|February 08, 2012||Take Back the (South) Park!||no comments|
|April 28, 2011||Why Michael Scott Trumps Homer Simpson||no comments|
|April 15, 2011||Quick, Protect The Environment From The Environmental Organizations||no comments|
|April 12, 2011||How Institutions Change; What We Might Learn From Buck Showalter||no comments|
|April 02, 2011||Reagan’s Assassination Attempt – 30 Years Later||no comments|
|March 05, 2011||A Response to Westboro||no comments|
|February 25, 2011||American Catholics and Wisconsin||no comments|
|February 22, 2011||What Mitt Romney Owes Barack Obama||no comments|
|May 10, 2009||Remembering JFK (Jack French Kemp)||no comments|
|May 10, 2009||Comptroller Asks Prez for a Boost||no comments|
I will go on record saying that of all the animated series on television in the last ten to fifteen years, South Park gets life’s unexplainables right more than any other (sorry Family Guy fans). In fact, the story lines are real enough for me to have thought – if only for a moment – that Eric Cartman (the ornery chubby character on South Park) had purchased the Washington Nationals baseball team.
Last week, the ownership of the Washington Nationals rolled out a “Take Back The Park” campaign aimed directly at Philadelphia Phillies fans. The idea is that for the two teams’ first meeting in May of this year, single game tickets are only being sold to people with addresses in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, DC. This is an effort to keep the stadium from filling up with Phillies fans, and embarrassing the Nationals.
In a past episode of South Park, Eric Cartman comes into some money that he inherits and purchases a theme park. His disdain for other kids makes him keep all other would-be visitors out. He allows only a few people in so he can keep the park open. Ultimately, this reverse strategy creates great buzz and the park thrives with more and more people coming in, while angry Cartman is upset that other kids are having fun at his park.
And then we have the Washington Nationals. They do not want Philadelphia fans clogging up their stadium, even though they fail to draw very many of their own fans. This will make for a big story, and already Phillies fans are finding loopholes to get into the park.
As fans, this is something we have all wanted to do. Yankees fans would love to keep Boston fans out of Yankee Stadium. Boston fans would gladly keep New York fans out of their city entirely. But to go to these lengths and mandate such a change, is going to make for some great baseball fun in May. Here’s hoping the red team wins.
This may not be the last episode of The Office, but it really is the last episode. Looking back, after the show finally retires after next season, people will only remember Steve Carell’s departure as the defining last moment for the show. Carell hitting his stride a little later in life has made him more likeable, and probably a little smarter. He knows the time is right to leave the show. In fact, there has been a considerable drop off of viewers that think the show has gone on too long already. The last few episodes have big audiences because of his departure, but that will dissipate when the show officially ‘jumps the shark’ without Carell.
What The Office is doing with Michael Scott is what we all wish The Simpsons would have done, which is to say goodbye. Homer Simpson was at one point the funniest character ever created for sitcom television, and this includes Archie Bunker, George Jefferson, and Hawkeye Peirce. Homer Simpson was the entire show, until the show’s creators made him so unrealistically silly that The Simpsons’ smarter viewers left for funnier pastures like Family Guy, eventually making Seth MacFarlane a rich man.
Steve Carell may or may not become a success in comedy films, but he knows The Office is over…and soon so will the show’s producers. Carell avoided turning his Michael Scott into Homer Simpson, and that is what makes him the mature entertainer that he is. Those first six seasons of The Simpsons are still some of the cleverest television ever produced, but the last 14 years were invisible.
The Michael Scott’s character was getting a little hard to believe after the season when he refuses to move to New Hampshire with the love of his life, Holly Flax. It made no sense that he would not make the move, but the show still had a couple of years left with Carell and tonight is when he departs.
The Office was a great show, and I proudly take the unpopular stance and say that the American version was funnier than the British version. Thanks for the memories, Michael Scott…(that's what she said.)
The debate over environmental policy was always between those who did not think pollution was a priority and those saw it as a threat. I use the word pollution because had we continued to call it such (instead of these esoteric phrases like ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’) we would have moved the ball much further down field already. But today some (not all) environmental groups are actually stalling the progress they have helped bring about.
It was thirty years ago last week that John Hinckley, Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan following a speech Reagan delivered to the AFL-CIO leadership in Washington DC. Even as a child during that time, it was not hard to notice that Reagan came to the presidency with great fanfare. He entered during a hostage crisis that became the first daily reported non-war event…today with 24 hour news services there are many on-going stories. There might be a difference between the attempt on Reagan’s life and the tragic attempts on public officials since (such as the shooting involving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords). Are all would-be assassins mentally detached? Or are some just evil?
When Reagan was shot, even amid his bold political ideology, the story was all about Hinckley. Hinckley, it was reported over and over, was a deranged Travis Bickle-type of character that was less concerned with Reagan’s policies and more concerned with impressing actress Jodie Foster (talk about barking up the wrong tree). Reagan’s supply-side economics and anti-communist rhetoric had a few detractors, but his assassination attempt was not reported as a symptom of those policies.
