Why the United States Should Boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics

The following was part of my midterm for the latest class I’ve been taking at NYU (yes, I am voluntarily in summer school).  We had to write an op-ed piece.  This got high praise from my professor, and I’m pretty proud of it.  I promise that the next time I return from a months-long absence in writing, it will be with something less serious.

The ongoing government-sanctioned abuses and discrimination of homosexuals in Russia demand a strong international response.  To that end, the United States should lead a boycott of the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  A boycott would be a public, wide-reaching, and impactful way to demonstrate that these repressive policies adopted by the Russian government are unacceptable to the global community.

This summer, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law forbidding any “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations around minors.”  Legal analysts and gay rights activists describe the law as intentionally vague.  By this new definition, “propaganda” could be something as overt as a gay pride march or as innocuous as a same-sex couple holding hands as they walked down the street.

Gays and lesbians in Russia are already denied the rights enjoyed by gays and lesbians in some other Western nations.  Russia does not grant legal recognition to any committed gay or lesbian couple, nor does it allow them to adopt children.  This new propaganda law elevates the disenfranchisement of LGBT Russians from denying their rights to forbidding any public discussion of the matter.

The open discrimination of Russia’s LGBT citizens by the government has been matched by open violence against Russia’s LGBT citizens in the streets.  Rallies in support of LGBT rights have dispersed into chaos, with anti-gay counter-protestors hurling eggs and rocks at those calling for equality.  Some instances have been more severe.  LGBT advocates leading these demonstrations have been assaulted and beaten, both by their ideological adversaries and by Russian police.

Most alarmingly, this violence has not been limited to these public gatherings.  Young gay men in Russia are being targeted by bigots via the Internet, who lure them into meetings where they are humiliated and harmed.  Some of these encounters have been videotaped and distributed online.  There have been lethal consequences.  The Spectrum Human Rights Alliance reports that some of the victims have since killed themselves, unable to face the trauma of their torment or the shame of being so crudely outed to friends and family.

Mr. Putin’s government has created a culture in which the physical and psychological abuse of its LGBT citizens is tacitly approved, if not outright encouraged.  Seemingly unsatisfied with diminishing people in his own nation, Mr. Putin has now widened the scope of his bigotry.

The propaganda law includes a provision for how to deal with foreigners found to be in violation of its statutes.  In addition to facing monetary fines, gay or “pro-gay” visitors to Russia may now be detained for “up to fourteen days before facing expulsion from the country.”

With thirty-eight nations already committed to participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia will see a tremendous influx of foreign visitors next year.  Any of those visitors, whether they are athletes or spectators or journalists, whether they are homosexuals or not, will be subject to the propaganda law.  The International Olympic Committee, the body that organizes the Olympic Games, stated that it had received assurances from the Russian government that LGBT athletes would be free from prosecution during the games.  That statement was swiftly countered by Russia’s Minister of Sport, Vitaly Mutko.

“No one is forbidding an athlete with non-traditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi,” Mr. Mutko said, “But if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable.”

In other words, a gay athlete is free to compete for a gold medal; but if he thanks his boyfriend for his love and support in a televised interview, he would likely be arrested.

To protest these draconian laws and this environment of hate, the United States should boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics.  Participation in these Games would be an insult to the LGBT citizens of Russia, to LGBT people worldwide, and to the peaceful spirit of the Olympics themselves.

The history of the modern Olympic Games is filled with boycotts.  Most were political posturing between rivals.  Countries have been uninvited from the Olympics over political grudges.  Host cities have even had that honor rescinded because of their political allegiances.

Only once in the history of the modern Olympic Games has action been taken in response to a humanitarian crisis.  In 1964, the International Olympic Committee banned South Africa from all future Olympic competition due to its refusal to correct the injustices of apartheid.  The ban lasted twenty-one years, and was only lifted when the South African government had demonstrated that it was making substantial progress in treating its citizens equally regardless of race.

The legal discrimination of citizens based on their sexuality is as abhorrent as the legal discrimination of citizens based on their race.  Those who would argue that one offense outweighs the other fail to understand that civil rights are human rights, and that we are all human.

