Sunday, August 28, 2011

How I Made Irene My Bitch - A Hurricane Survival Story

You cannot fear Mother Nature. You simply must make a choice. Will you or won’t you be a victim? It was around mid-day Friday that I made that choice for myself. Here is the epic, inspiring tale of how it all went down.

Friday 2:24 PM
I go to the grocery store. Not because I believe that civilization will soon devolve into some sort of post-apocalyptic Mad Max wasteland. I go simply because I am out of food and homo sapiens require food to survive.

I buy my usual groceries and then I stop to think. A hurricane is bearing down on us and the city will be shutting down. Should I be planning for the worst? Maybe. So I buy one candle and two six packs of beer. I buy some cookies too because, you know, I like cookies. Fuck Irene. I will conquer her. And I will conquer her with beer and cookies.

Friday 3:36 PM
I learn that all mass transit will stop running at noon on Saturday even though the bulk of the storm’s wrath will not arrive until around midnight. This angers me considerably because not only will I be missing the Mets game on Sunday, I also have tickets to the Giants/Jets game on Saturday…a game in a stadium I will now be unable to reach.

Friday 3:52 PM
I decide that twelve beers might not be enough for a one-man hurricane party, especially if I am locked in my apartment for several days. I also might be in the mood for a more sophisticated party so I go out and buy a bottle of Sancerre.

Friday 8:41 PM
I speak to a friend on the phone about how the excessive hurricane preparations are probably just Mayor Bloomberg overcompensating for the last blizzard that sodomized the city of New York on his watch. After such a politically damaging fiasco, here he was, flexing his muscles with mandatory evacuations and an unprecedented full-scale shutdown of all forms of public transportation.

Friday 9:02 PM
I learn that the Giants game is rescheduled for Monday evening. I smile and hop on Facebook, advising several people to get their canoe out of storage, put on their water-wings, find their snorkel or whatever other fairly obvious jokes I can muster. People typically respond with an ‘LOL’ followed by a clever retort of their own.

Saturday 9:42 AM
I put my air conditioner inside my apartment; more because of the annoying sound torrential rains makes on it than as a safety precaution. I eat breakfast and then sit down with a cup of coffee to start revising my latest screenplay.

Saturday 12:17 PM – 3:36PM
As I write, I bounce around the networks; NY1, CNN, FOX, and watch as the coverage becomes increasingly sensationalist. Reporters can no longer just report on the storm. They have to stand in the rain in the middle of a deserted highway while lamenting on how much rain the deserted neighborhood is getting. They have to wade waste-deep in the ocean to report on how much the ocean will rise when the storm hits. And every network has cutting-edge graphics; their own “Storm Watch” or “Eye on Irene” logo accompanied by ominous theme music.

Some people are refusing to evacuate and after several hours, I realize that all these subversive characters have two thing in common. They are all from Queens and they are all douchebags. They say things like “I built this castle so I gotta make sure it doesn’t float away” or “My house is a fortress, trust me.” Then I wonder if anyone would actually miss these knuckleheads were they to be swept away by a tsunami-esque storm surge.

Bloomberg comes on the air again, encouraging people to evacuate because, yes, the storm is going to be devastating and if we don’t follow directions, we will all surely die. Probably. Maybe.

Saturday 7:01 PM
I hear rain falling for the first time. I look outside and the tree in the courtyard is swaying with some zeal but nothing to get too worried about. I have a beer. Then I debate whether I should get drunk or get some work done. I decide to do both. But I won’t get too drunk because when my entire borough goes under water, I will need my wits. And I hear elevated BAC levels are found in most drownings…especially those that occur on the sidewalks of Queens.

Saturday 8:10 PM
Obama orders a State of Emergency for the Jersey Shore. I briefly consider how happy I would be if the entire cast of the Jersey Shore drowned and what an uplifting and climactic series finale that would make. Then I hear that a Tornado Warning was just issued. Yippeeee! 

Saturday 9:37 PM
I open my bottle of Sancerre and it is yummy. Sancerre never lets me down. Like tacos and masturbating, I always know it will leave me at least moderately satisfied. The rain and wind pick up but I remain, steadfast. Can you hear me Irene? Can you sense how unafraid of you I am? I continue blogging because…well, I am trapped here without many other options. 

Saturday 10:26 PM
Bloomberg makes another televised appearance. He tells me to stay in my apartment and move away from my window but when he starts giving instructions in his abysmal Spanish, I nod out. I come to when he recounts a cautionary tale about two nimrods that were kayaking in the East River. I briefly ponder natural selection and those that might not deserve the gift of life and then I pour myself another glass of wine. 