Today, however, the news goes beyond describing the violent offender, and looks to attach the victim’s politics (or the surrounding political dialogue) to the tragedy. They ask questions like, ‘Was the shooter on the other side of the political spectrum?’ ‘Was this a revenge plot because of policy?’ All deranged people have reasons, but by focusing on their reasoning as though it could make any sense, the reporting delineates the severity of what really matters…which is how unhinged this person had to be to carry out such an act. Maybe we are looking for politics where there is none.
“What happened to just being crazy?” asked comedian Chris Rock after the media tried to explain the shootings at Columbine High School. Right…why is that no longer enough for us? Hinckley, Mark David Chapman, Jared Lee Loughner…none of them had reasons worthy of a 24 hour news cycle. To give their reasoning that much attention is almost giving them a voice. We want to find out how it happened and how to avoid it in the future, but Loughner was no victim of harsh political discourse between two opposing parties. Watch his self-produced, completely incoherent, video of how he hated his school. None of these guys were society’s fault, they were their fault.
Then there are the politically motivated assassination attempts, such as was the case with former Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin. Should politically motivated murderers be denied the description of mentally delusional, and instead just classified as evil? Rabin’s killer was politically motivated as he later explained that the Oslo Peace Accords were why he murdered Rabin. But we might be looking too far into a person’s politics in many other cases as a means to define a tragedy.
The decision regarding free speech in the Snyder v. Phelps case, better known as the Westboro Baptist Church case, was expected by constitutional scholars. Political speech, regardless of how hurtful, has the most protections of any form of speech. But it is for this reason that there are responses to what Westboro does that are appropriate.
Westboro Baptist Church claims to be expressing religious beliefs, yet their speech is protected as political speech. With members of Westboro under the illusion that God looks favorably on their protests at military funerals, there should be a public response from the major religions. While many people of faith agree with the general public about the offensiveness of the protests, the members of Westboro should hear loud and clear from people of faith that they are on their own with this bigotry.
The United Conference of Catholic Bishops should openly express its distaste for this type of hate. Muslims in America might want to use this as an opportunity to lend a like-minded voice on this matter. Perhaps a public letter in major newspapers joined by the major faiths and the Anti-Defamation League (which has already voiced its opinion on this) would at least tell the members of this “church” that other people of faith are outraged.
Members of Westboro have their speech understandably protected, but it is also well within the rights of other faiths in America to express their opinions. Religious orders do not have fewer First Amendment rights than lay citizens. Westboro should know that they have no allies that are simply keeping quiet. They are alone in their harmful mission.
The controversy in the Wisconsin legislature is a heated debate between labor interests and the governor. Because of this economic climate, this is the only time a state government could introduce new bargaining rules like this. If the Wisconsin economy was doing better, there is a good possibility that this would not be happening. The Catholic Church has had a strong opinion on organized labor since Pope Leo XIII’s written response on the exploitation of workers. “Rerum Novarum” was Pope Leo XIII’s titled open letter to all bishops explaining that the Church supports collective bargaining rights.
Wisconsin, like New York and New Jersey, has a large population of Catholics. But Catholics appear relatively divided on this issue. Not all Catholics are on the same page with this protest. Some questions that might be worth asking are:
1. 1. Are American Catholics today as sympathetic to organized labor as they may have been a generation or two ago?
2. 2. Did the Catholic Church have political contributions in mind when it issued Rerum Novarum? Maybe it did, but it does not go into detail on the matter. Edict #40 reads, “The working man, too, has interests in which he should be protected by the State.” Rerum Novarum is 120 years old this year.
3. 3. Do other trade union members, such as the carpenters, electricians, and steamfitters, have sympathy for the teacher’s union efforts in Wisconsin?
Mitt Romney is going to run for president, because he would be crazy not to do so. He has been preparing for this his entire life. He has lots of money. He is a good looking guy, and has the mannerisms for the job. Romney dropped out of the primary race with John McCain because Romney was being a good sport. He may have lost to McCain anyway, but Romney’s campaign was not petering out. He had money to burn. Romney dropped out to give the GOP what it almost always chooses – the patriarchal figure over the political figure (George W. Bush being the exception.)
Romney would have a huge uphill climb ahead. Obama is still very popular, and he has gotten to the point where House Republicans are angrier at other Democrats than they are with the president. This is where Clinton was in 1995, when the GOP was more concerned with trouncing Democrats nationally than they were with unseating Clinton. Obama is in a good position to be re-elected. Romney, however, can give the Republican Party something it has not had in a very long time, the intellectual candidate.
