Life Interrupted

“If you should ask then maybe they’d
Tell you what I would say
True colors fly in blue and black
Bruised silken sky and burning flag.”– Paul Hewson

It’s impossible to say that I plan these out in advance. My process has been the same for decades now. Sure, when I wrote term papers there was always a plan, but I spent numerous years as a columnist and I always flew by the seat of my pants. So, it should be little surprise that I’m doing it again. At least you can bask in the knowledge that these posts are worth every penny you’re paying.

General Colin Powell passed away yesterday. Like many Americans these days he passed away due to complications from COVID. Unlike many of those Americans, his death was complicated. He wasn’t going to be a Herman Cain Award nominee. He had been vaccinated. By all accounts, he had been careful. Unfortunately, he was recovering from cancer treatments and his body just didn’t have the immune system necessary to fight off the infection.

His death was as complicated as his life. In the case of most of these COVID deaths, you could easily say it could have been avoided. In most cases you could say it was a self-inflicted wound. In most cases you could chalk it up to arrogance and irresponsibility. Powell’s death can’t be placed in that category. His death became as complicated as his life. Legacies are usually not clean and his life is a reminder.

I imagine the first thing that comes to people’s minds is watching Powell stand before the United Nations and lie about weapons of mass destruction. It seemed credible at the time and a lot of that credibility was due to him. Once you surrender your credibility it’s hard to get it back. So, it is impossible to consider his legacy without considering that first.

Powell’s legacy is one of speaking truth to power most of the time. For some, most of the time simply won’t cut it. These days, most of the time is something we’d likely settle for. He was a registered Republican, but he hardly seemed like the usual Republican even back then. There was a brief, fleeting moment when we thought he might make a successful run for the presidency. That seems as distant a memory as our childhoods now.

In a moment of brutal honesty, we would readily admit that Powell is like many of us. Yesterday, we talked about civic religion. These stories intersect in the legacy we hope to achieve. When we all pass on it will be asked whether we lived a life of good or a frivolous life. For most of us, the answer will not be so simple. It wasn’t for him either.

How does one balance all of the good he did over the course of a career with one moment that may very well erase it all? It is impossible to know now how much he actually knew at the time. Did he honestly believe there were weapons of mass destruction? Had he been misled by those above him? Was he complicit in the biggest lie of the first decade of the century? We might never know the answer to that question.

What we do know is that there are some things we can never outrun. There are some things that a thousand or even a million good deeds can’t wash away. We can ask the same thing we always ask when any one us finally goes. On the balance, was the world a better place because we were here? In Powell’s case, that’s a hard one to answer.

Life is not a choose your own adventure book. We can’t go back and try the alternative story line. We also have no way of knowing if there was anyone available to stand up to the administration in that moment. That’s what makes legacies so hard. It’s also clear that he figured that out eventually. Maybe that is worth some points in the end and maybe it’s not. For me, it’s worth retaining his humanity until the very end.

Civic Religion

“And when you stop and think about it
You won’t believe it’s true
That all the love you’ve been giving
Has all been meant for you.” — Justin Hayward

I’ve seemingly spent the last 14 or so months trying to articulate the same concept. That’s why I seem to be circling back to the same thing over and over again. Each new attempt tries different words and a different tact and each new attempt seems to miss the mark by just enough to bring me back again.

I’ve been trying to describe the sadness of the last five plus years and have failed to grab a hold of it. There’s a nastiness that wasn’t there before. There’s a meanness that wasn’t there before. There’s a cruelty that wasn’t there before. I think each of us understands more acutely than ever that the pain didn’t come from one man. That man has always been a reflection of us. The seeds of our discontent were sewn years before.

The images of whatever this thing is get placed into the child we are preparing for the world. It took me awhile to fully understand that we are not only preparing the child for the world, but we are also giving the world our child. The world becomes an accumulation of all of our children. It becomes an aggregation of those children. It becomes an aggregation of their attitudes. It becomes an aggregation of their hopes, their dreams, and their sacred honor. It becomes an aggregation of their kindness, grace, or lack of kindness or lack of grace.

Civic religion refers to the way we treat each other as people that share this space. Religion obviously has negative energy for some folks, but in this case refers not to a particular God, but a particular mode of thought. In short, it refers to a source for our energy and what it means to be successful in this world.

