“Weiner”: What’s in a name?

 

Anthony Weiner Huma Abedine 2013

Anthony Weiner: the name that launched 10,000 puns.

If you’re like me, you haven’t heard or thought much about the disgraced former congressman recently. He sort of disappeared from political conversation after his shellacking in New York City’s 2013 democratic mayoral primary.

But fear not, rubberneckers! Anthony Weiner — aka Carlos Danger – is making a return, of sorts, in a documentary directed and produced by Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman.

Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedine, People Magazine, 2012Weiner was originally intended to record the potential comeback of a one-time political pariah, and late-night punchline. Filming began in spring 2013, when Weiner announced his candidacy for mayor — and one year after a lengthy People magazine interview, in which he and wife Huma Abedin shared how their marriage had withstood his 2011 sexting scandal, and subsequent resignation from Congress.

The documentary crew had unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the candidate, his staff and his family. Remarkably, this continued even after a new batch of more explicit Weiner “selfies” — taken around the time of the People interview – came to light.

Weiner is riveting, like a crime scene or train wreck, if you don’t focus on the human toll. It follows a delusional career politician who revises history and weaves elaborate lies about the present, unwilling to acknowledge that violating public trust is a legitimate campaign issue. I felt a strong urge to shower by the end of it.

Two scenes in particular sent chills down my spine:

  • First, Weiner is riding with his campaign communications director. She’s reading questions from the media aloud, diplomatically asking her boss to be sure he’s comfortable with his answers, so that she isn’t forced to revise or contradict herself later. (She doesn’t specifically ask for candor, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s probably pretty hard to come right out, and ask your boss not to lie.)

There’s a saying about lying – that the hardest part is keeping all the lies straight, and not tripping up. Anthony Weiner does not have that problem. It’s like he has a Rolodex in his head, containing every detail he’s provided to the media on the subject of his inappropriate behavior. (A Rolodex is a non-digital piece of office equipment, millennial readers. Stick with me.)

Weiner formulates his answers by whizzing through this mental Rolodex, deciding how many women he’s sexted based on what he’s previously told the New York Times vs. the New York Post vs. TV interviewers — but doesn’t search his memory for what ACTUALLY happened. He never once references the need (or intention) to be truthful. It’s disturbing.

  • Next, near the end of the film, Abedin declines to accompany Weiner to the polls on primary day. So, he weaves an implausible, easily disproved yarn about his polling place losing his name, thus creating a delay and forcing Huma to vote on her own later. Weiner races down the street, dictating the story rapid-fire to his staff, like someone in the throes of a manic episode – oblivious to the fact that his stream-of-consciousness lying is being observed and recorded. He later (sheepishly) tells the story to reporters, who seem unconvinced

I thought I’d have more sympathy for Abedin. By all accounts, she prefers to exercise her considerable power behind the scenes, while her husband stands out in front seeking public adulation. As the documentary progresses, she’s the voice of reason while he goes off the rails. Eventually she physically and emotionally distances herself from him, rolling her eyes or glaring but rarely speaking.

Even so, her mask occasionally slips. In one scene, Weiner meets with his dejected campaign team in his home, to help soothe their sense of betrayal. Several staffers point out that the communications director is being followed and harassed by the media everywhere she goes. Abedin shows little concern, and reminds the woman that the cameras will still be outside when she leaves.

Abedin asks, “You’ll look happy, right?” Then, realizing how unfeeling that sounded she adds, “I mean, I’m asking for YOU because I’m worried about YOU.” Sure you are.

Weiner’s most regrettable impact is 15 more minutes of fame for the candidate’s 23-year-old sexting partner Sydney Leathers (campaign codename: Pineapple). She’s a guest on Howard Stern. She makes a sex tape. She stalks Weiner around New York, tabloid photographers in tow. Watching her chase him through a Manhattan McDonalds, on his way to his concession speech, is a definite low point.

In the final weeks of his campaign, Weiner makes an appearance on MSNBC where he is smug, combative and high strung. Lawrence O’Donnell mocks his decision-making by asking, “What’s WRONG with you?”

It is a cheap gotcha question, meant to entertain the lowest common denominator. Yet once the film credits started rolling, I had the same question. What is wrong with Anthony Weiner?

I’m still not sure, but it’s something.

