Friday, November 30, 2012

Food Fight

I have followed without interest the debate over the censure on Facebook of photos depicting a new mother breast feeding her child.  This natural act of feeding an infant was deemed too salacious by the Facebook police and taken down, then reinstated in a fit of common sense, and then removed again.  That’s what I gather from not following the story at all.  In modern America, seeing Dennis Frantz’ bare buttocks on NYPD Blue during prime time hours on network television was an expression of artistic freedom.  Some lady sharing a moment of non-sexual intimacy with her newborn is porn.

I understand the corporate concern.  Allowing a woman to share her digital breast with her circle of friends on the family website Facebook could cause involuntary arousal across the world.  When you glorify breastfeeding in this manner, you are encouraging a weakening of the moral fiber of the unsuspecting viewer.  Kids will think breastfeeding is cool, and this will lead to promiscuity and unprotected relations.  When mommy’s boob is on Facebook, how can sexting be wrong?  In this context, the banning of breastfeeding photos makes perfect sense.  It’s for our own good.

Of course, functional privacy settings would solve this problem, but that’s for another day. 
I think we should ban these pictures from Facebook.  My rationale for the ban goes beyond some momentary perverse turn on (for others, not me).  I think there is a larger issue.  These lactation photos offer tactic approval of the posting of even more photos of people’s food, and frankly, I’m full.

Facebook is clearly conflicted about its own policies regarding the posting of food products on the timeline and associated eating imagery in general.  I find this odd.  If breastfeeding is inappropriate for the squeaky clean social media site, then perhaps all images of food should be banned.  I believe this would be less controversial than attacking a proud lactating mother with an itchy camera finger.  I mean, would we miss the action shots of Uncle Jimmy’s latest baking creation or the artistic photo of your high school prom date’s sushi platter (at least I hope that’s sushi, but with Photoshop, we’ll never really be sure)?

Ban food photos and breastfeeding pictures will go away.  Problem solved.

The proliferation of food pictures on Facebook should be alarming to anyone who has spent valuable time on the Internet looking at your cousin’s dinner table on Thanksgiving, or the round of drinks served at your neighbor’s friend’s in-law’s after work happy hour, or the 3 alarm chili at your former work associate’s Redskins’ tailgate party.  It’s hard enough keeping up with your friend’s friend’s work out status and your sister’s bottomless pile of weekend laundry.   Time spent looking at someone else’s food and eating habits could be better devoted to telling others about the cute thing your kid said in the bathtub and the summary diagnosis of your chronic thyroid condition that makes you a bit jittery in the mornings.  You know, the big stuff.

So Facebook, save us all from the potential of accidental titillation from looking at a mother suckling her baby.  And while you’re at it, save us from all the other food and food related postings that show food we cannot smell or taste or fondle.  It clutters our minds and distracts us from what really matters.

The video of that Korean guy who dances and raps. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

On the Menu: Humble Pie

Elections have consequences, and today, Mitt Romney had to face those consequences by breaking bread with the man he spent 4 years disparaging, mocking and insulting.  This is Mike Tyson having breakfast with Evander Holyfield the morning after Tyson had Holyfield’s ear for dinner.  This is Grant inviting Lee over to his place after Appomattox for some fried crow.  This is John McCain sharing a plate of nachos with Susan Rice.  To the victor goes the spoils and Obama should relish his meal as much as Romney chokes on his. 

In the civil society of the 21st century, you cannot exile the vanquished opponent to an uninhabited island in the Pacific (Mitt’s own party will handle that task) but you can force him to come to your house and watch you bask in the glory of victory.  Talk about your Walk of Shame.  For Mitt, this had to be the Lunch from Hell.  In fact, I know it was based on the leaked transscript that MSRP was able to gather:

Mitt:  Thank you, Mr. President, for inviting me to your home this afternoon. (extends his hand towards Obama)

Obama:  (stepping back) Whoa, are you threatening me, Mitt?  Guards, SWARM!  Ah, just messin’ with you, Mitt.  But you will have to remove your shoes.

Mitt:  Excuse me?

Obama:  All Republicans upon entering my house must remove their shoes.  After the sh*t you guys waded in throughout the primaries, Lord knows what you might be tracking.  Besides, it’s an ancient anti-colonial Kenyan custom I read about.  (pauses)  I’m serious.  Guards, help Mitt with his shoes.

Mitt:  No, no.  I’ll take them off.  (looking around)  You have a lovely home, sir.

Obama:  Thanks.  Thinking about painting the outside a different color for my 2nd term.  I’m not feeling the white much anymore, you know?  Apparently, they’re not feeling me much either.

Mitt:  I guess that would be up to you, sir.

Obama:  Damn right answer, Mitt.  It would be up to me, wouldn’t it? (gesturing to a package in Mitt’s hand) Is that for me?

Mitt:  Yes, sir, just a small token gift.

Obama:  Did you say ‘token’?

Mitt: No, sir.  Sorry, sir.

Obama:  Gift, huh?  Guards, soak this in a bucket of water just in case.   Ah, just messin’ with you, Mitt.   Thanks.  You know, if you had handed out more gifts like I did in the campaign, you might be hosting lunch today, you know what I’m sayin’?

