War: Presidents? Congress? Who The Fuck Decides?

The Media…Facebook friends…anonymous government officials…conspiracy theorists…bloggers…and your fucking angry uncle are all constitutional law experts when it comes to Trump’s missile strike on Syria. The more microphone and internet space is provided, the more the space is filled with opinions and thoughts. Everyone thinks they know what the fuck they are talking about…and they all say things like: “…the Constitution says…the War Powers Act…blah, blah, blah.”

So here I am filling in my little area of digital space to provide a (somewhat) quick and easy guide to the War Powers Act, some historical context, and the one acronym that isn’t being used too often outside the insider baseball world of national security…AUMF…Authorization for the Use of Force.

War Powers Act

  • The legal mumbo jumbo is P.L. 93-148 (87 STAT. 555), the War Powers Resolution and called the “War Powers Act” was passed by Congress over President Nixon’s veto in 1973. The WPA is codified in US Code in Title 50, Chapter 33, Sections 1541-48;
  • “resolution” is misleading…it is a law;
  • Constitution says President is Commander-in-Chief (Art.II, Sect. 2); and Congress make declarations of war, and to raise and support the armed forces (Art I, Sec.8);
  • Over time the President’s role as CINC and Congress’ role to declare war has caused questions about war and the use of military force;
  • WPA is a direct result of the Vietnam War and addresses the concern that results when the introduction of US military forces abroad could lead to their involvement in armed conflict;
  • WPA is primarily to “insure that the collective judgement of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities,” and that the President can only exercise his CINC responsibilities once Congress has authorized the use of military force;
  • WPA requires the President to consult with Congress before introducing the military into hostilities or situations where hostilities are imminent;
  • WPA establishes a 60 day time limit on the President’s reporting to Congress;
  • WPA requires that the military must be removed from hostilities unless Congress approves the military action OR if Congress is physically unable to meet and deliberate due to a physical attack on the US;

From Nixon to now, Presidents have had serious asshurt about the WPA and say it is unconstitutional (SCOTUS has deemed otherwise). Because of this, the WPA has been controversial…and it is an on-going issue due to the worldwide deployment of the US military. Since its enactment, Presidents have submitted over 120 reports to Congress pursuant to the WPA.

Historical Context

Here are some major examples related to the WPA:

  • 1975 President Ford submitted a report to Congress as a result of his order for the military to retake the Mayaguez, a US merchant vessel which had been seized by Cambodia;
  • 1981 President Reagan deployed military advisers to El Salvador but filed no WPA report to Congress. Congress filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to for Reagan’s compliance with the WPA, but the US District Court hearing the suit declined to be involved when the judge saw a political question…whether US forces were indeed involved in hostilities;
  • 1982-1983 President Reagan sent a unit of Marines to Lebanon to participate in peacekeeping operations. Reagan submitted 3 reports to Congress but didn’t cite the 60 day time limit. Over time the Marines came under enemy fire and some called for the Marines withdrawal. Congress, in an agreement with Reagan, passed P.L.98-119 in 1983 which authorized the Marines to remain in Lebanon for 18 months. Reagan signed the law and was the first time a President signed legislation invoking the WPA. The eventual bombing of the Marines’ barracks in Beirut led to their eventual withdrawal;
  • 1990-1991 President H W Bush sent several reports to Congress regarding military force buildup in Operation Desert Shield. HW Bush took the position that he did not need congressional approval to carry out UN resolutions which authorized member states to use “all necessary means” to eject Iraq from Kuwait; however, he did ask for congressional “support.” Congress passed P.L.102-1 which authorized the President to use force against Iraq if the President reported that diplomatic efforts had failed to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. HW Bush did so report and initiated Operation Desert Storm;
  • 1993-1999 President Clinton used the US military in various operations, such as air strikes and deployment of peacekeeping forces in the former Yugoslavia. These operations were pursuant to UN resolutions and conducted in conjunction with NATO member states. Clinton issued numerous reports to Congress but never triggered the 60 day limit. Some Members of Congress did not support these operations but were unable to pass legislation that limited the President’s actions. A federal law suit was filed saying the President violated the WPA when the 60 day time limit passed before he ordered air strikes on Kosovo. President Clinton stated that the WPA was constitutionally “defective”. US District Court ruled in the President’s favor and SCOTUS refused to hear the appeal.
  • 2001 In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress enacted P.L. 107-40 which authorized President W Bush to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001…” For the first time, “organizations, or persons” were specified in a congressional authorization to use force pursuant to WPA.
  • 2002 Congress authorized W Bush to use force against Iraq pursuant to WPA, in P.L. 107-243.
  • 2013 The (then) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) introduced legislation that would have authorized President Obama to use military force to intervene in the ongoing Syrian civil war. The bill specifically contained provisions about the use of chemical weapons. The bill did not pass.

AUMF

  • AUMF is “Authorization for the Use of Military Force”;
  • It is the term that means Congress authorizes the President, with their authority under WPA, to deploy and use military forces in hostilities or in areas where hostilities are imminent;
  • AUMF is often the cited phrase used in legal suits and discussions when the constitutionality of a certain military deployment or action happens with or without congressional approval.

Why Any of This Fucking Matters

  • There is NO AUMF for Trump to use force in Syria;
  • There was NO AUMF for President Obama to use force in Syria…even though Obama did order air strikes and military assistance to Syrian opposition groups;
  • Trump never reported to Congress prior to launching cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase;
  • Trump did not report to Congress prior to deploying a Marine unit to Syria earlier this year;
  • Congress COULD file a federal lawsuit demanding the end of all US military operations in Syria, which would require (like other historical military deployments) federal courts (up to, if necessary, SCOTUS) to hear the case;
  • Legal precedent shows that, in the past, federal courts have sided with the President (Balkans, 1990s)…or at least required the President and Congress to reach an agreement on the deployment of military force (Lebanon, early 80s);
  • Many constitutional and WPA experts (I am not one) argue that WPA is now toothless due to congressional inaction or willingness to allow presidential CINC authority (as cited in the Constitution) to supersede congressional declaration of war authority (as cited in the Constitution);
  • Congress, COULD (at a minimum) require Trump to inform Congress of his immediate, short-term, and long-term strategic goals in Syria. Congress COULD require Trump administration officials such as the SecDef and SecState to meet with and testify before about the Trump administration Syrian strategy;
  • FINALLY, congressional inaction may result in it further relinquishing its constitutional authority to declare war, thus further allowing the increase in presidential power as related to war and limiting the enforcement of AUMFs.

