Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were YOU?

Taken Dec. 1979 from the top of either the Chrysler Bldg
or Rockefeller Center.  (I can't remember!)
     It is Sunday, September 11, 2011.  Ten years ago today, radical Islamic terrorists annihilated the World Trade Center, severely damaged the Pentagon and would have hit the White House or Capitol had passengers of the plane destined for them didn't heroically stop them.  In the process, these evildoers took the lives of over 3,000 innocent Americans.     
     Where were you ten years ago?  What were you doing when you learned about the attack? What did you feel? What were you thinking?  It is important to remember all these things, but it is most important to remember who was responsible, and that they still harbor deep hatred and a desire to destroy us and all the good for which America stands.
     For me it was an ordinary Tuesday morning at work at Greenleaf Orthopaedics. Dr. Baier had a full schedule and we were doing what we always do until the receptionist's daughter called and told her mother that a plane had just flown into New York's  World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Immediately we thought "what a horrible accident" and wondered how such a thing could happen.  I got on the internet right away and there were already pictures of billowing smoke from a gaping hole in the first tower.  Within minutes images of a second plane careening into the other tower came across my screen.  It was no longer an accident.  It was deliberate.  But why?  We were all dumbfounded, but started to calm down quickly until a little while later when the news about a plane hitting the Pentagon came through.  Then it was a different story. I thought, "this is war; it's World War III." Our sense of safety  disappeared and we wondered if when we would hear that the Sears Tower had also been hit.  We were worried about how many targets there could be and where.  It threw us off kilter and also united us because at that moment, all we had was each other; doctor, staff and patients. Patients lingered to talk about it and speculate as to who perpetrated this coordinated effort and why. 
     I remember worrying about my family in NJ and especially my cousins who were often in the city doing business.  It was such a relief to learn that they were all safe.  That day and for several that followed, CNN was on constantly wherever you went.  People were devastated as all flights were grounded causing an eerie  emptiness and silence in the sky. We talked about national security and about how lucky we were that we lived in a country where terrorism was not a daily occurrence as was the case in so many parts of the world.  People gathered with their families, stayed close and held tight. Suddenly the entire country appreciated being American.  Patriotism went through the roof.  Flags started appearing everywhere.  We flew them on our homes, displayed them in our car windows, wore them on our clothing. Patriotic songs were written and rose on the charts.  The Star Spangled Banner took on greater meaning and was played on the radio daily.  This, I thought was a good outcome: American citizens united.  
     What follows is an open letter I sent out on September 13, 2001 just two days after the attacks after which is a review of where we are now and how my views have solidified or modified since. 
September 13, 2001
To my dearest family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and other readers,
It is with great angst that I find myself  compelled to write.  Two days ago terrorists waged a despicably grizzly attack on the American government and the American people by hijacking commercial airliners and deliberately flying them into important symbolic buildings killing thousands of unsuspecting innocent citizens of the United States of America, the country I love.  My heart breaks for the victims, their loved ones and friends, the entire population of New York City and all of my fellow Americans. My prayers are unceasing.
 Like everyone else stricken with grief at the sights and sounds of the horrific attack, my mind has been compelled to search for answers, for reasons, for sense in this chaos. I choose to risk sharing my thoughts here.
Watching the news coverage of the events, I was amazed and proud of the citizens of the New York City by their ability to remain orderly in such pandemonium.  People were walking calmly down the streets away from the World Trade Center Plaza and only when there was eminent danger as the great twin towers fell to the ground, one just minutes after the other, did they take to running.  The humanity on the ground was exemplary.  I urge our government and our leaders to be as orderly and stoic in the days ahead.
I have wondered why this dirty deed was carried out - what we did to deserve this wrath.  Perhaps we meddled in other countries' affairs too much.  Perhaps this is retribution for Desert Storm or the air attacks on Iraq.  It is said that many groups in the Middle East view us as the "Evil Empire."  Yet we believe evil of those very groups.  They fight to the death for what they believe in with staunch loyalty and determination just as our soldiers, and we, would do, and will do.  Who is good?  Who is evil? Who is right? Who is wrong?  Who is just?  Who is unjust? These distinctions are not always clear.
I do know that what the terrorists did on September 11, 2001 was wrong. I also know that they see the results of their acts as victory.  They won.  Did they? They have the United States of America, the greatest military and economic power on the face of the earth on its knees and frightened.  They have effectively caused panic and paranoia. Our air traffic has been halted, our financial markets stopped, our suspicions of each other raised.  
Terror has reigned and we have responded by willingly giving up our personal freedoms in a sense of false security. The FAA assures tighter security in airports. This does nothing to protect the American people from hijackers or terrorists. It does however, give the government license to treat us as perceived criminals just by virtue of our desire to use air transportation.  We will allow ourselves to be scanned with metal detectors. We will allow our personal belongings to be searched.  We will allow ourselves to be degraded and humiliated by these acts of violation in the name of protection.  The Bill of Rights protects us from unlawful search and seizure.  Why do we suspend that right at the entrance of an airport, a government building, a school or even an amusement park? If we continue to allow it in these places, how much longer before our homes are subject to such infringements on our liberty?