Mitt:  Yes, sir, I do.

Obama:  Where are my manners?  You’d think I was raised in an African village (he winks).  May I offer you something to drink?  We have coffee, Red Bull or beer.

Mitt:  I’m sorry, Mr. President.  I do not drink caffeinated beverages, hot beverages or alcoholic beverages.

Obama:  Oh?  No wonder your likeability scores were so low.  You might want to reconsider.  Hillary did whiskey shots with some rednecks in Pennsylvania and kicked my ass in that ’08 primary.  Too late for you, I guess.  OK, you’ll go thirsty then.  You hungry, Mitt?

Mitt:  Yes, sir.

Obama:  Good.  In your honor, we’ve cooked up something special.  Michelle thought I should make you eat your words, but I wanted to be kinder and gentler.  Hope you like Mexican.  We know you don’t like Mexicans, but figured you’d be OK with their food.

Mitt:  Sir, that was a campaign myth.  I do like Mexicans.  I’ve hired hundreds throughout my career.

Obama:  “Hired”?  Don’t you mean “fired”?  Ah, just messin’ with you, Mitt.

Mitt:  Sorry, sir.  I’m a bit on edge these days.  My friends have abandoned me lately.

Obama:  Chill out, Mitt.  You don’t need to be so sensitive anymore.  No one is watching you – trust me.  By the way, I took the liberty of inviting the White House videographer to record this historic lunch between us.  He’s set up a cell phone behind my bust of Stalin so we won’t be distracted.  Try to act natural.

Mitt:  I will try, sir.

Obama:  Hey, after lunch, I’m setting up a 5 on 5 full court game on my White House basketball court, which by the way, I did build.  You’ll be captain of the Skins team.  I’ll be captain of the Shirts.  Hope you’ve been working out.

Mitt:  I don’t really play basketball, sir.

Obama:  Well, had you won, we’d be playing polo, but as it turns out, you’ll be shooting hoops today.  Sucks to be you, huh, Mitt?

Mitt:  Yes, sir.

Obama:  Picked you out some vintage John Stockton shorts, too.  He played for Utah.  Thought you’d like that.

Mitt:  Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.

Obama:  I should warn you that the Secret Service has orders to shoot to kill if you try coming down the lane against me.   Ah, just messin’ with you Mitt.

Mitt:  Good one, sir.

Obama:  Maybe after the game, we’ll go chat with the press and you can tell them how gracious I was and how bipartisan I was.  You can do that, can’t you, Mitt? 

Mitt:  Well, sir…

Obama:  Be a shame if your old tax returns ‘accidentally’ ended up on HuffPost, wouldn’t it?  Now, what were you saying?

Mitt:  Be happy to, sir.

Obama:  Mention the healthy lunch menu and I’ll see that you get to keep a deduction or two.  How’s that sound?

Mitt:  Very gracious, thank you, sir.

Obama:  Kinda ironic, isn’t it, Mitt?  I eat your lunch on Election Day, and now you have to come here and eat my lunch.  You see the irony, don’t you, Mitt?

Mitt:  Yes, sir.

Obama:  See how nice this is?  Have a beer, Mitt.  Lighten up.  There’s always 2016…NOT!  Ah, just messin’ with you Mitt.  I wonder if Christie likes Mexican.

Elections have consequences and one of them is apparently a loss of appetite for poor Mitt.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jet Division

Much has been made of how the current political climate in this country has strained personal relationships and ended some friendships.  Friends have de-friended friends on Facebook, a woman in Arizona ran over her husband with the family car for voting for the “other guy”, and John McCain won’t take calls from Joe Lieberman anymore.  I think it is fair to say that overheated man-made rhetoric is the cause of this political climate change and left unchecked, the warm atmosphere will destroy the planet.  OK, maybe just Washington, DC.

Unfortunately, the vitriolic environment has spread beyond Washington and the effects of this dangerous hot air are infecting the world of professional sports.  New York Jets’ fans can’t even get along anymore.

In the first of many unintended consequences from the heated political climate, the climate at Jets’ game is now too hot for its most ardent fan. 

Superfan Fireman Ed, the man who led the home crowd with his famous "J-E-T-S!" cheer, has left the building.  After 37 years cheering in vain for the Jets to return to their Super Bowl III glory, Ed Anzalone has hung up his fireman’s helmet and Mark Sanchez jersey, and he will now attend home games in the traditional fan uniform of khaki colored plain front Dockers and winter parka.  Things have gotten too hot for Ed at the stadium.

Anzalone wrote in a guest column for Metro New York that the Tebow-Sanchez quarterback debate in NY, much like the political debate over the resolution of the fiscal cliff issue in DC, has caused the rhetoric to grow too hot.  Climate change is spreading north. 

Fireman Ed explained that, "The stadium has become divided because of the quarterback controversy. The fact that I chose to wear a Mark Sanchez jersey this year, and that fans think I am on the payroll -- which is an outright lie -- have made these confrontations more frequent. Whether it's in the stands, the bathroom or the parking lot, these confrontations are happening on a consistent basis."

