I’ve been having a great time at the RNC. I took my photo with Herman Caine, Sean Hannity, and, as of this afternoon, got to interview Info Wars host Alex Jones on the street! I must say, his skin looked great. And I now know why: he had just been given a moisturizing Turkish Dorean facial, which consists of comedian Jimmy Dore spitting Ice Tea in your face after you try to crash a live broadcast of The Young Turks.
Jones rolls thick and deep, surrounded by an entourage of dudes who look like they’ve booby-trapped their homes in preparation for a government invasion of their houses and at least one man who is an actual shofar-playing, born again Christian, with who I had spoken days before. Yet I was able to talk to Jones as he and his crew walked down the streets. And I wasn’ even wearing my “Make America great again,” camo hat. Here is our exchange, presented without further commentary.
Katie Halper: Are you enjoying yourself?
Alex Jones: I like standing up against tyranny
KH: Where is the biggest threat of tyranny coming from?
AJ: From our globalists that are running our government into the ground.
KH: And between Hillary and Trump?
AJ: Or, there’s no choice, Trump all the way.
Shofar-Player: Hillary’s a witch, she’s into witch craft, she’s a jezebel. We all know who she is.
Call me sentimental but I’m a sucker for anniversaries. Take, for example, May 23 2008, when then Senator Hillary Clinton was asked if she was going to drop out of the primary race, given the Senator Barack Obama’s lead in delegates. During an interview with the editorial board of the South Dakota newspaper The Argus Leader Clinton expressed frustration with the way she was being pressured to suspend her campaign. I should add that I don’t find this part of her response inappropriate:
I don’t know I don’t know I find it curious because it is unprecedented in history. I don’t understand it and between my opponent and his camp and some in the media, there has been this urgency to end this and you know historically that makes no sense, so I find it a bit of a mystery.
But things took a turn for the worse when the editorial board asked, “You don’t buy the party unity argument?” to which she responded:
I don’t, because again, I’ve been around long enough. You know my husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere around the middle of June. We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. Um you know I just I don’t understand it. There’s lots of speculation about why it is.
Now this may seem like a Joycean or Woolfean stream of consciousness. But buried in it is the following argument:
First of all, I’m not gonna drop out now because it’s May and my husband Bill Clinton didn’t secure the nomination until June in California. Speaking of June and California, by gosh, dontcha know, it was that very month and in that very state when then Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Democratic presidential candidate was shot and killed. So, let’s be honest, my opponent could be taken out any second. And I have to be ready to go to the convention so I can defeat the Republican nominee. It’s really the patriotic thing to do. You’re welcome.
I’m not a presidential historian, but I think it’s safe to say that this was an unprecedented use of the potentially-looming-assassination-of-your-opponent-to-justify-staying-in-a-race. While innovative and trailblazing, murdered-Kennedy-dropping is impolite. It’s impolitic. It’s bad etiquette. It’s the presidential equivalent of wearing white after Labor Day or to another woman’s wedding. Except, I would argue, it’s way worse in that instead of violating a dress code, it exploits the national tragedy that was the murder of Senator Robert Kennedy.
You may have seen this “On Becoming Anti-Bernie” piece, which is going around the internets. It’s one of the top three most popular posts on Medium’s politics section, has 1.4k likes, and over 600 comments. But who is the author? Robin Alperstein? She’s a corporate lawyer who specializes in defending hedge funds but also represents the occasional nanny-abusing, jet-setting, Chilean aristocratic Upper East Side couple.
Lest you think I’m bringing up Alperstein’s biography because I can’t rebut the substance of her argument, I’ll go through a mere sampling of its flaws.
Let’s start with one of her bald-faced lies. Alperstein writes that Sanders, “literally pushed his wife away from a lectern (‘don’t stand there!’) on the air.” Actually, Bernie gestured. He never touched her. And there is video. So Alperstein either didn’t watch it (is “lazy and unprepared,” which are literally the words she uses to describe Sanders) or she’s a liar.
Also, as a Clinton supporter, does Alperstein really want to make this election about the relationship between the candidate and his or her spouse. By all means, as a Bernie supporter, I’d be happy to.
