Friday, February 26, 2010
This week it was my overarching goal to write an uplifting, lively post. Maybe even a witty one. And all week long I waited for the subject to come to me.
But umm, sorry. There just wasn't a lot of good news to report.
Let's see. We had a killer whale maul and kill a Sea World trainer in front of children and families on vacation.
I suppose I could have written about whether the folks in the audience have a decent class-action against Sea World, given this particular whale's history. But it's all too ghastly. This is a lawsuit I don't even want to think about.
Then there's Greece. It's about to implode under the staggering weight of its debt. Is the U.S. next? Reasonable minds differ, naturally.
Oh, and that Alabama professor who shot six folks because she didn't get tenure? She's now under increasing scrutiny for the death of her brother several years ago. His death had been ruled an accidental shooting (a three-bullet accidental shooting, that is).
As Tiger Woods gave his nationally televised mea gulpa, one of his concubine held her own press conference, demanding he apologize to her.
Get in line, sister. The back of the line.
Hourglass figures intoxicate men (which is fine and not a huge surprise). But wait. There's more. Nearly every man, it seems, should be in therapy for an on-going, evolutionary sex addiction.
But the news wasn't all bad. Here's a glimmer of sorts: White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, who gallivanted all over the pages of so many fashion magazines, she who talked about the Obama "brand" (and, yes, the same Ms. Rogers who was wining and dining during White House Crasher-gate) -- is resigning.
And here's another fairly uplifting story: a teacher, Dr. David Benke, risked his life to take down a bad guy in Littleton, Colorado (home of the Columbine tragedy), to protect his middle-school students.
On any other day, the press would have reported on this man's heroism for a full news cycle.
Sadly, it was no ordinary day and the Sea World story edged out nearly all press coverage.
Next week I suppose I'll go back to my old Eeyore self, and post about the government's unemployment numbers and what they mean.
Ah, but you thought calculating unemployment is simple? So did I, until I tucked in and saw how truly complicated it all is.
So many terms are bandied about these days: "seasonally adjusted" and "non-farm payrolls," the ADP survey, "marginally attached" workers, and the U3 and U6.
What all of it means, I've been wondering for a while. What I learned was surprising. It's not nearly as cut and dried as you would think. Most interesting were the various definitions and how they affect the "headline" numbers we all see in the news.
So take some Prozac and tune in next week for one sexy unemployment primer.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Here's a snippet from Friedman's most recent bloviatings (assuming you can bear to read them):
President Obama’s bad luck was that he showed up just as we moved from the fat years to the lean years. His calling is to lead The Regeneration. He clearly understands that in his head, but he has yet to give full voice to it. Actually, the thing that most baffles me about Mr. Obama is how a politician who speaks so well, and is trying to do so many worthy things, can’t come up with a clear, simple, repeatable narrative to explain his politics — when it is so obvious.(emph. added)
Mr. Obama won the election because he was able to “rent” a significant number of independent voters — including Republican business types who had never voted for a Democrat in their lives — because they knew in their guts that the country was on the wrong track and was desperately in need of nation-building at home and that John McCain was not the man to do it.
They thought that Mr. Obama, despite his liberal credentials, had the unique skills, temperament, voice and values to pull the country together for this new Apollo program — not to take us to the moon, but into the 21st century.
He says Obama "speaks so well" but says nothing. Et tu, Thomas?
But, ah, it feels good to be a rented voter, yes?
And never did I think I'd agree with Susan Estrich on anything, but check out this excerpt from her recent column:
Paying doctors and hospitals less to give us more? That's bound to work…
It's not a communications problem. What's gone wrong is that people see the country swimming in debt, see the jobs recovery lagging, see friends and neighbors who are not even hanging on, and they just don't know how this administration is planning to pay for a massive health care reform effort.She makes perfect sense. "Don't tell me I can eat an entire chocolate cake and not gain an ounce, Mr. President. I'm not stupid."
The appointment of a bipartisan commission on the deficit only underscores the problem and makes it seem that the administration has no answer for it except another new spending program. "Just say no" isn't the answer to the need for health care reform — but neither is another big spending program when we are being told our historic debt is a ticking time bomb for our children.
