On last Sunday’s, 4/13/2014, episode of Media Buzz, there was an issue of inconsistency on the part of host Howard Kurtz and co-host, and Fox News contributor, Lauren Ashburn.

A segment called video verdict, contained three separate segments that ultimately displayed an analytical inconsistency on the part of Kurtz and Ashburn.

In one segment, the two analyzed a round table conducted by MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski to discuss the president’s equal pay act.

“How do women speak out?” Mika asked.  “How do they say something?  I could say something.  It was easy.”  Mika then talked about how she had a powerful job, with powerful alliances, that allowed her to speak out.

Fox News - MediaBuzz Keli GoffFox News contributor, Lauren Ashburn, responded that she would’ve liked to see some contrarian points of view, such as that which came from the American Enterprise Institute, that pointed out that the president’s figures regarding unequal pay are inflated, but Ashburn added:

(Mika’s) a liberal, and she says that she’s a liberal, therefore it is to be expected.  It would’ve been nice to have (the contrarian viewpoint) addressed, but we know (Mika’s) politics.”

The next segment involved Joy Behar publicly criticizing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie from behind a podium.  To this, Kurtz says:

Joy Behar is a liberal comedian, everybody knows that.”

In the final segment of these three, the two analysts condemned the conservative news site Breitbart.com for featuring a photo shopped portrayal of Nancy Pelosi, scantily clad, twerking in a Miley Cyrus pose.  After showing this doctored photo, Kurtz said that:

People on the right and the left should denounce this kind of ugliness.”

So, people on the right and left should condemn the ugliness that occurs on the right, but the ugliness displayed on the left is understood because we all know they’re biased?  We can be sure that the writers at Breitbart.com are not going to put out a call for Media Buzz to recognize that they’re just as partisan, but they would surely ask why their partisanship should be singled out for universal condemnation among these three incidents.

To be fair, Kurtz did preface his comments on Mika’s presentation with:

I like Mika, but for her to moderate an event set up by the White House, ask no skeptical questions, and make a big pitch for this equal pay bill kind of makes it look like (she’s) part of the administration’s propaganda machine.”  Kurtz also said of Mika’s obvious partisanship: “…It’s about appearances.  If Sean Hannity had gone to the Bush White House and moderated a round table of Karl Rove, he would have been barbecued.”  He then concluded with: “But because there was a fair debate with Joe Scarborough, I’ll give it a three.” 

Most of us didn’t see the original broadcast of this MSNBC round table, because most of us don’t regularly watch MSNBC, so it’s impossible to comment on whether there was a “fair” debate that occurred somewhere in the broadcast.  Those of us that have seen various other “fair debates” on MSNBC, however, are forced to disagree with Howie, as we have never found Joe Scarborough to be a decent representative of the other side.

While it is admirable, and somewhat unprecedented, that a liberal, like Mika Brzezinski, announces her politics on a continual basis, and it does give her some license to be unfair in her presentations, in the same manner Sean Hannity has license to be unfair with his unapologetic political admissions, should those that analyze either of their comments be so flippant in their dismissals?

Sibelius’s Resignation  

Prior to this video verdict segment, For News contributor, and former Bush administration spokesman, Rick Grenell made an interesting point when he stated that the media used any outgoing Bush administration official’s retirement as an opportunity to rehash all of the failures that occurred during their tenure in the Bush administration.  With Sibelius’s resignation, the media simply moved on to discussions of the next nominee.

Said Grenell:

The Wall Street Journal” and “the Washington Post” both had stories about (the Sibelius) resignation really in the context of who’s next.  They completely just forgot about the fact that she was a failure, and they went on to the next nominee.” 

Believing that Grenell was somehow suggesting that Bush officials received less criticism than Sibelius, liberal, syndicated radio host Bill Press said:

Boy, I remember a lot of beating up on Donald Rumsfeld.  I don’t know where you were at the time, but I don’t think he was treated gingerly by the press.”

Anyone that has paid any attention to politics over the last decade had to laugh as Grenell began saying: “That’s my point.  That’s my point … ”  We’ve all misheard people that speak before us, and we’ve all erroneously responded on that basis, but if Bill Press genuinely believed that a former Bush administration spokesman would claim that one of theirs didn’t receive as much criticism from the media as one of Press’s Democrat friends, then we have to believe that Press may not have been paying any attention to politics, the media and politics, or at least, the Republican portrayal of the media and politics over the last decade.  One has to wonder if this syndicated radio host has been hearing what he’s wanted to hear, in this manner, throughout his career, or if his laughable flub should be dismissed because he’s a liberal radio  host, and everybody knows this.

Source: http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/media-buzz/transcript/2014/04/13/spinning-sebelius-sharyl-attkisson-leaving-cbs-white-house-pressure

You should read this blog.  It’s funny!  Very Funny!

One would suspect that such obnoxiously, over-the-top self-promotion wouldn’t work, but some productions are successfully marketing themselves with such ad campaigns today, and they have been doing so for some time.

If I were to put word out that this blog was going to pay a ridiculously high amount for promotion, and of the hundreds of ad agencies that began vying for this money, one suggested that we build a marketing plan around the idea that “It’s funny!” that campaign probably would not finish in my top 100.

ConanBath“It’s funny!” just wouldn’t seem, to me, to be a campaign built for the long haul.  This simplistic approach would surely generate some traffic in the short term, but I would think that a true, funny designation would have to be earned over time through meretricious production, and that the obnoxiously over-the-top suggestion that it was funny, would only take me so far.  “We’re not even making a suggestion, I would complain.  “We’re making a statement.  Isn’t there going to be some backlash to that?”

“Look, your blog is already funny,” would be the sales pitch that an ad man would surely use.  “We just have to get the word out.”

“That’s great,” I would reply, “But aren’t there going to be some unintended consequences involved in skipping the steps in the long haul word of mouth process?”

“Haven’t you already been trying that?” I can hear him asking. “Where’s that gotten you?”

He would be right, of course, but there’s something about determining what is funny that seems intimate to me.  You determine what is funny according to what fits your “my sense of humor” designation.  This “It’s funny” ad campaign appears to be saying: “Look, we’ve already determined that it’s funny for you, so you don’t have to go through all that.  All you have to do is laugh. You don’t have to think about it.  You can just sit back, relax, and enjoy.  You don’t even have to tell your friends about it.  We’ll take care of that too.  So just sit back and enjoy it!  It’s funny.  Very funny!” It all seems to be a violation of the principles of that intimate decision about what’s funny and what’s not.  A decision that the audience should make on their own.

Pull quotes, such as these, are effective.  As are critical praise and peer review, but I would think that if a prospective audience member were to find out that I was the one making the claim, about my blog, that there would be an immediate backlash.  I would expect to see my fellow cynical minds loading up the comments section of my blog with “You may think this is funny, but it don’t appeal to my sense of humor”.  Or, “You may think this is funny, but it’s not funny to me.”  Even if I wrote what was unquestionably the funniest blog ever written, I could see some rebels wanting to stand out from the crowd by saying, “It’s just not for me.  I can see this appealing to the common man, but I’ve read Kafka and Voltaire, and I’ve seen George Carlin at Carnegie Hall, so my expectations may be higher than some.  I prefer cerebral, subtle humor that this author apparently knows nothing about.”  One could say that such responses would happen regardless, but I imagine that an obnoxiously over-the-top ad campaign, like  “It’s funny” would only provoke more of this type of rebellion.

