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) -- 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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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.”
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.
(CNN) -- First, there was the war on drugs. Then came the war on terrorism. Followed by the war on Christmas, women and religion. We seem to love waging wars.
And now a new war has broken out: the war on comedy.
This war started just a week ago by those defending Rush Limbaugh's infamous attack on Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law school student who simply offered an opinion Limbaugh didn't like. So, Limbaugh being the "entertainer" that he is, responded by calling this young woman a "slut" and "prostitute."
With Limbaugh under attack for his despicable comments, his supporters launched a desperate counterattack to save him by targeting "liberal" comedians like Bill Maher and Louie C.K. for their crude and demeaning jokes about Sarah Palin. Their point was that Limbaugh may have been bad, but he's not the only one, so he should be forgiven. (I'd love to see a defendant in a murder trial try this defense.)
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You can follow The Dean's Report on Twitter @thedeansreport.
The Dean's Report is a platform for the voices and communities that mainstream media typically ignores. It's time that these voices are heard. We cover everything from politics to pop culture.
The Dean's Report was created and edited by Dean Obeidallah - a former lawyer turned political comedian, writer and commentator. Dean has appeared on numerous TV networks including MSNBC, CNN, Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil" Special, ABC's "The View,"ABC's "Nightline" and more. Dean has written articles for The Daily Beast, 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."
We all know the name of Sergeant Robert Bales--the US soldier accused of killing sixteen civilians in Afghanistan. We know he's 38 years old and married with two children. We've heard him described as "happy-go-lucky," and as a former high school football player who volunteered his time with special needs children.
We know he enlisted shortly after 9/11 and was injured twice in his earlier tours of duty in Iraq, with one injury resulting in the loss of part of his foot. Oddly, we don't know his religion but we can safely assume that he isn't Muslim because if he were, that would be the headline.
We have even heard testimonials about Bales from numerous fellow soldiers and childhood friends, like Marc Edwards, a former NFL player who once played on the New England Patriots, that this attack is out character for the Bales they know.
The media has painted us a detailed portrait of Robert Bales. But do any of us know the name of even one of the sixteen people he has been accused of killing?
You may have heard that nine of the sixteen victims were children and three were women. You may have read descriptions of them as "villagers" and "civilians." But again, do you know the name of even one victim in this horrific massacre?
Probably not. Not that you should because our media has ignored that part of the story.
The US media has treated the sixteen victims as statistics-not human beings. If they were human, we would at least know their names and ages. We might even have heard from their classmates or family members about the kind of people they were- maybe they, too, were "happy-go-lucky"" like Sergeant Bales.
But our media has not told us anything about them. Is it because the victims are Afghans? Maybe it's because they are Muslim? Is it because they aren't American? Or is it simply a business decision by the media because they don't think we care?
In the ten plus years of the war in Afghanistan, our media has essentially only presented us images of the Afghan people when they are protesting, denouncing the US after some of their people have been accidentally killed by US or NATO troops, or when our politicians are debating their fate. When is the last time you observed a story about the human side of the Afghan people?
Some will undoubtedly ask: Why should we care about them? They will make blanket statements that the Afghans, and Muslims in general, don't care about our culture or lives. They will then cite a few isolated incidents from over the past ten years to support their conclusion.
I don't subscribe to the view that isolated incidents sum up an entire people, but even if it did, shouldn't we be better? Shouldn't we set a positive example for others to emulate?
There is no dispute that these sixteen people were killed by one (or more) US soldiers. The families of these people - and the people of Afghanistan -are entitled to a full investigation into what lead to this tragic loss of life. The victims also deserve to be treated as more than simply statistics.
We need to hear about the people killed in this massacre such as the Wazir family who lost eleven relatives and the Jan family who lost four. We need to hear about the hopes and dreams that the parents held for the eleven murdered children. We need to know if the children played soccer or were good students in school. We need to know if the people killed were someone's brother or sister or daughter or son. Maybe even hear from their neighbors who might tell us that those killed were "good people" who were simply trying to survive in a challenging time.
Lets hear something - anything - about these people who committed no sin other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time when their lives were so violently taken. Our media needs to tell us about these sixteen people - they deserve it as fellow human beings who were killed by one of our own.