The hardest lesson we have attempted to teach our daughter is the difference between being kind and being nice. For the life of me, I don’t know if we are being successful. There’s a balance between allowing things to roll off your back and sticking up for yourself. The problem with our civic religion is that self has become way too important. If we are kind then we treat people with kindness, but we don’t allow others to push us around. That balance is nearly impossible to teach.

Since the 1970s, success has slowly but surely been redefined. What we are seeing today is a culmination of that changing definition. I was brought up believing that success was measured by the positive impact that we had on those around us. How many lives have we positively impacted? Have we left a positive foot print on the world? That changed and morphed into what we see today.

The “Me” Generation slowly turned into the “Me Me Me” Generation. Success became about accumulation. It became a measurement of stuff. It became a step on your neighbor if that’s what you need to get more stuff. It became a glorification of the individual. The last five or so years simply became a reflection. Our leaders are a reflection of us. This is what we’ve become. This is an aggregation of the world we’ve created. This is who we are.

We live in a world that measures success by the strength of our devotion. We live in a world that openly brags on those successes as if they are our own. Our civic religion used to say otherwise. It used to say that someone’s success was all of our success and someone’s failure was all of our failure. What happened to the least among us mattered as much as what happened to the greatest among us. The real measure of success comes not in the strength of that devotion, but who or what we are devoted to. If it is only ourselves it matters not how strong it is. It is misplaced anyway.

The Mafia Boss

“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”– Vito Corleone

I have to do a tip of the cap on this one. My supervisor at my other blog actually broke this one first. All that being said, I saw it yesterday before she broke it. I somehow got on Donald Trump’s mailing list. Actually, I’m pretty sure it happened since I left a comment on one of his White House polls basically calling him a jackass. With the way algorithms work, that makes me a supporter in his eyes.

I open them every once in awhile and glance inside. It’s good to know what the enemy is doing I suppose. I try not to look for too long. Doing so tends to raise my blood pressure and I’m already on so many medications and I don’t want to add that one to the mix. Usually they are somewhat sedate versions of the mendacity that he throws around on a daily basis. This last one should be viewed in its entirety.

It combines two things that should be noted. The first is one that infuriates Democrats and anyone that really knows what’s going on. “Which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented.” This is a common trick for him. Remember when “people are amazed at what they are finding” when he “sent” people to look for Barack Obama’s birth certificate? The statement above is about on that same level. Somehow numerous failed audits, nearly 100 different court cases, and defamation lawsuits equal confirmation.

It’s the kind of statement that cuts as many ways as you need it to and when you send it to your dedicated followers they are ready to lap it up. What’s funny is that these audits are finding some examples of fraud. They are finding that the counts weren’t exactly correct. The numbers did change slightly. What he’s not telling you is that they are finding the fraud on the GOP side. They are finding more votes for Biden and fewer for Trump.

However, it is the meat of the statement that is the most jarring. “If we don’t solve the President Election Fraud of 2020, Republicans will not be voting in 22′ and 24′.” At first glance, when you look at that you are left wondering if he really understands how this process works. Doesn’t he understand that if you want to erase the effects of the 2020 election that you actually need MORE of your people to vote? Of course he does. That’s what makes this jarring.

In parlance, he is basically saying, “gee, it’s a nice party you got there. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.” So, if Republicans don’t kiss his ring, pet the cat in his lap, and do him this favor then he is going to take the whole thing down with him. We know he can do it and we know he would do it. He already did in Georgia in their runoff elections.

He peddled his bullshit about the elections being rigged and how people’s vote wouldn’t be counted. So, many GOP voters stayed home because they figured the fix was in. Voila, the Democrats won both Senate seats. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that he just didn’t understand how his rhetoric was suppressing GOP voter turnout. He knew. He knew and didn’t care. He knew that a loss would actually serve his long-term interests better in some sort of perverted way.

One of the common refrains from my lifetime has been the lament that some politicians put party over country. They vote along party lines even when it goes against the interest of their state or the country at large. Here is a case where someone is clearly putting self over party. The cardinal rule of politics is that the losing party always has to distance themselves from the guy (or gal) that lost the last election. The Democrats couldn’t be Hillary Clinton’s party in 2020. They had to convince voters that they were just different enough to avoid the same fate.

