Politics

Girlyman at Birchmere

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Last night was our 13th time seeing Girlyman live. The last time we saw them was the only time we took no guests. Last night, we set a new record (previously 19 at Highline Ballroom). Including us, we purchased 26 tickets for last night’s show. Two of our expected guests missed their flight in Chicago, so only 24 of us showed up. That worked out, since we sat at two tables for 12, right up against the stage.

Since I’ve written about Girlyman endlessly, I’ll make this one very short (ha, you say!). Last night was the last show on their East Coast CD Release Tour. I think they played 11 out of 12 consecutive nights. Given that, the change of weather, the various colder northern states they played in (we saw them on the opening night of this tour, in Norfolk, CT, and it was 40 degrees that night), it wasn’t a surprise that both Ty and Nate had pretty bad colds. 🙁

DorisMuramatsu TyGreenstein NateBorofsky

The show was still generally excellent, as excusing a slightly sub-par performance was easy to do. The crowd gave them rousing ovations for every song. The banter was top notch, so their brains weren’t foggy, it was just their throats that were froggy. 😉

They played a long and well-balanced set (songs from the new album, but also songs from the early ones). They were on stage for roughly 100 minutes, including the encore.

I don’t begrudge Girlyman their political views, but Nate couldn’t resist taking a shot at the Bush Years when introducing the song True Enough (a somewhat tongue-in-cheek homage to Obama). I’m just curious as to when Obama supporters will start owning this nation’s problems. It’s so easy to only blame the past, and I’m sure it’s fun. Until you own the problem, you can’t and won’t fix it. Time to follow your most favorite advocacy group, and Move On!

Opening for Girlyman on this tour (with the exception of Joe’s Pub) was Po’ Girl. They were very good at Infinity Hall when we saw them on September 30th. That night, they played a 30 minute set. Last night, they were better, in fact, significantly better. They played a 45 minute set, and while they repeated a few songs (two or three I think), there were a number of new (to us) ones in the mix, and they were all really good.

PoGirl BenSidelinger JJJones

While we knew what to expect, none of our guests did. I was overwhelmed (in the most positive sense) by the spontaneous reaction of all of those around me to how awesome they thought Po’ Girl was. The two couples sitting immediately near me both went out and bought a Po’ Girl CD (one during intermission, they couldn’t wait to get their hands on it) and the other one after the show. I think others in our group also bought CDs (both Po’ Girl and Girlyman) after the show.

Everyone thanked us after the show and told us how much they enjoyed it. I’m sure that the entire experience delivered that feeling. The food was excellent (as it always is at the Birchmere), and a number of people commented to me how surprised they were at that (clearly first timers there).

More than half of our party saw Girlyman before (at least once), so they could factor the colds out and still know how awesome Girlyman is (and can be), but I felt a little bad for the first timers, who didn’t quite get to experience the real magic of Girlyman, even though it was still a really good show!

A bunch of shots of a portion of our our gang:

Birchmere11 Birchmere1 Birchmere2 Birchmere3 Birchmere5 Birchmere6 Birchmere7 Birchmere8 Birchmere9

Phony Political Arguments

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I already regret starting this post. If I said everything I feel like saying, I’d be typing for a few days…

Background

I am sick of both parties, and 95% of all politicians. I voted for John McCain (in principle only, since I understand that my vote in NY for a Republican Presidential candidate is 100% meaningless). I think McCain was the worst of the Rep candidates, and would have been an ineffective President. Still, I thought that the additional check and balance from an overwhelmingly Democrat controlled congress would have been better than the alternative.

While I believed (and still do) that Barack Obama was mesmerizing people with empty words (Hope and Change), I would gladly have voted for him if the congress were overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans, because McCain would not have been an effective check on them!

Our Friends

The majority of our friends are Democrats, mostly very Liberal as well. They all voted for Obama not just because he was the Dem candidate, but because they felt that they were voting for America’s messiah.

We don’t choose our friends lightly. Ask them, they’ll tell you that we are fiercely loyal friends, who are there in times of need, and there to share in all of life’s joys and challenges, in whatever way we possibly can.

We respect each and every one of our friends, in particular their intelligence. The vast majority of them are also extremely kind people, filled with compassion for others, passion for many things, and interesting in many ways to boot. (We picked them for a reason, right?)

The Problem

That the country is divided politically is no surprise, and certainly doesn’t warrant a blog post. That otherwise very intelligent people, who have great affection and respect for each other (meaning, not random strangers), can’t even acknowledge differing opinions, let alone understand them, is the real cancer in our current society.

For eight years, the anti-Bush rhetoric was beyond the pale. No, I’m not defending everything Bush did, and I think on some levels he was an awful President (see, someone who votes for a guy can actually think that his guy wasn’t flawless). Any kind of public protest was covered as heroic. Anyone who said that they were Bush supporters (or generically supporters of the President of the USA) were vilified and demonized.

Ultimately, the problem isn’t that we all don’t agree to support one guy (or gal), one party, etc. The problem is that for most people, the passion and belief runs so deeply that they can’t stop themselves from ascribing the worst thoughts and characteristics regarding people on the other side.

My Personal View

Since I know so many people who still support Obama with every bone in their body, and I still love and respect those people (in so many ways), I never (ever) think that they are stupid. I never ascribe bad motivations to their support and belief. In fact, I admire the reason for their beliefs.

They have ideals. They want to see the world be a better place, for all people. Wonderful. Me too. I’ll get back to this theme shortly.

Unfortunately, most Conservatives don’t get that benefit of the doubt from the other side, often from their friends either! We are usually considered stupid or heartless or greedy, often all three. We want to keep everyone else down, while hoarding more and more for ourselves, even if somehow, we’re otherwise good or decent people (only a minor conundrum).

There are vicious extremists on both sides, so please don’t tell me why you hate so-and-so right winger (or so-and-so left winger). I’m talking about regular folks, my friends and yours, on both sides of the political spectrum. People that we know, first hand, to be good people.

Ideals

Ideals are ultimate goals. That makes them very worthy of reaching for, but they are rarely attainable, regardless of the cost. The world is very complex, and for every action, there’s a reaction, and an infinite set of consequences. Rarely can we even anticipate the consequences, let alone manage or contain them. That’s a fact of life.

