Dean Obeidallah is a former lawyer turned political comedian and commentator. Dean has appeared on numerous TV shows including CNN, Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil" Special, Current TV's "The Young Turks," ABC's "The View," MSNBC's "Up With Chris Hayes," NBC's "Rock Center," and ABC's "Nightline." Dean has written articles for CNN.com, The Huffington Post, BBC Radio and written jokes which have appeared on NBC's "Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update" segment and CBS' "The Late, Late Show." He is also co-director of the soon to be released "The Muslims Are Coming!" Twitter: @deanofcomedy
Website URL: http://www.deanofcomedy.com
(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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(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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Why do you support discrimination against a group of Americans? This is just one of the questions that I ask myself when I encounter people opposed to gay marriage. Other questions that pop into my head include: What makes Americans who are gay less American than you? Why are they not entitled to the same protections under our system of laws that you are?
The issue of marriage equality to me is not a nuanced legal issue. It’s not a moral issue. It’s simply a question of: Do you think all Americans should be treated equally?
I have long supported marriage equality simply because I oppose discrimination against any American, whether it’s based on race, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or for other reason people on the right can think of to try and divide us. There is nothing more un-American and inconsistent with the values and ideals of this nation than discrimination.
Why should a couple in love be precluded from being married - and enjoying all the legal and emotional benefits that it provides-solely because of their sexual orientation? Opponents to marriage equality should be required to meet with gay couples and tell them to their face that they are not entitled to the same rights as other American couples. I want to hear them explain to the gay couple if one of them is sick in the hospital, why the other can't visit the person like any other spouse? Why should a gay couple not have the same rights when it comes to inheritance and tax laws?
I truly believe in the words famously set forth in our Declaration of Independence which provide: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” If we are all created equal, should we not all be treated equally? In fact, equal protection under the law is guaranteed to all Americans – even gay ones- by the 14th amendment to the Constitution.
Opposing gay marriage is no different than opposing the civil rights movement. Indeed, much of the language used by opponents to gay marriage sounds eerily similar to the language used by those who opposed interracial marriage. Opponents to interracial marriage typically cited religious reasons claiming God didn't want people of different races to mix because it was against the laws of nature. Sound familiar?
Up until the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision in “Loving vs. Virginia,” there were 16 States which still made it a crime for Blacks and Whites to marry. (The 16 States which banned interracial marriage at that time are also among the States which ban gay marriage- coincidence?)
The interracial couple in the Loving case had actually been sentenced to one year in jail for their “crime” of simply wanting to be married to each other. But the Supreme Court struck down those laws, linking the right to marry with civil rights and the basic liberties promised to all Americans by our Constitution: “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man…The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”
Many who oppose gay marriage - such as former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum - have cited religious scripture as the reason. But religious text can not be the basis for our civil laws. There must be a legitimate policy reason to enact a law which discriminates against Americans and, to date, none has been articulated. As Thomas Jefferson stated and numerous courts have quoted: "...the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state."
To those who support marriage equality, its time is near. President Obama’s statement on Wednesday that he now personally favors gay marriage is reminiscent of when President Lyndon Johnson stood up for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and The Voting Rights Act of 1965 during the civil rights struggle.
Recent public opinion polls indicate that approximately 50% of Americans support gay marriage and only 45% oppose it. These numbers are actually amazing when you contrast them with public opinion polls in the late 1960’s which found that only about 20% of Americans approved of interracial marriages. It wasn't until over 20 years later before a majority of Americans accepted interracial marriage -- now over 86% of Americans support it. Thus, indicating that the attitudes of Americans do evolve for the better given sufficient time and exposure.
But the increasing acceptance of gay marriage and President Obama’s statement alone will not end the struggle for marriage equality. It will take the US Supreme Court – just as in Loving vs. Virginia- to end this State sanctioned discrimination. This is the likely result since the Supreme Courts of Iowa and Connecticut as well as the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit have already found laws barring gay marriage as unconstitutional discrimination.
