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Why Not Let All the States Secede From the US?

If you are the kind of person who believes that Barack Obama is a radical socialist president who wants to fundamentally change America and turn us into a European-style nanny state, it couldn’t have been easy on you when he won reelection as easily as he did. Some conservatives have spent the last couple weeks making unhinged accusations about the vote being rigged—the most clearly racist of these was the GOP chairman in Maine who complained about dozens of unfamiliar black people voting in rural precincts. Others acknowledge that their side lost, but have moved on to petitioning the federal government to let their individual states secede from the union. It’s just like the Civil War, only instead of brother killing brother, tens of thousands of angry white people are typing at their computers.

Obviously, this is just a way to blow off steam. As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said, “It’s silly.” No one should think for a second that all these people actually want to leave the US. (Maybe some Texans do, but Texans always want to secede.) I imagine a lot of the folks signing these things aren’t carefully considering every economic, social, and political ramification of a state separating from the country—they’re just angry internet people typing things in boxes. And internet people are pure id, disconnected from reality or common decency; that’s why 95 percent of YouTube comments are some variation of, “THE JEWS GOT ME FIRED FRM BEST BUY FOLLOW ON TWITTER @WETSOCKSSSS69.” Unlike paper petitions, which force signature gatherers to discuss the issues face-to-face with actual humans, the petitions on the government site can be set up in seconds, which can lead to silliness: Currently, over 1,000 people are demanding that a statue of the guy from Halo be built on the White House lawn.

So yeah, haha, let’s lookit the craaaAAaazy conservatives who are making the comparisons between Russia and the US because they got arrested for running a topless car wash. (That’s exactly what Derrick Belcher, who started the Alabama secession petition, has said.) But crypto-racist motivations aside, what’s so wrong with letting some states go?

There have been plenty of secession movements in the past that weren’t based on the hatred of a single president. Texas has had a long-running independent streak, of course, and there have been Alaskan and Hawaiian independence movements as well. The Second Vermont Republic is a kind of left-wing counterpart to the Republic of Texas. And my personal favorite secession movement, Cascadia (now apparently defunct), wanted to separate the western bits of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon from both the US and Canada. None of those causes has been nearly popular enough to actually succeed in seceding—plus, of course, the federal government’s massive military wouldn’t let any state leave—but making the states a little less united isn’t a terrible idea. Think about the problems it would solve:

1. If the red states left, liberals could finally have the country of their dreams. Imagine that Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Nebraska all followed the wishes of their wingnuts and left the US. All of a sudden, the House of Representatives would be controlled by Democrats, who would also get a further eight-seat edge in the Senate. As an added bonus, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, one of the most conservative Democrats and a guy who caused all kinds of trouble during the fight over the health care bill, would be Duke of Lincoln or whatever and couldn’t infuriate the left anymore. All of the politically impossible policies that liberals from California to New Hampshire have discussed for years would suddenly become feasible, from single-payer healthcare to stricter handgun laws. And those rural red-state ingrates who denounce the federal government even while suckling on its money teat would be gone. Let’s see how those conservatives like it when they don’t get subsidized by the Northeast and California.

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All Around Losing: How to Fail at Everything (Trailer)


The Presidential Debate Moderators Are Cowards

The other day, Gawker ran an article about the leaked memorandum of understanding the Obama and Romney campaigns signed that established the rules of the debates. John Cook called out the two candidates for being cowards for insisting on rules that turned potentially important, potentially charged face-to-face arguments between two men who disagree violently on a lot of stuff into toothless joint press conferences. The rules stipulated that the candidates couldn’t questiwon each other directly, the audience members—when asking questions—couldn’t deviate from pre-approved scripts, and the moderator couldn’t ask follow-ups. “Both campaigns are terrified at anything even remotely spontaneous happening,” John wrote, and he’s not wrong.

Well, the good news is that all of the rules were broken last night: Candy Crowley challenged the candidates, particularly Romney; the two men talked directly to each other in a way that made it clear they weren’t going to hang out at the same country club when the election was over; and the crowd even broke out into forbidden applause at one point. The bad news is that the problem with the debates isn’t that the candidates are unwilling to engage each other or hide behind gentlemen’s agreements, the problem is that the people who question the candidates refused to ask them about issues that are really, really important to millions of people.

