Intelligence (The Dumbing of America)

ABC spent an full hour of primetime talking to [Michael and Lisa Marie Jackson]. Why does something completely inane like that fascinate us? Our culture has gone from GE College Bowl to the guy on Wheel of Fortune who asks, "Is there an ‘F,’ as in pharoh?" Is intelligence a liability nowadays? I think we can answer that with one word: "Duh!" America has never been what you would call highbrow, but these days it seems our collective cranial ridge is sloping like the shoulders of the bar boy at the Kennedy compound.

Now, I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but we live in an era and a time where calling someone an Einstein is considered to be somewhat of an insult. Morons are out there in force making left-hand turns from right-hand lanes, trying to pay for drive-thru tacos with a fucking check, calling 411 to get the number for information, and in most of our fine metropoli, the reposed "Fuck off!" will get you a seat at the local Algonquin round table. What happened? I’ll tell you what happened.

First and foremost, as a matter of fact, numbers 1, 2, and . . . what come after 2, we didn’t pay enough attention to our education system. We gotta stop paying teachers like the kid who delivers grit! For Christ’s sake, these are the people who will lead us and our children into the century and they can’t even afford real Yodels, okay? They have to get those 144 count price-club steamer trunk size of Little Debby’s, the equivalent.

High school kids are entering the job market with an education that barely qualifies them to run the Tilt-A-Whirl at the traveling carnival. Even those fortunate enough to graduate from Ivy-League schools, well, they go to write movie scripts about, guess what . . . stupid people.

And that brings us to our next reason. Let’s face facts, the TV beast ate us whole quicker than a dog on a Dreamsicle, all right? Most talk shows are bimbomercials. Connie Chung actually hosted a network news show for a year, and many sitcoms need two longshoremen with a pipe wrench to twist the canned laughter dial. Bright people whom I really used to respect now stay home to watch "Beverly Hills, 90210." Why bother? You just know that every week Brandon and Dillon are gonna let Kelly jerk ‘em around for a while and Dawn and Ray are gonna be having yet another abusive spat at the Peach, but, oh, I hate Ray!! T.V. producers say Americans enjoy the stupid shit. But, hey, it’s the same reason Eskimos enjoy blubber; it’s the only fucking thing available at the Arctic buffet, okay? Pop culture has turned the brain into the body’s new appendix; no real function and it could quite possible blow up and kill you. As organs go, you just don’t need your brain anymore. As a matter of fact, I’m certain in the very near future people will go to the hospital, or should I say, turn on the hospital channel, and get their brain taken out just as a precaution.

Indeed, in the business of television brightness can often be taken from you and used as a semitarn to cleave your occupational head off. Our guest tonight, Jon Stewart, ran a pretty tight, and might I add, pretty intelligent little Keebler tree over there till it was chopped down last week. Now there are many reasons for the cancellation of a television show. I’m pretty sure Jon will tell you that the copability flow chart on the demise of his show read like the genealogy of the kid on the porch in "Deliverance." But, I’m reasonable sure it had something to do with Jon use of words like "genealogy," which I think most Americans believe to be when Barbara Eden visits her OB-GYN.

America, we are at a fork in the road. To the left you’ve got books, and to the right, the never-ending horizon of the new technology. I, myself, am taking a hard left because if they talk you into hanging that rico, the new technology is only gonna make it worse. Now they tell you it’s gonna make it better, but if you notice the voice they tell you that in is always the computer generated one and it’s digitally synthesized too. That means less expected from us, less striving, less brainwork, more stupid, and eventually the king will be the one who just doesn’t shit himself. You know, our reliance on technology is making us soft and if we’re not careful it will only get worse.

Scientists estimate that by the end of this century, via the means of Virtual Reality, a man will be able to assimilate making love to any women he wants to through his television set. You know, folks, the day an unemployed ironworker can lay in his Bark-a-lounger with a Fosters in one hand and a channel flicker in the other and fuck Claudia Schiffer for \$19.95, it’s gonna make crack look like Sanka, all right?!

Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Where Is America Headed?

You know this is getting absurd. Washington's blaming Hollywood, Hollywood's blaming Washington, and the rest of us are so zoned out on "Hard Copy," "ER," and that new pizza with the cheese in the crust that we don't even give a s*** where we're headed anymore.

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but America has turned into one gigantic dysfunctional family that's so far gone it makes the Menendezes look like the Von Trapps.

Look at our education system. Our kids have to pass through metal detectors simply to get an F- in woodshop.

And you know something, that four hundred to one student/teacher ratio is producing a generation of miscreant zombies who look at a mall map and think to themselves, "How in the f*** did the map people know 'we are here'?"

We're in danger of turning into a Beavis and Butthead theme park, a "Space-Between-your-Ears Mountain." Within the decade, the odds are pretty good that we'll all be working for a thirteen-year-old Asian kid who's from a country that still gives a s*** about education.

And what's the current status of our cherished, personal freedoms? Well, folks, we're the freest people on earth.

We have so much freedom nowadays that the President of the United States has to barricade the street in front of his f***in' house just so he can scarf down a Moon Pie at midnight and not have to dive behind the Mamie Eisenhower ottoman. Great, we've turned Pennsylvania Avenue into a salt-lick for mimes. Christ, everybody's packin' nowadays. The other day, they caught Socks the Cat trying to yak a hairball at Clinton. We seem to be interpreting personal "freedom" to mean stockpiling firepower that would make the Branch Davidian compound look like Ed Begley's place at Zuma Beach.