Saying, “It’s funny” or “Very funny!” also tells me that the product in question may be funny in a universal way, in a way my parents thought Milton Berle was funny, and Bob Hope, or Andy Griffith.  These guys may have been funny to them, and they may have even been very funny in that universal manner, but they don’t appeal to me, or my sense of humor.  I have always preferred the risque humor that comedians like George Carlin and Sam Kinison employed. There was something bitter and angry about their humor that appealed to me.  They confused and angered my parents, and I idolized them for it.  And when Andy Kaufman did the things Andy Kaufman did, few people around me got it.  They thought he was weird.  I got it, and there was something about getting it that gave it an intangible quality that may have been diminished had Kaufman prefaced one of his bits with, “Watch this next skit, it’s funny.”

I enjoy the universal slapstick, body function humor as much as anyone else, but to get me enjoying your product over the long haul, you have to be different, and over-the-top in a manner that leads me to believe that no one has ever tried that joke quite that way before.  If my parents think it’s funny, or that guy at the deli that repeats Andy Griffith jokes thinks it’s funny, I may find it humorous, but it would never achieve that long-term, “wait with bated-breath for the next episode” level of hilarity for me.

The ad campaign reminds me of the obnoxious retort, obnoxious people like Tony Kornheiser, make to comedic sentiments: “That’s funny, and I know funny!”  I’ve always wanted to ask these people, if you know funny, why haven’t you ever been funny?  You may know what you consider funny, but I haven’t heard you ever say anything that I consider funny.

I don’t know which team started this promo.  Whether it was the promo Ricky Gervais ran for his show Idiot Abroad:  “You should watch this show.  It’s funny.”  Or, if it was the TBS switching from the “Superstation” tagline, to the “Very Funny” one.  I would think that telling the audience what to think about their product would be a major no no in marketing, but if it didn’t work, they wouldn’t keep these campaigns going, and it shows that I know little-to-nothing about marketing.

In the case of the show Idiot Abroad, one could argue that Ricky Gervais probably needed to clarify that the show was a comedy, as opposed to the serious travelogue one might perceive after reading a brief description of the show. I still find it condescending.  I find it condescending in the same manner I find laugh tracks condescending.  I know where to laugh, my cynical, rebellious mind responds to laugh tracks.  I don’t need to be told where to laugh. and I don’t need to be told what’s funny … because you know funny.

It could also be argued that when a star like Ricky Gervais tells us that something is funny, we apparently listen to him because he is a star.  We know that when a star tells us how to vote, we listen.  We know that when stars tell us how to live, how to eat, and how to dress, we listen, because we’ve wanted to have people see us agreeing with cool kids since the fifth grade.  When these same cool kids happen to be hawking their own products, however, we shouldn’t allow them to have any authority over whether it’s cool, good, or funny.  They should, at the very least, be required to hire another star to make such a comment, just to avoid appearing obnoxious. There’s a part of me, a part that always hated the cool kid aesthetic –because I’ve never been a cool kid– that says that not only should this not work, for the cool kids that do it, but that they should be shamed for even trying it.

As I said, I don’t know who tried it first, but I saw the Gervais ad first, and my first reaction was that this must be common in England, the place that treats royalty like superhumans.  My next reaction was that this type of shameless self-promotion would never work here, until I heard the American broadcasting company, TBS, do it too, saying that they were “Very funny!”  I refused to watch TBS, and Idiot Abroad, for these reasons, until a friend of mine told me that Idiot Abroad was, indeed, funny, and I determined that it was, but it wasn’t the marketing that convinced me of it.

Some would say that the ‘if’ portion of the debate over whether or not to pay college athletes is now over, and ‘if’ has been replaced by ‘when’.  If that’s the case, then when it’s decided that universities should pay them as university employees, will it ever work out to the student-athlete’s benefit?

That’s simple.  When they receive the money that will be the benefit.  Is it ever that simple?  Aren’t there always unintended consequences that need to be meted out before we ever arrive at a complete answer?

1391004393000-usatnorthwesternTo listen to the media on this topic, it is, in fact, this simple.  Right now, athletes are doing most of the work, and coaches, athletic directors, college chancellors, and all of the other salaried members of universities are benefitting from their labor.  They’re getting rich off these poor kids.  It’s high time the student-athlete got their piece of the pie.

As with any argument, of this nature, there are numerous pros and cons, and the premise of the argument can be switched innumerable ways to favor one’s argument over another.  These arguments usually contain the one plus one equals two scenarios.  Big Ten gets paid, Northwestern gets a chunk of that, and that should start working its way down to the athletes, as opposed to antiquated idea of simply offering scholarships that leave football players playing for almost nothing.  Anytime one hears one plus one arguments, they should immediately begin looking for the unintended consequences.

One argument proponents make, regards the number of hours an athlete must devote to honing his skills.  This dedication, they argue, can be so time-consuming that many athletes find it impossible to dedicate themselves to any equally time consuming pursuits, that can, in most cases, provide a more financially rewarding post-college career.  This dilemma can cause most of student-athletes to pursue basket weaving-type degrees that are less demanding and less time-consuming.   The solution, say proponents, and the current, symbolic figurehead of the movement Northwestern (NU) University’s former quarterback (QB) Kane Coulter, is to unionize.

On March 26, 2014, Kane Coulter symbolically led Northwestern football players to successfully petition the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for unionization, and to have them recognize scholarship athletes as university employees.  Some have argued that even though this petition was not expressly interested in getting NU football players paid, in the short-term, it was a huge step in that direction.  Northwestern has said it would file a request for a federal five member NLRB in Washington to review the decision. It has until tomorrow, April 9, to do so.  That decision could take months, and the final decision, likely to be made by the nine members of the Supreme Court could take even longer.

To precede Coulter’s petition, members of Northwestern’s football team had a chance to sign union cards back in January, some players signed their names, others did not.

Northwestern running back Venric Mark said that he wondered if the ones who did (sign the union card) realized the ramifications of the decision and where it would lead.

I don’t know if people kind of knew what they were going to get into or if they thought it was going to turn out the way it did.”

This particular signing appears to have been an allegiance signing.  It was an “Are you with us, or are you against us” signing with no apparent legal, contractual entanglements.  The next signing, the April 25th signing to have Ramogi Huma’s College Athlete’s Players Association (CAPA) represent NU football players as a union, is legally binding, and those “that may not know when they’re getting into” the first time, may want to thoroughly research this contract before signing.

One has to imagine that between now and April 25th, the founder and president of the CAPA, Ramogi Huma, will be holding a number of closed-door sessions with Northwestern football players, and we can guess that those particular discussions will not be focusing a lot of time on the law of unintended consequences.  One has to imagine that bottom line economics will not be thoroughly covered by Ramogi Huma either.  The university will, likely, require that one of their representatives deliver such a discussion, but anyone that has sat through university presentations can probably guess that it will pale in comparison to the pitch a Mr. Huma will deliver.