Unfortunately, none of these measures will protect us from random terror.  Those with intelligence, determination, patience and what they believe to be a just cause will persevere and find a way past any and all attempts at security. The hijackers of this coordinated attack used knives and box-cutters to gain control of large jets.  We are assuming that those knives were metal and were missed by security.  This is a most naive assumption.  Hard plastic can be sharpened into knife-like deadly instruments and go completely undetected.  Everyday items can be used as weapons by those hell-bent on violence.  However of the millions of people traveling daily, only a handful of unscrupulous men on one particular day rained terror on a nation.  Those facts bear the that overall, our risk is minuscule.
The reality is that commercial flights in the US and abroad are secure. When taken reasonably and logically the facts are that thousands of airplanes were in the airspace over American soil at the time of the attacks.  Five out of those were hijacked and used for gruesome purposes. Thousands were unaffected.  Those facts bear the truth that we are safe.
Retaliation is what is being called for by the masses and government alike - retaliation and revenge.  Harboring such rage and indignation gives even more power to the terrorists.  These are out-of-control, irrational responses.  I know we are incensed by what has occurred, which is understandable and expected.  I am sickened by what has happened, but I don't think mass destruction of entire countries is the answer.  Should there be consequences for those who planned, funded and carried out this act of warfare? Absolutely.  However those are the ONLY people who should feel the consequences of their actions.
We must not unleash the  might of our military indiscriminately against the countries in the Middle East from where this evil sprung.  No.  That would make us worse than those who caused us to attack, for we would be taking the lives of their innocents to such a magnitude that it could be construed as retaliatory genocide.  It would be unfair, unjust and out of proportion.  America once again would be the bully with the bigger gun.  Is this what we want for our nation's reputation?  I certainly pray we do not.  
In this day and age of sophisticated technology and intelligence, of advanced spy satellites, our leaders and protectors have the ability to track and hunt down those individuals who are directly responsible and bring them to justice in front of the world. This is the solution I hope for and will encourage the President and other leaders to seek..  I do not want to see the day that Americans dance in the streets celebrating the devastation of innocent citizens of another country brought about by their own military power. We need to set the example for diplomacy, justice and freedom for all the world.  We have been knocked down.  We are called to take the high road in response.  
Where is God in all of this? This believer is sad knowing that God's heart was the first to break in this horror  The earth and all of the universe was created and deemed GOOD.  Humans, created in God's likeness were given free will, the laws of nature and the responsibility to take good care and be good stewards of the earth. What have we done? We certainly have not made our Creator proud. On the other hand, God loves us still - ALL of us - Americans, Middle Easterners and every other nation, village, tribe, family and person.  So do not condemn God for the acts of humanity. Instead, look for the grace among the ruins and extend the love we are here to share, indeed the love we must share to survive.
And so my brothers and sisters in human frailty, I have shared my thoughts at this heartrending time in history.  Some may not like my words.  Others may agree with a portion of them.  It really doesn't matter. What matters is that we listen to each other with open minds and open hearts, that we work together to understand each others' differences, that we find nonviolent ways to disagree and hopefully in time, with the grace of God, learn enough acceptance and humility to coexist in peace.
Thank you.
     Only my views about God have changed since I wrote that letter.  I no longer believe in my former imaginary friend.  I have no interest in the concept of a creator or God.  It makes no sense and there is absolutely no evidence that there is one.  That being said, I do still have faith.  One doesn't have to believe in a deity to have faith, and faith in a God is not the only kind of faith.  I do have faith: I have faith in people, in the power of love, in the power of the open mind and honest communication, in the kindness of charitable communities, etc. 
     Reading this again was an interesting exercise and as I said, many of my views are exactly the same.  So many of my fears have also been realized.  We have given away so many rights. For what?  NOTHING!  This is what angers me the most about the last 10 years.  There have been a handful of attempts at acts of terror since that fateful day - a handful!  And each time, our response is to panic and look to the government to protect us. How do they do this?  By taking away more freedoms, exposing American citizens to humiliation, more intrusive searches, pat-downs, naked body scans and worse.   It disgusts me. 
     WE ARE SAFE, People!  Stop buying into what the government and its handmaiden, the media propagandize.  Because so many are so willing to give up freedom for a false sense of security, the terrorists really have won, just as I said 10 years ago. We are by and large a terror free country.  This also makes us BLIND.  Read some news of the world.  Check out what is going on in Mexico, El Salvador, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma), Darfur and other places where terror on the people by warlords, government or insurgents is a daily occurrence.  We are so safe we don't even realize it.  
     WAKE UP!  Be glad. Be grateful!  Take back your freedom!  Stand up and demand it.  Do not waiver in your diligence to restore the Bill of Rights to what it is meant to be. 