As for our much-beloved, two party political system ... well, right now, it's splintered worse than a jammed door at Chuck Norris' house.

The conservatives plan for the next decade is the inverse effect of "Back to the Future." It's essentially, "Ahead to the Past." Their plan may suck, but at least they have a plan. Liberals are running around like an organically fed, free-range chicken with its head cut off. No wonder they fight so hard for the spotted owl - they're right behind 'em on the endangered species list. Politicians better come up with something concrete soon, or our future will be darker than George Hamilton reading Sylvia Plath in the basement of a Mott Street opium den ... and that of course is pretty dark.

And certainly our geopolitical gestalt has changed radically. Once we were a generous, outgoing nation, always eager to pick up a check or break up a brawl.

Hey, we were Hoyt Axton. Now we're on the verge of becoming the free world's answer to Travis Bickle - camouflaged, armed to the teeth, and ready to off the first person who glances at us wrong. Our motto has changed from "E Pluribus Unum" to "What the f*** are you lookin' at?"

Sure, we're still the best nation on this planet. But does that carry the weight it used to? Nowadays, isn't that sort of like being the valedictorian at summer school? Given our amazing resources and our ideals, is this funhouse-mirror version of America really the best we can do? I don't think so. If America wants to bat cleanup in the New World Order, here's some common sense suggestions for moving into the twenty-first century:

ONE - Don't look to politicians to fix anything - get off your Snackwells ass and do it yourself.

TWO - Be open to new ideas. Buy electric cars when they go on the market. Sure they'll be s****y at first, but gas cars are s****y now. Get the s****y car of the future!

THREE - G. Gordon Liddy, shut the f*** up, all right?!

FOUR - G. Gordon Liddy, shut the f*** up. Just wanted to be sure, in case he just tuned in.

FIVE - Teach your kids about birth control so that we're not packed into these fruited plains like circus clowns in a Volkswagen Beetle.

SIX - Conservatives, don't censor Hollywood. It's supposed to be s****y trash. And what's left of you liberals, don't censor Rush Limbaugh. Understand him for what he is - a shopping cart with a bad wheel that pulls to the right no matter which way it's facing

SEVEN - How's about everybody getting their nose out of other people's affairs and minding their own business? We have become such a nation of busybodies and voyeurs that the Constitution now reads, "We, the Peep Hole...."

EIGHT - Strive for a day when "NRA" means "Not Relevant Anymore."

NINE - Try to keep in mind that for all the horrors and the fear media shove down our throats every night, most people are basically good. They want just what you want - food, shelter, love. We're mammals. We're migratory creatures that no longer have any new places to go. So now it's time to go inward, to do some karmic retooling on ourselves.

And finally, the tenth suggestion on how to make America a better place in the next century ... stop ripping off Letterman!

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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I tell you there is no love sweeter than the love between a mother and a child. Now I know my wife loves me but I am reasonably sure that she doesn't look at me the same way she looks at them. You know it's kind of humbling because you realize at some point you're just a date that worked out

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but parenting is the most important job on the planet next to keeping Gary Busey off the nations's highways.

And the reason parenting is becoming increasingly crucial is that we now live in a world that is more f***ed up than Peter O'Toole on his birthday.

You know I used to scoff at the art of parenting. When I was single I was walking down the street one day in New York City and I spotted a guy with one baby in a carriage wailing like a siren, and another one master-blasted on his back in a holster; he was feeding both of them a combination of Cheerios, Zwieback crackers, and Juicy Juice from a Baggie he had Scotch-taped to his chest hair. All the while he was pullin' baby wipes out of a belly pack like a coked-up baccarat dealer going through a four-deck shoe. And I swore I would never end up like that. Well, you know something?

A couple of years later I did become a parent and guess what? I'm still not like that loser. And for that matter, I still don't have any chest hair.

But I do have a firm grasp of the fact that the most important job I'll ever do is that of parenting. It's that simple, folks. Kids are the sponge, you are the Supersoaker. You know it seems that teachers, friends, and neighbors alike know where a childs's behavior is coming from. But often the parents themselves are in denial. I remember once my kid got in trouble for saying to his teacher, "What time is f***ing recess?" and I remember thinking, "Now where would he f***ing pick up something like that?" But so be it ... you never did that. You're a good boy, Holden, it was a joke. Be it swearing or loving or hating, we undeniably impact our children. So I propose the following: Make parenting illegal without a license.

It would go something like this. A man who wanted to have a child would have to prove he was responsible, earned enough money for food and clothes for the kid, and would commit enough of his time and wisdom to assure the rest of us that the kid wouldn't end up in a Texas bell tower with a high-powered rifle and a grudge anytime soon. As for the woman, same deal - but she has to also promise not to make him wear dresses while she hems them, the pins sticking his tender calves, the humiliation slowly destroying his young will to be the world's funniest comedian ... um, sorry.

And then there's the main reason, the definitive reason, the sadly serious reason that you should have to be licensed to have a child. There seems to be a shocking rise in the incidence of child abuse on this planet and I think it augurs for the end of the world. I understand a man's inhumanity to man. Adults are violent amorphous blobs that careen around the planet. Occasionally they brush up against another individual and hey, their life must end. All right, I think we all dig that transaction. We are big boys and girls and we dig our own graves. But when did we start bleeding it into the innocent?