Ignoring the potential consequences for the sake of the ideal doesn’t make one a bad person, or even stupid, it just makes them unrealistic, possibly bordering on naive. That’s the worst I can say about the people that I love, that still fully support this administration, and continue to demonize those that oppose it.

Double Standard

The single biggest problem we have in our debates is the intellectual dishonesty. We all want our side to win so badly, that we’ve been trained not to give an inch in any discussion. This is most evident in watching the pundits on any news show.

Dem strategists can’t find a single flaw in anything that’s being proposed at the moment, as everything is clearly being gummed up by belligerent Reps. Of course one year ago, they couldn’t find a single good thing to say about the Bush administration.

Rep strategists would rather be waterboarded than say a positive thing about Obama. Of course, a year ago, they couldn’t admit that anything the Bush administration was doing was wrong or bad for the country either.

Phony Political Arguments

Finally, what this post is really about!

I have been biting my tongue for many months, for many reasons. I finally broke down because of the current social networking gimmick (yes folks, it’s a gimmick, whether you want to believe it or not!) that’s going around at the moment.

In the past 24 hours, at least seven of my Facebook friends (some are very dear and close friends, a couple are just acquaintances) have put the following up as their status:

thinks that no one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day

Really? How noble of you all. What makes this a phony political argument is that it implies that anyone who doesn’t make this claim is a bad person, who wants people to die or at least go broke. In fact, those bad people want to laugh at the dead and broke people for being losers…

To repeat, I think that every one of my friends who posted this, believes it deeply, with all their heart. I applaud that. I too wish that the above statement would come true.

OK, now let’s reconnect with the real world, and spend a few minutes thinking about how we might achieve that? More importantly, let’s even spend 10 seconds asking whether the currently proposed health care bills even strive to deliver that? If they did, would Obama have had to say “perhaps you should just take a painkiller”?

I have no interest in twisting Obama’s words, nor even ascribing ill motives to them. He was being realistic, and saying that we can’t solve every problem (in this case, in the health care arena). His specific response revolved around the cost of doing so, but that’s not really the point. The point is that we can’t do it all, and solve it all (often because of cost, and often because we just can’t control the universe).

Still, doesn’t his response violate the oath that all of these Facebook statuses and Tweets are proclaiming? Has Obama sold them out? Worse, perhaps the woman in the video had the adequate health insurance. Should she have been allowed to die because she had insurance? At least it wouldn’t violate the wonderful oath that those that can’t afford insurance shouldn’t be allowed to die.

The person who thought up this status was just too darn clever. It’s nearly as clever as the oldie but goodie:

Have you stopped beating your wife?

So, when I see my friends putting it up, it makes me a bit sad. None of your friends thought you were a cruel, thoughtless person, who didn’t want others to receive adequate health care. Seriously, we know you’re a good person.

But, you felt it necessary to make the statement, to goad others, and to expose those who are evil and don’t want that, whether you were conscious or not about why you decided to join the crowd.

Were you astroturfed into doing it? No way, only Conservatives, who voice criticism at a town hall meeting are dupes and are easily manipulated (poor bastards). You chose to put this status up, all by yourself. Good for you!

Summary

We’ll all get along a lot better, and perhaps make more progress as a country, if we start discussing issues, along with the consequences of any particular solution, rather than impugning each others motives or intelligence, and refusing to admit that most politicians are not out to help all of us out.

Thought exercise for the people who put up the status message

Is it only people in the US that you put this status up for, or should no one globally die because they can’t afford health care? What would you give up to make that happen? If you gave it up, would you be able to make it happen? If everyone in the world gave up those things that you would give up, would we be able to deliver adequate health care to all who need it world-wide?

What about non-health care deaths?

Roughly 45,000 people die in an automobile accident in the US, each year! Do you ever speed? Have you ever taken a drink and then driven your car? If everyone in the US stopped driving, forever, we would reduce those deaths to zero, permanently, overnight. Would you participate in such a noble exercise? Would you put that up as your Facebook status?

We Should All Be Ashamed

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I didn’t have quite the same reaction as most people did (and still do) regarding the AIG bonuses. Having worked on Wall Street for 16 years, I thought I had a different perspective than most, but still, I understood where the populist anger was coming from.

Unfortunately, it’s fueled by politicians, purely for political gain, in ways that remind me of the Salem Witch Trials.

I woke up this morning to find an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times, written by someone I worked with for a few years when I was at UBS. I have come across very few people in my life who were more honorable, hard-working, smart, self-effacing, fiscally conservative (that’s a wild understatement) as well as being an all-around nice guy.

I read the piece with great interest. Here is a link to the full letter. I implore you to read it carefully, all the way through, because I think it captures much of what is wrong in this current postmortem blame game:

Dear A.I.G., I Quit!

Immediately after reading it aloud to Lois, I sent off the following note to Jake:

I just read your letter in the OpEd in the NY Times. Both Lois and I were so moved. It’s one of the most powerful and well written letters we have ever read. It is also obviously devastatingly accurate.

I believe we would feel that way even if we didn’t know you personally, and know what an honorable (and smart) person you are, but it’s all the more powerful knowing the writer, and therefore having zero doubt as to the veracity of the claims.

We wish you and your family the best in everything that lies ahead for you!

Only after Eliot Spitzer resigned as Governor did people have the courage to speak out about his unsavory abuse of power when he was Attorney General. Andrew Cuomo and Richard Blumenthal are currently too powerful for most to question their ethics as well.

I believe that in time, they too will be seen for the political opportunists that they are, rather than crusaders for the people that they wish to be seen as.

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our eighth Girlyman concert. It was the third time we’ve seen them at Joe’s Pub (where it all began). The other five shows were spread out over five venues, in two states, in five cities, with vast differences between the venues and at times, the audience makeup as well. These statistics may become relevant later in the post. 😉

There were many things that were typical of every Girlyman show:

  1. Amazing music
  2. Lots of laughs
  3. Adoring audience
  4. Great venue
  5. Long line after the show to say Hi to Girlyman and buy Merchandise

Some things were notably different. There are probably many reasons for that, including some that I probably couln’t guess, but here are the three categories of things I believe contributed (perhaps all incorrect):

  1. Obama becoming the President-Elect the night before
  2. Girlyman playing in NYC
  3. 9:30pm show, rather than the typically earlier shows we attend

Before I tackle each of those, in the order I listed them, I’ll say something that is also delightful (but both different and not different at the same time) about most Girlyman shows. Even though we’ve just seen Girlyman shows four times in a three week period (meaning, the same tour), their repertoire is large enough to mix it up, even on consecutive nights, to keep it fresh for the fans who attend more than one show.

