Bill Maher STILL Doesn’t Get it. And Neither Do You…

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So, I should know better by now, but I foolishly keep banging my head against the wall. Over and over again. And I’m tired of it. Been fighting this same fight for practically my entire life and apparently 2019 still won’t be any different.

That that battle is ignorance. The latest opponent: Bill Maher.

For a quick recap, Stan Lee, comic book creator and writer, passed away in November. And in light of the impact that his chosen art and craft has had on American society, it apparently bothered Maher to the extent that wrote a blog post about it deriding those who have an interest in the genre.  The backlash to his ignorance was rather immediate with several fans, artist, writers and industry figures attempting to inform the comedian on things he either does not know or can’t possibly grasp.

Well, to his dismay, his show took a break, only to come back this month with him readying a response in his final editorial segment. I won’t go in the his commentary fully, but he began by wanting to point out that he wasn’t attacking Stan Lee, but attacking fans who read comics or indulge in comic book culture. The problem is, we fully understand that. It’s his ignorance that’s fully problematic. It’s predicated on the fact that he’s never read a comic or thinks they’re written at a 1st grade level.

His commentary was centered on his thoughts that comic books aren’t literature and superhero movies are not great cinema. That fans who liked things they did when they were children need to grow up and stop pretending the writing in comics are good because in his worldview they’re made for kids. Saying adults need to let go of childish toys and games they’ve held since childhood.

This is pretty rich though. A lifelong pot smoker that makes his living telling jokes is telling other people that they need to grow up and stop acting like children. If it weren’t as hypocritically sophomoric it’d be insulting.

For someone who proudly professes his aversion to comic books, I would be curious as to how he could possibly be sure that they are indeed written for children, but simplistic ignorance is never far from the mind in such instances. I did intend for this to describe in each case where his ignorance fails him.  If he really wants adults to let go of toys and games they played as children, I’m a little curious why he couldn’t tell his guest last week, Marshawn Lynch, to do the same.  I mean, football is a kids game. Marshawn’s been playing it since he was a kid.  Fact of the matter is comics stop being written exclusively for children roughly 70 years ago. But what would he care? Maybe it would also escape his notice that the comic book movies he slams for being all the same about “glowy things”, one such movie just received six Academy Award nominations, one of which being for Best Picture. But we’re supposed to be the less mature one because Black Panther was one of the best received films in generations.  And then his invite to ignore social parables in comics in lieu of the likes of a James Michael Eric Dyson, Toni Morrison or James Baldwin is kind of funny considering James Baldwin actually wrote a children’s book himself, which if you want to be critical of the sophistication of literature, you better continue such consistency there if you want not to be judged a hypocrite. Or what of another such writer who, given the propensity that he frequents the show, I’m certain he’d laud, Ta-nehisi Coates, that actually IS a comic book writer! Other writers like Mark Millar has been Knighted for his contributions to film and literature. Literature, Bill.

So I don’t know. Maybe James Baldwin, The Queen of England, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and multiple guest of his show show such as Coates or Aaron Magruder, Ben Affleck, Jon Favreau, Larry Wilmore, John Ridley, and Chris Hardwick that are all fully involved in the culture, maybe they all know something he don’t. I suppose it wouldn’t be so hard because it’d just require doing basic things like reading, things we learned when we were littler.

And this is the overall problem with many of you. You share his same ignorance. You judge me, you judge us for something we know you know little next to nothing about. You don’t know the stories we’ve read, the commentary we’ve seen, the magnitude of industries and wealth that has been generated. Who are you to judge us for what I find entertaining and how I receive information?  This association that because something was made for or via a medium only thought to be exclusively for children, that I am somehow LESS mature than you is the kind of lame-brained idiocy I’ve heard my entire life. And virtually every other fan has heard their entire lives. And frankly, to judge someone as immature based on your own ignorance is the height of immaturity in of itself. You just see pictures in panels and limit your own cognitive function to simplistically believe that “Oh, it must be made for kids because my extent of comic books only extends what I learned years ago.” I really shouldn’t feel as if this needs explanation. But the themes and motifs that are found in comic books and have been increasingly done by designed for at least the last 50 years, are exactly what is found in virtually EVERY. OTHER. GENRE. OF. ART. AND. LITERATURE. This is just another medium or a way to convey a message or story. And to be fully honest, it shouldn’t matter how as long as it is eliciting thought and emotional response.  But hey, he’s the comedian, so perhaps he knows better about being the arbiter of being taken seriously. As if a comedian telling jokes any more artful or educational?

Seriously, a COMIC passing judgement on COMIC BOOKS?


2 to the Power of 20

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20 days ago…

I began a project to rank the top 20 Presidential Candidates for the 2020 Presidential Election, which will be released 20 times, every 20 days until the 2020 Iowa Caucus.

Again, this is a “power ranking” and not a list of my favorites in the order I’d like them. But looking at polling data, expert opinions, and also the current news cycle, this ranking is just a snapshot of where I think the candidates are and where the voters are in their likelihood to select them as the Democratic Nominee for the 2020 Presidential Race.