 

loser-anthony-weiner

Stand Down, CNN

Howard Beale (Peter Finch)  loses is grip in the 1976 United Artist film "Network".

I can now officially blame 24 hour news for nearly everything that is wrong in this world. It is a sad day when a potential Republican presidential candidate is on the ropes (or nearly so), and I can’t draw enjoyment from it.

Although I was not a fan of Governor Chris Christie from the start, I appreciated his gracious response to President Obama’s support of New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He took flak from the far right for saying something – anything – positive about the President. From my side of the aisle, he showed a lot more integrity than did Republican lawmakers who loudly bashed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, while at the same time (and with a lot less publicity) accepting stimulus money for their home states. He openly and without apology put the best interests of the citizens of New Jersey ahead of party, and future political ambitions. It’s what a governor gets paid to do.

I briefly wondered if I could vote for Christie someday, as a way of casting a vote against partisan politics. It wasn’t out of the question; there were times when I might have considered voting for John McCain. (That was long before 2008, in case you were wondering.) But when I evaluate Christie in total…Nah, it’ll never happen.

Governor Chris Christie shouts down a New Jersey teacher on the campaign trail in 2012Chris Christie says he’s not a bully; he’s just a no-nonsense, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy. Ask a question he doesn’t feel like answering? He’ll tell you it’s none of your business. Question his effectiveness in a certain area?  He’ll holler until he’s red in the face, and wag his finger at you.

I’ll let the people of New Jersey decide if that works for them, but it’s a liability in the national arena. He’s not the guy I want having diplomatic discussions with leaders of unfriendly nations – or with allies, for that matter.

(Have you noticed that every election cycle, a segment of America moons over a straight talker who becomes the early front-runner? He/she eventually crashes and burns, after becoming a little too “refreshing”. Remember Ross Perot? Herman Cain? Sarah Palin?)

Let’s fast forward to this week’s traffic scandal, which is quickly turning a bit Lord of the Flies on cable news. Yesterday, Christie spent two hours denying he had any knowledge of his staff’s ordering lane closures to snarl traffic to the George Washington Bridge in September, as political revenge against Fort Lee’s mayor.

While it is the role of the media to thoroughly investigate the matter, and assess whether actions by members of Christie’s administration reflect the petty, vindictive style of the boss, who may want to run for president in 2016 — it’s a CRAZY FEEDING FRENZY out there!

Some will argue that a liberal media agenda is at work – or maybe a tea party one. Others may think it’s the work of a few ambitious journalists, who want to turn the story into Watergate, and themselves into Woodward or Bernstein (depending on hair color). It may even be driven by how easily the scandal lends itself to pithy headlines: Christie’s In a Jam! 

I blame 24 hour news, and the incessant need for CONTENT.  If you don’t think writers, editors and pundits are licking their collective chops because a story like this — if they can keep stoking suspicion of the Governor’s involvement — could fuel the news cycle for days… well, you probably don’t have a TV at your house. Or access to the internet.

In his new book “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” former Secretary of State Robert Gates remembers that Washington lawmakers could be reasonable, right up to the point “the little red light went on atop a television camera [which] had the effect of a full moon on a werewolf.”

We’ve all seen it, and it’s enough to make you shake your head in despair. The fault lies not just with Congress, but also with the news networks that fan the flames, spin the facts, and broadcast on a loop.  And it’s our fault, for giving our tacit approval of the coverage by watching it.

I received a breaking news alert from CNN this morning, letting me know that a batch of documents related to a New Jersey State Assembly investigation of the Governor’s advisors had JUST BEEN RELEASED. CNN assured me they would dig through the document “dump” and post updates online throughout the day.

2:58 p.m. ET – As you can expect, everyone is trying to get these documents at the same time, so download speed is slow. Bear with us.

Breathe easy, America.  CNN is on the job.

High Times

TV's Judge Judy wags her finger in a tsk tsk motio
Tsk Tsk!

A CNN/ORC International survey released today suggests that a majority of Americans (55%) support legalizing pot, while only 44% oppose it. This follows a New York Times report on Sunday, indicating that Governor Andrew Cuomo is set to legalize medical marijuana in his state. Oh, and unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere without 24-hour cable news, you are probably aware that on January 1 Colorado became the first state to fully legalize recreational marijuana for residents 21 and older.