Then again…maybe none of this matters…what the fuck do I know?

Hillbilly Highway: Escaping the South

My granddaddy was a miner, but he finally saw the light
He didn’t have much, just a beat-up truck and a dream about a better life
Grand mama cried when she waved goodbye, never heard such a lonesome sound
Pretty soon the dirt road turned into blacktop, Detroit City bound
Down that hillbilly highway
On that hillbilly highway
That old hillbilly highway
Goes on and on – Steve Earle, “Hillbilly Highway

If I hadn’t left Alabama…if I hadn’t joined the Army…I don’t know what I would have done…but probably wouldn’t have been much in life. – Dad

If I hadn’t got kicked out of college in Tennessee…if I hadn’t joined the Army…I don’t know what I would have done…but probably wouldn’t have been much in life. – me

Steve Earle sings a twangy autobiographical song about family up and moving out of Appalachia…a migration below Moses’ level of biblical…but significant enough to fill Ohio and Michigan towns with hill people from the extremely rural areas bordering these two states in the south and southeast.  The “Hillbilly Highway” was a real phenomenon. In the 40s, 50s, and 60s, coal miners, farmers, moonshiners, down-and-outs, and common folk came out of the hollers (not ‘hollows’) of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and other southern states. They established hillbilly enclaves in industrial towns and cities…to return to the South for vacations, deaths, births, marriages, and sometimes retirement. You can see their descendants on any large Southern lake on their boats…you can see them parked in Southern state parks…Michigan and Ohio plates on their RVs…Southerners think Ohio and Michigan invades the South annually like some weird reversed songbird migration…in reality though, its just kin returning to the land their parents and grandparents pined for while toiling in Michigan and Ohioan factories and mills.

J.D. Vance describes this migration and his kin in his autobiography Hillbilly Elegy. Vance was primarily raised by his transplanted hillbilly grandparents who had escaped Kentucky for better options in Ohio. Vance visits…vacations…among his Kentucky kin. Vance points out the honorable and the horrible of these hillbillies. He describes the alcohol and drug addictions…the violence…the requirement of being honor-bound by one’s word…and the responsibility of defending family against all outsiders. Vance despairs and glorifies his family…his Kentucky. In the end, though, Vance is…at best…a tourist. He wasn’t from Kentucky…he was raised by Kentuckians.

I get this completely…as a son of transplanted rednecks from Alabama…I had a childhood of visiting…vacationing with…family in Alabama…but I not from Alabama. My parents were from Alabama…I was from wherever we had most recently been stationed by the Army…my dad’s employer. My dad may have retired in Tennessee…I may have attended high school in Tennessee…but I am not a Tennessean. At best, I am a man who spent his life bouncing from Army post to Army post…ultimately, I am a man who spent a little time in Tennessee until it was time for me to hitch my own ride out of the South.

Whenever one returns the ancestral lands of the South…one sees the fire-brimstone Sundays tinged with rampant self-loathing and anger that comes as a side-effect of being from, and living in, a place that lacks in education and opportunities…a place that isn’t so much segregated as much as insulated. It isn’t a place that sees the world and decides to reject it…it is a place that rarely sees the world but retains a fixed notion…a visceral belief…of what the world is.

Vance has received critical acclaim for this ‘love letter’ to hillbillies and Kentucky…Hillbilly Elegy has received rave reviews because of Vance’s ability to both despair at his family’s problems and hold them aloft…finding the good in them…honoring them in his own way. I would argue that Vance…at best…accurately describes Appalachia and its residents, while describing a good tale about a boy born to a alcohol and drug addicted mother…a boy raised by his transplanted Kentucky grandparents. Vance offers a quick and interesting window into a place most people haven’t seen or experienced.

While reading Hillbilly Elegy, I was both torn and drawn to the people that populate Vance’s childhood. I get the adult realization that the kin we knew as children are not the people we come to recognize as we get older. Dads, uncles, older brothers, and grandfathers become less heroic and more…typical…full of shit…men who bluffed and compromised themselves through their lives. We see the maternal women of our lives go from being caring and loving angels to broken and mean-spirited women who navigate a world that still reeks of paternalism and sexism. The hillbilly childhood of Pop Tart and Kool Aid breakfasts become adult coffee and cigarette breaks. J.D. Vance…at best…is a good tour guide to a freakish and angry Appalachian theme park. Vance lets you get a glimpse of a place that is in a multi-generational education drought while soaked in alcohol, pills, and meth. Tourists have to pay extra to see the deep and dark secrets…the murders…the drug addiction…the hate…the self-loathing…hidden in ramshackle sheds that sit behind the double-wide trailers…in the back yards…sheds that seem to be getting slowly engulfed by the dark and menacing tree line.

If you’ve never been to the South…Atlanta and Florida doesn’t fucking count…then I suggest picking up Vance’s book. It will confirm some of your stereotypes…it will confirm some of your fears on why they consistently vote against their self-interests…it will give some light to the dark place you can’t see through that may explain why these hillbillies could and did vote for charlatan like Trump…Hell! We are talking about a place that welcomed and absorbed drunk and angry traveling preachers that espoused the Bible as literal and disparaged the idea that Christianity could be studied through theological surveys or philosophical pondering. This book gives you a good taste of the South…a taste that feels a bit smokey and gritty…hints of whiskey…hints of cigarette…hints of sweet tea and fried food.

If you are from the South…and if you’re from Florida, you’re only Southern if you claim the panhandle as home…this book will, at best, have you nodding at the familiarity. Have you saying “no shit” when some story is told…some family member that is simultaneously held aloft for praise and then having their failings easily exposed. Self-loathing through deep contemplation is something Southerners are pretty damn good at…nothing Vance tells you will be surprising…and it may even become boring due to it seeming so familiar to your own life’s stories. I came away from Hillbilly Elegy feeling that I should recommend it to those non-southern…non-hillbilly…friends that think that I can explain the South…or Trump’s election…because my parents are Southern. This book gives you an idea of Southerners.

I prefer hearing about the trials and tribulations my kin through music…I like to think of my life through Steve Earle and Drive-by Truckers lyrics…but page after page of an Appalachian-focused autobiography that isn’t accompanied by dueling banjos is merely boring and over-wrought. Of course…what do I know…I’m not Southern…I was just raised on Pop Tart and Kool Aid breakfasts and Southern parents. Ignore me…I’m not Southern…I’m just still traveling that hillbilly highway and where I come from…whatever Southern I am…is forever fading quickly into the past behind me.

