Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sexism: More Popular Than Soccer

            If you must send your child alone on a plane trip, you want to make sure he or she does not have to endure the terrifying ordeal of sitting next to a man.

            That’s why you should choose British Airways, which, as corporate policy, does not allow men to sit next to unattended children.

            Women, as everyone knows, are always benevolent, nurturing souls. They are free to sit next to children, or even on top of them, should they require warmth.

            Men, on the other hand, are creatures of violence and ill-intent, almost universally. Evidence: Mr. Rodgers, The Wiggles, and whoever created Barney.

            Like most everything else that targets a particular segment of the population, this airline policy does not go far enough.           

            Statistically, children are much more likely to be victimized by a parent or relative. Airlines should take the next logical step of prohibiting parents from sitting next to their children.

            And, since one out of every three women is sexually assaulted at least once in her lifetime, usually by a male, it would make sense to ensure that men don’t sit next to women, either.

            Come to think of it, we should keep men off airplanes altogether, I think, since the vast majority of violent acts are perpetrated by men.

            You never hear about any female suicide bombers, right?

            Of course, some will cry sexism. Sexism is a fact of life. Men and women are not identical. The differences will inevitably result in behavior that is not always fair.

            As a teacher, I see my female colleagues frequently call students “honey” and “sweetheart” in a quasi-maternal manner. The day I try this will be the day I earn a harassment lawsuit for my school district.

            Then you have your World Cup, an international soccer tournament our sports media spends a lot of time trying to convince us we should enjoy. ESPN even televises some of the games and gets all worked up when there’s controversy.

            The French team quit over a coaching kerfuffle, a scandal that spread through the media like herpes in a harem.

            And when U.S.A. striker Landon Donovan scored his game-winning goal against – was it Argentina or Algeria? – the whole country erupted in a giant, deafening “huh.”

            No one respects soccer, and that will never change, but at least the men’s game gets some hype.

            The women’s World Cup (yes, there is one) might as well take place in a cave in Afghanistan, as much as our media pays attention to it.

            The last one occurred in 2007 in China. Germany claimed the title, but not before an amazing match in which one of the players… HEY! Wait! Don’t stop reading now! I’ll switch to basketball, okay?

            The WNBA offers further evidence of sexism by selling space on team jerseys to corporations. The Phoenix Mercury uniforms do not say “Phoenix” or “Mercury,” but instead feature the logo of Lifelock, an identity theft protection company. They should start calling themselves the Phoenix Lifelock, since Mercury is a stupid name, anyway.

            (The ladies certainly don’t help themselves by using team nicknames like Mercury, Fever, Shock, Storm… is this basketball or menopause?)

            Though sponsorship on uniforms is common internationally, we don’t do it here, except with nine-year-olds. Not even the National Hockey League does it. Ouch.

            So there you have it. We're not identical, and we never will be. Just keep the bad people away from the good ones, and everything will be okay.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Vote for Me is a Vote for Revolutionary Absurdity

By engaging in some shameful shenanigans I can't describe here, except to say that I'm glad my hair grows back pretty quickly, I managed to get my hands on the U.S. Department of Labor's predictions of the fastest-growing jobs from now until 2018.

(WARNING: The following information may reduce your faith in the human race to the point where you elect to join a family of lower primates.)

Three of the top five fastest growing jobs will be in the health care industry. Registered nurses and home health aides are number one and two, respectively.

Then we have customer service reps, the single greatest cause of high blood pressure in the modern world.

If you're waiting on hold right now, take comfort in knowing you'll probably get through by 2018. 

And if you're waiting on a long line of customers, take comfort in knowing the Internet is not going to replace you, even though it probably should.

The fourth fastest-growing job in the United States (cue drum roll): fast food workers.

Did you catch that? All our new jobs are going to fast food, seething, and health care. We devote our economy to diseasing us and then dealing with the consequences.


These are the moments when I want to run for public office, partly as an act of citizenship and trying to contribute positive solutions to our problems instead of just complaining about them, and partly to just become the biggest existential nuisance politics has ever seen.

"Vote McKay for Governor in 2010 - Free Organic Rhubarb Popsicles for Every Working Family."

I realize I haven't collected any signatures or anything, but I don't care. That's just the kind of anti-establishment, lack-of-politics-as-usual administration I could bring to Augusta.

And my first act as governor would be to tax the living snot out of fast food and use the money to pay for health education programs.

Grab your absentee ballot now, before you realize how unrealistic that idea is.

Next, I would pass a law requiring customer service reps to get at least as much sleep as truck drivers. Customers waiting on hold or in line for more than 30 minutes would be entitled to free merchandise.

If an airline can't keep me on the tarmac for more than three hours, why should Frigidaire be able to keep me stuck to the phone for 90 minutes, hoping I give up on getting my warranty honored?

While I'm leading this revolution, I might as well tidy up a few other issues, as well.

Let's change the way referenda are written. If you voted on June 8, you probably remember seeing a series of questions like this:

"Do you want to create jobs, stimulate the economy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and save starving children and little furry animals by procuring an incomprehensible amount of money through a process you can't hope to understand?"

No wonder they all passed.

Here's how I would have written them:

"Do you want the state to go further into debt so we can build slightly nicer roads in areas where you probably don't drive?"

"Should the state borrow money to pay for research and development for maybe getting some wind power happening before another oil spill destroys all life on this planet?"

"Do you realize somebody (probably from away) is getting filthy rich off these bond questions?" 

That last one is a bit of a cheap shot. Let's face it: Nothing happens in America unless somebody can cash in big time. 

