Ritch Workman is an Idiot and Other Political Rants

Lead candidate for bunghole of the year!

You’ve got to hand it to the Republican Party: in Herbert Cain it managed to find an African American who is even whiter than Clarence Thomas! Cain’s recent lampoon of the Wall Street occupiers as a bunch of unemployed people trying to take money from those who earned it is straight out of 19th century Social Darwinism in its callousness. He also missed the point. They are unemployed, you damn fool—that’s the entire point of the occupation.

Speaking of Clarence Thomas, expect to hear him complain again of being “lynched” by the left. (Only someone craven would use the term as cavalierly as he.) It seems that the press is finally getting around to raising a question or two—albeit with kid gloves—about the seed money the Supreme Court Justice provided his wife to form a Tea Party group. Justices are, in theory, banned from engaging in partisan politics as they are expected to be impartial (yeah, right!) when cases appear before them. Thomas is now disingenuously saying that he knows little of his wife’s political activities or the $1.6 million he helped raise for Tea Party causes. What he has done isn’t impeachable (or believable), but if he has a scrap of decency he’ll recuse himself from future cases with even a hint of ideology attached to them. Don’t hold your breath, though; Thomas is a disgrace to robes once worn by Thurgood Marshall.

In an older blog I suggested that shock jock Michael Graham wasn’t very funny in making dwarf jokes. I’m ready to declare Graham a saint in comparison to Florida Representative Ritch Workman, who has actually argued that Florida should repeal its law on dwarf-tossing. This mean-spirited jackass actually had the moxie to suggest that a repeal would create opportunities for unemployed dwarves, who could get jobs in bars servicing patrons who get their jollies from hurling small folks around the joint. I’ve got a better idea—one that could go a long way toward alleviating the national debt. How about a bill that allows citizens to fling dung on legislators? How much would you pay for that privilege?

A last rant, this one directed at liberals. I’ve been approached by numerous people to sign petitions asking that the government halt the deportation of illegal immigrants and that it launch legal challenges to draconian laws such as that of Arizona and Georgia. Sorry, folks, but I won’t put energy or money into a lost cause. We need a debate over immigration law, but it’s not going to happen in this Congress and it has zero chance of occurring until 2013 at the earliest. I must also say that the United States is about the only nation in the world where a debate over illegal immigration would even take place. I know that there have been heartbreaking cases of families torn asunder, but this is truly a case in which risk assessment is part of the equation. I have personally known illegals—mostly from Ireland and Scotland—and each was well aware of the consequences of being apprehended. As I said, I’m all for a revamp of immigration laws–legal immigration laws. But kneejerk defenses of illegal immigration strikes me as muddled liberalism that’s out of touch with current law, prevailing politics, public opinion, and common sense. It is, simply, a cause with no future.


Mini Picks, Including a Classic!

Truly one of history's greatest films.

I had heard about it for decades and avoided it for all the reasons I generally avoid all things hyped. Take the word of one who was foolish but is now wiser: Les enfants du paradis (“Children of Paradise,” 1946, 163 mins. French with subtitles) deserves its status as among the greatest movies ever made. Directed by Marcel Carné at the very end of the German occupation of France during World War II, the film is set in Paris in the 1820s, a time in which class distinctions were as sharp as a noble’s sword. It centers on the character of Garance, a model/prostitute/courtesan and the four men who love her: a romantic mime, an egoistical actor, an arrogant duke, and an amoral criminal, each of whom is based on a real-life character. It is a film about the thin and porous lines between admiration and obsession, love and lust, ambition and egotism, passion and cruelty, and celebrity and notoriety. There are parts of the film that are more surrealistic than anything Fellini ever imagined, and others that are more sumptuous and sensual in black and white than a Crayola factory could manufacture. The film’s stunning final scene has been often copied, but never equaled. Don’t wait to see this, even if you think an old black-and-white film in French sounds dreary. There’s a reason why it has been praised to the skies.

Also in French is Sarah’s Key (2010, directed and written by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, PG-13, 111mins.) This one isn’t likely to make its way onto any classic films list and there are bits of it that are exceedingly contrived, but give it credit: it at least tries to do something new with the Holocaust. I mean nothing condescending in that remark, only that it’s hard to tell that story without drowning an audience in horror, pathos, and sadness. All three are present in Sarah’s Key, but the film humanizes the scale of the Holocaust in ways that, in many ways, makes the tragedy more impactful. The central character is Sarah Starzynski, a child rounded up in the seldom-discussed Parisian roundup of Jews in 1942. The story switches between Sarah in 1942, and investigative journalist Julia Jarmond in the present. The fully bilingual and always impressive Kristin Scott Thomas plays Jarmond. This film is still in theaters as well as on DVD. It’s worth viewing.