 

The Best Budget Message of The President

To the Republican Congress (not them SAD democrats) of the United States:

As I look back on these grate months as the best PRESIDENT, I am so happy by America’s being Made Great Again #MAGA! I am moving us forword. When I swore on that bible and assumed command of America #MAGA!, my nation was a mess. Obama was SAD! America was SAD!

Thanks to me and my bigly hands, and them grate American Trump voters #MAGA!, I rescued us! Best rescue you have ever seen! I have kicked fureigners out! I have made Boeing and other companies sign new deals! Today, my economy, America’s #MAGA economy is awesome.

I have created a bunch of jobs already! Just months in the job as supereme President I have #MAGA! Employment? Gone! Illegal workers stealing American #MAGA! jobs? On there way out! Ihave made the American #MAGA economy the envy of the world.

Even though I did this, their is work to do. The #MAGA Budget is not about looking back (WRONG!). The #MAGA Budget is about me taking us forword! The #MAGA Budget is about the bigly questions that defines the #MAGA America!

My Budget makes huge investments, needed huge investments, while sticking to the Republican budget agreement. Those sad democrats are the reason we had to have a budget agreement because they were giving all my money to kids, and blacks, and illegals with fake sociol secruity numbers! Big mistake! Sad!

First, America #MAGA is going to inovate in hotels, especially them big tower like hotels with gold plated toilets and thrones. Sorta like them hotels I own (but in a trust so I am seeing none of that moneys). Next I am gonna invest in http://www.bibleastextbook.com because the best Educaton Secertary, Betsy DeVos, is gonna make sure bibles is what kids will learn from.

I am also budgeting for an increase in Homeland Secuirty because that is how we keep them dirty jihady Muslims out, and how we kick all them greasy Mexicans out. I will make sure we have enough Immigration and Customs Enforcement stormtroopers that we can stop them at the WALL (#MAGA!) and root them out of there nests in California, Taxachussetts, and New Englandistan.

I am making budget for jobs. All sorts of grate jobs. Jobs at malls. Jobs at hospitals. Jobs at toll booths (because roads don’t pay for themselves!).

What am I not budgeting for? The environment, gays, poor people, educaton, SAD studies about global warming (hey it was cold last week here in DC! Way cold!), and anything that helps democrat voters (there are only 12 of them who voted millions of times, Bannon and Briebart told me that).

Finally, I am spending a gazillion $s on big military things! #MAGA Big planes, big tanks, small planes, small tanks, a bunch of aircraft carriers for those big and small planes. I am going to hire millions of young men and women who can’t find jobs AND then I am going to budget for a big war with Iran or Koreas or anyone other than Russia. To save money I am going to make Canada pay for all of there defences.

It won’t be easy. But with your taxes (not rich people’s taxes though, just your taxes) and me taking the credit for it, we can #MAGA. I am the best president and this is the best budget. Any budget presented before this budget pales in compareson. I will move us forword to invent stuff, to grow larger our opportunties and secruities, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! #MAGA

Donald J. Trump @realdonaldtrump, @45POTUS

The White House (not to be confused with the Winter White House in Florida)

March 1, 2017

#MAGA

Cavalry State of Mind: A Book Review

If you ain’t Cav you ain’t shit! – traditional U.S. Cavalry saying

A book review of Jimmy Blackmon’s* Pale Horse: Hunting Terrorists and Commanding Heroes in the 101st Airborne Division

U.S. military leadership and civilian policy makers are once again eyeing Europe and Russia’s assumed resurgence as a near-peer competitor. Talk of issues like Russia’s new army divisions being established in its Western and Southern Military Districts has NATO generally, and the U.S. specifically dusting off Cold War era manuals and refocusing U.S. military efforts back on mechanized warfare. After 15 years of fighting wars that primarily consist of counterinsurgency (COIN) and counter-terrorism (CT) operations, many U.S. military and civilian leaders are wondering what COIN and CT lessons (learned over the past decade and a half) can be transferred with the U.S. military’s strategic pivot from Iraq and Afghanistan to eastern Europe as well as to the western Pacific. Colonel (Ret.) Jimmy Blackmon’s Pale Horse: Hunting Terrorists and Commanding Heroes in the 101st Airborne Division provides a guide on the lessons learned in Afghanistan that can be transferred to any future conflict. Colonel Blackmon’s simple premise of cavalry being a state of mind, with its inherent missions of reconnaissance and security, and how leaders empower and develop subordinates is both tactically and strategically sound for any battle, present or future.

Unlike most war memoirs, Colonel (then Lieutenant Colonel) Blackmon’s book on commanding an Army aviation task force (7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division) doesn’t specifically focus on his experience, instead it focuses on the 7-17 Cav troopers and the infantry soldiers they supported in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces. As Col. Blackmon told me “my book isn’t about me, it’s about the soldiers, and it’s the story of their fight.” Col. Blackmon provides a view of the war in Afghanistan as it is fought from above, and provides insight into battles fought at Wanat, Korengal, and OP Bari Ali. This perspective provides the reader with a certain clarity that is rarely found in the media coverage of the war in Afghanistan.Task Force (TF) Pale Horse was not a traditional air cavalry squadron when it deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. TF Pale Horse was task organized with OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, AH-64D Apaches, CH-47F Chinooks, UH-60M Black Hawks, UH-60L Medevac, and Hunter unmanned aerial vehicles. TF Pale Horse didn’t just supply and support the ground forces; TF Pale Horse became a battlefield sensor. This sensor mission required every pilot, regardless of helicopter (or its traditional role of lift, attack, or reconnaissance), every aircraft crew member, and every member of the TF’s headquarters element to embrace the concept of reconnaissance and security. After every mission, pilots and air crews were to observe and report what they saw and encountered. Pilots were required to debrief the TF’s intelligence section following each mission. This cavalry state of mind of observing and reporting wasn’t something Col. Blackmon and his TF were specifically tasked to do, it was a mission that TF Pale Horse developed and executed to support the U.S. Army ground commander in the Central Kunar Valley.