For once, let it be the organic rhubarb farmers.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Superstition Links Baseball and Politics

Frank McCourt, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, paid a "healer" from Massachusetts to send "positive energy" toward the team, according to the L.A. Times

Vladimir Shpunt, 71, performed this service while watching games on television. He said he could not guarantee specific victories for the Dodgers, but thought his efforts perhaps added 10 or 15 wins per season from 2004 through 2008.

It is unclear exactly how much he was paid for this service, but one source says he received a six-figure bonus after the Dodgers won their division two years ago.

I know what you're thinking: An extra 15 victories would make a HUGE difference to the Red Sox in the tough American League East. This guy is right in their backyard. How could they overlook him?

It costs a lot more than six figures for Daisuke Matsuzaka to walk the bases loaded every other inning, or for Mike Lowell to sit in the dugout and look like he's watching his parents have sex.

Get with the program, Red Sox!

What, you're skeptical? Of course you are. But try to keep an open mind. Baseball is full of superstition.

Besides: there may be more empirical science behind this than you think.

From the Times story: "Shpunt said he led a team of Russian scientists that in the 1970s found that heat could travel beneath the skin and through so-called 'gap junctions' between cells, increasing blood flow and promoting healing by directing energy to ill cells without harming healthy ones."

Shpunt eventually discovered that his hands transmitted 10 to 15 times the amount of energy as the average person's, launching him into a second career as a mystical healer.

"In the mid-1980s, he said, he heard a girl complain about hip pain after her legs had been amputated. He said he left her room and thought about how he might help resolve the discomfort, then returned to hear her say the pain had diminished."

It's a miracle!

"That episode, he said, revealed that he could channel that healing energy not just through his hands but over distances."

Exactly. Just like when I was in the 7th grade and I would lie awake every night wishing this girl named Tiffany would develop an interest in me, or at least notice my existence. Finally, at the very end of the school year, I got my wish when she got placed next to me in line for a field day activity. She took a good look at me and said, "Ew! Can I go to a different line?"

Or when I willed Paul LePage to victory in the Republican gubernatorial primary on June 8, knowing his continued candidacy would serve as the only shot Democrats have to retain the Blaine House after Baldacci's eight years of colossal failure.

LePage is General Manager of Marden's, which means he hired that shrill and horrendously annoying woman for their TV ads. As soon as people realize that, he'll have no chance.

Besides, a state that seems happy to elect centrist voices with an independent schtick, LePage's Tea Party-oriented views (for example, he wants creationism taught in public schools and homosexuals denied civil unions) could alienate our vast glut of moderate voters.

Libby Mitchell may also have radical views, but she can hide them behind a record of experience engendering political compromise and grandmotherly wrinkles.

Okay, so LePage has an impressive record, too: he is a successful businessman.

But, then again, so is Frank McCourt.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Outrage All the Rage

Grab a newspaper, close your eyes, and point to a random spot, and you'll get funny looks from other people in the coffee shop.

But try it anyway. Chances are, your finger will land on some outrage. It seems reporters can't take two steps without bumping into someone who's outraged about something.

Take Referendum Question 1 on the June 8 ballot (I realize you newspaper readers will be reading this after June 8; I would have written something sooner, but the "Yes" campaign only got noticeably stupid just recently).

"Yes" signs have popped up urging us to "Reject New Taxes." Fortunately, this will confuse people who associate "rejection" with the word "no."

A better sign would have said, "Vote Yes if you like to complain."

For the record, a "yes" victory repeals new reforms to our tax structure. The law reduces income taxes and adds new items to the sales tax.

What the "yes" side does not mention is that the law cuts income taxes for most Mainers from 8.5% to 6.5%, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Many of the new sales taxes would primarily impact tourists. People from Massachusetts and New York probably aren't going to quibble over an extra few dollars on their hotel bill when they're spending $945 in gas to get here in the first place.

But if you must preserve your outrage over Mainers being the highest-taxed group of life forms in the entire galaxy, go ahead and sabotage the only legitimate effort we've ever seen to do something about it.

Meanwhile, outrage is fueling calls for more Instant Replay in baseball. What a terrible idea.

Half the entertainment value in baseball comes from umpires getting grief from players and nose-to-nose shouting matches from managers.

The instant-replay reactionaries point to the bad call by umpire Jim Joyce that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a Perfect Game (no base-runners allowed). With two out in the ninth inning, Joyce called a runner safe at first; slow-motion replays showed the runner was clearly a member of the Cleveland Indians, meaning the game should have been called off after the 7th inning under the Mercy Rule.

I don't understand the fuss. Everyone in the world knows what Galarraga did. Who cares what they print in the stat book? If anything, this gave him a chance to do something even more special - he effectively got 28 straight outs instead of the traditional 27 required for a Perfect Game.

Finally, on another outrageous note, it always amazes me how precious our constitutional freedoms are - until somebody tries to use them.

New York City officials have approved a plan to construct a mosque a couple of blocks from Ground Zero. Reactionary conservatives are freaking out, unaware that there are millions of Muslims around the world who are not terrorists.

Have these people no sense of irony? Yeah, let's eschew religious tolerance because we're angry at people who attacked us for our religious tolerance.

Darn that pesky First Amendment! Whose idea was it to prevent government from discriminating for or against any particular religion? The founding fathers? What did they know, anyway?

A Washington Times editorial pointed out that there are nations in which it is a crime to convert away from Islam. Would you like the same rules to apply here for Christianity?

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have argued against paying for health care for 9/11 first responders, because we can't afford it.

But we can afford health care for members of Congress, right? That's not too expensive, is it?

I guess we ran out of outrage.