A boycott of the Sochi Olympics would raise awareness not only of the plight of LGBT people in Russia, but of LGBT people around the world.  Of the thirty-eight nations already committed to participating, only eleven grant full marriage equality to their homosexual citizens, and only nine grant those people full adoption privileges.  If the Sochi Olympics are boycotted on the grounds of homosexual discrimination, Russia will not be the only nation to have its gay rights policies reexamined with greater scrutiny.

The United States would benefit from leading a boycott.  Our nation has been working to regain the moral authority we were believed to have possessed in decades past.  An Olympic boycott would be the right opportunity to reaffirm the founding principles of our nation to a global audience: personal liberty, freedom from government tyranny, and the opportunity to succeed without the hindrance of discrimination.

A boycott would also have the effect of stimulating further discussion of our own ongoing struggle with LGBT rights.  Only thirteen of our fifty states currently offer citizens marriage equality.  While the Supreme Court decision that repealed the Defense of Marriage Act was a victory for the American LGBT community, the logistics of distributing the federal benefits now guaranteed to LGBT Americans remain to be clarified.  There are also the continued instances of the bullying and resultant suicides of America’s LGBT youth.  A boycott would remind us of the work that remains to be done here at home.

There are some who disagree with the calls for a boycott.  Openly gay Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup said he intends to compete in Sochi.  He is among those who believe there is more power in presence than absence.  People who share Mr. Skjellerup’s opinion no doubt hope to see an openly gay athlete on the winner’s podium in Sochi.  While the possibility of a gay parallel to Jesse Owens’s success as a black athlete in Hitler’s ethnocentric Germany is an alluring prospect for the cause, refusing to accept the invitation of a nation that institutionalizes such bigotry is a far stronger statement.

Other arguments against a boycott barely pass muster.  Openly gay Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir has discouraged a boycott because it would deprive the athletes of “possibly having their lone life-changing moment” of Olympic glory.  He has also given shockingly reductive advice to any LGBT athletes planning to attend: “If you don’t call attention to yourself, attention won’t come to you.”  This is particularly ironic coming from someone who has appeared in more reality television programs than Olympics, where he has never finished higher than fifth place.  Mr. Weir’s are the weakest of arguments against a boycott, steeped in vanity and unbecoming of an athlete meant to represent America to world.

Russia pursued the hosting privilege for the 2014 Winter Olympics to demonstrate to the world that it is a twenty-first century nation, a first-world power with bountiful resources, modern infrastructure, and an open outlook on the world.  However, Mr. Putin’s escalating persecution of his LGBT citizens shows the true face of Russia: blustering, bigoted, and receding towards the totalitarianism of its past.  A boycott of the Sochi Olympics is America’s only recourse, lest we associate ourselves with Mr. Putin’s policies by willfully participating in the games.  There is nothing less than this at stake.  Sending athletes to Sochi would signal to Russia and to the world that we choose to ignore the abundant evidence of these ongoing human rights abuses.  Attendance is equivalent to complicity, and no American should tolerate that.

~ T

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Hex-iest Man Alive

This week, your friend and mine, noted Chekhovian scholar Channing Tatum was named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.  And it’s surely to his credit.  He’s a thick-necked tough guy who is surprisingly funny (21 Jump Street was not an uninspired bore like I feared it would be) and who, based on the press I’ve seen and read, seems affable and grounded.  Most importantly, the dude can seriously dance.  Let’s be honest: he could be missing some teeth and have a nose more malformed than Owen Wilson’s, but being able to move the way he can would still place him head and shoulders above other nominees.

When I read about Magic Mike’s latest (only?) accolade, I had to wonder what kind of esteemed company he would be joining.  My cursory research isn’t the most reassuring for fans of Mr. Tatum.  Heavy is the head that wears the sexy crown.

For one thing, this title does not guarantee career longevity.  Let’s look at the previous winners of this illustrious prize.  People‘s first number one fella, named in 1985, was Mel Gibson.  Sure, he still had Lethal Weapon and Braveheart in his future; but where’s Mel now?  Still doing penance for pissing off Jews and women, the people who respectively control and consume Hollywood.

