Archive | March, 2013

Angels of Our Better Half?

18 Mar

While out shopping I stopped into a store featuring “Angels for all occasions” and after only a short while I noticed that all of the angel figurines were women. (not to mention pretty young women) Which got me to thinking, where are the angel men? Can’t men be angels too?

After a short thought about my childhood and catechism classes I remembered that all of the angels in the Bible were men. Whenever God sent an Angel to visit people on Earth he sent men angels and they apparently weren’t too cute either because they were always having to tell people to calm down and not be afraid and to simply listen to the important message that the lord had sent.

In fact the word angel comes from the ancient Greek and means simply “messenger” and not pretty girl or cute guys with wings because…well..angels were neither cute and none had wings. (I’m not counting cherubim and seraphim because they’re just plain weird)

Anyway, even Lucifer was an angel and he’s Satan for Chr… well you know…

So when did all of the angels transform into women? And why? Is it because of our culture’s recent developments in homophobia over the last few hundred years? Is it because nobody wants to image a big hairy guy standing next to them with an ethereal hand on their shoulder? Or because a guy with long flowing hair and a long flowing robe and wings would just be too “gay” for the average church goers liking? Have men just become too creepy to be imagined as angels these days?

It’s certainly not because people don’t believe in angels because  a 2008 survey by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, polled 1,700 Americans and found that 55 percent, including one in five of those who say they are not religious, believe that they have been protected by a guardian angel during their life. And an August 2007 Pew poll found that 68 percent of Americans believe that “angels and demons are active in the world”, (guess who gets to be the demons?) and according to four different polls conducted in 2009, 55% of Americans believe in angels while only 36%  believe in global warming!

In the extremely popular 1990s TV show Touched By An Angel the 2 featured angels were both women… until they added a man angel later in the 3rd season…and he was…wait for it…the Angel of Death!

What gives?! And I was hoping to be an angel someday…you know way, way, way, into the future not anytime soon… but apparently according to the Bible that’s not possible anyway because God has already “created an abundance of immortal beings called angels”…so what do I know?

But in all fairness I have to admit that  I have often opined that we men here on earth should give more jobs over to women because they are more apt to be kinder and gentler and start fewer wars (if any) than we men have already shown such an enormous propensity to do.

And although that hasn’t been happening here on Earth it appears that we’ve already made our choices about what we want Heaven to be like. Women! And lots of them because ironically  they’ll be the ones most likely  to help us out and take care of us and show us the way to enlightenment and wise decision making  back here on Earth.

Besides according to the Bible there’s no sex in heaven. So what would Heaven need men for? When we die and as we ascend into heaven are we all just transformed into beautiful women with lovely clothes and wings? (If so I do hope there’ll be shoes!)

I just hope we men aren’t sent someplace else…you know…like where there’s actually global warming!

That’s How We Do: Juxta-Posers

15 Mar

Today I took a drive to the Philadelphia airport and on the drive home, thanks to major construction and the worn out, pot-holed, crumbly highway, I was forced to a crawl just as I passed the relatively new South Philadelphia Stadium Complex. Where the Philadelphia Phillies, Eagles and Flyers play.

I couldn’t help but notice how shiny and new and spectacular the stadiums looked…however I also couldn’t help but notice that the names on the stadiums were Citizens Bank Park Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field and The Wells Fargo Center. And I also couldn’t help but notice that the surrounding neighborhoods were about as shiny and new and spectacular as the interstate highway  that I was traveling on.

And that got me to wondering…Why do we almost always put sports stadiums in the worst parts of big cities where then millions of people have to travel from the suburbs to spend millions of dollars to watch millionaires play? Probably you’ll say it’s so we can get all of that money that is being spent back into the cities…but that’s just not the case

Most if not all of these stadiums are financed by the crumbling cities themselves rather than by the wealthy teams and owners and financial institutions that have their names on them. And even though banks like Wells Fargo and  Citizens bank and Lincoln Financial pay millions for the naming rights, when you consider the recent trillions of dollars spent by the federal government in bailing out these banks then just about all of the money spent on these ballparks comes from…the citizens…not banks.