But the piece is generally chock full of distortions and myths that persist despite lack of evidence: Sanders hasn’t accomplished anything (which is weird because he has and his nickname is the Amendment King); he never compromises (which is even weirder since Alperstein points to examples of compromise in the same piece); has no foreign policy experience (he has more foreign policy experience than Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama did when they ran for first election, was right on Iraq. And Clinton was wrong on Iraq, but to be fair, her being wrong shouldn’t be limited to that one incident. She’s also been wrong on Libya, Haiti and Honduras, where she legitimized a coup that has rendered the country the “murder capital of the world.”)
The piece also uses glaring double standards. It smears Sanders as “lazy,” while attacking Sanders for his tone. I guess she’s showing instead of telling. So, well played Alperstein. It attacks Sanders on his temperament, which is so important, it has its own “temperament” subsection: “Sanders is crotchety,” Alperstein writes. And, when questioned, he apparently becomes, “testy and sarcastic.” If temperament is fair game, that’s great news for Sanders supporters. Because we can now talk about Hillary’s cold yet fake, awkward yet disingenuous demeanor, yes?
Alperstein condescendingly writes that Sanders “doesn’t seem to have an ‘inside voice’.” Shall we talk about the cadence or volume of Clinton’s voice?
Perhaps my favorite critique is that he gets “red-faced.” I won’t dignify this by responding to it beyond saying talking about a candidate’s physical appearance is not a good look.
OK. Now back to Alperstein. Who is she, you ask? Well, she’s a partner at Becker Glynn. And, according to the website, she specializes in
Countless people, newspapers, pundits, self-appointed definers of all things Jewish have challenged, questioned or even denied Bernie Sanders’ Jewish identity… because it’s a Friday. Speaking of which, good shabbos!
It’s hard to keep up with all the self-righteous attacks and denouncements lobbed at Sanders but one of my favorites from this week alone was the nuanced and understated headline which graced the schlock-filled right wing rag that is Front Page:
HOW BERNIE SANDERS SOLD HIS SOUL TO BE AN AUTHENTIC LEFTIST
This soul selling was, of course, a reference to Sanders’ decision not to the annual AIPAC conference.
But I don’t want to leave out Jeffrey Goldberg, whose condescending and catty tweets about how Jewish identity is appropriately defined, was stunningly unaware. Goldberg tweeted truth to power during the Sanders-Clinton debate in Flint Michigan from earlier this month when host Anderson Cooper said the following:
Just this weekend there was an article I read in the Detroit News saying that you keep your Judaism in the background, and that’s disappointing some Jewish leaders. Is that intentional?
(Because if there is one publication that represents THE JEWS it’s definitely the Detroit News or DN, as we Jews like to call it. And if there is one group of people who speaks for the Jews, it’s definitely “some Jewish leaders.” But that’s neither here nor though, so moving on.) Bernie made the mistake of saying that part of his Jewish identity was shaped by the Holocaust, during which his father’s side of the family was “wiped out.” Well, that didn’t sit too well with Jeffrey Goldberg, who sanctimoniously tweeted:
Rapper and Bernie Sanders endorser Killer Mike made a terrible mistake on Tuesday night when he quoted “a woman” who used the word “uterus,” during a speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Twitter and several media outlets blasted Michael Render, AKA Killer Mike, for sexism. Interestingly, most of them didn’t bother to explain what he was really saying or who the woman he had cited was: feminist, anti-racist educator and activist Jane Elliott.
When people tell us ‘hold on, wait a while’ – that’s what the other Democrat is telling you, ‘Hold on Black Lives Matter, just wait a while. Hold on young people in this country, just wait a while,’ And then she get good, she have your own momma come to you, your momma sit down and say, ‘Well you’re a woman.’
Render is describing what he sees as an attempt on Clinton’s part to appeal to gender identity to get the vote. Whether or not you think this is accurate is another question. But we can all agree on what he’s saying. He goes on:
I talked to Jane Elliott a few weeks ago, and Jane said, ‘Michael, a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States. You have to have policies that’s reflective of social justice.’ ”
To me, it’s pretty clear what Render is saying here. Again, you don’t have to agree with him, but the point he is making is that policies and not gender determine whether someone is actually promoting social justice.
Somehow the takeaway from this was,”Killer Mike Quotes Woman Saying ‘Having a Uterus Doesn’t Qualify You to Be POTUS’” as Blue Nation Review headline put it. The Hill said, “Rapper Killer Mike drew attention late Tuesday after saying during a rally for Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders that a “uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president.” And Mediaitewrote that he “got pretty fired up about Team Clinton saying “just wait a while” and quoted a woman who told him, “A uterus doesn’t qualify you to be President of the United States.”