Ramogi Huma’s pitch may detail the historic nature of this progression, and it may allude to the fact that this progression is inevitable, but that by signing this particular document, you can be pioneers in the movement that eventually provides financial freedom for student-athletes around the nation … if not the world.  These particular lines may not make it into Ramogi’s presentation, but you can probably guess that his pitch will be theatrical in some manner, that it will be more focused on less tangible and more pressing matters,and more general and less specific, concerns like:

The goal is to make athletes have a seat at the table.  Health and safety of athletes is the concern, especially to reduce the risk of brain trauma,” Huma told the Associated Press, as quoted by the LA Times. “We want to make sure they have an opportunity to hear from us directly.”{1}

Right now, Huma might say in his pitch, you have no one looking out for you, your health, or your brain trauma. The college chancellor doesn’t care what happens to you, is something else he might say, except in how it affects his bottom line.  He may then start up a slide show that displays the statistics of football players that eventually succumb to something called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE, and how no college chancellor, or board of regents, stepped in with immediate concerns of health.  Huma may then show slides of former scholarship athletes like Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, and others former football players suspected of dying, and living a dramatically altered life as a result of this repeated trauma.  Huma will likely focus his association’s greater concerns for the players, as individuals, than they are likely to receive from anyone at the university.  He will likely do so, because it is in his association’s best interests, and it will divert the attention away from any whispers of unintended consequences.

Some have suggested that this progression to pay private school, scholarship football players, and eventually all scholarship student-athletes, appears to have an end game in mind that seeks to change the title of the allotment of money an NU may provide to a future Kane Coulter from scholarship to salary.  For four years, NU provided Coulter a food stipend, a living expense, and various other financial allotments that are allowed under the current rules of the NCAA, that some have suggested could total $250,000 a year.  One has to imagine that even the best union leader, or agent, would have a difficult time attaining $250,000 from the most independent arbiter.  They are more likely to settle for a sum of $65,000, or the amount of the scholarship for tuition.

That football player that then receives that allotment, termed salary, would still have to that tuition if they hoped to maintain eligibility, or they could rack up the student loan debt that most non-scholarship athletes do.  Regardless, say the proponents of this movement, this is a good move, because the football players would feel a certain degree of pride of earning a salary.  Plus, it’s the right thing to do, they argue, for it’s about time that they see financial rewards for their efforts.  The wrong people are getting rich out there.


One of the problems,” writes Logan Lane at the DailyToreador.com, “Is that those who promote unionization don’t seem to fully understand the unique and privileged position student athletes enjoy with regard to the U.S. Tax Code.

Though we need to make clear that Ramogi is not currently speaking of getting NU football players paid at this time, one has to think that he believes he’s taken a giant step in that direction.  If he is able to accomplish that, and he is unable to convince the Internal Revenue Service that these athletic salaries should maintain the tax-free designation currently applied to scholarships, his eventual union members are probably looking at an estimated total of $22,000 in total taxes on the $65,000 scholarship-turned-salary they will make on an annual basis, according to Michael Bargo Jr.

(NU football players) will have to pay Federal income tax, state income tax, local income taxes, and payroll taxes; which include social security and Medicare,” writes Michael Bargo Jr., on the American Thinker website.  “(The amount listed above) are the taxes paid by other residents of Evanston, Illinois where Northwestern U. is located.”


Another foreseeable, unintended consequence that hasn’t discussed by the media –currently carrying Coulter on their proverbial shoulders— is healthcare.  Football players currently enjoy free healthcare that is provided by the college’s medical school.  If these football players are eventually allowed to become employees, they may not be covered by their parent’s plans, and they may end up on some Obamacare exchange, paying the premium a young person has to pay for the health services of the old and infirmed.

Union Dues

The last foreseeable, unintended consequence that the scholarship athletes on NU’s football team may experience, soon after they vote to have Ramogi’s CAPA represent them, is yet another percentage of the probable, and ever-dwindling, $65,000 pie, that they will be required to pay union dues.  The average, U.S. union due is roughly between 1.3% to 5% of earnings.  If Ramogi’s CAPA charges the average rate of most unions, the unionized member of the NU football team, would be required to pay anywhere from $845.00 to $3,250 in dues.  This may not seem like much when compared to the $65,000 that Ramogi’s association may eventually secure for these football players, until one adds up the $65,000 the scholarship used to pay for tuition, the healthcare, and the $22,000 in estimated taxes, until Bargo Jr. estimates, they could end up paying out approximately 100,000 for the privilege of playing on Northwestern’s football team, and attending the school, for one year .

One has to assume that Ramogi won’t make this, or any of the other unintended consequences a part of his closed-door union presentation to these NU’s scholarship athletes, or if he is somehow required to properly inform them of some of these consequences, that he won’t make it a prominent feature.

One can assume that by the time Ramogi is done with these scholarship athletes that he’ll probably play on their desire to eventually achieve financial freedom so well that they’ll be signing his contracts with dollar signs dancing in their heads, but those players will hopefully realize that Ramogi may also have the same dollar signs dancing in his head, which will be the same dollar, or a percentage thereof.

No matter what you think of the state of college football or college athletics as a whole, there is no scenario in which forcing players to pay dues to a union as a condition of getting a scholarship can be seen as a step in the right direction,” Patrick Semmens, vice president for public information at NRTW, told the website campusreform.org.{2}

Michael Bargo Jr. concludes his piece

Twenty years from now, as the Northwestern U. athletes come close to the day when their student loans will finally be paid off, some may ask themselves, “what were we thinking?”

“The union leaders who profited from their use of the big dollar exploitation rhetoric will have plush offices, take frequent free trips to universities around the nation where they stay at the best hotels and receive free meals, and attend annual conferences at four-star Hawaiian resorts where they will sit in hot tubs holding glasses of wine paid for by the student loan debt of the student athletes they scammed.”{3}

Having said all that, we also have to consider the idea that CAPA president Ramogi Huma is a former scholarship athlete, playing linebacker at UCLA, and this gives him some insight into the plight of the modern day scholarship athlete.  He has also been an advocate for this cause for some time, so his efforts may be entirely altruistic.  We must consider that he may be devoted to helping scholarship athletes see the reality of their value.  Even if his goals are noble, however, and more and more student-athletes begin to move towards the road he paves for NU athletes eventually being paid, a road many believe to be inevitable, will the union leaders, agents, and other assorted representatives that follow Huma be as noble, or will the college athletes of tomorrow see the future of college athletics in the light Bargo Jr. portrays?  Will Kain Coulter, and his former Northwestern teammates, be regarded as pioneers in a movement that managed to unshackle itself from an archaic system that enslaved student athletes to a system that enriched the very few “masters” in the upper echelons of universities, or will they be seen as fools that simply changed their “masters” and dug themselves into a financial hole so deep that they now curse those that told them that the path to financial glory was paved with their good intentions?



{3} http://americanthinker.com/2014/03/college_athletes_may_regret_unionization.html


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of being real, it was the age of delusional thinking, it was the epoch of honesty, it was the epoch of lies, it was the season of transparency, it was the season of illusions, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were going to achieve, what we had already achieved, what we would never achieve – in short, it was a period of time that needed to exist to rectify a period that may never have existed to the superlative degree of comparison that some of its noisiest authorities defined for the era.

It was the age of being real.  It was the age of reality TV.  Did reality TV bring about the advent of being real, or was reality TV a byproduct of the era of being real, in the manner the body normally puts out byproducts it can’t use?  Did art imitate life, or did art reflect it?  Or, was reality TV a refraction of a very small sampling of society that the shows’ producers projected out into the society as a measure of realness that wasn’t ‘real’ to the superlative degree they portrayed?