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."  (Preamble to the Constitution)
The Bill of Rights:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. 
 Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Middle-aged Dating Escapades: Part I

     In the thirteen years since my marriage ended, I have had some interesting experiences in dating.  I also had a long-term live-in relationship thrown in there for five years, but that has been over for, well, five years, so I have had time to collect some pretty silly and sometimes outrageous stories.  In fact the most horrendous dates make the best stories, so I always feel like I have gotten "something" out of each one. Being unconventional (Really?), I am starting with the most recent.  I will then go back and chronicle some of the more colorful stories of the past in future posts.  
     I have been on Plenty-of-Fish, a free online dating site as LoriS1313 on and off for several years.  I had tried and eHarmony in the past, but they became cost prohibitive so I chose to stick to the free version of PoF. My profile had been hidden from public view for two years as I had been in a yearlong doomed-to-fail illicit relationship with a married man who inevitably broke my heart and from which it took me a year to recover and be ready to put myself back "out there." About four months ago I decided to take the plunge and see what kind, if any "fish" were biting. 
    It is a well known fact that I am weird and that I am perfectly content with my own weirdness. I know who I am and what I am and try very hard to be real about myself.  In fact, if you know me and you click on the link to my profile up there, you will see how brutally honest I am about myself.  I make it known that I am a real woman, not some skinny model and what my political and religious views are along with describing what I want in a man and relationship.  I attempt to state all of this in a witty, humorous somewhat self-effacing way.  (Comments welcome:  I can always improve that dang profile!).  Also, my photographs are very recent and I do my best to portray myself in such a way that the reader  knows that "what they see is what they will get."  To me this is the most honest way to be and prevents a lot of time-wasting trying to figure out what is true, what is embellished and what are simply lies.  What I have come to learn however is that I am rather unique in this regard. 
     Now let's go back about nine weeks.  I had just had a pretty funky experience with a man (we'll get to him at a later date) and was doing my best My Cousin Vinny "I'm through with this guy!" impersonation when I get a very humorous message from Don.  Don's profile was a bit sparse, but the humor got my attention, so I responded, and it began.  Within a week we had progressed to talking on the phone.  Soon we were spending hours at a time talking about everything from politics to religion to music to feelings to grieving the loss of our fathers, etc.  Communication was great.  He seemed like the perfect combination of sensitive and masculine.  We have tons in common, even use some of the same quirky phrases. He is smart, funny, talented, musical, an amateur photographer, employed, self-sufficient, communicative, etc.  He texted me  "Good morning" and little quips throughout the day.  Appropriately attentive without going overboard. What luck!
     Experience has taught me to enjoy the newness feelings while keeping my feet firmly planted in reality.  In other words, I know better than to get my hopes up.  Keep reading...  you now where this is going.  
     Four weeks into this telephonic relationship, portions of our conversations were spent flirting and talking about an impending relationship.  Don often asked, "What will you do if you fall in like with me?"  I asked him the same question back always assuring him that we would cross that bridge if and when we get to it.  At this point I became anxious to meet.  We were investing quite a bit of time in each other and it was clear that we enjoyed each other and there were little tender feelings beginning to germinate. This was a "call for action." In order to protect my sensibilities since I was still in a place of ration, and possibly my heart if it went much further I expressed my desire to meet.  "We will have to do that soon," Don replied.  In fact that reply was received on multiple occasions whenever I broached the subject of actually meeting to learn if what we were experiencing on the phone had substance and merit.
    After a week of expressing how important it was to me that we meet, I announced that I was taking myself out on a photography outing to the zoo over the weekend. My plan was to go to either Milwaukee Zoo or Lincoln Park Zoo.  Don said that if I go to the Brookfield Zoo (my last choice) then to let him know and he will meet me there.  Now, I know that he told me this during a phone conversation at 1:30AM while he was quite inebriated and feeling playful.  But, weird and rational though I may be, I am always, first and foremost a girl.  So guess where I went?  You got it!  I took myself to Brookfield.
    When I got myself settled into a parking space at the zoo, I sent him a cutesy, cheesy (OK, lame) poem text.  I don't remember the whole thing but part of it was: I am at the zoo! You could be too! What will you do?
    A few minutes later I get his response.  "Good morning! Which zoo?"
    Right then I knew I was in trouble because his response told me he didn't remember our conversation and if he didn't remember THAT, there was no way he remembered his promise to meet me there.  Crap!  
    Keeping it light and positive I replied, "Brookfield!  Are you coming?"
    About an hour later, I get his response, "I am trying to get there. How long will you be there?"
    Trying to get there?  TRYING?  What the hell?  Either you are coming or you are not.  What kind of game is he playing?
    "I just got here. They are open 'til 6." I texted back complete with smiley face even though my fingers could have pierced the little QWERTY with each letter pressed.
    "OK." was his response.
    It's a good thing that I don't need to be in a group to have fun or keep myself amused!  In fact I have gotten quite comfortable doing things on my own when need be.  (Don't get me wrong: I'd MUCH rather be with a friend or group!) So, with or without him, I was perfectly content photographing animals and watching people.  Around 1PM I got hungry and only hesitated about 30 seconds wondering if I should wait until what I hoped was his impending arrival before I grabbed myself an overpriced salad at one of the concessions. 
    At 2PM Don actually called.  He confessed that he was horribly hung over from his drinking the night before.  I was assured that he does not usually drink to excess and this was quite rare. Still, I was hopeful. He still had 4 hours to make it there! OK, so hopeful sometimes means stupid or gullible.  But hey! It's positive!
    By 4PM the skies darkened and opened with large torrents of rain. I took refuge in a gift shop, invested $9 in a bubble umbrella, requested an extra plastic bag to protect my camera and then proceeded to the African exhibit to hang with the gorillas because it was becoming ever more clear that watching a Silver-back through a telephoto lens was the closest thing I was going to get to a man that day!
    Sure enough, at 5PM the phone rings yet again and this time, instead of fostering false hope, he simply apologized.  Although I was understandably disappointed, I expressed only compassion and understanding.  Magnanimous of me, don't you think?
   We talked later that night and the next night and the next.  I reiterated how important it was that we meet and why. He agreed each time and gave me some permutation of "soon" each time.  After another week of talking, flirting and dreaming together, I asked him for a specific date.  He promised me that after work the following Wednesday or Thursday, we would meet.  Whew!
    The week came and went.  Excuses of overtime and condo association meetings came up.  We didn't meet. Again, I expressed concern and stated even more emphatically that in order to protect myself we MUST meet and that it had to happen soon.  I gave a tentative deadline of Independence Day weekend which at that point was two weekends away.  He agreed that this was reasonable. This was a generous amount of time to give him to pull his act together, choose a date and get this initial meeting over with.  
   Now throughout all of this, Don would proselytize about how most men are lame, how they play games and how he just didn't understand it.  He would say that a lot of women are lame too and they lied about who they were or the baggage they had from old relationships, etc. (Do you think perhaps he protests too much?  We'll see!) Also when we spoke on the phone, Don would always express his keen interest in having me come over to his place and listen to music, hear him play his guitar or mandolin, or to watch movies.  I told him I would love to do that, but we HAD to meet in public first.  I would not compromise my safety for him or anyone else.  He agreed that this was wise.  So I did the research and found out where the halfway point was between us.  We were only an hour away from each other, which was no big deal. Right?   Well, of all the times we talked, his big concern was the distance between us and this seemed to put him off.  To me it was just something we would have to figure out if it turned out we liked each other in person. 
    Last weekend was Independence Day and we talked about meeting Sunday which he nixed because it was too hot and I had to be back home by 6 to get ready to attend a Firemen's Ball.  But when we talked Sunday night, I told him that we were meeting the next day because I was coming down by him.  He only had to tell me where to meet him. His only response was, "Really? OK"   
    Monday, July 4th, I texted Don to "Rise and shine" because I was looking forward to head down to meet him.  He didn't respond. An hour later I called him and left an excited message that I was jumping in the shower and was going to start driving south and needed to know where to go.  An hour went by. Then two.  A text came through that he didn't feel well and would call me in awhile. At that point I decided I would not be taking that call.  When he called later that day, he didn't even leave a message.  Enough said.
   The reality of his reluctance to meet me caused me to take pause and evaluate our interactions again.  Looking back, about a week into our communication when talking about our mutual enjoyment of photography, I asked him to look at my albums on Facebook. He kept saying he wasn't a Facebook person.  I get that, however I really wanted to share my photography with him.  Then the week before Independence Day weekend, I asked him to remind me his mail address.  He gave it to me and I immediately sent him an email with actual photography attached as well as links to more photography and the blog post that I wrote about how my dad taught me patriotism.  These things are very important to me!  When I told him that night that I sent him the email, he said that he saw it on his phone but couldn't look at anything until he went on the computer.  HE NEVER DID IT!  How much effort does it take to flip a switch and sign on to your email in order to look at something that someone who you say you care about wants to share with you?  How much?  Is it that difficult?  That time consuming?  
    So Wednesday morning, two days after my final attempt to meet this man, I received a text in the morning, "Hi Ron Pauls new book rocks!"
    I waited about 15 minutes and replied, "Hi! Cool!"
    Awhile later I get "Hm"
    "?" was my immediate reply.
    "You still wanna talk?"
    This was a tough one.  Why?  Because I really enjoyed our conversations.  They were fun. HE was fun.  I thought about it for some time. But ultimately I could no longer hang with the game playing and over an hour later, I replied, "Yes, I do! Face-to-face."
    I haven't heard from him since.  Therefore, I have added an "e" to his name and quickly turned him from "Don" to "Done!"