We’ve had two presidential debates so far, one entirely concerned with domestic issues and one—last night’s “town hall”—only nearly entirely concerned with domestic issues. In both cases, the moderators were 100 percent responsible for the topics discussed. Jim Lehrer was the one who decided to devote that entire first debate to the economy and health care, and although “ordinary Americans” got to submit questions and ask the approved ones to candidates directly in the second, Crowley was responsible for picking the questions from the submission slush pile—she could have read them herself, or a dancing pirate robot could have read them; it made no difference whether the physical questioners were there or not. The candidates’ agreement about the rules of the debates didn’t say anything about what topics were fair game or not, it was Lehrer and Crowley who decided not to ask the men who would be president about the following topics:

-Climate change

-The War on Drugs

-Gay marriage

-Abortion

-Prisons

-Domestic surveillance

-Intellectual property law

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If you’ve lived in New York City during the reign of three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg, you’ve witnessed his efforts to make the city more “livable.” Bloomberg’s ideal New York consists of thin, athletic doctors, lawyers, and hedge fund managers biking along properly designated bike routes and having genial, profanity-free conversations about how awful cigarettes are and how great Mike Bloomberg is. If these hale, financially-secure professionals encounter a bag left unattended or a homeless person, they immediately inform the NYPD via Bluetooth, and the cops silently appear—as if melting out of the walls—and dispose of the problem. “Whatever happened to that homeless guy we saw?” one of the bikers will ask as he sips on a smoothie made from locally-sourced ingredients inside the penthouse of a LEED Gold-certified building. “Oh, he was turned into clean-burning energy,” another will say as he logs on Bloomberg.com to get breaking financial news and analysis. “Aren’t Fuhrer Bloomberg’s policies great?” Then they will laugh, flashing their perfect teeth in the warm glow of the energy-efficient lighting fixtures.

Continue: Mike Bloomberg Is Your Dad

Don’t Take Your Guns to Town, Morons

Look, you have the right to have a gun. Basically no one wants to take anyone’s gun away, at least not in America. Obama has stayed silent on the issue (despite what you’ll hear from GOP-affiliated folks, who, as always, are living in their own little world), and the most strident gun-control arguments I’ve heard lately are along the lines of, “Maybe we should make it harder to buy handguns so mentally ill people aren’t armed,” or, “Hey, a society where everyone is carrying a concealed handgun at all times might not be the healthiest, safest place to be.” Unlike some blue-staters, I actually get why you’d want to have a gun: Maybe you want a rifle to hunt with, or a handgun to use in extremely dangerous S&M play, or, like Kim Kardashian, you see a gun as a fashion statement. Fine.

The problem isn’t that people have guns, it’s that some of the people who have guns are too stupid to use opposable thumbs responsibly, let alone weapons that can easily kill human beings. For instance, if your neighbors are having a party that’s too noisy, a normal person might quietly endure the noise (if he’s afraid of conflict like me), politely ask them to keep it down, or call the police and report them (if he’s kind of a dick). A moron, on the other hand, might go outside with his video camera and a drawn gun and start an argument that leads to three people being shot and one dying. The moron in question, Raul Rodriguez, was on the phone with 911 at the time of the argument and said things like, “I fear for my life,” and “I’m standing my ground here,” but legal experts say that that those statements might not get him off the hook, surely a moment of triumph for common sense in our legal system. People who are afraid for their lives generally stay in their houses, rather than going outside with a gun to start an argument with their drunk neighbors.

A good rule of thumb is to just keep your gun at home, dumbasses. If you are, say, going to start an argument with your girlfriend’s ex-husband at his car wash, as Deounce Harden did in 2006, if you bring your gun, these things can happen:

1. The guy you’re arguing with runs away, because you are clearly insane.
2. The guy you’re arguing with shoots you, because he has a gun too. Whoops.
3. A fight breaks out, your gun gets taken, and you get shot. Whoops again.
4. The guy comes at you and you’re worried about your gun getting taken, so you shoot him and now you might go to prison for a long time.

That’s the entire list of possible outcomes. At no time in history has someone said, “Oh, I see you’ve decided to exercise your Second Amendment rights. Clearly, sir, you are in the right on this question, and I respectfully withdraw my opposition to you.” The more likely response to a gun being drawn is, “What are you going to do, you stupid-ass motherfucker? Shoot me?” or, “Alright, Imma go get my gun, then we’ll see who’s the big man ‘round these parts.”