You got to promise me if you're watching me tonight and you ever get to the point in your life where you are so puzzled, confused, and frightened that you feel that the only way out is to abuse or molest a little kid, well then, you have got to kill yourself. You have to lean into the strike zone and take one for the team.

Listen, in a age where a child can be left unsupervised in a trailer with "Beavis and Butt-head" on the TV and a book of matches within easy reach, a license to procreate starts to make some sense. If you're still unconvinced, let me put it to you another way: Kato Kaelin is a father.

All right? Our society is increasingly made up of people whose parents bailed out on them. You want to do something about it?

Don't bail out on your kids. How's that for a simple can-do? Rise up out of the mire of your own narcissism and get selfless, for chrissake. You want a better world?

The seeds for it are right there in your own house. Be good to those tiny humans lying there on the living room floor watching cartoons, and be good to your kids too, give them a future and they'll return the favor by giving you one in spades, my friend.

If you can stare between the stars into the blackness at heaven and say with a smile on your face, "I'll do anything and everything to be a good parent" then you're ready. Almost. Get yourself a copy of The Lion King. Now you're ready.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Baseball (Contemporary Sports)

God knows the world of sports could use a shot in the arm, couldn't it? I bought a newspaper the other day, I was gonna flip to the Sports section when I realized - I just can't make the Mark Belanger-like throw from the hole anymore. I...I just don't want to read about vicious brawls, random drug testing, salary squabbles or venomous court proceedings. For Christ's sake, it's enough to make you want to turn to the front page. You know, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but I can remember as a kid thinking sports were played by heroes on a field of honor. We played on our little neighborhood sandlots in hopes of someday becoming the noblest of all warriors - a ballplayer. Today, I can see ballplayers for what they are just young men with a bag of faults covering the whole spectrum of human frailty.

On the baseball cards of my youth (collected assiduously and filed in an empty Converse sneaker box) the "boys of summer" smiled white smiles, their eyes clear and happy with the sense of purpose that comes from honorable pursuits. They were our team. They stayed with us through good and bad, and they didn't hold out for more money, and we didn't withhold our adulation.

There was a predictability then that was in one word, comforting. The plotline read as simply as a Spy vs. Spy comic strip: young man works hard, plays fair, becomes hero, gives back to fans and rides off into the sunset. Nowadays, young man squirts bleach at reporters, throws firecrackers at kids, becomes felon, and drives Porsche off into sunset.

You know, the equation doesn't work anymore. The math now dictates that Bonnie Blair trains hard, keeps her mouth shut, wins five gold medals, FIVE... and she can't get a headband endorsement. Nancy Kerrigan comes in second - once, tells Mickey Mouse to go fuck himself, and she strikes the mother lode. You know, just like in all other walks of society, sports fame has become a matter of smile over substance, and you know it's all sports: in football it's Jerry Jones' swelled head, in basketball it's Dennis Rodman's "mood ring head", in boxing it's Don King's troll-doll head, and in tennis it's Andre Agassi's balding head (aside) yeah, we noticed Andy. Ehhh, well you know something? I say, off with their heads! They're our games and we want them back.

We are being cheated the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are not Stuldreyer, Miller, Crowley and Leydon, but rather Greed, Ego, Arbitration and Steinbrenner. The Elyssian athletic fields of my youth have been turned into the Pullan Weed-Eater Dust Bowls of today. The true poetry of Sport has been corroded, and we are left with nothing but broken verse.

It looked extremely rocky for the L.A. nine that day -- The score stood 2-to-4 with but an inning left to play. So when DeShields died at second and Butler did the same, Bad Karma clouded the blue-blockers of the patrons of the game.

A few got up to do some blow, leaving there the rest With that hope that springs eternal, within the siliconed breast. For they thought if only Darryl could get a whack at that They just might put their sushi down with Strawberry at the bat.

But Piazza preceded Strawman, and likewise so did Wallach And the former was still three years shy of arbitration and the latter was a five-and-ten man who was contractually guaranteed final approval of the teams he could be traded to.

So on that earthquake, brushfire, mudslide, riot-torn Angeline billboard stricken crowd, a deathlike silence sat

For there seemed but little chance of Darryl getting to the bat.

But Piazza let drive a triple, to the wonderment of all And the inconsistent Wallach took a slider in the balls. And after his obligatory charge to the mound to make his feelings heard, There was Wallach safe at first, and Piazza huggin' third.

Then from the jaded multitude went up a wine-spritzer soaked yell It rumbled off the 405, and the Hollywood sign, as well It struck off Spago's windows, which shook like liposuctioned fat For Darryl, flighty Darryl, was advancing to the bat.

There was disease (LaSorda would say "weakness") in Darryl's manner as he twelve-stepped into place There was pride in Darryl's bearing, and some white stuff on his face. Sixty thousand and one eyes were on him (okay, Peter Falk was there, it's Hollywood) as he rubbed his hands with dirt; Thirty thousand folks applauded, dripping Dove Bars on their shirts.

Now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the smog and Darryl stood a'watching in a self-indulgent fog. Close by the usesless batsman, the ball, unheeded, sped "I've seen better orbs in strip clubs" said Darryl... "Strike One!" the umpire said.

From skyboxes stuffed with Armani suits there went up a muffled roar Like the whacking-off of perverts in that park by the Santa Monica shore [ I was looking for a rhyme.] "Kill him! Kill the ump!" shouted Kevorkian in the stands And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Darryl raised his spouse-abusing hand. He signalled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew - But Darryl had nearly nodded off, and the umpire said, "Strike Two!"