So, what’s the verdict?  Is it high time, or does legalized pot stink to high heaven?  (Ha, see what I did there?)  According to erudite New York Times columnist David Brooks, these changes will have sobering consequences. (There, I did it again!)

In his January 2 op-ed, Brooks sought to walk the fine line between 60’s freethinking bohemian and dowdy prig.  He reminisced about smoking pot as a teenager, and the embarrassing things he and his friends got up to. There was something about going to honors English high and COMPLETELY bungling his recitation of Chaucer in Middle English. I mean, can you imagine? The HORROR! A cautionary tale, boys and girls, if ever I did hear one.

OK, I’ve long had a teeny crush on Mr. Brooks (or David, as I like to call him) so I feel a smidge guilty for lampooning him, and embroidering his story for my own blogging gain. But when he moralizes that government should encourage “the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature” over smoking weed… He couldn’t possibly mean OUR government, could he? The 113th do-nothing Congress? David Brooks was born in Canada, which may account for his unfounded optimism. Or else, he’s smoking something.

I make light of this subject because the truth is, I don’t take it very seriously. I feel much more passionately about marriage equality, and I’m straight!

Every argument for criminalized marijuana I’ve ever heard could also logically be applied to alcohol. “Smoking and driving is a good way to get yourself killed,” writes Brooks. True, but so is drinking and driving – and texting and driving, for that matter. Both are illegal, and still prevalent.

“Young people who smoke go on to suffer I.Q. loss and perform worse on other cognitive tests.”  Granted, I’m not a doctor, but I suspect teens who abuse alcohol suffer the same effects.  Plus, no one is proposing legalizing pot for teenagers.

No, I don’t worry that society will go to hell in a handbasket if recreational pot is legalized. I don’t predict that unemployed stoner zombies will roam the streets, bloated from gorging on Fritos bought with food stamps. Once the media turns its collective attention to some other chicken little-type story, and the novelty has worn off, I think usage will normalize. People who smoked pot before will continue to do so, probably in similar quantities — and unless a pot dispensary sets up shop in their lobby, pretty much everyone else will just drink wine. (Wine has a nice “nose”. Pot stinks like a skunk — which I can prove, because my downstairs neighbor is a stoner and his smoke permeates everything. It’s an olfactory offense.)

One thing David Brooks and I agree on: We’re too old to party like rock stars. That may be because we’ve matured, or maybe it’s just because we have work in the morning. Either way, no law change or ballot initiative will reverse it.

And do you know what? I wouldn’t want it to.

Put that in your pipe, and smoke it.

Rob Ford: Built For the Road Ahead?

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
RENE JOHNSTON / TORONTO STAR

I recently spent a few days in Canada, home to some of the nicest, most polite people — and one of the best national anthems — on earth. I’m obligated by patriotism to name The Star Spangled Banner as my favorite national song, but while Americans sing along softly to our anthem at sporting events and solemn ceremonies, we can’t match the enthusiasm and boisterousness of a bunch of Canucks fans belting out “O Canada” at a hockey game. Theirs is an anthem best served loud.

So it is fair to say that Canadians have a lot of national pride, which is being put to the test by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. While I was in Vancouver (2,600 miles away), efforts by the Toronto City Council to revoke most of his mayoral powers – and Ford’s response to this – dominated news coverage. Over and over again, Canadian reporters and citizens said, in effect, “The world is laughing at us.”

I can’t speak for the whole world, but I promise you Toronto… If America is laughing, we are laughing WITH you, not at you. Yes, thanks to social media and reality TV our attention spans can be fairly short, but no one here has forgotten three-time D.C. Mayor Marion Barry (crack cocaine possession), New York Governor Eliot Spitzer (prostitution), South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (“hiking the Appalachian Trail”), Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (racketeering, fraud and terrible hair), or U.S. Representative Mark Foley (explicit emails to a young male staffer). The cringe-worthy examples go on and on. Toronto, we feel your pain.

While I see parallels with Barry and Blagojevich here – unabashed confidence in constituents’ support, and claims of being unfairly targeted by political opponents — others draw comparisons between Mayor Ford and Anthony Weiner. The big difference is that Weiner’s behavior reflected poorly on his character and judgement, but it wasn’t illegal. Just about everything Mayor Ford has been accused of (and admitted to) can get a person fired in any other arena – and in some cases can land him or her in prison.