In addition to imbuing every TF Pale Horse pilot with what Colonel Blackmon calls “a cavalry state of mind,” Col. Blackmon also, like all good leaders, empowered his subordinates and staff to develop new tactics and techniques. One such empowerment was the developing and encouraging the TF intelligence section to glean and analyze the information provided by TF pilots and air crew. This analysis resulted in what they called their enemy’s (named the “syndicate” by the intel section) Modus Operandi Template (MOTEMP). This MOTEMP helped TF Pale Horse interdict and disrupt the syndicate’s attacks on U.S. forces in the Central Kunar Valley. The syndicate’s MOTEMP showed a consistent, and complacent (a fatal mistake) process in which the enemy would get supplies and weapons from the bordering region of Pakistan, move these supplies and weapons through the Hindu Kush mountains to cache sites in the Central Kunar Valley. Following the movement and caching of supplies and weapons, the syndicate would meet, plan, and rehearse its next set of attacks. As with most counterinsurgency forces, the syndicate would then move to fighting positions, attack, coordinate follow on attacks if possible, and then regress. Because TF intel section’s correct analysis and identifying the syndicate’s stand operating procedure before, during, and after an attack, TF Pale Horse was able to begin interdicting and disrupting the enemy prior to it executing its attacks.

What Col. Blackmon’s Pale Horse shows is what good leaders have always known, and that is empowering subordinates to adjust the mission on the fly is a key ingredient in tactical success. The cavalry concept of reconnaissance and security cannot be successful unless every cav trooper believes in it. Col. Blackmon created a command environment which enabled attack, lift, utility, and recon helicopter pilots to become integral components of a cavalry outfit. Col. Blackmon empowered an intelligence section, led by a captain, to do what intelligence analysts do best and that is look at a puzzle or problem and then connects the dots based on good field reports and analytical acumen.

The concept of leading through empowerment of subordinates and molding a military unit into a single cohesive entity that is capable of interdicting and disrupting the enemy is not novel nor is it specific to Afghanistan. Even though Col. Blackmon’s memoir doesn’t provide strategic-level insight, it does provide an example of how military units should be led regardless of the type of unit it is, and it shows how a good command environment produces unique and effective ways to fight the enemy. Col. Blackmon tells a good war story of TF Pale Horse and its operations in Afghanistan if one takes his book at a singular level, but he also provides an example of how any fight in any area of operations or theater can be affected by the leader’s willingness to empower subordinates to innovate and then use those innovations in the fight. Pale Horse is more than a war memoir, it is a testament to the TF’s men and women, and it is a timeless guide on how to lead.

*Disclaimer: I am a friend and former National War College classmate of Jimmy’s.

An exploding Moon and Sexless Reproduction: Book Review of Seven Eves

My problem with fiction is either I have to make a series of unrealistic leaps of faith to follow a story or the book’s protagonist is undeserving of my sympathy…and gaining my sympathy through your writing is hard. Case in point…I loved Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye when I was in the 9th grade…what exploding of testosterone 14 year-old boy doesn’t love a sarcastic and foul-mouthed main character? Who didn’t identify with Holden’s resentment of the “phony” adult world? Sadly, upon revisiting Salinger’s Catcher later in life (reread it when I was 35) revealed that Holden was a typical know-it-all teen that had yet to experience life nor did he comprehend the daily compromises that adults face their whole life…Holden Caulfield had not aged well. Granted…I probably haven’t aged well either…but if a good book is going to be really good…then I should be able to reread a book 20 years later and be entertained. Salinger’s Catcher didn’t entertain me…it disappointed…I no longer had sympathy for Holden. I felt betrayed…and probably more betrayed by myself and my adult life…but I wasn’t reading Catcher at 35 to find some philosophical foundation…I was rereading it to be entertained.

Today, when I read fiction, I am not looking for some greater or higher moral or philosophy. Instead, I read fiction for two reasons…one is to be entertained, and two, to escape what Caulfield would have called my “phony” adult life. If I am going to read fiction I better be entertained and I better not have to make some unbelievable leaps to appreciate the story. I would like to say I have some genre that I prefer over the other when it comes to fiction, but I don’t. There isn’t a single type of fiction that I gravitate to over the other. There are, however, certain genres I usually avoid…and one of those is science fiction. Even though my academic nerdy adult persona may seem to indicate that I am a sci-fi fan…I am…in fact…not a fan of space travel, aliens, and tight-fitting space leotards…even though I will admit that I had been known to masturbate to Jane Fonda in Barbarella. What 13 year-old boy wouldn’t have “shaken hands with the unemployed” to this:

barbarella

Overall, excluding my youthful desires for women in thigh-high space boots (even ones with a worn sole), sci-fi isn’t my genre for fiction. Too many leaps…too many aliens…too many lasers…too much bullshit. EXCEPT…every now and then a book grabs my attention.

About the time Holden Caulfield was becoming my philosopher…Paul Atreides of Frank Herbert’s Dune became my hero. Paul was strong, smart, and could read people’s minds! Paul became a messiah on Arakkis…aka Dune. This book too was revisted…and unlike Catcher…Herbert’s Dune didn’t disappoint. The political intrigue and religious mysticism still held up…actually, it showed more depth. Who knew that a 15 year-old Sublime Monkey would be able to appreciate the nuanced politics of men and their religions would make even more sense at age 45? Dune didn’t make me take any leap other than sometime in the far future men would still be acting selfish and religion would be used as a weapon to control other men…made sense at 15…made sense at 45. So when it comes to sci-fi…the bar is pretty fucking high. Neal Stephensen’s Seven Eves met that bar.

Seven Eves is a fairly new novel by an author that a lot of sci-fi fans know…I’d never heard of him…but a good friend who does know his sci-fi…and knows my reading habits…recommended the book to me and then sent me his copy when he was done…hat tip to Shawn “I want a monkey” Albertson. The book is huge…fucking 900 pages huge…and every single page is a turner.

None of this is a spoiler…basically as the jacket cover says…the moon explodes into a bunch of pieces for some reason…and now that Einstein’s gravitational waves theory has been proven…I’m gonna say that caused it…and then present -day science is used to make sort of a modern Noah’s Arc via the International Space Station (ISS). That’s the only leap of any real significance that one is compelled to accept and move on with the story. What Stephensen gets right is how he uses modern science and technology and then logically pushes that science and technology forward 5,000 years. As much of a liberal arts nerd I am…science and technology isn’t exactly something I am overly interested in…especially in how 7 female survivors on the ISS could propagate whole races…viola “Seven Eves.”

Admittedly, there are parts of the 900 pages that I skimmed…I mean one can only read so much about genetics before one says…out loud…”I get it…they know how to manipulate DNA!” Other readers may find this fascinating…but like Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm…after a while you have to give up and assume Larson knows a lot of minutia about fucking hurricanes…Stephenson proves he knows a lot about nanorobots (workers on the ISS aka Noah’s Arc) and DNA coding.

