Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Jon Stewart is Trying to Destroy Me
Each day, as I watch the news, read the papers, and browse the blogs, my mind is constantly spinning with ideas to post here on WithoutAPurpose. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes me a day or two to get around to writing. Then, each night at 11 I face the crushing blow of hearing MY thoughts out of the mouth of Jon Stewart. I think to myself, "damn, why didn't I write that earlier today" before this thief at Comedy Central had the chance to steal my idea.
Here are a few recent examples:
- Last week during a press conference, Bush announced that his "administration is stable." Then yesterday he announced the resignation of Andrew Card, Chief of Staff. I had a nice story planned all about chaos (or maybe even Kaos) at the White House, and Bush's penchant for lying every chance he gets. Of course he knew last week that Card was on his way out.
So, what was the opening story on last night's Daily Show? First, footage of Bush's press conference from last week, followed by Cards' resignation. So what if you have access to video archives and fancy editing equipment while all my stuff is limited to HTML? Do you have to show off so much? Come on Stewart, try and tell me you guys thought of this one on your own. In fact, don't tell me, tell it to my lawyers (Eric, please expect a call from Comedy Central's legal department.)
- The Blue Ribbon panel I commissioned has released preliminary results of their research into the comedic aspects of the "Dick Cheney Shot a Guy in the Face" debacle. Stewart, the arrogant scofflaw that he is, ignored a subpoena to testify. OK, it was a few questions scrawled on a bar napkin and not an actual subpoena signed be a judge, but still he could have had the decency to respond. The evidence clearly shows that I deemed the Cheney story to be both funny and newsworthy while Stewart was still in bed sleeping. Yet, who got a week's worth of material out of it? That's right, liberal-hollywood-insider, Jon Stewart.
- And finally, the one that really kills me. Every year during the Acadamy Awards I tell my wife, "wow, this show sucks. Even I could do a better job hosting." Well, we all know what happened next. Ariana Huffington said it best when commenting on how Stewart should approach the Oscars,"politics and the Oscars have a long history of going together about as well as Muslims and Danish cartoons." In your face, Jon Stewart!
There are only two possible explanations for this situation. Either, 1)Stewart has conspired with the Bush Administration to wiretap my brain, or 2)Stewart is a comic genius, and great minds think alike. Since my comic abilities and sense of...um, um, oh yeah, timing are clearly in a different league than Stewart's, there's no other logical conclusion. He is using advanced technology to steal my thoughts. X-Rays confirm that they collaborated with my ENT to implant a brain scanning chip and transmitter during my deviated septum surgery last year.
In fact, maybe my septum wasn't deviated at all. The whole diagnosis could have been part of Stewart's evil plot to use my brilliant mind for his own evil purposes.
As if stealing my thoughts weren't enough in this competition for laughs and audience, Stewart stacks the deck. While I develop all of my own ideas and do my own writing, he relies on a staff of overpaid writers and producers to do the real work. When asked about this, Stewart tries to pretend he's innocent, saying things like "who the f... is Neal Fink?" But come on, if I had a big staff, a cable TV deal, a little more talent, and was maybe better looking, it would be Jon Stewart complaining to half a dozen people online while I raked in the big bucks on late night TV.
After ignoring my accusations for years, today Mr. Stewart finally tipped his hand, revealing his cowardace. I was speaking with his talent producer pitching an appearance by Ned Lamont (yes, Stewart even has a special person just to book guests; how lazy is that?) But, the Stewart people must have seen through my ploy. They told me they had to "pass for now" on a Lamont appearance. Some crap about how the Connecticut senate primary may not "resonate" with their national audience. But I know the real reason. They thought my Lamont pitch was just a ruse; a backdoor into the studio, where my fake-news nemesis, Jon Stewart, would be forced to face me in person. Scaredy Cat! Oh yeah, how does that "resonate?" And, don't think I'll remember this the next time one of your buddies wants to post a guest blog here at WithoutAPurpose.
Well, Mr. Stewart, you may have won this round, but the competition continues. The stats for my blog are climbing faster than your ratings. Soon I'll have more regular readers than you have domestic staff at your fancy Manhattan co-op. That's right, Stewart. I know you're shaking in your fancy suit right now while you read this. And, don't try and pretend that you're not DailyShow_JewBoy@aol.com that reads all my posts and e-mails veiled threats. I'm onto you.
Well, I have to wrap this up so I can go shove some tongs up my nose and yank out that evil braintapping chip. Be sure you watch The Daily Show tonight and see the nervous look on Stewart's face. If the show is a little less clever than usual, you'll know why.