 That’s just plain crazy.

Many politicians and proponents of these publicly financed stadiums argue that new stadiums bring new jobs and economic expansion but when new sport stadiums are financed with public money, all research has shown that the population is actually worse off economically than before the stadium. 

In fact arenas and stadiums rarely live up to the promises teams, owners, and city politicians use to justify their construction. Cities are often left holding unsustainable amounts of debt because the economic development that is promised never shows up, and as a result, other services that provide more benefit to taxpayers like new roads and bridges and jobs and boring things like that are slashed to pay the bills.

Which when you think about it is insane.

Almost 40 years ago my home state of New Jersey borrowed $302 million to  construct  the Meadowlands and was supposed  to pay off the bonds in 25 years. Today because of refinancing, and redirecting funds for other stadiums the authority that runs the Meadowlands owes $830 million…on a stadium that was just torn down.  

That’s nuts!

Did you know that according to a new study from Harvard: when public-private partnerships are used to build such stadiums, taxpayers finance more than three-quarters of the investment, with teams and owners picking up just 22 percent of the tab…And every NFL franchise is today worth over 1 billion dollars!

It’s so ridiculous that it’s unbelievable!

And while our cities and infrastructures are crumbling around us we are cheering ourselves up by yelling, screaming and cavorting in the midst of abject poverty on urban oases as green as the piles of cash we spend there, named after banks that wouldn’t lend us a dollar under the very same deals and interest rates that they broker to build these coliseums.

Shouldn’t we  really be building these monuments to fame and fortune in the places where they belong like Beverly Hills, Wall Street and Fort Knox?

 It’s so ridiculous that it defies explanation…

But after all…that’s just how we do…isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do You Do?

13 Mar

That’s How I do!

This is a phrase that I would often hear from students during my 33 years in the public schools.

Usually it would come in response to a question that I would have about their work or social habits in school or in the classroom.

I might ask, “Why don’t you ever come to class on time?”

“That’s how I do.”

Or, “Your homework is always late or missing. Is there a reason why you can’t complete your assignments”

“That’s how I do.”

“Why must you always make insulting comments to other students in the class?”

“That’s how I do.”

“Why did you hit that student when he accidentally bumped into you in the hallway?”

“That’s how I do.”

“Is there a reason why you find the misfortune’s of others so amusing?”

“That, Mr Picone, is how I do.”

It was always quite a frustrating response to hear especially since it was almost always delivered in a trite and unapologetic tone and also because it offered no explanation or even excuse as to the student’s aberrant or incorrect behavior and it made any and all attempts to offer or suggest corrections very difficult.

But eventually after many years of contemplation and of hearing this phrase over and over again (and of growing older and wiser I like to think) it dawned on me. These students had at least been giving me the best and most honest explanation that they had for their behavior. They didn’t know why they did what they did or why they had formed the habits that were defining their life, but they were however, aware of the fact that they responded to similar situations in predictable ways.

They were aware of their predictable behaviors and their predictable responses. They didn’t know why they did… they just knew that they did… what they did… and so…”That’s how I do.”

These students were what is commonly referred to as “dysfunctional” because their behaviors did not coincide with what were commonly seen as positive societal or educational  behaviors…They didn’t do what they didn’t like to do. They hit back when angry. They made offhand and insulting remarks that they thought were funny. They found no urgency in being on time. And they hated or became angry and frustrated when others did these same things to them.

We all function on auto pilot from time to time. I think that those whom we classify as “dysfunctional” fly on an auto pilot that likes to crash into things more often then it likes to avoid trouble…and I also believe that it is a learned behavior that is instilled in them at a very early age.

 Most of the dysfunctional students or people that I have met always seem to live by one rule: Always play by MY rules which at no time and under no circumstances will apply to myself.