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The Silliest, Most Terrifying Parts of the Republican Party Platform

Yesterday, the Republican Party released its official platform, which is a list of stuff they like and don’t like—it’s sort of like a child’s Christmas wish list, only instead of getting presents the child wants to build insanely expensive war machines and stop abortion and gay marriage because the child is a theocratic megalomaniac. Individual candidates don’t have to endorse all of the positions described by the platform (and actually, most people ignore it), but the guys who wrote it are important party officials and you can more or less assume that it represents “normal” Republican views. A lot of it is the freedom-and-American-capitalism-yay-we-must-combat-creeping-socialiasm-and-gays duckspeak you get used to if you spend any time consuming conservative media, but some of it is self-contradictory, bizarre, or just so fundamentally untrue that it deserves to be pointed out and documented so future historians can go, “Yeah, that was pretty weird back then. Good thing the machines took over!” You can find the whole thing here if you want to sift through it for laughs/terrors yourself, but if you don’t have the patience for that, here’s some of the depressing wackiness I found.

We condemn the hate campaigns, threats of violence, and vandalism by proponents of same-sex marriage against advocates of traditional marriage and call for a federal investigation into attempts to deny religious believers their civil rights.

I wonder if Republican operatives have a name for the tactic where they accuse other people of doing exactly what they themselves are doing. It’s pretty much their go-to move—here, they take the decades of oppression and hate gay people have suffered and turn it around so that forcing people to grant equal rights to homosexuals is akin to denying civil rights. If you feel a twinge of conscience writing this stuff, you’re not ready to be a Republican operative. If you feel bile rising in your throat reading it, you’re not ready to read the rest of this platform.

Conservation is a conservative value. […] Congress should reconsider whether parts of the federal government’s enormous landholdings and control of water in the West could be better used for ranching, mining, or forestry through private ownership.

Opening national parks and public land to logging and mining is the opposite of conservation. So that’s probably just a typo.

By uniting our government and our citizens, our foreign policy will secure freedom, keep America safe, and ensure that we remain the “last best hope on Earth.”

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What Wikipedia Has Taught Me About Sandwiches

Wikipedia is like most of the internet—good if you want to find out something you will never need to know, terrible if you really need to make sure something is true, and 99 percent crap. But that one percent that isn’t crap is shockingly good, and when you stumble across a worthwhile page you feel good for the future of technology, knowledge accumulation, and the prospects of humanity itself. Coming across such a page won’t just brighten up your day, it will make you understand, for a while at least, that though our time on this planet is limited, there is so much joy to be squeezed out of it, so much wonder to discover and share and create, that we should be grateful—to God, the universe, whatever—that we are alive where and when we are, or simply that we are alive at all. That’s what I feel, anyway, when I visit Wikipedia’s List of Sandwiches, which I periodically do whenever I’m feeling down. I almost always learn something, and I almost always end up giggling like an idiot at my desk before—what else?—going off to make a sandwich. These are the things I have learned from that page so far:

The English are fucking disgusting Wikipedia helpfully lists the country of origin for each sandwich, and the ones credited to the United Kingdom give a terrifying glimpse into the psyche of that spice-bereft nation. It’s a stereotype, sure, but the sandwiches that aren’t of the “just one food item lazily placed between two slices of bread” variety (baked beanbaconjamcucumber, and chip butty [a French fry sandwich, which sounds incredibly dull]) are creations you might have thought of when you were four years old only to immediately realize, no, that’s gross. Here’s a “crisp” sandwich that contains chips, peanut butter, and pickles. Less vile but more boring is the tea sandwich, which is basically just white bread smeared with mayo and butter. The most palatable sandwich on the list belonging to the UK is the “ploughman’s lunch,” which was a marketing ploy by cheese manufacturers—it’s basically cheese and relish and bread and sometimes apples or whatever on a plate, and the main point of it seems to be that you get some beer with it. There’s even a sandwich name on the Wiki page that is a joke riffing on British Railway’s terrible sandwiches, proving that once again the British are much better at making droll comments about their miserable lives than they are at improving said lives.

Germans don’t really understand sandwiches The wonderful, liberating things about the sandwich as a genre is that you can fit anything—anything—between two slices of bread. The Chivito is a sandwich that features filet mignon, mayo, olives, mozzarella, tomatoes, and sometimes also bacon, eggs, and ham. (It is, deservedly, the national dish of Uruguay.) Compare that cultural achievement with German sandwiches such as the Fischbrötchen (fish, onions) and the Wurstbrot (meat, and meat only, on a roll). I would scold Germans for having a lack of imagination, but they did produce the Toast Hawaii, a bizarre creation that combines melted cheese, pineapple, and a maraschino cherry. Here another country lives up to its stereotype—the German sandwich is either economical to the point of severity, or completely fucking bonkers.