Thanks for reading the blog and be sure to join us again tomorrow. Yes, Stewart even stole his signatgure sign-off line from me.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The Dean Mythos
We all have a tendency to glamorize the past; it's human nature. But the Deanies seem to be masters of the art form. Being involved in the Lamont campaign, I read and hear way too much about how great and exciting the Dean campaign was, and almost nothing about what was learned from its massive failure.
Dean is often credited with validating the NetRoots as a vital part of the political process. I would argue the opposite - the NetRoots validated Howard Dean. The Internet is an incredibly powerful medium that gives a voice and power to the masses. Its role in the Democratic process was inevitable. To those who were the pioneers, blogging and posting before the 2004 election, take some credit for your work. Don't give it away to Howard Dean.
I've done volunteer work for several campaigns in the past. But, my online and offline involvement in the Lamont campaign, and voracious reading of relevant material has opened my eyes to at at least two critical problems of the Dean campaign worth addressing:
#1 The leaders that emerged from the NetRoots made those that wanted to join the campaign later feel unwelcome in Club Dean. Quite a bit has been written online about this phenomenon. As far into the future as I can predict, the NetRoots will play a critical role, especially in rallying support early on. But, elections will still be won or lost in the physical world. Traditional media will still matter. Live public appearances will still matter. Massive numbers of volunteers stuffing envelopes and drinking too much coffee will still matter. And, even with the success of efforts like ActBlue, big-money donors will still matter. The NetRoots needs to find a way to work in harmony with the Grassroots, the big donors, and old-fashioned volunteers (maybe we can come up with a cool "roots" nickname for these folks.)
#2 Dean himself was a much better candidate online than in real life. In person he came off as too angry and rough around the edges. This was an ongoing problem and not something isolated to the famous "I Have Scream" speech after his third-place finish in Iowa. I'm not sure how the NetRoots can solve this problem, other than to do more homework when vetting candidates to support.
But, this is all old news. Why am I writing about it now? Because many people have started making comparisons between Ned Lamont and Howard Dean. This makes sense, to some degree. Both are progressive Democrats who were catapulted to the national stage by the NetRoots. Before you ask, yes I believe that Ned Lamont would not have even made it to his announcement day two weeks ago were it not for the NetRoots.
So, how is Lamont doing with regard to the two problems descried above?
I don't think Lamont will suffer from #2. He's an incredibly likeable guy. We've all read the stories of skeptics making a 180 after a single meeting (I've reported on some of these.) Despite any effort by the Lieberman campaign to paint him as an angry guy, Ned Lamont is Mr. Congeniality.
For me, the jury is still out on #1. My involvement to date has been primarily through the NetRoots - writing blog entries, posting comments, and e-mailing friends to encourage their involvement. The main theme of Lamont's pre-announcement work was that he needed "1,000 volunteers, representing every city and town in Connecticut." The last I heard, over 1,500 had signed up through www.nedlamont.com. However, it takes great persistence to become involved. I've spoken with others who are eager to lend a hand, but haven't received any response or direction from campaign officials. Nearly everyone on the Lamont campaign team worked or volunteered for Dean. I hope Club Dean learned a lesson from its exclusive membership policy of 2004 and makes a concerted to make everyone feel welcome.
Now, before the hardworking folks on the Lamont team get pissed off at me, would like to commend a few ace recruiters. Kim Hynes ("official scheduler") is amazing (as is Aldon). Until two months ago they didn't know me from Adam. But, Kim and Aldon have encouraged my involvement and are incredibly responsive to e-mails and phone calls - even when it's about something outside their areas of responsibility. If Kim ever decides to make another run for office, I'll be one of the first to volunteer. Rose Ryan is also a great asset to this campaign. For a Volunteer Coordinator, having 1,500 eager helpers must be both a blessing and a curse. I pestered Rose for a while, and she has put me to work. Hopefully she can get hundreds more involved while they are still fired up.
Hopefully this campaign will hold fast to Ned's initial message. To make use of those 1,000+ registered supporters, everyone on the staff should view him/herself as a Volunteer Coordinator. Welcome, encourage, and take full advantage of the folks that want to send Ned Lamont to Washington as our next Senator.
Spell Check Stupiditity
Today I made an odd but surprising discovery. The following words do not appear in the Blogger spell check dictionary: "blog" and "blogging". Even Blogger with a capital "B" - the name of the site that runs the spell check, comes up as an error.