Gibson’s successor in 1986 was Mark Harmon, who now serves solely as the voice old people like to hear in the background of their homes, as the lead on CBS’s NCIS, an acronym no one can or cares to decipher.

After Harmon came Harry Hamlin, who is most famous for being married to this.

Was she left under a sun lamp or something?

Tom Cruise was once Sexiest Man Alive.  All it got him were some hit movies and some blockbuster divorces.  Nick Nolte earned the honor in 1992.  You might recall Nolte’s last public appearance from ten years ago.

Ladies, ladies! Behave yourselves!

And if being the Sexiest Man Alive wasn’t threatening your career, it was threatening your life!   Who were People‘s sexiest men in ’88 and ’91?  JFK Jr. and Patrick Swayze.  Case closed.

In the 90’s, People starting recognizing guys of a higher caliber.  They were more than just pretty faces.  But according to People, guys this good were hard to come by.  Brad Pitt wins twice in five years?  Richard Gere wins twice in six?  Richard Gere?  Come on.  You’re telling me Hollywood didn’t have any other viable hotties in the Clinton era?  Was the pool of contenders really so shallow as to warrant double-dipping?  Or were the people of People just playing favorites?

Things only get stranger in the 21st century.  Ben Affleck beat his buddy Matt Damon to the honor by five years, a turn of events I never would have imagined.  Sure, everyone’s talking Oscar for Ben now, but what was the result of his Faustian bargain to nab the cover in 2002?  Gigli and Daredevil, thank you very much.

Johnny Depp first won the prize in 2003, which coincided with his portrayal of Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.  This means the male ideal of most women in the early aughts was a selfish drunk in eye make-up who never washed his hair or changed his clothes.

Whatever sets your pants afire, ladies!

Jude Law won and faded into B-list status.  Matthew McConaughey won, despite his mouth having the permanent crooked set of a stroke victim.  And Mr. Tatum’s immediate predecessors, Bradley Cooper and Ryan Reynolds, are so milquetoast they’ve enabled Joseph Gordon-Levitt, all 5’9″ and 110 pounds of him, to emerge as a viable alternative.

Maybe Channing Tatum is a step in the right direction.  He could out-dance you and beat the shit out of you, if he so desired.  And he’d probably buy you a shot to put a little hair back on your chest after thoroughly emasculating you.  If generosity, physical strength, and fancy footwork are all you need to be named Sexiest Man Alive, then I think next year’s winner is a forgone conclusion.

On second thought, maybe I don’t want that kind of bad mojo following me around.

~ T

The Day After Tomorrow

Not much to say this week, readers.  I’m sitting here in my room, using electricity for the first time since Monday night, when Hurricane Sandy barreled across the east coast.

Sure, it was funny on Sunday.

Compared to other people in the neighborhood, and my friends and family across the tri-state area, I got off easy.  Walking through the rest of downtown Jersey City, I saw some serious devastation.  Almost anyone living south of Columbus Boulevard and east of Jersey Avenue was flooded out.  Entire rooms were put out on the sidewalks for garbage pick-up.  I even saw one poor guy bailing out his car.  I’ve tried to help where I can, but now that the power’s back in my building, we have to assess our own damages.  Hot water and heat are spotty, so keep your fingers crossed that we don’t have to replace our machinery for the second time in a year.

I’m very proud of my neighborhood, though.  This has been a very scary, stressful week, but everyone is conducting themselves just as good-naturedly as they always do.  I had friends helping me, and was eager to pay it forward to others.  It gives me hope for what will likely be a difficult few months ahead for the neighborhood.

As the utilities return, so does a sense of normalcy; hence me updating the blog.  And since Halloween did just pass, and since power has now been restored, I am going to be sure to spend tonight engaging in one of my most favorite acts of normalcy.  It’s a hallowed Halloween tradition.  I think you know what I’m referring to…

I can’t think of a better way to shake off the post-storm gloom, can you?

~ T

Presidential Debate Bingo

Hello, citizens!  Ahead of tomorrow night’s first presidential debate, I thought I might encourage you to be an active participant in your democracy by turning what might be a droll 90 minutes into a healthy competition amongst friends.

