Monthly Archives: February 2012

Santorum and Ohio: Calling All Patriots

Well, it looks as though Rick Santorum took the loss in Michigan last night pretty well. He was up early this morning, sending me a nice note as Super Tuesday approaches next week with the spotlight in Ohio.

Here’s the e-mail message:

Dear Patriot,

We just gave Mitt Romney the fight of his life in his home state and now we are in for a long, important battle to the Convention. But before I get to that, I just have to pause and tell you a story about my grandfather.

He was an immigrant from Italy. He became a coal miner, and he worked hard every day. To think that his grandson could rise to the top tier of the most important Presidential election in American history is something that could only happen in America.

I thought of my grandfather a lot during the early days of this campaign. I was spending long nights crisscrossing Iowa to talk with voters, driving in my own car while other candidates were taking private jets.

It’s hard to be an underdog. Let me tell you, it’s much more difficult to run a grassroots, shoe-leather campaign where you actually talk to voters, than to throw millions of dollars on TV.

But now, with 10 states voting in the next week, we need those millions. Will you help us?

It has been humbling to see how this story has resonated with Americans across the country. The idea that hard work and dedication can pay off, no matter who you are or where you come from, well, that’s the American dream, isn’t it?

Our campaign proved again last night that Republican voters want a work horse to take on President Obama. They see that in our campaign.

Now, we move on to Super Tuesday. In only 6 days, 10 states will vote. That means we have to raise a lot of money to compete with the millions Romney and his backers are dumping into this race. Will you add your $35 and help us fight back?

I am putting together a campaign of regular Americans who understand that now is the time to save America. These are Americans with the courage to fight the liberal left – not with moderate mushiness, but with bold ideas.

Will you join the millions of Americans who are rallying to our campaign and donate today?

We had a great fight in Michigan, but we can’t let up. Now is the time. Let’s do what Americans always do when faced with a challenge – we fight.

It won’t be easy. But it’s worth it.

For America,

Rick
Senator Rick Santorum

P.S. We can win this thing. But we need to raise more money for Super Tuesday to make it happen. Will you join us?

Rick, thanks. I appreciate the greeting: Dear Patriot. Most days when someone is addressing me it’s more like: Yo, douche bag.

And I wish you well in Ohio. Romney sided with that douche bag (oops) Kasich in trying to take away collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public employees. You may want to make a note of that. It didn’t go over so well with many of the other patriots here.

Still, I wouldn’t count on my vote in the Ohio primary, for a number of reasons. One of which is that I try to avoid waiting in queues these days at all costs.

Also, I’m no longer contributing to political campaigns. I made that mistake during the last presidential race when I threw in a few bucks for Obama. And, alas, I was rewarded for my efforts by receiving a constant stream of robocalls and e-mails from Mrs. O and Joe Biden asking for more money. Sigh.

Do you have any idea how scary it is to get a call from Joe Biden during Happy Hour?

Just saying’.

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Ohio School Shootings: When Tragedy Strikes Home

OK. I don’t have anything snarky to say today. And I’ll forgo my generally lame attempts at humor. I’m extremely saddened and troubled by the shootings at Chardon High School yesterday. And this is a tragedy that strikes home more so than other similar school shootings elsewhere in the country — mainly because it did happen close to home. That somehow makes it real and personal, more so than just watching reports on national TV.

As it stands now, two students are dead and three remain hospitalized with gunshot wounds — and with the trauma of surviving an experience that most certainly will remain with them forever.

One unanswered question is why? And the temptation now is to speculate about the shooter: a loner, someone who was bullied, an at-risk young person barely hanging on in our education system and so on. Or basically a good, quiet kid who hadn’t been in any trouble previously. We’ll see. And we’ll see if there are clues from Facebook posts, Tweets and so on that might provide a guide for preventing these shootings in the future. (See post in The Daily Mail, “‘Die All of You’: The Rantings of Ohio School Gunman Posted Weeks Before Brutal Cafeteria Spree as Second Classmate Dies.