Monday, March 20, 2006
OK babies, the next round is on your Uncle Sam
Then it mentioned a very troubling statistic. What's the number item stolen by shoplifters in the US? No, not cigarettes or liquor (my first two guesses), or even underarm deodorant (which is surprisingly popular among shoplifters)... it's baby formula. This little statistic, buried in the local police blotter pretty much sums up how we are failing as a country. There is absolutely no reason why anyone should have to steal baby formula. If you have a baby and can't afford to feed him/her, there has to be a government program to pitch in.
The merits of welfare have and always will be a source of great debate in this country. But, how can anyone - even the most right wing libertarian bastard argue against providing formula for babies that are going hungry. Regardless of what you think of the parent(s) and their circumstances, be they drug addicts or well-intentioned people that have fallen on hard times, no one should be forced to steal just to feed a baby.
How many malnourished babies do you think we could feed for the cost of just one day of the war in Iraq? I would guess pretty much all of them. Before we can even begin to justify "spreading freedom" to the rest of the world, we should be sure that at least the basic needs are being met for our children. You don't need to be a scholar on Maslow to understand that freedom and democracy are not even on your radar when you can't afford to feed your own child.
I'll make this promise now, and to my friends and family, hold me to it. When I'm king, no parent will ever have to steal baby formula.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Endorse the Democratic Process
By endorsing Joe Lieberman, Diane Farrell has bought into the rhetoric of the Democratic Party leadership. Last week, Farrell said in an interview that it’s "difficult in a party to see primaries take place." Well, I beg to differ. Most of us view primaries as an essential part of the democratic process - especially in a two party system. Most jobs involve a performance review at least once a year. How can anyone argue that after 18 years an evaluation of Joe Lieberman’s performance by his employers (the citizens of Connecticut) is out of order?Unfortunately, endorsements for Lieberman by folks like Diane Farrell are about money and favors, not the issues on which campaigns should be based. Joe is a cash cow and Diane wants her share of the milk. We know that she disagrees with Joe on Iraq, I assume she’s not happy about Alito, and I would imagine she cringes when Joe appears on TV hugging President W or paling around with his buddy Sean Hannity. On the issues, Diane Farrell has much more in common with Ned Lamont than she does with Joe Lieberman. But, politics is politics and after coming so close in the last election, Diane’s going to grab at every straw she can.
I would love to see a long list of visible Dems endorse Lamont. I'm also realistic enough to know that most will not take what they perceive as a political risk. So, to those who are caught in the ethical struggle between endorsing a candidate that will support real Democratic values and stand up to the right-wing administration(Ned Lamont) and the guy they think will dump some cash behind their campaigns (Joe Lieberman) I offer a suggestion: Instead of endorsing a candidate, throw your support behind the democratic process. Stand up and say:
"There is great disagreement within our party over many important issues, including the war in Iraq, universal healthcare, women’s rights, and the selection of Supreme Court Justices. The people of Connecticut have made it clear that they want to be heard on these issues. On August 8th we will have a statewide forum where the people can make their views clear. It’s called an election. I believe that this primary is in the best interest of Connecticut's Democrats and the party as a whole."
Perhaps we can start a movement called “Endorse the Democratic Process.” For, if someone believes that primaries are somehow bad, we can assume they are against the democratic process that the rest of us hold so dear.
Finally, I will make this (not so bold) prediction. When Ned Lamont wins the primary in August, his phone will start ringing off the hook. On the other end will be people like Diane Farrell who have suddenly seen the light, asking Ned for his support.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Lamont Rocks the Old Statehouse
Lamont Rocks the Old Statehouse
by: Neal Fink
March 13, 2006 at 19:19:51 EST5EDT
I just returned home from the Lamont announcement in Hartford. What a fantastic official start to this incredibly important campaign. I’ve seen Ned a few times and he’s always a capable and confident speaker. But, today he was on fire. He came out swinging for Joe Lieberman – attacking him on a whole range of issues beyond the war in Iraq. And, he didn’t hold back his frustration with the Democratic leadership, explaining that the “political brass do not like the idea of a primary.” It’s about time someone spoke up against the status quo. Go Ned!
One of Lamont’s gifts, that will be a key ingredient in his recipe for victory, is a unique ability to take a strong stand on some very controversial issues without coming off as angry (imagine a much more articulate and likeable Howard Dean.) Ned’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious. Everyone in the room was at the edge of their seats, applauding and cheering enthusiastically as he laid out a clear and succinct agenda of issues.
