Jun 11

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it

I was saddened to learn that American Heritage, one of my favorite personal reads, will no longer be Ahmag published by Forbes, inc.

American Heritage provided a great snapshot into trends and issues of the past that helped shape who we are today. With so many Generation Y-types being virtually clueless about events prior to, say 1990, the loss of another archival benchmark bodes ill.

At the same time, we’re seeing various test scores indicating school kids know little to nothing about current events or geography. So, it’s not just the past that today’s kids find challenging, it’s the nature and scope of substantive matters in the world around us as well. The operative word in the preceding sentence, by the way, is ‘substantive.’ If, and when, our news organizations focus more on, say the G-8 Summit or the carnage in Darfur and less on the fairness of Paris Hilton’s jail sentence, the sooner we’ll make strides towards educating an increasingly lazy and out-of-touch society that is not only doomed to repeat history’s mistakes as Abe Lincoln warned, but show every indication that the worst is yet to come.

May 29

Talk about being in denial

A $28 million ‘creation-based’ museum has opened in the heartland and is devoted to depicting antiquity via a literal interpretation of the Bible. So, since the Bible teaches that God created the world Biblebased_3 approximately 5,000 years ago, this museum has animatronic versions of Adam and Eve cavorting in the Garden of Eden right alongside T Rex and other dinosaurs.

The museum’s creator believes that God made all creatures simultaneously and wanted to build an environment in which true believers can experience the real deal as ‘He’ intended.

Scarier than the museum’s creation, though, is the fact that record numbers of believers flocked to the museum’s opening. What does it say about a person, people or country that will not permit cold scientific facts or reason to get in the way of belief? Fundamentalist religion is truly scary.

Apr 16

Here’s a no brainer: your average Republican is out of touch

The latest Pew Research Center survey shows that viewers of "The Daily Show" and "Colbert" and Colbert_2 readers of daily newspapers are the most knowledgeable about current events while those who watch Fox know the least.

The survey, the first of its kind since 1989, showed fewer people today could identify the vice president (only 69 percent knew of Dick Cheney as opposed to 74 percent being aware of Dan Quayle in ’89. Whether Quayle himself was ever ‘aware’ is debatable). That said, the 31 percent of current respondents unable to identify Cheney may have just been in denial.

Men did better than women in the survey and older Americans fared better than their younger counterparts (the latter finding is no surprise whatsoever since so many of my son and daughter’s friends strike me as being totally out of touch with current events).

And, last but not least, Democratic respondents outclassed their Republican peers in terms of awareness. Again, this may be just mass denial on the part of the latter. After all, if I was a Republican, I’d try to erase just about everything in my memory banks prior to 2000.

Thanks to Bob Reed for the idea.

Apr 13

The new trickle down theory

Is the Rev. Al Sharpton the single most powerful man in the country? Is he the most dangerous? Or is he a combination of both?

Boyz_n_da_hood_dj_self_p_diddy_mixt

There’s no doubt in my mind that Sharpton’s assault on all things Imus forced the major marketers to pull their advertising support of Imus (or run the risk of a Sharpton-inspired product boycott). The networks, in turn, fired Imus in order to placate the advertisers. And Imus is gone and we’re left contemplating a new type of trickle-down theory: the loudmouthed activist with an agenda scares the advertisers who, in turn, scare the networks who pull the plug on the politically incorrect source of the controversy.

So, Sharpton has won. And the double standard reigns supreme. It’s ok for Sharpton to pile on the Duke lacrosse players and never be held accountable for his reckless statements. But, Imus, apology or no apology, is gone.

The losers here are the kids. What signal are we sending them? Are we saying it’s ok to say what you want as long as it’s politically correct? Are we saying you needn’t worry about accountability if you’re attacking the mainstream, power sources (i.e. White society)?

The other loser is the already battered image and reputation of American society. What must America watchers be thinking of this latest charade?

I’m all for fairness, justice and equality. But, not when it’s a one way street. So, Rev. Sharpton, when will you start holding Hip-Hop artists to the same standards you’ve held Don Imus?

Apr 12

Where are the apologies?

Dukescandal_2While Imus is apologizing nationwide to the Rutgers women’s basketball team and to the African-American community at large for his stupid comments, where are the apologies from the African-American leaders to the Duke lacrosse students who "went to hell and back" as one of them stated today? Where are the apologies to the innocent students for presuming them guilty and for ruining their reputations?  Where are the apologies to the country for creating a racial incident when none existed? 

Why is no one — at the very least — saying sorry?

And, why do we allow this to happen in our country?  It’s criminal for us to just let anyone get on a soapbox — and shout to the world — without having hard evidence as to someone’s guilt or innocence.  In the Imus case, the disgust is justified and the evidence is as hard as it gets.  But, in the Duke case, which is now similar in many ways to the Tawana Brawley case, there was no hard evidence that these boys were possibly guilty. 

