, you have to say you do not recognize them, they are terrorists …

Now, imagine that a month after these statements are made, the comedian dies. Can you imagine the stars mentioned above attending the funeral? Or if attending, not at the very least clarifying that they disagreed with the anti-Jewish statements? Wouldn’t the ADL launch a campaign?

There was, indeed, a very strong response to what Rivers said on social media. One friend of Rivers claims that the comedian received death threats and hired a body guard, though Rivers’ publicist has said she was not aware of this.  Yes, among the social media comment were those that were clearly vitriolic, misogynistic, and/or anti-Semitic, as is often the case in online comments.  In contrast, no respected leaders, no celebrities, no organizations, no parts of any establishment have felt the need to at all dissociate themselves from the hateful comments made by Rivers.

For some reason, most people, even people who are usually intelligent, become incredibly dense when comedy is being discussed or analyzed. So, allow me to clarify a few things. This is not a debate about free speech. Nobody is debating whether Joan Rivers has the legal right to say what she said. This also isn’t an issue of outrageous humor. Comedians trade in transgression, at least the great ones like Rivers.  But Joan Rivers was clearly not joking when she made her comments that the civilians in Gaza “deserve to be dead.” Perhaps she was being slightly hyperbolic. But she was not being sarcastic or ironic. She was being genuine. Her comments were offensive, but for what? They were shocking in their cruelty. But did they challenge anyone’s ideas or prejudices or go against the status quo? No. They confirmed and perpetuated them.

I am sad that Joan Rivers is dead. I don’t speak ill of the stupendous woman and comedian. It’s the the U.S. media and entertainment establishment’s blind spots about its own prejudice and callousness that shocks me in the aftermath of Joan River’s death.

Watch Heather Gold and me debate the Joan Rivers controversy on this week’s Morning Jew.

Originally posted on RawStory

Happy(ish) Women’s Equality Day!

 

Image via The Atlantic
Image via The Atlantic

Happy Women’s Equality Day! And happy 94th birthday to the 19th Amendment! 

August 26th commemorates the 1920 passage of the 19th amendment, giving white women the right to vote. The day was designated in 1971 thanks to the tireless work of the inimitable feminist and congresswoman Bella Abzug (D-NY), picture above.

We’ve come a long way, but as anyone reading this blog knows, there is more work to be done. 

This infographic sums it up pretty well. (Click for larger version.)

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Originally posted on Feministing