And another question: why here? Why in Chardon, a small community 30 miles east of Cleveland that most view as being a residential area without the problems or violence associated with large urban areas? The answer: this kind of tragedy can happen anywhere. All it takes is one person with a weapon and a grievance, real or imagined.

So I know that we’ll embark now on the mandatory navel-gazing about the need for stricter gun control — and the benefits of turning our schools into fortresses where students enter and exit by way of weapons screening devices and metal detectors.

Better that parents pay attention to what their sons and daughters are saying and doing. And that applies to the hours and hours young people (and just about everybody else) spend these days online and on smart phones and so on.

We also need to pay more attention to the problem of bullying. This strikes me as a situation getting worse, not better, mostly because of social media. Here’s an informative website.

And I can’t stop thinking about the parents, friends and other family members of the dead and wounded children. Imagine saying goodbye to your son or daughter as they leave for school in the morning — and then hear the words later in the day that they have been killed or wounded by a shooter in the cafeteria.

What a tragedy.

And one that yesterday struck close to home.

 

 

Oscar Winners: The Joy of Silence

Gee. I wonder if a talking film will ever again get the nod for best picture? Probably not, especially since just about everyone in entertainment and publishing exhibits a herd instinct. So with The Artist sweeping the Oscars, expect more of the same. Hey. Try publishing a book without a vampire as the main character. Just sayin’.

In fact, last night’s ABC telecast might have been a preview of what we can expect on the big screens in theaters around the world. I couldn’t hear a damn thing. What’s up with that? Couldn’t the Academy spring for a working microphone?

If it wasn’t for Twitter, would anyone have known what was going on?

OK. Easy to criticize when encased in the comfort of my easy chair and wallowing in the serenity of several double Jamesons. So I defer to the NYT to opine (“Even the Jokes Have Wrinkles“):

Back with the old.

And that’s not just because “The Artist,” a largely silent film set in 1920s Hollywood, won so many awards, including best picture, actor and director at the Academy Awards ceremony.

“The Descendants” was the only one of the nine films nominated for best picture set in the present. “The Help” took place in the Jim Crow South. Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” was set in 1950 Texas — with an occasional flip back to the Dinosaur Age.

The whole night looked like an AARP pep rally, starting with an introduction by Morgan Freeman, who was followed by Billy Crystal, returning to host his ninth Oscar ceremony. And age was his theme of the night. He did his usual comic medley of movie moments, including a sketch with George Clooney in “The Descendants,” urging Mr. Crystal to host the show. He promised “the youngest, hippest writers in town” and the camera panned to a group of drooping, old white men from the film “Moneyball.”

And those may well have been the writers. When Octavia Spencer won a best supporting actress Oscar for playing a maid in “The Help,” Mr. Crystal joked that after he saw the movie, he was so moved he wanted to hug the first black woman he saw, adding, “which in Beverly Hills is about a 45-minute drive.” It was a line that could have been used back when Hattie McDaniel, the first black actress to be honored with an Academy Award, won for playing a maid in “Gone With the Wind.”

It all looked very familiar, which is perhaps necessary when so few of the nominated films are. The Academy Awards are about competition, but it’s less about winners and losers than it is about the ceremony’s struggle to stay on top in a television landscape cluttered with award shows, notably ones that ignore tedious technical awards and combine television and movies, like the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. (People still watch a lot of television; movie attendance in 2011 was at a 16-year low.)

Previous efforts to rejuvenate the Oscars mostly flopped, including last year’s event, which paired an ill-prepared, disaffected James Franco with a hypereager Anne Hathaway and had them try to amuse youth with lame jokes about text messages, Twitter and iPhone apps.

Sunday’s event tried to return to tradition, but it didn’t do itself any favors by starting with some of the least interesting awards. The first acting award wasn’t announced until 45 minutes into the show. Even the montage of clips from classics, from “Star Wars” to “When Harry Met Sally,” was mostly a reminder of the many movies we liked better than this year’s nominees. A taped skit, imagining a focus group’s reaction to “The Wizard of Oz,” was more imaginative. So was a Cirque du Soleil homage to classic cinema.