He added that "confrontations with other Jets fans have become more common, even though most Jets fans are fantastic."

MetLife Stadium, or Giants Stadium before it, or Shea before it, were always inhospitable places for visiting fans and for those male fans who took too long at the urinal during the halftime break.  The verbal abuse that would rein down upon these individuals would be colorful and specific.  But for the most part, Jet fans were pleasant enough to each other, having shared in the pain of watching Richard Todd try to scramble and Al Groh try to coach.  Fireman Ed should have been a protected species in this ecosystem.  Instead, he became endangered.

As a nation, we have always loved a good argument, from the Continental Congress fights over independence to the Coke vs. Pepsi debates of the 20th century.  Arguing is part of what makes us exceptional (at least in New Jersey).  It does seem that we have crossed a line when the Number One Jets’ fan in America can no longer tolerate the taunts and insults from the Sanchez haters and the Tebow lovers around him.  It is a shame when Fireman Ed must publicly de-friend Jets Nation.

Economics writer Bruce Bartlett, who worked in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and held very visible posts at the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, has also felt the need to stop publicly cheering for the team of his youth.  Just as Fireman Ed wore Sanchez on his back as a sign of support, Bartlett expressed his support for ideas not fully embraced by the rest of the conservative fan base and has suffered as a result. 

In The American Conservative, Bartlett writes of his conservative exile:

I’ve paid a heavy price, both personal and financial, for my evolution from comfortably within the Republican Party and conservative movement to a less than comfortable position somewhere on the center-left. Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me. When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.

For Fireman Ed’s sake, I hope Mark Sanchez turns it around and people start asking for Ed’s cheers again.  When that day comes, I will know that Jets’ fans are on the road to recovery.  For Bruce Bartlett’s sake, I hope conservatives realize that it is their positions on the issues that need to be revisited, not just their marketing strategies for those positions.

The social climate will remain hot and friendships will be tested by political affiliations and sports team loyalties.  Yankee fans and Red Sox fans will always hate one another, just as liberals and conservatives would be happy without one another.  I have to ask the question however – can’t we all just get along?

Fireman Ed retains his optimism, a prerequisite for becoming a Jets’ fan:

"I have enjoyed my time in chanting the greatest chant in all of sports. I have enjoyed meeting all the wonderful Jets fans around the world and look forward to the day we all can raise the Lombardi Trophy as one and celebrate a world championship down the Canyon of Heroes."

May we all be so optimistic…and friendly.

Monday, November 26, 2012


I won a Kindle.  Now what?

I have been eyeing those electronic reading devices for quite some time but have always resisted because of a predisposition towards paper books.   Paper books have shiny covers that announce to the world of passersby how well read you are.  They collect on the shelves of your home like participation trophies in a house league academic competition.   “Yeah, I read that.  500 pages dude.  And I understood it.”  Translation – I am the World’s Most Interesting Man.  When engrossed in an e-reader, you could be indulging in Tolstoy or Keats, or surfing for pictures of cars in unusual places.  One will never know.  I want people to know.

I might have been more tempted to purchase my own e-reader years ago if my work schedule required more airplane travel.  Lugging three hard cover books from the library in my carry-on luggage is a back breaking exercise.  Carrying the equivalent of three hard covers books on one medium sized device with adjustable font size sounds less painful.  Less painful sounds more my speed with every passing year.

Despite my love of the ancient art of printing words on paper, I was excited to win my new Kindle.  I wanted to tell the world and started with another less fortunate attendee at the event.  I let him feel my enthusiasm for winning (which by comparison meant my enthusiasm for his NOT winning) and told him about all of my hope and dreams with my new space age device.  I will download books from the library.  I will read without my glasses.  I will be a member of modern society and not a relic of some lost civilization of paper book readers.
He tempered my enthusiasm with his congratulations to me:  “That’s great, Joe.  Welcome to 2005.”

That retort stung.  It stung so much that my Kindle sat unopened for about 3 weeks.  I was intimidated.  I was no longer deserving of this ticket to the future of reading.  Maybe I wasn’t ready for the 21st century.  Maybe I am destined to remain a prisoner of printed words in fonts that grow progressively smaller.  Maybe I am not the World’s Most Interesting Man, but instead the World’s Most Antiquated Curmudgeon.  Maybe I really am Larry David.  Is there a gift receipt in the box, I wonder? 
This weekend, I pushed beyond my limits and opened the box.  I will configure this device and I will read on a screen for pleasure.  I will do this without my children explaining the Kindle functionality in their condescending text language filled with confusing acronyms. 
The Kindle set up was so easy, even an adult could do it.  Once I got past the frustration of having to enter our wifi password 5 times before the system recognized it – it was NOT user error - I was in full control of my new toy.  Turning pages was a revelation.  Surfing the Amazon bookstore was a breeze.  I even downloaded my first book without assistance from my skeptical children.  I am now the proud owner of a free copy of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, required reading in 11th grade AP English.

