By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Feb 11, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
Even though I am an unabashedly liberal political satirist, I have immense respect for any efforts at bipartisanship. (I was a competitive debater in high school and college, where we had to argue both sides of any given topic, and it was great training not just for politics but for marriage . . . . but I digress.) Which is why I’ve always been proud to contribute to this site whose whole foundation is to encourage bipartisan discourse.
However, my admiration for seeing both sides of an issue has largely been theoretical. On the issues that matter to me, from women’s reproductive choice to marriage equality to the environment to income inequality, I have had a very hard time seeing any validity to the arguments on the opposing side. And when that opposing side is based on a wholesale denial of facts, evidence, and science, it’s even harder to remain balanced.
However, an issue has recently come up where science denial originated on the left – the ant-vaccination movement. And while a few right-wingers have made idiotic, pandering remarks about parental choice, or a ‘temporal link’ between vaccines and autism, just as many diehard conservatives have come down squarely on the side of science. Who knew we’d find a subject on which Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson express the same point of view?
So for a change, the sarcasm and disdain in my political satire song is aimed equally at Democrats and Republicans who persist in willful ignorance:
Pundits and comics alike have posited all sorts of theories as to why there is a more robust culture of political humor on the liberal side. Is it that liberals take themselves less seriously so are less open for ridicule? Or is the media quicker to pounce on right-wing mistakes? Are liberals more educated and wittier? Or is it that the entertainment establishment is run by liberals who won’t give a platform to more conservative viewpoints? Do liberals see more nuances in issues? Or is the culture of ‘political correctness’ stifling outrageousness on the left?
In this site’s spirit of bipartisanship, I’d like to suggest a more random theory that is nonjudgmental and assigns no blame or evil to either side – Liberals simply haven’t yet come up with anyone to compete with the most colorful rightwing figures.
Face it, it takes no particular wit, or media bias, to have immense fun with characters like Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann. Who can compete with that? Elizabeth Warren is newsworthy but she’s just not that funny, and it’s been years since we had a comedy candidate like Kinky Friedman (who ran for governor of Texas in between gigs with his band, “The Texas Jew-Boys”).
And when it comes to comedically inspiring figures, no one can top Sarah Palin, and in fact she topped her own very colorful record at the recent Iowa Freedom Summit. Her oratory was almost a song in itself – so here’s a musical setting of mostly verbatim quotations.
By John Y. Brown III, on Fri Jan 30, 2015 at 12:00 PM ET
I have to do this a lot –thinking fast. Mostly when I get myself in a jam because I am thinking slowly. Or not thinking at all.
I was behind a young couple at Starbucks today and ordered a grande, or medium, coffee (“grande”must be how they say “medium” in Seattle, where Starbucks started).
We were the only ones in the store but they took my name anyway which demonstrates the extra pains Starbucks takes to make sure no customer gets another customer’s coffee order. I sometimes think Starbucks is more careful about customers getting the right coffee order than some hospitals are about patients getting the right medical treatment. But the point is it didn’t appear like there was going to be any coffee order confusion involving our two orders.
But that is where my thinking slowly or not at all comes into play. I was in a hurry and when the Barista set out a small (or “tall” as they say in Seattle) coffee drink for pick up, I ran over and grabbed it and took it to the condiment stand. I opened the drink and saw caramel drizzle and frothed milk on top instead of plain coffee which is all I had ordered.
I looked up at the barista hoping she would have my back and take the blame but all she did was say in a judgemental tone, “That is not yours, sir.” Weird because I had just given her my first name but she still called me “sir.” Maybe they only use first names in relation to coffee orders in Seattle.
Anyway, I apologized to the Barista and quickly tried putting the lid back on. I looked at the couple who had been in line with me to see if they noticed. The man, a very tall and stout man, noticed. And said it was his. I had to think fast to smooth things over.
I smiled self-deprecatingly and said, “I promise I didn’t touch your drink. Just took the top off and glanced at it and put the top back on. Just think of me as an extra Starbucks Barista overseeing quality control.”
He laughed reluctantly and I exhaled impressed by my quick thinking to help smooth over an awkward situation.
But I could tell the guy hadn’t entirely let go of his irritation with me for opening his coffee drink. We both stood and waited in awkard silence for his girlfriend’s coffee or mine.
