Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Angel Wants to Wear His Red Shoes

Today marked the voluntary end of the Benedict XVI Era of the Catholic Church.  The Pope is now off to enjoy his post-papacy years, sleeping in, writing books and engaging in a lucrative speaking tour.  He will be now known on talk radio as the former half-term pope of the Catholic Church, but who cares?  No more waving!

Some say his departure was hastened by the growing scandal surrounding leaked internal documents from the Vatican.  I’m not sure about that, but I do know that his letter of resignation to his boss was leaked just today.  Since there is no Commandment against me posting it, here it is for my loyal readers:

To:  The Almighty

From:  Pope Benedict XVI

RE:  Retirement

As you probably know from listening to my daily prayers, I have decided to exercise the “free will” clause in my employment contract and resign as Pontiff, effective February 28, 2013.  Please accept my resignation.

There are a number of factors that influenced my decision at this time.  I know that for the past 600 year, You have been the One to make the retirement decision for the Popes, often by force.  However, the job responsibilities have become increasing difficult for me.

I know that you are aware of the standing offer for me to appear on the next season of Dancing With the Stars, but that is not what brought me to this decision to retire.  While I was tempted by the chance to perform interpretive sambas and tangos that celebrate the Good News, it was not the driving factor.  It was one of many.

  1. The physical demands of the job were becoming too great.  I think we can agree that balancing a 2 foot tall 20 pound hat on your head is better suited for a younger man with a stronger back.  
  2. It is impossible to respond to the over 50,000 Twitter prayer requests that I receive each day and I have been having difficulty grasping the concept of the hash tag.  I keep confusing it with the number sign.
  3. More of the faithful are figuring out that I don’t really know Latin and that I have been making up words for the better part of 4 years now.  I feel it is best to retire before You decide to raise Latin from the dead and my secret is discovered.
  4. Your management style does not allow me sufficient independence to shape the Church as I see fit.  Everything is a Commandment with You.  After 80 years in Your service, I think I deserve not to be spoken to with “You shall” or “You shall not” all day long.  It is not very motivating.

While it is Your decision to select my replacement, may I offer one recommendation?  I believe that the Church needs to solidify its standing in Latin America and I believe that a Latin American Pope would be ideal.  

I know the perfect candidate.  He is Latino, he has been a Cardinal and he is now an Angel – Albert Pujols.  Le Hombre the First would unite the Church like no other replacement.  Beyond his devout Catholic beliefs, he can hit for power and average.  Just spitballing here.

Thank you for not ending the world during my reign.  That would have been embarrassing.  



PS - I would also ask that the Vatican repair shop take a look at the shocks on the Popemobile.  The ride has becomes uncomfortable especially over the cobblestone streets.  It pulls to the right at high speeds as well. 

Hook the Captain

Last night, the Washington Capitals lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1, turning in a listless effort.  Again.  Thank goodness there was some excitement during the national broadcast however.

If you didn’t see it, here’s NBC NHL analyst Mark Milbury providing the evening’s fireworks:

Alex Ovechkin is the captain of the Washington Capitals.  I never really questioned that designation, until now.  I do not question his captaincy based on one game and frankly I don’t question it based on his play the past year or so, although maybe I should.  It was something off the ice that turned my attitude.

Tuesday night, former Capital and legendary underachiever Alexander Semin returned to Washington after signing a one year deal with the Carolina Hurricane during the off season.  To celebrate his return, forward Troy Brouwer let the press know the Caps’ locker room consensus on the former teammate. 

“It’s tough to lose his scoring ability, when he wanted to play.”  Ouch…”when he wanted to play.”  That will leave a mark.  

Brouwer amplified his remarks, questioning his work ethic and commitment. 

“Some nights you didn’t even know if he was going to come to the rink.”  Double ouch.  Into the boards.

Matt Hendricks had similar comments about the talented but lazy star.  Former teammate Matt Bradley said as much 2 years ago in an interview.  Caps fans saw it during the playoffs.  Semin tried to survive on skill alone and for a while, that was enough.  Desire beats skill in hockey on most nights and definitely does in the playoffs.  Semin has none.

Ovechkin’s teammates sound off against Semin.  How does the captain of the team respond?  Ovechkin defends his friend and shares a dinner with him the night before the game.  During Semin’s 7 year tenure with the club, captain Ovechkin never called out his teammate and friend for uninspired effort.  Brouwer does.  Hendricks does. OV was captain.  That was his job.  He failed and Semin is someone else's headache. 

Milbury said what we’ve all been seeing with our own eyes for too long.  OV doesn’t back check with urgency.  He doesn’t move around on the power play.  He makes blind passes.  In short, there are at least 20 other players in the league that I would pick to anchor my franchise ahead of Ovechkin.  I am not ready to trade him but I don’t see any benefit in asking him to lead in the locker room when he can’t lead on the ice. 

