THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Getting Revenge on Howard Fineman for Stealing My Idea: The Musical

Shame on You, Mr. Fineman
A one-act musical written after discovering that Howard Fineman, Newsweek's Chief Political Correspondent, Senior Editor, and Deputy Washington Bureau Chief, had shamelessly stolen from my Unfit story from Sept. 28, "UNFIT for an Uncomplicated Strategy" (in which I postulate that Barack Obama is employing a rope-a-dope strategy to win the debate over health care reform), for his MSNBC editorial from Oct. 7, "Obama Channels Ali in Health Care Prize Fight" (in which he postulates that Barack Obama is employing a rope-a-dope strategy to win the debate over health care reform).

(Scene: A small cluttered home office in Austin, Texas.
A YOUNG MAN sits at his desk, staring at a photograph of Howard Fineman. His mouth is open, his eyes are filled with tears, the palms of his hands are turned heavenward in a pose of infinite pain and disappointment. He has no pants on. On the wall behind him hangs a poster with the words "Ethics of Journalism" written in enormous type. A MALE CHORUS sits around him, wearing fedoras and trench coats. They each hold a pad of paper in one hand and a pencil in the other. A slow dirge plays in the background, like something you'd hear at Yom Kippur services.)

YOUNG MAN (Speaking to the photograph): I can't believe you did this to me. After all those hours I spent listening to you talk about the Iraq War. Fineman!

MALE CHORUS (Chanting soberly): Fineman! Fineman! Fineman!

YOUNG MAN: After I defended your position on the political viability of a public option to my friends. Like a fool! Fineman!

MALE CHORUS (Still chanting soberly): Fineman! Fineman! Fineman!

YOUNG MAN (Getting more agitated): After all that time I devoted to reading your damn columns. How could you do this to me? Fineman!

MALE CHORUS (Their chanting becomes more excitable with each word, as the music starts to build in intensity, volume, and rhythm): Fineman! Fineman! Fineman! Fineman! Fineman! Fineman! Fineman! Fineman! Fineman! Fineman! Fineman! Fineman! Fineman!

YOUNG MAN (Jumping to his feet and clutching the photo to his chest, he lets out a mighty wail): Oh, Fiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnemaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnn!!!!!

(The music transforms into an uptempo jaunt, complete with tambourines and trumpets. The YOUNG MAN leaps onto his desk. The MALE CHORUS jump from their chairs and gather around him, pencils and pads out, as if taking notes at a news conference. Ripping the photo to shreds and throwing them around the room like confetti, the YOUNG MAN begins to sing.)

"I'm Indignant!"

YOUNG MAN:

Oh, Fineman!

MALE CHORUS:

Fineman!

YOUNG MAN:

Though your name rings out at MSNBC
As a man of ethical pedigree,
With your degree in Journalism from Columbia,
Still I'll tell everyone from here to Northumbria
About your sinister reportorial calumny.
You stole from me!

MALE CHORUS:

You stole from him, you really did,
Oh, Mr. Fineman!

YOUNG MAN:

I am just a simple sort of man
I try to write the best I can
Then you come along with your Newsweek magazine
And distort my theory with your glossy sheen
Stealing from Unfit ... what kind of man?!
You stole from me!

MALE CHORUS:

Stop, thief! Stop, thief! Stop, thief!
Oh, Mr. Fineman, you devil, you!

YOUNG MAN:

First I wrote, "Obama rope-a-dopes"
Then you replied, "Obama rope-a-dopes"
Then I wrote, "Health care's on the way"
And you type, "Should be here any day"
You stole from me!
I'm indignant! Indignant, I say! And I demand satisfaction!

MALE CHORUS (Bending over and putting their hands on their knees, they whisper in time to the music, which is more subdued now.):

He's indignant. Indignant. And he demands satisfaction.
He's indignant. Indignant. And he demands satisfaction.

YOUNG MAN (Turning to his computer, he reads from the screen): Look at this here: I wrote, "Now any Republicans who continued screaming and shouting about the danger the president's health care plan posed to America's social fabric would come off looking petty: They would be representatives of the 'party of no,' disagreeing just to be disagreeable in a time when insurance premiums kept rising, more and more Americans were losing their coverage, and the economy was sinking deeper into the tank." And then you wrote, "The GOP and the Blue Dogs risk being accused of mere obstructionism on what everyone agrees -- after listening to all the talk in recent months -- is a deadly serious social and fiscal problem." (He throws his hands in the air and shakes them like a preacher at an old-time revival church.) Indignant!

MALE CHORUS: (Doing the same): Indignant!

(While the MALE CHORUS continues their chanting, the YOUNG MAN returns to reading aloud.)

YOUNG MAN: Let's see, let's see. Ahh, here we go: "Then you sit back and let people get used to the good that can come from government involvement in the health care industry - the reduced premiums, the fixed prices, the guaranteed coverage. " That's me. Now you: "But the drawn out process also has underscored the depth and seriousness of the problem. Few now would dispute the basic idea that we are spending too much money for not enough good, sensible health care." (Hands in the air) Indignant!

MALE CHORUS (Throwing their hands up): Indignant! (They resume their chant.)

YOUNG MAN: Okay, let's see. Right, right, right. Not that. Ahh, yes. (Clearing his throat like an orator) Me: "Now you have to get some version of health care reform passed (not a perfect bill, of course, but one that speaks to the issues you find most pressing), finding common ground among Democrats both left and centrist while leaving Republicans out in the wilderness, now both blindly contrarian and powerless." And, once more, Mr. Fineman: "Turning the enterprise over to Congress has made for an agonizing process, but I get the sense that his Republican enemies and Blue Dog doubters may be on the verge of punching themselves out." Indignant, I say!!!!

MALE CHORUS (Jumping up and down like the newly converted): Indignant!

(The music grows even more intense, still rhythmic but now vaguely atonal and primordial, like the climax of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." The YOUNG MAN points to a chalkboard on which are written the words "My Revenge." He sings and kicks his legs furiously while the MALE CHORUS freezes in a tableau of fear and amazement.)

"Vengeance"

YOUNG MAN (Singing):

Here, sir, is what I plan to do
To exact my sweet revenge on you:
First things first, go to your house,
Find your laptop, grab your mouse,
With fervent animosity
Search your browser history
Prove that you've been to my site,
Vindication! Sweet delight!
Then put back on my shoes and socks
And take that laptop straight to Fox
Just in time for Hannity's show.
And then, my friend, the world will know
That Fineman is a plagiarist
A stinkin', low-down copyist,
Who read my piece and liked it so
He thought the whole wide world should know,
But better, he thought, to come from he
'Cause no one's ever heard of me.
Ha! Ha! Ha!

MALE CHORUS:

Ha! Ha! Ha!

(The YOUNG MAN considers for a moment.)

YOUNG MAN:

Then again, that may be true.
Who's heard my name? Not you or you?
I mean, who am I to say what's right?
This might drive traffic to my site.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Howard Fineman, steal away!
We've got new stories everyday.
"When you get too drunk to write
Visit Unfit Times. We'll treat you right!"

(The YOUNG MAN and the MALE CHORUS spin wildly about the room, arms interlocked, as the music turns into a swinging, lewd burlesque number with crashing cymbals and wailing trombones. 15 VOLUPTUOUS FEMALE DANCERS come dancing onstage in a line, waving fans and winking suggestively to the audience. Balloons fall from the rafters. As the music climaxes, a nude HOWARD FINEMAN appears from offstage with a notebook in his hand to run around the stage copying from the notebooks of the MALE CHORUS.)

ALL (Singing):

Steal your stories here at Unfit Times!!!

(Exeunt.)