Last night was no different (in that it was different!). 😉 They played Saints Come Marching In. This is only the second time we’ve heard it live, the first being on November 4th, 2007 at the Highline Ballroom, so it was like an Anniversary Gift. 🙂

It was one of the five great songs they introduced last year, but also one of the two (Trees Still Bend being the other) that didn’t make it to the Somewhere Different Now Live CD. On the other hand, they’ve been regularly playing Trees Still Bend on this tour, but not last night.

Another one that I listen to all the time on the CD, but haven’t heard live in a long while was Good Enough. There were a few other differences from recent shows in the playlist, but my observations to those changes might be more appropriate in one of the three above-mentioned categories.

Here are photos of the three of them. We were flush up against the stage, so the angles aren’t great, and the lighting was aimed toward the cameras, etc., so apologies all around:

Doris

Doris

Ty

Ty

Nate

Nate

1. Obama

Aside from the obvious fact that Obama won a clear majority across the country, including winning some previously hard-core Red States, there are few places where his support is more obvious than NYC. Any mention of his name last night (or allusion to the victory) brought incredible cheers from the crowd, and joy from Girlyman. They told amusing stories of a party the night before, and bantered with the audience, very happily.

Aside from the natural focus on this historic event, and the relief that most of the people in the audience (and most definitely on the stage!) felt at the end of the current Administration, it also affected the playlist of the show!

In the previous seven times that we’ve seen them perform, the last six in a row all had the same opening number for every show: On The Air. It’s a fantastic song in every respect, but it also sets such an up-tempo that we think they are smart for opening with it, and getting everyone’s juices flowing.

Last night, they opened (after a nod to Obama) with Through To Sunrise. While also an upbeat song (and for a very long time Lois’ favorite Girlyman song, though on occasion she’s not as sure, because others are rising fast to catch up), I believe they chose it because it is their protest song against the current Administration. They didn’t introduce it as such last night, but I’d be surprised if I was wrong. They play that song in most shows anyway (thankfully!), but opening with it was a statement (IMHO).

I already mentioned above that Saints Come Marching In was added to the playlist. Ty introduced it as fitting last night, so I assume that this one too moved them in relation to Obama’s victory to get back on the list.

Finally, while they play Amaze Me at many shows, right before they played it last night, Ty said that she’s been waiting a long time for America to Amaze Her (since she wrote the song over seven years ago), and it was clear that she was no longer singing it as a hopeless plea, but rather as a done deal!

2. Girlyman playing in NYC

Girlyman is consistently excellent wherever they play. Their audiences love them wherever they play. Those are just the facts (ma’am). But, this crazy thing started right here, in little ‘ol NYC, so their tenured fan base is here. That too is just a fact. Moreover, since they lived here for six+ years (as Girlyman), many of the people who come to their NYC shows are close friends, independent of the music.

Like it or not, that changes the character of the shows in NYC a bit (or sometimes more than a bit!) from some other venues. Girlyman definitely feeds off of the energy in the NYC crowd, as do the vast majority of the audience (perhaps all), but I do think about what it must be like for a first-time attendee, who may even know and love the music, to find themselves in the midst of this kind of a love-fest.

That would be on even a normal night in NYC. Add to that the euphoria of the Obama victory, and it was more than a little raucous there. For one (bad) example, Girlyman rarely curses on stage (I said rarely just to cover myself, because I was tempted to say never). Last night, more than a few times, the expletives flew. For those who might prefer not to hear that, I can only hope that they could appreciate the unique circumstances of last night’s show, and not think about it too much…

3. 9:30pm start time

Joe’s Pub has an early show (start time anywhere from 6:30pm to 7:30pm) and a 9:30pm show, nearly every night. The two prior times that we’ve seen Girlyman there, they had the earlier show (one of those times, they also did the 9:30 show). For most folks, there are pros and cons associated with that. For us, it’s mostly cons, other than the overwhelming pro of getting to see Girlyman in the first place!

Pros (for some people, not us!):

  • Don’t worry about having to leave work early
  • Potential for a show to go longer. Early show has a hard-stop deadline
  • Some artists don’t wake up before 9pm 😉

Cons (for us, and some other people, clearly not all):

  • Doors rarely open by 9pm when they are supposed to
  • Not enough time to finish dinner before the band comes on stage
  • A very late night (way past our bedtime)
  • The show might be shorter (e.g., if the band needs to hit the road)

All of that was in play last night. The doors didn’t open until nearly 9:20pm, for a 9:30 show, where you are expected to order dinner! I am not blaming Joe’s Pub, that’s just the nature of the beast, and I understand it. But, we hate to eat in the band’s face (we sat flush up against the stage!). Nothing we could do, so we did it, as discretely as possible.

Girlyman is performing in Philadelphia tonight, and I think it caused them to play a few less songs than they have at every other show we’ve been to on this tour (three others). They were also likely exhausted from partying the night before, and I am not blaming them for that either. 😉

The other change (not likely caused by any of the above) is how the show ended. On this tour, they’ve been closing each show with Joyful Sign. They did that last night as well. Then, after the inevitable thunderous applause, they came out for their typical encore. Also typical of this tour, the first song they played for the encore was a brand new one, My Eyes Get Misty (I really like it a ton!).

In the three previous shows on this tour (and in most of the ones in the Fall/Winter tour), they conclude with Son Of A Preacher Man (and on occasion, though not often enough, they throw in the Girlyman Benediction). Last night, after singing My Eyes Get Misty, they left the stage. What? Really?

The applause didn’t die down, so they came back out (reasonably quickly). That was unusal as well (score another one for NYC). At that point, I was sure they would do Son Of A Preacher Man. Wrong! They asked for another request (The Shape I Found You In was the requested number during the regular show). This time they performed Speechless, another great song. Then they left the stage for good. Definitely different, though no complaints!

Since I’ve gone on for a long while already, I’ll keep the backstory short this time. We invited two very dear friends who we get to see all-too-rarely. We asked them to meet us at Joe’s at 8:45pm. Lois always insists on leaving too early, and I usually resist just enough to irritate her a lot, but not get to the venue ridiculously early.