For me, one of the highlights of the afternoon was hearing Ned being introduced by his eldest daughter, Emily. She is an incredibly bright and articulate young woman. Her performance was enough to convince me that Ned cares a great deal about family and education. Maybe Emily should take some time off from Harvard and go on the speaking circuit full time with dad…
Lest you dismiss today’s enthusiasm as the reaction of a loaded audience of Lamont supporters, let me share a bit of what I got to see and hear first hand. I was standing in the back of the room, alongside the platform for the many TV crews and photographers covering the event. Before the event started, and during the brief introductory speeches, most of these news crews seemed settled in for another dull assignment. A few minutes into Ned’s talk, even these ordinarily disinterested folks seemed to sit up and take notice of what was happing on stage and around the room.
Not only did I catch a few of the press representatives applauding during Ned’s speech, I overheard a fantastic exchange between a cameraman and one the reporters. After it was all over, one of them remarked “wow, I would vote for this guy” to which the other responded “me too!”This is the same reaction I keep hearing and reading about as Ned appears around the state. After just a few minutes of hearing Ned speak, something clicks and people “get it.” If he can get an audience with a massive number of Connecticut Democrats, the August primary will be a Lamont Landslide.
Friday, March 10, 2006
George Bush's Secret Weapon
George Bush has a secret weapon. No, I’m not talking about Dick Cheney or Karl Rove – they may indeed be human WMDs, but they’re some of the few tricks the Bush administration hasn’t tried to keep secret. No, what I’m talking about is the fact that we continue to underestimate him. Mr. Bush may appear to be the stupidest man ever elected president, but he’s clever enough to use this perception to his advantage. It’s particularly useful when Bush wants to distract Congress and the American people from what's actually happening to our country.
The recent tussle over the Dubai ports deal is a great example. No doubt port security is a disaster in this country. Few containers are inspected, review of documentation is poor, and there is no plan to improve this situation. However, there is no real reason to suspect that security would have been impacted negatively under DP World’s management. The same agencies would still be responsible for security and DP World would be under the scrutiny that all port management companies face (which, of course, is too little.)
The United Arab Emirates is a ridiculously wealthy nation with billions of dollars invested in the US economy. Their interest in owning ports is financial, not ideological. In fact, one could argue that because they would be operating under a microscope, DP World would be more likely to enforce security measures than the current port operators. They want to protect their profit.
The need some feel to limit investments because the UAE is an Arab nation is motivated not by facts, but by the same fear mongering that controls our foreign policy, prevents effective immigration reform, and allows the administration to destroy cilvil liberties and ignore the Constitution. George Bush, master of distraction. [I’ve heard he can magically pull quarters out of Dick Cheney’s ear and fold balloon animals too.]
While Congress, the media, and Americans at their dinner tables were worrying about the frightening prospect of “the evil Arabs” taking over our ports, the real issues of security have been ignored (we've also forgotten about Jack Abramoff and the guy that Cheney shot in the head.) Now that DP World has pulled out of the deal, life will move on and everyone will forget about port security again. Hooray, we think we’re safe again.
So, why don’t the Democrats in Congress see through Bush’s trickery and slight-of-hand? Perhaps some really can’t figure it out, which would mean they are even dimmer than Bush. Because that thought will keep me up at night, hopefully there’s another reason.
Ah, yes, Democrats are desperately afraid of appearing weak on national security, so they grasp at straws like the DP Ports deal to create the illusion of being tough on terrorism. It’s the same reason so many Democrats voted in favor horrific legislation like the original and new-and-un-improved-Patriot-Act. It’s even more frightening when you consider that this same fear of appearing soft on terrorism caused John Kerry and others to vote in favor of a war to which they were clearly opposed. Let's get a backbone, folks.
Wait a minute, this second argument isn’t going to make me sleep any better at night either. Perhaps the only solution is a revolution within the Democratic Party, and enough Ambien to sleep until 2008.
My, that’s one big powerful weapon you have Mr. Bush.
Apologies to my Loyal Readers - all 6 of you
Another problem seems to be that work is a real impediment to successful blogging. My friend Uri and I have received serious interest from investors for a new business idea. So, after enjoying a few leisurely months, I'm heading back to the crazy hours of building a software company. The upside is that it's a very exciting idea and receiving a regular paycheck isn't so bad either.
Hopefully I'll continue to find the time to post new musings here. I really enjoy the opportunity to write about whatever is on my mind. Hopefully a few people out there enjoy reading it as well.