Truth be told, we already own the paperback version and it is light enough to carry on an airplane without toting along a power cord.  The paperback cover proudly advertises to all the other passengers that I choose to read the classics.  I didn’t really need another gigabyte version of the book but it was a way to dip my toes into the digital waters.  

It’s been 3 days, and at this point, I can’t see how my life has changed for the better.  I should have known that any electronic device without a lower case letter ‘i’ in front of it had no hope of changing my life.  I own a functioning Kindle but I am the same man I was yesterday.  I do look forward to reading my new/old book on a flat glare-proof screen however, even if the book itself is a bit dated.  Clearly, so am I.

Welcome to 2005.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Black Friday Conspiracy

Senator John McCain took to the airwaves today demanding answers from the Obama administration regarding what he referred to as a “coordinated terrorist attack” on the nation’s retailers that took place on Thursday evening, November 22nd. 

On the evening of November 22nd, Thanksgiving night in America, a rash of violence erupted across the country, centered on big box retailers.  Initial reports from the administration blamed the violence on a reaction to videos advertising huge discounts and special sales at stores across the country.  Later, it admitted that the crush of holiday shoppers and subsequent violence was coordinated and premediated.  Sen. McCain believes that Obama is responsible for deliberately misleading the public, and has called for congressional hearings. 

The violence was widespread.
  • In San Antonio, Texas, the San Antonio Express-News reported that one man waiting for a store to open began cutting in line and ultimately punched another man. The man he punched allegedly pulled a gun on him, and a witness said the assailant hid behind a refrigerator before fleeing the store.
  • In Altamonte Springs, Fla., police said they warned Samantha Chavez several times to wait her turn while she continued to cut in line. When officers attempted to usher her out of the store, WKMG Local 6 reported that Chavez began screaming and throwing merchandise that she had originally intended to purchase.
  • In Sacramento, California, Kmart store workers began distributing vouchers to the hundreds of people in line but some in the crowd grew unruly and began shouting obscenities.  A man in the crowd threatened to stab others, the Los Angeles Times reported. 
  • In Santa Monica, Calif., the Los Angeles Times reported that eager shoppers surged into an Urban Outfitters store, breaking the 12-foot tall door and injuring at least five people.
Sen. McCain wants answers from the administration about the senseless Black Friday attacks that he says could have been prevented.  “What are they hiding?”

McCain said, “More than three days after the Black Friday attacks, there are still many unanswered questions…while we await the findings and recommendations of the administration’s internal review of the attacks, it’s essential for the Congress to conduct its own independent assessment.”

McCain’s outrage towards the administration was centered around U.N. Ambassador, Susan Rice, thought to be a possible replacement for outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  McCain said he will not let Rice’s nomination for Secretary of State move forward “until he gets answers”.  Rice had said on the Sunday talk show circuit that the holiday shopping violence was a result of videos depicting Santa buying presents for good little children, and did not mention a possible connection to the Occupy Best Buy movement and its loyalists.  For McCain, this is disqualifying.

“I’m curious why she has not repudiated those remarks,” McCain told Bob Schieffer. “On this show, the CEO of Best Buy and other major retailers said it was coordinated and planned for months.”

How could Rice make amends, and prevent the shrunken Republican minority from filibustering a possible nomination for Secretary of State, he was asked? “Maybe she could start out by publicly coming back on this show and saying, ‘I was wrong, I gave the wrong information on your show some several weeks ago.’ That might be a beginning.”

Other Republicans wanted assurances that shopping was safe and that nation’s retailers had taken precautions to stem the ritualistic violence that took place on Thanksgiving evening.

McCain’s fellow Republican and BFF, Sen. Lindsay Graham, focused his attention on the administration’s strategy to insure the safety of future shoppers. 

“The attacks took place on the anniversary of last year’s attacks on stores in this country, and it is outrageous and the height of irresponsibility that Obama and his henchmen did not see this coming.  Our intelligence services are already warning us about the threat of a Cyber Monday attack, and we want to know what precautions this President has put into place to protect the nation’s infrastructure.”

Polls show that Americans are closely divided, with 48% blaming President Obama for everything bad that happens, and 51% believing that the other 48% had lost all touch with reality.  1% is still in a turkey induced coma, and is not expected to recover.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Channeling Fear

As evidenced by the ascent of the Age of The Walking Dead and Saw XXIV, we Americans have become increasingly immune to fear.  It takes more and more outrageous scenes of death, destruction, torture and an 8 year Obama administration to activate our flight reflexes.  We do not cover our eyes or run away as readily as we used to back when White Men ruled the world.  Things just seemed safer back then, at least if you watched Fox News with any regularity.

Now that the scary black man and his Black Panther Party thugs have stolen the election from Clint Eastwood, Fox News has turns its "journalists" back to other scary aspects of modern society, all no doubt caused, linked or exacerbated by the events of Benghazi 2012.   This video compilation from recent Fox News broadcasts highlights how often we must be inundated with scary images in order to infect the body politic with the proper instinct to run, or secede, from reasoned thinking.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  Oh, and Happy Holidays. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Name Your Turkey

It is a Washington tradition to pardon one turkey on the day before Thanksgiving.  The President decrees that one turkey will survive the next day feast.  Of course, that also means that all other turkeys are fair game and stand an excellent chance of becoming dinner, then leftovers, soup and sandwiches.  Happy Thanksgiving to the humans; turkeys – not so much.