On April 19, 2006, Al Sharpton was a guest on the Bill O’Reilly Show on the Fox News Channel.

The topic was the Duke case. Toward the end of the interview, Sharpton admitted that he didn’t know yet what really happened, and said, "I don’t know yet and I think that the proper thing to do is to support those that want justice."

OK, Al, what justice now do the boys get? Don’t they, at the very least, deserve an apology.

Apr 10

Political correctness rides again

Newt1imus1tuesap
NBC’s decision to suspend Don Imus is yet another nail in the coffin of free speech, hipness and edgy humor.

Imus, like other shock jocks, rose to fame and fortune because he was willing to say and do what others wouldn’t. What set Imus apart, however, was his intellectual bent, his politically incorrect view on life and his A-level guest list. For me, Imus was the thinking man’s Howard Stern.

Now, though, Imus has been shut down for a fortnight because of a racially insensitive slur. As Imus was quick to point out, he’s offended every possible race, religion and creed. Yet, this time, he apparently went too far.

I don’t condone his bizarre ways, but I do support Imus in his free-thinking and free speech. Political correctness may have won with the Imus suspension. But, we all lose when a true original like the I-man is shut down.

I hope advertisers don’t follow NBCs lead and pull their spots from the I-man’s show. After all, he was merely living up to an image and reputation he’d carefully crafted for years.

Here’s hoping the I-man rests up and comes back from his forced hiatus bigger and badder than ever.

Mar 23

The idiocracy is here

I finally got around to watching ‘Idiocracy,’ a movie by Mike Judge of ‘Office Space’ fame that depicts lead character Joe Bowers being projected 500 years into Idiocracy_3 the future as the result of a failed government experiment.

Bowers wakes up to find the U.S.A. of 2505 has been so dumbed down by mindless entertainment and mass commercialism that good old Joe, who was originally selected for the time travel experiment because he was perfectly mediocre, is immediately hailed as the smartest man in the world.

The movie is both funny and alarming at the same time. That said, I honestly don’t think we have to wait for 2505 to find that our country has become an idiocracy.

How else to explain:

– the latest American Idol developments heralded as lead new stories on The Today Show and Good Morning America.

– a contestant on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ using all her lifelines to try and figure out which U.S. president was known as ‘Give ’em hell Harry.’

– a Harper’s Bazaar survey showing that 10 percent of respondents thought Joan of Arc was married to Noah.

Sadly, the lowest common denominator continues to trump everything else. I fear for our children (and their children) since such mass dumbing down will inevitably wreak havoc on our global competitiveness. It’s an image and reputation issue that, if not addressed in the near-term, will have huge repercussions down the road. And not one presidential candidate is addressing it. Talk about an idiocracy!

Thanks to Deb Schleuter-Brown-Schleuter for the idea.

Mar 01

Attack of the Killer Bs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I’ve noticed an odd trend in the news over the past few days.  People with a name beginning with “B” have been in the public eye a bit more than Bee_2_aftereffects_2 usual.  Some “Bs” have fared well from an image and reputation standpoint.  Some haven’t.  Here B my list of the good, the bad and the ugly. 

The Good: Tony Blair has decided to listen to his constituents’ feelings and has announced a withdrawal of 1600 British troops from southern Iraq.  Regardless of one’s political stance, I admire any leader who “listens” to his or her constituents. 

The Bad: Barry Bonds has returned to Spring training from his Winter hibernation, and is sticking to his story of not having had any involvement in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroid distribution case. 

He has invited the federal government to investigate him, and denies any wrongdoing, yet he still has nothing to say about the former teammate from where he obtained steroids, his trainer who is currently in prison for not testifying, or his lawyer who leaked grand jury testimony from the Balco case.  More recently, Bonds has been dealing with perjury and an income tax crisis.

   

Does Barry actually think being on the defensive is helping?  He has tarnished his image forever, and there will always be an asterisk next to any record he has broken.  But the show must go on. 

Barry still puts people in the seats of AT&T Park, and you can bet that every game leading up to Barry’s breaking Hank Aaron’s record will be packed to the gills, but how will Bonds be viewed by his teammates and the fans?

Bonds is going to have to reach out to the people around him, and be somewhat likeable.  He has already befriended newcomer Barry Zito in Spring training.  During batting practice, on Wednesday, both were spotted wearing shirts that said “Don’t ask me…Ask Barry.” 