I decide to watch a movie and settle on some highbrow art house cinema, a film called   The Human Centipede.

To view the trailer, visit

Sunday 12:16 AM
Cabin fever, booze and the trauma of having just seen a really weird fucking movie prove too much for me. So I grab my camera, put on my bathing suit and go outside. I will meet Irene head on, with love and courage in my heart.

Sunday 2:21 AM
Two hours later, I am home. But…a breakthrough. As I wandered down a desolate Queens Blvd., I saw that my trusted bodega was open and I immediately glimpsed my destiny. After snapping a few shots with my camera, I bought a six-pack of Heineken cans (much safer than the bottles in my fridge) and set my sites on wining and dining Irene.

I opened a beer, shed my slicker, stored it and the rest of my beers on the steps of a nearby Temple and head out to begin wooing this tropical temptress. Vulnerability and intimacy would be key so I lied down in the eastbound express lane of Queens Blvd., where a fierce river was flowing. I slugged from my beer, inviting her to join me. She gusted at first; resisting my charms as her raindrops battered my topless torseau.

So I dialed it up a notch. I splashed around and, dare I say, I frolicked; seducing her with every childlike gesture. Before I knew it, the raindrops that moments before were stinging my face, were now caressing it, peppering my lips and cheeks with velveteen kisses. The wind had shifted from violent to purposeful.

She was spreading her legs for me, inviting me to enter her. Is it a coincidence that moments after I got home, they officially downgraded her from a Hurricane to a Tropical Storm? Hardly. I had broken her. By loving her.

Sunday 3:14 AM
Having subdued her, I kiss her goodnight and drift into REM sleep. Good night New York. Take care of my girl Irene for me.  

Sunday 9:30 AM
I wake up to hints of sunlight seeping through my window. The winds have subsided; only a breeze remains. Parts of Long Island, Staten Island, the Rockaways and Battery Park are flooded.

Property damage is sure to be high. Nobody knows when the transit will be operational again and roughly 72,000 New Yorkers are without power. 

Although I still have electricity, the damage in my neighborhood is cataclysmic. The tree that lost this twig may recover, it may not. Only time will tell. 

But every network is saying the same thing. It could have been a lot worse. Many will accredit this to meteorological factors but I think it’s clear what happened here.

Michael – 1     Irene – 0   

You’re welcome eastern seaboard. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What if the Tea Party was Black? Would Washington Still Bow to Their Fury?

I will never understand the rise of the Tea Party.

Ron Paul is, well, kind of a douche, Sarah Palin is a moron and Michelle Bachman is a fucking fruitcake that collects foster children the same way lonely seniors collect cats or knick-knacks. So why were so many people getting behind them?

Being opposed to tax increases is valid. Yet, when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush raised taxes, it was not met with calls for violence or the fanatical anti-government outrage presently corroding our congressional process. But when a black guy has the audacity to even suggest raising taxes on rich people…whooooaaa boy.
So what gives? Are people really just that pissed off that a young black dude beat out an old white geyser for the top job in the country? Are some Americans really that simple? Is Red State America that primitive? All these questions lead me to another question.

What if the Tea Party movement was black?

Can you feel the terror quivering down your spine? You know you can. Public Enemy wasn’t kidding when they named one of their albums “Fear of a Black Planet.” The very notion scares the shit out of any white, homegrown Protestant.

But how would we feel about a black Tea Party?

If the movement, which is overwhelmingly white, were instead comprised of predominantly black members, would it have the same political impact?

Let’s take this piecemeal shall we?

What if after an unfavorable election outcome, Al Sharpton were to suggest to his many followers, that they “Don’t retreat…reload!” Would he be accused of encouraging violence? I think it’s safe to say he would. And if he were to angrily fan the flames of anti-government sentiment, would he be linked to the Black Panthers or even terrorists? You betcha! (wink, wink) 

But not Ron Paul. Or Sarah Palin who is just too darn folksy to be threatening. Or Michelle Bachman is too Christian and weird to be dangerous.

And what if a bunch of black guys were to show up at a political rally with GATs on full display? Would the NRA adamantly support this celebration of Second Amendment rights? Probably not. Those carrying guns would be arrested on site by the riot police and maybe subsequently asked if they had the permits required to carry firearms. Maybe. It is safe to say that not many white people would stick around though because the only thing scarier than a horde of angry black people is a horde of angry black people with guns. 

Last year, a University of Washington poll found that 74% of Tea Party supporters agreed with the following statement, “While equal opportunity for blacks and minorities to succeed is important, it’s not really the government’s job to guarantee it.”

What if, in this alternate universe, 74% of black Tea Partiers thought this way about white people? Well, they wouldn’t really be able to do anything about it because white people already have a pretty firm grasp on most of the best jobs around. Except that ONE…and they are piping mad about it.