A part of that equation is the loser moving on. They might continue in politics (as John McCain and Mitt Romney did) but they are no longer the head of the party. That’s just the way these things are supposed to work. Trump is equal parts mob boss and megalomaniacal madman. He can’t stand not being the center of attention. So, he will never admit defeat. Admitting defeat means he has to move aside. So, a party that lost the national election by more than eight million votes has to kiss the ring of the mafia Don. They have to play his greatest hits. They need to stoke the same responses from an ever shrinking herd as they lemming off the cliff. It sure is a nice party you got there. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.

In the end

“Others may hate you, but they don’t win unless you hate them. Then, you destroy yourself.”– Richard Nixon

The number of things that bothered me about the last regime are too numerous to count. However, an underrated one was the horrible writing that came out of the speech writing department. We made our way to Disney World this past summer and we missed out on one of the minor sites I have always enjoyed.

The Hall of Presidents brings all 45 presidents to life as atomtronic robots. The fascinating thing as a writing junky is hearing the quotes attributed to the presidents they choose. Whoever the current president is at the time gets a prominent blurb. We went to the Magic Kingdom during the Trump administration and it was not open. Now, we’ve gone at the beginning of the Biden administration and it still wasn’t open.

I’m sure that we were there too close to the beginning of both presidencies, but it wasn’t difficult to let my mind wander to the vision of the planning meetings for the Trump atom Tron. What in the bloody hell were they going to have him say? Children go into these exhibits. Even when he was speaking to literal boy scouts he couldn’t keep himself from delving into the X rated nonsense.

As a young man I never imagined I would become one of those writing snobs or grammar Nazis, but here I am. Every once in awhile I find myself going off on someone online. The one that grates on me the most is the misuse of the word “loose.” It conjures up images of wrenches and screw drivers. I just can’t help myself.

The Nixon quote above is either graduate level introspection or higher level irony. Nixon had some terrific speech writers, but this came from his farewell address, so I’m not sure if anyone prepared it for him. I choose to believe that he innately understood his downfall in the moment. That kind of personal understanding is rare in anyone much less a powerful man like Nixon.

Nixon has always been a complex historical figure. As time has gone on, we have found out that he very well might have committed genuine treason. As you might suspect, the details of that story still need to be flushed out and since he’s gone you have to wonder about the motivation. All that being said, he still understood that it was important to at least try to lift the public discourse and encourage people to be the very best version of themselves. He just may not have been able to do so consistently enough because of his own personal failings.

Still, I can’t get around how odd it is that someone could be so vile, hurtful, and petty and yet here I am getting hung up on the writing and speaking end of that equation. It’s funny how people remember the words. It’s funny how a little known exhibit at Disney World might give us a clue to the lasting impression of one of the worst Americans in our nation’s history.

We don’t go to Disney every year, so I have no way of knowing whether they even bothered to try. I could probably hear the talk in the board room. They likely assumed he would either get impeached (and convicted) or resign. Besides, they probably couldn’t think of a single thing he said that would sound presidential. Why risk a lawsuit from a family that objects to toilet talk in front of their six year old?

The presidency is like a fun house mirror. When you listen to the president speak you see yourself amplified. Maybe you see the very best of humanity. Maybe you see a flawed but decent human being doing their best. Maybe you see a morally flawed man that still manages to do good in spite of himself. We’ve seen each of these men over the years and each of these men describe each of us in equal measure.

We’ve also seen the very worst. We’ve seen someone desperate to divide Americans for whatever reason. We’ve seen someone hell bent on being as vulgar and tactless as he could possibly be. We’ve seen someone basking in his own ignorance and arrogance in equal measure. We’ve seen someone that inspires more hatred than any politician in modern memory.

Hatred is a complex emotion. I’m not sure it even qualifies as an actual emotion. There’s anger, joy, sadness, and fear, but hatred seems a combination of the worst of those feelings. There’s some self-loathing in it. There’s shame in it. There’s the uneasy feeling that we shouldn’t feel this way and we used to not feel this way. Like most mirrors, when we see the reflection we don’t always like what we see. Nixon learned that lesson a little too late apparently. I can only hope it isn’t too late for us.

Life By the Numbers

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”–Yogi Berra

Everyone that knows me well knows me as the stats guy. This began honestly enough. When I was a kid I collected baseball cards. I memorized the numbers on the back for my favorite players. That graduated to learning about more complex numbers when in college. Admittedly, I’ve never been at the tip of the curve, but I try to keep up as much as I can.

Even though analytics have made their way into football and basketball, there is a special love between the analytically minded and baseball. It’s a more one on one sport, so it lends itself to that sort of thing. Like anything else, there has been a backlash to analytics from people we might classify as “get off my lawn” guy. These people are unavoidable in all of society.