Below, you will find all the materials necessary for Presidential Debate Bingo!  Here’s how to play:

1) Open and print out the Presidential Debate Bingo boards and the Bingo Word Bank from the links at the bottom of this post.
2) Choose one of the two candidates, and take the board with that candidate’s name at the top.
3) Using the choices within the Word Bank, fill in the empty squares of your board with the words or phrases you think will most likely be mentioned during the debate.  One item per square, naturally.
4) When your candidate says one of the words or phrases on your board, mark off the corresponding square.
5) Keep playing until your achieve Presidential Debate Bingo!

So tune in tomorrow.  I promise it’ll be fun.  Play with friends.  Have your own Presidential Debate Bingo Party!  You can easily turn it into a drinking game, if that might attract more people to your gathering.  When have alcohol and politics not mixed well?

Oh.  Right.  Never mind.

Game on, voters!

Bingo Obama Board
Bingo Romney Board
Bingo Word Bank

~ T

Put Me In, Coach

Late last night, an announcement was made that the NFL had reached an agreement with its locked-out referees.  This marks the first time that officials in a sport have received louder cheers from the fans than they give for the players.  It’s likely that no one would have really noticed that the NFL’s official officials were off the job, had their replacements not screwed up as frequently and as obviously as they did.

This was one for the ages.

Yet I hold a tiny bit of empathy for the replacement refs.  If nothing else, they demonstrated just how hard the job of officiating a game actually is; and that got me thinking.  There’s no chance I could ever play a professional sport…but could I officiate one?

When considering the four major American sport leagues, my options are narrowed down pretty quickly.  I can’t skate, so there goes hockey.  I don’t know enough about basketball to call anything more than traveling or a three-second violation.  Plus, I’d probably get winded real fast moving up and down the court.  I think officiating basketball would be like doing the world’s longest shuttle run, and that would make me loathe to suit up and don my whistle.  Football has a thicker rule book than the Securities and Exchange Commission does, and the corresponding sign language would stymy even Helen Keller.  Plus, there’s entirely too much to keep track of on the field at any given moment.  So that leaves baseball.

Should Major League Baseball ever find itself in a situation where they needed me to be an umpire, I think they’d be in good hands.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I could lead the crew and call balls and strikes from behind home plate.  For one thing, I doubt I could accurately judge the placement of a baseball as it came towards me in excess of 80 miles per hour.  For another, home plate umpires take the most shit.  Sure, you can toss a guy from the game if he’s giving you too much lip, but truthfully, if I had someone like Brett Lawrie or Ozzie Guillen screaming in my face, I’d probably just collapse into the fetal position outside the batter’s box.

I couldn’t be the first base umpire.  Too many close calls there, which could also lead to confrontation.  Second base umpire doesn’t seem as stressful, but you constantly have to be getting out of the way of the action.  It wouldn’t be too long before I got clocked with a line drive or tripped up Chase Utley on his way to throw the double play to first.  So that leaves me at third.  Third base seems like a good fit.  You stand in foul territory, so you can’t really louse up a play.  Statistically, there are far fewer close calls to be made on that side of the ballpark.  Your only real moments of judiciary supremacy come from a checked swing.  And depending on your schedule, you’d be guaranteed at least a few nights standing next to these handsome fellas.

But what about the other popular sports in America?  Could I earn my zebra stripes as a ref in one of those?  Soccer’s out.  If I couldn’t handle running the hardwood at an NBA game, I’d be hard pressed to keep up on a playing field as massive as soccer’s.  Golf doesn’t have referees, thank God.  Can you imagine?  That’d be just about the only way to make golf more boring.  There are no refs in NASCAR because there are no rules in NASCAR–and at the risk of losing my redneck readership, it isn’t a sport anyway.  I’m entirely too squeamish to call a boxing or MMA match.  So that leaves me with one other alternative.

Yes, tennis.  And I wouldn’t be one of the line judges in the back court.  No, sir.  I’d be the chair umpire.  Why?  You get to sit in a giant lifeguard’s chair, which is not only shaded but full of hiding places for snacks and beverages.  You get a ridiculously large microphone.  You govern not only the behavior of the players, but of the crowd , as well.  And you’re in an excellent position to throw things at those poor orphans the ATP uses to scurry after balls when they’re hit into the net.