"Lars and The Real Girl"

“Lars and The Real Girl”

How many times in one episode, of one reality show, did one participant say, “Hey, I’m just being real with ya” to assuage the guilt they might otherwise have associated with insulting another person?  How many times did one of these shows’ participants gain a certain degree of realness on the back of the individual they were insulting?  How many times was being real used as a confrontational device to belittle those people that were less real, until the real participant managed to gain some sort of superior definition?

One could be real without any substantive reflection in the era of being real.  Being real, in instances such as these, was nothing more than a cudgel used to diminish another’s values.  It was used as a weapon to castigate its victim into being more real, or more like the speaker, until the viewer of this exchange was left reflecting upon the disparity involved in their thinking.  At that point, the viewer was supposed to accept that thought as real thinking, if they ever hoped to gain greater standing in the real-o-sphere.  Most of us now reflect back on this era of being real, and see it as an intellectually dishonest era, designed to promote the drama of the interactions, and the proselytizing of speakers.

Being real was supposed to have a conjugal relationship with brutal honesty, and some of us used some nugget of that message to become more brutally honest in our personal presentations, regardless if anyone thought we were more real or not.  If you are one that has ever tried being brutally honest with others in regards to how you should be perceived, you’ve undoubtedly encountered a number of surprising reactions.

The most surprising reaction some of us received was no reaction.  Our people took it in stride, because they apparently thought they were just as brutally honest with themselves as we were.  They lived with the idea that they were so honest that most people couldn’t handle their special brand of honesty.  It didn’t dawn on them that their version of brutal honesty was almost solely devoted to assessing others. Very few will have temerity to point this out to these people, or that their particular brand of being real incorporated many of the same elements used by the dictionary to define the word delusional.  If you have, you likely encountered some confrontational push back.

If you have ever made a concerted effort to be brutally honest about yourself, you probably also expected that honesty to be somewhat influential.  You probably expected your friends to “raise their game”, in this regard, to be as honest as you were about yourself.  They didn’t, because, again, these Delusional People thought that they already were, and that they had always been.

Another surprising, and somewhat depressing, reaction to being brutally honest about yourself is that your listeners will likely begin to think less of you.  One would think that a person that provides brutal truths about various aspects, and prospects, of their life would be embraced, as being “So brutally honest, it’s refreshing.”  One would think with such refreshingly, brutal honesty coming their way, the listener couldn’t help but be more refreshingly honest in return.  No such luck.  What usually happens is that they join you in your refreshingly honest assessments about you, but they don’t share the same objectivity in regards to themselves.

“How do you think you’d do in jail?” A Delusional Person asks Frank.

“Not well,” Frank replies with refreshing, brutal honesty.  The Delusional Person may laugh at this point, because being refreshingly honest can be humorous when the recipient is allowed to bathe in the weaknesses of its purveyor.  The Delusional Person will usually agree with Frank’s frank assessment of himself, but they usually won’t assess himself by the same measure  “How do you think you would do?” Frank returns.

“I think I’d do all right,” The Delusional Person replies.

Even in the age of being real, most people fell prey to projecting themselves into scenarios with images from their ideal state still dancing in their head.  This particular Delusional Person was once a champion wrestler that endured exhaustive workouts, and rigorous practices of self-discipline, those most non-athletes will never know.  This resulted in The Delusional Person being a finely crafted specimen that at one time may, indeed, have been capable of handling the hand-to-hand combat situations that could occur within the confines of a jail cell.  The Delusional Person fondly remembers those days as if they were yesterday, for the rest of their lives.  Most Delusional People haven’t lifted a weight more than a hundred times in the last fifteen years, yet they still picture themselves in that peak physical form when putting themselves in scenarios. A more reasonable and brutally honest assessment, for this particular Delusional Person, would have been:  “I don’t know, but I would suspect that all of the years I’ve spent sitting behind a computer, and avoiding physical workouts, would be exposed early on.”

We all picture ourselves in peak physical condition when we listen to others speak about how some have let themselves go.  We laugh when others joke about those that have gained weight, while conveniently forgetting that we were just forced to purchase a thirty-six inch waist on a pair of pants for the first time.  We’ll do this when we speak about the people we grew up with that “now look so old”, even though we’re now using hair-dye, wrinkle cream, and supplements to fight the aging process.  We aren’t lying when we do this either, we’re projecting our idyllic image in our heads to handle any situation, until we insert ourselves into a scenario where we are able to lay out an entire prison yard if we have to, the way we used to … in the movies.

Another surprising, and somewhat depressing, reaction to being brutally honest is that even the most polite listeners begin to feel free to provide you brutally honest assessments of your character, and your aspirations:

“Are you sure that you’re capable of that?” an extremely polite, and kind, listener asked after I informed her that I threw my hat in the ring for a promotion.  The surprising aspect of this question was not that she asked it, for it could be said that she was looking out for me in a way, but that she had never asked such a question of any of our other co-workers.  With them, she issued what could be called general, Hallmark card-style responses to their desire to advance within the company. “Good luck!” she would say to them, or “I know you’re capable of it.”

To me, she asked me to carefully consider it.  Why?  Was she jealous?  After processing this, with the acknowledgement of her politeness and kindness, I realized that the suspicious I had were self-inflicted, and that she was simply reacting to all of the brutally honest assessments I had made of myself over the years.  She didn’t want me to get hurt by the realities of my limits, limits that I had expressed in the course of being brutally honest, and she was only reacting to what she had been told.

As a result of such actions, people like my extremely polite friend can inadvertently assist the brutally honest person into a depressing state of their reality.  The honest assessor realizes, about halfway down this spiral, that they’re only doing this to themselves, but that their friends are not helping either.  Their friends are, in fact, greasing the skids.  An honest assessor realizes, about halfway down this spiral, that they’ve probably become so realistic in their assessments that they’ve become brutally realistic.

They may start avoiding attempts to advance themselves, because they’ve become so realistic that they’re now asking themselves so many questions that they’re afraid to try and advance.  As a result of such thorough examination, they’ve also become so realistic that they don’t think it’s realistic for any honest assessor to succeed.  These could be called minor setbacks in the grand scheme of becoming more honest with one’s self, until the brutally honest person begins to see that all of The Delusional People around them —some with half of their talent— begin to succeed beyond them.  These Delusional People may even know that they’re lying to themselves, on some level, but they’re harmless little, white lies that everyone tells themselves in the quest for advancement, and if you can get all of them to add up just right, they may become a reality that no one can deny.

When Molly got this promotion, it was almost painfully confusing.  It wasn’t Armageddon, and no one was physically harmed, but the aftermath of this tragedy left a proverbial wasteland could be confused with some of the worst, real historic tragedies.  The people that had devoted a large portion of their lives to this company felt that it could only be outweighed by familial or personal tragedies.  The world moves on after a political disaster, and religious hypocrisies can be overcome through personal devotion, but a seismic disaster like a person with Molly’s character, and work ethic, landing a top gig in their company can leave reverberations that are felt throughout a person’s life.  The company was where they lived as often, if not more than home, and it’s where they devoted most of their resources.

“Part of an interview involves salesmanship,” those in the know would tell their audience … in off the record comments.  And even though it was all based on a “wink and a nod” salesmanship on her part, it became the new reality, and she would have to do something truly awful now to lose the position.

“That’s all well and good,” was the general reaction to these off the record comments, “But if Molly has any moral fiber, or conscience, she won’t be able to sleep at night.”  No one cares.  She’s got scoreboard.