    As for me?
    Batter up!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Eleven score and 15 years ago today....

... "our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

So, wishing someone a Happy 4th of July is like wishing someone a Happy 16th of October. It really doesn't mean anything and everyone in the world has one. 

THIS is Independence Day! 

When brave men put their lives on the line and "for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."  Men, who were bold enough to put into writing a declaration of Freedom and Liberty never before nor never after seen.  Men who emphatically agreed to reject their colonization and to break free as the thirteen United States. Men who agreed upon the following language:

"The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
We need to find a new generation of George Washingtons, Benjamin Franklins, John Adamses, James Madisons, Thomas Jeffersons, John Witherpoons, etc. in order to reclaim the ideals of Independence, Liberty and the true meaning of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" for ALL people... where we all get to choose our paths and accept responsibility for them... where we abolish the ridiculous notion of "equal outcome;" Where the government does not encroach on the rights of any person from attempting their dream so long as they "do no harm" to others along the way; Where the governed are in charge of the government; Where the system of checks and balances put in place with shared power of the three branches of government has not been breached, but is respected and upheld; Where those in government come from private life to truly SERVE and then return to private life without ever drawing from the public coffers; Where corruption borne of monies used to buy false loyalties of the legislators is eradicated; Where once again we are a government "of the people, by the people and for the people" and that we do not "perish from the earth."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quickie Catch-up

Celebrity Apprentice is over.  John Rich rightly won.  At some point the childish behavior took over and the celebrities began lost my interest.  My excitement waned.  That's all.
New blog post coming soon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You're Fired! Part II: Three women gone in three weeks

    In week two of Celebrity Apprentice was Child's Play when the task was to write a children's book targeted to four and five year-olds, based on at least one member of their group, which would then be read and performed in front of a group of children. They were being judged on originality, age appropriateness and performance. Project managers were Meat Loaf for Backbone, the men's team, and Lisa Rinna for A.S.A.P., the women's team.  Meat stepped up for the job while Rinna was a vocally reluctant choice saying that she wanted to wait a few more weeks before being in the lead spot. I will admit up front that I was rooting for Meat Loaf, not only because I love his music and his politics, but also because of the man he is showing himself to be on the show.  As long as I am admitting to things, I will say that I was actively hoping that Lisa Rinna would lose.  Her whiny, divisive, catty and backstabbing behavior from week one had me disliking her. On top of that, I was sure that she would not have the chops to pull off a win, regardless of the challenge presented by Mr. Trump.
   The study in group dynamics witnessed on this show is fascinating.  The bifurcation of the large group along gender lines should make it clear that although abilities being equal, men and women are different. Again we watched the women have a failure to form a team. Although the backbiting was less this week, we saw a lot of diva behavior especially from Dionne Warwick who comes across as a hard and unkind woman with an overextended sense of import. Rinna was an expected failure as a leader.  She was unorganized, lacked vision and direction, and ultimately expected the team to do the job for her which they did with Star Jones stepping up not only taking the lead, but also the largest chunk of the task.  The book idea they came up with used LaToya Jackson as a timid lion who couldn't find her roar, with the moral of "be yourself" which was far too advanced for four and five year-olds who are not developmentally ready for such an abstract concept. Niki Taylor knew this and voiced her concerns, but was unable to be persuasive and bring about a change. What they did do well was keep the vehicle for their message simple, using different animals to help the searching LaToya find her roar.  Their illustrations were cute, but in production which was Star's responsibility, a very small font was chosen and the words were lost on the page which is not user friendly for either the target beginning readers or their parents. Their performance was well done and appealing to the children.
     The men quickly formed a cohesive team under Meat Loaf's leadership and their idea was a result of group brainstorming with simple guidelines. Lil Jon was the star of their book as a new kid in a new school who felt small and how he learned to fit in with the encouragement of his teacher.  The illustrations were adorable and captured a young Lil Jon beautifully.  John Rich took on the challenge of writing the story in rhyme.  One pretty major disconnect occurred which temporarily fragmented the group when Meat Loaf miscommunicated an address when sending Jose Canseco and Gary Busey to deliver their gathered props to the rehearsal space.  The wild goose chase was understandably frustrating, but seeing these two grown men have veritable temper tantrums was ridiculous. Where most of the men shone was in the performance.  They came together as a team again, recovering nicely from the earlier schism. Let's face it, men are still little boys in a lot of ways and they got into their roles excitedly.  Lil Jon had all the kids rapping about knowing their ABCs and 123s at the end of their performance.
    Ultimately, the women lost because the theme, conceived by Dionne Warwick was not age appropriate and their book design, by Star Jones was flawed by having a tiny font. These strong personalities who are so egotistical that they wanted their names on the cover of the team's book for conception and author. In the boardroom they united to crush their project manager. The responsibility for the loss did indeed fall squarely on Lisa Rinna who was an ineffectual project manager with no leadership or organizational skills. She expected her team to do everything on their own to support her while she did little more than encourage creativity: But creativity without direction is chaos and Rinna was fired.  In reading her candidate bio, I learned that she owns two fashion boutiques in California. Obviously she hired people to run them, because if it were up to her to manage, they would never get off the ground.