Fortunately, Stephensen’s Seven Eves is 2/3rds present day (sorta) and 1/3rd 5,000 years in the future. It’s believable…it’s interesting…and the questions of what would you do if you were stationed on the ISS and earth was destroyed? how would you survive? what specific characteristics would you choose for your offspring and their offspring if you got to manipulate your DNA for future generations? Seven Eves raises interesting moral dilemmas and causes the reader to wonder how exactly would mankind react if it knew it had approximately 3 years of warning before the earth would be destroyed. Seven Eves isn’t a sci-fi novel insomuch as it is an interesting thought problem about how would mankind react in the event of a monumental disaster that the author, Stephensen, considered and then presented in 900 pages. The story never wavers…the logical thought process never tangents…Stephensen digs in and shows you a realistic approach and then shows you a possible outcome.

Seven Eves could be described as phony…what piece of fiction isn’t? Many argue it doesn’t get more phony than science fiction…except of course for the magic and dragons and hairy midgets of fantasy literature…yet Seven Eves feels more like a long article in National Geographic that is written by a geneticist on meth who also is highly interested in space exploration…and to me that is compliment. Holden Caulfield and Barbarella held my interest as a teen…but it’s authors like Stephensen and his book Seven Eves that make me happy that I’m an adult and capable of appreciating science and technology…regardless of the countless ways Stephensen explained how babies can be made without a male sperm donor….and surprisingly…there are a lot of ways.

Skim Reading the 2015 National Security Strategy

So gather round young warriors now
and saddle up your steeds
Killing scores with demon swords
Now is the death of doers of wrong
Swing the judgment hammer down
Safely inside armor blood guts and sweat – Metallica, “Four Horsemen

One of the first things you learn when writing “academic” papers for the federal government is how to organize content. Unlike, true academic papers…there isn’t necessarily a result or finding…or “truth” that followed extensive research. Instead, numerous federal government “academic” papers are nothing more than extension of politics and used as a policy tool to provide guidance in the best of circumstances…and at a minimum, point of view of the political entity that is releasing the paper.1 Federal “academic” policy papers are organized in a manner that provides the senior writer/researcher an opportunity to provide an succinct “executive” summary or introduction.2 This executive summary/introduction is the true narrative that tells the story of the paper and lays out how the rest of the paper will be organized…not surprisingly, numerous users of these documents quietly grumble and assume that the executive summary is written first…and the rest of the paper is organized and written in a manner to support this up-front narrative.3

With the release of the new National Security Strategy, the Obama Administration has provided its “guidance” and its point of view on how to secure the nation…until the next President is elected. The new President will bring in their own advisers who will in turn shape and mold the National Security Staff4…who will then “research” and release a new strategy. Interestingly, within days of the Obama Administration’s release of the 2015 National Security Strategy, it has been announced that President Obama intends to ask Congress for war powers that will focus on the Middle East and terrorism (primarily ISIS), it will be limited to 3 years, it will authorize the use of ground troops, and it will be geographically-limited. These 3 factors are significant and will be the subject of speculation among the media, national security thinkers, and academia for the next couple of weeks.5

Like all political documents, the new strategy has critics and supporters…naturally this typically falls along party lines. Criticizing and trumpeting a policy document are two of the easiest things to do in DC…you either point out how it is wrong and doesn’t support your point of view; or you show how the document supports your point of view…usually this done in a quick and superficial way that never identifies or discusses the nexus of the strategy with policy. Critics and supporters act…and write…as if the strategy is a standalone document that is neither a development on past strategies nor a document that signals a shift of policy. In other words, anyone can do this with little knowledge of national security or without a holistic view of policy. This last point about holistic policy is the reason so many national security thinkers lament the end of the Cold War…without a single enemy…it is extremely hard to have a Grand Strategy.6

Those of us that take the time to read the strategy fall into three general categories: individuals who work within the national security field (me)7, those that report on national security issues (media), and academia. I label these groups, in order, as craftsmen (using the strategy as a tool), observers (use the strategy as a form of news), and abstract thinkers (use the strategy as way to philosophically think about “security”). Unfortunately all three categories miss important points…and definitely do not take a holistic approach to the reviewing, using, and reporting on the strategy. This post is no different. This is nothing more than a summary of how the strategy is organized and how it reflects the policy goals of the Obama Administration…any other deep thought is internal only.

Quickly…through a couple of readings, and an internal debate…I have found that the organization of the new national security strategy is really the best way to understand it. Up front it is obvious that the primary writers…the National Security Staff…understand U.S. foreign and national security policy through the Terry Deibel lens. Terry Deibel was a professor at the National War College for over three decades, and wrote what we graduates of the college fondly call the “Deibel Bible” on American foreign policy. The new strategy’s table of contents reads like the basic concept of Deibel’s Bible: there are four basic national interests that all nations hope to attain, and will, if successful, attain. These are security, economic prosperity, value protection at home, and value projection abroad. You too can be a successful National War College graduate if you learn and understand this simple foreign policy tenet.

The new national security strategy is written in the manner of Deibel. The second paragraph of the strategy’s introduction identifies the recovering and growing American economy as a focal point…this is the very first point the strategy drives home…all things security-related point to this. Second, the strategy’s first 3 main “chapters” are entitled Security, Prosperity, and Values. The final chapter (other than the Conclusion) is the International Order…like a true Western Liberal Democratic government (not to be confused with the American bastardized definition of “liberal”), the final main point of the strategy is a discussion that resembles a Masters in International Affairs thesis by focussing on the concept of Institutionalism.In a world where America sees itself…along with the vast majority of the other nations…as the global leader, Institutionalism is the way we try to get other nations to follow our lead, and if they don’t…it is the way we use our allies to bring the lost sheep (like Iran) back into the fold.

After the Introduction, the strategy discusses Security. It is here that the following are briefly…and some might argue, superficially…discussed:

  • National Defense;
  • Homeland Security;
  • Terrorism;
  • Prevention of Conflict;
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction;
  • Climate Change;
  • Access to Shared Spaces;9 and
  • Global Health.

Arguably, some of these are what can be categorized as Democratic Party issues, but like all discussions of the post-Cold War world…WMDs, terrorism, defense, and homeland security take center stage.

Following Security, the strategy goes into Prosperity and discusses in order:

  • Economy;
  • Energy Security;
  • Science, Technology, and Innovation;
  • Global Economic Order; and
  • Extreme Poverty.

Like Security, specific political entities have specific views on the economy and what affects it…and how to grow it. Nothing new here move along.