We have a Thanksgiving family tradition on my wife’s side.  We give a name to the sacrificial dinner turkey.  We don’t select random names like Tom or Tim.  We are a bit more creative and vindictive than that.  We name the cooked bird after a person or persons who during the past year represented a real live turkey in our lives.  In previous years, the turkey has been named after political figures (like a certain slow-witted former President), sports personalities (Pete Rose comes to mind), or someone closer like a work associate or (gasp) an absent family member (but never you, if you are reading this).  Sharing your name with the Thanksgiving turkey is not an honor.  You get carved, gutted and fed to the masses until they fall asleep with dried pieces of your flesh caught between their teeth.  Not pretty and not complimentary.

A poll of my loyal readership might reveal a reverse trend from election day – 51% voting for a turkey named Romney and 48% voting for an Obama turkey (1% Gary Johnson I assume).  But that’s too predictable so soon after the election.  I can do better than that.

A few options that I will place in nomination before dinner is served:

Lance Armstrong:  Not since Jerry Seinfeld’s friend Gary on Seinfeld (played by Jon Lovitz) pretended to have cancer to earn sympathy and a free hairpiece has anyone been doubted as much as Lance Armstrong.  As of this writing, no one is claiming that Lance did not have cancer at one time, but given his challenges with the truth about PEDs, it might only be a matter of time.  I think I’ll stop watching cycling on TV.  That will send a message.

Gary Bettman:  Known among hockey fans as The Anti-Architect, he successfully expanded the National Hockey League as part of a diabolical plan to ultimately destroy it.  The NHL Commissioner now has 4 work stoppages, including a year-long season cancellation, on his resume and he is ready to add one more lost season to the list of anti-accomplishments.  I would say that he sucks, but that would be giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Pollsters:  The profession of “pollster” could not be less admired than it is today after the epic failure of the entire industry in 2012.  That might be unfair.  Democratic leaning pollsters, with their biases and their preconceived notions based on a secret love of Obama and socialism, predicted the eventual reality with startling accuracy.  Both Democratic and Republican leaning pollsters share one thing however – we have blocked their phone numbers.  No one wants to take their calls anymore, at least for another 4 years.  My fellow swing staters know what I’m talkin’ about.

Whoever Decided that Adding Tim Tebow to the Jets was a Smart Football Decision:  Tim Tebow is the most discussed second string football player in the history of the game.  No one questions his talent or his faith, but both qualities will be better showcased behind a podium on the public speaking circuit than on the football field.  The Jets don’t need a charismatic special teams decoy.  They need…everything else.

Mother Nature:  As an alumnus of the Jersey shore, I take her unprovoked attack of my homeland’s boardwalks and arcades personally.  Hey Sandy, you got a problem wit me? You wanna piece of me?  Mother Nature gets more aggressive every year, but I should probably vote instead for climate change deniers…but I don’t need an argument on the merits of science at the dinner table. 
Ted Nugent:  The Motor City Madman convinced enough people that his one hit song, Cat’s Scratch Fever, qualified him for a career in political punditry.  We could name the turkey after Ted Nugent, or we could name it after everyone who listened to Nugent spew lines on Twitter like “Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters hav a president to destroy America” and “Goodluk America u just voted for economic & spiritual suicide. Soulless fools”, and thought “Yeah, he’s the intellectual giant of our political philosophy that we need to follow!”

The Chair:  I cannot bring myself to chastise Clint Eastwood, star of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, The Enforcer, Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby and countless other classics.  I must blame that chair that just sat there on stage and did nothing to bail out poor Clint as we watched him grow older, angrier and whiter right before our eyes.  If I blame The Empty Chair for letting it happen, I can still watch Kelly’s Heroes without a trace of pity.

Donald Trump:  Too easy and frankly, appropriate for any year.  I’ll save that one. 

Privacy Settings:  I will grant you that it sounds more like the name of a horse, but it has a certain cache.  Not a bad name for a turkey, except there is no such thing as “privacy” when on the Internet, so there cannot be “settings” for it.  Ask any general or his biographer.  No fictional characters allowed, so I can’t use this one.

China:  Because whatever ails America, it’s China’s fault, right?

White Guys:  Why single out Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin of the Conservative Scientific Society?  According to exit polls, all older white guys have prehistoric views on women and science and race.  And we're all practicallt extinct.  The only thing holding me back from offering White Guys into nomination for this year’s turkey is that I’m a White Guy, and close enough to old that it hurts.

Who knows who whose name will grace our bird this year?  The only certainty in an uncertain world is that, if you are reading this, it won’t be you.

