Before we get to the story we should have all seen coming, I hope everyone had a lovely Labor Day Weekend. Thanks go the Unions of this country for making that happen! And, of course, for weekends in general!
Last Spring 279 students took a final exam in one particular course at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. Nearly half are now under investigation for collaborating with their classmates, plagiarizing answers and other forms of academic dishonesty. Some of the accused students have already graduated, while others remain enrolled at the University. The investigation is expected to be a challenging one, given that students claim their behavior was allowed throughout the whole semester and was not explicitly prohibited on the final exam. The Boston Globe quoted an unnamed student who said ““I was just someone who shared notes, and now I’m implicated in this…Everyone in this class had shared notes. You’d expect similar answers.” Clearly, from everything currently being reported, there was a pretty significant gray area and the students in the class used that to their advantage. Cheating or not, the actions of these students should not surprise us and, in fact, should be a lesson for us all.
In responding to the cheating allegations, Harvard education professor Howard Gardner commented that he sees this as evidence of “the regular thinning of ethical muscles in our country.” Agreed. However, he goes on to say that “If for 20 years you’ve been studying young people, this isn’t surprising…In many ways they’re lovable and inspiring, but they cut corners the way you would jaywalk. . . . This is a textbook example of people doing what they think they can get away with rather than what they should be doing.” I don’t disagree with Gardner on that larger point, but I think he is missing the forest through the trees. I’m in no way excusing what the students did (if in fact it was against the rules), but I am saying that these students were simply following the example of our leaders and “role models” – most of whom happily reside in Gardner’s generation. Beyond the belittling of Generation Y (lovable?), Gardner is falling to the same trap that we’ve seen far too many times and, in fact, mimics the response of these students. When in doubt, blame someone else.
There is a personality theory (don’t click away!) called Locus of Control. Briefly, it was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954 and, essentially, explores how much people believe they can control events that impact them. Got it? So, individuals with a high locus of control believe that things happen (or didn’t happen) because of what they did or what they contributed. Individuals with a low locus of control believe that external factors have a greater impact on their success or failure. I believe that Gardner, and many of our leaders today, have an extremely low locus of control and that is perpetuating the erosion of morality and personal ethical responsibility.
But that’s only part of the problem. Over the past 4 years (and really beyond), these students have seen that gray area exploitation is rarely punished and often celebrated. Doping in sports, playing fast and loose with facts in politics, fake reality TV on the networks – deception is the name of the game. The lesson these students could have learned while watching CNN is that, if you can find a way to cheat, go ahead and do it. Just don’t get caught. And, if you do, blame whomever caught you or make up a story rather than taking responsibility. Is it any wonder that these students would just follow the lead of the people they see every night on the evening news?
If these students did cheat and are now lying about it, they should be punished. But I hope, in the final analysis, we hold our leaders and famous people to the same standards of honesty and integrity. I hope that we don’t stand for a candidate blatantly lying in a speech or advertisement. I hope we don’t make excuses for a previously beloved athlete who has betrayed our admiration. I hope we don’t let party, team or geographic loyalty get in the way of demanding honesty. It’s going to take all of us to reverse “the regular thinning of ethical muscles in our country” that Gardner bemoans because, you see, it’s not just one generation at fault. The responsibility lies with all of us and that, to me, is the most important takeaway from the Harvard cheating scandal of 2012.
Oh yeah, the class in question. Introduction to Congress. How depressingly appropriate!
I know what I should write about today. I know I should be giving my take on the fairly impressive speech that Governor Mitt Romney made last night at the Republican National Convention. A speech that was effective in helping voters to get to know him, while still not revealing too much about what he would actually do as President. I know I should talk about how he, finally, tried to be open about his faith and about what makes him tick as a person. I know I should commend him for talking about real emotions and, for the first time, coming off like a human being rather than a stuffy buttoned-up man. I know I should commend him, again, for not following the lead of others this week in that he decided to tell the truth and be honest about his perspectives. Even if I don’t agree with the direction he wants to take this country, I still believe it was a very effective speech and I congratulate him for it. But I can’t. I just can’t spend any more time on Romney, because I need to talk about Clint Eastwood.