Last night, I irritated her, but not enough to avoid getting there ridiculously early. 😉 We were first on line (shocking) when we arrived at 8:19pm. The guy working the door came out and said “You realize that the show that’s currently going on won’t end until past 8:40, right?”. Sadly, I told him we realized that all too well… 🙂

But, in an amazing stroke of serendipity, roughly six minutes later, our friends (who drove in from Long Island) found a legal spot across the street from Joe’s, and we got to catch up and chit-chat for nearly an hour before the doors finally opened. That was an unexpected treat.

Three of us had the burger and all raved about it. The fries are heavenly too. Last night was the first time that I have seen Joe’s have a Price Fixed offering, and we took advantage of that as well, so we had starters and chocolate cake, all for a very reasonable price. OK, to be honest, it was more than reasonable for Lois and me, since our guests insisted on paying for dinner. Thank you very much! 🙂

It was raining throughout the evening, and since we live very close to the midtown tunnel (which our friends had to go through anyway), they gave us a lift back to the apartment. That was a very nice ending to an exceptionally enjoyable evening.

We already have our tickets for the next time we’ll be seeing Girlyman, which is April 4th, 2009, at The Barns at Wolftrap (where we saw them this past March). We can’t wait, but somehow, we’ll make do…

I Fully Support President Obama

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I voted for John McCain, so did Lois (or so she told me).

Each of us admitted to the other, that even though we knew in advance that we were voting for McCain, we hesitated in the voting booth, and wanted to vote for Obama. Not because we believed the rhetoric, and certainly not because we wanted to vote for the obvious winner.

We each wanted to vote for Obama because we long(ed) for an America where it would not be unusual for a Black person (yes, including a Black woman), a Hispanic, a woman, an Asian, etc., to be our nation’s leader.

I don’t know why Lois still pulled the lever for McCain, but I know why I did. If I had voted for Obama, it would have been a vote for Affirmative Action (a form of reverse discrimination) and I am really against all forms of discrimination, even reverse ones.

Update: a friend of mine emailed me to ask if I really thought that many people were voting for Affirmative Action by voting for Obama. My resounding reply was No. I meant that remark to apply personally, to me only. I wasn’t on the same wavelength with Obama ideologically, so I wouldn’t naturally have voted for him (just like I wouldn’t have voted for Hillary Clinton). But, I was still tempted to vote for him, purely for Affirmative Action reasons, and in the end, I couldn’t justify that.

Even though I voted my conscience, I am at peace with Obama’s victory, and even happy that it was a crushing one (another nail-biter like 2000 would have been devastating to the national psyche in my opinion). As I’ve written before, McCain deserved to lose, almost regardless of who his opponent was. At least his opponent qualified for marking this as a truly historic moment in the US, and one that we don’t need to wait 100 years to realize was such a moment!

Perhaps the single biggest frustration that Lois and I have had with uber-Liberals for the past eight years is that we believe that a majority of them deeply wanted the country to go downhill, for two reasons:

  1. So that they could be right (OK, I should have said: correct) 😉
  2. So that they could guarantee a Democrat in this election (anyone but Kerry would have crushed Bush in 2004!)

We don’t want or expect people to be polyanna about our situation, but we also don’t expect a constant chicken little attitude either. Bush bashing was not constructive. Obama bashing will not be constructive.

I implore everyone (Republicans, Independents and Democrats who didn’t vote for Obama and LazyFolk™ who should have but didn’t vote!) to rally behind our new President as if they were his most fervent supporter.

It’s time for us to prove that the slogan Country First is not just another Madison Avenue creation, but something that we truly believe. Let’s lift each other up in every way that we can. We have enormous challenges ahead, and we should not use the fact that we are in the midst of a slide to blame either side.

To the Bush bashers I say this: It’s Over, now Get Over It!

Obama will not fix all of our ills overnight, or even quickly, even if he is perfect. So, don’t get defensive and start looking backwards to blame Bush for how bad a mess he left, as an excuse for why it isn’t better yet. We face difficult times. Let’s look forward and try to make a better life for everyone, rather than be stuck in the rear view mirror, and guarantee another round of flame throwing.

If you need to take a moment to gloat, go for it, I won’t hold it against you. But then, let’s get to work!

I sincerely hope that Obama is the President for the next eight years, not four. I hope he’s the greatest President we ever had (but hopefully not will ever have, for obvious reasons), and that I can proudly vote for him in 2012. He didn’t earn my vote during his campaign, but he has four years to earn it the next time around, and I’m pulling for him to do it!

Colin Powell is So Bold

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Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama. I didn’t see the interview on TV, nor have I read the full transcript, though I’ve seen a bunch of quotes on both TV and on the net. I wanted to write about my first impressions the next day, but got distracted. Today, Maureen Dowd wrote another of her holier-than-thou missives in The NY Times, and it reminded me to get my thoughts out.

First, how unbelievably bold and brave of Colin Powell to endorse Obama two weeks before a practically inevitable victory. If he could only have waited until the day after, so he could be really sure, it would even have been better. I know, I know, better late than never…

Next, while I have enormous respect (or had, at least) for General Powell, that doesn’t negate the fact that his personal judgement hasn’t been exactly spot-on in the past two decades!

First, he strenuously objected to finishing the job in Iraq in 1991, and Bush senior acquiesced to him. It’s possible (perhaps even likely) that none of the current mess (not just the obviously flawed Iraq war!) would ever have come to pass if Powell had not been so insistent back then.

He was then instrumental in shifting sentiment against Iraq when he presented the case for WMD at the U.N. People trusted Powell, and Bush junior was given the power to attack. One of two things have to be correct here:

  1. Powell believed every word that he said.
  2. Powell knowingly exaggerated to make the administration’s case.

If #1 is correct, then Powell should be as vilified by the people (Maureen Dowd included) who are so quick to praise him now. After all, they bristle at the thought that Bush/Chaney could have really believed there was a real threat of WMD at the time. It would appear that when you agree with them, you’re a genius. When you disagree, you’re an evil fool. If there was a single person who was most responsible for us going into the Iraq War, it’s Powell.

If #2 is correct, shame on him, and shame on him for ever opening his mouth in public again.

Obviously, I believe #1 is correct, and that he honorably presented the facts as the entire administration believed them to be at the time. Rewriting history to suit one’s needs is another sad fact of life in general, not just political life.