The Semin example was the last straw for me.  OV is not cut out to be the captain of an NHL team. 

Brouwer and Hendricks have heart.  Maybe one of those guys should be captain.  Time to put the hook on OV.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The End Justifies the Mean-ness

We self-described exceptional Americans love a good televised train wreck.  The pain and the blood and the gore are fascinating as long as it is viewed from the safe distance of our sofas.  We idolize exceptionally rude behavior when the daggers are not directed our way.  

Simon Cowell is must see TV because he insults people, usually people we do not know personally and never will.  When strangers are broken down on national TV, we don’t pity them.  We chuckle.  We celebrate their persecutors and tune in for their spin-off program that promises more insults, more mental anguish and more therapy fodder for some unlucky cast member who can’t sing, can’t dance or just looks funny.

Someone else’s public pain is our private entertainment gain.

As Exhibit A, we need look no further than the marketing push for the latest installment of Donald Trump’s reality franchise, The Celebrity Apprentice.  The premise of the show is simple enough.  Sixteen former celebrities allow themselves to be subjected to a variety of humiliations in order to win a job being denigrated by Mr. Trump for a year as his employee.  The compensation package?  You get to be on TV for a few weeks.  As a bonus, you get mentioned on Twitter for a few days.

The build up for the new season is being trumpeted (pun intended) by the NBC network’s news outlets, like the Today show and, neither of which should ever be confused with serious news outlets.  The synergy between a news-esque program that covers natural disasters and man-made tragedies and a reality TV show that highlights personal disasters and creates man-made tragedies is obvious.  We Americans love a good train wreck, real or manufactured.  It sells.

The Donald proudly promoted the upcoming Apprentice season to Matt Lauer with this boast about its uplifting content:

"It's probably as tough and mean and nasty as we've had so far."

The show will feature meanness and nastiness without compare, and this is a positive attribute.  Set your DVRs, America.  The train is heading your way.

The one ‘star’ that Trump takes the time to mention is the single-name superstar, Omarosa, whose claim to fame is rise from anonymity because of her unrivaled ability to be mean and nasty without a hint of remorse or a twinge of mercy.  Her parents must be so proud.

"A lot of people are not getting along with Omarosa," Trump said.  “She's brutal!"

Again, Trump offers these comments as a compliment and as an inducement to watch the show.  Omarosa’s brutality is a strength.  The fact that no one can stand her is a job requirement.  Being mean means good.  Being good means no ratings.  Bad behavior wins.  Nice guy George Takei is fired after 2 episodes.  Lesson learned, America. 

I admit that I watched the first 2 seasons of The Apprentice, what could now be called its golden age, before it jumped the shark with so-called ‘famous’ people in the cast (I typically have only ever heard of half of each season’s cast of 16).  As an HR guy, I liked the Boardroom evaluations of candidate performance.  I know, sick stuff but I justified it as professional research.  That rationalization won’t fly anymore.  The show that pits Gary Busey against Meatloaf has no more redeeming social or professional value.

I can no longer rationalize the show’s raison d’etre, but Trump does rationalize the mean and nasty behavior because, hey, it raises money for charity.  They model boorish behavior, reward those who exhibit the worst behaviors, and lavish the most unstable contestants with copious amounts of air time.  That doesn’t sound like a good cause to me.

It’s for the least among us, Trumps tells us from his perch atop Trump Tower.  But if those same folks being helped by those charitable contributions are learning that to win and get ahead in life, to truly be successful, you need to add mean and nasty to your repertoire, then you can keep that money.  It may be doing more bad than good in the long run.

The end does not justify the mean.

...and Trump is an ass anyway.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rubbing Elbows with Yahoos Again

Yahoo announced yesterday that the foundational promise of Internet Age is dead.  Effective February 25, 2013, the dream of avoiding human interaction in the workplace has been rescinded by a simple all-employee memorandum (mission statement).  The name of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will go down in the history books as the woman who gave second life to all of our social anxieties.  She started the fire.  With one email, she reinstated the concept of “going to work” and talking to people.  In person. 

Al Gore, the dingo has eaten your baby.  

Yahoo announced this week that its workers could no longer avoid actual work by activating their personal cloaking device, the telecommuting defense.  By ending telecommuting at a company that seemed to embody the concept of remote virtual work, Yahoo has decided that no, the Internet is not as good as being there.  Only being there is as good as being there.  And we’d rather not be there.  We’d rather be alone with the world at our fingertips than in a meeting in the office with a few people at arm’s length.  