Because they want their country back…their white, Christian, heterosexual, tax-free country. And the Tea Party is comprised of predominantly old, white, rich men; roughly half of who identify themselves as born-again-Christians.

Blogger’s side note – if you like scary movies, watch ‘Jesus Camp.’ These children are the next generation of the Tea Party and yes, you should be very afraid.

What makes the Tea Party so dangerous is that they are advancing a radical agenda that is far to the right of the average Republican and they are already exacting influence over legislation. Their flagrant intolerance of tax increases torpedoed what would have been a groundbreaking deficit reduction plan that even House Speaker John Boehner supported. It would have more efficiently reduced the deficit while raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and closing corporate loopholes while also cutting more spending than the deal that was eventually reached.

But their influence forced Boehner to recant…resulting in an inferior deal. If the Tea Party were black and they lashed out against government policies, Congress would probably, well, they would probably do what they do now…ignore them completely. Republicans in Congress are apathetic to silent minorities, let alone loud, angry ones.

So what would a black Tea Party look like? Let’s be honest. It would frighten the bejesus out of us. The scary black stigma that has been pumped into the media from the Black Panthers to the Bloods and the Crips already has us petrified of angry African-Americans, especially those residing in the inner city. So if they were toting guns at rallies, shouting extremist rhetoric and advocating the reversal of long-standing court decisions, Republicans would not exploit their enthusiasm, they would ignore it or probably use it as political amunition.

If a prominent black political figure or group questioned the citizenship of a white president while calling him a Satanist (which is comparable to white people calling Obama Muslim)…we would probably perceive them as crazy, ignorant fucks who did not deserve a voice in the political arena.

If this behavior were coming from the black population, Republican lawmakers would use it as justification to further eradicate any semblance of Affirmative Action from all existing laws, they would make an even harsher case to eliminate Medicaid and welfare, they would do everything in their power to suppress this vocal and occasionally violent voice.

And Democrats sure as fuck would not endorse it or ride its’ coattails to political profit. They would know better. They would discourage, not enable, racism, xenophobia and an extremism that puts political gain over the health of a nation. 

And that is exactly what the Tea Party has been doing. So why doesn’t the Republican Party chastise its most extreme elements? Because it needs them. Republicans have nothing to be excited about (Exhibit A – Mitt Romney) and everything to be angry about (Exhibit B – Obama). The only reason the GOP has a pulse these days is because Tea Party fury has given them one.

But it is a toxic pulse and the American public is starting to recognize that. A year ago only 18% of Americans had an unfavorable view of the Tea Party. A few weeks ago, that number climbed to 40% and is rising by the day.

And I hope that number continues to rise. Because extremism wrapped in an American flag should not be allowed to flourish. Prejudice masquerading as politics should be eliminated, not perpetuated. And if my pontificating rant does not persuade you, maybe a rap video will. So check out the link below!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Obama - A Laim Duck Messiah?

From both sides of the mainstream media aisle, the insinuations are flooding the airwaves and saturating the blogosphere. So could it be true? Is the messiah of the Democratic Party dead? Has he already lost his re-election campaign? The Op-Eds are already echoing affirmations of this possibility.

Why the Tea Party Lord? Why?
How the fuck did we get here? And are we really here? Is this rhetoric half-assed hyperbole or should I really be worried?

Perhaps to answer this question, we first must retrace our steps over the last three years…maybe then we can figure out how we got here. And I will attempt to offer my assessment without the left-leaning bias that permeates my worldview. I will genuinely try to be objective and keep my acerbic commentary minimized and perhaps even muted. This should be an interesting experiment and one I will undoubtedly fail but here goes.

The year was 2008 and in a response to predatory lending and sub prime mortgage exploitation, the financial universe was on the brink of complete annihilation and in an attempt to avert this impending disaster, George W. Bush championed and congress then passed the $700 billion dollar Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, better known as the bank bailout. I find it noteworthy to mention that Jesus, umm I mean Obama, was over a month away from getting elected at the time.

This spending measure sucked but it was necessary. Sure we could have let the banking industry sink into oblivion but Bush acted responsibly and spent the money he had to. Wait…did I just compliment W?

Bbllluurrgghhh. Sorry, I just vomited all over my keyboard. Excuse me for a moment.

Okay. All clean, pressing on. Four months after this spending measure and several weeks after his miffed inauguration speech, Obama took the next painful but necessary step when he passed the $787 billion dollar American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. This stimulus package was meant to do two things…prevent the implosion of our economy and then get it back to where it had been before W. and his two terms of destruction took a budget surplus and turned it into the largest deficit an American president would ever inherit.