Amid the personal and professional confusion, one honest assessor stepped forth and professed the harsh reality of the situation: Molly simply fed the leadership mystique of her superiors better than others.  When others concerned themselves with learning the inner machinations of the company’s system in a proficient manner that would impress their superiors, Molly was distributing baskets for boss day.  When others were out volunteering for special projects to pad their resumé, and working untold amounts of overtime to put a smile on their bosses faces, Molly was at the bosses’ lunch tables laughing at their jokes.  And when all of the applicants were drilling the interviewer with the bullet points of their resumé, Molly was feeding into whatever mystique they wanted to gain in that setting. It was her primary skill set.

It was a bow atop the corporate basket of lies given to bosses, on boss day, in the age of being real.  In the age of being real, employees began to demand more recognition for their accomplishments, and management responded, but in the end the employees realized that it was all part of a scripted, choreographed, and edited production to pacify their audience by mentioning their name in the credits that rolled out at the end of the day.  When crunch time came, however, it was The Delusional People that had learned how to feed the mystique that left everyones’ delusions nourished.

As the nuns told us in grade school, “Those that live in a dishonest manner will eventually get theirs” and that “Truth has a way of prevailing”, and Molly was eventually discovered to be “not a good fit” for the position, but she was promoted out of the position, and the person that replaced her was yet another mystique feeder.  The problem, those of us naïve enough to believe in the age of being real, discovered was not with Molly, but that Molly was emblematic of the problems inherent in a system that the brutally honest once believed would eventually provide rewards to those honest, hard working people that put their nose to the grindstone.

The nuns also provided their grade school students the proviso that if you’re living the honest life with the expectation of eventually receiving concretized recognition for it, you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons.  We knew when they were doing this, they were preaching gospel.  Thus, we knew that being real, living the honest life, and being brutally honest with one’s self had only intangible, internal, and spiritual rewards, but when The Delusional People begin to beat them to the more tangible goals, most honest assessors will admit that it’s difficult not to be affected by it, if they’re being real with you.

Just about every religion, scientific theory, political persuasion, philosophy, and commonly held set of beliefs can be shown to have some inconsistencies in the face of enough intense scrutiny.  We’ve all heard atheists, and agnostics, tear The Holy Bible apart on a literal basis for centuries.  We’ve heard the Book of MormonDianetics, and all of the books, or collection of a religion’s beliefs that guide them, fall under some degree of intense scrutiny that has shown them to be inconsistent in ways large and small.  It’s become something of a pastime, for some skeptics, to question the beliefs of others so often that it can be safer to simply believe in nothing to avoid having to face the scrutiny, and in some cases the ridicule, that nonbelievers subject believers to with their findings.

ios-tab-bar-icons-religion-belief-scienceThere’s nothing wrong with questioning one’s beliefs, of course. Some would suggest that some of the tenets of the founding of the United States was based on such skepticism, and the desire to feel free to believe in what one wants to believe in.  A guiding belief in something has, however, had such a transformative and redemptive effect on so many lives that it could be called cruel, and condescending, to squash another person’s guiding principles in such a way that the recipient of this refutation can’t help but think that the essence of their transformative redemption may somehow be false.

We’ve deigned it necessary, as a society, to condemn all attempts to mock, or belittle, another’s culture, their lifestyle choices, and various other beliefs, but for some reason mocking and ridiculing one’s religious beliefs hasn’t fallen under this umbrella of condemnation yet.  It’s grown so troubling that many wonder if there will ever be a tipping point?

When a celebrity donates to the cause célèbre of the moment, while being showered in flashbulbs and reporters’ questions, the cynical state that that moment was more about the publicity than charity.  “At least they did it,” is the most common defense, “And the fact that they did it may lead others to do it.”  This usually shuts the cynical types up.  The cynical may try to say, but it wasn’t real, and people believe it was real.  They may try to say that that celebrity doesn’t really care about the people to which they’ve donated their money.  They may try to point to the fact that the celebrity’s publicists wants every talk show host to bring it up every time that celebrity sits on a couch. They may try to say that if it were more about charity then the celebrity should just do it and not talk so much about it.  In the end, though, the cynics are shut up because the celebrity did, in fact, do it.

Celebrities can get away with this, of course, because it’s the culture we live in, but when a militantly anti-religious person hears that an individual managed to escape the life-threatening bonds of alcoholism through religion, it’s not enough for them that that person just did it.  It’s important to them how they did it, because it wasn’t real.  When they hear that a lost individual managed to turn their lives around by finding God, it doesn’t matter that that life was transformed, because it should’ve involved something more substantive than a belief in something that is the “equivalent to a belief in the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus”.  The fact that these people found meaning in their lives means nothing to the militantly anti-religious, because to them that meaning will eventually implode in on itself based on their determination that “it’s not real”.  Their concentration is devoted to squashing the beliefs of those that have found something to believe in, and they don’t care if the religious person is any happier, or any more fulfilled in their pursuit of religious thought.

There are myths and miracles at the core of every belief system that, if held up to the harsh light of a scholar or an investigative reporter, could easily be passed off as lies,” Lawrence Wright writes in the epilogue of his book Going Clear.

Most belief systems have some “impossible to believe” myths and miracles, and the all-or-nothing contrarians hold up that one unprovable idea up as evidence of a flawed religion.

“How can you believe in this religion,” they ask, “If you have no answer to this one special little nugget that I’ve plucked from The Bible that can’t possibly be true?”  The believer may argue that they don’t read The Bible literally, but that they use the lessons contained in each story, parable, and passage to form a philosophical foundation.  “Did you know that The Bible states this …?” they will then ask.  This particular quote will be some archaic notion that has no place in modernity.  The believer could argue that much of The Bible was written before Christ, and that social norms have changed so much in the last one hundred years that it’s somewhat acceptable to them that literature written thousands of years ago should be so different from our current ones.  They could argue that if a reader parses every document written from that era, they would find many similarly archaic ideas, but that the philosophical discussions of human nature is where the true substance of the literature is derived.

On the contrarians playing field, where well-substantiated arguments from the natural world are the norm, the traditional religious person’s explanations don’t usually fare well.  In that limited scope, the contrarian may believe that they have won the argument, and the religious person may fear that the contrarian thinks less of them.  At that point, the religious believer can flip the playing field with one question:  “Okay, what do you believe in?”

The contrarian, that has spent so much of their time thwarting others’ beliefs, usually says something along the lines of: “Well, I don’t believe in that.  Let me tell you that much.”

Spend enough time with a contrarian, and you’ll inevitably find something they believe in. Spend enough time, with enough contrarians, and you may even develop a laundry list of things that contrarians believe in that are as outlandish, if not more so, than anything in The Bible.  You may even want to drop a line like “Have you ever heard the line: ‘Those that don’t believe in something, will believe in anything’?” at the conclusion of your list.  They may fight you every step of the way, but they will eventually come around to something they believe in.  When you then begin to dissect that something that they believe in, they get defensive and even, at times, combative.  The reason for the latter is that they’ve usually devoted so much of their thinking to squashing traditional beliefs that they’ve never really sat down to scrutinize the inconsistencies in their own beliefs, and a majority of traditional believers, don’t usually scrutinize avant garde thinkers with equal measure.

“What’s wrong with that?” the contrarian will ask when you trip upon that one thing of the laundry list that they believe in.  “That is scientifically proven to be factually true.”