On to a few of the observations made by Dowd:

But what sent him over the edge and made him realize he had to speak out was when he opened his New Yorker three weeks ago and saw a picture of a mother pressing her head against the gravestone of her son, a 20-year-old soldier who had been killed in Iraq. On the headstone were engraved his name, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, his awards — the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star — and a crescent and a star to denote his Islamic faith.

Wow, convenient timing. I am sure that every day before that he was this close to endorsing Obama, but for this last straw. Was there no way for Powell to speak on behalf of American Muslims, indeed Muslims the world over, for the past few years, without endorsing either candidate? No, apparently not. Obama is somehow qualified to be President, because others are painting Muslims as bad, and hinting that Obama is one of them. Wow again.

In a gratifying “have you no sense of decency, Sir and Madam?” moment, Colin Powell went on “Meet the Press” on Sunday and talked about Khan, and the unseemly ways John McCain and Palin have been polarizing the country to try to get elected. It was a tonic to hear someone push back so clearly on ugly innuendo.

Of course it was gratifying. It gratifies Maureen Dowd when a Republican (is he still?) pushes back so clearly on ugly innuendo. Woe betide the Democrat who might point out that the Obama campaign, and the various 527 outfits like MoveOn.org do equally insiduous things, innuendo and all.

Let me be clear: I think that Dowd (and others) are 100% correct when they bemoan the ugliness that is the Republican attack machine against Obama. I have written about that in the past. It disgusts me thoroughly. But, the Democratic machine is just as ugly (in every single way) as the Republican machine, but that never raises the ire of someone like Dowd, unless it’s Hillary’s campaign doing it against Obama.

In other words, it’s only ugly when it’s against your candidate, not becuase the tactic itself is just plain ugly, no matter who uses it.

No wait, I spoke too soon. In the very next paragraph, Dowd indeed calls out the Obama campaign!

Even the Obama campaign has shied away from Muslims. The candidate has gone to synagogues but no mosques, and the campaign was embarrassed when it turned out that two young women in headscarves had not been allowed to stand behind Obama during a speech in Detroit because aides did not want them in the TV shot.

Ah, close, but no cigar. The Obama campaign shied away, but the McCain campaign uses ugly innuendo. Oh well, at least she tried to throw a bone toward fairness.

She closes her piece with the following quote from Powell:

“Experience is helpful,” he says, “but it is judgment that matters.”

Correct. Unfortunately, Powell lacks judgment himself, so we’re back to square one…

Selling the Presidency

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Yesterday, The NY Times had an article discussing the size of the ad budgets of both campaigns. Regardless of the statistics provided in that article, it crystalized for me something I had been feeling for a long while, but couldn’t articulate, even to myself.

The purpose of ads is to sell something to us. It is not meant to educate us, even though marketers would love to spin it that way.

Unfortunately, the Presidency shouldn’t be sold, it should be earned. While I can rationalize the need for smaller elections to use ads, when many of us haven’t even heard a candidate’s name before, let alone their position on an issue, that simply isn’t (or shouldn’t be!) the case for the Presidential candidates.

These days, they get nearly unlimited air time, ink in major newspapers, too many blog posts, etc. Then, even if you missed any of that, it’s all available to watch again, 24/7, on YouTube, etc. Therefore, it’s not fair to say that they need a targeted way to get their message out.

Like it or not, the spin-meisters are getting paid to influence us, in tried and true ways, affecting even those of us who believe we are immune to advertising. Obama is Miller-Lite and McCain is Bud-Light (yes, they spell lite differently, because someone studied the effect on our psychies!). This is just very sad to me.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a positive or negative ad, it’s just wrong. Madison Avenue puts out negative ads as well:

This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?

Translation:

This is your wallet. This is your wallet after my opponent becomes President. Any questions?

Here’s what I would like to see, as completely ridiculous as the idea is.

For the Presidency only (if it works, we can consider extending it to other high-profile races), permit zero ads, from anyone! That means no 527 ads, no party ads, no campaign ads, none, period. No issue ads either.

Second, no candidate should be permitted to point out the negatives of the other. We have plenty of places to read that kind of reporting, even if we don’t want it. Candidates should be forced to talk only about what they will do as President. Don’t draw the contrast, leave that one task to my personal brain.

If a candidate says anything about his opponent (positive or negative) at a rally, it should simply never be run on TV (network or cable). Tell me what you will do for me, not what the other guy won’t do for me!

Obviously, this will never happen. At least now you know how I would like it to be…

We Get What We Deserve

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This is a collection of random (but thematically related) thoughts, so it’s likely to ramble on for a while.

We get what we deserve! This sounds harsh, especially given that sometimes bad things happen to good people, but it’s still true, even if we can’t understand why those things happen. It’s even more true collectively, to groups of people (including entire societies) than it is to individuals (even though it’s still true there as well).

This is a distant cousin to the old adage: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it! They’re not identical, because we always get what we deserve, even when we didn’t wish for anything, or got the opposite of our wish…

The point of this post is to explain why Barack Obama will definitely be our next President, and why we all deserve that to be the case, like it or not.

So, without further ado, here are some things that some prominent politicians have gotten (or are about to get), that they fully deserve(d), and that we as citizens, have gotten and deserved.

Nixon deserved to be thrown out (perhaps my least controversial comment).

The country was appalled, and over-reacted, selecting a complete Washington outsider, in electing Jimmy Carter. We got exactly what we deserved, namely the worst President in modern history (for me, that even includes George W. Bush, though at least grant me that aside from Bush, there’s no close second!). Could no one see it coming? Did we need a candidate who lusted in his heart? Really? How quaint and revelatory…

In my opinion, he’s also by far the worst ex-President that we’ve had in recent memory. I would forgive his behavior, if I thought he had Alzheimer’s, but unfortunately, he’s just continuing to show his true colors. And no, it doesn’t matter that he personally does “good works” by building houses (though I applaud that mightily). You simply can’t trade a good deed against an evil one and hope to be even. It just doesn’t work that way.

George H.W. Bush was pretty popular after the first Gulf War. As the economy started to deteriorate in the last year of his Presidency, he thought he could ignore it and coast on his past laurels. He got exactly what he deserved, and lost.