The promise of the Internet has always been that we could hide from other people.  Its great benefit was its way of helping us avoid human interaction while pretending to be in a state of perpetual human interaction.  We didn’t need to talk; we could text.  We didn’t need to call; we could Facebook.  Once we start being forced back into the workplace, it’s only a matter of time before we’re forced back into the bars to find dates or we forever lose the gift of making anonymous comments about others without fear of discovery.  No one can seriously want those days back.   

Today it’s Yahoo, but everyone follows those trendy Internet company practices if they want to compete.  Tomorrow it will be your company and mine.  Those comfy pajamas will have to go back in the drawer from 7 am until 6 pm.  Ladies, you’ll have to keep that bra secured until you safely return home to unwind and untether.  Men, you’ll need to brush your teeth and keep your audible flatulence to a bare minimum.  Human contact is again mandatory and your ability to face people and communicate in a social situation is a job requirement.  It will be on your annual review form, under the heading “Teamwork”.  

It could be that the socially awkward will unite via a MeetUp online forum and resist this slide back to the dark ages of the late 1990s.  It is not a stretch to imagine an online movement that accuses Yahoo of an unfair labor practice.  In the year 2013, certainly it is beyond reasonable expectations to ask employees to share a physical space with people they may not like.   In the year 2013, certainly it is beyond reasonable expectations to ask employees to smile at one another when a well-placed emoticon can do the trick.    

If businesses begin to embrace the concept of “going to work” again, the ripple effect could carry devastating costs.  Online dating sites would be shuttered as workers rediscover the benefits of office romance.  Workplace violence would spike as it would become increasingly problematic to gracefully ignore that social pariah that lingers in your office cubicle, talking about his latest visit to the Renaissance festival and his cat’s dental problems, without stirring his unresolved feelings of abandonment as a child.  Once he sees the visceral dislike in your eyes, it’s a short trip for him to the Wal Mart for a cursory background check and a high capacity elixir for his pain.

Workers should be trusted to work from any location and management should learn to adapt their 20th century practices to survive in a 21st century world.  Results should matter more than process.  These are not the real reasons to mourn the end of telecommuting at Yahoo and soon other high tech businesses.  We mourn because we have forgotten how to work with live people and the learning curve is just too steep.   Besides, we no longer own any clothes that would not violate the dress code.

At Yahoo, the company’s new slogan is one small step backwards for man, one giant leap backwards for mankind:  If I don’t see you, you are not working.  Trust at work has died alongside the days of telecommuting today, but that’s not the worst part.  The worst part is the hell of dealing with coworkers in person every day now. 

So it’s time to log off and get a shower, people.  It’s Hawaiian shirt Wednesday in the office and you are assigned the pineapple snack slices.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscar Truthers

It’s been a busy time for conspiracy theorists these past few years.  There was the matter of Obama’s birth certificate that took several years to create.  The Fast and Furious conspiracy theorists continue to push the idea that the failed program was a ruse to distract Americans from the coming gun confiscation sweeps in a neighborhood near you.  We are told that Obama ordered the Sandy Hook massacre as part of his master plan to take over a defenseless Planet Earth.  And who could forget the Granddaddy of all conspiracies, Benghazi?    

It’s been so busy on the conspiracy front that I can forgive the Right for overlooking last night’s seed of a new conspiracy controversy.  To the lazy eye, it may have appeared to be nothing special.  But my conspiracy-seeking radar is dialed to the Right today, so let me help the overtaxed Right Wing theorists.  I think something was ‘amiss’ at the Oscars….a Miss Obama!

Last night, most Americans saw First Lady Michelle Obama present an award at a gathering of a wealthy group of Hollywood elites and by appearing, provide an indirect endorsement of their gay-friendly, morally casual conclave that celebrates a Golden Idol of secularism.  The Right has come to expect this behavior from this pagan administration.  Nothing to see here, move along.

But wait.  Look more closely, my paranoid friends.  Is there something suspicious about the First Lady’s presentation of Best Picture to Argo?  Why Argo over other qualified films?  Could there be a…conspiracy???   

Hollywood-Gate.  The Film Affair.  The Oscar Truther Movement begins.