C’mon. Did you really expect Stacy Keibler to come out of the audience and throw Angelina Jolie into a figure-four leglock? Well, maybe next year.

And did Jennifer Lopez steal the show with an intentional (or not) Janet Jackson-style wardrobe malfunction? Thank God I can still see, even if I can’t hear. Maybe that’s why I did enjoy The Artist.

Well, maybe not. Here’s from USA Today:

Jennifer Lopez’s stylist, Mariel Haenn, wants us to know there was no problem with her client’s dress.

“The Oscar dress was custom made for Jennifer by designer Zuhair Murad. The dress fit perfectly to her every inch,” says Haenn in a statement to Lifeline Live. “There were cups built in and there’s no chance that there were any – how do you say? – ‘slips.’ While the dress did give the illusion of sheer-ness, the joke’s on everyone who wishes they saw something!”

Well, I enjoyed the joke. Even if it was a silent one.

By the way, I was going to opine this morning about the debacle unfolding in Afghanistan, which is certainly no laughing matter. But better to stick with the Oscars, since it appears that the joke in Afghanistan is once again on us for getting sucked into that rathole.

 

 

Oscar and The Artist: We’ll Always Have Paris

OK. I saw The Artist. And frankly, it didn’t leave me speechless. I enjoyed the flick and the acting. And the fact that it forced me to pay attention to the actors and story without assaulting my nervous system from beginning to end had great appeal. Still, I’m somewhat surprised that The Artist is the favorite to capture the Oscar for best picture Sunday night.

Of course, as with most matters, what do I know?

So here’s an interesting preview for the Hollywood awards show from the NYT, “Tap, Tap, Tapping on Oscar’s Door“:

All season long Michel Hazanavicius and Bérénice Bejo, the husband-and-wife writer-director and star of “The Artist,” have been recording their adventures on the awards circuit, whipping out their smartphone or digicorder at each ceremony and red carpet. It’s a memento for their kids, to show what mom and dad have been up to for the last few months. Well, the family is going to have a whopper of a home movie after Sunday if, as expected, “The Artist” wins best picture, and Mr. Hazanavicius, best director, at the Oscars.

And:

There are other firsts about “The Artist.” It would be the first (nearly) silent film to win an Oscar in more than 80 years, and among the first with a French pedigree, though it was shot on location in Los Angeles (which Mr. Weinstein made sure to highlight around Hollywood). But its widespread support among Academy voters — the best picture winner is built on consensus, after all — has not contributed to a sense of excitement about Oscar night.

“I don’t think it’s a strong best pic field this year,” a voting member of the Academy said this week. A longtime industry insider added that, if “The Artist” were not the heavy favorite, “there would probably be a write-in candidate” for the top prize, because the other contenders are too flawed. It was, according to the insider’s e-mail, Oscar’s “worst year EVER.”

Wow. Sounds a lot like the critique of the race for the GOP presidential nod. Doesn’t appear to be much love for the front runner — or anyone else.

And if Billy Crystal flops early as the host, I just might cue up Casablanca. Hey, they aren’t making films like that any more — and during this endless campaign season, as we are bombarded with factoids about our national decline, it’s also kinda fun to return to the golden years of yesterday when America could still control its own destiny. Oops. I digress.

Keeping Quiet: The Power of Introverts

OK. I’ll admit it. I’m quiet. I’ve never been very accomplished at the mindless chit-chat that rules at business conferences or social gatherings. Although I should disclose that I’ve noticed in recent years that my tongue tends to loosen in direct relationship to the number of double Jamesons I’ve quaffed. And then I tend to say something offensive. So why bother?

I digress.

Actually, what got me started down this road is a book by Susan Cain, “Quiet,” that has been climbing the best-selling lists. Here’s from a NYT review by Judith Warner, “Inside Intelligence: Susan Cain’s Quiet Argues for the Power of Introverts“:

My neighbor, a leadership development consultant who regularly helps people improve themselves through personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [note: Myers-Briggs is for human resources managers the equivalent of Silly Putty; something to play with but not take too seriously], once told me I was the most introverted person he’d ever met. I took this as a compliment. Who wouldn’t?