I thought to myself, “Caramel drizzle? That’s a pretty “girly drink” for such a husky and angry guy. He’s should be glad I didn’t out him to others about ordering such a foo-foo drink.” But he wasn’t having the same thought. I could tell.
Finally they handed me my coffee drink. Hand to hand. The Barista was leaving nothing to chance this time. I looked at the guy and said, “You can open it if you want? It’s the least I can do.” He smiled in a strained way and said, “I just might take you up on that.”
The thought of him opening my coffee drink bothered me. I realized now why it bothered him so much when I took the top off his drink. There was a pause. Then he just walked away and didn’t say anything as he left. I breathed a sigh of relief because I felt him touching my drink was somehow different from me touching his drink. More wrong and unacceptable somehow. But I couldn’t put my finger on why I thought that. Then it occurred to me. He was never willing to pretend to be a Starbucks Barista overseeing quality control. And I was.
By John Y. Brown III, on Thu Jan 29, 2015 at 12:00 PM ET
When you are in a parking lot and not paying attention when going to your car and the car parked next to you looks like your car, it is easy to walk up and try to open the door of the wrong car.
When that happens, of course, the door stays locked, you immediately realize your mistake and you have a good laugh at yourself.
But tonight I took it to the next level. Coming out of a Thortons I lackadaisically wandered over to the wrong silver sedan in the parking lot and tried …to open the driver’s door. And did. The door not only opened but the driver was still sitting in the car and was talking on his cell phone.
In fact, he tried to hold his door shut when I opened it and shouted at me, “I’m still in the car. This is somebody else’s car.”
And, just like when there isn’t a driver still in the car, I immediately realized my mistake and had a good laugh at myself. And the driver still in his car had a good laugh at me too.
By John Y. Brown III, on Fri Jan 9, 2015 at 12:00 PM ET
I told the story to my son about how my grandfather (and his great grandfather) got the rarefied and much coveted opportunity to argue before the United States Supreme Court. He lost. But had one of the bolder moments of an attorney before the Supreme Court. Probably too bold.
Of course, for such an august task as arguing before the Supreme Court, an attorney would be well served by a strong self-esteem and command of the courtroom. But John Y Sr, in… the middle of his oral argument, became irritated that Justice Arthur Goldberg didn’t seem to be listening and instead was shuffling papers. John Y Sr stopped his argument and said something to the effect of “Justice Goldberg, I have looked forward my entire legal career to have the opportunity to argue before the U.S Supreme Court and I would appreciate it if you would stop shuffling those papers and listen to my argument and allow the other Justices to as well.”
Justice Goldberg complied. But Justice Goldberg also was assigned the task of writing the majority opinion, which was unfavorable to my grandfather. Coincidence?
Who knows. But I suspect Justice Goldberg took a request from a Southern attorney for common courtesy as something closer to a brazenness. Again, who knows.
But thanks to my cousin Benham Sims for finding this gem. We both are surely proud of our grandfather and are grateful for the long list of amusing and memorable courtroom stories he left behind as part of his legacy.
By John Y. Brown III, on Wed Dec 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
Is Chivalry Dead?
Not in Louisville, Kentucky, it’s not.
As I was leaving an event the other night, I walked outside with a group of people including a friend and one of the co-hosts, the lovely Tammy York-Day. I decided to walk Tammy to the multilevel parking lot nearby where we both had parked –as any Southern gentleman would be expected to do.
It was dark out and as we peered into the parking garage it was eerily quiet.
I had parked on the 2nd floor and Tammy told me she had parked on the 4th floor.
“What does modern day chivalry command?” I wondered to myself.
OK. I didn’t really wonder that to myself. What I really thought to myself was “Oh, Sh*t! Am I expected to go all the way to the 4th floor with Tammy and to pretend like I am going to protect her?” I didn’t say this out loud, of course. Just thought it. And then I thought, “I really don’t want to do that. It is two extra full floors up and it is late and I am a little scared to go up there with only Tammy to protect me.” I didn’t say that out loud either.
My mind immediately went into overdrive to quickly come up with an alternative plan. One that was still within the realm of chivalrous but not overly or absurdly chivalrous.