“By some,” you respond, if you have the fortitude to venture down this path with them.  “Others have poked holes in the theory with various claims, and some others now claim that that scientific theory is now so universally refuted that it is no longer accepted as factual.”  The danger you face, by posing such refutation is that the collegial relationship you’ve built with them to that point may now be so tense that the casual nature of your conversation may be over. At this point, one of the two parties may either be silently stewing, competitive to the point of no return, or verbally confrontational.  Most religious individuals are used to having their beliefs challenged, and they may challenge them as often as anyone else does, on a daily basis, but contrarians are usually not as accustomed to this role. They’re more accustomed, and more comfortable, being the challenger.  All of their ducks are in line, waiting for you to defend yourself.  They’re usually not prepared for those normally consigned to defensive roles, to go on offense.

“If we’re talking about science in particular here, true science,” the truly daring will say in the face of a disgruntled contrarian that has given every biological clue, if not obvious, verbal warnings, that you are not to venture further down this road, “Then we all know there’s no such thing as settled science. There is widely accepted science, based on best available evidence, but the adjective settled should never be used in conjunction with scientific theory. There are simply too many variables.  Even the greatest theories Einstein developed were widely accepted, based on best available evidence at the time, have been force to endure constant revision, and even rejection in some cases, by those used his theories as a premise.  “True science,” we say if we have the courage to continue in the face of their now angry expression, “Involves endless amounts of proving and disproving, and anyone that suggests that any scientific theory is now proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, either has an agenda that that scientific theory serves, or they don’t know, or don’t care, how scientific theories work.”

With all these stewing and verbal condemnations percolating, some have found it necessary to find some peaceful, common ground within the mutual stances. “I hope that you didn’t enter into this discussion thinking that you would change my belief system, but that your goal was simply to challenge my way of thinking.  With that said, I want you to know that I don’t think I can change the fundamental core of your belief system in anyway, but challenge it.  Or, to get you to admit that your beliefs are, at least, as subjective as any religion, creed, or commonly held set of beliefs.”

Most of us are not combative people, and we do not seek confrontation.  Most of us want to be considered nice guys, and we want to accumulate friends in life, not adversaries, so we qualify our statements with nice guy platitudes.  Some nice guys even decide to remain silent in the face of contrarian arguments.  We’ve spotted entry points that could illuminate our contrarian adversaries of the duality of their argument, but to keep all of our relationships harmonious, we decide to remain silent.  There are moments in our lives, however, moments each person must decide for themselves, when our core set of beliefs are so fundamentally, and effectively, being challenged that a mounted defense is required.

At the end of such a discussion, that involves two equally well-informed individuals genuinely searching for greater truths, the two parties may eventually find that peaceful, common ground that suggests that neither opposing view is 100% right or wrong.  While both parties may be equally disappointed by their failure to convince the other party of their truth, they will agree that neither belief is immune to the revelations that intense scrutiny can provide, and that both beliefs contain some measure of faith be it the contrarian’s faith in chosen people —be they politicians or philosophers— institutions, scientific theories, and ideas, or the religious person’s faith in a religious doctrine, or God.

There are a number of psychological tactics that modern casinos will spare no expense to learn, and employ, to get an individual to part with their money.  Some would go so far to say that anytime that a person steps into a modern day casino, they’re stepping into the finished product of think tanks, and psychological studies.  These casinos want to create an exciting, yet soothing experience that distracts the gambler from the stress they might associate with losing all of their money, but there is no psychological tactic more endemic to the ultimate success of a modern day casino than the psychological manipulations of expectations.

"We'll always have Paris."

“We’ll always have Paris.”

Expectation, successful casinos have learned, is more powerful than the reality of accomplishment, or winning.  When a slot machine player sees a triple bar drop into the first slot, only to be followed by another triple bar, that brief moment of excited expectation has been determined to provide the player a more powerful psychological boost than the reality that would occur if that third slot were filled with another third triple bar.

When that king eventually drops, with strategic slowness, into that third slot, we’re disappointed when we look up at the menu list of winnings atop the slot machine and realize we’ve actually won nothing, but the thrill that occurred before that third slot was filled, and the idea that we came “so close” is more powerful, and more conducive to us continuing on that machine, than winning would actually be.  Without drawing on that exact scenario, Rosecrans Baldwin, author of the book Paris, I Love You, but You’re Bringing me Down, suggests that the same psychological thrill of expectation occurs when one plans a vacation to Paris, France.

Paris is the world renowned capital of romance.  For as long as most of us have been alive, Paris has provided the setting for some of the most famous, romantic movies, books, and songs.  Many people we know list visiting Paris on their bucket lists.  If, for no other reason, than to find out what everyone is going on about.  There’s an air of mystery about the city that we all need to experience for ourselves.  As is normally the case, the narrative, and the expectation derived from that narrative, is much more powerful than the reality.  Some, that have actually vacationed in Paris, are often so distressed by the reality of what they experience that it can cause a psychological disorder called Paris Syndrome.

Japanese visitors are particularly susceptible to this,” writes Rosecrans Baldwin. “This is possibly due to the uber-romantic image that Paris holds for the Japanese.”  This can get so bad, for some Japanese travelers, Baldwin writes, that “The Japanese embassy used to repatriate sufferers with a doctor or nurse aboard the plane ride back to Japan.”

NBC News also had a report on this subject that stated that:

Around a dozen Japanese tourists a year need psychological treatment after visiting Paris as the reality of unfriendly locals and scruffy streets clashes with their expectations, a newspaper reported on Sunday.”

That Sunday newspaper also quoted psychologist Herve Benhamou saying:

Fragile travelers can lose their bearings.  When the idea they have of (a place like Paris) meets the reality of what they discover, it can provoke a crisis.”

Bernard Delage, from an association called Jeunes Japon, that helps Japanese families settle in France, is also quoted as saying:

In Japanese shops, the customer is king, whereas (in places like Paris) assistants hardly look at them … People using public transport all look stern, and handbag snatchers increase the ill feeling.”

A Japanese woman, Aimi, that had some experience with this disorder, told the paper:

For us, Paris is a dream city. All the French are beautiful and elegant … And then, when they arrive, the Japanese find the French character is the complete opposite of their own.” {1}

After deciding to take up residence in Paris, author Rosecrans Baldwin found that:

Smiling is discouraged for Parisians posing for documentation like Metro passes or tennis-court permits.” 

Most citizens, the world around, can identify with this procedure.  We’ve all had experience with employees in legal departments, and DMVs, telling us that smiling is discouraged when posing for headshots that will appear in legal documentation.  It’s not illegal to smile in those situations, just as it, presumably, is not illegal to smile when posing for Parisian documentation headshots, but it may have something to do with the fact that smiling for official documentation, makes it appear less official. With regards to this practice in Paris, writes Baldwin:

The discouragement of smiling for various legal documents gets to an elemental fact about living in France’s capital.  That for a madly sentimental and Japanese tourist, visiting Paris is mostly about light, beauty, and fun with berets.  Living in Paris is different.  Living in Paris is business, and nothing to smile about.”{2}

Though this particular Paris Syndrome is obviously indigenous to Paris, the tenets of it could just as easily be applied to any popular tourist destination the world around.  Midwestern Americans, for example, also live under this “customer is king” mentality, and they have for so long that they begin to take it for granted.  Midwesterners know that the hotels and restaurants, of their locale, are so competitive that they won’t tolerate even an ambivalent employee.  There are exceptions to the rule of course, but most people that travel to the Midwest, from other parts of the country, are shocked by the Midwestern hospitality.