"You suck, you worthless piece of shit!" cried the maddened thousands clustered around my four-year old son and me. And then the echo answered back, "?Tu chupas, tu bueno penado pedaso de mierda!" But one scornful look from Darryl, and the fans' inner-child anger cleared. They saw his face grow stern and cold, like the day he smacked that homeless guy for looking at him weird.

Then they heard him whining about his 4-million-per-annum strain And they knew the chances were two in ten that he would not let that ball go by again.

And now the obscenely overpaid 8-and-13 pitcher holds the ball and now he lets it go. And now the shitty L.A. air is shattered by the farce of Darryl's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this troubled land the sun is shining bright The Eagles have reunited, and somewhere hearts are light Somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout But there is no joy in Mudville -- mighty Darryl is strung out.

Of course that is just my opinion...I could be wrong!

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Civility (Disappearing Manners)

HAS ANYBODY ELSE NOTICED THAT CIVILITY IS disappearing faster than a pack of smokes at an AA meeting? And you know it appears as if we've given up on trying to preserve it. Most people seem to accept this disintegration of manners as a fait accompli and have simply lined the borders of their personal space with razor wire.

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but we've developed over the last few decades from a Barry Lyndon gentility to a bunch of Thunderdome mooks. Nowadays, thoughtless clods all across this great land of ours do everything from clipping their fingernails in restaurants to checking themselves for polyps in the buffet line. As a matter of fact, you can't go anywhere without suffering incivility.

You go to the mall to pick up a smoky-link Gouda gift set from Hickory Farms. You come out, your car's been keyed and some workforce fringe player has left a flyer on your windshield about how you can get 10 percent off gay porn films at Dick's Porn Film's Video Shaft.

You go into the supermarket and you wind up in the line that is clearly marked TEN ITEMS OR LESS, CASH ONLY, waiting behind a Ninja drifter with no ID, who's attempting to pay for fourteen fucking cartloads of puddin' pops with a personal check from the Bank of Tehran.

People no longer understand the basic rules of courtesy. Rule Number One: You must get out of the way and let people off the elevator before you can get on the elevator, okay? Rule Number Two: When you call someone at three-fifteen in the morning and get the wrong number, don't just say, "Oh, this isn't Charlene?" Click. Say, "I'm very sorry to have pestered you. I am an assface." And Rule Number Three: Turn your goddamn car stereo down -- did you ever think that maybe I didn't want to hear the bass line to "Baby Got Back"? Did that ever enter your assface skull, assface?

Even when I try to escape the cold, rude world, and isolate myself in a darkened movie theater for two hours of unencumbered escapism, I get stuck behind some idiot faux-Truffaut with my Anna Nicole Smith-sized box of Milk Duds.

But you know the fountainhead of all this bad behavior has got to be the daytime talk shows. What an intergalactic fucking freak show these are. You tell me, what Rusty the Bailiff Fan Club meeting do they go to to harvest these losers? Ricki Lake? Richard Bey? Jerry Springer? These people shouldn't be allowed to own a TV, for chrissake, much less be on it.

And you know their guest not only aren't ashamed of their asinine antics, they positively revel in their own grand mal shitheadedness: Screaming in people's faces, screaming at the audience, the audience screaming back . . .

I just want to say fuck this culture, pack up some jerky, and go time-share with Jeremiah Johnson.

Look, I'm not some tie-dyed karma maitre d' trying to seat everybody in the no-conflict section. Day-to-day life, to say the least, can be combative. As far as I'm concerned, the New Age goal of perpetual, smiling bliss is a far worse hell than anything imagined by Quentin Tarantino on windowpane.

I don't want some vacant-headed, defanged Quaker land. That's not civility, that's banality. And I'm not talking Amy Vanderbilt civility either, where there's nine goddamn forks arranged around your dinner plate like some cutlery Stonehenge and if you choose the wrong one you're sent away to become Edwin Newman's personal sex-toy.

But you know, I am saying that when civility breaks down, the fall of civilization is close behind. It is surprising to anyone that the least rude of all countries has 222 million guns? It's gotten so weird out there that we've all turned inward and in the process we seem to have forgotten there are other human beings schlepping in this pebble. That's where civility comes in.

Civility is acknowledging that we don't live in a solipsistic universe. We do share this planet with each other, and we should strive to coexist in some sort of civilized, respectful manner. And so to all of you out there who don't cover your mouth, who don't have the money ready when you get to the tollbooth, and who do burp so loudly in public that others wonder where the epicenter was, to all of you dwelling out there on the grassy knoll, if you don't want to join in this noble pursuit of good manners we are all cordially invited to, please . . . go fuck yourself.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Criticism (Critics)

You watch, they're gonna go after Clinton for duck hunting now you watch. You know Clinton is criticized for his health plan, his tax plan, his choice of tie, everything. His haircut, his wife, you name it some snippy bystander has an opinion and sure he or she is entitled to their opinion, but it's gotten to the point where people who criticize actually believe their opinion should have an effect, even if it's only that of bird shit hitting the drivers side windshield at 60 miles an hour. You know, I don't want to get off on a rant here but why is it... why is it that every single activity in our lives is subject to a mean spirited critique. Who wants to listen to some unqualified blowhard, having convinced himself that his uninformed opinion is somehow relevant, yarble through an insufferable long winded bullshit laden rant? Or not. Okay I'm guilty here too but having copped to that I must say we truly are a nation of critics sniping from lazy boys at a few active individuals struggling to effect political change, make a movie, write a book, tell a joke, design a better faucet... Okay that guy is an asshole alright! The faucets are fine stop fucking with them alright! The ones in the airport are like science projects with electronic eyes and motion sensors. Faucet guy STOP IT!