If you would like to view the last 20 from 20, take a look here at the first Power of 20 ranking…

But without further adieu…

20.  Eric Garcetti – Mayor, California – 47 (Last 20: #19)

19.  John Delaney – Congressman, Maryland – 55 (Last 20: #20)

18.  Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana – 52 (Last 20: #15)

17.  Terry McAuliffe – Former Governor, Virginia – 61 (Last 20: #16)

16.  Jay Inslee – Governor, Washington – 67 (Last 20: #17)

15.  Tulsi Gabbard – Congresswoman, Hawaii – 37(Last 20: Unranked)

14.  Eric Holder – Former Attorney General, New York – 67 (Last 20: #13)

13.  John Hickenlooper – Governor, Colorado – 66 (Last 20: #12)

12.  John Kerry – Former Secretary of State, Massachusetts – 75 (Last 20: #9)

11.  Sherrod Brown – Senator, Ohio – 66 (Last 20: #10)

10.  Julian Castro – Former HUD Secretary, Texas – 44 (Last 20: #14)

9.   Michael Bloomberg – Former Mayor, New York – 76 (Last 20: #7)

8.   Amy Klobuchar – Senator Minnesota – 58 (Last 20: #8)

7.   Cory Booker – Senator, New Jersey – 49 (Last 20: #6)

6.   Kirsten Gillibrand – Senator, New York – 52 (Last 20: #11)

5.   Bernie Sanders – Senator, Vermont – 77 (Last 20: #2)
Bernie Sanders has hit a bump in the road with the latest news of sexual misconduct claims in his campaign, which he effectively plead ignorance on. What’s worse, as a high profile 2016 candidate, 2020 looks to be a year with other candidates with a similar platform without his baggage.

4.   Beto O’Rourke – Former Congressman, Texas – 46 (Last 20: #3)
Still fairly popular, but yet noncommittal about announcing a run. He has filled his days since the election with random(and frankly weird) social media videos of a “road trip” across America that’s keeping him in the public eye, for better or worse.

3.   Kamala Harris – Senator, California – 54 (Last 20: #5)
Making daytime and late night talk show visits to publicize her new book, “The Truths We Hold” is a telltale sign of a potential candidate’s intentions to run for President. Which was proceeded with the news that an announcement of her intentions is imminent, likely within the next few days…

2.   Elizabeth Warren – Senator, Massachusetts – 69 (Last 20: #4)
Although many have questioned the news surrounding her video regarding her Native American ancestry, she is still a very popular senator, with a populist message and the national media has given her the privilege of being the “first household name” to officially announce her candidacy.

1.    Joe Biden – Former Vice President, Delaware –  76 (Last 20: #1)
With each passing day, there are more stories of those close to him that are certain that not only his he moving to announce a decision, but that decision will indeed be a confirmation that he will be a candidate in 2020. And as was the case 20 days ago, his universe name identification and the most popular president of the last few generations still will make him extremely hard to beat… right now.

How Did We Go From “Tear Down This Wall” to “Build That Wall”?

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In the closing weeks of World War II, on Friday, April 20th, 1945, Adolf Hitler celebrated his 56th and last birthday. The only known gift he received that day was from the Soviet Union’s Red Army, who began an intense and sustained bombing of Berlin which would last that entire weekend. By the following Monday, the Red Army had successfully surrounded the city and sealed the fate of Hitler’s Third Reich. Two weeks later, the war would be ended and the Soviet Union would control the city while the other Allied nations, the United States, Great Britain and France controlled most of the country. Initially, Soviet leader, Josef Stalin wanted to keep Berlin as Russian territory gained through conquest. However, it was soon negotiated that Berlin, as well as the entire country of Germany separately, would be equally divided into four sectors, administered by the four Allies. Of course by 1949, the western sectors would stay intact and eventually be known as West Germany by the world at large and in the east, East Germany. However, Stalin and the subsequent Soviet leadership,  who were never really pleased with the arrangement, sought ways to change this dynamic. And the one thing that intensified this desire was the quality of life between the East and the West, and specifically the split of East and West Berlin.

But it was that very sort of quality of life dilemma that forced the issue between the two German states. As Communist Russia slowly begin to influence East Berlin and East Germany, economic opportunity for thousands of East Germans became restricted. They had no choice but to leave. And they did. Fast. Over the next 12 years, hundreds of thousands of East Germans immigrated to West Berlin for permanent relocation, but over that time, Berlin was effectively still one city. That changed practically overnight in the Summer of 1961. At the insistence of Communist Party leader Walter Ulbricht, East Germany quickly put together a barrier of cinder blocks and barbed wire around West Berlin, which Ulbricht insisted would be paid for by West Germany(I’m kidding… sorta). And day by day, month by month and year by year, the four foot cinder block barrier would morph into a 12 foot reinforced concrete wall with accompany guard towers, electric fencing, a bed of nails, trenches, automatic machine guns, mine fields and patrol dogs all with the purpose of keeping East Germans from immigrating to the economically prosperous West. Most modern prisons do have as much fortification.