As fascinating as the Rob Ford train wreck is to watch, I was pretty surprised to see that he and his brother were interviewed by Matt Lauer on the TODAY show this morning. (I watch CBS This Morning, never TODAY, but saw a clip of the Fords’ interview online.)

TODAY is American TV. Toronto is in Canada. Rob Ford’s constituents are Canadian, and have morning shows of their own that are covering this story aplenty. Exactly who was Matt Lauer trying to serve with the interview, and why was it one of TODAY’s top stories? I find Mayor Ford repulsive, but he would have scored points with me if he’d declined Lauer’s request for a sit-down, because Americans don’t vote in Toronto.

I wonder whether Weiner, Blago and Spitzer – political figures in two of America’s largest northern cities – ever held as much fascination for Canadians as Mayor Ford holds for Americans. Did any of them appear on Canadian morning television? Were they the lead story on Canada’s national news, night after night? I doubt it, with the possible exception of Weiner. He raised (or did he lower?) the bar for eye-rolling political scandal. It was pure comedy gold.

Anyway, Rob Ford and his brother appeared on TODAY, where the Mayor issued (as readers of this blog already know) my least favorite mea culpa:  He never said he was perfect, so why can’t everyone just move on?

“We’ve all made mistakes. I’m not perfect. Maybe you are, maybe other people are, (but) I’ve made mistakes. I admitted to my mistakes.”

Apparently, exoneration is all in the admitting.

He also argued that going on a weekend bender – which he explained only happens some weekends, not every weekend – and potentially being incapacitated when faced with a city emergency, could happen to anyone at any time.

Um, technically it probably could…but it doesn’t.

To his American audience, Mayor Ford positioned his issue as merely a weight problem, not a binge drinking, crack smoking, drunk driving, or sexual harassment problem. He boasted that he’s now training daily – a mental image that almost makes ME want to go on a bender — and in six months he’ll be a changed man because, “actions speak louder than words”.

Seriously? Rob Ford had better hope not.

The good news: a few nice pics from beautiful Vancouver.

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One Man’s Junk…

Anthony WeinerI recently blogged about Milwaukie Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, and his 65-game suspension from professional baseball. I was unimpressed by Braun’s flimsy written statement, which fell well short of contrition.

The most disingenuous and manipulative part of the statement was the first line: “As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect.”  Braun had not, in fact, ever made such a public acknowledgement, but what galled me more was the implication that if fans, teammates or the media were disillusioned by his behavior, they had no one to blame but themselves.  After all, he’d warned them that he was flawed, hadn’t he?

I was reminded of this self-serving position last week, when Anthony Weiner grudgingly acknowledged his most recent sexting scandal.  “As I have said in the past, these things that I did were wrong and hurtful to my wife, and caused us to go through challenges in our marriage that extended past my resignation from Congress.”

Such a careful parsing of words! What was it that extended beyond his resignation – the marital troubles, or “things” like posting lewd photos online?  Regardless, the inference was similar to Braun’s.  We can’t blame him since he warned us back in 2011 that more embarrassing facts could emerge.  (Did he? Am I the only one drawing a blank here?)

Well, now that that’s cleared up… we can all move on. Right? Please?

Anthony Weiner is like a child who makes up his own rules, just as he’s about to be tagged “it” on the playground.  “No WAY!  No fair, I’m SAFE!  I CALLED TIME OUT!”

Since the Weiner scandal broke, the former congressman has been quizzed about how many more digital paramours could come forward.  I’d argue that the tally ceased to matter once it was clear that he continued sexting AFTER his resignation from Congress, AFTER he claims to have entered therapy and WITHIN ONE WEEK of posing for People magazine with his wife and son, hinting about a mayoral run.  The guy is pathologically dishonest.

To me, the big story is… Weiner can’t even provide an ESTIMATE.  HE SAYS HE’S NOT SURE.  How is it possible not to know how many people you’ve been sexting with?  He’s either completely out of control, or so predisposed to lying that he still can’t bring himself to come completely clean.  Maybe he’s so deluded about his intellect and so ambitious to be mayor, he still thinks there is something to be gained by hedging.

I have been wondering how many men, when caught dead to rights in an indiscretion, get creative about the duration?  Once, a married male friend confided in me – out of the blue – that he’d been unfaithful to his wife years before. He claimed the affair lasted just three weeks.  Three weeks, I wondered?  How many men have affairs that last less than one month?