Happy Thanksgiving 2012.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Santa 332 – Humbug 206

Memo to Mitt Romney:  Giving gifts works. 
The power of gift giving has been known for centuries.  The Greeks knew it.  Their little hollow horse filled with heavily armed men helped them win the Trojan War.  Kobe Bryant knew it.  He knew that without a 25 carat gift to his wife after he was acquitted of rape charges, he would be forced to live an uncomfortable lifestyle on only half of his money.  Most politicians know this.  Nothing says “I like you and I value you and I have an ulterior motive” like a thoughtful and obscenely expensive present. 

Romney could have used some of that gift advice during his unsuccessful White House run.

During Mitt Romney ‘s post-election day Apology Tour, he complained that President Obama won reelection by giving “gifts” to his constituencies.  Obama, according to Romney, shamelessly gave food stamps to the hungry, health insurance access to the sick, amnesty to immigrant children and equality to gay soldiers.  It should have come as no surprise to the GOP nominee that gifts have been found to generate positive feeling towards the gift giver.  The world’s most famous gift giver, Santa Claus, has known this for centuries, and he continues to win the popular vote every single year.  In fact, his ability to buy loyalty through the giving of gifts has left him unopposed for decades.  Humbug doesn’t stand a chance against Ol’ St. Nick. 
Romney needed to look no further than Kris Kringle’s most recent successful campaign to see the power of gift giving.  Yes, it is true that incumbents like Santa have a built-in advantage, but it is also true that giving gifts works.

Just listen to Santa’s acceptance speech from Election Night 2012: 
“Thank you for reelecting me for another term as your Santa.  Throughout this campaign, my platform was clear.  I make one non-negotiable promise – now that I am your Santa for another term, you will receive gifts this year! 
“This has been a hard fought campaign, often about small things.  When Humbug falsely accused me of kissing mommy underneath the mistletoe that night, I knew that our politics was badly broken.  Thankfully, the good people of America saw through the blizzard of attack ads and voted for giving over greed. 

“I was accused of being a socialist, a redistributor of wealth.  The voters understood that I wear a red suit not as a political statement, but because red is the color of my rosy cheeks.  And the beard I wear is not a symbol of Stalinist sympathies.  It is a practical, balanced approach to the bitter cold I face when visiting my white house in the North.

“You rejected these distractions.  You know me.  Santa is good for economic growth.   Humbug only offered lumps of clean coal in your stockings.

“I was there at the birth of the Easy Bake Oven and the hoola hoop.  I was there when the first Nerf basketball net was raised over a closet doorway in Anytown, USA.  My commitment to these innovations helped these industries to flourish.  The Cabbage Patch dolls changed the face of dolls forever.  Ferbies and Tickle Me Elmo were tangible examples of my intervention in the marketplace that spurred growth and widespread prosperity.  In short, I built that! 
“My assistance in these products was not, as my Humbug opponent said, a “Santa takeover of toys”.  It was an example that when private industry and Santa work together in partnership, there is nothing we cannot achieve. 

“I will continue to strengthen our security with increased surveillance of our enemies and I will remain vigilant against those who are naughty.  To those who wish to do harm to this country, I remind you as I have the entire campaign: I know if you’ve been bad or good, so you’d better be good for goodness sakes.

“I want to especially thank the youth of this country who came out in droves to support my candidacy.  Knowing that young people believe in me gave me the strength to wake up every morning and continue to fight the forces of pessimism that infect our everyday lives.   Each evening after some milk and cookies, my staff would deliver 10 of your letters chosen at random to my bedside.  Your heartfelt notes pulled my droll little mouth up like a bow at the end of a long day.
“In the end, this was not an election about me.  It was about you.  You are the gifts that keep on giving.

“We face daunting challenges.  The polar ice caps are melting.  I have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  Sarah Palin is committed to thinning the herd that powers my sleigh and Blitzen has gone into hiding.  But with your help and that of several million tiny invisible elves, I know there is no rooftop we cannot reach.

“I do not fear the days ahead.  We face a fiscal cliff of too much spending and too little revenue every January, but we always persevere.  We must have presents and invest in fun and merriment, but at the same time I recognize the need for a balanced approach.  The wealthy among us, and that includes me, must contribute a little more to those who are struggling.  Message:  I care, Ho Ho Ho.

“Once again, thank you for your vote this holiday season and every season.  I will not let you down.  By the way, America, there’ll be something extra nice in your stocking this year.  No, it’s not Medicare for all, but you’re close.  It’s a voucher to your local state health insurance exchange!  Feliz Navidad and Happy New Year!” 

So Mitt, next time you run for office, remember the example of Santa Claus.  Giving gifts works.  You might want to think about a red suit, too.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Contractor Proposal

There’s lots going on in the Sherrier household this season.  The only constant is constant change, some by choice and some by the natural order of things.  This month, my oldest earned her driver’s license and we signed a contract to have our kitchen upgraded from Third World rustic to the late 1990s nouveau.  There were times when I thought neither event would ever happen, but here I am.

As we signed the contract for the kitchen work, my mind drifted away from thoughts of stealing stereo equipment to sell on eBay to finance the project towards the concept of a contract to manage every change in life.  Specifically, what would a contract with my kids look like?