Instead of walking toward the elevator I started up the stairs. I let Tammy take the elevator. It would be harder, I reasoned, for Tammy to expect me to walk up two extra flights of stairs than I needed to for my car. And I figured since her car was on the 4th floor, Tammy would prefer the elevator and she did.
But my real save was I yelled out to Tammy as I said good-bye, “I promise to wait here on the stairs until you get to your car and I will listen for sounds of scuffling or screaming. If you get mugged or attacked just scream as loudly as you can.” I continued explaining my chivalrous plan, “I will be able to hear you because a scream from the 4th floor of the parking garage will carry to the 2nd floor where I will be with my car. Then I will start screaming and from the 2nd floor my scream would be heard at the street level,” and hopefully someone would hear and come to the rescue. Someone other than me, that is.
It was a brilliant, fool-proof, and yet still chivalrous plan.
But as we stood at the stairs and elevator, it became obvious to me Tammy was wondering what would happen if she was attacked then and there. I knew exactly how to calm her worries. I reassured Tammy that even though I wasn’t a tall guy or especially strong guy or even an overly masculine guy, I did have a big vocabulary and high emotional IQ and could use sarcasm —biting sarcasm, if necessary —and “shaming,” shaming from childhood parental wounds, if necessary. I explained I had a powerful “Disappointed father” look I could use on any attacker. And combined with devastating sarcasm, I had a powerful “one -two punch” (metaphorically speaking) that would knock back any attacker who was foolish enough to try to harm her.
Although she didn’t say anything, I could tell Tammy felt safe and secure with a Southern –and chivalrous– gentleman so close by as I stood in the stairwell about a dozen feel away explaining everything (so I wouldn’t have to go all the way up to the fourth floor with her).
As I waved goodbye and promised to wait to see if she screamed from the 4th floor, Tammy knew one thing for absolute certain: That chivalry was far from dead. That chivalry was, in fact, alive and well and flourishing tonight —at least here in Louisville, Kentucky for Tammy York-Day.
By John Y. Brown III, on Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
I am on a flight right now and not speaking to my flight attendant. She asked me twice to turn off my “mobile device” and then checked to make sure I hadn’t turned it back on as she walked past me a third time before take off. And she said it to me in a really stern and authoritative way that made me feel like I was talking in class in 2nd grade, like the time Ms White at Wilder Elementary pulled me several feet out of my chair by my hair — in front …of the whole class.
She doesn’t know I’m not speaking to her. She thinks I didn’t even notice her sassiness and that I was glad to have her remind me to turn off my cell phone before we start taxiing.
I would never want to do anything to endanger any flight I am on. I have volunteered many times to sit by the exit door in case of an emergency. She probably doesn’t even know that.
To get even with her, I am squinting my eyes at her while she isn’t looking. And thinking of the term “Stewardess” instead of “Flight Attendant.” But I know that is probably hitting below the belt, even though I am only saying it in my mind.
Oh brother! Now the guy two seats in front of me —who turned off his mobile device after she asked the first time —is joking around with the flight attendant and she is being all chummy with him. Teachers pet! And it is no accident he is just two seats away from me. She is trying to rub it in.
Here she comes with the beverage cart, I just shook my head “No thanks” when she asked if I wanted a beverage. Even though I am thirsty. I didn’t speak a single word. Silent treatment. I even let her look at my computer screen while I wrote this post. The font was too small to read but I think she knew she had crossed a line earlier with me by the way I gave such a pouty, wounded non-verbal “No thanks” to her free beverage offer.
And just because I am posting this on Facebook doesn’t make me petty. Seriously. I was already petty long before this. I just hope we both learned a useful lesson from this experience. Actually, I really hope only she did.
Put it this way, she’s just lucky they aren’t serving lunch on this flight for me to politely and non-verbally decline. Even though I am really hungry.
This is your future Ebola Czarina checking in. You’ve been pretty busy lately, so if you missed my blog about Ebola, you can read it here: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Ebola? Seems like we have Ebola under control at the moment, so kudos to the current Czar, but if you would like to write in a succession clause, I’m your girl.