The introverts who are the subject of Susan Cain’s new book, “Quiet,” don’t experience their inwardness in quite so self-congratulatory a way.

They and others view their tendency toward solitary activity, quiet reflection and reserve as “a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology,” Cain writes. Too often denigrated and frequently overlooked in a society that’s held in thrall to an “Extrovert Ideal — the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight,” Cain’s introverts are overwhelmed by the social demands thrust upon them. They’re also underwhelmed by the example set by the voluble, socially successful go-getters in their midst who “speak without thinking,” in the words of a Chinese software engineer whom Cain encounters in Cupertino, Calif., the majority Asian-American enclave that she suggests is the introversion capital of the United States.

Many of the self-avowed introverts she meets in the course of this book, which combines on-the-scenes reporting with a wide range of social science research and a fair bit of “quiet power” cheerleading, ape extroversion. Though some fake it well enough to make it, going along to get along in a country that rewards the out­going, something precious, the author says, is lost in this masquerade. Unchecked extroversion — a personality trait Cain ties to ebullience, excitability, dominance, risk-taking, thick skin, boldness and a tendency toward quick thinking and thoughtless action — has actually, she argues, come to pose a real menace of late. The outsize reward-seeking tendencies of the hopelessly ­outer-directed helped bring us the bank meltdown of 2008 as well as disasters like Enron, she claims. With our economy now in ruins, Cain writes, it’s time to establish “a greater balance of power” between those who rush to speak and do and those who sit back and think. Introverts — who, according to Cain, can count among their many virtues the fact that “they’re relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame” — must learn to “embrace the power of quiet.” And extroverts should learn to sit down and shut up.

My experience — gained from decades of experience being grilled as to why I am so quiet — is that the people who talk the most tend to think the least. Also, in any workplace they are the worst managers because they can’t, or won’t, listen.

So congrats to Susan Cain via Judith Warner for the advice to extroverts: “…learn to sit down and shut up.”

Wonder if she was drinking Jameson when writing that?

Are Corporations Really Friends?

I know. Mitt Romney opines that corporations are people. And I expect many agree. Otherwise, how do we explain the ritual on Facebook where we “friend” or like big corporations. Or on Twitter, where we follow big businesses and other miscreants. Isn’t it bad enough that people who we might actually know let us know what they are doing every minute of every day?

I started musing about this yesterday when I saw a story by Jon Bershad on Mediaite, “For Some Reason Waffle House Is Asking Customers Their Thoughts on Whitney Houston’s Funeral“:

From the advent of social media, the marketing departments everywhere have been eagerly trying to get us human cattle to “follow” soulless corporations. And, why shouldn’t they? If there are people out there dumb enough to actively sign up to read McDonald’s PR messages (329,000 Twitter followers!) or “like” a soda brand on Facebook (who wouldn’t want to be friends with Pepsi?), why shouldn’t corporations exploit them? However, these attempts to get people to “engage” with brands sometimes get a little weird. Take, for example, today’s tweet from Waffle House in which they just wanted to know what people thought of Whitney Houston’s funeral. You know, like giant restaurant chains do.

The tweet was noticed by comedian and Twitter provocateur extraordinaireJoe Mande who declared Waffle House’s message a “hall of fame corporate tweet.” I can’t ague with that.

I remember the ancient times at the beginning of Twitter when I thought it was weird that people were following celebrities they don’t know in real life. I mean, why should I give a crap what Ashton Kutcher is up to right now? That thinking just seems quaint now that we live in a world where I can discuss every possible cultural moment with a waffle restaurant.

Oh, man! I should totally ask them what their thoughts on the GOP primaries are. What does Waffle House think about the tensions with Iran? Wait, that’s more of a global issue. I should probably tweet the International House of Pancakes to talk about that.

A couple decades from now, after the corporations have complete control of the planet and people go to war over brand names instead of countries, I’m going to look back and say that my favorite part of their bloody take over was when they hired 20 somethings to make them look friendly by using goofy hashtags.