Sherrier Child Rearing Contract Proposal:

Construction Proposal for Building Functional Adult from Existing Child

Parent will be referred to as “Contractor”
Child will be referred to as “Owner”

Statement of Work 

Contractor agrees to:
  • REMOVE AND DISPOSE OF existing Owner preconceptions of freedom, responsibility and work.  Contractor will supply replacement concepts.  Any teenage awkwardness must be removed by the Owner.
  • REPAIR, EXTEND OR REALIGN ALL thinking to make sense in the “real” world, including basic concepts of money and dating relationships.
  • INSTALL foundation for common sense (final common sense must be supplied by Owner).
  • BRING Owner respect for elders and figures of authority up to code, or else.
  • REPAIR any hereditary dental defects (limit up to age 18).
  • RECLOTHE as required by size changes (changes in taste or fashion whims by the Owner not covered under this agreement).
  • INSTALL thick skin to withstand lifetime risk of injured feelings and feelings of inadequacy (warranty not transferable to any future Spouse or Partner).
  • OWNER TO SUPPLY effort and hard work (backtalk voids this clause).
  • EDUCATION included in core academic subjects (Contractor may use subcontractors for math and science education).  College priced separately and may require Owner contribution.
  • LOVE supplied without conditions (LIKE cannot be guaranteed daily)
  • Good tasting food that retains a health benefit  
  • Adequate shelter with separate space for pouting or watching television without sibling interruption
  • Christmas presents annually that meet minimum standards of practicality, affordability and style
  • Birthday parties with non-family members at off-site locations
  • Ride to the movies or friend’s houses (weekends at additional cost)
TOTAL: $275,000/project

DRAW #2:  DEMOLITION OF EXISTING STRUCTURE – Waived* (Contractor enjoys this part)
DRAW #4:  FINAL WALK AWAY – Waived* 

 * = Owner will be required to clothe, house and change Contractor as needed after Contractor retires.  At that time, payment will be due immediately and regularly.
  • PAYMENT of respect and admiration IS DUE ON DEMAND, or Contractor reserves the right to embarrass and harass Owner for all eternity.
  • ALL SUBCONTRACTORS WILL ONLY TAKE JOB RELATED DIRECTION FROM THE GENERAL CONTRACTOR.  Owner may not change any instructions without approval of the Contractor.

# BecauseIsaidso

Kitchen remodel should go fine; child remodeling?  We may have to call in extra contractors.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Play Friends

I accompanied my son to the Virginia Theater Associations’ middle school play competition and acting workshops this past weekend.  He was performing with his Advanced Drama class in a production of The Trojan Women, a Greek tragedy by playwright Euripides (not to be confused with the story of Obama’s most reliable voting bloc this month).  I was unfamiliar with the piece but knew that 14 year old kids taking on a production 2,500 years their senior would be ‘challenging’ at best.  I expected muddled diction, chaotic blocking, and unfocused performers more accustomed to mugging for their parents’ cellphone home movie productions than commanding an audience full of strangers with a mature stage presence. 
My low expectations were dashed as the performance unfolded.  It was outstanding.  The staging was sublime, the actors were loud and clear, and the pace was perfection.  I say without a hint of bias, it was the best middle school play I had ever seen, and none of the other performances I snoozed through that afternoon came close.  Bravo, children. 
I know what I am talking about.  I dabbled in the theater during my college years.  Shocking to think I was drawn to the stage, I know.  It wasn’t just the adulation of the crowds or the adrenaline rush of the risks inherent in live performance.  It wasn’t just the opportunity to meet girls who were anxious to explore the depths of newly discovered human emotions with a willing scene partner (although that was a benefit).  What kept me active in the theater for all 7 years (I graduated in 4, before you ask) were the friendships. 
For anyone headed off to college for the first time, I provide them with one truth to remember during those years:  The friends you make in college are the friends you’ll have for your entire life.  In the pressure cooker of becoming a semi-responsible adult, I believe that you are your most authentic self.  In an insular collegiate world of thousands of other kids experiencing the same things at the same time for the first time, amidst the fun and the education, bonds form that cannot be easily broken by the years or unfavorable geography.  The experiences shared by college friends cannot be duplicated in the real world of day to day living.  In college, we are straddling the line between the unguarded days of youth and the wary days of adulthood.  In college, we are still open to new people.  We can talk to our college friends about anything. 

Somewhere along the timeline, that changes. 
There were other adult chaperones on my son’s theater field trip.  Truth be told, I didn’t try that hard to make new friends with the other parents.  I went so far as to travel with a few books to occupy the free time between performances, books that I was not certain would capture the interest of anyone else.   I had two political tomes, one by Christopher Hitchens about the lies of the Clinton presidency, and one by Bill Press about the coordinated attacks of the vast right wing anti-Obama machine.  These are not exactly the kind of book topics that make for positive ice breakers with new acquaintances who may or may not share my perfectly reasonable world view. 
I chatted it up with them, made the obligatory small talk, and with luck, I might remember their names someday.  But the trip is over and I don’t know when I’ll see those folks again.  Why invest in making new friends now?  Besides, had I engaged any of them in a discussion of the books I had brought, Lord knows it could have been WWIII.  This close to Election Day (or Armageddon Day, depending on your world view), sensitivities were still high and people from both extremes could be unpredictable.  On an apartisan school field trip, I didn’t want to be that parent who caused a physical altercation that ended up with 1 million hits on You Tube.  Better to not make a friend than to risk arguing about Benghazi for 6 hours on a bus in front of optimistic 8th grade actors. 
I could have discussed these books with my college friends without fear or trepidation.  They would have understood my need to share and been interested, or at least convincingly feigned interest, even if they disagreed.  Maybe I just remember it that way, but to me, it’s real enough. 

