General rule of thumb: don’t compare the Holocaust to anything

It’s been about a week since I discussed politics, and since then, the entire world has basically changed course.

And that’s not really much of an exaggeration.

Early last week, the world was exposed to shocking visceral images of incapacitated children, poisoned by sarin gas in what appears to have been a chemical weapons attack by the authoritarian Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad. The use of chemical weapons is not only outlawed by the United Nations, but also in an agreement between Syria, Russia, and the U.S. in 2013 after the country used chemical weapons against its people the first time.

In response to the horrific attack, President Trump – who categorically denounced any type of intervention in Syria four years ago – launched a surprise missile attack on a Syrian air base.

Russia, who has helped prop up the Assad regime during the country’s six-year civil war to protect its own interests in the region, condemned the attack.

The United States, in turn, accused Russia of covering up the Syrian government’s role in the attack. And this was all on the eve of Thursday’s meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vladimir Putin, which, until the two finally sat down, no one was sure was actually going to happen.

And just like that, the Trump-Putin bromance has finally come to an end.

Sean Spicer

While many have praised Trump for his decisive action, others have been critical of his spontaneous action that in all likelihood was taken without an overall strategic plan. Others say it’s a smokescreen to distract us from discussing U.S.-Russia collusion.

But this, without a doubt, begins a new chapter in our country’s role in the Middle East, as well as our relations with Russia. We knew Trump’s footprint would be left on the geopolitical landscape. This is it. And now we see where we go from here.

Unbelievably, these seismic events were still outshadowed this week by the incomprehensible remarks by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who, without any provocation, essentially downplayed Adolf Hitler’s cruelty and rewrote history to pretend like he never gassed and murdered more than six million Jews.

The statements were made during a White House press briefing, which drew audible gasps from reporters in attendance, and led to Spicer issuing an apologetic statement afterwards. But the outcry over his remarks was so great that he appeared on camera on CNN to issue a further apology later in the day. He then spent all of Wednesday on an apology tour.

Oh, Sean. I mean, the man has the hardest job in the world, being forced to justify the nonsensical actions, statements and tweets of Donald Trump to the press. But watching him try to back away from his own words was like watching a trainwreck in action.

Adding insult to injury, he referred to Nazi death camps as “Holocaust centers,” as if they were some type of museum, and misstated the name of the Syrian president.

And on top of that, he said it during Passover.

It’s pretty much common sense. Whether you’re talking to a friend, a colleague, your pet dog, or especially the entire national press corps, do not draw comparisons to the Holocaust. And don’t show sympathy for Adolf Hitler.

It’s pretty much the basic rule of humanity.

Melissa McCarthy … you’re up.

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Oops, United Airlines did it again

Since the election, we’ve learned that if anyone besides Donald Trump or a member of his administration becomes the focus of national outrage, it means they screwed up really badly.

I’m talking an epic screw-up.

It was just two weeks ago when United Airlines accomplished this dubious honor by denying two young girls entry to a flight because they were wearing leggings.

Not long after, United Airlines was off the hook when Pepsi stole the spotlight with their shockingly tone deaf commercial that trivialized the racial and political unrest that fuels public protests.

But United Airlines apparently missed the notoriety spotlight, and would not be denied.

And they’re back, baby! All it took was the roughing up of a Chinese doctor and dragging his semi-conscious, bloody body off an airplane.

You all have heard about this in some capacity, as it’s made headline news over the last two days.

The video looks terrible. What we see is a law enforcement official savagely pulling the limp human body of a man who paid to be on the flight, and had already been boarded and had been seated – all because the airline overbooked the flight and needed to clear seats for flight attendants who were scheduled to work on a different flight.

If you think this should result a shitstorm of backlash and fury towards United Airlines, then you’d be exactly right.

But there is a lot to digest here.

UA passenger

For one, the incident has brought to the spotlight the practice of airline overbooking. This is unfortunately a fairly common practice, as we forget that airlines don’t just exist for our own traveling purposes, but to actually make money. In anticipation of flight no-shows, airlines will frequently overbook flights to maximize the odds of every seat being filled.

But when overbookings occur, it should seem like common sense for the airline officials to remove passengers before they board, right? If I’m sitting at an airline gate for two hours, and then proceed to board the plane and stow away my luggage, then you’re damned right that I’m going to be pissed off too if I’m suddenly asked to get off.

After the man initially refused to leave, witnesses say that he somehow ran back onto the plane after he was forcibly removed the first time. Then the chaos that we all saw on video ensued. And it’s not a pretty sight.

The resulting public fury was inevitable.

The American public greatly empathized with this situation because we’ve all had our own airport misadventures. We’ve all experienced a time when we wanted to wish nothing but fire and brimstone on a specific airline.