I’m not going to bore you with statistics like weighted on base average or hard contact rates or anything like that. This really isn’t a baseball column anymore. Yet, there is a divide like that in society. At this point, many of the anti-vaxxers are jumping on the statistic that those that get COVID have at least a 97 percent survival rate. So, why sweat it?

Not coincidentally, these are the same folks that feel they need to carry a gun everywhere to keep themselves safe. This comes despite all of the available evidence to the contrary. If you don’t want to go down the rabbit hole, the evidence is overwhelming. Guns are more often used or misused in the home for assaults, murders, and suicides than they are to thwart would be assailants. Yet, when you live outside the numbers you are free to believe anything I suppose.

The best analogy I have heard as it pertains to COVID is to imagine a bowl of M&Ms. We can even split the difference to make things easier. There are 100 of them in a bowl. Two of them will kill you. Sure, the odds are forever in your favor if you decide to eat one. Those of you adept at the math could calculate the odds if you choose to eat a handful. Everyone can calculate the odds if you choose to eat zero.

That’s really the whole point here. Dying at the hands of a rogue M&M is an unforced outcome. If you get vaccinated, wear a mask, and practice social distancing your death rate drops to nearly zero. It is almost like declining to eat any of the M&Ms. You know the outcome.

Yet, millions have chosen to eat the M&Ms anyway. Unwittingly, they’ve chosen to eat multiple M&Ms without even knowing it. They obviously don’t know about how numbers work. If the death rate is one to three percent for everyone then that number includes vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans. The death rate for vaccinated Americans is practically zero even if they contract COVID. Therefore, logic would clearly dictate that the odds jump for unvaccinated Americans.

I’m not an expert on health related statistics and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I can harbor a guess that if roughly half of the population is vaccinated then unvaccinated people might see their odds roughly double. So, one to three percent becomes two to six percent (or some similar number).

Given what we know about people, overlooking some of these obvious facts is par for the course. They do the same thing with their guns and likely do the same thing with their health in other areas. We even see combinations that would be comical if they weren’t so tragic. Let’s combine alcohol and guns just to see the multiplication effect. The actuary tables on these Americans has to be entertaining for people who find numbers fascinating.

As much as I enjoy baseball statistics, I don’t make it a habit to delve into these. No one is hurt when a hitter strikes out or a pitcher is pulled from the game. All these numbers do is describe pain and suffering. Every note on a page describes someone’s tragedy and it is impossible to derive any enjoyment from that. However, a basic understanding is helpful. As the computer in War Games said when we were kids: “the only winning move is not to play.”

The Crazy Pill

“I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal.” — Roger Hodgson

Last week marked one of those moments everyone dreads every year. You combine three things that no teacher likes. First, the Astros were in the playoffs and we were stuck here at school. Secondly, it was faculty meeting day. Those are always fun as you test out the combination of stuff that no one needs to hear, stuff that could be conveyed in an email, and stuff that people will confuse and ask several ridiculous questions about.

Yet, it was the third reason why this moment was a special kind of hell. It was the benefits meeting we have every year. In this case, “benefits” is a fancy, ubiquitous word that actually means health care insurance. If you saw the specifics you wouldn’t see much of a benefit.

See, the district has its own plan. Sure, Aetna runs it, but they have put all of the employees into a pool and the insurance rates are based purely on how much we spent the year before. Obviously, the district isn’t trying to make money off of us, but Aetna sure is. Since people spent more money last year (gee, why would that happen) they hiked our rates 25 percent. I’ve never been so happy not to be a part of that insurance plan.

It was impossible not to somehow extrapolate this situation outward. Citizens over 65 get the benefit of Medicare. It is a government insurance program that is designed to break even. Millions of Americans are part of a pool that is also based on average costs across the pool. Older (or more experienced) Americans are more apt to get sick and need expensive medical procedures. Yet, somehow they end up spending less per month than teachers in our district. Keep in mind that district makes a contribution to “defray” the costs of the insurance.

It’s up against this backdrop that we bring up the concept of Medicare for all. The process is actually simpler than people might imagine. It isn’t free health care. We know the program works because we have been using it for years. The caveat is that it might actually become cheaper. You are currently basing rates on the amount of risk and that risk is greater for people 65 and over. If you expanded it to include everyone you’d include healthy children, young adults, and relatively healthier middle aged Americans.