I miss that.  We have to be so much more guarded now. 
I hope Thomas catches the theater bug.  He’ll make some great friends like I did if he sticks with it.  He already has caught the political bug from me and that is sure to drive away plenty of future potential friends.  He’ll need all the friends the theater can deliver should he choose to stay politically opinionated. 
I hope the one bug that will help him make friends dominates the bug that will drive friends away.  Either that, or I hope his generation finds a way to separate friendship from partisanship.

That would be a change to believe in. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Free Will

catholic (small c):  Of broad or liberal scope; comprehensive.

Catholic with a small ‘c’ may be used to describe the voting habits of Catholics with a big ‘C’ after last week’s election.   Obama won the Catholic vote by a 50-48 vote, almost exactly his margin among voters nationally, proving once and for all that there is no such thing as the Catholic vote.  You could say that the catholics outvoted the Catholics based on their catholic views and not their Catholic views.  Amen.

It was not for lack of trying by the Catholic hierarchy.  The Church as an organization was transparent in its push for the Romney/Ryan ticket.  It not so cleverly tried to disguise its preference for the Republican ticket with its hyperbolic War on Religion and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign.  Both were designed to drum up opposition to Obamacare directly and by extension, Obama himself.   Didn’t work out.

At issue was the ACA’s mandate that health plans include contraception as part of the standard package of minimum benefits.  Churches were exempt from the mandate but not religiously affiliated institutions, like Catholic hospitals and schools.  That was untenable for the men in charge.

The weekly pulpit message sounded something like this:  “We’re not telling you how to vote exactly, in order to protect our tax favored status.  You understand.  But if the candidate on the ballot wants to take away your freedom and his name is Obama, well then you should prayerfully consider your options and remember that you’ll burn in Hell if you don’t cast your vote for the candidate of life and freedom bearing the initials WMR.”

Here’s why the Church campaign failed to sway the Catholic vote:

Too Much:  When everything is described as “unprecedented”, or a “direct assault on Catholics’ ability to practice their faith”, or compared to totalitarian practices, pew dwellers tune out.  The over the top verbiage becomes self-defeating at some point, and frankly unbelievable.  Most people saw the controversy over the contraception mandate as a policy debate and not a theological discussion.  On top of that, most Catholics had used birth control, so they weren’t afraid of it.

Not “Unprecedented”:  26 states already had such a birth control mandate on the books, so “unprecedented” wasn’t accurate as a descriptor.  Beyond that, Maryland parish priest Fr. Peter Daly wrote in the National Catholic Reporter on how far a reach the use of “unprecedented” was:

Bishops said that never before had people been required to violate their religious conscience to comply with the law. But every day, we tax Quakers and other religious pacifists to support wars. Jehovah’s Witnesses pay Medicare taxes for blood transfusions. Seventh-day Adventists in the military must report to duty on Saturdays. Mormons had to give up their cherished practice of polygamy as the price for bringing Utah into the Union. The fact is that religious liberty has never been absolute.

I'll bet Fr. Daly can expect a strongly worded letter to arrive soon from his superiors.

Question Authority:  The Church hierarchy was in lock step behind Romney (or at least against Obama if not for Romney).  The problem with translating that message into votes from the faithful is that the Church hierarchy has had some high profile credibility issues lately.  That credibility gap with the average Catholic had to blunt the power of their message about the war on religious freedom.  The more legal settlements that the Church pays out, the more parishioners start to question authority.

Fortnight Failure:  Ed Kilgore in the Washington Monthly wrote about the Church Fortnight for Freedom campaign that:

Fortnight for Freedom was perceived as a partisan effort to influence the election.

The bishops, of course, did not intend to be partisan and vociferously denied that they were partisan, but both sides of the political equation perceived “Fortnight” as an effort to defeat President Barack Obama. I went to one Knights of Columbus meeting that ended with a blunt appeal to “get behind our bishops” and defeat the president.

No one was fooled that Fortnight for Freedom wasn’t a single minded partisan event created for the sole purpose of gather support to oust the President.  As my parish priest once said, and I paraphrase, "the problem with Catholics isn’t the faith; it’s the marketing.”  Fortnight for Freedom was a marketing disaster.  Catholics did not fall in line and in fact, the needle against Obama didn’t even move.

The grand takeaway is that hopefully the myth of the monolithic Catholic vote is now dead and buried, never to be resurrected by some future pollster as a wedge.  Contrary to the wishes of the Church power structure, Catholics tend to vote for the candidate they think is best on a wide range of issues, the same way other voters choose.  It’s not unprecedented.