This is the story of the Berlin Wall. And in case you can’t see the parallels of the border crisis between East and West German with the border crisis of the United States and Mexico, then it’s probably because there’s one significant difference: the situation between the German states could have lead to a third World War while the United States and Mexico are allies… or supposed to be.

But now, of course, the President of the United States, for the last three years has insisted on furthering the parallels in history and constructing a border wall, not unlike what was constructed in Berlin and ostensibly for very similar reasons. The President believes that constructing such a wall isn’t just the best way to stem the tide of illegal immigration to the United States, but he obviously believes it’s the only way. Mexico, along with other Latin American nations, which like East Germany, has faced economic hardship and decline is filled with citizens that are attempting to flee a desperate economic situation to a place with more economic opportunity and to improve the outlook of life for themselves and their families. But the President, like the Soviet Premier at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, has decided a wall is the best way to protect his nation and to stop border crossings.

Unfortunately, there’s just one small problem: It didn’t really work.

Within days of construction of the Berlin Wall, citizens were escaping. While the fortifications of the wall grew, so did the resolve of thousands of Germans who were willing to leave their families and all that they knew behind just to risk their lives to live a better life in the West. And the means of escape weren’t simply legal or overt. Over the 30 years that the Berlin Wall existed, hundreds of tunnels were built allowing for the immigration of hundreds of families. Some Germans were smuggled out by car or made mad dashes across a particular barrier. There are even stories of Germans using hot-air balloons, gliders, flagging down subway trains, tight-rope walking and ziplining via bow and arrow(not even kidding a little bit on this one) to get across the border. The results were not universal however. For every three that attempted escape, two would not make it and face arrest. But some preferred jail over the living conditions in East Germany.

This all ended 30 years ago this November. In 1989, after intense political pressure from within and outside of Germany, the East German government announced that they would implement a new regulation that would allow any East German citizen to travel through any of the border crossings immediately. This rather impromptu breaking news alert was reason enough for a flood of East Germans to join West Germans at the Berlin Wall and for the first time in decades cross without a guard or landmine, barbed wire, concrete barrier or attack dog in sight to stop them. And literally over night, just as it was initially constructed, the Berlin Wall would come down.

And that political pressure, which lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall, while it had been cooking for a while from within East Germany, outside the nation, it was a different story. The earliest perceptions of the Berlin Wall from U.S. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, they were anywhere from okay with the barrier to thankful that it was there. It was better a wall than a war, they thought.  Successive presidents did not think to challenge this dynamic mostly believing in the strength of the Soviet Union and the cloud of the Cold War. But by 1987, President reagan encouraged by reform-minded Soviet Union Premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, didn’t think the Cold War would last forever. And because ronald reagan was a Republican, he believed, like many in his party still believe, in the promotion of free enterprise and economic liberty. So in June of 1987, in front of the Brandenburg Gate, he decided to extend that same promotion and famously demanded to Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall”, which is probably one of the more famous declarations in World History.

And 30 years later, our current Republican president announces to a chanting crowd of supporters to “Build that wall” that has now lead to the shut down of our government, which he insist could last months, if not years. I, for one, can’t help but to wonder how the Republican Party can have such a swift shift in tone, policy and principle to believe a physical barrier can and should prevent someone from living their best economic life.

It’s slightly amazing when you stop and think about it. We are now living in a time where the Berlin Wall has been gone longer than the length of time it ever existed. The overall cost of construction and maintenance landed north of half a billion dollars a year. In today’s dollars such a construction would be astronomically expensive to undertake and maintain. And that was actually slightly less than 100 miles. Comparatively speaking, the U.S. border with Mexico stretches for nearly 2,000 miles. And while the Berlin Wall was constructed to prevent the flow of illegal immigration(emigration I guess to be technical), those who were determined to leave a desperate situation would not be denied. While Nikita Khrushchev and Walter Ulbricht desired a wall to end a brain drain of talent and skill from East Germany, it was their very own social shortcomings that caused such a situation to begin with. Likewise, today, the President doesn’t recognize the true root causes of immigration. He doesn’t realize the flow of migrants are to escape economic and social situations that we’ve done a lot to inspire with our own policies and shortcomings. We sign agreements to bypass economic hubs that wrecks small town job markets. We refuse to address and quite frankly allow for the demand of illicit drugs in our cities, which only intensifies Mexican and South American elements desire to supply our demand.  These are the type of root problems we hardly recognize on a policy level. If he thinks a wall will stop any of it, then he probably should look at where his predecessor was 30 years prior facing a similar circumstance. And if tens of thousands of East Germans decades ago could find their way across a far more guarded and fortified Berlin Wall to freedom, how could anyone seriously believe that his impossibly less fortified wall is in the position to stop anyone just as willing to live their best life today?