Values is the last main chapter that follows Deibel’s model, and it reads as if Deibel had written it himself…obviously a disciple did:

  • Live Our Values;
  • Equality;
  • Emerging Democracies;
  • Civil Society and Young Leaders; and
  • Mass Atrocities.

Of all the national interests identified by Deibel, “value protection” and “value projection” seem to lead to the most shadowy and grey because the idea of “values” is more personal in nature than say the idea of “national defense.” Agreed there is a discussion on how to execute national defense…or what are the nation’s national defense priorities…but unlike “values”…there is no core debate on what the term means. Not wanting to sound redundant, but values become subjective and each person values the concept of “values” differently.

As noted earlier, the strategy ends with a discussion on international affairs and the idea of Institutionalism. Here the Obama Administration continues to try to pivot toward Asia10…but Europe still drains security thought11…and the constant and bothersome Middle East comes in third…finally, South America is given an obligatory nod.

This simple method of examining how the new National Security Strategy is organized is just one way to determine what the Obama Administration intends to focus on as it completes its second term. As with any “to-do list”…those things at the top receive the majority of resources…and this on the bottom get nothing more than a constant rewriting on the next list…sorry South America, but we will have to get to you later.

Unlike the strategy and its conclusion (which is nothing more than a restating of everything said before it), this blog post has no true conclusion…my organization skills are lacking and the best I can do is say that sometimes my skimming skills (perfected in Tennessee public schools) are proficient enough to allow me to digest a new national security strategy and come away with the feeling that there is nothing really new here. The new national security strategy reads like a laundry list of what the Obama Administrations wants to focus on. How this strategy is interpreted, internalized, and used by others within the government, Congress, and other nations is still something to be seen. Obviously, this strategy is something that us craftsmen, reporters, and academics are consuming. Its real importance is, at best, a matter of conjecture.

1. This is not necessarily a bad thing…national strategies are one of the prime ways a presidential administration informs the government, Congress, the media, and the public of its policy.

2. The President usually signs the first page or at the end of the introduction to show that he “read” the document and agrees that they are responsible for its content. I have no doubt President Obama has read and agrees with this document.

3. Top down management is the hallmark of any large political institution.

4. In 2010, and prior to the release of the last National Security Strategy in that year, President Obama combined the National Security and Homeland Security staffs. Prior to 2010, and since its inception with President George W. Bush’s first administration, the Homeland Security Staff was a separate entity.

5. I am not willing to bet on how successful President Obama will be on this attempt to have Congress grant him these war powers…but it will be interesting to see if these self-imposed limitations on the war powers will be help or hinder its congressional approval.

6. Grand Strategy is the term to identify the nation’s long-term and overarching priorities. Not surprisingly, in the short history of America, there has only been one period that the U.S. had anything as close to a single Grand Strategy and that was the Cold War. Arguably, the modern world with both modern and old issues…and globalization causes strategic thinkers to feel as if there is no unifying factor among all the security issues America faces…this is probably why individuals with ADHD have a hard time as strategists. This is also why the Obama Administration tries so hard at the beginning of this strategy to point so definitively at the economy…if you can’t have a Grand Strategy, you might as well act like you do.

7. Specifically, I focus on national homeland security policy, and generally on how it meets and compliments (or contradicts) with national security policy.

8. Basically for this discussion, Institutionalism (Institutional Theory) is the International Affairs concept that nations will act according to normative standards of the collective group or members of the international order instead of individual needs. The give and take among nations is governed by its participation or non-participation in international orders or institutions, and like individuals…nations give up certain individual interests for collective goals or interests…which is seen as a better long-term option. This of course is a gross oversimplification.

9. “Shared Spaces” is the term given to areas that the world is connected through or shares…such as cyber, space, air, and oceans. The U.S. Air Force calls the air (and probably some ocean) as “The Commons” and even uses the strategic phrase “defending the commons.”

10. Just like General MacArthur had hoped the US would at the beginning of the 20th century. 

11. Thanks Russia.

Leather Suits, Impersonating White People, and Mr. T: Eddie Murphy (and Richard Pryor)

…and this place used to be segregated…now a 22 year-old black man is on stage talking about how big his dick is. – Eddie Murphy, 1983, Delirious, Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall, Washington, DC.

I knew Eddie Murphy wore a red leather suit…a definite 1980s badass look…in 1983 for his stand up comedy concert Delirious because I had the cassette tape…and Eddie was on the cover in the red leather. I, however, never saw Delirious in a theater or on VHS when it came out…yeah back in the day this how you saw these types of comedic stand-up shows…unless you were lucky enough to have HBO…which meant your parents were very open-minded and assumed to be “rich.” I lived out in the “county” on my family’s farm…so HBO…and cable in general were not available. Interestingly, my parents didn’t get cable until I had gone off to college in 1988…which resulted in my parents being two of the most limited cable viewers ever…they had cable but they watched nothing but cowboy movies and TV shows…Gunsmoke was the reason my parents got cable. I did, however, have a cassette tape of Delirious. This cassette of Eddie Murphy’s amazingly funny…and extremely crude show provided me insight into a world where an extremely talented black comedian could say the word “fag” and “faggot” without a bit of worry…in 1983 you could still openly mock homosexuals and you could use the word “faggot” with impunity.

I did not see Eddie Murphy’s Delirious on a television until 1988 when I went to college. By 1987, Eddie Murphy had firmly established himself as an SNL alum and had so much celluloid exposure that there were even bad and unseen Eddie Murphy movies…which unfortunately he continued to make into the 1990s. Seeing Eddie Murphy’s Delirious in 1987 (or 1988…I can’t remember exactly but I am sure I watched it with a beer or six) added a unique perspective to an act that had been nothing more to me than Eddie Murphy’s voice on cassette which alternated between Mr. T, Michael Jackson, Eddie’s dad (who seemed to have a significant drinking problem), and a stereotypical…and angry…black woman. Now Eddie Murphy’s voice was visually-coupled with a younger version that wore a red leather suit…and black shoes that seemed to make the outfit look a little odd. My parents…while watching Gunsmoke…never knew that down the hall their son was listening to a black comedian mocking everything and everyone. After finally seeing Eddie Murphy’s red leather-clad routine…I giggled at the idea of how my very white parents would have gone bat shit crazy if they knew what I was listening to on my boombox.