Fact is, folks, we're screwed. And these truths are self-evident, even through the obfuscating gauze of Obama's "empowering" oratory.
The problem is that no one in DC will say so. The biggest D.C. denial game being played is that we, the voters, don't already know how bad things are.
Unemployment will remain at crisis levels for years to come.
Social Security is running out of money at a rapid pace. And let's not even talk about Medicare or Medicaid. It's too damn depressing.
Fannie and Freddie are hemorrhaging losses (and some $3.9 TRILLION in liabilities are being carried off the balance sheet, don't forget -- so that the real losses -- borne by you and I -- are never reflected in the federal budget. You think an Obama 1.6T budget is unpalatable? Imagine the fireworks if the White House budget were truthfully stated.)
As we trudge to work everyday, facing unpaid bills and late-fees, the voters know the government is taking our hard-earned dollars to bail out people behind in their mortgage payments, including people who should have never been allowed to borrow in the first place.
It feels good, eh? Keep on
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for charity. But can it at least be voluntary rather than by default?
As for the housing market, well, unless the Fed changes its mind, losers Fannie and Freddie will be buying no more
mortgages from the private banks, come the end of March. Which is . . . okay.
But brace yourselves for the consequences. Can you say "no more loans" for home buyers? Higher interest rates on everything? More and more new treasury issues (i.e., government bonds we sell to investors overseas) that we will never be able to re-pay without massive tax increases or cuts in spending? And all of this assumes anyone will even buy our debt.
We can jump in bed and cover our heads, but Santa's not coming tonight. Or tomorrow.
Better that we face what's ahead of us now, I say -- and go on a rice-and-beans diet immediately -- rather than choke ourselves to death on a "reconciled" healthcare cram-down and a cap and tax bill.
Choke (def.): to check or block normal breathing of by compressing or obstructing the trachea or by poisoning or adulterating available air.
Make no mistake: health care and global warming deserve our attention. They are worthy causes, noble undertakings, and ultimately attainable -- in some future incantation. But not now.
Sorry, Washington, but we the people simply can't afford them.
Because closer to home, it's things like summer camp, dental bills, and a new pair of glasses for our kids that we're finding harder and harder to swing. Vacations we crossed off our wish-list months ago. It would be great if the funds were there, but they're not.
We get it.
But, inexplicably, Congress does not. Take a look at these 2010 omnibus budget-busters, which were A-Okay per the DC folk:
- A 38 percent increase for International Food Aid;
- A 20 percent increase for the Transportation Security Administration;
- An 8.4 percent increase for Lawmakers' Office Allowances;
- An 8.1 percent increase for the National Endowment for the Arts; and
- A 67 percent increase for the Environmental Protection Agency's State and Tribal Assistance Grants;
- An 8.1 percent increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
A chicken in every pot . . . sounds mighty good.
So now then. Who's going to rustle up those chickens?
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
So you'd think I'd be happy, right? Exuberant, even! And I am. Really. I am. But I'm also in a bit of a snit, not the least of which is because I don't want to go through the naked-people machines.
But the real problem for me? I'm absolutely, blood-curdlingly terrified of the TSA.
I'm crazy, you say? Ha! Just keep reading.
Let's start with the intellectual prowess found in TSA's agents, as evidenced by this 22-second clip about "prep stops." Notice especially the last thing the guy says.
Here's another cheery TSA clip, showing off their new "re-composure benches." (We had our composure but then we lost it when we had to take off our shoes -- but we'll get it back, by golly, thanks to TSA's re-composure benches). Think I'm kidding? Just watch.
But here's the scary part: TSA agents are not just smart. They're devious. And twisted. Which makes for a lethal combination.
Consider the nightmare TSA put a young college student through. The agent "found" a plastic baggy full of white powder in her luggage. "Where did you get this?" he asked her. "Just tell the truth and everything will be fine."
The poor girl was speechless and stood there, dumbfounded, for a full twenty seconds before the TSA man started laughing. "Just kidding," he said. She burst into tears.