Look, we used to keep this need to criticize bottled up in the art swamp where it caromed harmlessly off of giant soup cans, blank verse, and untalented exhibitionists smearing themselves with chocolate and cramming yams up their ass. But now it's spilled over the media flood wall and into every activity of our lives. Sports, pet training, home repair, snow removal, you name it somewhere there's a cable show dedicated to ripping it. And I'm not saying there isn't a place for solid intelligent constructive criticism but when was the last time you read a review of something, a movie, a play, a book, that gave you a real feel or what the author was trying to say. Probably been a while huh? Because nowadays you can only make a name for yourself as a critic if you pass out blow jobs like Madonna at the NBA all star game, or... or if you're a spiteful crank heaping scorn on everything he sees, the kind of poison tongued lard encased asshole who refuses to review anything he enjoys because his praise mechanism was broken when his father wouldn't buy him an easy bake oven for his tenth birthday(applause). Now I don't have any personal axe to grind here, bad reviews don't affect me that much. I'm not the kind of guy who names names, in fact I don't even know the name of the slimy fuckwad from Entertainment Weekly. I feel so cleansed.

The key thing to remember about all critics is that they remain dependent on the innovator, the person doing the real work of creating. And because they just sit on the sidelines of life, never the hunter, they are doomed to be forgotten. But it's not all their fault I mean, we give them their chance when we rely too much on critics to make our choices for us. We give them the power because the sheer speed of existence has rattled our already fragile confidence when it comes to things artistic. We think we need help sorting out artsy things, that somehow we don't have all the facts. But you know something, we don't need help. You like the Red Skelton painting, buy the Red Skelton painting alright. You like Home Improvement, tape it and go over it like the Zabruder film. It's your living room, it's your life, go nuts. Enjoy the world on your terms, follow your own heart and take what critics say with a fifty pound bag of salt because at best a critic is just another human being, like yourself, fumbling around in the dark trying to separate the artistic wheat from the wonderbread.

So the next time you see Roger Ebert sitting on his titanium reinforced love seat pissing off on the work of some you person who doesn't quite have it yet but might be on their way to having it some day, remember the time Roger decided to dive into the deep end of the creative pool. He wrote the Russ Meyer film "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls." And, if you'll pardon me for putting on the critics hat for a second myself, I must tell you that was a huge repulsive, quasi radioactive, spectacularly inept, borderline troglodytic, pile of high density, low brow, can't get it our of your mind or off your shoe DOGSHIT!

Of course that is just my opinion...I could be wrong!

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What's Right with America

You know, normally on my HBO show I come out here week after week and piss on everything like a drunk yard cat. You know that. That's my job. I've always felt I'm paid to find things that are wrong and then do my best to throw the switch on the perimeter floods and light it up. Tonight we're suppose to talk about what's right with America. Now I know you've got to burrow pretty deep to unearth any underlying confidence in a nation that's sapped of its vigor, strafed by violence, and pummeled senseless by the debasement of every institution from the Armed Services to Baseball. That being said, Are we gonna have some fun tonight?! Yeah, all right. That was rhetorical.

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but you know, there's a lot right right with America! Nowadays, you just have to look a little harder for it. Sure, we're sick of paying for illegal immigrant kids to go to school and we're going to stop. But only a country that did it for a while can stop doing it. See? People don't ever consider that. And okay, we nearly exterminated the Native Americans. Nobody tries to hide that anymore. But we did change our textbooks so the facts came out. I mean, who else does that? Only America. And as if admitting the truth wasn't enough, we don't even tax their casinos. And us - with a 4-trillion-debt! I'm saying not taxing billions in Indian bingo loot is magnanimous and should be in the "What's Right with America" column! How's about this - in America we let people in prison read, study law, even work out so they can get themselves out of jail in much better mental and physical shape to resume their lives of crime. A lot of countries treat their criminals like animals, like sub-humans, as if they'd done something wrong!

Not America. Not this great country. I'm not a complete ethno-centrist. I went over to France earlier this year for a couple of months, to see if I might live there. And while I enjoyed my time in Paris, I should tell you that the French hate our guts. I cannot believe they actually gave us the Statue of Liberty. They must've been throwing it out anyway. Because these people detest us. They look at us and we are one, big, collective Jethro bearing down on them, rope belt and all. And you know something? In all fairness, we might be hicks, but at least we're hicks who tend to our armpits more frequently than once every time Comet Kohoutek is in the solar system. These people avoid showers like a blonde at the Bates Motel. They had to invent perfume. It wasn't an augmentation, it was a defense mechanism. Trust me, when Louis the XIV guillotined you, he was doing you a big favor separating your olfactory senses from your brainstem. "Yeah, Claude, paint the water lilies a little later. Right now I need you to pick up that loofa and storm the pit Bastille, all right?" Thank you, Pepe LePeux. I had a cabdriver over there, smelled like a man eating Gorganzola cheese while getting a permanent inside the septic tank of a slaughterhouse. I said, "Hey, pal. There's an extra five in it for ya if you run over a f***ing skunk." So, there'd another reason why this country's great.