We got Bill Clinton (with the added bonus of Hillary), and fully deserved that too! No signs (neon or otherwise!) of his indiscretions. It was all lies and swift boating (even though that term hadn’t been coined yet). If you read this column regularly, then you know that I actually think Clinton was a very effective President (which makes him a good one), but that was through no fault of his own.

Largely because of the mess of a co-President in Hillary (Health Care-Gate), Republicans swept Congress in 1994 for the first time in 40 years! The Clintons deserved that. Only because Bill Clinton is at heart a pragmatist (which I give him enormous credit for) and he had other distractions to amuse himself with (which I give him no credit for), did he end up being an effective President, by accomplishing a fair amount in conjunction with Congressional Republicans.

Given that, you’d think that Al Gore would have been a shoe-in to win the Presidency in 2000. Unfortunately, because of Clinton’s dalliances, enough people in the country wanted a change, any change (sound eerily familiar to the current situation?). Worse, Gore decided to distance himself from Clinton, trying to win over some of those change-wanters, but in the process, probably lost just enough staunch Clinton supporters to lose the election (there are an absolutely astonishing number of people who still pine for the good old Clinton days, but that’s a topic for another post).

Gore deserved to lose and the country deserved to get George W. Bush.

Bush inherited a post-Internet-bubble recession, then got socked with 9/11. Did we deserve to get attacked on 9/11? Many people say so, even here in the US. Did Bush reverse his entire No Nation Building rhetoric from that moment on? Absolutely. Does he deserve his current popularity ratings as a result? Absolutely.

So, why did he win re-election in 2004? Because so many Democrats were so sick of Bush, that they just had to pick the most opposite candidate that they possibly could. I’m not sure there was a worse candidate available at the time than John Kerry. Even he barely lost, and should have won. Still, when you over-react, and don’t behave rationally, you get what you deserve. All of the Bush-bashing liberals, got exactly what they deserved, another Bush term.

I believe that any of the other top primary candidates in 2004 (other than perhaps Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich) would have easily beaten Bush had they been the nominee of their party. Personally, I was surprised that the Democrats didn’t go more heartily for Gephardt. He would have crushed Bush in my opinion.

Did Bush understand the serendipity of his re-election? Did he understand the magnitude of the hatred many had for him (even people who voted for him!)? No. He made some cosmetic changes (anyone still remember Rumsfeld?) but basically stayed the same course. The result? A sweeping reversal in Congress in 2006. Did Bush deserve that? Sure! Did the Republican Congress deserve to be kicked in the butt? Sure!

Did we deserve to get a do-nothing Congress, with a lower approval rating than the President (can you even believe that?!?)? Yes! We allowed Bush to stay the course, by putting in a bunch of Bush-haters, who wasted more time arguing about impeachment, than putting together hard-nosed bills that the President would have had a hard time vetoing. Even if he did, if they were well-thought-out bills, enough Republicans would have been forced to vote with the Democrats to over-ride any veto.

For all of their anti-Bush rhetoric, whenever it counted most, Congress voted with him, including on this current Bailout bill. We deserve them, and they deserved to have Bush as their leader!

Many Republicans were sick of Bush as well. Not in the same way that Democrats are, but sick is sick, and they over-reacted in their way, and overwhelmingly nominated the most unlikely of the group of candidates, John McCain. They deserve what they got, as the Democrats deserved what they got in Kerry in 2004.

What happened to the front-runners? Let’s pick on one only, Rudy Guiliani. He ran possibly the most arrogant campaign in the history of Presidential politics, sitting on the sidelines until he was anointed in Florida. Oops, it didn’t work out that way, and he deserved exactly what he got.

On the other side, Hillary had analogous (but differently manifested) hubris to Rudy. She too thought that she was the chosen one, and didn’t have to worry about caucus states and grass roots efforts. Yet, without those efforts, she blew through one of the largest war chests in history. What was she spending all that money on? She was blind-sided by the coming Obama storm, and deserved to be.

Rather than rehashing all of the ins and outs of the Democratic primary battles, and the various accusations of racial politics, I’ll simply say that both Obama and Clinton deserved what they got in their bitter battle. He couldn’t put her away, time and time again. She couldn’t sustain her comeback enough to overcome his early lead, but couldn’t put the good of their party ahead of her personal ambitions (like Mitt Romney did, even though he was crushing Huckabee for second at the time he bowed out).

Largely because of Clinton fighting to the bitter end, McCain resurged in the polls. He didn’t need to attack Obama, Clinton and her supporters were doing a fine job. McCain got to spend very little money, and continued to gather momentum.

Obama could have chosen Clinton as his running mate, and this race would likely have been over a long time ago. No, he couldn’t bring himself to do it, for many reasons. He got exactly what he deserved as a result, a much tougher, uglier battle than he expected. Still, by the Democratic Convention, it appeared that all would be forgiven (mostly) within the party itself, and Obama would be fully supported.

McCain decided that he had to gamble on his VP pick (did he really need to? probably not given Obama’s pick in Biden, but he decided he should!). If he wins the election (still an extremely remote possibility), his pick will have been brilliant, whether you like Sarah Palin or not. However, since it seems extremely likely that McCain will lose, and possibly by a very large margin, he will have gotten exactly what he deserved for choosing Palin.

For two candidates who both claimed to be different, reformers, wanting to shake up Washington, set a bi-partisan tone, this is every bit the nasty, disgusting, hate-filled campaign on both sides that every other Presidential election devolves into. It’s not working for either side, and both candidates deserve to be unmasked for the hypocrites that they are. For one of them, it won’t matter (unless you consider losing a Presidential election as mattering), 😉 but for the other one, he will be damaged (in terms of credibility) as the new President, already having been seen for what he really is, rather than for his lofty rhetoric…

So, why is the gap widening between Obama and McCain? Not because of the ads. McCain is shooting himself in the heart (rather than just the foot), in showing zero leadership nor consistency on the critical issues of our time. He’s in full-blown panic, throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

Obama is being what he always is. Cagey, shifty, uncommitted, not responsible for any of his past actions or our current problems. Still promising change, for the sake of change. When your opponent is disintegrating all on his own, you need not do any more than be patient.