My friends on the Right, I know you are busy researching the Friends of Hamas group that never existed but nonetheless gave money to Chuck Hagel.  So as a courtesy and time saver, here are your Oscar-Truther talking points.  If you don’t start asking your silly questions now, the movement may never take root.  You can thank me later. 
  • There were two envelopes, one held by Jack Nicholson and one handed to Michelle Obama at the final moment.  Why the two envelopes if there is only one winner?  What film name was printed on Nicholson’s card?  What are they hiding?
Look at the potential political ramifications if one of the other movies had won the award:
  • Honoring Lincoln would keep the 16th President’s name in the media, and that would only serve as an unflattering comparison to the current President.  Lincoln had to be killed, so Obama picked Argo. 
  • Picking Life of Pi would sound like Mrs. Obama was paying homage to the Eastern World and reinforce feelings that the Obamas are not like us.  If Life of Pi were to be honored, it would smack of shameless pandering to a growing minority in advance of immigration reform negotiations.  Pi’s Life could not be glorified with an award.  It needed to be cut adrift.
  • If Zero Dark Thirty had won the Oscar, it would sound like the administration was endorsing a “torture works” philosophy.  Any movie that makes Dick Cheney look right could not be a winner.
  • Selecting Django Unchained would keep the foul and politically incorrect language of that movie in the spotlight, and Obama could not allow that if he wanted to appease his base.  There was no chance he would allow Michelle to praise that film.  Django had to be set free.
There were only positives for the Obama administration by choosing Argo as Best Picture:
  • The movie reminds the public of the one good thing that happened during Democrat Jimmy Carter’s administration.  Since Obama has been compared by the Right to Carter, he saw this as an opportunity to repair Carter’s image and thereby his own.   Diabolical!
  • Argo highlights how smart and brave the Canadians are, making it harder to argue that they can’t handle a health care system that covers everyone for less money.  Obama is softening the ground to roll out a single payer plan in America.
  • Argo proves that clandestine activities work better than military intervention, a subtle reference to Obama’s policy of secret missions instead of direct confrontation.  Best Picture today, Best Foreign Policy tomorrow.
  • Finally, the choice of Argo means that the accomplished and sympathetic Ben Affleck is now the favorite to win the vacant Senate seat in Massachusetts…once he shaves off the terrorist beard.
So, all you Right Wing conspiracy theorist – get out your blogs and your tweets.  There is work to be done, but at least I am giving you a head start.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Going Green

Is there too much money in politics?  I think that’s a rhetorical question, but not everyone agrees.  There should be consensus that there is a lot of money making that political world go ‘round today.  That I hope we can objectively agree this is not a controversial contention.  I mean, politicians’ faces are on money.  That should tell us something. 

2012 was our first Presidential election post-Citizen’s United.  The final tally was $1.1 billion spent, and that’s just what we know about.  This figure does not include the GOP primary campaigns.  Sheldon Adelson gave $10 million to Newt Gingrich and $10 million to Mitt Romney and we’re expected to believe that this was purely humanitarian aid without future strings attached.  When a billionaire drops $10 million, he has an agenda.

The average member of Congress – and we wish they were at least average – has to spend 4 hours of every day for their entire term focused on raising money for reelection.  For most members of Congress, that’s every waking hour!  Fundraising trumps legislating and learning science and math.  

Does the obscene amount of money being pledged to candidates poison the process in favor of the uber-wealthy? 

That’s not rhetorical.  Yes, it does.

No, money alone won’t swing elections.  Just ask the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson or Karl Rove.  And the uber-wealthy have just as much right to have their voices heard on the issues as the wretched poor.  They do. But the overreliance on cash sure can poison the aftermath of an election when it comes to legislating and governing decisions.

This issue is heating up again in the courts, and could be the big story that no one notices.  According to

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to delve into the controversial issue of money and politics -- again. This time, the court agreed to take up a challenge brought by an Alabama man who claims it's unconstitutional to prevent him from giving more than $46,200 to candidates and $70,800 to PAC's and political committees.  The Alabama man doesn’t challenge the limit on contributions to an individual candidate, but he does claim it's unconstitutional to prevent him from contributing to as many candidates as he wishes. 

You’ll never guess what political party has joined the Man from Alabama in his suit.  The Republican National Committee is hoping that if contribution limits are lifted, the national party will be able to overwhelm the outside groups that they believe are hurting their establishment candidates.

A world without limits.   Ponderous, man.

One party is poised to take the gloves off completely and deregulate campaign spending.  The position has been that money is speech (and corporations are people, war is peace, ignorance is strength, freedom is slavery, etc.).  The problem with the “money is speech” line of reasoning is simple.  To paraphrase Orwell, money empowers some speech to be more equal than others.  While the uber-wealthy and wretched poor have an equal right to speak, with unlimited cash, only one voice will be heard.  Spoiler alert: it would not be the voice of the poor.

I don’t know what the correct balance should be between contributing to the candidate of your choice and buying a politician, but I do know that adding unlimited money to the process will not only diminish the governing authority of the winners, it will legitimize the direct buying and selling of votes.  

Just as more guns will not make us safer, more money in electoral politics will not make us freer.  