1983’s Delirious was Eddie Murphy’s second show to make it to VHS…his first show, Eddie Murphy, was filmed a few years earlier when he was a new to Saturday Night Live. To this day, Eddie Murphy is ranked (by fans) as the number 1 SNL actor ever…which makes complete sense considering how the fans of 1970s SNL had moved on to real jobs, retirement planning, and basically becoming husks of their former cool selves, and how every SNL actor since Eddie Murphy has done nothing more than attempt to replicate Eddie Murphy’s comedic and financial success…and have failed miserably.

When Eddie Murphy was touring in 1983 and providing SNL fans his stand-up routine…Eddie Murphy had just finished filming 48 Hours and Trading Places. Couple these two movies with Eddie Murphy’s iconic SNL’s impersonations of Gumby, the Little Rascal’s Buckwheat, and an angry black Mr. Robinson…and you have a very talented young man who was at the beginning of a very exceptional comedic and pop culture career. Interestingly, it wasn’t until recently that I realized that Eddie Murphy had recorded Delirious in Washington, DC, at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall.

I am not sure if Eddie Murphy’s leather suit in his 1987 stand-up movie Raw (filmed 4 years after Delirious) is blue or purple. It is covered in paisleys and has matching shoes…which looks far better than the black ones he wore with the red leather suit in 1983. His hair is cut in what appears to be a Ultramagnetic MCs high-and-tight ‘fro. Eddie is wearing unsnapped racing gloves. In three words…Eddie Murphy is SMOOTH AS SHIT…and unfortunately I had never seen this film until a few week’s ago. Somehow, I had gone from Delirious on cassette to Delirious on VHS (and watched in my college dorm room) to nearly 25 years later…and then one boring evening I decided to watch Raw while eating dinner. Even in 2015, Eddie Murphy’s 1987 show seems unbelievably funny…crazy intelligently funny. Even with dated 1980s pop cultural references, Raw is a fantastic example of how the 1980s was all about looking and acting bigger than one may have actually been…but Eddie Murphy in 1987 wasn’t acting big or rock star-like. Eddie Murphy in 1987 was the MAN…Eddie Murphy had truly reached a pinnacle in his career.

Eddie is so fucking smooth, that the beginning of Raw is a short clip of Eddie as a small boy performing for his family (that includes a very young looking Samuel L. Jackson1) and telling extremely rude jokes that obviously embarrasses his parents…Eddie doesn’t give a fuck. In 1987, Eddie Murphy shows us he has always been an attention freak. This ability to mock himself shows Eddie Murphy’s security in knowing who he is and how he performs. Following this clip is footage of Eddie taking the stage.

Madison Square Garden is packed…surprisingly the director, Robert Townsend,2 inserts shots of fans talking about how much they love Eddie Murphy…these clips show primarily white women gushing their interest in the leather-clad comedian. As soon as these lily-white clips end, Eddie mounts the stage like a rock star. Late-1980s rock/rap instrumental music informs the crowd that pop culture icon is coming out. Eddie is a badass…Eddie knows who the fuck he is…Eddie knows he is on top of the world…Eddie walks out to a darkened…rock show dark…MSG with a grimace…and immediately goes into a piece about avoiding Mr. T at Hollywood parties in the preceding 4 years due to Mr. T’s supposed desire to kick Eddie’s ass for material Eddie used in 1983…basically Eddie Murphy impersonated Mr. T…a gay Mr. T… BA Barackas didn’t think too highly of this I guess.

In 1987, Eddie Murphy had been in 3 big films3 since leaving SNL…Beverly Hills Cop, The Golden Child,4 and Beverly Hills Cop II. Eddie is the top comedian in the world in 1987. Eddie Murphy is shitting pure comedic gold as he struts around the stage mimicking Mr. T, Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, numerous generic white guys, and black women. Impersonation is the first place Eddie begins his routine…and he maintains it in perfect form throughout the whole MSG show.

Eddie Murphy is a rock star in 1987 because Eddie Murphy was a early 1980s rising star (and eventually the star) of SNL…Eddie Murphy had done Trading Places and 48 Hours...Eddie Murphy had rocked Washington, DC, in his Delirious show…and Eddie Murphy did this all because he could impersonate people.

Seeing Delirious and Raw again in 2015 is an endeavor that is full of trepidation and fear of seeing Eddie Murphy as an earnest young man who may be nothing more than a bad version of impersonations he had perfected on SNL. Watching these shows in 2015 had me wondering if I was going to come away from them with the same feeling I get when I see pictures of myself from the fall of 1987 when I was a senior in high school and rocking the worst mullet seen at my high school…the mullet was the official hairstyle of Tennessee in 1987. Seeing pictures of me from the fall of 1987 makes me cringe…my mullet is a sad attempt to look way cooler than I ever was…this mullet is made even worse by the fact that almost every picture of me in 1987 shows me wearing an acid-washed Jordache jean jacket. Watching Delirious and Raw in 2015…when saying “faggot” is completely (and correctly) inappropriate…could have been a horrible trip down memory lane that could have left me feeling as confused as I get when I see my 1987 mullet and jean jacket wearing self…basically I looked like an ugly teen lesbian with horrible fashion sense. I was worried seeing a 1983 and 1987 Eddie Murphy would leave me as embarrassed.

Unbelievably Delirious and Raw stand up to viewing without embarrassment. Instead of me sitting there in front of my TV wondering how I could have found Eddie Murphy funny, I found myself delightfully entertained…and with a sore belly from laughing. I know that mocking homosexuals is wrong…and I am willing to bet Eddie Murphy knows this now too…but fortunately Eddie Murphy’s comedic genius is obvious even though the 22 and 26 year-old Eddie Murphys’ juvenile mocking of homosexuals.

What comes through decades after these shows were filmed is that Eddie Murphy’s talent at impersonation and his ability to exaggerate the common idiocy of famous and generic people is a talent that few other comedians can do. Eddie Murphy’s genius is on par with George Carlin, yet Eddie Murphy doesn’t attack the public in general…which George Carlin perfected and uproariously presented with quick wit and sharp intellect…Eddie Murphy mocks, impersonates, and jokes about specific persons (Mr. T, etc.) or specific characters. Eddie Murphy presented the stereotypical black woman that so many of us knew…or didn’t know but suspected…in such a manner that it becomes obvious that Eddie Murphy isn’t mocking this “typical” black woman…instead Eddie Murphy shows his fear (and respect?) of this woman. Mrs. Murphy, Eddie’s mom, was a woman that all of us learned to fear…especially her gunslinger ability to hit her kids with her thrown shoe…and Mrs. Murphy became the foundation for the stereotypical black woman character that Eddie Murphy perfected.