Donk!

(I’m kidding about the orphan thing.  Maybe.)

Even if it would be fun to umpire in baseball or tennis, I think I’ll leave it to the professionals for now.  Besides, there are plenty of things I already excel at judging: musicals, cake, and, generally, people.  Why would I leave all that behind?

~ T

The Man and the Mission

My radio went off at 6:00 AM today, as it always does, and the top story on WCBS was that Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11th attacks and the world’s most influential terrorist, was dead.  It jarred me, as I suppose only news of that magnitude can.  I was certainly more awake at 6:02 today than I usually am.  I immediately turned on the television, flipping through all the  major morning news shows.  Half an hour later, after getting whatever facts were made available, I have to admit that I was feeling a number of mixed emotions, but relief was not among them.

There are the obvious positive ramifications of Bin Laden’s elimination.  The Al Qaeda network is now without its rallying figurehead.  The American military has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to the completion of a key objective.  The friends and families of those lost nearly ten years ago, and those lost in the wars that followed, can embrace some sense of justice and vindication for having lived with their pain for so long.  Yet even as someone who knows people widowed or left fatherless on September 11th, and who has friends and family who felt the call of duty and enlisted in the aftermath, I don’t feel the urge to celebrate Bin Laden’s death.  At least, not in the way that I’ve seen people celebrating on the news.

To be perfectly honest, when I saw throngs of people in city streets, waving flags and cheering, the only thing that jumped to mind were images of people in destitute Middle Eastern cities, who had the very same reaction upon hearing the news of the deadly attack on America ten years ago.

I’m not trying to lump people into groups here, or draw unflattering parallels.  I’m just telling you the connections my mind has made.  Even though he was a mass-murdering sociopath, the prolonged and public reveling in someone’s death just seems, to me, a little…primitive.

In most situations, I would be among the loudest voices advocating that cruelty deserves cruelty.  I mean, if you ask me, there’s been no greater legal philosopher than Hammurabi.  An eye for an eye, and all that.  Being shot in the head and dumped into the sea was a quicker and cleaner exit than Osama Bin Laden truly deserved.  So why the ambivalence?

I think it’s because we’ve been dealt this hand before.  American forces captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq in December 2003.  He was tried in an Iraqi military court, convicted of war crimes against his own people, and finally executed in December 2006.  Saddam’s capture itself came eight months after President Bush’s infamous declaration of “Mission Accomplished”.  And yet, it was only in August 2010 that the majority of combat troops left Iraq.  We still have people on the ground there, just not in such a bellicose capacity.  My point is that the death of Saddam Hussein–who, while never conclusively proven to be party to Bin Laden’s plots, was hardly a friend to America–did not end the Iraqi resistance to American forces.  The war in Iraq continues.  Will the death of Bin Laden really change the game in Afghanistan?

I think this further bolsters my opinion that, contrary to what I have heard a number of people on television say, this event is not remotely as decisive or definitive as V-E or V-J Day.  Sure, it’s a tremendous accomplishment toward making the world a safer place, but Osama Bin Laden was not the leader of a country with clearly defined borders with a national military upon which the United States declared war.  There will be no official surrender, no signing of a treaty in neutral territory.  As the president himself has already acknowledged, the war will continue.  The Al Qaeda network still spans the globe, and while its members might be shaken, the most devout among them will not be deterred.

The question now is, how will the war proceed?  Will there be a final surge in activity to catch Al Qaeda off-guard before the president’s proposed draw-down of troops in Afghanistan begins?  What work will those operatives still in Iraq be charged with?  How, if at all, is our allied engagement in Libya going to be effected?  The biggest unknown, I think, is what tone the United States is going to set for its continued relationship with Pakistan.

Osama Bin Laden was not found in a cave in the Afghan mountains, subsisting on rations and using leaves for toilet paper.  He was found in a three-story, gated estate in the city of Abbotabad, less than 100 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.  Furthermore, President Obama said intelligence regarding this hideaway had started to come from sources almost nine months ago.  Think about that.  Imagine if Churchill and De Gaulle had said to Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, “You gotta help us find Hitler!”, and then in 1945, FDR said, “Oh, hey guys.  Guess what?  He’s been in Baltimore the whole time.”