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. To be fair, I guess I should wish “Sorry it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day” to the people who don’t believe it should be a holiday and the politicians who voted against making it one. I’m talking to you, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).
While both parties attempt to claim Dr. King, the Republicans have a much harder time doing so without distorting history and the truth. But the truth is, most politicians would distance themselves from Dr. King’s stunning (and spot on) indictments of capitalism. There are, of course, a few exceptions, here and there.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, let’s look at some of the things he said challenged capitalism and are left out of most history books.
“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… [Capitalism] started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.” – Letter to Coretta Scott, July 18, 1952.
“And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.’ When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…” –Speech to Southern Christian Leadership Conference Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.
“Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis.”Speech to Southern Christian Leadership Conference Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.
“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.” – Speech to the Negro American Labor Council, 1961.
“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.
“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.” –Speech to SCLC Board, March 30, 1967.
“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income… The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.” – Where do We Go from Here?,1967.
Charges against Bill Cosby for aggravated indecent assault, which his legal team tried to have dismissed on Monday, have reignited a debate not just about the comedian’s guilt or innocence but about the role of race and racism. While many former defenders have defected over mounting allegations and revelations from an unsealed deposition, some of the people who continue to champion Cosby are framing it as the latest example of a racist criminal justice system which punishes Black men for doing things that white men get away with. Rapper Waka Flocka tweeted that he think’s the someone is “framing” Cosby, through “an organized lie,” and “propaganda.” He also tweeted that, “Every time a famous minority make it they throw salt in the game.” Rapper The Game took to Instagram, where posted an blank white image with the word Black and commented,
“I think it’s crazy that Bill Cosby has a mugshot for alleged assaults 11 years ago with no physical evidence or proof besides these womens accounts of what he did to them an entire decade later…. But Darren Wilson, who killed Mike Brown on camera… George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin… Timothy Loehman, who killed Tamir Rice seconds after arriving on the scene.. on camera, is FREE… Why did it take these women over 10 years to bring this to the light ?- The Game #BlackLivesSplatter
Comedian Eddie Griffin, for example, said, “There is a systematic effort to destroy every black male entertainer’s image…. They want us all to have an asterisk by our name. Kobe, raped a white woman in Colorado. Dr. Cosby, raped 37 bitches and counting. Nobody leaves this business clean.”
Of course several Black comedians like Larry Wilmore and Franchesca Ramsey have condemned Cosby and spoken about the intsection of rape culture and racism. And it was Hannibal Buress, who used his own standup to point out Cosby’s hypocrisy—telling young Black men to pull their pants up, while being a rapist– that propelled the Cosby story into our national dialogue.
In order to further explore how Black comedians were navigating this issue, I spoke to Rae Sanni and Tarik Daniels on my radio show. Sanni told us, “There’s a lot of people who bring up Woody Allen or Roman Polanski when you talk about Bill Cosby and say this guy got away with rape,” she said. “That is uninteresting to me because the idea that equality is everybody getting away with rape is silly.” For Sanni, “people like Eddie Griffin, who attribute accusations against Cosby to “an attempt at the destruction of the Black man, are the kind of people that think that Black liberation doesn’t necessarily include Black women. Because if you think that the way to Black liberation is to allow the abuse of one half of the population, then you don’t believe in Black liberation at all. You actually just want the access to patriarchy that white males have access to.”
Most people know Judah Friedlander for being a standup comedian and actor. You may have seen him on 30 Rock, or in films like The Wrestler, American Splendor or Wet Hot American Summer. But Friedlander is a bit of a renaissance man who not only makes his own hats but has authored two books including How to Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by the World Champion (2010) and If The Raindrops United, a book of illustrations and cartoons which hit the shelves October 20th. While If The Raindrops United, is undoubtedly hilarious, it’s also, in many ways, a work of political protest, in which Friedlander uses humor and graphic art to deal with serious issues such as gentrification, alienation, and the excesses of capitalism.
Friedlander came on The Katie Halper Show, my weekly radio show on WBAI, to talk to me and my co-host Gabe Pacheco about his new book and politics. Here are his thoughts on some important topics:
The Democratic Debates
“I thought it got off to a bad start with Cheryl crow singing the National Anthem. First of all it was a horrible rendition. But I thought it was such a weird, desperate attempt to make us look like we’re not anti-american. What was that all about?… It seemed like a very staged thing.”