Campaign finance reform, however it is defined ultimately, will be imperfect, but the alternative is worse.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Name Withheld

I have a friend who insists that he will never wear a sports team jersey with the name of a player on the back.  His rationale is simple.  Players come and go, but team loyalty is forever.  You may one day move away from your place of origin, but the sports team goes with you.  When a player moves on from his team of origin, his jersey typically changes to reflect the name and logo of his new franchise.  “Follow the money…”    

The streets of Cleveland are awash with the charred remains of LeBron jerseys.  The discount racks of the Washington region are flooded with Albert Haynesworth jerseys.  You may love the Orlando Magic, but that Dwight Howard jersey you are wearing is kind of an embarrassment now.  In that light, my friend’s prohibition on player names is sound and economical.  Players change teams more often than teams change cities, unless you live in the Pacific Northwest.

Another reason to avoid buying the player’s jersey is the increasing odds that the player on your back will do one of the following: 1. Be arrested for domestic violence; 2. Be charged with failure to pay child support; 3. Be outted for sexting a pic of his junk to his mistress…during a game; or 4. Forget to rinse his DNA off of his lucky steroids needle.  There are no more heroes, right Lance?    

My friend would be shocked to learn that not everyone agrees with his memo on this topic (mission statement).  In fact, two Washington area residents have taken the player name on the jersey practice up a notch.  Their obsession and blind loyalty to players is so devout, they are willing to ruin the life of their unborn child.

Marissa Pena, a lifelong Cowboys fan, lost a Thanksgiving Day bet to her boyfriend, Emanuel Vega, who is a lifelong Redskins fan.  The stakes were high: the winner gets to pick the name of their unborn son.

Pause.  Breathe.  Inhale the stupidity for a moment.  OK, now a couple points:

First, I’m not much of a gambler, but I know enough to recognize a losing bet when I see it.  Regardless of the outcome, the kid is destined to be saddled with a dumb name.  I’d like to see the blood-alcohol report on these two at the time of shaking hands on this bet.  I am confident they were both in Joe Namath territory.  

Second, I thought this kind of mixed marriage was still banned in Texas and the greater DC area.  While relationships may sometimes develop after a few refreshments on a Sunday afternoon, marriage is strictly forbidden under the law.  That could have changed.  It is the 21st century after all.

Third, players are imperfect humans.  Why not stick with the tradition of picking the name of a saint (and I don’t mean a New Orleans Saint)?  It’s usually the safer route.  To become a saint, you have to be dead, which precludes that individual from doing anything else that could get them arrested or otherwise excommunicated.  In addition, saints go through a thorough vetting process designed to uncover any blemishes on their reputation in advance of the naming.  Lastly, saints have to have performed 3 verified miracles, all without the aid of performing enhancing drugs.  The Church has a fool-proof testing program no doubt.

Naming your child after a player carries no such protections and thereby tremendous risks.  A boy named Canseco Johnson will be the target of the unfair assumptions that he must be an idiot like his namesake.  A little girl named Tanya Harding O’Neill to settle a bar wager will be forced to carry her parents’ guilt and suffer the hangover for her entire life.  Poor kid must feel like she’s capped at the knees from Day One.   

The ‘Skins won on Thanksgiving.  Emanuel won his bet with Marissa, so the player-to-be-named-later has been revealed.  Little Boy Vega will be named Robert Griffin Vega.  Yes, he will live out his years as RGV, or at least until the parents rename him Kurt Cousins Vega in a few years.  The most popular man in any sports town is the backup quarterback.  Could happen.

It is possible that Griffin will never recover from his knee injuries.  He may shoot someone.  He may become obese on high fat Subway sandwiches.  He may bet on baseball.  The point is, you never know.  

My friend without a player name on his team jersey knows that.  If only he could have gotten to Marissa and Emanuel sooner.

I have a recommendation.  For the sake of the unborn child, get a tattoo instead.  You can get rid of that easier than a kid if RGIII doesn’t pan out.  

My favorite quote from the father-to-be to the Washington Post reporter: "What am I thinking?" I have the same question for him.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pick Your Poison

Politics in my adopted home state of Virginia have set up a sort of Sophie’s Choice for me this November.  The gubernatorial election looks like it will pit Democrat Terry McAuliffe against Republican Ken Cuccinelli.  None of the above should win in a landslide. 

Both parties stand to lose if their standard bearer wins the governorship since both candidates embody the worst stereotypes of both parties.

On the Democratic side, Terry McAuliffe is a prodigious fundraiser.  His background includes stints as a Jimmy Carter fundraiser, head of the Democratic National Committee, and head of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign fundraising efforts.  See a pattern?  Terry is a fundraiser, and a good one, but that only qualifies him to be a fundraiser.  His connections and past experience beg for charges of corruption and undue influence.  He is a master of spin and while that may be a secondary requirement for a good governor, experience in elected office may be slightly ahead.

I am not sure that’s he’s that popular among Democrats in the state, thankfully.  In 2009, he ran in the primary for governor but was rejected by voters in favor of Creigh Deeds, the weakest Democratic candidate the party faithful could find.  Deeds was a sure loser from the day he was nominated, and yet the party still picked him over McAuliffe.  That ought to tell you something.