Pakistan has professed to be an ally in our War on Terror, but President Obama acknowledged that the mission to apprehend Bin Laden was carried out without the knowledge, cooperation, or approval of the Pakistani government or military.  Now, it might not be easy, given that Pakistan is a nuclear power with unpopular and unstable leadership, but I think some difficult questions need to be asked.

Perhaps I’ll change my tune in the coming days.  Being a history dork, and understanding the magnitude of this event, I wanted to record my initial thoughts and reactions.  I hope it really is a turning point.  I hope our men and women in uniform can begin to return from harm’s way.  I hope our political and military leadership can restructure their policies in a smart, anticipatory, and responsible way.  And I hope that for those who have lost loved ones due to the direct or retaliatory actions of Osama Bin Laden that the burden they carry is a little lighter today.

~ T

Your 2011 State of the Union LiveBlog

Good evening, citizens.  Welcome to The Honestly Blog’s 2011 State of the Union LiveBlog.  As I did last year, I will be commenting on the president’s address, as well as the opposition’s rebuttal.  I will also be doling out plaudits and demerits to any number of individuals the cameras happen to capture.  It is my hope that this can make this occasionally dreadful event more enjoyable for you.

So, fellow patriots, let’s begin…

The President of the United States, in his rarely seen "Say what?" stance

8:50 PM: Can I just say, this Heroes/The Incredibles knock-off show on ABC has painfully bad special effects.

8:58 PM: Good to see the dad from 7th Heaven still gets work.  Okay, seriously, can we get this show on the road, folks?

9:01 PM: That ridiculous trailer for the State of the Union may make me change channels.

9:02 PM: Oh, good.  A new ribbon that we can use to evaluate people’s loyalty.

9:05 PM: Where are the other three Justices?  I’m sure there’s probably a security reason for keeping them home, but I sincerely hope they’re just on somebody’s couch with popcorn and beer.

9:07 PM: That Congressman had braces!

9:10 PM: Will Speaker John Boehner cry tonight?  Stay tuned…

9:11 PM: Not liking Boehner’s tie.  -1

9:12 PM: That fat Congressman from Arizona couldn’t even be bothered to wear a tie.  Honestly…?  -20

9:14 PM: It might be inappropriate, but Mrs. O is a stone cold fox.  +25

9:15 PM: Thank you, Mr. O, for making a slight dig at this ridiculous seating arrangement.  +2

9:19 PM: Remarkable speech writing.  This is the most delicate way of taking America by the shoulders, shaking it violently, and saying, “Wake the fuck up!” +20 to the communications team.

9:21 PM: I think the Secretary of Commerce has pink eye.

9:23 PM: Claps for Facebook!  Honestly…?

9:24 PM: Senator Nelson of Florida looks like a vampire.  -5

9:26 PM: The only problem with clean energy initiatives is that it’s not as sexy as going into space.

9:28 PM: People are sitting in the aisles!

9:29 PM: Barack Obama, leader of the nerd rebellion.  +1

9:30 PM: No!  The first black president can not use the phrase “show you the money”.  No, no, and no.  -10

"Ask not what your country can do for you..."

9:33 PM: John Boehner is exhausted.  C’mon, Mr. Speaker, step up to the plate.  -5.

9:35 PM: That lady just mouthed “That’s me,” to the people on either side of her when the president mentioned her.  Honestly…?

9:36 PM: Did John Kerry have a stroke?

9:40 PM: Nancy Pelosi’s “date” for the evening is outstanding!  Way to go, Nance.  +10 for you.

9:42 PM: Are all these new ties to South Korea going to bite us in the ass when North Korea loses its marbles again?

9:43 PM: That lady in the leopard print has no neck.

9:44 PM: Ah, health care reform.  Now we know where the Democrats sit.

9:47 PM: Balancing the books is “the final step” in securing the future?  Not, um, getting out of two rudderless wars?

9:48 PM: Michelle Bachmann clearly had some Botox tonight.

9:52 PM: Bernie Sanders looks about five hours shy of death.