And to those who favor discrimination against their fellow Americans, there is no doubt they will be looked at like those who opposed the civil rights movement. They will simply find themselves on the wrong side of history.
(CNN) When I was growing up, my friends and I all wanted to be cool -- like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro or, of course, the king of cool at the time: Fonzie. (I should note that I grew up in an Italian neighborhood.)
Being "cool" was a good thing.
Today it appears that being "cool" could be a bad thing, at least if you are running for president of the United States.
That theory surfaced in an ad from a Republican super PAC headed by Karl Rove.
The super PAC American Crossroads argues in its campaign ad that Barack Obama is "too cool" to be president. The attack ad shows President Obama "slow jamming" the news on Jimmy Fallon's NBC late-night talk show, singing an Al Green song and chugging a beer. (Obama drinking a beer must confuse those Republicans who still think he is a Muslim.)
Sure, Obama can sing, spar with late-night comedians and charm talk-show hosts. Still I am not so sure I would classify him as being "too cool." To me, Obama is more of a mix of cool and nerdy -- sort of a cross between Denzel Washington and Harry Potter. Obama may have soul, but he likely also has "Star Wars" toys.
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(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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Over the weekend, the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre attacked the media for "sensational reporting from Florida” about the Trayvon Martin case. Mr. LaPierre even called the news media a “national disgrace.”
For those unaware of the NRA’s work, it is the nation’s leading advocate of gun rights in the United States. The NRA efforts are instrumental in protecting the nation's $6 billion a year gun and ammunition industry.
The NRA is also the organization that lobbied States to enact the “Stand Your Ground” law, the very one that George Zimmerman – the man who shot Trayvon Martin – is invoking as his legal defense for the shooting. I assume the reasoning for the NRA supporting these laws is: Why should you own a gun if you aren't going to have a chance to use it?
Did Mr. LaPierre offer any sympathy to Trayvon Martin's family? No.
Instead, he choose to denounce the media for their coverage of the case, alleging that the media’s: “...dishonesty, duplicity, and moral irresponsibility is directly contributing to the collapse of American freedom in our country.”
What makes Mr. La Pierre’s comments especially callous is that they were made at the annual NRA convention which was being held this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis has the unenviable distinction of being the city with second highest rate in the country for youth being killed by guns. Indeed, the gun shot murder rate for 10 to 19 years old in St. Louis is more than three times the average for larger cities according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The NRA leadership should not have been denouncing the media coverage of the killing of an innocent teen, rather they should be focusing their efforts to work with federal, state and local governments to reduce the number of gun related deaths in our nation. In 2010, there were 12,996 murders and of those 8,775 were caused by guns. That means almost 70% of those murdered in 2010 were as a result of gun violence.
It is not happenstance that the States with the highest number of guns also have the highest number of people murdered by guns. To put it simply: You are literally five times more likely to be shot to death in Arizona than in Hawaii.
Guns are a part of the fabric of America. There are over 200 million guns in the US. They will never be eliminated-nor should they be. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. Indeed, the US Supreme Court in the last few years has recognized that American citizens have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes and this right cannot be violated by federal, state or local laws.
Despite knowing this reality, some gun advocates prefer to spew misinformation and inspire fear among gun owners that the government is coming to take their guns away. This is nothing more than a rallying cry used by some to scare people into opposing reasonable laws that could save lives, such as background checks for all people purchasing guns even if sold at a gun show or by private citizens.
The tired cliché espoused by the NRA that “Guns don't kill people, people kill people” should be retired. It is an over simplification of a problem that doesn't have easy answers.
Reducing gun violence will take a concerted strategy, such as the one New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in February with his initiative to reduce gun violence. This multi-faceted program combines funding for communities to create anti-violence strategies and provides State support for both advertising campaigns and community-based programs to counter gun violence. This is certainly a step in the right direction.
There's no doubt that both those who love guns and those who destest them, want to lower the number of people killed by guns each year. However, comments by the NRA's Wayne LaPierre simply do not help us reach our common goal.
(CNN) -- What would happen if you posted derogatory comments about your boss on a Facebook page that you knew would be read by your co-workers?
