No 'Avenger' in sight for America

24 May 2012
Published in Blog

(CNN) -- America is in trouble. And we know it.

Just look at recent polls: 70% of Americans would describe the nation's economy as bad. Some 61% think our country is on the wrong track. Only 24% of Americans think the economy has actually improved in the past few years. And almost two-thirds of Americans are concerned about being able to pay for their housing.

We could use Captain Economy to help us create jobs. Plus we need Deficit-Reduction Man and Five-Percent-GDP-Growth-a-Year Dude. Or maybe we can just let The Hulk loose in Congress and tell him: "Hulk: Smash!"(I'm not sure how Hulk smashing Congress helps the economy, but I think most of us would pay to see it.)

But, alas, there's no superhero in no sight. There's only President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

I must admit that there was a time in 2008 that I thought Obama could have been a superhero, but I was wrong. We have seen his campaign theme morph in four years from "Yes We Can" to "It Could Be Worse."

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Sacha Cohen's Movie A Minstrel Show

13 May 2012
Published in Blog

(CNN) -- Sacha Baron Cohen's new movie, "The Dictator," is a modern-day minstrel show judging from the trailer and Cohen's comments promoting the film while dressed as the film's star, "Gen. Shabazz Aladeen," the leader of a fictitious Arab country.

Cohen, who is not of Arab heritage, plays this Arab character while sporting a long fake beard and speaking in a strong Arabic accent, which would be fine, except the character is showcasing the worst stereotypes of Arabs.

For example, at a news conference in New York City this week promoting his film, Cohen exclaimed: "Welcome devils of the Zionist media and death to the West." He then joked about liking TV shows that showed Arab terrorists killing Americans and admiring fashion designer John Galliano for hating the Jews.

To me, this is essentially the same as white performers in blackface portraying black people in buffoonish negative stereotypes for the enjoyment of white America.

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Secret Service made the right call on Ted Nugent

22 April 2012
Published in Blog

(CNN) -- Rocker Ted Nugent found himself being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service after making this statement last weekend at the NRA Convention: "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."

While I dismissed Nugent's comments as just another idiotic statement by the person known as "The Motor City Madman," others thought Nugent may have violated the federal law that makes it a crime to threaten the president of the United States. CNN contributor LZ Granderson even wrote an article entitled "Ted Nugent should be in jail," calling for the arrest of Nugent. However, Granderson recognized that under the law as it stands, Nugent would not, in fact, be imprisoned for the comment at issue.

Threats against the president of the United States should not be tolerated, regardless of the president's political affiliation. And I'm aware that we live in a particularly alarming time as threats against President Obama have jumped 400% from those made against President George W. Bush.

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Why Candidates' Gaffe-a-thon is Good for Us

28 March 2012
Published in Blog

(CNN) -- This last week has been chock full of gaffes by our presidential candidates -- a veritable gaffe-a-thon, a gaffe-a-palooza. President Obama and the Republican presidential candidates almost seem to be trying to one-up each other's blunders.

This "March Madness" started off slowly enough last Monday with a small one by Rick Santorum: "I don't care what the unemployment rate is going to be. It doesn't matter to me."

But then, just days later, the gaffes started flying fast and furious. On Wednesday, Mitt Romney's communication director Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN that he wasn't concerned if Romney was moving to the right on certain key issues during the Republican primaries because, as he put it: "You hit a reset button for the fall campaign. ... It's almost like an Etch A Sketch."

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Why is the US Supreme Court afraid of TV Cameras?

05 April 2012
Published in Blog

The United States Supreme Court - the highest court in the land - one of the most powerful institutions in the world, is afraid of something most of us would relish: Being on television.

The United States Supreme Court recently completed hearings on the question of whether the nation’s healthcare law--unaffectionately referred to as Obamacare--is constitutional. This is clearly one of the most important Supreme Court decisions since the Court’s ruling concerning the 2000 presidential election in the case of Bush vs. Gore. (In case you forgot, Bush won that one.)

So how many TV cameras were allowed in the Supreme Court to capture the lawyer’s arguments in this historic case? Two? Three? One? Nope, the answer is zero.

The US Supreme Court denied the medias’ request to allow cameras to film the oral arguments in this case--a case which will not only impact millions of Americans, but will also likely have a tremendous impact on this November’s presidential election.

It’s simply mind boggling that TV cameras are not permitted to televise this case yet we are able to watch live coverage of Lindsey Lohan’s probation hearings. (All of them.) We were even able to watch Snookie’s hearings in the Seaside Heights municipal court as she plead guilty to charges arising from a drunken escapade on the beaches of the Jersey shore.

Television cameras are allowed in the trial courts in 36 of our States and even more on the appellate level. Some State Supreme Courts like New Jersey, Texas and Utah, to name a few, even offer live web streaming of the lawyers’ oral arguments and archive them for years on their respective websites.