Well hardeharhar, you funny TSA man, you.
But fret not, gentle readers. Ann Davis, a regional TSA manager later said the agent "had been disciplined by TSA management at Philadelphia International Airport, and he has expressed remorse for his actions."
Remorse!? Oh, sweet relief. Don't we all feel better now.
And God forbid you make those TSA people mad. Flying coach might feel like being in jail, but I'll take coach over the real deal, any day. No doubt, Nadine Pellegrino would, too.
Two female TSA workers accused this petite, middle-aged woman -- a teacher of public speaking and semantics, and former faculty member at Penn State and Trenton State College -- of committing felony assaults against them. At the airport. In public And then the TSA conveniently "lost" the evidence: the videotape of the incident.
Yep. And these uncorroborated accusations got Ms. Pellegrino an arrest record (which she later had expunged) and a night in the Philadelphia pokey.
Her troubles began when she was "selected" for "enhanced" screening. Rather than have her private belongings strewn everywhere for the world to see, Ms. Pellegrino asked that the luggage search be conducted in a private area. Oh, and that the TSA women change their gloves before fondling her lipstick and underwear.
But, umm, her requests didn't go over so well with the TSA ladies, apparently. One of them, said Pellegrino, deliberately ripped an old change purse her father had given her, after Ms. Pellegrino asked the agent to take special care with it.
The TSA women tell a different story, of course. But their word choices tell the tale. "I could tell she was going to be one of those passengers," said female agent Abdul-Malik. And Abdul-Malik's supervisor, Laura Labbee, testified that Pellegrino was "authoritative, demanding."
One thing all three women agree upon is that Ms. Pellegrino said, "What is going on here? Both of you are behaving like bitches."
A judge ultimately dismissed all charges against Ms. Pellegrino, who was described by a longtime friend as, "very thorough, very sharp. I've never seen her get mad or violent. Maybe she felt they were putting her down."
Do you think?
And perhaps the most egregious TSA encounter yet happened when a Camden police officer, his wife, and his disabled four-year old son were about to fly to Disney World. It would be the first time young Ryan, born sixteen weeks early, had ever flown in an airplane. The Disney Trip was for his birthday. What an exciting day it should have been.
Bob Thomas folded up his son's stroller and put it on the x-ray belt. Tiny Ryan, who had just learned to walk with the assistance of leg braces, passed through the metal detector. And, naturally, the metal machine beeped.
So what did the TSA
Too bad, said the all-powerful TSA worker. The braces must be removed. And so they were.
At that point, Leona Thomas, Ryan's mother, asked if she could help him through the metal detector since he didn't have his leg braces on. Oh, no, said the big man in charge, the authoritative TSA agent. The four-year old would have to walk through the machine on his own.
And so little Ryan was forced to hobble through the machine in what was surely a humiliating and public display. His parents walked in front of, and behind, him to catch him if he fell.
How's that for a first trip to Disney?
The better part of valor is discretion, at least in decent men. But TSA agents have far too much unchecked discretion and precious little valor.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
For me, it's especially wait-and-see with all of this social networking stuff. Hells-bells. Six years ago, "social networking" wasn't even in the dictionary. If it was, I never heard of it and that's
Now, many people I know have been on Facebook for years. And most of them are rational. But Facebook . . . for me? Meh. I just got the techno-courage last week and already I'm having clicker's remorse.
Today, though, I'm feeling vindicated, victoriously "told-you-so."
Because Google has come out with this new thing called "Buzz." And even though I, your intrepid trend-setter, did not brazenly jump on the bandwagon, Buzz is nonetheless all the buzz.
It's Google's answer to things like Twitter and Twinkle, neither of which I am on.
No doubt, you savvy tech-dwellers already knew Buzz was on the scene, but this sort of scene I'm always the last to attend. And now I can proclaim my hesitation is grounded in good reason.
So come. Groove with me now and get a load of what's happening at Google's Buzz.
In a nutshell, if you sign up for Google Buzz, any and all of your frequently emailed gmail addressees will become public . . . to anyone you follow, or who follows you, on Buzz.