    Week three had supermodel Niki Taylor square off against brain-addled Gary Busey in "Unhappy Campers," a marketing task involving Camping World that had each team create a camping experience in midtown Manhattan. The goal was to present a cohesive branding message for Camping World  while highlighting the vastness of their product line.  Each team were given two RVs and the opportunity to spend $5,000 for accessories to enhance the midtown camping experience.  The women chose the two midrange RV's and set out to decorate them so that they felt like home. Their money was spent mostly on home goods and Niki assigned each woman a room to decorate.  While the ladies set about making their RVs a home-away-from-home, Nikki took Playmate of the Year Hope Dworaczyk to design signage and get them printed for their campsite.  While they were away, the ladies finished the inside of the RVs and called Niki to inquire about her vision for the outside.  Niki was nonplussed by the inquiry believing that it was obviously camping. She did not consider that none of her teammates had ever camped and therefore had no point of reference for what she was taking for granted as basic knowledge. The women figured it out though and created several cozy outdoor spots along side their RVs. The signs that the beauties came back with were placed on the outside fence of their camping experience. 
     The men, this week, were a royal mess.  Gary Busey is scattered, unfocused and obviously permanently affected by his 20+ year-old brain injury.  He and Jose Canseco sat around and talked more than worked.  Jose was downright lazy and was actually shown nodding off in one of the campers and did not even pretend to look busy when one of the scion of Trump stopped by to check in on the team. Jose & Gary even tossed a baseball around while the other teammates were off doing the graphics, gathering accessories and arranging for greenery to be delivered. Both Mark McGrath and Richard Hatch had the idea to bring some greenery onto the site to create more of a nature feeling.  Mark consulted with Busey about his plan and informed him that delivery costs but then Gary forgot that he promised funds to McGrath and gave the rest of the budgeted money to Richard Hatch.  McGrath is quick to panic and got quite   upset with Busey about his forgetfulness.  The comedy here is that Busey insisted he didn't forget anything and that he did not promise Mark the delivery money.  It all worked out when Mark called his contact and managed to arrange for free delivery. John Rich and Lil John got some fabulous signage to hang on the men's RVs, one of which was a $250,000 fully loaded luxury behemoth complete with fireplace, flat screen TV's and all the creature comforts.
     When morning came, final preparations were made. Each team arranged their campsites with care, but the men truly created a camping ambiance with their lavish use of greenery, including hedges, trees and  Astroturf.  Their Camping World signage was prominently displayed on their RV's and when the public began to arrive to tour the sites they saw men doing what they do when camping. By the time the owners of Camping World showed up, John Rich had written a jingle which he played for them excitedly.  The women's site looked barren in comparison to the men and Niki was disappointed that she had not thought about adding trees or other greenery to their display. When the Camping World owners were taken on their tours of each site, they found that the women were better able to talk about the features and benefits of their RV's. This is where LaToya Jackson outdid everyone. The men were stumped when one of the owners asked Meat Loaf what was behind a door on the outside of their mega RV.  It turned out to be an outside flat screen TV and the men thought not knowing that was the nail in their coffin.
   In the end the men did a much better job at the actual task of brand messaging for Camping World and garnered their second win in a row.  The sparse and poorly placed signage on the women's side was truly their demise and in the boardroom, Niki took full responsibility for their loss and told Mr. Trump that she had let her team down and she was the one who deserve to be fired.  Trump agreed and that was that. 