I later learned from mutual friends that the affair had in fact lasted months longer; he’d looked straight into my eyes, and lied about it.  I still scratch my head about this.  Why did he bother confessing — since I had never suspected and it was none of my business anyway – only to lowball how long his affair had lasted?  If his goal had been to get it off his chest, how much guilt can a half-truth alleviate?

Watching Weiner, I am reminded of John Edwards, and the public revelations of his affair with Rielle Hunter. Edwards also clung to his lies well past their expiration date. In her book Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities, his terminally ill wife Elizabeth wrote about the day he revised his account of his relationship with Hunter.  I paraphrase as follows:

“Honey, remember when I said it was just a one night stand, and that the baby isn’t mine?  Well, I wasn’t entirely honest.”

“OK, what part is true?”

“Um… none of it?”

The Weiner debacle has become so sad and tawdry, as a former New Yorker I have to avert my eyes.  Polls show him in fourth place among the mayoral candidates, and most voters say they wish he’d drop from the race.  He’s making videos, eluding to the City’s 9/11 fortitude as the reason he won’t bow out, and flexing his hipster vernacular as he describes how New Yorkers “roll”.  He’s even suggested that his still-burning shame will make him a better mayor.  (Don’t ask me, I don’t understand it either.)

“It’s not about me,” Weiner says. “It’s about the citizens of New York.”

Listen, there is an entire Wikipedia page devoted to Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal, and that fact alone should preclude his candidacy for higher office, don’t you think?

No one really cares how many more of his BFFs are out there – even if he finally told the truth, we’re way past the point of believing.  If he is truly devoted to New Yorkers, the greatest gift he can give them is to unplug the Wi-Fi, step away from Instagram and maybe take an extended vacation to Pennsylvania Amish country.

I’ll even pitch in for bus fare.

For a Safer America, I’ll Take Progress Over Perfection

Children PlayingMy plan had been to blog something humorous this afternoon, or at least try to, but after today’s horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that’s not going to happen.  I can’t find much humor in anything.  Even sarcasm fails me today.

By coincidence, this morning I was scheduled to read to four- and five-year-olds at a colleague’s daughter’s pre-school.  By the time I got there, I’d already heard the terrible news.  As I read to them about a frog who played t-ball on a team (appropriately) called “The Giants”, I stared into their innocent, rapt little faces and felt crushing sadness.  I met their teachers, who were kind, loving and patient with the kids.

Despite the high security at this downtown San Francisco location (I needed to be on a guest list and show an ID to get past security guards) students and staff are still vulnerable.  If someone is violent, vengeful, unbalanced and determined to hurt someone… he will find a way to work his evil.  But that doesn’t mean we should do away with badges, screeners, security guards and guest lists.  We must do what we can to stay safe, and prevent violence.

One of the arguments I hear frequently against gun control legislation is, if a crazy person wants a gun he’ll get one.  Gun control won’t stop him, so let’s not make any changes until we find a perfect solution.

This violates one of my favorite maxims:  Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress.

Hand holding gunFederal law prohibits most convicted criminals from buying, owning or transporting a firearm.  A background check of a would-be gun owner must also ensure that he/she has not been ruled mentally defective or been committed to any mental institution, is not an illegal alien, has not been dishonorably discharged from the military, has not renounced his/her U.S. citizenship, and does not have a restraining order or domestic violence conviction (even a misdemeanor).

On paper this should be reassuring, but in the coming days we’ll likely discover that today’s gunman was an American citizen who had never been committed to a mental institution, or convicted of a serious crime – which would have meant his gun ownership was perfectly legal.

Does this mean we should do away with background checks because they don’t successfully stop all homicidal gunmen?

Or maybe we’ll find that this angry, destructive man couldn’t pass a background check – or never even applied for one.  Perhaps he just stole his guns (plural) from a neighbor or family member.  Even so, the same question would apply.

If the gun control laws we have in place today aren’t protecting us, does that mean gun control is bad?  If this theory were applied equally throughout our lives, modern America would resemble the wild, wild west.  Drugs would be legal, because clearly criminalizing them has not been effective.  And why bother trying to enforce maximum blood alcohol levels, since every weekend brings drunken driving arrests all over the United States?