I’ll admit that I was wrong. I thought the Mike Huckabee/Chuck Norris marriage (sorry civil partnership?) would never be surpassed as the strangest politician/celebrity match. I really did. But, last night, Clint Eastwood proved I have much still to learn. For months, the RNC has been teasing a celebrity guest appearance on the final night of the convention. And, when Clint made his way up to the stage, I’ll admit to being excited. This is a guy, after all, who has brought us some of the greatest films ever and oozes talent from every pore. (Yeah, I said that.) What would he do, I wondered? And then, after much fanfare, and a tremendous ovation, he talked to an empty chair.
Now, I get what he was trying to do. His conversation with the imaginary President Obama was designed to, in a more lighthearted way, showcase the differences between Romney and Obama. It was designed to make Obama look silly and like less of a leader. And it was brilliant. Really, if you haven’t seen it, you need to watch. It was funny, weird, entertaining, bizarre, engaging and downright strange. He did what he always does in his movies – he stole the scene. However, this isn’t a movie and therein lies the problem. He was so good that it’s what people like me (and real writers too) are talking about today. They aren’t talking about the Romney speech or about the clear enthusiasm in the convention for this ticket. They are talking about an 82-year-old actor spending 10 minutes talking to an empty chair. Was it amusing? Sure. But was it the right thing to do right before the nominee – a man who struggles to be engaging and connect – delivered his huge speech? Not in a million years.
And the worst part for the RNC? Now everyone is going to be tuning in next week to see what the Democrats come up with for a response? I’ve heard Clooney might talk to an empty suit named Mitt? Maybe Oprah talking to an empty chair. Who knows, but you can bet they’ll do something and you can bet we’ll all be watching. One difference, however. Obama can hold his own against a Hollywood star trying to steal the scene. Romney, well he proved he can’t and that’s a shame. Because the speech he delivered really deserves more than being regulated to the second paragraph – he deserved better than being upstaged by an empty chair.
Look, we know there is a lot of stupid in the world. And, over the past few weeks, the stupid has really been coming out to play. I was all set to do a post today about two such idiotic comments, but I’m not. I’m not going to spend much time on Tom Smith or Rush Limbaugh. Instead I want to tell you about Alice, a 16 year old girl who has been living with cancer for the past 4 years.
But before we get to Alice, let’s touch on two people who could learn a thing or two from her.
Tom Smith – Mr. Smith is a Republican running for the United States Senate in Pennsylvania. In an interview with a local reporter he compared the difficulty a woman faces when she is raped to when she has a pregnancy out of wedlock. He now claims he never intended to make that comparison, but it is clear to me from the transcript that it was a deliberate comparison. The fact that Smith has now joined the rowing chorus of men (mostly) on the right trying to minimize rape and take decisions out of the hands of the victims is horrifying to me.
Rush Limbaugh – We’ve talked about Rush once or twice on here before. In the category of “you can’t possibly believe what you are saying, Rush” comes this latest gem. Essentially he believes (or claims to believe) that, somehow, President Obama manipulated the weather forecast to make it look like Hurricane Isaac was going to hit Tampa. Then, once the Republicans canceled the first day of their convention, he redirected the forecast to what was actually going on. It would be hilarious, if there aren’t so many people who are ready to believe anything this man says. It’s dishonest and it’s shameful.
Now, on the flip side, let’s meet Alice Pyne. Alice is 16 and has terminal cancer. Last year, when faced with her prognosis, she made a “bucket list” of things she wanted to do and experience. A couple of weeks ago, thanks to the generosity of total strangers and those in her community, she completed the last item on her list. I hope you’ll all take the time to read through her blog. As someone who lives with a chronic medical condition – Marfan Syndrome – I have so much appreciation for how she has chosen to live her life and approached her medical challenges. I could write volumes on Alice an others like her – people who have taken a diagnosis as an opportunity to make a difference through their deeds. Alice has gotten thousands of people to give blood, join bone marrow registries and, I’ll bet, re-evaluate how they look at life. I’ll admit to having tears in my eyes reading about Alice and I think we call learn something from this remarkable young woman.