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All Around Losing - Dating Is Terrifying

Our host Harry becomes nervous and weird whenever he approaches anything that looks like a woman. To remedy this sad state of affairs, he went to a body language coach for some tips on how to appear more comfortable around females, and then threw himself into a speed-dating event, where he got to disappoint women at five times the rate he normally does.

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All Around Losing - Stand Up Comedy Is Hard

In this episode of All Around Losing, Harry attempts to follow in the footsteps of Louis CK and other schmucks-turned-comedy-idols by trying to become a stand-up comic. He starts at the very, very bottom, subjecting himself to New York City’s brutal open-mic scene, and quickly discovers that 1) making people laugh is nightmarishly difficult and 2) he is not good at it. It’s funny to watch him fail, but not ha-ha funny.  

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I’m in a Hip Electronica Band and I Don’t Know Why

If love is something that makes you more than a little crazy, something that makes it impossible to think about the beloved in any kind of objective way, then I guess I love my hometown Seattle sports teams. When I am not in the throes of romance, I’m cynical enough to know that pro sports are played by millionaires who are paid by billionaires, none of whom give a damn about me. Most of the players don’t choose to live in a city where the two seasons are “summer” and “rainy,” and they play for owners so miserly that they created ”20”-ounce cups that held 16 ounces of (overpriced) liquid. Still, when the Sonics left Seattle in 2008, I felt the bad news settle in my stomach like I had just gotten a call from my mom telling me that my dog had died. I know that sounds overwrought if you don’t care about sports, but I couldn’t help it—just like I can’t help being thrilled, pathetically and irrationally, now that there’s a chance the Sonics might come back.

Continue: Harry Cheadle Is a Selfish Sonics Fan

VOTE FOR WHOEVER YOU WANT

Here we are. After years—fucking years—of campaigning, spin, narrative, counter-spin, ads, interviews, news cycles, primaries, debates, speeches, pressers, PACs, think pieces, tweets, conventions, scandals, fundraising dinners, and rallies, the election is happening. We finally get to VOTE, guys! For president! All that’s left is to actually, physically, select the candidate we’re voting for. Most of you have already decided whether to vote for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney through careful deliberation or a deep, instinctive hatred of the guy you don’t want in the Oval Office—or you’re so disgusted with both candidates that you’re going with some other dude out of sheer frustration.

But your options aren’t limited to Obama, Romney, and the most prominent third-party candidates. You aren’t even limited to the long list of people officially running for president (some of whom have endearingly amateur websites). There’s a line on the ballot where you can write down the name of whoever, or whatever, you want to be president. People take advantage of it too: In 2008, over 100,000 folks chose to exercise their franchise by picking “none of the above” and wrote in votes for Donald Duck, Vermin Supreme, Jesus, and Bill Clinton, among others. Why not join them this time around? After all, being one of the millions of people who vote for Obama or Romney will not change anything or have any effect on the election, whereas being the only person to vote for “Poop Comes Out Of My Butthole Haha” will at least make a poor, overworked ballot counter smile. Here are some options if you aren’t satisfied with the Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, and Poop Comes Out Of My Butthole Haha:

Hillary Clinton
Remember when Hillary ran for president in 2008 and lost out to Obama? Well, some people are still really, really pissed about that. PUMAs (“Party Unity My Ass”) are a loose group of people who are so pro-Hillary and anti-Obama that they’ll either vote for Romney or write in “Hillary Clinton” on their ballots in the manner of a lovesick tween writing the names of the guys in One Direction all over her homework. These former Democrats not only won’t ever vote for Obama, they’ll also start rumors that he’s gay. Join their movement on Election Day!

Ron Paul
You know who is also not running for president? Ron Paul. He was in the Republican primaries, then dropped out. Now, if you want to cast your ballot for an anti-government, anti-war, pro-marijuana legalization candidate, you still can—there’s always Gary Johnson, the guy running on the Libertarian Party ticket. But what if you want to vote for a candidate who has those policies but also has a history of publishing a racist newsletter? Well, you’ll have no other option than writing Ron Paul’s name on the ballot. You gotta stay true to your principles.

Rand Paul
OK, but what about people who want to vote for someone with the Paul name, but think that casting a write-in ballot for Ron, a guy who at one point ran for president, is just too “lamestream”? Those folks are going to have to go with Rand Paul, Ron’s son, who supports some of his dad’s policies and looks like a guy who could be president, not a leprechaun. Rand is going to get at least one vote—Daniel McCarthy, the editor of The American Conservative, who wants to send a message to the GOP with his vote. I’m sure the party will be paying attention to everyone who receives write-in votes, but even if they somehow choose to ignore Dan’s vote, Rand’s running in 2016 anyway. He’s already in Iowa

Cory Booker
The Newark, New Jersey, mayor probably needs to run for governor before he runs for president, but it’s only a matter of time. He’s charismatic, he uses Twitter to interact with his constituents directly (he even recently took the time to give some inspiration to a user named @DAT_NIGGA_REEE), and is basically a character from a not-entirely-believable TV drama—he let people stay at his house during hurricane Sandy, and he fucking saved a woman from a burning building. How do you run against a guy like that? Might as well get used to voting for him, America.    