However, when your flight is delayed, we are mostly powerless. Sure, you can curse out an airline on Twitter, and while that feels very invigorating in the moment, it ultimately accomplishes nothing.

But this was our moment. Now, we all get to take out our combined rage on an airline, over an incident that was created by their own mistakes, overlaid by an overbooking practice that we all despise.

Not even another Pepsi screw-up is going to get United Airlines out of this one.

And it’s not just America that’s pissed. This has apparently ignited an international incident, reaching front page news in China, and fueling the belief of many in that country that the western hemisphere behaves in a discriminatory manner towards Chinese people.

But after the public fury failed to dissipate, United Airlines finally took full responsibility for the episode, with CEO Oscar Munoz publicly apologizing and ordering a complete investigation of the procedural mistakes that led to this incident. The officer seen dragging the passenger was also suspended.

The damage, however, is done. There are calls to boycott the airlines. An online petition titled #ChineseLivesMatter calls for a federal investigation into the matter, the Internet memes are out in full force.

So, United Airlines, you’re not getting off the hook this time. I don’t care what the Trump administration says or does, this time you —

Wait, what’s that? White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer evoked an ill-advised and insensitive comparison to Adolf Hitler when discussing Syria?

United Airlines, you can pretty much get away with anything for the next four years.

Damn you Tom Brady. You’re the best ever, but damn you.

With the Falcons leading 21-0 in the second quarter of Sunday night’s Super Bowl LI, I sent a declarative five-word text to a group of friends.

“Patriots ain’t winning this shit.”

At 28-9 midway through the third quarter, I doubled down on my forecast with another text message.

“I repeat: Patriots ain’t winning this shit.”

A few Falcons’ possessions wasted by turnovers and dumb penalties later, plus an impossible, gravity-defying catch by Julian Edelman, my confidence began to waver.

Next thing you knew the game was tied and the Patriots were on the doorstep of a game-ending touchdown to cap an improbable and historic comeback that netted quarterback Tom Brady a record fifth Super Bowl win. Nearly 24 hours later, I still don’t understand what happened.

tom-brady

Of course, it’s easy to exude confidence when a team is up 25 points. But it wasn’t just the score. It was the dominance that Matt Ryan and the Falcons displayed, on both sides of the ball, that made it so obvious that they were going to be champions.

And just like that, everything changed.

An NFL game is long. At 60 minutes, it affords a team plenty of time overcome almost any deficit. And as the world witnessed on Sunday night, they key to winning a football game is how you play with a lead. And in that regard, the Falcons failed miserably.

Twice the Falcons were poised to widen their lead. Once following an unsuccessful Patriots onside kick attempt in the third quarter, and the other late in the fourth when they had the ball on the Patriots’ 22-yard line, well within field goal range. Both times, they screwed it up and came away scoreless.

What the Patriots accomplished cannot be understated or diminished. It was a comeback for the ages and arguably the greatest game in NFL history.

But the Falcons were their own worst enemies. For the final quarter and a half, they did almost nothing right.

And as a long-suffering New York Jets fan, Tom Brady is my arch nemesis. For the better part of two decades, he has made me hate football. My distaste for him and his team is half-envy, half-condemnation for the way they go about their business. Plus their dubious ties to Donald Trump are not reassuring.

So all things considered, you can imagine that I was not very pleased on Sunday night. I also feel bad for Matt Ryan, who deserved to win, and their owner Arthur Blank, whose hopelessly somber facial expression as his team was in full-blown collapse mode was just devastating to witness.

melissa-mccarthy

On a bright note, though, the weekend was not entirely lost. Saturday Night Live continued its full-throttle assault on Donald Trump, which, honestly, doesn’t really take much effort anymore. All they have to do is reenact the things that are actually happening — like Trump’s head-scratching phone call with Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull late last month.

But, without a doubt, the show-stealer was Melissa McCarthy, who made a surprise appearance about 30 minutes into the show to mercilessly mock White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, whose abrasive attitude and surly demeanor towards the media has made him an easy target.

It was a hilarious, slapstick sketch that only someone of McCarthy’s comedic abilities could have accomplished. She truly is the female reincarnation of Chris Farley, in the best possible way.

Naturally, Spicer was not pleased.

We can only hope that it becomes a reoccurring sketch.

lady-gaga

Finally — Lady Gaga. She delivered an energetic, colorful and highly entertaining halftime performance. Most people praised it because they were relieved to see her focus on performing and not politics.

Well, think again.

Lady Gaga is not stupid. She subtly slipped in Woody Guthrie’s famous protest song, “This Land is My Land,” and she did it for a reason.

Consider a verse from the original song, which was not the part that Lady Gaga sang:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’
But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.

Well played, Gaga, well played.

Indeed, this land was made for you and me.