But I digress, Ebola is not why I am writing. Earlier this week, exactly 56.2% of the 46% of Kentuckians who even bothered to show up to vote sent Mitch McConnell to represent them in the United States Senate. (Note: let’s be fair, Lexingtonians and Louisvillians are excluded from this statistic, they actually voted to send Alison to the Senate in the same proportions)
I have to believe that a certain percentage sent him back, not because they liked him, but to bring home the “pork” to Kentucky, as Senate majority leader, because after all, it’s the American way. I’m not sure how I feel about those people as it is this logic that has completely bastardized the resource distribution of our democratic government but that’s a letter for a different day.
Those Kentuckians didn’t send him to represent me, as I promise you that the votes he will cast will never reflect anything that I stand for. And you know that saying, “You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”. Yeah, well let’s just say that too many Kentuckians will fall for anything, and evidently that disease is pretty contagious among the voting electorate in the mid-terms of 2014.
On Wednesday, after those Kentuckians who cannot see that they are being lied to and their votes and souls are being bought by fear mongering billionaires, decided that Mitch McConnell, after 30 abysmal years of legislating, was yet again their man, you invited him over for some food, fun & fellowship at the White House. You said, I quote, “I would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell.” Now Mr. President, I will take you at your word that you meant what you said, but I have to assume it would be the bourbon that you would enjoy with Mitch McConnell, rather than the discourse.
In this state, bourbon flows like water. We drink it in any manner you can imagine, we’ve built a trail around it, we make candy out of it, we have even been known to light it on fire when served as part of a decadent dessert or two. In a few hours, I myself will be tailgating with it at the UK vs. Georgia game, but I think you get my point.
But Mr. President, this Kentucky girl is here to tell you…there isn’t enough bourbon. You could push Bourbon through the veins of Mitch McConnell intravenously and he still wouldn’t see what you and I see.
To see that people are people, and Corporations are NOT
To see that inconvenient truths not addressed for decades, could become species ending nightmares at the end of the millennium
To see that legislation passed in his name is often exactly what Jesus WOULDN’T DO! (not WWJD!)
To see that choosing “Pork” in Washington, in the long run, harms the men and women bringing home the bacon
To see that profit maximizers don’t self-regulate
To see that ending the “War on Coal” fuels a war on clean drinking water and irreversible environmental damage
To see that access to healthcare makes us all healthier
To see that Student Loans are as important, if not more important, as Business Loans
To see that Planned Parenthood serves low income women in ways they will never understand
To see that birth control pills are used for dozens of women’s health concerns, only one of which is preventing birth
To see that being Pro Life should mean feeding, clothing, and nurturing these children long after the birth is over
To see the importance of funding Sesame Street instead of Wall Street
To see that tomorrow’s criminal is today’s abused, neglected, and broken child
To see that neediest children come to school to be loved as much as to learn
To see that Head Start isn’t just an academic start, it is the ONLY start for many of these children
To see that choosing butter over guns is not only the right thing to do but the smart economic thing to do
To see that love is defined by the heart, not the type of genitalia
To see that government can and should reduce suffering, instead of inflicting it
To see that as Americans we are, and should be our brother and sister’s keeper
So now that the Bourbon Summit is over, keep fighting the good fight, please get back to doing what you have gotten really good at, rebuilding a country and economy you inherited 6 years ago that was decimated by 8 years of the policies of the same party that just dropped by for a bite of lunch.
And while these next two years are going to be a nightmare of preventing the passing of legislation that will undo the economic growing, deficit & governmental fraud reducing and consumer protecting accomplishments of your presidency, please know that history will be kind to you.
And Mr. President, if Mitch didn’t bring the Pappy Van Winkle, he brought the wrong stuff.
“Well, it doesn’t matter anyway…It’s all been decided anyway.”
I cannot tell you the number of times I heard this phrase yesterday. “It’s all been decided anyway.” This was heard in my workplace, on the twitter-sphere, and even in the locker room of the gym!
These quotes gave away to something else bigger too. No one seemed excited about this election, regardless of what party you side with.
I remember when I registered to vote. I was a senior in high school; able to register since I would be 18 by the time it was November. I was so excited for the ability to vote and so proud I had already done so. I have voted in every election since, only missing 1 year.
I don’t remember ever being so unenthused about an election until this one. Maybe it’s the economy, or the President, or just the overall “nothing is happening” in Washington, DC attitude. Congress has been a display of gridlock with approval ratings that reflect the lack of action in our capital.