Our next President will be Barack Obama, and we will deserve him, exactly as we have deserved every President we got at the time we elected him (in this case, to me, another Jimmy Carter). I pray that his Presidency will be less disastrous, but I’m not hopeful of that. He too will have both houses of Congress to splash around in the pool with. As I discussed in an ancient post, he will be the puppet of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

I will be voting for John McCain, even though I have little respect for his current campaign. For me, it will at least be a tiny check-and-balance against a growing Democratic Congressional majority. He will be like Bill Clinton, as he has proven time and time again that he can compromise with the Democrats (more so than practically any other Republican in recent history!). So, if Congress sends him reasonable bills, he will be sure to sign them into law (as Clinton did in the second half of the 90’s). But, if they send him ridiculous bills, I am equally sure that he will veto them.

The Democrats (led by Reid, Pelosi, and soon Obama), badly want to finish off the class warfare that they can’t seem to get away from. If they implement their plans (which perhaps they will be slowed down in doing because of the current financial meltdown), they will destroy this economy beyond repair. They claim to not want job growth (like Bush delivered for six years until Democrats took hold of Congress!). They want high paying, high quality job growth only. Good for them, we all want that. But, taxing corporations and rich people (who create these types of jobs) is not the way to go. Unfortunately, we’re all about learn that lesson together…

Welcome our new President. We will (unfortunately) most richly deserve him.

No Shame Left In Politics

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To be honest, there’s really little shame left in the country (world?) in general, but in politics, it’s effectively non-existent.

I could write all day about this topic, or have a post-a-day for a very long time. Instead, I’ll cram it in to this one post.

First, John McCain. Two recent giant disappointments. I was appalled when people called it a stunt that he suspended his campaign to return to Washington to work on the bailout bill. In the end, they were correct, even if that wasn’t his intention all along. While he returned to Washington for the weekend after the debate, he did not stick around (or work hard enough) to get it passed the following week. Clearly, it wasn’t his most important priority.

The second McCain disappointment is even more appalling though. One of his most often repeated stump speeches is how he will veto any bill that includes pork in it. Further, he claims he will name names, and make the sponsors of the pork famous. Well, as urgent as the bailout supposedly was/is, it is loaded with pork, and McCain voted yes. Of course he couldn’t have vetoed it, but he could have shown the courage to say that regardless of how important the bill was, he could not in good conscience vote for it as long as it represented politics-as-usual.

Next, Congress in general (both sides of the aisle), but Democrats in particular. The sub-prime mess is a direct outgrowth of the desire of Democrats to give away housing to those who can’t afford it. It gets really complicated after that generalization. I may write a long post on that some day as well (I was on the inside on Wall Street in the 80’s, supporting the mortgage business, and I invested in a sub-prime lending technology company as a VC), but this isn’t that post.

Clip after clip shows clearly that both the Bush Administration, and specifically John McCain (in addition to other House and Senate Republicans), were calling for more regulation and better oversight for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Democrats (specifically Barney Frank, Christopher Dodd and Charles Schumer) consistently defended Fannie and Freddie, and continued to praise the people we now know were clearly defrauding the public (through accounting shenanigans and other wrong-doing).

Those Democratic leaders simply won’t apologize for being wrong (I’m not suggesting they knew the extent of the wrong-doing, just say you made a mistake!). Worse, they continue to blame Bush and the Republicans for their desire to deregulate. That’s a heinous lie (blatantly obvious from watching any of the testimony from 2003 onwards!), and is beyond shameless.

The Republicans may not be worse, but they have no reason to consider themselves above the fray. Saying stupid things, whether for political gain or not (and whether they work or not) is simply shameless. When the bailout bill was defeated in the House the first time around, Congressman Eric Cantor held up the text of Nancy Pelosi’s speech, and chided her for giving a partisan speech and turning just enough Republicans off to cause the vote to fail.

There’s simply no good way to spin that. First, if true, shame on the Republicans for allowing a speech to change their vote. You should be voting your conscience, not your ego. Second, if it’s not true, then he shouldn’t have said it, just to give Republicans cover, and attempt to embarrass Pelosi. Third, Pelosi was stupid to inject partisanship into something that clearly required Republican support.

Most important in that first failed bailout vote was the lack of Democratic support, and the complete lack of honesty associated with the reasoning behind it. Aside from the fact that the Democrats control both houses, and could have passed the bill without a single Republican vote, all the Democrats needed was for the 12 Democrats who sit on Barney Frank’s committee (who voted no) to have voted yes, for it to have passed!

Folks, here’s the head of the House Financial Services committee, and one of the top supporters of Fannie and Freddie, cheerleading the bill, and his own committee members (I’m speaking specifically of the Democrats!) vote against it. These are the people who should be most familiar with the issues and the reasons why the bill needed to be passed. Yet, in the face of this, Barney Frank has no trouble playing to the cameras and offering to speak to any Republican whose feelings were hurt by Pelosi’s speech. Incredible!

Lastly (on the Congressional side), we have reports that Pelosi specifically absolved Democrats (in advance!) from voting against the bill, because they were in tight re-election campaigns, and needed to say they voted against the bill. Either the bill is that important, and couldn’t afford to fail (for the good of the entire country!), or, re-electing Democrats is much more important, and it’s OK if the country goes into a depression in order for that to happen. Again, shameless!

Finally, Barack Obama. I don’t ascribe any ill-will to Obama in regards to his love of this country and his desire to lead it honorably. That said, he’s exactly like every other politician (McCain included) who not only will do anything to get elected (there’s zero change there folks!), but he’s also every bit as calculated, for many years, to get to be the President.

I don’t believe that because he associated with William Ayers and his wife that he condones domestic terrorism. I do believe that he knowingly associated with them in order to further his own political agenda.

I don’t believe that because he was a member of Reverend Wright’s church that he beleives the heinous things that Reverend Wright regularly spewed. I do believe that Obama wanted the street cred that came with being a member of that particular church in order to further his political ambitions. I do believe that he well knew exactly what Reverend Wright was preaching (regardless of his claims to the contrary).

His ties to Tony Rezko are blatantly obvious. It’s not that Rezko is a convicted criminal that should matter. It’s that Obama directly engaged in dealings with him that personally benefited Obama!

To all of the above (and a million more examples), I say that they are all shameless. They care not a lick about any of us. They care about power, control, wealth, and most important, their own egos. There isn’t one of them that is different, regardless of whether they call themselves a Democrat or Republican.

Shame on all of them!

Richard Lewis at Tarrytown Music Hall

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I’ve been a long-time fan of Richard Lewis. In addition to loving his standup act, both Lois and I were fans of Anything But Love for its entire run. Last night was the first time that either of us has seen him perform live.