We smell better than most. Another reason we're great is because we create things here,things of unique beauty, things that unconsciously interweave the American attributes of ingenuity, optimism, gluttony, and narrow-mindedness. Things like: "All You Can Eat" Restaurants ... The Clapper ... Street-legal, semiautomatic grenade weapons that even the Tontons Macoute didn't have ... The Temporary Insanity Plea ... Cutting-edge CD-ROM technology used for porno ... deep-fried cheese ... bans on toy guns ... rain ponchos for dogs ... Orange Julius ... Orange County ... beer can hats ... plea bargaining ... being able to plug your parents with bullets and getting acquitted ... indeed we're even free over here to subscribe to 500 channels of cable only to find out that that piece of shit, William Katt's superhero show, is on 498 of them ... You know ... As a matter of fact, you want to know what's right with America more than anything? Our right to speak out about everything that's wrong with it. And we're all free to vent at will-at least for the next couple of days till Gingrich takes over and straps the rat cage on our collective face. You know ... this really is a great country. Remind yourself of it once in a while. Take the family on Route 66, shop at the Galleria, buy a gun, have your breasts enlarged, have your penis lengthened, sue your neighbor, eat three Big Macs, drive 120 and pay the ticket, visit the White House - or better yet, jump the fence and go meet the Prez in person. He likes that. He really really likes that. It's America, goddamn it!!

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Inefficiency (American Inefficiency)

Why is it in America that going somewhere, buying something, calling someone- just about any transaction that you can name in America is about as nerve-racking as a Bosnian grocery run? Why is it that seemingly everyone with a job along the great service highway is an uninterested sociopath with the interpersonal skills of a wolverine?

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but why is it that I can't seem to go through the simplest procedures without a major hassle? For example, I recently subscribed to a magazine, and after paying for it they sent me another bill. So I called them up to rectify the situation, and they assured me they'd correct the problem. I then started receiving two copies of the magazine each week, one addressed to "Dennis Miller" and the other addressed to "Denise Miller." Now, I want to know two things: One, how can they not know they're sending two magazines to the same address, and two, how did they find out about my cross-dressing?

You know, nowadays, half the people you ask for help say, "It's not my job, man." And the other half don't have a clue about how in the hell to do their job. See if this sounds familiar: Hotel clerks who, even though you requested a nonsmoking room, give you a suite that smells like Denis Leary's index finger; maids who don't give a shit about the "Do Not Disturb" sign and come through the door like Pete Wilson raiding the kitchen for green cards at El Pollo Loco; movie ushers who constantly ask you to remove your feet from the seat in front of you, but refuse to even shine their flashlight on the gang-initiation golden shower taking place during "The Lion King".

In trendy restaurants from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to West Hollywood the one dish you can be sure about on the menu is ATTITUDE. Now I know all these waiters and waitresses have the talent to be the next Luke Perry. Or the next Luke Perry. Couldn't think of anybody else that bad. And excuse me for wandering into your restaurant in a quest for sustenance to jam in my pie hole. But from the time you strap on the Buford Pusser pepper mill to the time you drop your last check, do all of us hungry patrons a favor and use your sense memory to portray a wait-person who gives a shit about the customer they're serving even though that customer rudely insists on not being Mike Ovitz. Okay?

And it's not like I don't sympathize. I've been in the vast service gulag. After I graduated from college, one of my first jobs was as an ice cream scoop at a Village Dairy in Pittsburgh. I'm standing there at age twenty-one in a paper hat with my two fellow employees asking me if they're gonna find the driving test hard and the prettiest girl from my five years ago senior class walks in to order a cone. She recognizes me, and tries to cover her discomfort by making small talk about sugar versus cake, as I think, "Yeah, I'll get laid on this planet...sure."

And once I had a job cleaning toilets for a living--on the night shift, for chrissakes. Got that? I didn't even rate cleaning toilets during the DAY. My bosses actually thought to themselves, "Yeah, Miller's good, he's REAL good. He's just not ready for The Show yet."

I know jobs can be unrewarding, but I'd like to go on vacation for a week, call the paper boy, and ask him to suspend delivery during that time and not come back to nine newspapers sitting outside my doorstep, screaming to every lowlife in the area, "Yoohoo! Over Here! Nobody Home!"

I'd like my groceries in a bag that will actually contain what I purchased, and not open up like the bomb-bay doors on the "Enola Gay" as soon as my pickle jars are over the cement driveway; I'd like the universal remote I bought to change the channels on my TV and not shut off my neighbor's home dialysis machine.

And you know, while we are on the subject of inefficiency, why doesn't somebody warn you that the "stay hard cream" will short circuit the "auto-suck"? Are you with me on that? A little too specific. All right, let go, walk away from it, it never happened.

More important, I've had it up to here with corporations pushing the fucking unions around. You know that if you haven't been laid off by now, you're working overtime. Companies are lean and mean. And so is the service they give you: lean and mean.

Still, a lot of the blame falls on us. There seems to be this notion that good, honest, hard work is something to be viewed down our collective snout. That doesn't make the workers at the bottom of the pole feel very good. Does it?