So why would we refuse to introduce tighter gun controls, just because they won’t prevent all gun violence?  Wouldn’t even a reduction be worth it?  How many more innocent victims must there be, before we get serious about limiting access to firearms?

As I said, I won’t be surprised if we discover that the Connecticut gunman bought his guns legally.  But I’ll also guess that people close to him knew he was troubled.  He may have dabbled in counseling, but probably never received consistent, in-depth psychiatric care.  If this sounds familiar, it’s not your imagination.  It was the same story in Tucson, Arizona and Aurora, Colorado.

Too bad guns are so much easier to get than ongoing, quality mental healthcare.

Above all, it’s NOT a matter of education.  (I heard this argument on Fox News recently after the murder/suicide of NFL player Jovan Belcher.)  Today’s perpetrator was very, very knowledgeable about guns.  He knew they were great for killing people, first off.  He also knew the difference between a semi-automatic Bushmaster .223, a Sig-Sauer and a Glock.  He knew how to load them, and shoot them with deadly accuracy.  He knew he’d need a bulletproof vest to carry out his mission – which included killing himself, before police could do it for him.  This guy was nothing, if not educated about guns.

Some will cite 2nd Amendment rights, but I’d argue that the 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, Connecticut had constitutional rights too — to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  What about those rights?

I want to believe that leaders in Washington will finally sprout a collective backbone, and hammer out gun control legislation that — while not perfect — will make America safer.  But somehow I doubt it, based on the puerile squabbling about the fiscal cliff we’ve witnessed recently.

Will someone finally be brave enough to lead the charge?

A Good Tweet Spoiled

John PetersonTwitter is a place where folks do their best to be clever in 140 characters or less.  Some – like @bastardmachine, @jimmytraina and @BMcCarthy32 – succeed.  I love their quick wit and irreverence.

Too bad we also have Twitter bottom feeders like Donald Trump.  Last night as Barack Obama won a second term as our president, The Donald was tweeting crazy, inflammatory foolishness and tilting at windmills.  (His “hair” never moved despite all that wind.  But something tells me you knew that.)

Unfortunately, everyone already knows The Donald… primarily thanks to The Donald himself.  There is nothing new to be gained by ridiculing the already ridiculous, so instead I invite you to consider another Twitter user you may never have heard of.

John Peterson is a professional golfer.  A very handsome professional golfer.  A 23-year old Texas native who graduated from LSU, he’s a three-time All-American and 2011 NCAA Division I Champion. You may recall that I blogged about him this summer, after his hole-in-one at the 2012 US Open.

He is also a Republican, and let’s just say Mitt Romney accepted Tuesday’s outcome with a lot more grace than John Peterson did.

The tweet that really got me was this one:

John Peterson Tweet

I can at least be gratified that this only got 23 retweets.

This guy is a college graduate right?  When was the last time he read something other than a scorecard, like maybe a newspaper? Or traveled to a place that doesn’t have a golf course?  He postures like someone who is politically savvy but come ON.  Switzerland?

I mean, Switzerland is great.  However, while tax rates are similar to those in America, the cost of living is very high.  A 2009 report by Union Bank of Switzerland showed that residents in Geneva and Zurich pay approximately 20% more for products, services and accommodation than others in Western Europe.  What’s more, the Swiss pay approximately 45% more for food.

Another insightful tweet, this one about the rising price of gasoline in the U.S. — which is all President Obama’s fault, naturally:

Actually, I suspect any Swiss resident would be thrilled with $6 per gallon gas — today, or four years from now.  Based on a quick internet search, a gallon of gas in Bern, Switzerland will apparently run you $7.38. 

Better be sure the Gulfstream’s tank is full before you leave, John.

Switzerland is a tolerant society, and discrimination against homosexuals is constitutionally prohibited.  In fact, thanks to a 2005 national referendum, Swiss same-sex couples enjoy the same rights as married couples in next of kin status, insurance, taxation, and shared possession of dwelling

Oh, and there is no state religion in Switzerland.  I’m just saying.

What might surprise Peterson most is Switzerland’s health care law mandating that everyone buy coverage, which is subsidized by the government.  Wait, I thought Republicans did not APPROVE of healthcare mandates?

I wonder if John Peterson has confused Switzerland with The Swiss Colony?  Could be that the guy just loves a good cheese log. 