Bonds will need to show more of his playful side and less of his angry side to win back some of his fans, but a lot of the responsibility of filling the seats will be on Bonds’ teammates.  If the Giants do well as a whole, the team will be the main story.  Bonds will still catch some heat on his way to breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record, but at least he does not have to be the media’s focus.  Quite frankly…it’s getting old. 

The Ugly:  Britney…Britney…Britney… things just keep getting worse for you, don’t they?  First came the divorce with K Fed, then the revealing paparazzi pictures, then you shaved your head, and now the revolving door to rehab. 

When you think about it, you really have to feel bad for celebrities who just can’t take it.  Britney has been in the public eye, for what seems like ages now, and I think something had to give.  That something unfortunately, was her hair, perhaps her mind, and perhaps her career. 

But what is next for Britney? 

After rehab, she really needs to make a choice about how she wants to live her life.  If she leaves rehab as a totally new person, who can control her partying, establish her family life, and build back her image as a role model, this most recent episode will only be a speed bump in the road of life. 

In fact, if handled properly, Britney’s “comeback” has the potential to be an even bigger story than her downfall, because as we know, everyone loves an underdog. 

It sure seems like the Killer Bs are taking over our lives.  Have you noticed any Killer Bs in the news lately who we can add to this list?

Tip of the hat to Rob Longert who wrote this post while he was "me" last week during our Swap day.

Dec 26

Dumb and dumber

I’m a bit late, but I’d like to comment on last week’s incident at LAX airport whereGg932
a 56-year-old woman put her month-old grandson through an airport x-ray screening machine.

According to reports, crack TSA security guards noticed the outline of a baby as he wended his way through the X-ray conveyor belt along with your typical assortment of shoes, bags and god knows what else. Happily, the quick-thinking guard quickly extricated the tiny tot, who was rushed to the hospital and later released.

Doctors said he was "….exposed to as much radiation as he would naturally get from cosmic rays — or high energy from outer space — in a day."

So, in analyzing this absurd, but somehow not surprising, incident, I’ve been trying to decide who’s dumber: the incredibly naïve woman or the inattentive, incompetent and perpetually irritable TSA staff.

A TSA spokesperson said the agency "…..doesn’t have enough workers to constantly stand at tables in front of the screeners to coach passengers on what should or should not be sent through x-ray machines." That struck me as odd, since they always seem to find the time to take away my ‘oversized’ Crest Toothpaste and poor Edward M. "Teddy" Birkhahn’s hair gel.

Apparently, this is only the second time in nearly 20 years that anyone can recall a traveler mistakenly putting an infant through an airport x-ray machine.

I wonder what’s become of the original x-ray kid? Did she grow up to become Lindsey Lohan perhaps? Or, maybe he’s one of the eight or nine Cincinnati Bengals who’s been arrested and jailed this season? Or using his boxing skills to punch out people at University of Vermont parties?

Regardless of where the original x-ray baby is today, here’s hoping that x-ray baby number two has a happy and healthy life, and ends up a little more intelligent than either his grandmother or your average TSA guard.

Dec 13

Who’s the predator and who’s the prey?

I’ve been meaning to weigh in on the NBC Dateline Predator series for some time now. Like many others, I’ve been captivated by the show, whose premise is to lure Internet predators to a sexual rendezvous with an underage boy or girl.

Instead, when they arrive at the ‘victim’s’ house, the men (and they’re always men) encounter anTt9321  NBC Dateline film crew and correspondent. They’re immediately interrogated, usually reduced to a tearful confession and then told they’re free to leave. Instead, a group of burly, local cops, skulking right outside the home, toss the bad guys down on the ground and arrest them.

Now, this obviously makes for great television. And Dateline and its partner in the show, Perverted Justice, which helps identify and invite these guys to the "teen’s" home are providing a genuine public service.

But, the more I see the show, the more I see the lines being blurred. The Perverted Justice actors are so good at portraying young and willing sexual partners that, in my mind, they come mighty close to entrapment. Most of the predators are sleazy guys who’ve had a history of scrapes with the law, etc. Others, though, are seemingly upstanding citizens. There have been Iraqi War veterans, smart and seemingly sophisticated white collar workers and loads of guys who seem to be your normal, well adjusted family man caught in the Predator trap. And, now, courtesy of Dateline and Perverted Justice, their lives have been turned upside down. One public official actually committed suicide just as his house was being surrounded by local law enforcement officers and Dateline.

So, who’s the predator and who’s the prey? Is Dateline going too far in doing good? They’re clearly helping to put bad guys away and, hopefully, deterring others from entering chat rooms and trying to hook-up with kids. But, are the methods they use kosher? Is it cool to ruin people’s reputations and, in at least one case, a person’s life?

It’s an interesting image and reputation question since, in my mind, there is at least a suggestion/possibility of entrapment going on here. I’d be interested in knowing what others think.