   Week four was "Off the Hook" with the teams having to write, produce and present a 30 second commercial for a video phone marketed by ACN.  The audience for their presentation would be at a meeting of 450 of ACN's top producers. They were encouraged to evoke emotion with their commercials while keeping in line with the ACN brand image.  Project managers were Lil Jon and NeNe Leakes.  I must confess to having never seen nor heard of either one of these celebrities until watching this show. Lil Jon is a musician renown for bringing the southern style of Crunk to the mainstream, and for his entrepreneurial endeavors, while NeNe is a favorite on the Real Housewives of Atlanta. 
   NeNe is a formidable woman both in stature and demeanor. She took on the role of project manager with confidence and was the most successful so far at creating a true team.  She appropriately discerned and utilized the strengths of her team members. Her weakest links were LaToya and Dionne. The ladies played it safe with a traditional themed commercial of a family separated by miles having sent their daughter of to Paris to study.  Dad sends a video phone and the first time they talk on it he brings Mom over to say hello and it's Marlee who signs to her daughter telling her she is missed and loved.  Very touching, almost a Hallmark moment. 
   Enter, Lil Jon. He is a high energy rapping entrepreneur. He brought the men together as a team better than the three previous project managers completely avoiding conflict and his business experience served him well in leading the men to a high risk concept for their commercial which went for humor and surprise rather than the company suggested emotional hook. His idea? Grandparents Gary Busey and a hired actress receive a gift of a video phone from their grandson who has left home to travel the world, with a note to plug it in and call.  They call and are awed by the experience of being able to see their beloved grandson and learn of his adventures.  During the conversation the dorky young man excitedly shares with his family that he is engaged and wants to introduce his fiancée. A very large sexy man, played by Jose Canseco. 
   The drama for the ladies arises from familiar places. LaToya Jackson complains that her vision is blurry and can't see well. She is given the menial task of "time log keeper" which she felt was an important role which she took very seriously.  Dionne and the Playmate were tasked with shopping for the furniture and props or the their sets.  They dawdled while shopping and when they returned to dress their sets, Dionne once again got her Diva panties in a bundle when asked questions about her Paris set.  What is emerging as a power trio among the women of NeNe, Star and Marlee took the bull by the horns, sharing the larger pieces of the project.  NeNe directed the commercial with Marlee as her Assistant. Star prepared the presentation for the meeting. They hired actors, met with film crews and wrote the script while they waited for their set items to arrive.  LaToya looked ridiculous walking around looking at her phone regularly for the time and then calling out what was on the schedule next or that they were running out of time. The biggest disconnect came at night after the shoot when they were all gathered in the editing bay putting their commercial together: story, graphics and voice over. It was late and the Diva wanted to sleep, so she went up to NeNe and said she was going back to the hotel.  Just like that Dionne abandoned her team.  Now it was true that only the editor, NeNe and Marlee were actually working at this phase, but the rest of the team was there for support and a true desire to see the finished product.  They were more than a little put off that Dionne had left. 
    When Trump's daughter popped in to see the men, they chose to be secretive about their idea, but assured her that things were going well.  She saw a cohesive team working synergistically toward something they believed in, although a few (Jose, John & Richard) harbored concern about the edginess of their approach and that it might offend some of the more conservative members of ACN. The only blip on the men's radar this week was Gary Busey. Surprise! He has boundary issues, lacks self awareness and demands a lot of attention on a regular basis which made it difficult for PM Lil Jon to communicate effectively with his director Meat Loaf. Busey's eccentricity played out when he got into character and put on his costume which was a burgundy satin robe.  He went commando underneath and had to redo several takes due to wardrobe malfunctions causing his manhood, named "Big Wednesday," to be exposed. He certainly adds color to the group!
    Both teams made effective commercials and their presentation s were well done. NeNe introduced Star who gave a very pointed marketing presentation for their commercial.  Lil Jon came out all high energy and used language that hooked the audience and got them excited about what they were about to see. Suggesting that the commercial could become a viral video or was Super Bowl material was genius. The winner was decided by popular vote of the ACN audience and was a close 47% to 53% in favor of the men.  They took a huge risk by going with something risqué, and it paid off.
    Back in the board room, the ladies were devastated at their third loss in a row and Mr. Trump asked them to evaluate what might be wrong. Star attributed the problem to be that skill levels were very different, as was the drive to win. Dionne was exposed for her bad attitude and  her feet held to the fire for walking out of the editing bay. She has an exaggerated sense of self importance and is truly unlikeable. When asked by Trump who she thinks he should fire she challenged him to fire her and when all was said and done, that is exactly what he did.

    It is amusing to me to watch celebrities try to do real world tasks. You can tell which ones have remained grounded and which have lost touch with what is reality for most people.  In some cases, they are laughable and in others annoying. As the cast dwindles in the coming weeks it will be interesting to see where it all ends up.  I would love to see it get down to Star and Lil Jon for the final showdown, but Star may do herself in at some point with her bossiness. Time will tell.
    As far as what I am taking from Trump University, I believe that I am more capable than some of these celebrities and would not have been intimidated by any of the tasks thus far.  Since this is my first experience with the Apprentice franchise, I would like to know if the non celebrity version is handled the same way with similar tasks or if Trump takes it easy on the elite. Finally, I must admit that I find myself enjoying Donald Trump, the man.  I wonder if he is kinder or tougher than his real world persona within his companies. If nothing else, the series is keeping my interest and I will continue to watch, observe and blog about my insights.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