We expected it from you guys,” a hotel resident once said of the hospitality she experienced from Midwestern hotel employees.  “You’re paid to be pleasant, but wandering around your city, we’ve discovered that you’re all like this,” she said as if she believed she had stepped into some alternate universe.  “You’re all so nice.”  

Thus, when a Midwesterner gets so used to their locale’s common pleasantries —like the Japanese traveler, traveling to Paris— they are shocked by the contradictions that occur in their preferred travel destinations.  They probably assumed that the top-notch customer service they’ve come to expect would be a given in their destination, if not amplified with the kind of money they’re spending.  They probably considered it such a given that they focused most of their attention on the other aspects of their dream vacation.  Once they’ve come to terms with the reality of the situation, they’re so shocked that not only is their dream vacation ruined, but some become physically ill as a result.

This degree of ambivalence, directed at tourists, in some popular tourist locations, can occur in some of the first steps tourists make from the airplane to the terminal.  Those wondering why this happens, should ask themselves what they thought of the thirty-second ant they watched leave an anthill.  You didn’t take the time to pick that ant out?  You didn’t spend more than two seconds looking at those ants?  Seeing ants leave an anthill is such a common experience that you don’t even look at them anymore?  Now you know what a service industry worker experiences watching tourists disembark at popular tourist destinations.

You’re not an ant, you say?  You’re a human being, and you’re not just any human being, you’re a human being with money to spend, money that helps pays their wages.  The problem is that you’re probably not the thirty-second tourist that service industry worker has seen disembark that day, or even the 132nd.  By the time you’ve stepped up to their counter, they’re probably so burnt out on tourists, like you, that you’ve become a species lowering than ants to them.  At least ants are self-sufficient, and they don’t complain about their lot in life, and they don’t live with the mindset that their existence should somehow be considered special.  Ants know their role, and on a less conscious level, they know their station in life.  The harmony in that ant universe works so well that most service industry workers, in popular tourist destinations, probably believe that tourists could learn a lot from the ants.

Some tourists are objective enough to acknowledge that poor service industry employees exist everywhere, even in their small town, yokel community, and they try to view this one ambivalent-to-hostile employee in that light.  They also try to view their one bad experience, with this one ambivalent-to-hostile employee, as an aberration, so that they can go about enjoying the rest of their trip.  Some Midwestern tourists also attempt to reconcile their indignation by convincing themselves that they’re small town yokels, unfamiliar with the ways of the big city, but they can’t shake the idea that their appearance should be considered somewhat special by these employees.

It isn’t too long after disembarking that the tourist comes to the realization that there are ten special tourists, looking to have a special time, behind them in line, and those tourists just want the special transaction in front of them to end, so they can finally get to the front of the line, to finish their transaction and get back to the craps table.

That “customer is king” mentality that these tourists have is usually gone within hours, and the pattern of how things are done in this popular tourist destination becomes so apparent that by the time the tourist reaches the employee that dutifully hands them change without smiling, or even looking at them, and possibly trying to shortchange them, they’ve come to terms with the fact that those first few rude service industry employees were not, in fact, aberrations. Those that don’t recognize these patterns think that if they were that thirty-second ant, they might have a better chance of receiving courteous treatment, if for no other reason than the idea that they might be considered something different from the lowest form of life on earth that service industry employees have deal with hour after hour, day after day: tourists.

Time; personal experiences published in online, travel forums; stories about mafia versus corporate ownership of Vegas; tales of prostitution and pickpockets; and the unsettling, almost weekly, settings on the show Cops, have done some damage to the mystique of Las Vegas, but Paris’s mystique has not been forced to weather the such storms.

Actually living in Paris, Rosecrans Baldwin writes, does do some damage to that mystique.  Those that believe that Paris is the home of cutting edge artistic exploration are not wrong, in the greater sense, but they also have to explain how Britney Spears’ song Toxic, remained a staple of Parisian parties years after its release.  Those that believe that Parisians have analytical palates, have to explain Paris’s culinary fascination with the food from a chain of American restaurants called McDonald’s.  These quirks may be no different than any popular travel destination around the globe, but it takes traveling to the destination, and living there, to find all this out.

“I like French Roast flavor,” I tell friends, “But I know that the term French Roast simply means robust.  I have no illusions about the fact that any of the beans I use actually spent any time in France.  I know that some Americans make attachments to the term “French” in the same manner some French make attachments of McDonald’s food to America, but I’m not so silly that I believe that the French Roast bean I enjoy is anything less than an Americanized, robust bean, but” and here’s where you’ll get a wrinkled nose from your listener “I actually prefer this Americanized version.” 

You’ll get that wrinkled nose from your fellow Americans, because most of those with “analytical palates” believe that that ‘A’ word, Americanized, should never be used in conjunction with the exotic flavorings of the products that they deign worthy of purchase.  Their use of the word “French” entails exotic styling in the chain of production, transportation, that may have involved some slow crossing of the Seine River on some French version of a Gondola before being docked in an elegant port with a beautiful French name that we cannot pronounce, and that those individual workers involved in the chain of production may have, at one point, sang a French sea chantey in striped shirts and handlebar moustaches.  Those that wrinkle a nose believe that they are able to sniff out any ‘A’ word that may have wormed its way into the process that ended with them purchasing a French Roast product.

When one reads the descriptions from those that have actually walked the streets of Paris, and dined in her cafes, and tasted the true “French Roasted” bean, we learn that those cafés actually use old, over-roasted beans, and second-rate machines.  We read that Parisians so prefer the robust flavoring that we term “French Roasted”, that their cafés actually use a low-cost, low quality bean to please their customer base.  This actual un-Americanized, French Roasted bean would leave the unsuspecting, and truly analytical palates, with a thin and harsh taste in their mouth.

Paris is not about the taste of the coffee, some might argue, and no trip to Las Vegas would be ruined by the fact that a towel boy didn’t smile at me and welcome me to his city.  All of these complaints seem so trivial, and inconsequential, in lieu of everything these two, popular travel destinations have to offer.  Taken one by one, these complains may seem trivial, and inconsequential, but when a romanticized, excited traveler sits down to complete their dream of having a lunch in an elegant, little Parisian café, only to have an ambivalent-to-rude waiter deliver a cup of coffee that is so shockingly —and perhaps to them insultingly— inferior, that may only be one cup of coffee, and one waiter, to you and I, but it may also be only one incident in a series of incidents, that leads to a pattern of behavior that eventually shatters all of the illusions and dreams they had about that vacation they saved for so long for, that their country finds it necessary to have a doctor, or nurse, on board the plane home to help them deal with the fact that so many of their expectations, and so much of what they once believed in, were wrong.


{2} Baldwin, Rosecrans.  Things you didn’t know about Life in Paris.  Mental Floss.  May 2014.  Page 40-41. Magazine.

Fox News’s Howard Kurtz writes that the recent charges the right has made about the actions of President Barack H. Obama being “increasingly similar” to the actions of President Richard M. Nixon have “a high bar to clear” if they hope to be taken seriously. Kurtz’s March 14, 2014 column for Fox News states that National Review’s Victor Davis Hanson’s March 13, 2014 column did not successfully clear this high bar, because Hanson did not prove that Obama “ordered,” “encouraged,” “condoned” or “even knew about” the actions that could be called similar to those actions Nixon ordered.