All  of us function in certain ways, or have things that we do, or responses that we make, or habits that we can’t seem to break, without always knowing why. More often than not it takes someone close to us to point out these behaviors because we just don’t  notice these rote behaviors ourselves. Have you ever noticed this or been told this about yourself? Why do you think what you think and more importantly…

How do you do?

 

11 Mar

I found this post to be quite interesting and informative…Can anyone refute these statistics? Can two masters be served as one?

kavips

We are now receiving the hard data.  Throughout the Charter versus Public School debate, the concern on one hand was that allowing Charters to compete, would force Public schools to close, and once done, the charter schools would perform no better than did the public……

In the ’90’s as these ideas were first proposed and debated upon their merits, but there was no evidence; it was all theoretical..  Now, we have actually  done it and are getting hard data….

Here is their history in one paragraph.  If a charter school opens up in a failing school system and the public money per student is allowed to follow that child, obviously parents at no cost to themselves will opt to put their children in a charter school.  Simply put, if their public school is rated  “F”, the charter school can be no worse.  So the charter School being  someone’s private  investment…

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The Gold Standard

10 Mar

It’s 2013 which means that this is not an Olympic year… and which also means that we ordinary human beings will not have to be confronted by extra-ordinary human beings. Is it just me or does watching the Olympics make us ordinary humans feel more inadequate rather than more uplifted when it comes to the state of the human condition these days?

Lately I seem to be  enjoying the opening ceremonies of the games more than the actual games themselves… when normal humans prance around and dance and sing and celebrate their country’s achievements while the “athletes just walk around in a big circle without breaking any records or setting new human milestones that are about as far from my reach as the planet Neptune.

Of course I am old enough to remember the Olympic games where a barber from Essexville, Michigan put down his barber shears, went on vacation and skated to an Olympic gold medal in Innsbruck, Austria. It was the United States only gold medal in 1964 and we were out medaled by the Soviet Union 25-6 that year…notice how I said “we” even though I wasn’t a member of the team in those Olympic games. But that’s the way the Olympics are supposed to make us feel…like we are all (no matter what country) being represented by our countrymen who are competing there.

Thanks to the Soviet Union however, because they were the first country to allow athletes to “work” at their sport year round as members of their military, rather than perform truly as amateurs who had regular every day jobs that they would take leaves of absence from whenever the Olympic cycle came around, things have changed…

Now athletes are professionals and they “work at being athletes” and are becoming less and less representative of the average citizen of anybody’s country, as we move further into the 21st century.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could hold a giant lottery in each participating country and have randomly selected average citizens chosen to then represent each country. The lists wouldn’t be generated until right before each “Olympian” had to leave for the games so there could be no extra physical preparation, thereby guaranteeing that the participants would be representative of each country’s typical physical specimen.

The events could then all be team events, like softball, dodge ball, kick ball, obstacle courses and relay races etc. Then we could find out whose country was most physically fit and perhaps help motivate citizens around the world to get in better shape because you just might be called upon next time to take a vacation from work and represent your country.

And no events like skiing all day while shooting things or swimming back and forth for half an hour after eating 105 pancakes for breakfast. Who does these things in real life anyway?

Now maybe my idea is silly or impractical or unrealistic but wouldn’t it be fun to watch? And besides,…Last winter a 16 year old Chinese woman swam faster than any man, Chinese or non, ever swam before and that’s just faster than…well, humanly possible… so my real point is:

Olympians  no longer seem to be representative of their country’s average citizens which although may be their entire purpose in life,  I fear will soon mean that the average Olympian will no longer be representative of any human at all.

Happiness is a warm gun?

9 Mar

 

Recently  Republican Sen. Rand Paul attempted a Senate filibuster to draw attention to the government’s ambiguity when asked about whether drones could be used to kill targets within the United States.

Senator Paul courageously vowed to speak “until the president had responded with, ‘No, we won’t kill Americans in cafes. No, we won’t kill you at home at night,’…

And alas,  the Attorney General Eric Holder did respond that President Barack Obama would not have the authority to order a drone to kill an American citizen on U.S. soil… who was “not engaged in combat.”