9:56 PM: Well, if you put all this information online, but most Americans still don’t have internet access, isn’t that rather pointless?  Or is it precisely what you’re after?

9:58 PM: Oh, good, you remembered we’re at war.

10:00 PM: “Afghanistanis with AIDS?”  Sorry, couldn’t resist The Office reference.

10:02 PM: Really piling it on North Korea tonight, huh?

10:04 PM: Supporting the new Tunisian government before there is a new Tunisian government seems risky.

10:06 PM: And the Joint Chiefs remain stone-faced at the mention of gays.

10:07 PM: Kay Bailey Hutchinson is wearing an old marching band uniform.  -3.

10:09 PM: Joe Biden finally gets to flash the teeth!  +5.

10:11 PM: Not sure how a story about the Chilean miners is going to tie this all together.

10:12 PM: “We do big things” is going to be a hilarious bumper sticker.

Well, that wasn’t bad.  It was way more focused at the beginning.  The last fifteen minutes seemed kind of sloppy, with obligatory pep rally talk.  I’ll tally up the points later.  Now, let’s get ready for the Republican rebuttal, from Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan…

Our next guest...

10:25 PM: Congressman Ryan’s eyes look really bloodshot in HD.

10:26 PM: You’re a minute into your speech and you’re already quoting Scripture?   -15.

10:27 PM: Rep. Ryan has kids who are 6, 7, and 8 years old?  You crazy horndog, you!

10:29 PM: After the president just challenged you to move forward, looking back and bitching about health care looks kind of ridiculous.

10:32 PM: If he ever loses his seat, Rep. Ryan can easily land a gig narrating audiobooks or educational films.

10:33 PM: Um, didn’t our economy bottom out first, and that’s why other nation’s economies collapsed?

Well, that was a nice debut performance for Rep. Ryan.  I could have agreed with it more if he offered a little more that was new.  The whole strategy of identifying with the Founding Fathers is pretty stale.  Plus, seeing as how the Founding Fathers were a bunch of upper class, largely atheist, slave-owners who didn’t trust their fellow citizens to make the right choices, I don’t think they’d be terribly popular nowadays.

Now it’s time for the bonus round!  Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, a noted Tea Party member, is going to give her own rebuttal to the State of the Union.  Let’s watch…

"Here she is, boys! Here she is, world!"

10:49 PM: Oh, this is off to a bad start.  She’s not looking at the camera.

10:50 PM: Oh, no.  She’s got charts.  Charts!

10:51 PM: Does she normally talk like Sarah Palin or was that an acquired skill?

10:53 PM: I’m not sure she watched the State of the Union tonight.

10:54 PM: Now it sounds like a PBS telethon.  If you call your representative now, you’ll receive this free tote bag!

10:55 PM: The Iwo Jima photo?  Honestly…?

Well, Paul Ryan owes his next re-election to Michelle Bachmann.  She made him look Solomonic by comparison.  Rep. Ryan may have kept things a little vague, but at least he sounded sensible.  Rep. Bachmann just sounded like a paranoid weirdo, chirping about “ObamaCare” half a dozen times.  Also, the low-budget public access vibe she was giving off was seriously lacking in professionalism.  I mean, honestly, that was like watching after-school tutoring on TeleCare.  If you’re gonna put on a show, lady, put it on right.

Well, shall we tally up the totals to see who came out on top tonight?

  • The fat Arizona congressman without a tie: -20
  • Rep. Paul Ryan: -15
  • President Obama: -7 (That’s mostly because of that “show me the money” line, which I suppose the speechwriters are really responsible for.  But, hey, he let it stay in!)
  • Speaker John Boehner: -6 (If he had cried, he would have lost more.)
  • Sen. Nelson of Transylvania Florida: -5
  • Kay Bailey Hutchinson: -3
  • Vice President Joe Biden: 5
  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi: 10
  • The president’s speechwriters: 20 (I really should deduct for the Jerry Maguire quote.  I really should.)

And who was tonight’s big winner?

I know, I know.  She’s just the First Lady.  But what a lady she is.  Enjoy your 25 Honestly Blog points, Mrs. Obama.  You’ve earned them.

~ T