Does ‘two terms of destruction’ qualify as acerbic commentary?

Anyway, here’s what we have so far. Bush, with brilliant economic brainstorms like cutting taxes for the rich during war time and doing everything in his power to deregulate the market, paving the way for Enron, Ponzi schemes, sub prime mortgages, etc., managed to bequeath to Obama the largest deficit ever. And then, with the economy on the brink of collapse, Obama had no choice but to pass the stimulus package.

Dude, where's your hope?
The only problem was that, according to many economists, the stimulus package wasn’t big enough. Some economists speculated that any economic growth would level off or retreat once the money ran out. And they were right.

So what do you get when you take the first black guy to become president and saddle him with crippling debt in a dogshit economy that lacks the capital necessary to jumpstart itself? You get the Tea Party and a toxic Republican Congress hell-bent on cutting the deficit they handed Obama while refusing to increase tax revenue as part of the equation for doing so.

So amidst this climate, here is what Obama has accomplished, in case you missed it.

He passed a historic healthcare bill. It was a flawed bill but it was by far the most ambitious legislation to ever tackle the stratospheric costs of healthcare that has left tens of millions of Americans without coverage. But it did not contain a public option because such a bill would not pass the Senate so the liberals chided Obama for not sticking to his guns and getting every single element that their base wanted.

So he was not a pragmatist in this legislative triumph, he was a pussy.

Soon after, he tiptoed into hostilities with Libya but took a back seat, allowing other nations to shoulder the burden of another conflict that was not our war to wage. This move was cautious and politically calculated though an appropriate position to take because, I don’t know, we were already involved in two other fucking wars at the time. So we kind of had a full plate already.

But just before the GOP could completely castrate his national security credentials, he went and did what W. never could, he killed Osama bin Laden. But this celebration was short lived because of a pesky little problem called joblessness that just wouldn’t go away.

And unfortunately, the Republicans’ only response to the unemployment crisis was regurgitating the same ineffectual talking points…cut spending and cut taxes. Hhhhmmm. Can someone explain to me exactly how that creates jobs? And if you say one word about ‘trickle down’ economics, I will dropkick you in your tits or balls, depending on your gender. There is more evidence supporting the existence of the Loch Ness Monster than there is for ‘trickle down’ economic growth.

But the GOP stood by their principles, enabled and abetted by a growing contingent of Tea Party zealots (so much for objectivity), holding Congress hostage at every opportunity. They held it hostage for the budget negotiations and in the last hour, reached a deal that cut $38.5 billion dollars from the budget and created ZERO jobs.

They held it hostage once again in the Debt Ceiling Showdown of 2011 and once again, Obama compromised and conceded to a party that almost joyfully announced that they would rather allow a Government default than raise taxes on wealthy Americans and close corporate loopholes. The deal reduced long-term spending by $2 trillion dollars and thus far has created ZERO jobs.

And once again, the GOP cried victory and both parties pointed at Obama and screamed ‘Pussy’ as the Standard & Poor’s downgraded our economy to AA+, citing Congressional discord and lack of functionality as its reason for doing so. 

So as stock markets plummet, so do Americans’ faith in our government. The approval ratings for Congress are the lowest ever. EVER. Obama’s approval ratings have gone from its high of 69% to its present 42%, one point less than Regan’s at this stage of his presidency.

So how do I feel about this president that I spent six months campaigning for? I am both disappointed and sympathetic. I like to fancy myself as a little more informed than the average voter about the nuances of the Beltway cage fight that Obama and the GOP are presently embroiled in. So I find it easier to justify the decisions he has made.

But I have to ask myself if I am just rationalizing… employing a reliable defense mechanism to conceal the fact that our messiah has not saved us…that this black Jesus may have a good jump shot and a great smile but he’s got a shitty golf game and provides worse leadership.

But how does one define leadership? Is it standing up to the opposing party even if the consequences are a government shutdown or default? Or is it making compromises that avoid worsening a financial crisis even if it diminishes his chances for a second term? Did John Boehner display leadership when he gave into Tea Party demands to strike any and all tax hikes from the debt ceiling deal? Or did Obama display leadership when he acquiesced in the wake of this reversal? You could make a case either way. 

But as the New York Times cited yesterday, Obama told Diane Sawyer about a year ago that he would rather be a good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president. Right now, it’s hard to say how future generations will remember him. But if he cannot find a way to create jobs, stifle the radical right and inspire this country as he did on the campaign trail, it is quite feasible that despite his accomplishments, his presidency may go down in history as being neither good nor mediocre.

And that would be tragic…considering all the things that he has indeed accomplished.