So why did I include her in this post? Alice didn’t start this blog for fame or to bring attention to herself. She and her family weren’t thinking about personal gain or their own ambitions. She started her blog as a way to chronicle her progress towards her bucket list. Once it went viral, however, they could have used it to promote themselves the way Rush Limbaugh loves to do. Instead, they used it to raise awareness about bone marrow registries and have, no doubt, saved many lives through their efforts. Reading through it, it is refreshingly honest and genuine. Alice demonstrates a remarkable ability to care for other people, even she battles her own cancer. An ability to care that so many, like Tom Smith, don’t seem to have.
Finally, I read about Alice’s experiences, her doctor appointments and her health struggles and I can’t help but wonder. What if Alice lived in America and was born to a poor family who didn’t have health insurance? What if she lived in America and her family had similar policies to what many middle-class families have today? What then? Alice’s parents never had to worry about choosing between medical care for their daughter and paying their mortgage. They never had to worry about being dropped from coverage because Alice is a fighter and isn’t going to give in easily to this disease. Survival doesn’t bring financial stress, rather it breeds an opportunity for this girl to inspire millions with her attitude, perspectives and accomplishments. Would that have happened here to a poor or middle-class family? If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, like Governor Romney and Congressman Paul want, will it ever?
Mike Grunwald, a reporter from Time Magazine is out with a new book called “The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era.” In it he argues that, in fact, the massive stimulus plan that everyone loves to hate was actually a huge success. If you don’t want to buy the book, or just want to see what the @#$ he is talking about, Grunwald has a great post about his theory here. At a minimum read the post – it’s worth it!
Reasonable people can debate the role of government and if the stimulus package is an example of government overreach. Reasonable people can debate if government should “choose” industries to prop up or be putting money into the private sector at all. Reasonable people can debate the merits of the government trying to create jobs or regulate how businesses can do business. But, because reasonable people don’t lead political parties in America today, those aren’t the debates we are having. It’s much easier to just say that it was a gigantic failure and hope people won’t do their own research.
Was the stimulus perfect? No. But did it help stave off an even worse economic disaster? Yes, I believe that it did. Work with me here and let’s acknowledge that it worked. So what next? Well, may I humbly suggest we move on to debating if the government should, in the future, intervene again or stand on the sidelines. Should the government regulate personal and professional behavior or should our society allow people to do business as they see fit and let the market self-regulate? That’s a debate I’d love to have – with reason, not soundbites – and it might help people realize that there are, actually, significant philosophical differences between the political parties. That, I believe, will lead to more informed voters, a smarter society and, most of all, a future built, not on easy answers, but on honest assessment. A future that will orchestrated by reasonable people.
And you thought this election was going to be all about the economy. Silly you! In today’s of installment of “What the hell were they thinking?” I give you Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in Missouri. Akin won a tough primary battle for the right to face one of the most vulnerable incumbent senators, Claire McCaskill. And the polls showed him doing quite well – up by 8-10 points in most. But then Rep. Akin went on the Jaco Report and, at the risk of underselling it, things didn’t go too well.
Click here and scroll down for the full interview. The abortion comments begin around the 4 minute mark.
Yes, you heard that right. According to a man who has been serving in the United States House, women’s bodies have some sort-of magical ability to determine if a rape is “legitimate” and, if it is, can prevent pregnancy. Stupidity like that, if it wasn’t so scary, would be hilarious. Oh yeah, Akin also sits on the House Science Committee.
It might be interesting to note that this is not a new issue that Akin just happened to bring up. The House passed a bill earlier this year with full Republican support and 16 Democrats which would have added language to the Federal Abortion Ban (which includes rape exemptions) to differentiate between “forcible” rape and other rape. The bill never made it to the Senate floor but, if it had passed, women who had been the victims of non-forcible rape (statutory rape, rapes that involve drugs, or verbal threats) would not be exempted from the ban. My guess is that Akin misspoke and meant to say forcible rape, not legitimate. To quote President Obama on this “Rape is rape.” Done. Simple. Right.