It comes with other advantages as well. One of the reasons why rates are so high is that we are footing the bill for everyone that cannot afford care. It’s a similar concept to Wal-Mart building in the cost of theft into their inventory. They will pass the costs onto the consumer. If everyone is covered then there’s no reason to jack up the costs.

It means that you don’t have to worry about whether your doctor is in network or out of network. They are all in the network. You don’t have to worry about changing jobs or possibly going to work for yourself. Companies save millions as they can defer all of the money spent on “benefits” into actual benefits. What would honestly happen if they folded over the district’s contribution to our insurance into our salary?

Who is against this? Obviously the insurance industry is against it. They make between a 20 to 30 percent markup for running the system. Decisions are based on profit margins and stockholder considerations. You talk about your death panels. One considers sustainability of the whole system. The other considers whether Daddy Warbucks will get a dividend this year.

This is basic math and basic common sense. Yet, we are told how complicated it is. We are told that it’s socialism. We are told that the only industrialized country in the world that still has for profit health care insurance is somehow the system that makes sense. If you dare question that they’ll be calling you a radical, a liberal, or fanatical criminal.

Stay in your lane

“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”– Bennie Benjamin

Last night I was sitting in mass minding my own business (my personal favorite phrase) when our pastor announced that there would be an informational meeting about critical race theory this week. It wasn’t going to be a debate, but Catholics should go because they need to be “informed” if they have school age children.

Of course, he couldn’t help get in the dig that the school attached to the church was never going to teach critical race theory, but the public schools can obviously do what they want. Obviously, I’m not optimistic about the level of information that is going to be offered at this meeting.

I’ve written about matters of faith here before and even though this involves the church this isn’t really about that. The church has stances on discrimination and racism and for the most part they are on point. However, those stances come from a purely faith perspective and that is an area where one either believes or doesn’t believe.

Far be it from me to dispute learned theologians and Biblical scholars on the fine points of faith. They have far more training than they do. All I have is my near perfect score in my Bible course in college and a few decades of private study that goes along with my time as a catechist. That can’t compare to nearly a decade of intense study and then a lifetime of working within the faith.

However, the church has long inserted themselves into opinions on science as it combines with faith. While they clearly understand the faith implications of any number of issues, they clearly are not up to date on the science. They have done with stem cell research as well as other things that pertain to health and science. Critical race theory is an academic theory that is not being taught in public high schools or junior highs. There is certainly no reason why it would be taught in elementary schools.

So, what the church is likely to present has little to do with critical race theory. They are likely to present a perversion because that is what has been bandied about elsewhere on Fox News and other conservative outlets. A narrow and focused concept has been somehow bastardized into a catch all debate about whether we should tell our kids that they are racists.

Obviously, the approach varies depending on how nuanced the presenter is. The most common sophisticated approach is to point out that racism and discrimination used to exist (it’s impossible to deny Jim Crow) but that it no longer exists because we are better now. So, there is no need to burden our children with the sins of our parents. After all, it might make them feel bad.

Where CRT comes into play is that many of these discriminatory practices were codified into law. These laws have long-lasting effects even if the intention wasn’t there. We can erase those laws. We can change those laws. We can speak out against those laws, but those laws have a lasting effect. Those effects can last generations.

We have somehow taken these simple truths and somehow perverted it into an overly simplistic “white man evil” message. That is the conception that has somehow been attached to CRT. It’s purely an academic theory that was perhaps only somewhat related to other social commentary. Something primarily taught in undergraduate programs and law school programs has suddenly become the bogeyman that the church now appears it needs to address for some reason.

We have the usual caveats about keeping politics out of religion and religion out of politics but this is somehow worse than that. This involves taking something we don’t understand, hastily throwing something together, and then rendering an opinion that has the weight of the church behind it. I’m not attending this informational meeting. I already know what’s coming and I need to keep my blood pressure down.

Faux Nostalgia

“Lay down the law, don’t let em’ cross the line. Under the hood, got the bad and the good, everybodies doing time.” — Mike Post

The bonus prize today comes for whoever can correctly identify Mike Post and the song he is performing here. We will have to go with the honor system because time is getting shorter these days. These lyrics came from the theme song for the sitcom “Hardcastle and McCormick”. Post made a career of writing sitcom jingles and this is probably one he would rather forget.