Guess it’s too late for me to embark on a career as a social media guru or a Twitter provocateur extraordinaire. But coming up with tweets and Facebook mentions for allegedly friendly corporations sure looks like fun, and I expect it beats real work. Of course, better to promote the Devil (@Hades) than most corporations. Oops. I digress, even while speaking from experience.

And, yeah, I wonder what the International House of Pancakes does think about the situation in Iran?

 

Jeb Bush: Next Up?

Well, just when I figured it couldn’t get much worse for the Republicans as they try to pick a candidate to face Prez O in November, the Chattering Class is blathering about the possibility of a brokered convention and Jeb Bush getting the call from the bullpen to enter the game in the late innings.

Just what we need, another Bush in the White House. Woot!

This story got wings yesterday when Jonathan Karl an ABC News scribbler quoted an unnamed but “prominent” GOP senator as saying that if Romney doesn’t win the GOP primary in Michigan then he would call for a new candidate, Jeb Bush, to enter the race. Here’s from Mediaite:

For those out there loving the current Republican race but worrying that it has become somewhat orthodox in appearance and stable in candidates and support numbers, fear not: ABC News’ Jonathan Karl has the blind item for you. In the most mysterious and, for the GOP, worrisome dispatch on the Republican field in a while, Karl reports that a “prominent Republican senator” told him that the Party will not stand for a Mitt Romney loss in Michigan, and that he expects a result like that to lead the Senator to “publicly call for the party to find a new candidate,” likely former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

The report begins with an unsurprising statement: that Republicans cannot see Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich winning the general election (of course, since this is GOP establishment, Rep. Ron Paul isn’t even mentioned) and would have wanted a stronger candidate. “If Romney can’t win in Michigan, the Republican Party needs to go back to the drawing board and convince somebody new to get into the race,” the top senator told Karl.

Gee, I thought John McCain was in Egypt mucking around in the Mubarak trial. I digress. And I just learned how to spell Santorum, in advance of the Ohio primary March 6.

Anyway, yawn. Not much of a story, especially since Karl didn’t name the senator.

But if we’re going to be throwing out names for new candidates, let me suggest one: Sarah Palin. And Palin, apparently, hasn’t shut the door completely on a run for the White House. Here’s from the Daily Mail:

There may be only four candidates currently battling it out for the Republican presidential nomination but at least one person who stayed out of the race still harbours hopes of finishing ahead of all of them – Sarah Palin.

In an interview with Fox Business News yesterday, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential nominee made clear that she relishes the prospect of a brokered Republican convention in Tampa in August. She also did little to hide the fact that she believes she might emerge from the chaos as the nominee.

Eric Bolling, the interviewer, presented the scenario of a brokered convention, when none of the candidates have the 1,144 delegates needed for victory or can cut a deal to reach that number. ‘If it does get to that and someone said, ‘Governor, would you be interested’, would you be interested?’

Palin responded: ‘Well, for one, I think that it could get to that. And I — you know, if it had to — if it had to be kind of closed up today, the whole nominating process, then we would be looking at a brokered convention.

‘I mean nobody is quite there yet. So I think that months from now, if that’s the case, then, you know, all bets are off as to who it will be willing to offer themselves up in the name of service to their country. I would do whatever I could to help.’

OK. Let’s get real.

No matter who gets the GOP nod, he/she is going to get thumped by Prez O in November. The perception is that the economy is improving, that neither party will do anything about the growing federal debt, and a GOP candidate focused mostly on conservative social issues is going to have a tough time. (Ron Paul: “I Think It’s A Losing Position For Republicans To Focus on Social Issues.”) And this score isn’t going to change between now and November: Navy Seals One – Bin Laden Zero.

If the GOP is going to crash and burn, why not go down in flames with Sarah Palin?

At least that would be entertaining.

So in the spirit of the Cleveland Indians and other MLB teams that are opening Spring training camps this week, could someone please call Sarah and have her start warming up in the bullpen.

Just in case.