How would your boss react if in those Facebook posts you called him or her a "coward," a "domestic enemy," and boasted that you wouldn't be following the boss' instructions in the future?
And what if your boss is the president of the United States and you are a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps?
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(CNN) $640 million dollars. We all know that number. It's the amount of last week's record Mega Millions jackpot. The media coverage reached a fever pitch as the prize rose to an awe-inspiring amount of money.
I haven't bought a lottery ticket in more than ten years but even I was sucked in hoping that I could win, despite knowing that I had a better chance of dating Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston -- at the same time. But I felt luck was on my side since I had recently received e-mails informing me that I had won the national lottery of Nigeria despite my never having ever purchased a ticket.
In any event, for a few days, the lottery joined us all in a collective moment of dreaming "what if..." If you simply chose six numbers correctly, your next stop would be a mansion and being able to finally tell your boss what you truly thought of him or her.
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I know there are clearly more pressing issues in the country and the world than this question, but after seeing "The Hunger Games" last night, I could not help but wonder: If the four remaining Republican Presidential candidates were contestants in "The Hunger Games," who would win?
From an electoral point of view, it appears that Mitt Romney will soon lock up the GOP nomination. As of the writing of the article, Mitt Romney is leading the Republican field with 568 delegates and will likely add nearly 100 more delegates with expected wins Tuesday in primaries in Maryland, Wisconsin and Washington, DC. Rick Santorum is stuck at 273 delegates, Newt is way behind at 135 delegates and Ron Paul has only 50 more delegates than me and I'm not even running for the nomination.
But when you put these four candidates on the field of battle in "The Hunger Games," the results might be different.
For those unaware of the concept of "The Hunger Games," the contestants in this "game" are deposited into a small forest for the ultimate reality show. There is only one winner- the one who is still breathing. And it's all televised so that the home audience can cheer and jeer the person they love or hate-which is not unlike the Republican presidential debates.
So lets look at the contestants. First up, Ron Paul: He is a doctor and did serve in the US Military which is an asset. But at 76 years old, I don't think he would last long in the rugged conditions or in hand to hand combat. Sorry to all the Paul people out there, but in "The Hunger Games," there is no room for sympathy. So Paul is out.
Next up, Newt Gingrich. Arguably the smartest of the four contestants. But he is often arrogant -which anyone who has seen the movie can tell you-could be your tragic flaw.
Plus Newt loves to talk and talk and talk. In the woods of "The Hunger Games," you often must be silent to save your life. Talking is the equivalent of lighting a fire at night, it will likely lead to your demise. So let's happily say goodbye to Newt.
To me, the real battle is between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Mitt Romney –with his wealth – would be able to hire the best people to train him, just like those from District 1 did in "The Hunger Games." Romney would be thoroughly schooled in the art of survival and combat.
Plus with his wealthy NASCAR team owning friends, he would have no problems finding sponsors. The sky would be filled with little balloons of gifts for Mitt.
And even though Romney is twelve years older than Santorum-Romney is 65 to Santorum's 53 – he is still in good shape. In fact, he may be in better shape than Santorum as evidenced by the shirtless photo of Santorum taken a few weeks ago in Puerto Rico.
But despite the fact that I truly hate many of his political views, I'm going to have to pick Rick Santorum. The biggest reason is that I see a parallel with him and "The Hunger Games" Katniss Everdeen: Both their father's were coal miners. That blue-collar upbringing for many fuels their desire to succeed and prove themselves. It did for Katniss and I think it would for Santorum as well.
However, just as in "The Hunger Games," if a rule change were announced to allow a couple in love to win – there is a chance that Mitt Romney would propose to Ron Paul. Romney has been known to change his positions to win in the past. Of course, it wouldn't be a true marriage – just one of convenience so that he could defeat Santorum. Sometimes fiction can eerily mirror reality.
Overall, I think that our current primary system is a slightly better way to choose our candidates. But if we did pick our elected officials using "The Hunger Games" method, it would be quicker and a lot more fun for the rest of us to watch!