A music pick. If you want a night out that involves a break from the present and tongue-in-cheek mayhem, go see the Sweetback Sisters, a delightful retro band that culls the Country music backlist from the days in which slickness meant hair grease not studio tricks. We caught them in a West Whatley, MA concert recently and reveled in their hijinks, energy, tight harmonies, and crisp musicianship. Okay, we could have done with fewer histrionics from the lad playing electric guitar, but what’s not to like in a repertoire that draws from Patsy Cline, Hazel Dickens, and loads of other earlier Country and bluegrass stars and supplements them with superb originals?

Looking for something quite different musically? I just caught up with Wu Man recently, whom I had not seen in a while. Wu Man is the mistress of the Chinese pippa, a four-stringed, 23-frets instrument whose sound you will recognize, though you’ll not hear many who can play it like Wu Man. At times she makes her instrument sound like it came from some royal court thousands of years ago; at others she’s so wild and expressive that she’s been dubbed the “Jimi Hendrix of the pippa.”


NBA Fails to Open and the Public Yawns

Who cares?

November 1 was supposed to be the first regular season game of the National Boring Association, sorry--National Basketball Association. The impasse between the filthy rich players and the even filthier, even richer owners has delayed this. Aside from vendors, advertisers, and a handful of service-industry workers, does anyone really care? The lack of a public hue-and-cry for the NBA contrasts greatly with the angst associated with last summer’s possible pro football cancellations. The NFL lockout was front-page stuff news; the NBA is relegated to the internal columns of the sports pages. Why? And how can we salvage the NBA?

First of all, now that the NBA finals extend until late June, it’s not like we’ve been without NBA basketball for very long. The NBA is overexposed and that’s not good news because…

The second problem with the NBA is that its product is unattractive. NBA marketers do their best to manufacture heroes, but the millionaires it seeks to promote are too flawed or too immature to play their roles. The league’s best is Kobe Bryant, who has never recovered from rape allegations leveled in 2003. That leaves LeBron James, who is overhyped, underperforms under pressure, and who made a total ass of himself in his televised decision to bolt Cleveland for Miami. In a recent poll James ranked as the sixth least-liked athlete in the United States. Guess who was number five? Yep--Kobe Bryant. You know the NBA has an image problem when you’re as likely to see past and present players on America’s Most Wanted as on ESPN. Among the lowlights (lowlifes?): twice-convicted Allen Iverson, Ponzi-schemer Tate George, jail birds Isaiah Rider, Charles Smith, Sly Williams, and Sean Banks, and gun-toter Gilbert Arenas. Oh yeah, the guy Arenas pulled a gun on is Jarvaris Crittenden, under investigation for murder. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. And the NBA Players’ Association thinks the public gives a damn what percentage of basketball revenue goes to this lot?

Athletes are seldom saints--Michael Vick is a starting NFL quarterback for heaven’s sake--but the road to redemption is to thrill audiences in the arena. This leads to the NBA’s third problem: it’s just not a very good product at present. Blame owners and management for that. They’ve gotten it in their collective heads that “athleticism” and “an NBA body” is more important than the ability to score, the possession of skills, or actually understanding the game. There are millions of kids in playgrounds and gyms across the world and the NBA can’t find more than a dozen who can knock down a 15-foot jump shot? Don’t tell me about how good the defense is these days--I’ve seen the footage of Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Dave Cowens, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Gervin, Michael Jordan, and Dr. J draining shots with guys hanging on them like a Cadillac hood ornament. Don’t get me started on the lack of ball-handling ability; let’s just say that in the old days if a team trailed by ten going into the 4th quarter, the game was over.

Here’s my proposal to solve the NBA impasse. First, as anyone who has viewed the game in the past decade knows, the first 46 minutes are irrelevant. They also know that the final two minutes will take an hour to play with the constant time outs, fouls, feigned injuries, etc. So let’s forget salaries altogether. Negotiate a TV contract based on a series of one-hour broadcasts of the final two minutes of NBA contests. Let’s pretend 46 minutes have been played, start with a good modern NBA score of 73-73, and play the final two. An alternative would be to say that the first team to 80 wins--though networks would have to be prepared to extend the one-hour timeslot. Players and management split the TV revenues 40-40, with 20% going to support the underfunded high schools that supply NBA talent.

Second, create a round robin of two-minute games to determine who gets to the playoffs and finals. The entire season could be played out and filmed in about two weeks and replayed on TV according to a seasonal schedule with the first “games” aired in November and the “finals” in late April. Players would sign sworn affidavits not to reveal the outcomes in advance; anyone doing so would be barred for five years from the main revenue-enhancing outlets of NBA players: endorsing sneakers, fast food, or Gatorade.

Because the NBA season would actually be played and filmed in its entirety by late August, those athletes who wish to play entire games would be free to go elsewhere to do so. This would be additional income for them and they’d still get U.S. TV revenue money. Kobe could go to Italy and LeBron to China, where apparently people still care about pro basketball. The rest of us just want to see the circus finale, not the plumed prancing horses.