Monday, April 30, 2012

A War of Words Over the GOP's War on Women

The Republican party--its leadership, 2012 candidates and media surrogates--is working feverishly to dispel and dismiss any notion that they're engaged in a "war on women" as accused by Democrats. To this end, a quick listen to presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney would have you believe that the GOP is the true champion of issues critical to women.

The issue took a hot turn Sunday when sparks flew on the set of NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday morning as guests Rachel Maddow and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos debated whether American women are at a compensation disadvantage in the workplace.

Maddow: Right now women are making 77 cents--on the dollar for what men are making, so--

Castellanos: Well, that's not true.

After a brief back and forth and several interruptions by the right-winger:

Maddow: --it's weird that you're interrupting me and not letting me make my point, because we get along so well. So let me make my point.

Castellanos: I will.

Maddow: But it is important, I think, the interruption is important, I think, because now we know, at least from both of your perspectives, that women are not faring worse than men in the economy. That women aren't getting paid less for equal work. I think that's a serious difference in factual understanding of the world....It's about policy and whether or not you want to fix some of the structural discrimination that women really do face that Republicans don't believe is happening.

After another brief exchange Castellanos added: And I love how passionate you are. I wish you are as right about what you're saying as you are passionate about it. I really do.

Maddow: That's really condescending.

Kudos to Maddow for holding her own and making Castellanos appear like the typical middle-aged conservative white male who claims to know more about what's best for women than they do. She came prepared with facts, which of course makes it extremely difficult to debate those on the right. But what's really condescending, and infuriating, is how Republicans like Castellanos and his clients in the House and Senate say one thing and do another when it comes to supporting women and their interests. They've consistently voted against and/or advocated the repeal of every single thing women care about... from contraception, health care and food subsidies for children to day care, equal pay and shutting the Department of Education. They really think American women are stupid.

If Romney and Republicans truly cared about women as much as they contend, they'd stay out of their bedrooms and vaginas and stop trying to cut everything that supports them and their families. Don't think women won't go to the polls in November remembering who's on their side and who isn't....and, to Castellanos' claim that men and women are paid the same, which party believes women have nothing to be upset about. All the fake conservative rhetoric in the world won't change that.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Parents, Get Your Kids to Watch This Show!

I'm not one for reality television. In fact, I tend to believe that this form of "entertainment" is turning the minds of our youth into seaweed and destroying American culture in the process. Programs such as "Teen Mom", "The Real World" and "Jersey Shore" dish up dialogue and situations so vacuous and dimwitted that we may as well lobotomize those who watch them. I pray for the day that these media cesspools of narcissism disappear and the industry returns to employing actual writers to create more original sitcom and dramatic programming.

But there is one show that I find utterly fascinating and enjoyable. What's more, I am thrilled to say that my 8-year-old daughter is even more obsessed with it than I am. The show is ABC's "Shark Tank," which airs Friday evenings and gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to a panel of five "filthy rich" (as the announcer refers to them) gazillionaires who then decide whether or not to fund their ventures.

"Shark Tank's" genius is that it's more game show and educational show than the standard reality fare. It actually teaches something important, and because of that unique benefit I strongly recommend that every parent have their children watch at least one episode.

As an entrepreneur who's started three businesses, it's music to my ears when Sophie asks, "Do we have any Shark Tanks taped?" This kid knows more about sales, profits, balance sheets and corporate valuations than I could ever have dreamed she would at this age. She's developed a genuine interest and appreciation for deal-making and the venture capital process.

Part of the fun for Sophie is the good-natured competitive jostling (the show could be called "Snark Tank") amongst the Sharks as they vie to outdo each other for the most desired investments . Her clear favorite is Mark Cuban, the irreverent technology billionaire-turned-author-actor-movie/tv mogul-Dallas Mavericks owner. She loves the way he always seems to out-Shark the others to get the best deals. Her least favorite is Kevin "Mr. Wonderful" O'Leary. "That guy really loves money," she says with zero reverence. "Nobody seems to like him."

But the real payoff is when she asks questions such as "What are sales?" "What does 20% equity mean?" And "What is a partner?" That she has such a capitalistic curiosity is refreshing, and I love being able to talk with her about it. Are there some adult themes, advanced humor and phrases uttered during this highly entertaining educational hour? Of course. But have you seen "iCarly" lately? I'll take "Shark Tank" any day over the mindless sarcastic drivel currently aimed at kids on Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and MTV.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

George Zimmerman 2.0

George Zimmerman, the Florida vigilante many believe shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in cold blood, has created a website ostensibly to "thank" his supporters and to raise funds for his living and legal expenses. He's not been seen since the killing, and is feared to have taken flight. And if his lawyers dumping him Tuesday is any indication of things to come, Zimmerman's gonna need all the help he can get as special prosecutor Angela Corey may be preparing charges against him...which could be announced as early as today or the latest Friday. One thing's certain, it's never a good sign when your attorneys quit and you start pleading your case in the court of Sean Hannity and Fox News, as Zimmerman did this week.

The disturbing website, which is peppered with self-serving quotes from Thomas Paine, James W. Loewen and Edmond Burke, promises that police will be able to investigate the case "unhindered" and that "the facts will come to light." The home page states:

"On Sunday February 26th, I was involved in a life altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage. As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life..."

What about Trayvon? What was he forced to give up? He's the one who's dead, not the self-pitying Zimmerman. As of this writing he has 7200 visitors. I can only imagine the amount of money he must be raising from his racist "supporters."

On Monday Corey chose not to send the case to a grand jury, thus ruling out murder charges (in Florida only a grand jury could hand up such charges). She's now facing the biggest, most critical decision of her life. One that will not only have lasting impact on her career and legacy, but one which could have a major if not violent ripple effect across the country. If she files charges--most likely manslaughter--is there enough evidence (did Sanford cops blow the case with an inept investigation as many believe?) to actually convict? And if she elects to drop the case, will America face Rodney King II where the Spring/Summer heat, the economy/unemployment, and anger over the case bloody the streets?

The one haunting fact of this case still remains: that a 28-year-old man with a 9mm semi-automatic gun left the security of his locked car--when instructed not to by 911--and confronted a teenager holding an iced tea and a bag of Skittles and shot him to death. Zimmerman's "self-defense" claim is both unfathomable and unconscionable. Justice needs to be served here, and quickly.