Oh, and do you email with the bloggers in your google reader? Shazam! Those emails are out there as well.
Here's a nice extra: post to Buzz from your iphone and all of your "followers" will instantly know your precise physical location.
Here's a clip from "Business Insider":
Good God almighty! So I've got to qualify for NASA in order to fix this "following" problem? No thanks. I never liked the idea of someone following me around anyway.
When you first go into Google Buzz, it automatically sets you up with followers and people to follow.
A Google spokesperson tells us these people are chosen based on whom the users emails and chats with most using Gmail.
The problem is that -- by default -- the people you follow and the people that follow you are made public to anyone who looks at your profile.
In other words, before you change any settings in Google Buzz, someone could go into your profile and see the people you email and chat with most.
A Google spokesperson asked us to phrase this claim differently. Like this: "In other words, after you create your profile in Buzz, if you don't edit any of the default settings, someone could visit your profile and see the people you email and chat with most (provided you didn't edit this list during profile creation)."
(Freaking out already? Here's how to IMMEDIATELY make these list private and then edit them >)When you first post to Google Buzz, there is a dialogue box that reads "Before participating in Buzz, you need a public profile with your name and photo."
It also says -- albeit in tiny gray letters against a white background, "Your profile includes your name, photo, people you follow, and people who follow you."
But it does not say that these publicly viewable follower lists are made up of people you most frequently email and chat with.
Even if it did say that, we doubt most users bother to read the text in the dialogue box before clicking "save profile and continue."
Imagine you're a psychiatrist (or worse, the psychiatrist's patient). You frequently email your patients via gmail. Oops. Now everyone you "follow" or who "follows you" sees your patients' email addresses in your google directory.
"So whose this Bob Bongdong on his email list?" your wife's friend will remark to her friend, the same friend who happens to teach Bob's 4th grade kid. "Maybe he's bipolar," they'll wonder together.
Use Google as a lawyer and frequently email clients via gmail? Voila. Now the world, which is anyone who can see your Google profile, knows X's email address and can quickly figure out whether X is a client of yours. Think the Grievance Committee's only question will be how stupid you were?
The possibilities for abuse are endless, exponentially endless.
"But wait, Lawyer Mom," I can hear the technocrats clamoring.
"Only certain hapless persons in your gmail email list need be involuntarily exposed to the world. All you have to do is change the cosine in the Google equation and replace pi with 3.12 in the fifth tab of the drop-down menu called "advanced operations." Then just create an automated filter. So easy a caveman could do it."
"Umm, great," I'd say, and, oh . . . what's the expression kids use nowadays? "Back at you!"
Because old fogies like me, we've just figured out how to turn on our blackberries.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
But here's my deadpan favorite, the "I'm so composed I'm practically decomposing" ad:
She makes a roaring comeback, though, in the best-in-ranchers category:
And for the most persuasive GREEN ad I've ever seen, get a load of this one. It'll make you cry.
Audi! Audi! Have you no intellect? Have you no shame?
Last but not least, behold this historical medley, surreal because it's all . . . well, scarily real.
There's a turkey's excoriation of Ben Nelson, a mea culpa gulpa from a prepubescent Jerry Springer, cockfights, a pro-KKK clip, gratuitous cleavage, and . . . wait for it, wait for it . . . a phallic light saber(!) in the grand finale.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Say, remember that bouncing, youthful Pastor Ed Young I wrote about twice, months ago? The guy who was so enthused about sex, he exhorted all married couples in his church to try his "sexperiment"? His clever campaign "Seven days of sex!" was trumpeted over the airwaves for weeks. Truly a PR pro, he dramatically implored and beseeched his congregants to "just do it."
So whatever happened on that? Only God knows. Perhaps there were were no kiss-and-tellers.
But hells bells. Something else is apparently happening in this sex-challenged church.
It seems old Pastor Ed might have taken his eye off the disco sex ball and set his sights higher, set his sights on "loftier" things. Like an $8+M private jet, a $1M salary, and a $250,000 housing allowance.
Damn. Don't you hate it when that happens?