Obama Delivers Remarks At  Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction SymposiumNixon’s most famous scandal, and that which forced him to resign in the face of a probable impeachment, is Watergate. Watergate, largely considered the greatest scandal of the last century, is taken so seriously by Kurtz that he feels that any comparisons to the massive criminality and mendacity of that scandal should be taken just as seriously.

“Watergate” Kurtz writes, “Stands for more than what the Nixon White House dismissed as a third-rate burglary at Democratic headquarters; it encompasses other break-ins, wiretaps, tax audits, hush money, cover-ups and perjury that sent many administration officials to jail and drove a president from office.  So for some on the right to accuse the current president of Nixonian behavior is a heavy charge indeed.”

To prove that the right have not cleared this high bar, with this heavy charge, Kurtz quotes the Hanson column’s list of activities Nixon either attempted, or ordered, while in office:

Nixon tried to use the Internal Revenue Service to go after his political enemies — although his IRS chiefs at least refused his orders to focus on liberals…

“Nixon ignored settled law and picked and chose which statutes he would enforce — from denying funds for the Clean Water Act to ignoring congressional subpoenas.

“Nixon attacked TV networks and got into personal arguments with journalists such as CBS’s Dan Rather…

“Nixon wanted the Federal Communications Commission to hold up the licensing of some television stations on the basis of their political views…

“Nixon went after ‘enemies.’  He ordered surveillance to hound his suspected political opponents and was paranoid about leaks.”

Kurtz then bridges Hanson’s list of Nixon’s activities to Hanson’s list of similar activities that have occurred in the Obama administration, by writing, “Pretty bad stuff, right?”

The IRS?” Hanson’s column continues.  “So far, the Obama-era IRS has succeeded in hounding nonprofit tea-party groups into political irrelevancy…

“The FCC?  According to FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, Obama’s agency, until outrage arose, had planned ‘to ask station managers, news directors, journalists, television anchors and on-air reporters to tell the government about their “news philosophy” and how the station ensures that the community gets critical information.’…

“Enemies?  Federal authorities jailed a video maker for a minor probation violation after the Obama administration falsely blamed him for causing a riot that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi in September 2012…

“Going after reporters?  Obama regularly blames Fox News by name for its criticism…

“Ignoring the law?  The Affordable Care Act as currently administered bears little resemblance to the law that was passed by Congress and signed by the president.  Federal immigration law is now a matter of enforcing what the president allows and ignoring the rest.

“Wiretaps?  Well, aside from the electronic surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency, the Obama Justice Department secretly monitored Fox News reporter and sometime critic James Rosen.”{1}

Kurtz then provides an opinion on Hanson’s purported correlations:

The problem with most of these examples is there’s no evidence that Obama ordered, or knew about, these efforts.  And that’s very different from Nixon, who as we know from the secret tapes, would talk about breaking into the Brookings Institution.

“One prominent exception would be the surveillance of journalists such as those at the Associated Press and Fox’s James Rosen.  Obama may not have personally known in advance, but his attorney general, Eric Holder, did.”

The problem this reader has with this “prominent exception” is that if Kurtz is going to single this one activity out, because one Obama administration official did know in advance, while Obama may not have, Kurtz should be required to extend the same courtesy to all of the activities Hanson listed.  If Kurtz is saying that this prominent exception is made prominent by the fact that an administration official knew about the surveillance of journalists in advance, while Obama may not have, how can the same assertion not be made regarding the activity that occurred in the IRS’s crackdown on conservative groups?

In the case of the IRS crackdown, on conservative groups, it could just as easily be said that Obama may not have known, but acting commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, or Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division Lois Lerner, did.  If Kurtz’s assertion is that Obama personally appointed Holder to be attorney general, and is thus more accountable for Holder’s actions, it should be noted that Obama appointed Lerner too.  If Kurtz’s charge is that as acting attorney general, Holder is closer to Obama, it should be noted that Obama met with then-acting IRS director Shulman over 150 times, and one has to assume that if Shulman and Obama weren’t close in any manner before these meetings, they probably became closer aligned throughout the course of them.

Kurtz concedes the following:

Perhaps one day evidence will emerge that the president or his top aides encouraged the IRS Cincinnati field office to crack down on conservative groups, but so far there’s no proof.”

Even with this concession, Kurtz is still redirecting the focus of Hanson’s column to a call for proof of what Obama “ordered,” “encouraged,” or “even knew about”.  Hanson’s piece carefully avoided any claims regarding, as of yet, unprovable charges that Obama ever personally “ordered, encouraged, or even knew about” any of the actions he listed.  Hanson’s piece is littered with qualifiers to keep the reader’s focus on the general similarities between the two presidents by writing, “Now, consider how President Obama has directed government… ,” “The Obama-era IRS,” “Obama FCC appointees,” “Obama administration,” “the Obama Justice Department,” and where necessary, Hanson specifically names the Obama appointees, or administration officials, that acted in the manner Hanson found similar to the manner in which Nixon appointees, or administration officials, acted.  Hanson is careful, in other words, to avoid specific, and unprovable, similarities of actions ordered by Obama, and those that can be proved ordered by Nixon. The title of Hanson’s piece is: “Following the Trail Nixon Blazed.”  Even though Hanson’s title states that the purpose of his column is to view the progression towards Nixon’s path, Kurtz chooses to stubbornly view Hanson’s column through the lens of a column focused on the actions Obama “ordered, encouraged, or even knew about” versus those of Nixon, to display the fact that Hanson does not clear the high bar.

Kurtz also focuses his refutation in a manner one could say that a defense lawyer might in an indictment of his client’s actions.  He focuses on the provable individual actions of these two presidents in a manner one would before an impeachment hearing.  Hanson, on the other hand, keeps his argument more theoretical, and focused on the “increasingly similar” actions of these two administrations.  If the argument Hanson were making was more directed toward a call for impeachment, the preponderance of evidence regarding the two individual presidents would be greater for Hanson, but his thesis remains limited to a castigation of the Obama administration for following the trail Nixon blazed, through specific, comparative analysis.

Criticize Obama all you want,” Kurtz concludes, “Davis has a point that civil libertarians who railed against Republican presidents have given Obama a pass (on such issues as NSA surveillance, I would add).  But Nixonian conduct is an awfully high bar to clear unless you can show that a president personally condoned law breaking.”{2}

The primary refutation that Kurtz directs towards Victor Davis Hanson’s charges is not that Hanson’s assertions are wholly incorrect, but that they cannot be used in a trial to clear the high bars of treason, bribery, and other high crimes or misdemeanors necessary to convict in an impeachment trial in the manner Nixon’s actions likely would have. He also writes that the argument that President Barack Obama has an increasingly number of similarities previously blazed by President Richard Nixon cannot be made, based on the evidence we have right now, because Obama probably didn’t “order,” “encourage,” “personally condone,” or “even knew about” the type of actions that we know Nixon did.  Is Obama following the trail ignobly blazed by Nixon?  Can one draw up a laundry list of increasingly similar activities that have occurred during the tenure of these two presidents?  No, because there is no smoking gun conclusion that would state that their activities are similar beyond a reasonable doubt.  Kurtz’s defense would prove to be very effective if Hanson were purporting that Obama should stand trial for his offenses in a criminal court, but Hanson’s assemblage of evidence appears to be a motion directed to the plaintiff’s (the U.S. citizen’s) injury in a civil court, composed of his readers, for the purpose of discovery. Kurtz appears to have missed this in his search for the smoking gun.