But the US Supreme Court – the highest court in the land – would rather work behind a cloak of secrecy than allow us to see their proceedings. While we can listen to audio recordings of the court proceedings the day after the hearings, we are precluded from watching the hearings live. In fact, only about 250 members of the public are allowed into the court to observe the arguments together with a handful of members of the media.

Why don’t they allow TV cameras? One argument is that there is a fear that lawyers or justices will “showboat” for the cameras- as if a lawyer will open his/her argument with: “Before I talk about the healthcare law, I’d first like to sing a song from ‘Les Miserables.’”

As a former lawyer, I can assure you that a lawyer would not risk embarrassing themselves, undermining their case before the US Supreme Court, and subjecting themselves to a lawsuit for malpractice by turning their oral argument into an audition for “America’s Got Talent.”

The other argument raised in opposition to the cameras is that the clips will be taken out of context. That is always a concern, but if that argument were followed, it could be used to ban television cameras from televising any government functions, from US Congress to municipal court trials.

The US Supreme Court should have allowed cameras to cover the health care arguments. First, it would have given all of us more information about the legal issues surrounding the health care law. I, for one, could use some more facts on this law and I think most of us could as well.

Second, it would increase the public’s confidence in this politically charged case. We would have been able to watch the arguments and discuss the issues ensuring full transparency.

As Illinois Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride stated in January as the Illinois Supreme Court finally agreed to allow TV cameras into that court: "The idea behind this is simple. We need to have the courts be more open. By having the public keeping an eye on what is going on in the courtroom, it can act as a check in the balance of power.”

If there ever was a case for the US Supreme Court to allow TV cameras, it was this one.  But now if you want to watch judge discuss important issues, you are stuck with the judges on “American Idol.”

Tim Tebow's Guide to becoming a New Yorker

26 March 2012
Published in Blog

Dear Tim:

Welcome to New York City! I’m sure you will be reading that statement in newspapers across New York City over the next few days. Little tip: You might want to hang on to a few of those articles, because if you make a few bad plays, those same newspapers will be calling for you to be disemboweled – or worse.

But don’t take this personally, this is what New Yorkers do-we’re an impatient, demanding lot. Believe me, we will boo you just as quickly as we will boo the slow moving cashier at my local Walgreen’s.

Since you’re new to New York, I wanted to offer some tips in the hopes it will smooth your transition from Colorado, a State which features snow capped mountains to New York City, a city which features urine smelling subways.

One of the most important things you need to understand is that living in New York City does not make you a New Yorker. You have to see the world like we do before you can call yourself one of us. That takes a different amount of time for each person– but there’s always a distinct moment when that happens.

My moment came about two plus years after living here. It was a typical day. I was on a crowded subway platform waiting for the 6 Train. There, I saw a pregnant woman yelling into her cell phone: “I can’t believe you would leave me when I’m pregnant!” While the tourists looked aghast, all I could think was: “How does she have cell phone reception?!” Bang, I was a New Yorker.

Before that day comes for you, let me give you some advice so you can at least mimic the New York City attitude:

1. Always look like you are in a hurry: It doesn’t matter where you're going, New Yorkers always look like we’re in a rush. And every New Yorker feels this, for example, I was on a city bus once when a guy was taking too long to pay his fare--at the moment, a homeless guy on the bus yelled out: “C’mon, I have got things to do!”

2. Tourists: These people truly annoy us--you will be walking on the sidewalk in a rush to get somewhere and they will suddenly stop because they need to take a photo of something they deem “amazing”-–like a crack in the sidewalk or a lamp post. But since we are still in the midst of a challenging economy, we have to be nice to them. Once the economy rebounds, we can return to pushing tourists off the sidewalk and into traffic.

3. NYC’s Homeless: Your first inclination will be to give every homeless person you see money. That will change. In time, you will only reward those who do something interesting or funny- believe me, our homeless are very talented. I recently saw a homeless guy standing next to a sign for the iPad holding up a big sign which read: “iHomeless.” That guy was raking in the tips.

4. Use New York expressions: If you really want to connect with us, you have to talk like us. My advice: Watch “Jersey Shore.” There, you will hear how some New Yorkers--and a large percentage of NY Jets’ fans--really sound. For example, instead of saying “ask,” throw in an “axe” here and there so it sounds like this: “Okay, axe me a question.” Also, it’s not pronounced, “dog” or ball, “ it’s pronounced, “dawg” and “bawl.”

In closing, as an NFL football star, you’re in essence a modern day gladiator-–and since I just watched the movie “Gladiator” on cable for about the 30th time--I wanted to share with you a quote from that film which may find helpful. It’s when Proximo--the former legendary gladiator-advises Russell Crowe’s character “Maximus” about how to succeed in Rome: “I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.”

While your stakes are slightly different, if you win games, we, the people of New York City--the greatest city in the world–-will love you. You will be crowned “King of New York City.”

But if you screw up, we will hate you--but what can you say, New York City is a “dawg eat dawg” town.

                                                                                                Best wishes,

                                                                                                Dean Obeidallah



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