You're Fired! Part I

     Last Sunday the season premiere of Celebrity Apprentice aired and although I have never seen previous seasons, I decided to watch the show on line today for several reasons. First of all, my #3 teenage idol (behind Donny Osmond and Bobby Sherman), David Cassidy is among the contestants as is Meat Loaf, whom I adore for both his music and for being an outspoken fiscally conservative celebrity. Secondly, Donald Trump has been popping up on my radar screen more lately and it seems clear that he is toying with the idea of a presidential bid in 2012. It may also be notable that I was not attracted to the show by any of the female contestants and in fact do not even know who several of them are or for what accomplishments they find themselves famous. Now that I have tuned in, I am hooked and will be watching on line every week.
     Mr. Trump divided the candidates along gender lines, which always makes for interesting dynamics. He revealed that their first task was to run a Manhattan pizzeria for a day and raise money for charity. Once the teams were delineated and the task was announced they were off to their Trump Tower suite to choose a team name and a project manager.  The men came to the table with different ideas for a name, quickly found areas of common ground, took to an internet thesaurus for inspiration and decided on the unifying name, Backbone. Richard Hatch, the first winner of the popular Survivor reality series was chosen unanimously as their project manager. The women also came to their table with different idea for names. Rather than coming up with a unifying name to bring about cohesion, they chose A.S.A.P.P. (Artists, Singers, Authors & Professionals with Purpose). It was so obscure even to them, that when the time came to reveal it in the board room, they had forgotten its complex meaning. Star Jones, an attorney famous for being on The View was unanimously chosen as project manager for the women's team. Then the fun really started.
     Backbone took over a Famous Familglia  Pizzeria near NYU while A.S.A.P.P. chose the location closest to Times Square in the theatre district. Although timing is a bit unclear, it seems they had one day to train and prepare and one day to be in business to make money. Each team quickly set about assigning tasks: pizza-maker, counter service, cashier, delivery, marketing, etc. Almost immediately subordinates began complaining about their project managers being too bossy, controlling or otherwise unpleasant.  To me, this meant that both teams made good choices in leadership.  Though they were frustrated, each participant set out about doing the necessary preparatory work required for a day of food service.  They made, weighed, portioned and stored dough; they grated cheese and sliced toppings, etc. 
     The gender dynamics played out like textbook scenarios. Men formed a cohesive team, remaining task and goal oriented while setting personality differences aside - for the most part.  The standout in this was David Cassidy who was appreciably less industrious than the other men and far more needy as a worker.  Richard Hatch took his project manager role very seriously and put his megalomaniacal control freak tendencies to work with unwaivering determination to win. Unfortunately he expresses himself in an overly aggressive, demeaning and downright bullying fashion. He also has little self awareness and absolutely no humility. This makes him unlikeable. Is it necessary to like one's boss to get a job done?
     The women failed to form a team and there were catty remarks being tossed around under their breath and lots of negative judging of their chosen leader. Although they could not set aside their personality conflicts they did hunker down and get their preparations done. Lisa Rinna was the most whiny, catty and backstabbing. She would say one thing to her fellow workers and another to her "boss" which makes her unlikeable. Niki Taylor, a supermodel was the most surprising to me. She stood out as a team player, confident in her strengths and ready to put them on the line and work hard, she was the pizza-maker.
    Hatch chose Hip-Hop artist Lil John, Country & Western star John Rich and actor Gary Busey as his marketing team. They created a fun and effective campaign from menus to street hawking. Putting Gary Busey out on a street corner in an ill-fitting suit with menus and pepperoni confetti as the  evangelizing "Pizza Profit" was genius. All team members were encouraged to use their network connections, to call friends, family or whomever to get donations.  Some slices of pizza were sold for thousands of dollars in the name of charity.  The worker bees had fun running the pizzeria for a day and took joy in brining in money, Hatch was a mostly hands-off manager who demanded productivity while celebrating successes.
     Jones took the marketing task on personally while sending the other women back to the prep kitchen. Although she was sure in her confidence, her results at print posters and menu were lackluster at best. Her biggest mistake was taking two people out of the store for delivery. She sent Lisa Rinna and Marlee Matlin.  That was too much personnel out of operations which caused some major fallout when Star decided to close the retail side of the business to focus on what was to be a large delivery order. 
     Ultimately the win went to the women's A.S.A.P.P. team because they raised almost 2 1/2 times what the men brought in.  They did this in spite of their operational shortcomings and even though they missed a final delivery to a fire station that would have added an extra $35K to their total.  How?  They leveraged their natural gender traits. Women are relationship oriented and they called everyone they knew to come and support them. Their friends came through spectacularly.  One man came in and ordered 20 pizzas for each of his two offices @ $1,000 per pizza for a total of 40 pizzas for $40,000. When Star realized that time was running short and her operation could not support the order in time, she called her friend and asked him if she could do just 20 pizzas total and was told just one would do. A monkey could have come through with one pizza. She and her team were let off the hook way too easily and she should be extremely grateful for that kind of generosity. 
     With the women snagging the win, someone from the losing men's had to be fired.  The boardroom antics leading up to the firing were quite dramatic and very entertaining.  David Cassidy continued to whine about not being heard, complained about Richard Hatch manhandling him and offered multiple excuses for his dispassionate attitude and less than optimal performance.  Richard was classless both during the task in his treatment of Cassidy and the boardroom by referring to him decidedly feminine terms, i.e. little, delicate, needy, etc. However he was not responsible for David's poor performance. The men seemed united in the desire to see their leader be let go but it was "Keith Partridge" who got fired by "The Donald." Baseball player Jose Canseco was particularly chivalrous in his indictment of Hatch and defense of Cassidy. I look forward to learning more about this intriguing athlete as the show progresses.
     All things being equal, if both teams had to run their businesses for a month or more, it seems clear that the men would come out on top with their more cohesive team, better operations and relying more on the generosity of the general public rather than calling in favors from friends. The women's personality issues, cattiness, failure to form a team and sloppy operations set-up would have ultimately caused their demise. They were lucky this time.
     Finally, on a personal note, I believe that the reason I was so immediately hooked by this program has a lot to do with my current path of self-reconstruction. It is clear that I will learn a lot about how different qualities come into play in the success or failure of a business venture. As a new student in Trump University, I look forward to my education.

Monday, February 21, 2011

On, Wisconsin!

Over the past two weeks, all hell has broken loose north of the Cheddar Curtain at the birthplace of the Progressive political movement, Madison, Wisconsin. Similar to Governor Chris Christie of NJ, Wisconsin's newly elected Republican Governor, Scott Walker, is doing a few things that people are just not used to from a politician: he is telling the truth, keeping his campaign promises and doing what is right rather than what is easy. 

What is right? It is right for the Gov. Walker to balance his state's budget as he promised his constituency during his campaign. He told the truth about the state's finances and explained that Wisconsin, like many other states was "in the red."  In order to fix the problem, tough choices and spending cuts had to be made. 

One of the places he went to make up for his shortfall was teachers. His bill proposes that teachers pay a larger portion of their health insurance premium.The bill says that 
"state employees, as well as employees of public authorities created by the state,who work more than 1,565 hours a year shall pay $84 a month for individual coverage and $208 a month for family coverage for health care coverage under any plan offered in the tier with the lowest employee premium cost; $122 a month for individual coverage and $307 a month for family coverage for health care coverage under any plan offered in the tier with the next lowest employee premium cost; and $226 a month for individual coverage and $567 a month for family coverage for health care coverage under any plan offered in the tier with the highest employee premium cost."  
Compare that to what workers in the private sector pay, and you can see that this is a great deal!  Personally, I pay $250/month for individual coverage on a medium tier plan, which is more than double what the Governor is asking of his state employees.  Also, the average income of a teacher in Wisconsin is about $77K (over $100K in Milwaukee county) which is more than twice I make in my underpaid position.

The bill also requires that state employees pay a greater portion of their pension contribution.  Most of America pays 100% of the ir own retirement, that is those who are fortunate enough to be able to actually save for retirement.  Again, a great deal and nothing to complain about. Yet they whine and complain anyway and hold up signs that say "Tax the Rich" and compare their governor to Hitler, terrorists and dictators. Their behavior is selfish, greedy and a disgraceful model for the children they are supposed to be educating.  

The biggest issue that teachers have with this bill which is not reported with any accuracy is that the bill limits the collective bargaining power of the teacher's union to wages only.  It removes the right for benefits and pension to be included in the bargaining process from this point forward.  It also limits wage increases to the inflation rate and requires increases beyond the inflation rate to be decided by the voters via referendum.  These are modest reasonable controls to put in place to control and curtail out-of-control state employee expenses.