Arguably, Eddie Murphy in Raw has matured…or at least participated in relationships with a few women…when he took the stage in 1987. In Raw, Eddie Murphy attempts to tackle male-female relationships in a way that is both insightful and obvious. True comedic genius is shown through the ability to take the ordinary and experienced and turn into a comedy monologue that not only portrays the truth…but expands the truth to the point of the humorously accurate.

Eddie Murphy has moved on and nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Dreamgirls in 2007. Like the rest of us, Eddie Murphy has moved away from the 1980s and grown up a bit. Eddie Murphy has had a successful career that built easily upon SNL, tons of buddy films like Beverly Hills Cop, and Delirious and Raw. As obvious as Eddie Murphy’s taste in leather suits changed, matured, and developed…from obnoxious red to glamorous and badass purple/blue…it is also obvious that the 1983 Delirious Eddie Murphy had transformed into a little bit older 1987 Raw Eddie Murphy who bounded the MSG stage in complete badassness. Eddie Murphy was a rock star in 1987…in 1987 he was Guns-n-Roses…in 1983 he was Ratt (or pre-Theater of Pain Motley Crue)…in the four years between 1983 and 1987, Eddie Murphy had grown from an up-coming shock rock band to a full-fledged genre-busting megaband. Like another 1980’s Eddie of iconic stature,5 Eddie Murphy had come of age.

I can’t really comment on Eddie Murphy’s fashion sense…again I was the 17 year-old sporting the mullet and Jordache jean jacket when Eddie Murphy was bounding the MSG stage in purple/blue leather. I can, however, state that aside from realizing that “faggot” is completely unacceptable, Eddie Murphy’s comedy is still something to be seen with wonderment. Go back and watch any number of other comics who took the stage in the 1980s and you will be hard pressed to find no more than a handful that were not only funny then…but funny now. Eddie Murphy excelled at bringing a Richard Pryor-type routine6 to a primarily white audience. Eddie Murphy not only made it acceptable to laugh at the unacceptable through his use of words like “faggot,” Eddie Murphy had made it acceptable to laugh at a black man impersonating a black woman…which now is so common place that the word “Madea” immediately makes us think of boring comedy that has become the Hollywood norm. Eddie Murphy had brought a type of comedy that had not been fully integrated into the full American comedy show fan base that used cable as the means to widen their view of the world. Eddie Murphy truly made a difference.

*Note: Since writing this…but not editing it…if you call me skim-reading it as “editing”…I have seen Richard Pryor’s Live and Smokin’. This is the first time Richard Pryor was filmed on stage doing “comedy.” It is 1971 and filmed at The Improvisation Club in New York. “Jarring” is what best describes my initial reaction to Richard Pryor’s “routine.” Richard Pryor had no routine planned…instead he had a list of things he was going to talk about. This show begins with Richard Pryor talking about how it was a bad day to be filming a show because he hadn’t done any coke previous to the show. Couple this with how casually Richard Pryor lights a cigarette with a match…which he just drops to the floor after lighting his smoke, and what you have is the true view of what Richard Pryor did for black comedians. Redd Foxx may have been doing dirty jokes…but only black people were listening to him. Richard Pryor, in 1971, is obviously in front of a primarily white audience…even though you never see any member of the audience…and Richard Pryor isn’t so much as telling jokes as much as he is speaking the “truth” as he saw it. Richard Pryor openly mocks the white audience…and they respond as you imagined white people would respond to a black guy mocking them in 1971. There is nervous laughter…there are a few boos…and (most importantly) you hear very little real laughter. This crowd did not find Richard Pryor and his mocking of whites funny. Especially jarring was the way that Richard Pryor actually looks and acts a little hesitant or embarrassed to be there…it is almost as if he knew he was crossing a line…he was being the first black to openly mock whites…in front of whites.

When Richard Pryor crossed that line…he completely goes way over that line. Richard Pryor admits to loving white people…because he likes to “fuck white big-titted blondes” and that he has sucked dick…and then when silence follows he asks the crowd “none of you have sucked dicks before?” This is obviously a first…Richard Pryor had gone where no one had gone before in front of white audiences. Interestingly, the more I watched the more I realized that Richard Pryor wasn’t embarrassed or hesitant…Richard Pryor was purposefully working the crowd…Richard Pryor was saying shit that needed to said…and he knew that the full effect would only be felt if it was slowly and softly presented. Richard Pryor’s impersonation of white guys is spot on…and no one in the audience was ready to laugh at it…again, Live and Smokin’ isn’t a comedy routine…Live and Smokin’ is a black man saying things that needed to be said. When Richard Pryor says “I’m not black, I am Puerto Rican. I tried that negro thing for 23 years and realized it had no upward mobility…” Richard Pryor is ripping a gauze or film off of 1971 race relations.

At the end, I realized Richard Pryor laid the ground work for Eddie Murphy. In 1971, Richard Pryor doesn’t get a laugh when he impersonates whites…but 12 years later Eddie Murphy gets a roar of laughter for it. Eddie Murphy’s quote at the beginning says it all…once we were a segregated nation…then Richard Pryor began (in 1971) talking about fucking white women and this laid the foundation for a 1983 Eddie Murphy to talk about how whites think black guys have big dicks. As crude or base this may seem…this is what progress looks like.

1. Samuel L. Jackson plays Eddie’s uncle and is definitely the most fly muthafucka in the living room…SLJ finds Eddie’s routine unbelievably funny.

2. Robert Townsend is an African-American which makes the primarily white fans in the intro clips even more interestingly odd.

3. Eddie Murphy had also been in Best Defense which is obviously a movie none of us had ever heard of.

4. The Golden Child is a movie I remember to this day and contains one of my favorite comedy scenes…one which I still quote to this day.

5. Eddie Van Halen turned from axe grinder in a skirt-chasing band that was overshadowed by megalomaniac frontman…to aging virtuoso that still is recognized as one of the greatest guitarist of all times. If that isn’t enough to establish Eddie Van Halen’s bono fides, then the mere mention of his marriage to (and eventual divorce from) Valerie Bertinelli…who was probably every 1980’s teen boy’s first lust…should seal the deal. 

6. Richard Pryor was one of Eddie Murphy’s influences…and even though Richard Pryor had gotten some commercial crossover success with such terrible roles as the one he had in one of the Superman movies…but Richard Pryor’s comedy albums and shows were still sort of off-limits to white audiences in the 1980s. It would take the advent of Blockbuster and later Netflix to bring Richard Pryor to white America’s attention…and by then he was either not touring or was dead.