On the Republican side, we have Ken Cuccinelli, the darling of the far, far Right.  When he runs, the social agenda of the Republicans will be front and center, the same agenda that has driven women and minority voters away from the party in droves.  Cue the “Blame the Media” chorus for their temerity in highlighting his positions that are published in his newly released book.  I am confident that talking about his positions on health care and immigration will be labeled “distractions” from the real issues, like food stamp abuse and too many suspicious people voting.   

When Virginians are asked today who they will pick in November, it’s a dead heat (literally, in my view).  There is a wild card, however.  GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling pulls in 13% if he is added to the mix, and he is not an announced candidate at this point.  That’s pretty good poll numbers for a guy who doesn’t have a reality TV show or an incendiary blog.  This RINO could upset the political apple cart in the Commonwealth, and I hope he does.  I am pro-more choice in this governor’s race.

I do not know GOP Lt. Governor Bill Bolling.  I do know that the Cuccinelli people are afraid that if Bolling enters the race as a 3rd party candidate that the election will swing to McAuliffe.  They could be correct, and then we’d have a new Democratic governor, elected without a majority who has never served in elected office but throws a good party.  That could set the Democratic Party in the state back for decades. 

Of course, if Cuccinelli wins, there is one positive.  The Virginia limits its governors to one term, thereby limiting his damage to the social contract.  So there’s that.

This is what I do know.  Given the current choices, I am willing to listen to Bolling and I am predisposed to liking whatever he says.  If Cuccinelli hates him, that might be good enough for me.  

I guess what I’m saying is, “Please don’t make me stay home.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I thought I knew what the phrase “double standard” meant.  I thought that a double standard referred to the uneven or unfair application of a rule or set of rules that were intended to apply to all members of a group but were instead adjusted for some members based on non-material factors, such as race or gender.  

According to Lori Flynn, a Catholic school teacher at Queen of Peace High School in New Jersey, I must not understand the meaning of a double standard.  If she’s correct, it would not be the first time that a Catholic school teacher confused me.

You see, the girls at Queen of Peace have been requested to take a “no cursing” pledge, while the similarly situated boy classmates have not been asked to take the same pledge.  Instead, the boys were asked only to refrain from cussing when the girls were nearby.  At least we know chivalry lives in New Jersey.  The weaker sex has sensitive ears in need of extra protection from boys’ filthy mouths, and this school is happy to add this additional security measure. 

When asked about the pledge by a local newspaper reporter, Lori Flynn said that this was not an example of a double standard.

For Flynn, I believe she does not see this as a double standard because boys and girls are not the same in the eyes of the church.  While in some respects her point cannot be disputed, I cannot understand why one group has cursing privileges and one does not.  To be fair, I have no doubt that neither the boys nor the girls may curse out loud in Brother Benivegna’s pre-calculus class, and the restrictions against taking the Lord’s name in vain, as outlined in Commandment #2, remain in force for both genders.  At Queen of Peace, the threat of eternal damnation for violation of these rules is probably the second worse outcome for these students.  I hear Brother Benivegna runs a strict detention.

This uneven application of the no cursing pledge requirement may have a Biblical root.  As we all know from our reading, it was Eve who could not be trusted to obey a simple rule, and it was upon learning of her original sin that Adam uttered that gateway expression, “You are such an idiot.”  From that phrase, it’s a short trip to a profanity-laced tirade, and the message from the Word is clear –women are to blame.  Had Eve taken a pledge first…no wait, she did.  OK, bad example.

Regardless of this possible theological explanation, I still think the pledge for girls but not boys represents a double standard.  I was sentenced to 12 years of a Catholic school education.  I am pretty sure that this no cursing pledge situation is a text book example of a double standard.   The boys are not being held to the same standard as the girls for only one reason – the ownership of a penis.  I have to wonder what other lessons I may have missed in school.

Flynn says school officials want “ladies to act like ladies.” Brother Larry Lavallee, the school's principal, told the newspapers that girls have the foulest language.  Since Brother Larry no doubt has empirical evidence that the girls’ language is objectively more offensive and vulgar than the boys’ language, he has plausible deniability that he is part of any double standardizing.  He’s done the research.  Treating boys and girls differently when it comes to language is part of the natural order.  No one likes a girl with a potty mouth, but a boy who can inject a well-time F-bomb into a sports argument, well, he’s colorful and confident. 