“I just liked how Bernie Sanders pronounced the word blunder like ‘blunda.’ That’s actually kind of a double blunder since you mispronounced blunder.”
“[Sanders] was talking about how in rural areas gun laws should be different from urban areas. And he’s right. I talk about gun issues in my standup and I perform all over the place. First of all the gun stuff in this country is actually horrendous. But, yes the dynamic of guns in a rural area is completely different from the dynamic in an urban area. But you know, how you deal with it is a whole other issue.”
The Presidential Election and the two party system
I’m very progressive so…I haven’t decided who I’m going to vote for or what party. The last election I think I voted green party. I mean the person didn’t have a chance. But I think the country really has to get out of this two party system.
image of gentrification man via judah friedlander.com
“I moved to New York in 1987. My dad’s actually from Brooklyn… we would come up when I was a kid and the city was just so impressive and diverse. And for years I hadn’t lived in Manhattan. I lived way out in queens. A mile past the last stop on the subway in a non-gentrified neighborhood where families had been living for generations. Middle Village, Queens. But when I moved back to Manhattan… the classism in Manhattan and I would say half of Brooklyn at this point was just staggering.
When people say New York they’re usually talking about Manhattan. And when you’re in Manhattan it’s such a weird city because almost everyone is wealthy or ultra wealthy. And that means it’s mostly white… New York has always had wealthy and ultra wealthy but it was never the majority. And when you have a city where the teachers, policemen, firemen, subway workers, mail delivery people, when all the service workers and the blue collar people, when all of them are working in the city but none of them can actually afford to live in the city, that’s not a healthy dynamic at all. New York is a much less diverse place than it used to be. There’s even a mini-10 page comic book called “gentrification man” in the book and gentrification man is the first super hero for the corporations.”
Judah’s effortless and mellifluous listing of the entire cast of Red Dawn.
Judah’s sleeping in the corner of the studio on every episode without our even knowing.
You can catch The Katie Halper Show on WBAI at 99.5FM or online at WBAI every Wednesday from 6pm to 7pm. Or you can subscribe to the Katie Halper Show podcast on Itunes (and please rate and review us) or Soundcloud. And make sure to listen on October 28th when we talk to Ta-Nehisi Coates!
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 #DemDebate is terrible event planning. You put the funnier act last, not first. Dems have no chance. #ComedyGold
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. #snoozeFest
“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.
As unbelievable as it sounds, Rush Limbaugh got his major break after someone ELSE lost his job for saying something offensive. That someone else was Morton Downey Jr. and the term he used pales in comparison to the racist, sexist and hateful vitriol Limbaugh spews today.
In 1984 NewsTalk 1530 KFBK host Morton Downey Jr. told a racist, unoriginal and unfunny joke on air that involved the word “Chinaman” and a hilarious punchline based on how the inversion of “R” and “L” can turn “surprise” into “supplies.” When City Councilman Tom Chinn called into the show to register his concern with the use of the term Chinaman, Downey Jr. refused to apologize. The next day, however, he held a press conference, apologized and announced he was resigning.
The man who would replace Downey Jr. was Rush Limbaugh, who, of course, has far surpassed Downey’s hatefulness. I’m not sure if Chinaman is in Limbaugh’s repertoire but he more than makes up for it, if it’s not. Limbaugh did mock the speech of Chinese president Hu Jintao, which he paraphrased as, “Ching cha. Ching chang cho chow. Cha Chow. Ching Cho. Chi ba ba ba. Kwo kwa kwa kee. Cha ga ga. Ching chee chay. Ching zha bo ba. Chang cha. Chang cho chi che. Cha dee. Ooooh chee bada ba. Jee jee cho ba.” He called Georgetown student and birth control advocate (I can’t believe we need these in the 21st century) Sandra Fluke a slut, though the attack was much more embarrassing for him than for Fluke. Limbaugh’s claim that Fluke was having “so much sex” that she couldn’t “afford her birth control” revealed that Rush didn’t understand how birth control worked and clearly thinks that women use the pill the way he uses his Viagra pill. And, of course, he’s fond of calling the U.S. President Barack Obama the “magic negro.”