 I certainly feel better now…how about you?

However, for those of you who fervently support our second amendment rights I wouldn’t suppose that this promise comes as any great comfort. Especially to all of our enthusiastic freedom loving and gun supporting rebels who are worried about preserving their rights to defend themselves against a tyrannical and future government that might decide to come for them and take away their freedom.

Once upon a time, when the Constitution was written, the guns we had at home were every bit as good as the guns our British oppressors could muster against us. And since the newly independent United States had no standing army our new government needed to rely on a well armed citizenry to come to its defense in the form of militia…hence the wording of the second amendment.

Even a hundred years later during our own Civil War, one could still bring a home weapon to the fight that was better suited to your own ability to kill the enemy than many of the government issued weapons of the day.  And if you had a horse to bring along…even better.

So back in the day our home weapons could really provide a defense against any enemies foreign or domestic, real or imagined…But today’s home weapons, no matter what you are packing, are no match for the firepower our government can literally conjure up out of thin air.

So if you are by any chance under the delusion that you can form an armed defense against a government that  now features flying killer robots, then you had better consider entertaining yourself with another delusion. Because the killer drones that would put down any future citizen rebellions will not necessarily come from a plane that you could even target in the sky.

Nope. Here’s what is more likely to happen: While You and your freedom defending neighbors gather in the garage or underground bunker to dole out the Bushmasters and Glock 19s a cute  little bird will fly into your backyard…and before your wife can finish the sentence, “Hey Honey stop what you’re doing and come look at the pret…”

Your neighborhood, your neighbors and you will be gone.

Yes, our military can do that now.

Sadly, our household guns will only be good in the future for killing exactly what they are used for killing now…each other…and no one need take them away from us because not only is an armed citizenry now obsolete, but also… being able to shoot each other… may someday  just be the only comfort we’ll have left.

 

The Crayola Conundrum (#20)

8 Mar

Why does The United States Speaker of the House have orange skin? And should we care?

Years ago I had a student in one of my classes who would show up for school every day in white face. And I’m not saying that she was pale. What I am saying is that she literally painted her face white each day with make-up. Apparently it was a teenage angst or rebellion thing but there she was every day with her white and somewhat disconcerting visage sitting at her desk in class. She was a good student, polite and respectful and she always did her work and caused no trouble and was punctual and on time each and everyday…except one day when she was conspicuously absent.

I use the word conspicuously only because when you have a white -faced student in class every day you definitely notice when she is not there!

Anyway, she appeared white face and all, on the very next day and I asked why she was absent on the day before…and her explanation made me roar with laughter. (discretely of course)

” I was here yesterday Mr. Picone but the administration wouldn’t let me in and sent me home.”

“But why? I asked. They let you in every day.”

“Because, she replied, yesterday was Halloween and they told me that they do not allow costumes to be worn on Halloween!”

So, as far as our administration was concerned, on every day of the year she had teenage angst or was making a statement about life, death or harlequin romance…but on Halloween they could actually say that they were seeing it for what it was…a costume.

Now I know it sounds like I’m picking on House Speaker, John Boehner, (I’m willing to bet we have many more quirky congressmen on both sides of the aisle) but that’s only because whenever I look at pictures of our Congress he sticks out like an Oompa-Loompa at Will Wonka’s Chocolate factory (at least to me) but I suppose my real question is: Are our emperors finally wearing the new clothes that we can’t say we see or dare to speak of?

When asked by the media about his seemingly constant Crayola #20 glow, Speaker Boehner replied,

 “I have never been in a tanning bed or used a tanning product.”