Unlike the prior decades of the 40s/50s/60s, it seems that since Watergate in the 1970s, we have become more cynical, and our faith in our government has slowly been chipped away. You run for political office now by refuting the system, and then slowly becoming part of it.
Now, I wonder if there’s anything left to chip away. The faith seems to be at a bare minimum. From what I can tell, I’m not the only one.
In this age of social media, sound bites, and concern for a particular image, is there any candidate or way to help us restore some faith in government and inspire the enthusiasm of the past? Only time will tell.
By John Y. Brown III, on Wed Nov 5, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
Last night, Kentucky served as our nation’s crucible for testing the political winds at the national level. Five term incumbent U.S Senator Mitch McConnell, with an unpopular President of the opposite party in the White House, seemed on the surface to have a significant advantage.
But public fatigue and cynicism seemed to be conspiring against Sen McConnell and made his seat more vulnerable than any time in his 30 years in the Senate.
Many good Democrats passed on challenging Sen McConnell. But one had the courage of her convictions —and a great deal of both courage AND convictions. And despite being a relative newcomer to Kentucky statewide politics, Alison Lundergan Grimes, had that special and indefinable quality. That “X” factor that makes people believe –and want to believe — more in her and her ability than her resume might suggest possible.
I was one of those people. I proudly supported Alison Lundergan Grimes and am proud —so proud– of the race she ran. She took on the most daunting political race in the entire United States of America this year and said, “Yeah, I want to take on this challenge. And I’m ready.” And she was as ready–more ready –than her harshest detractors ever imagined.
She fought the good fight for the right reasons –not because it was the “smart thing to do” but because it was what she felt compelled to do. People like Alison impress me. They run for the U.S Senate against the most powerful Senator in the nation and make the race the political touchstone for our nation. But that’s not why people like Alison Lundergan Grimes impress me. They impress me because people like Alison Lundergan Grimes change the world. She did a little bit this year. Almost a whole lot. And she will continue to change the world and make it a little bit better next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.
She is special and we all — especially all democrats in our state (and nation) owe her a great debt of gratitude tonight. I take my hat off to her to her. And I don’t even wear hats. Well done, Alison.
But Alison didn’t lose. Really, in my view, Sen Mitch McConnell won. No one is particularly fond of the deluge of non-stop political ads that is the battle field on which our political races these days are largely fought and determined. But both candidates did much more and gave up blood, sweat, toil and tears far greater than those silly commercials would ever indicate. This US Senate race was, on every conceivable level, one for the ages.
If this race started as largely a question as to whether 30 year incumbent Senator McConnell still had the fire in his belly, the answer by the time the polls opened this morning was a resounding and unequivocal yes! In fact, by September whether the “fire in the belly” still existed was no longer in dispute. It was now a question of whether it would become a conflagration. And looking at the vote totals tonight, I would say it did.
And congratulations to Sen McConnell on winning a record Kentucky six term tonight.
Elections settle things. Sort of. They sometimes feel in the heat of a campaign like an epic battle of good versus evil (depending on your party). But they aren’t really. They are usually two very talented, driven people of both integrity and goodwill who have very different ideas of how to solve the problems that face our nation, state or community. And only one can win.
Last night Senator McConnell won –again. And my nonexistent hat is tipped most respectfully to him. Well done, Senator. I may not have voted for you. But this campaign —and especially tonight — you earned my respect, again, and I wish you all the best as you start your sixth term —and I expect you to fight the good fight, in your own way as you earned the right to do so tonight, and fight for the state we both love deeply along with about four-and-a-half million other Kentuckians.
So, political races are about decisions. About endings. And about new beginnings.
And although elections seem mostly to be about the candidate who run for office, they are much more about us, the voting public.
A hard battle was waged and fought –and fought hard –and tonight we have a victor. And the voters, campaign workers, citizen activists, poll workers and politically indifferent citizens all —all have a newly elected US Senator.
In boxing, a sport we know a thing or two about in Kentucky, when the final bell of the last round rings the two gladiators lumber toward each other and hug and congratulate each other as a sign of mutual respect. The boxing audience, though still cheering for their favorite boxer, feels that same mutual respect. Likewise, political opponents do much the same thing on Election Day. And so should we the voters tonight.
Time to clear off our stadium seat, throw away our soft drink and bag of peanuts, put on our overcoat and head for the parking lot to find our car. And head home.