The saddest part of the story could be that vow of obedience being taken by most of the girls.  According to the story, many girls said they would try to follow the pledge, even though they believe it should apply to all students.  What ever happened to civil disobedience?  Did they not learn anything from Martin Luther or Henry David Thoreau?  They shouldn’t just sit back and take it.  Perhaps some brave girl should tack up The 96 Words You Should Never Use on Television on the schoolhouse doors.  That ought to get someone’s attention on the double standard being applied at Queen of Peace.   

The teachers are hopeful that the example of clean language coming from the girls will rub off on the boys, while the boys are mostly hoping that clean or foul-mouthed girls would rub up against them over time.  Secretly the boys are praying for a “double standard” after school, but I guess I no longer know what standard is.

Pledge or no pledge, boys will be boys, as this final sentence from the article makes abundantly clear:

A pitcher on the school's baseball team, Recarte said he can't help shouting obscenities from the mound after mishaps, and he didn't expect that to change.

“Mishaps” happen, right, Recarte?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Who Moved?

A married couple of 40 years are driving together on a long trip.  The husband is behind the wheel while the wife is up against the passenger side window watching the scenery.  The husband brakes the car at a stop light.  Through the window, he can see a young couple in the car in front of him.  The young couple is sitting close together and they have their arms around one another.  

“Will you look at that?” said the husband.

The wife looks at the couple in the other car and comments, “That’s nice.  Why aren’t we like that anymore?”

The husband replies, “Who moved?”

I heard this joke at church on Sunday and while the priest was not talking about politics, my mind drifted that way nonetheless.  It’s my curse.  This is the kind of joke Obama could tell to illustrate what has happened to the Republican Party over the past 4+ years.  In his version, it would be the GOP that has moved and it’s not funny.  It’s sad.

The Republicans used to support cap and trade legislation as recently as 2008, until Obama supported it.  Then they moved.  The Republicans used to support an individual mandate as recently as 2009, until Obama supported it.  Then they moved.  The Republicans used to support the DREAM Act, until Obama supported it.  Then they moved.  Being against Obama seems to be the only criterion for evaluating a policy position these days for the GOP.

The same play is being run when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform.  It is a fairly simple formula:

Step 1: Demonize the President for not leading and demand to see his plan.

Step 2: Once the President presents a plan, demonize him for being partisan and encroaching on Congress’ ability to get things done.

Step 3: See Step 1.

The GOP has called out Obama for not leading on immigration reform (even though he called on Congress to address the issue in every State of the Union of his Presidency).  This week, his reform plan leaked to the media, a plan pretty much exactly like the one John McCain championed in 2007.  The GOP was for it before they were against it.  

This release of the immigration outline in response to GOP Step 1 triggered GOP Step 2.  Sen. Mario Rubio called the President’s plan dead on arrival and that his “interference” in Congressional matters made a final agreement less likely.

For Obama, it’s the Kobayashi Maru, the no-win scenario (look it up).

Recent polls show that Republicans favor the President’s plan, but only when it is described without partisan attribution.  Add one variable - Obama’s name - and popularity of the plan for GOP voters drops almost 20 points.

I think the Republicans are the ones that have moved.  They have even moved when it comes to their Number One objective of the past 4 years.  Today, the GOP has vowed to limit Obama to a “two term Presidency”.  The difference is subtle, but it is a difference for their earlier plans. 

I don’t think that our political parties should act like newly in love teenagers, all cuddled up holding hands.  Both parties do enough of that with their real lovers, the major campaign donors.  I do think we can clearly identify who done the moving away though.

BONUS Material (as it relates to the subject of moving away):

I recommend a recent op-ed in the New York Times by conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru.  He argues that the GOP needs to move away from Ronald Reagan, especially as it relates to dealing with policy issues 25 years after he left office.  Ponnuru reminds us that Reagan cut taxes at a time when the top rate was 70%; now it’s half of that. 

“In his first Inaugural Address, Reagan famously said that ‘government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.’ The less famous yet crucial beginning of that sentence was ‘in our present crisis.’ The question is whether conservatism revives by attending to today’s conditions, or becomes something withered and dead.”

Republicans, you can worship him if you like (he could give a very good speech, a skill you used to value, but then you moved), but stop worshipping the specific 1980s solutions for 21st century problems.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Makers and Takers

Who are the Makers and who are the Takers?

According to my friends on the Right, the Makers are the patriotic class of the mythical entrepreneurs that grant the unwashed gainful employment as a favor to this nation.  These Makers contribute to the greater good by giving work to others, and they set a powerful example for self-reliance by making as much profit as they possibly can at the expense of the workers.  If you work hard for a Maker, maybe someday, you could be one of them, a self-made Maker.  This is some sort of Maker’s tough love.  

According to my friends on the Right, the Takers are best represented by the 47% made famous in Mitt Romney’s secretly recorded talk to a group of Makers.  You may remember this video as detailing the message that Romney initially embraced, then disavowed, then embraced again after the election.  The Takers make nothing.  The Takers are killing the Makers, he explained.  That giant sucking sound you hear are the Takers doing what they do best – sucking the will to produce from the Makers.  