Which, as far as I have been able to discern through extensive googling, no one believes. So why the pretense? And that got me to thinking…

I remember one time in the dead of winter when a colleague of mine told me that he was going to begin frequenting a tanning salon. When I asked why, he replied, “Next month I’m going to call in sick for a week and go to Florida. If I have a tan before I go, then once I get back no one will suspect that I’ve gone.” (devious I know, and a definite abuse of the rules, but it happens…)

Which is why I suspect that Congressman Boehner remains in a state of vacational awareness so that we the people do not suspect that he is possibly more often than not vacationing rather than trying to get his job done. This would also explain why he never seems to get his job done…and why he is always tan…and why Congress is more often than not…on vacation!

Which brings me to my last question: Have we “jumped the shark” in America? Is Congress on the verge of closing…has the show been canceled and we haven’t gotten the notice yet. Has the good speaker been so brazenly Sunkist because he has been surreptitiously laying the groundwork for an impending governmental migration? Is the country  running up debt like a terminal Kardashian with a credit card because…

… in the not so distant future  the man with the Tropicana tint will appear with his gavel in hand,  crocodile tears in his eyes and announce the final session of Congress and the greatest sequester of them all?

Wham bam, thank you tan…  Cayman Islands… here comes Congress!

 

If It Ain’t Broke…Break It!

7 Mar

 

It’s been almost 5 years but the stock market has finally made it all the way back to where it was when the great financial crash began way back in 2008! Yes, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has finally made it all the way back from its lowest low of 6,547.05, more than doubling to over 14,000!

But for some reason the American people haven’t made it back nearly as far since then. In fact they haven’t even begun the return journey yet! What gives? The stock market’s resurgence is obviously great news for finance but someone forgot to tell people!

We’ve gone from 31 million to 47 million citizens on food stamps since the stock market crash. That’s 15% of our population now using food stamps!

11.1 million people were out of work back in 2008. Now we have 14.8 million people looking for work…but the stock market is all better?

Less food, no work, but more money? For who?

And the news gets better…

 according to Citigroup economist Steven C. Wieting, there are more than 3 million Americans still without work who lost their jobs following the financial crisis.

And…

The National Employment Law Project found that 58 percent of all jobs created over the past two years paid $13.83 an hour or less while just 22 percent were in the “mid-wage” class of $13.84 to $21.13 an hour, even though that group lost 60 percent of the jobs during the recession.

So mid-wage jobs are being replaced with low wage jobs and we’re still 3 million jobs short.

But the financial market is feeling just fine!

I think we can finally close the book on Supply Side, Trickle Down, Reaganomics.

Cut taxes on the wealthy, bailout the richest banks when they fail and what you get in return is not greater largess from a thankful and benevolent upper class. What you get is wealthier wealthy people, banks with lots of money and hungrier poor people, and fewer and crappier jobs.

The verdict is in:

Wall Street loves America and democracy…It’s just the people they can’t stand!

Stop Already!

6 Mar

Winter Storm Saturn Brings Heavier, Wetter ‘Heart Attack Snow

This was a headline that popped up when I googled “Winter Storm Saturn” and well, here I go again…

Hurricane Sandy, whose name I have argued against for just being too damned cute for a devastating storm, was certainly a storm for the ages and it did cause a tremendous amount of damage and grief that some people here at the shore are still experiencing…and I certainly don’t want to make light of that suffering…

but we do not need to start the suffering before the suffering even begins, do we?

Heart attack snow?! I do understand the metaphor but please we need to get back to the good old days of “There’s a storm-a-comin’!” and leave it at that.

Does snow cause a heart attack? Can rain cause drowning? Will fog bring zombies? Does dark of night mean blindness?!

Here at the Jersey shore we are all still shell-shocked as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

And we really do not need to be frightened by any more self proclaimed meteorological experts, thank you very much. We get it. We know what a storm is.

storm  /stôrm/ Noun -A violent disturbance of the atmosphere with strong winds and usually rain, thunder, lightning, or snow.

Is there any other kind? Really?

Can we just call the next storm Uranus please, and leave it at that?

 

Wealth Inequality in America. Madness.

6 Mar

Wealth Inequality in America. Madness..

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