The media has misreported the collective bargaining part of the bill and allowed a fervor to grow out of fear that Gov. Walker is out to squash the unions. It would be interesting to learn what percentage of protesters even know what the bill says that they are protesting.  It seems more that they are whipped up into a frenzy by their union leader and by hearsay and not by fact.  If one reads the bill, the parameters are quite clear.  Also on this matter, the media show irate teachers fear-mongering to all those who will listen to "Watch out" because "your state could be next" when the truth is several states have similar or more stringent provisions in the works or on the books.
Lots of states, faced with swelling pension and health-care costs and yawning deficits, are seeking to curb public-sector pay and benefits. A few are going further by trying to trim the power of the unions that defend civil servants’ wages. This week Ohio’s legislature took up a measure similar to the one being pushed by Mr Walker in Wisconsin, denying state and local employees collective-bargaining rights. A bill before the Florida Senate would prevent the state from deducting union dues from salaries, and make it harder for unions to spend money electioneering. As it is, many states already limit collective bargaining by public employees in one way or another; and North Carolina, Texas and Virginia ban it altogether. (From The Economist. The Wisconsin Way)   
The truth is that unions have outlasted their usefulness. When work conditions were unreasonable and unsafe, and wages were too little to sustain one's life, unions were necessary to set things right. Between the upsurge of union activity and corresponding legislation, the plight of the average worker was changed and the problem was fixed. Once unions learned how much power they could obtain, they grabbed all they could and instead of looking out for what is fair, they held corporations' feet to the fire for more and more wages and benefits which drove consumer prices higher and higher while, as especially evident in the automobile industry, quality went down.  Not just in the auto industry, but also in the schools.  Teachers are not rewarded for excellence and their wage increases are not based upon merit.  Once tenured, job security is pretty much guaranteed until retirement with no additional effort required.  The result is that our students perform poorly in comparison to other industrialized countries. Work hard for three years, then coast. That's quite  a racket!

What bothers me more than anything is that so many people do not seem to understand that demanding money from your government, whether it be local, state or federal is demanding money from your neighbor who works just as hard, if not harder for their own money which they should be able to keep as much of as possible, no matter how much they legitimately make. . Government employees, teachers included in most cases get paid greater than the national median income and have far better benefits than those in the private sector.  So they should be grateful to those who foot their bill to make them more money than they make themselves. Would they knock on their neighbor's door and demand a percentage of their income face-to-face? They might find that task a little difficult.  Instead they are calling their taxpaying neighbors by the collective name "government" or "state" and making the very same demands.  If state workers want more money, that has to come from somewhere; that somewhere is taxes.  "Taxation," says Judge Andrew Napolitano "is legalized theft."  Think about that!

There also seems to be a trend among the left-leaning wealthy to develop what I perceive as a psychological defense mechanism called "liberal guilt."  We see this most prevalently with stars of TV, film and sports whose origins were most likely modest and now live with such excess that it is incomprehensible even to them.  The resulting cognitive dissonance creates a conundrum whereby they love being rich and living extravagantly on a consciously, but unconsciously they believe they don't deserve it.  They thrive and feed on the luxurious consumer-driven American capitalist economy and simultaneously express utter disdain for that very thing that brought them the riches they so enjoy.  On some level they know that they are paid ridiculous sums for acting or playing a sport. What are they to do?  If they had any character, they could purge their guilt by living a modest lifestyle and giving all leftover moneys to the government of their own free will as a donation to society.  But instead, they maintain multiple residences, fly privately, make ridiculous demands (see: The Smoking Gun - Backstage Ridersand call for the imposition of a redistribution of wealth through a Socialist or Communist government.   So, since taxing the rich is what the teachers want,  let them stick their hands into the pockets of those suffering from liberal guilt, and leave those of us who wish to keep our earnings alone!

Stand strong, Gov. Walker and continue to do what you said you would.  We need more politicians with such integrity. 

Helpful links:
ORIGINAL SOURCE: Senate Bill 11 from Wisconsin Senate
The Difference Between Private & Public Sector Unions Explained
NEA Leader explaining what's important to the teacher's union

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Movie Review: The King's Speech

     The King's Speech is an historical drama chronicling the struggle of  King George VI of the United Kingdom to overcome his debilitating stammer. His stuttering affected even the simplest communications and most likely was a factor in his shyness. It became clear to Prince Albert, (impeccably portrayed by Colin Firth) or "Bertie" as he was called before his ascent to the throne, that as the health of his  father, King George V  deteriorated, he would be required to speak publicly.  He was to give athe closing address at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley which turned out to be a painful disaster for both speaker and audience, after which he stepped up his efforts to master his affliction.
     Prince Albert's wife, Queen Elizabeth I (Helena Bonham Carter) was loving and patient with Bertie and found the man who would, through his unorthodox therapeutic strategies, ultimately help the future king overcome his pronounced stammer. Lionel Logue was an Australian speech therapist who developed his techniques from helping veterans of The Great War (WW I) who developed stammers as a symptom of shell shock. He used a combination of modalities such as breathing, physical exercise, and a gentle, friend-like empowering psychotherapy.  The always delightful Geoffrey Rush plays Mr. Logue with just the right amount of reserved, uncomfortable quirkiness.
     Underscoring the storyline of the prince's stammer, we learn of his non-traditional ascendancy to the throne.  As the second son of the king, he was second in line behind his brother, Prince Edward.  Edward took the throne after his father's death, but didn't take it seriously and was more interested in marrying his paramour, the twice divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. Since parliament would not allow the king to marry a divorcée and stay in power, Edward, after less than a year on the throne, abdicated.  Since Edward was childless the presumptive heir, his brother, Prince Albert ascended, taking the name George VI to provide a sense of continuity to the monarchy. The film also gives us a glimpse at Bertie's two daughters, Margaret and of course Elizabeth, who would assume the throne at his death and whom we know now as Queen Elizabeth II
     The story was compelling and the movie held my interest.  If nothing else, it caused me to read up on the real-life characters. (Hence the abundance of links in this review.)  Colin Firth deserves every accolade he is certain to receive during awards season.  The movie is well worth seeing, though perhaps not at theater prices.  I give it three stars.