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A lot of the silliness on May Day was the good kind of silly, the silliness that hurts no one and makes even a cold-hearted capitalist like me smile. Regardless of political affiliation, if you can’t grin at a couple of mimes pretending to be cops “frisking” bystanders, you need to lighten up a little. In the context of a protest like May Day, I don’t know how you define “success.” If the goal was to get any closer to any of OWS and co.’s demands—higher wages, more jobs, raising taxes on millionaires, relaxing immigration policy, legalizing pot and gay marriage, etc. etc. etc.—I doubt any of what happened yesterday helped anything. On the other hand, if you look at May Day as a kind of Leftist Pride Parade, not unlike Gay Pride events or New York’s Puerto Rico day, you can understand the marches as a big party that celebrates a shared identity. “Celebrates” being the key word.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love May Day

All Around Losing: How to Be a Man

All Around Losing host Harry Cheadle normally evades conflict by running away or nervously laughing, but now it’s time to face his fears and become a man. First, he endures a physically draining work out with a Krav Maga expert who teaches Harry how to punch dudes with balls the size of beets. Then Harry heads to a gun range where an NRA-certified Israeli teaches him about shotguns.

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All Around Losing with Harry Cheadle

In this episode of what is very quickly becoming everyone’s favorite VICE show, Harry Cheadle (@Hcheadle) joins an experimental rock band and feels weird.

Let’s Just Turn the Refs Into Lazers

We’re 1/16th of the way through the NFL season and the regular referees are still not back, locked out thanks to stalled labor negotiations, during which the league owners refused to negotiate. The refs are demanding more money, but the sums being argued over are miniscule compared to the oceans of cash that the NFL brings in—by some estimates, the two sides differ by about $16.5 million over five years, and some individual players make more than that. The replacement refs aren’t all terrible, but they did manage to give the Seahawks an extra timeout in the game against the Cardinals, and they slowed everything down so much with late calls and referee conferences that the game was practically unwatchable, even more so than a Cardinals-Seahawks matchup would normally be.   

Why don’t the owners just give the refs the small change they’re asking for? Many smart observers, such as Tom Scocca of Deadspin, say it’s because the owners are assholes and fuck them, and I’m inclined to agree. The refs control the flow of the game and are in charge of determining what happened when two or more giant men collide at high speeds, and though we don’t usually notice them unless they screw up, they’re a vital part of the game. It’s hard to argue that they’re not worth more money.

Not paying the refs what they’re worth is part of a trend: While football as a sport has been evolving for decades to become faster, more athletic, and incorporate more technology (radios in quarterbacks’ helmets, coordinators’ booths high above the field, cameras capturing every microsecond of every game for further study), the way the game is officiated has remained the same. They do review controversial plays now, but that’s a measure that’s made viewers’ experiences worse—as anyone who’s watched a receiver’s foot drag along the grass over and over again can attest to. Why don’t the balls come equipped with precise GPS chips that would indicate when they cross into the end zone? For that matter, why are the sidelines still chalk and not lasers that could sense when a player steps out of bounds? Why are these games being called by seven human beings on the field with only two eyes each when the job could (probably) be done by a bunch of cameras and a team of full-time experts in a booth somewhere? Sure, these wacky innovations would cost millions and require some kinks to be worked out, but the NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry and most of the owners are plutocrats. Make the refs full-time employees and pay them, but that’s only a start. By 2030, I want the games to be officiated by motion sensors and nanobots. And the cheerleaders should be replaced by 3-D holographic .gifs that summarize the most important news stories of the day. And the players will mostly be lizards. Anyway, on to picking games.

(I went 6-9-1 last week, so you’re probably better off just flipping a coin and following its advice.)

THE GAMES

Chicago (+5) at Green Bay
Normally, Thursday night games don’t happen until later in the season, because it’s super exhausting for players to have to go through two NFL games in five days, but now the NFL is like, “Fuck the players, let’s get some weeknight primetime ratings!” Eventually football will be on seven nights a week and my social life will basically come to an end, since I like watching football better than I like most people.

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