A few more tweets from John Peterson are below.  Unfortunately, he deleted several others advocating secession from “the Union” by “the Confederacy” (which according to John, is where the last truly brave Americans all reside) before I could capture the images. 
 

Two Men, One Moderator and a Stopwatch… I’m All Atwitter.

http://bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com

The Presidential debate: I dare to blog about it, even though it’s only been 24 hours since it occurred and it’s already been beaten to death.

One of the best, rhetorical questions spawned by Tuesday’s debate came from Joe Posnanski.  “How can people who are still undecided by this election decide who won a debate?”  In other words, if you are partisan (like most of us) you probably think your guy won.  But if you are still one of the inexplicably undecided, I suspect at this point you just hate both candidates equally.

It’s true, unless Barack Obama suffers some sort of cataclysmic neurological event on stage, and goes all Madness-Of-King-George on us, I’m voting for him.  So when I watch the debates, it’s really for two reasons:

First, it’s above-average people watching.  I am always amazed by how silly grown men — and sometimes women — can be in the political arena when egg timers (and network audiences) are involved.  It makes me squirm.  It’s a car crash, but I can’t look away.

I have a few tips for the candidates based on my observations, free of charge:

  • Do not whine about how you got only 5 minutes to “answer” the question about gun control – albeit with random arguments about higher education – but your opponent got 6.5 minutes.  It is unseemly, and no matter how solid your argument may seem to someone with a stopwatch… you wind up sounding like a 6-year-old waiting his turn to play Angry Birds on the family iPad.
  • Ditto on pouting because you believe you are due a chance to respond to your opponent, but the moderator says it’s time for a new topic.   It’s impossible to avoid sounding like a preschooler screaming “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!”.
  • Do not be rude to the moderator, especially if she is female…. and most especially if you are courting women voters.  (And let’s face it, why wouldn’t you be courting us, because we are awesome!)  As a strategy, it’s just plain flawed.
  • If you made a huge gaffe in the past few weeks — say you hypothetically, callously accused nearly 50% of Americans of being dirtbag blood-sucking leeches, and that was a haymaker for your opponent — you may not want to make unsolicited claims of support for “100%” of the population.  For those of us not thinking about your gaffe just then… well, you just said the word “percent”, so we’re thinking about it now.

I also love these debates for the jokes on Twitter.

If you are an active tweeter you generally fall into one of four groups:

  • Bitter bigots who are unable to correctly spell their, there or they’re.  In rare cases when these folks penetrate the defensive moat around my carefully cultivated twitter community… there’s an I-will-block-you function and I’m not afraid to use it.
  • Very, very funny comedians, pundits, and bloggers.
  • “Personalities” who are the objects of ridicule of these comedians, pundits and bloggers.  (Think, Donald Trump.)
  • Anonymous Dilbert types whose comedic talents are wasted in the desolation of cubeville.  They love Twitter because the jokes are funny, and mostly true, and once in a while they crack a few good ones of their own.

I’ll leave it to you to decide where I fit.

You’ll find lots of “best debate tweets” out there today.  Here are a few of mine….

Hesitate To Ask

Rumor has it that out on the campaign trail today, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney refused to grant an interview to anyone who wanted to ask about his stand on abortion, or his opinion on Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) of “legitimate rape” fame.

I think this is awesome.  Finally, a Republican ideal I can get behind.  I immediately started compiling my own “do not ask” list.  It will be posted prominently at my office, and attached to any cover letter or resume I might think of submitting.  I will also laminate copies, and hand them out to various doctors and law enforcement officers, my landlord and my personal trainer.

OK, let’s DO THIS!:

If you are a medical doctor, or other judgmental individual, you may not inquire about how many alcoholic beverages I consume per week.  Along these same lines, optometrists may not ask if I can read the 3rd line from the bottom without my reading glasses.

Corporate recruiters wishing to discuss my professional qualifications may not inquire about felony convictions, or my college G.P.A.

Do you work at the DMV? Are you skeptical about why my weight has not changed since college?  Weeeeell, do not go there.

If you are my landlord, don’t bother asking.  The answer will always be “No way, that wasn’t me.  But that is AWFUL.”  For example, “No, I did not put Canadian quarters in washing machine in our basement.  But wow, that is AWFUL. Who DOES that? Philistines!”

Other do-not-asks:

Did you just drop that ‘People’ magazine?