Even in big Republican years, the GOP has gone with the more inspiring (Reagan) candidate, the more trusted (Eisenhower) candidate, and the more likable (George W. Bush) candidate. The party almost never runs the now-popular ‘policy wonk- intellectual’ candidate. Romney, however, is an intellectual. Like him or not, Romney would not be a deer in the headlights when someone mentions overseas markets or the Internet.
Romney has some baggage, however. He flipped on the abortion issue. He lost friends in what is a growing gay Republican community. He probably offended some McCain followers prior to dropping out. And then there is the whole Mormon thing, and that was big…but is not anymore, thanks to Barack Obama.
All of Romney’s past stumbles are relatively fixable. He can mend fences with gay conservatives. He can maintain his current stance on abortion and say he had an epiphany. He can find a way to separate his Romney-Care health insurance policy from Obama-Care. And thanks the man in the White House, being slightly less traditional than previous presidents - in this case Mormon - is now okay.
Romney would never – EVER – have been elected if Barack Obama had not been elected first. Obama did not simply break a racial barrier, he broke the “non-traditional” barrier, and Romney now has a chance to get elected president.
The issues facing Romney are still health care, abortion, whether the conservatives can trust him, whether the moderates can trust him, getting enough Hispanic support, and the fact that the Republican Party has its supporters and its detractors – all of whom he inherits should he be the nominee. But he will only have to talk about being Mormon for a short while because Americans have shown they can think (and vote) past that kind of thing.
My days as a high school student in Mr. James Murphy's history classes at Msgr. McClancy High School take me back to when I first learned of Jack Kemp. Ronald Reagan was president, and one day - we were told - Jack Kemp too would be president.
A few years later, I worked as a press office intern for a woman that had a picture of Kemp on her wall. She too, hoped he would be someday be president. Only a few months ago, while at a meeting about low-income housing, someone was telling me about a low-income neighborhood that is good for business because it was declared an Enterprise Zone. I immediately thought of Kemp, who as a former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, championed the idea of Enterprise Zones.
Jack Kemp was a conservative that thought conservative policy could benefit all Americans. Some disagreed with Kemp on issues (taxes, for example), but few in Washington ever questioned his motives. He was one of the most inclusive conservatives to ever have that kind of influence in Washington. In order for the Republican Party to make the gains it wants to make, it needs to learn from Kemp's legacy.
On May 1, New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson wrote the president of the United States asking him to re-consider the $2 billion for bus and rail transportation that was taken out of the original stimulus package.
The stimulus bill, as it exists, allows for $6.9 billion to rebuild existing transportation facilities. Thompson's point is that there is a middle-income population that - even with the stimulus package as it stands - will face rising fares. "The need for Federal operating funding is compelling," wrote Thompson. A letter to the president is a big “ask” to a big guy, but the city is in tough times. And this city has been good to the president.
It's important to point out that Thomson is in the middle of a campaign challenging Mayor Michael Bloomberg. If a boost comes from Washington, it certainly looks as though his plea was effective. So, it's not bad politics, but the transit issue is a major one for both Bloomberg and Thompson, and the city benefits if they just happen to be competing to get something done about fares.
The advantage we have as New Yorkers, in this case, is that we are set up to receive stimulus money and many cities are not. The turnaround time for this money is fast. Cities need to show what they are going to use the money for and why. The process of requesting the money, submitting plans, and actually receiving it is about two months. That is quick. There is little time for community debates and other muddy processes.
This is where responsible policy is so important. Missouri for example, asked for $750 million, but nothing for St. Louis, the largest city in the state. Seattle was left out of Washington State's original request as well. Cities need to be smart too. Bridgeport, Connecticut, requested $1 billion in stimulus funding from Connecticut. Really? One billion dollars? The entire state of Connecticut is only receiving $600 million for the entire state. The president knew this would happen when he warned mayors to manage their money wisely or he would “call them out.”
Good governance means matching this federal money - or stimulus - with responsible planning. You might remember the bridge accident in Minnesota in August of 2007, where 13 people died. The bridge collapsed. A year later, a new bridge was completely operational. In one year! The state of Minnesota changed their bidding process. They allowed the contracting company to design the bridge - instead of having bureaucrats volley ideas back and forth (Freedom Tower, anyone?). The contracting company was offered extra money to finish early, and the result was a non-stop effort to get the bridge built.
Minnesota also completely closed that artery of traffic, which makes you wonder if the NYC policy of “close one lane at a time” (which drags the process on for years) is really worth it. Instead, it might be worth closing the entire road - and re-routing traffic - and getting it done quicker, saving time in labor hours and overtime.
It was an innovate idea that Minnesota put into play, and it worked. We owe it to our country, as it is shelling out such money in stimulus funding, to try to find new and innovative ways to save money. The I-35 bridge was under construction in less than three months after it tragically fell. Compare that to the Freedom Tower, which has done nothing more than change its name to World Trade Center One, in eight years.
Here is hoping that we wisely use all that we have coming our way, because there is a good chance we will not get more federal attention until things get better economically for the country.