According to my friends on the Right, It’s not easy being a Maker.

After careful consideration, I am starting to wonder if the Makers might actually be the Takers in sheep’s clothing.

According to me, not enough attention is being paid to the idea that, considered another way, the Makers are the Takers.  The Makers are taking from taxpayers.  The Makers have taken from Taker pension funds.  The Makers take the Taker's livelihood when they allow unsafe working conditions in exchange for greater profitability.  That giant sucking sound you hear are the Makers doing what they do best – sucking the will to produce from the Takers. 

To even make this point, I am now libeled a class warfare warrior, out to discredit Makers and by extension, freedom.  But aren’t those discrediting the Takers also class warfare warriors?  

Thankfully, we have a new Senator from Massachusetts who is questioning the right wing preconceptions of the Makers and Takers.  She is asking questions that I would hope the Tea Party would cheer with the same passion as those East Coast liberal elites who financed her campaign.

Who is the Maker and who is the Taker?

Thanks to Rick Manfredi for the head's up on this clip

I don’t know what kind of Senator she’ll be, but I appreciate the questions.

This is the kind of message that the Tea Party should embrace.  This is the story of the Little Guy getting crushed by the Big Guy.  Unfortunately, some Rich Big Guys convinced the Tea Party Patriots that it was Other Little Guys taking their stuff, not the Makers.  The Little Guys are easy to pick out, too.  They are mostly brown, or young, or talk with foreign accents.  

The ranks of the 47% grew larger after the Bush recession wiped out 40% of the wealth of the middle class.  The banks and the bank heads were then rewarded with taxpayer dollars.  Remind me again – who are the Takers?

Could be the ones covered in the cookie crumbs.

A great song from a great band that wears its politics on its sleeve.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I Give Up

In America, it is customary, even for the non-religious, to celebrate the Lenten season by depriving ourselves of pleasure, temporarily of course.  After all, we are Americans.  These 40 days of sacrifice barely put a dent in the damage done the other 325 days that we spend indulging our every whim without remorse, but it’s the thought that counts.  At least for 40 days, we are reminded that there is life without Facebook, life without chocolate, and life despite the futility of grueling P90X session.  We know there’s life after P90X because the pain is something that only the living could experience.

Food is usually the first thing on the annual I Give Up list.  Catholics commemorate the season by skipping meat in meals on Fridays.  I wonder if Catholic vegetarians skip vegetables on Fridays and force themselves to have hamburgers exclusively for the day.  That’s the kind of sacrifice that defines the spirit of Lent to me. 

As expected, the famous enjoy publicly promoting their specific Lenten sacrifices to the rest of us.  The goal of these pronouncements is two-fold: first, a goal publicly declared becomes more likely to be achieved, and second, it makes the rest of us feel badly about ourselves.

I reached out from my desktop and electronically asked hundreds of individuals and organizations (per the Supreme Court, aren’t organizations people?) to tell me what they plan to sacrifice for the next 6 weeks.  Here is a list of the Lenten sacrifices of the rich, famous, and powerful (otherwise known as “The Respondents”) in our modern world.  Maybe we can learn through their examples:

What Will I Give Up for Lent?

·         Pope Benedict XVI – Alarm clocks

·         Barack Obama – Pretending to like John Boehner

·         Rep. John Boehner – Pretending not to hate Barack Obama

·         Steve Martin – Sleeping in

·         International Olympic Committee – Wrestling

·         Sen. John McCain – Reason and accountability

·         North Korea – Irrelevance

·         Sarah Palin - Relevance

·         Fox News – Sarah Palin

·         Princess Kate Middleton – Wearing heels 

·         Washington Nationals – Innings limits

·         Taylor Swift – My boyfriend (whoever it happens to be at time of publication)

·         Redskins QB Robert Griffin III - Mobility

·         The New Orleans Superdome – the position of Director of Electrical Affairs

·         The NHL Owners – Locking out the players

·         The NHL Players – 7% of our money

·         NRA spokesperson Wayne LaPierre – Nothing…I will give up nothing

·         Ted Nugent – My citizenship

·         Sen. Marco Rubio – Thirst

·         General David Petraeus – G-Mail

·         Tom Cruise – Half my money

·         Suri Cruise – Yeah, right

·         Honey Boo Boo – Taco Bell

·         Go – Good taste

·         Americans – Carnival Cruises

·         The Republican Party – I think we’ve given up enough already

·         The Democratic Party – I think we’ve given up enough already

Whatever you give up this year, don’t quit me, baby.  That kind of sacrifice won’t make you better as a person.

Good luck, quitters.