A local TV station has been keeping an eye on our good Pastor Ed and reports:
If you watch the clip, you'll see that Pastor Ed refused to do an interview or answer any questions whatsoever on the subject of his lavish, lush, luxuriant lifestyle. (Yeah, it's alliteration overkill, but his 7-in-7 "sex-sells" campaign was, too.)
Yet when the national media wanted to cover his seven-day sexcapade, he became a pimped out media whore, eagerly granting anyone and everyone an interview -- even Steven Colbert.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
So what gives, Pastor Jet-Set Ed?
Thursday, February 4, 2010
We live in the age of "Nice Speak." Weird new words and phrases have infiltrated our lexicon, and old ones have been banished.
I once used the word "moronic" in a comment on a local newspaper's blog. To my utter amazement, the comment was blocked.
Unbeknownst to me, "moronic" is on the paper's "bad words" list. Barred from usage, verboten, automatically blocked. I asked the "blog master" what other words I should avoid. What about imbecile? Or idiot? He said he didn't know.
"Housewife" apparently carries such a negative connotation that lawyers, during jury selection, routinely ask women on the panel if they "work outside the home" instead of using the dreaded word. But "stay-at-home mom" would be okay, right? Or "home economist"?
"Fag" used to mean cigarette. As in, "can I bum a fag?" God help you if you use that word now.
Can you still say "hag" -- as in, "she's an old hag"? Err, probably not.
Remember the flack some politician caught a few months back, when he referred to a lobbyist as a "K Street whore"? It would have been just fine except the lobbyist was a woman.
The mega-law firm Morrison Foerster is surely due for a flogging. It proudly calls itself "MoFo" and just changed its website to "mofo.com." How must it feel to say you work for MoFo?
One day Mr. M was with me in the Apple store. He gave a little kid a toy and then tried to take it back as we were leaving. "Don't be an Indian Giver!" I blurted out, without even thinking. Looks like I've got a ways to go.
And how many words do we now use to make unpleasant things sound better?
We don't tell people what to do anymore. No, we "task" them. "Mr. M, you've been tasked with raking the yard."
Used cars are now "pre-owned." A janitor is an environmental engineer. There are no more store clerks. Now, they are all sales associates or customer service representatives.
"Crippled" gave way to "handicapped." But "handicapped" soon became politically incorrect, too. So it was changed to "disabled." Now, the handicapped are called "differently abled." I can hardly keep up.
Learning disabilities are "learning differences." And people with "special needs," those of us who learn differently, don't get help. We get "accommodations."
It's becoming increasingly difficult to say anything without getting into scalding hot water.
"A bunch of f-cking retards!" Rahm Emanual exclaimed last August, to describe some of his fellow Democrats in a closed-door session on health care. We all know how that turned out. So badly, in fact, the Special Olympics got on his case. Sarah Palin, too. ABC did a full story on it last night.
Indeed, the word "retarded" is considered so pejorative that the federal government is going to replace "mental retardation" in all of its statutes with "intellectual disabilities."
Don't you know some newspaper will jump the gun on its word-processing "search and replace" program. The article will read, "Pajamas that are flame intellectually disabled contain harmful chemicals."
I, for one, am sick of those smug "first class" people. They board early, receive free
While we're at it, can we lose the wheelchair symbol in the handicap placard? It makes physically challenged people appear helpless and decrepit. Oh, it's all so unpleasant.
Now, don't misunderstand me: some of this "nice speak" I can understand. Still, it often goes too far. Should an ugly person be described as "aesthetically unique"? Will fat people soon be called "differently sized"?
Equally irksome, some forbidden words and phrases are downright complimentary. "An old wives' tale" doesn't strike me as condescending. Old wives are generally onto something. Hell, I'd like to hear all of their tales.
In the meantime, though, I suppose I'd better get with the nice-speak program.
Next time I'm hoisting my too-heavy suitcase into the overhead bin on an airplane, I won't ask for help. No, I'll just say, "Excuse me sir. I'm differently abled. Could you accommodate me?"
I'm sure he'll know exactly what I mean.