Do you need me to bring you a bigger size?

Do you know how fast you were driving, Miss?

Did you read that 30-page, single-spaced document about Reg-Q I sent you?

Did I see you at AT&T Park last night, doing the wave?

Here’s what you may ask:

Hey, there’s a $20 bill on the sidewalk.  Is that yours?

 

What’s on your “do not ask” list?

 

Keeping It Simple, Stupid (Part II)

Assault RiflesI’m doing more thinking tonight… about the importance of not overthinking.

More specifically, I’m pondering the art of  keeping problem-solving simple, instead constructing complex rationales for avoiding fixing what’s wrong in our lives… and the world.

Overthinking to the point of inaction can happen for two basic reasons; Either you fundamentally don’t care much about accomplishing something, or you desperately care, but the challenge is so big and overwhelming you are worried you may fail.

The first one is easy;  You say you want to achieve something that is totally attainable, but you never do… because you never really knock yourself out.

You know what?  It’s OK to decide something isn’t important enough for you to put in the effort to accomplish it. We all have a million things we COULD do — and in many cases our friends are doing (or talking a lot about doing) those things, so we feel pressured. Do yourself (and the rest of us, who have to listen to you) a favor and admit it.

“I really don’t care about running a 10k, so I’m not going to schedule – then make elaborate excuses for skipping – training sessions anymore.”

Guess what?  Your friends and family have probably heard your excuses so many times, they KNOW you’ll never run that 10k.  So you aren’t fooling anyone.

Sometimes, though, we overthink as a way to avoid doing something critically important… because it’s really, really hard.  That became painfully obvious after Friday morning’s cinema massacre in Aurora, Colorado.

It took less than 24 hours for Americans to starting asking obvious questions, like HOW did the perpetrator get so many guns and explosives, and so much ammunition, without raising suspicion?  Could an assault weapon ban have prevented this tragedy?  Isn’t there a way to apply simple common sense to the “right to bear arms”?

Unfortunately by Sunday, the discussion had stalled.  It seemed to have been universally decided; What would be the point of resurrecting the gun control/gun safety argument?  It never goes anywhere.  It’s an election year.  The NRA is too powerful. Proposing change would be political suicide for any candidate.

No more excuses.  The gun lobby is HUGE and ridiculously influential, but we need to keep the conversation alive.

At an NRA convention in April, Mitt Romney said this in support of “gun rights”:

“We need a president who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen and those who seek to protect their homes and their families.”

Because, let’s face it.  When you hear words like “victimized”, “disenfranchised” and “discriminated against” what groups immediately spring to mind?  Hunters and sportsmen, of course.

Where are the clearer heads, asking the basic questions?

  • Does anyone honestly believe that the founding fathers intended all Americans to be armed to the teeth as a basic human right?  That was a time of citizen militias, folks.  They were not worried about individual rights.  America needed an army.  The framers of The Constitution were worried about England and France.  And maybe witches.  Oh, and bears. That’s it.
  • What is so sporting about a high-powered military-style assault weapon with a 100-shot magazine like the one used by the Aurora shooter? Hunters don’t need such a weapon.  Neither do romantic cowboys.  Alan Ladd (a.k.a my reformed gun-slinger hero Shane) did just fine without one.
  • If concealed weapons are so great for  personal protection, how is it possible that no one among the moviegoers in Aurora managed to take down the killer?  Here’s your answer:  This argument is rubbish, concocted by the gun lobby to terrify you and convince you that you NEED to buy lots of guns to keep your family safe.  The truth is that — unless you are a trained Navy Seal — if someone enters your home wielding a high-powered assault rifle, you don’t stand a chance.  I don’t care what kind of weapon you have in your nightstand.

Gun ownership results in more violence, not less.  A recent study in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance found that when someone has a gun, he or she is more likely to believe an object held by someone else is also a gun.  In other words, when you have a firearm… all the world’s a burglar.  (Just ask George Zimmerman.)

I hope the tragedy in Aurora will renew the debate about gun control in earnest.  I’m not even calling for a gun ban, just serious legislation outlawing the kinds of high-powered weapons and arsenals that no sane, law-abiding person needs.

Don’t tell me there are millions of guns out there, and the task is too monumental.  It’s a matter of life and death, and we have to try.

Let’s not overthink it.  Let’s just do it.