The show ran for two seasons during the mid 1980s and it is one I remember watching. In the old days, that would put the show on the scrap heap of history. A show has to be on the air for several years before episodes will officially go into syndication. So, this show joined “Buck Rogers” and “Battlestar Gallatica” (the original one) in the relative dust bin of television history.

Through the miracle of YouTube and other streaming services, these shows have been brought back to life. I have not found full episodes of this particular show yet, but we found the theme song and opening credits. That alone was good enough for a trip down amnesia lane.

At this point, you are probably wondering what this has to do with anything. That’s a fair question. I suppose the point is that nostalgia is a powerful feeling. In this sense, we are just talking about old shows. We remembered them being good because we were younger and because there wasn’t anything better to offer.

As long as those shows exist only in our memories they continue to be as good as we want to remember them. The moment we watch those old episodes (as you can with Buck Rogers and Battlestar Gallatica) we suddenly realize how stupid they were. It isn’t even so much that they were stupid, but that they seem so stupid now. Our sensibilities have changed and so our tastes in entertainment have changed.

I’m sure the perceptive ones among you realize where this is going. One of the allures of conservative politics is the whole idea of nostalgia. The concept of MAGA depends on the notion that America really was great and isn’t anymore because of what those damn liberals have done. It counts on you remembering the past like it was a Hardcastle and McCormick episode. Man those days were cool.

The problem is that they are tapping into a feeling and not any sort of reality. Reality (much like those old shows) was never quite as good as we remember. Oddly enough, it was also far different than what we remember. So, we wax on about how good the Reagan years were when everyone was free and the government didn’t mandate you do anything.

Unfortunately, we can’t YouTube the distant past, so we can only fact check actual rules and regulations. We can’t re-watch a memory. We can’t experience what life was like again to test our memories. The powers that be have managed these conditions well. They’ve used the old west in addition to our childhoods to create a world that never really existed, but we know must be true. So, many of us rail against the present in a not so quiet bout of desperation. It makes so little sense until you consider they are working from false memories or faux nostalgia.

So, they rail against vaccine mandates and quarantine rules that have actually been used in the past. We just don’t remember them. We don’t want to remember them. If we don’t remember them then they must have never happened. If they never happened then all of these mandates now are an obtrusion that’s new. We somehow tack that onto the stuff that actually is new because we live in an ever evolving society.

The same forces that are bringing you Buck Rogers and Hardcastle and McCormick are bringing you this debate over mandates. Life was simpler then. Our shows were simpler then. Everyone knew their place and everyone was a lot happier. If we try hard enough we can train ourselves to really believe that. We can convince ourselves that those were good shows that never should have been cancelled. We can convince ourselves of a lot of things. When forced to face the reality we understand how truly foolish that is. Some of us just don’t want to face reality.

Don’t Let me Be Misunderstood

“I spit out like a sewer hole yet still receive your kiss how can I measure up to anyone now after such a love as this?”– Pete Townsend

Today’s piece is all about intention and given that topic, we really should start at the very beginning. The people that read this regularly know I usually throw in a song lyric to start us off. Most of the time it is a gimmick to get the ball rolling. English teachers call it a hook. Most of the time it is related to the topic, but sometimes it’s just a cool line to start everything off with.

The Who formed an interesting partnership where Pete Townsend played lead guitar and wrote most of the songs. Roger Daltrey was the lead singer and really took those creations and made them his own. The interesting story behind the particular song above is that Townsend intended for the song to be a deeper ballad about the nature of God, but when Daltrey read it, he obviously interpreted it another way.

The song was one of their biggest hits, so it’s hard to say if it would have been as successful if Townsend’s interpretation had been the one they went with. Most partnerships seem to work that way. If it’s a successful partnership then both parties manage to smooth out the other’s edges and vice versa.

However, I’m reminded of something Jon Stewart said in an interview with Rachel Maddow. He talked about a special he had run where he put himself out there as a comic and entertainer. A number of critics apparently didn’t like the event or at least misunderstood the meaning behind it. Stewart said that we can only control our intention. Others will interpret what comes out however they want.

This brings us to the sordid tale of Krysten Sinema. Like Townsend and Stewart before her, she can only control her intention. She can’t control how her words and actions are taken by others. The problem is that she is the only one who knows her intention and she is taking specific aims to keep it that way. Even when asked what she is thinking, she declines to say anything.