If you want better service, the next time you see one of those workers in an "employee of the month" photo in a fast-food restaurant, suppress your urge to make your friends laugh by ridiculing the guy as a dork loser with a bad haircut. Instead, why not seek out the guy who actually took pride in doing his job the way it was supposed to be done and thank him for dotting the i's and crossing the t's and making sure there is toilet paper in the stall, and ketchup in the dispenser. Make that person feel good because he is the last thin blue collar line between a frayed but still functioning society and full-blown "We'll be there anytime between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. or maybe we won't even show up at all, assface" anarchy. All right?

And let's grab the reins as customers. Don't stay on hold forever. "What's that? I should press one if I am calling from a touch-tone phone? Hey Hal, I'm pressing flash, 'cause I'm hanging up now and taking my business to a human operator!" Don't settle for fish nugget and the green spooge, turn the car around, go back, and demand the goddamn cheeseburger you ordered!

And lastly, let's get out pride together, go to the whip, and regain our position at the head of the socioeconomic pack! How about less billions spent on getting the war machine cherry, and a few more billions on tightening up our educational system. Forget the "moment of silence" in the morning. Let's shoot for a moment of SCIENCE, okay?

It's time we stopped looking up Japan's ass, and you know why?

Because that is definitely "not our job, man."

Of course that is just my opinion...I could be wrong!

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Prohibition (Victimless Crimes)

"Maybe he deserves a second chance, I mean who did he really hurt besides himself? Maybe it's time that we as a nation start staying out of people's personal problems and vices. What are we doing spending billions of dollars trying to keep people's private lives in order? And I'm talking about legal age consenting adults here, not kids, we obviously have to take special precautions to protect kids. But what is this Orwellian hang-up of ours of sticking our nose into other grown-up's affairs? What concern is it of ours if some mindless stoner wants to spend his his life hooked up to a Turkish skull bong? Now, I'm not pro-drug, they obviously cause a lot of damage, but I am pro-logic and you're never going to stop the human need for release through altered consciousness. The government can take away all the drugs in the world and people will just spin around on their lawn until they fell down and saw God.

"Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but it seems to really enrage the vast cheese dog and beer quaffing nation out there when someone decides to waste his own life chasing down chemical euphoria and I'm not sure why. Our displeasure with someone hell-bent on self-ruination through drug use seems really disproportionate to its direct impact on us. And as a matter of fact, I believe we amplify that impact when we attempt to enforce unenforceable laws. It not only costs us billions of dollars, but it puts us in harms way as addicts are driven to crime as a means to an end. Why do we chase druggies down like villagers after Karlov? Let them legally have what they already have and defuse the bomb. You know, I think the hysteria about drugs is often times baseless. And this comes from me, a man who has never done cocaine in his life, although I did smoke dope upon occasion during my stint as a student at Oxford in the late 60s. And you know, the war on drugs is more often than not fruitless and patently hypocritical, be honest with yourselves now. What drugs are the most dangerous to the most Americans? Its a no brainer: cigarettes and alcohol. Those are the statistical champions by hundreds of thousands of deaths. And wouldn't you rather shoot a game of pool with a guy smoking a joint than a guy drinking whisky and beer? Someone smoking a joint doesn't all of the sudden rear back and stab his partner in the eye socket with a cue stick, ok? He's too busy laughing at the balls.

"And you know as far as harder drugs go, if somebody wants to shoot up and die right in front of you, more power to him, you know? It's his call. And you know the herd always has a way of thinning itself out. We aren't stupid people here in America, no more than anyone else in the world, so why are we obsessing on habits that harm no one but the habitual, while we let real problems slip ever further out of reach. We seem to be willfully turning away from reality, and from logic might I add, to punish people, who in many instances are doing an extremely fine job of punishing themselves, thank you. And in some cases they're not even punishing themselves, but rather just following age old spawning instincts that are as woven as deeply into their brain as their need to watch Home Improvement.

"Is their anything more fruitless than trying to legislate sexual behavior? You know according to the law, you can't even get a blow job in Georgia? No wonder Sherman hustled through there. And really if you stop to think about it, who is hurt by the time honored unavoidable trade of prostitution? Only the guys who pay extra to be hurt. There is no sane reason to cling to this archaic legal attempt to curtail an activity that will be around until the end of time. You know, you could come back to this planet ten thousand years from now and man could have evolved to the point where he doesn't even take in nutrition from a hole in head anymore, but I guarantee you that he'll still be cruising ninth avenue trying to get a knob-shine from somebody named Desiree.

"What sort of perfect harried experiment society are we striving for folks? One where you will be forced by the puritanical mentality of your pin-headed Gladys Kravitz neighbors into a tightly constricted, over-regimented existence? A life safe from the temptations and rewards of the flesh? If that's your kink - go for it. But for the rest of us, let's save the money we're wasting trying to regulate other people's private lives. If an individual wants to smoke a joint, or shoot up, or munch blotter like tic-tacs and drop out, let them. All right? Let's put the billions we're wasting on a drug war, fought by fitness fanatics on steroids and three-martini senators rolling in pork, let's put it back in the educational system. Let's free the courts and jails of lonely men and broken women who feel the need to buy and sell sex. Let's let hookers and their johns have a safe building somewhere off the streets, inspected medically and taxed up the wazoo. Let's go on from there to tax liquor and cigarettes so that those industries can pay for safe one-lane drunk-proof highways and air purification systems. Most importantly, let's stop pretending that people are going to lead the lives that we tell them to lead. Let's stop pretending that a few simple prohibitions on substances and activities will yield up a nation of Beaver Cleavers: polite, clean, sexless, and ready to serve their fellow man, no questions asked. People are people. They're going to with their lives what they want to do, whether you like it or not. There is nothing you can do about them that won't break the bank, overcrowd the prisons, or corrode an already oxidized judicial system. People are perennially going to get fucked up and fucked, and we will continue to get fucked over if we don't concede the fact that there is absolutely fuck-all we can do about it.

"Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong."

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The Religious Right (Religion And Politics)

NOW I DON'T WANT TO GET OFF ON A RANT HERE, but don't these radical religious right leaders scare you a little? I'm not talking about good simple religious folk here. I empathize with you people. I know you're frightened. It looks like the bad guys are winning. And I know you want to do the good Christian thing and save some of the bad guys, but you're probably preaching to the unconvertible. This is a long trail ride, and occasionally a satanic heifer or two is gonna head over the ridge and go off on their own. Let them go. Quit trying to set God up on blind dates with people he has nothing in common with. Well, anyway, you're good people and I got no quarrel with you, Atticus. I'm talking about the overzealous ones. The ones with that bloodless, glazed-over "Prophets of the Caribbean" look. You know, the ones who look like the guys who kept Howard Hughes alive those last three years. Let's run down our roster of modern-day Pharisees:

Jerry Falwell, with his big hillbilly grin concealing his hatred for you and the fun you can have with your nasty little genitals.

Then we've got Pat Robertson, the Dixie charlatan who contends he held counsel with God, saw Jesus, and has it on good authority from the Holy Ghost that "Cuber" has an arsenal of nuke-you-ler weapons aimed at the United States.

And our good friend Ollie North, who quivers with religious fervor while conveniently forgetting he was a belligerent liar who abused the authority of his position. You know I have no doubt that God will forgive Lieutenant Colonel North one day. I just don't our courts should have.

These modern-day Torquemadas can't wait to seize the reins and begin slaughtering the nonbelievers. And if you don't think they'll do it -- if you don't think you'll be on the short list for a public roasting a la Joan of Arc, well, you better stop dancing around the pagan Maypole and think again, Caligula.

Now I am sure to many of those in the Radical Right, I probably appear to be a bitter, cranky pragmatist with the mouth of a stevedore, and the soul of a heretic. But I do, believe it or not, consider myself to be a Christian -- and I'm sorry, you just don't go shooting doctors. If a judgment's to be made, God gets to make it. Not you. Him. You are Barney Fife. Keep your bullet in your shirt pocket. All right?

You know, God is Andy Taylor. If abortion is wrong, and I believe in many cases it is, somewhere down the line God's gonna let you know about it. And believe me, God paybacks are an eternal bitch. Somebody else's abortion is none of your business. And listen, if you really believe that your God is telling you to kill an abortionist in his name, then you've got to crush some tinfoil on your antenna, pal, because you're gettin' some heavy interference.

And you know, while I'm at it, I don't care what arcane passage you pull out of the Old Testament and run through your Jeremiah-begat-Jedediah Decoder Ring, one of the definitive tenets of Christianity is tolerance. Trust me, there's no version of the Bible that says Love thy neighbor unless he's a Peter Allen fan. Any supposedly Christian doctrine must have at the core a belief in the concept of unqualified love for your fellow man. Unless of course he proves himself to be a total asshole. Then you can ditch him. Sure, God understands that, who do you think booked Satan's flight? What he can't understand is turning against someone because you don't happen to agree with their sexual preference. Forget your linear, biblical interpretation that tells you to ostracize gays, and follow your heart. It's like when your driving test instructor would tell you to run the stop sign. And you would, and then he'd flunk you. And you'd say, "But you told me to." And he'd say, "Sorry, but you never run a stop sign." And you never carpet bomb a group of people with hate because they're different from you. Case closed, Tailgunner Joe.

And tolerance should extend to ideas as well. A schoolbook cannot corrupt your child, especially one whose main characters are a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion. And if you truly think your kid's character depends on prayer, then damn it, pray with your kid -- at home! Stop fobbing off on the public school system your responsibilities as a parent. The school's are there to teach your kids to read, write, and add -- skills they will need if they are going to apply for and wisely invest their unemployment checks one day.

And if you're sold on prayer as a diving board into the day, get up a few minutes early, forgo the trip to the 7-Eleven for a jeroboam of Colombian blend, sit down with your kids you profess to love so much, and lead them in prayer.

Look, I realize this is America -- everybody has the right to organize. The Democratic Party should try it sometime. But you know something, the members of the Radical Religious Right have to get it through their skulls: Separation of Church and State. Separate. Not together. Apart. Like Burt and Loni. One here and one there. The founding fathers set it up like hat because back home in merry old England they witnessed scenes of theocratic horror that would have made even Quentin Tarantino puke.

I can only hope the Radical Right's grab for political power will eventually prove to be their Holy Waterloo.

I know we don't like to vote -- marking your ballot nowadays is like choosing between the 3 A.M. showing on Beastmaster on Showtime and the 3 A.M. showing of Beastmaster 2 on Cinemax.

But the less we involve ourselves in the political process, the more special interest groups and fanatics move in.

So vote, and remember this when you're alone in the booth with just you and your lever. The Radical Right believes the word "Right" does not simply denote their placement on the political spectrum, but also their sanctimoniously smug assertion that "right" is exactly what they are on any and all issues. Amen.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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