He had an unannounced opening act (which I’ll cover later). Richard came out at 8:56pm.

Before leaving our house, I tweeted the following:

Heading to see Richard Lewis. Really hoping he doesn’t do too much political humor. I’ll catch enough of that on the tape of the debate…

For the most part, that worked out. Richard was totally himself, and hysterical, from the moment he came on stage. His schtick last night was a cross between Woody Allen (self deprecation, leaning towards self loathing) and Buddy Hackett (jokes about what happens to your body as you get older).

At times he rambled incoherently, seemlingly losing the thread of his story. Somehow, he always found a way to tie the meandering back to the original point, and seemed to bring the audience along with him, earning the full laugh when it seemed he’d lose it.

Amazingly, he’s 61 years old. He always seemed so youthful in everything he’d done over the years, that I didn’t realize he was older than me. Most of his stories (they weren’t jokes and they weren’t really routines either) centered around that fact, and around his now three-year-old marriage.

He’s extremely foul-mouthed, which wasn’t a surprise, but was a little nerve-wracking for me, since Lois can easily shut down completely in the presence of such humor. Even though he cursed constantly, and 70% of his stuff was about sex, drugs or alcohol, he seemed to be making Lois laugh a good deal, so I was able to relax and enjoy myself as well. I don’t mind foul language a bit, but I do think that comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, who seem to be able to avoid cursing for an entire show, are cleverer for it, on some levels.

Go back and reread my tweet from above, where I was truly hoping for no political humor. Unfortunately, my wish didn’t come to pass. I didn’t really expect it to, so I wasn’t shocked.

About 60% of the way through the show, he apologized for bringing up politics. He seemed to be suggesting in his apology that he wouldn’t talk about it much, or with any particular slant or vitriol.

Unfortunately, as with most angry liberals (which is different than a normal liberal), he couldn’t help himself, and he got sucked deeper into it as he went along. Different than my utter distaste for this kind of stuff when it happens at a musical concert (where it’s 100% the artist’s ego to lecture an audience that came to hear music), in comedy, it’s somewhat expected, even if it’s biased or slanted entirely in one direction. After all, they are commentators on the state of society, no?

He took only one shot at Sarah Palin, and if you took it from a purely comedic point of view, it was reasonably clever and amusing. That’s how I chose to take it, because he didn’t harp on it, or get off track with it. He actually didn’t say much about McCain at all, possibly not even one line (but I wouldn’t swear to that).

He did what all angry liberals do, he went nuts over President Bush. You would think that there was a good chance that Bush would be the next President, that we need to live in the past. While directionally, I understand the hatred and vitriol completely, beyond two or three humorous bits, it devolved (as it always does) into a silly (angry) rant, that allowed Lewis to get his frustrations off his chest, but was hardly funny, interesting, or likely to sway anyone in the upcoming election.

Roughly half of the audience soaked up every single anti-Bush rant. The other half was silent throughout. Even after the show was over, I heard anti-Bush / pro-Obama people make the same observation to each other. Lewis likely noticed it wasn’t going over as well as his other stuff, but of course, he couldn’t pull up from the nose dive. It’s like therapy for angry liberals.

He only said a few things about Obama. Obviously, there’s no record to tout. Clearly, no jokes permitted, because you might turn a single voter against him. So, what else can you say? Essentially, that he’ll be a breath of fresh air after Bush, purely because he’s smart. Won’t it be nice to have a smart person in the White House? Yup, it would be. Now if that person also could accomplish anything that wouldn’t flush us further down the drain, that would be great too…

Finally, he was spent on that subject (perhaps 10 minutes, which wasn’t that great a percentage of the time he was on stage, but was a very long stretch of practically zero laughs). He returned to normal funny stories, and won back the crowd, including us. We laughed a good bit at the end of show. I am grateful he didn’t end with the political stuff, which might have left a sour taste in my mouth. Instead, I just felt sorry for him. His life has been incredible (from the outside), in terms of money, fame, women, etc. On the inside, he’s been a long-time drunk, a sex addict, in therapy, and basically miserable and compensating for much of his life.

If he can blame Bush for all of his failings, perhaps he can find some comfort in that. More power to him.

He left the stage at 10:01, exactly 65 minutes. It was a nice length, and mostly funny. I enjoyed the show.

The show was called for 8pm. Tarrytown Music Hall doesn’t seem to ever start on time. The house lights don’t dim by starting time, and people hang around on the sidewalk outside, catching up with friends, past the starting time. It’s not a great way to run a place, even though we like the place acoustically and it’s wildly convenient to our house.

At around 8:10pm, they introduced the unannounced opening act, a comedian named Melvin George. Melvin didn’t curse once the entire show. The crowd loved him from the minute he opened his mouth, until the very last bit. His theme is that he’s not cool (hence his site’s name: notcool1.com).

While he achieved a few genuine belly laughs, he was able to keep the audience constantly chuckling. He delivers insightful commentary, couched in self deprecation (remember, he’s not cool), in an upbeat style, with great pacing. He’s also a good dancer (you’ll have to see the routine to get that one).

His closing routine, which involved pitching the audience on buying a CD of the performance they just watched (last night’s show is already available at this link), was hysterical. Aside from being a great idea (selling the CD), he was able to keep us laughing for five solid minutes, while focusing on a way to make some additional money from that very show. Well done Melvin! He was on stage for roughly 35 minutes.

When the show was over, we walked one block back to our car (we were lucky to find a great parking spot). I reached into my pocket, and my car key was missing (I had the house keys). I have a pair of shorts that have very shallow pockets, and on occasion, when I sit in a deep chair (like in a hotel), my car key slips out. I always find it quickly. It’s never fallen out of a real pants pocket before last night.

Given how close we were to home, it wouldn’t have been a disaster if we couldn’t have found the key, but it certainly wouldn’t have been a pleasant way to end the evening. We walked back to the theater and went straight to our seats. Thankfully, the key was obviously sitting on the floor, right under my seat. By the time we reached the front door of the theater, they were locking it down, so if we had parked a bit further, we might not have gotten back in.

When we got home, we watched the entire debate on the DVR, knowing we wouldn’t bother this morning, once we’d heard the pundits’ spin. Both candidates spouted their respective talking points the entire night. Nothing really learned, and neither really faltered. Onward…