This all goes back to the Democrats’ razor thin margin of control in the U.S. Senate. The so-called Biden agenda depends on all 50 senators and Kamala Harris voting together. It depends on the Democrats agreeing to either change or eliminate the filibuster rule. Sinema has been sitting with Joe Mancin and blocking that from happening.

It’s not always a bad tactic to take. For his part, Mancin has said that he can use his reticence to negotiate with Republicans to get more moderate versions of bills passed. It allows him to be a power broker and he can go back to a more conservative electorate in his home state and tout how he helped craft a more reasonable version of the bills that end up passing.

Of course, whether Republicans will negotiate in good faith or not is completely debatable. Most of the Democratic senators have given up on this and rightfully so. Mancin at least has done us the solid of giving us an idea of why he is doing what he’s doing. He has a more conservative constituency at home. His political future depends on people viewing him as a conservative Democrat.

Sinema has not made such a declaration. She has made no declaration. Her state is trending blue and she has one more election cycle before she goes up again. So, we don’t know what she is thinking. Even on the bills themselves, she offers no clarification of what she would support. She doesn’t want as much to be spent. Great. What does she want? We still do not know.

Student activists confronted her this weekend outside her classroom. They wanted her to hear their stories and understand their point of view. Sinema ran to the bathroom. Literally. Her predecessor (Jeff Flake) encountered a similar situation during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. A woman who had been a sexual assault survivor confronted him with her story. He stood there and listened and ended up being the deciding vote that moved an FBI investigation forward. It was a sham of an investigation, but we can ignore all of that for now.

Again, we can only control our intention. Yet, we have to ask ourselves how our actions are likely to alter the understanding of our intention. Running to the bathroom signals that you don’t want to engage on the issue. You aren’t interested in other people’s perspectives and you really don’t want to defend your own. Either that or you have a horrible case of diarrhea.

Whatever the case, Sinema is not engaging and she has not communicated what she wants. The natural conclusion is that she is not interested in any particular outcome other than the one that gives her power. As long as she withholds her vote she has the power. She has the power until she comes up for reelection. Something tells me the good people of Arizona will be flushing her down the toilet.

The Non-apology apology

“I’m relying on your common decency
So far, it hasn’t surfaced but I’m sure it exists.” — Martin Gore

Washington Post reporter Annie Linskey got herself into some hot water this weekend with one of those jokes that went over like a pregnant pole vaulter. For those that don’t want to go down the rabbit hole, she essentially poked fun at Joe Biden’s trip through the cemetery to visit the graves of his family. Instead, she claimed he was visiting his domestic agenda.

According to Linskey, she did not know he was actually visiting his son’s grave. In the process, she learned two key things as it pertains to social media. First, once you hit send on a tweet it’s going to be out there. Sure, you can go back and delete the tweet, but someone has made a copy and will produce it on the ready.

Secondly, the urge to be first is strong, but an enterprising journalist has to remember it is more important to be right. Being first with a joke is even more pathetic. Exactly how many points does that get you? If she had taken the extra few minutes to figure out why he was there this could have been avoided. If she had taken the extra few minutes to realize she is a Washington Post reporter and not a comic at the local improv this could have been avoided.

As you might suspect, the outrage machine started up in full force. If Twitter is good for anything it is good for a nice ratio. The ratio is where numerous commenters and strangers get to pile on after an ill-advised tweet. So, hundreds of people commenter with some saying they were canceling their subscription to the Washington Post. As of now she is still employed with the Post, but it doesn’t take a huge effort to see that changing before this story cycle ends.

As for Biden, he hardly reacted at all. If we can count on Biden for anything it is that he will always maintain his dignity. He will occasionally fumble through words or offer the occasional gaffe as any president would. Some of that is the stuttering. Some of that is a lifetime of not necessarily being a great orator. Heck, maybe some of it is age. What we do know is that he won’t do or say anything excessively mean. The last guy would have jumped at that opportunity.

We should keep that as our guide on what to do about Linskey. While it can seem fun to put someone through the ringer for a horrible mistake, we do have to remember she is human. We have to remember we all make mistakes. We have to remember that she has likely done 100 good things for every one bad thing she has done. While we can say that none of us has ever done THAT, we all can say we have done something awful that would have been ridiculed in public if any of us had a higher social media profile.

So, here’s hoping that Linskey learns something valuable from this experience and that she has the opportunity to demonstrate to us that she is a better person for it. Destroying a reporter for a bad joke doesn’t seem appropriate. At least it doesn’t seem any more appropriate than the bad joke she attempted to take back.