Either way, this is just another in a series of moves by factions of a Republican party that is so far out of touch with modern times, I shudder to think what they will come up with next. Now, I will acknowledge that many prominent Republicans have tried to distance themselves from Akin but it just doesn’t ring true in most cases. Mitt Romney, through a spokesperson, says that “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape…” Problem is, Congressman Ryan was a co-sponsor of the “forcible rape” bill and the RNC sub-committee tasked with the creation of a party platform approved this afternoon anti-choice language with NO exemptions (not health of the mother, not rape of any kind, nothing). Romney will be the leader of a party that believes a crucial issue this year is ensuring that Government doesn’t help women who get raped have abortions. This isn’t just Congressman Akin – this is a a GOP strategy.
Consider other instances, just in the past 12 months:
- Rush Limbaugh calls Sandra Fluke a “slut” for testifying before Congress regarding contraception
- Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum said, in regards to abortion in cases of rape that “women should make the best of a bad situation”
- Kansas lawmaker, Pete DeGraaf, suggested that women should plan ahead for being raped by buying abortion-only policies in the same way that he keeps a spare tire in his car.
- Legislatures across the country have introduced nearly 1,000 bills relating to female reproductive rights – nearly all of them designed to limit a woman’s ability to control her own medical decisions. (SIDE NOTE: Don’t you find it remarkable that the same Congress so concerned with “Obamacare” taking healthcare decisions away from the individual is so ok with it when it comes to these issues?)
This isn’t about religious freedom. This isn’t about one man making a gaffe. This is about a group of people – mostly men – who have decided that the pre-1950s era limits on women’s freedoms were the way to go. This is about a group of people who want to control a woman’s body. It is terrifying to me that these people serve in our government and I shudder to think what the United States of America would look like if they were in charge.
I’ll close with the words of Eve Ensler, in her heartfelt and powerful letter to Congressman Akin on the Huffington Post today.
“You didn’t make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP…Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.”
There was an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer last week that caught my attention. Essentially, there is quite the battle going on in Ohio right now regarding early voting and hours it will be available. The debate has been over what hours polling stations offering early voting should be open. The standard is that polling stations are only open during the week and close promptly at 5:00 PM. However, in order to open access to those who work full-time, polling stations were open later in the evening an on weekends for the 2008 election. This year those extended hours are under attack and are in jeopardy.
Now, it would be one thing if the extended hours were to go away in all Ohio counties. But, because this is 2012, that is not the case. In several Ohio counties extended hours have already been approved. Why? Well Democrats support extended hours in all counties, while Republicans are only supportive in areas that are likely to vote Republican. Given that each the Board of Elections in each county has 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans, that has led to a 4-0 vote for in the likely Republican counties and a 2-2 tie in the likely Democratic counties. When there is a tie the Secretary of State, Republican Jon Husted, breaks it. Again, because this is 2012, he has aligned chosen short-term political gain over what is right and just. The effect is that only certain counties will have early voting and others will not.
While it is true that, for those who can’t get out of work to vote, there are other options (absentee ballots), the fact remains that, in Ohio, the elections will not be fairly contested. We can debate the merits of early voting and extended hours all we want, but that is not the issue here. The issue here is that certain members of one party are doing everything they can to suppress the votes they don’t like and encourage the ones they do. And that, my friends, is beyond shameful. And, to say it is about money, as Husted has, is just a blatantly dishonest statement designed to pull the wool over the eyes of American citizens. It’s a lie and he knows it.
You know what I’d love? Let’s have international observers come monitor OUR elections and give a report. Different rules applying to different places based on the expected results would be decried anywhere else in the world. Results would be challenged and Anderson Cooper would be on the scene creepily quickly. However, at home, we simply accept it and say, as chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party Alex Triantafilou did, “there will be plenty of hours to vote early.” So, essentially, it may not be fair, but figure it out. That is not the way our Democracy is supposed to work and not why so many groups, who Husted, Triantafilou, and others are working to suppress, have struggled for years for the right to cast their vote.
I love football. Despite the comments I may have made after the last super bowl, it is my favorite sport to watch and I’m already looking forward to the new season beginning. As proof of how obsessed I am, I will admit to watching hours of live NFL Combine coverage on the NFL Network. I subscribe to Red Zone, watch as many games as I can, and read tons of articles about the league and players. However, the league I love is at a crossroads. We are about to learn the character of the NFL and how serious they are about making the game safe, competitive and fair.
As you probably know, Gregg Williams (current Defensive Coordinator for the Rams) is in New York today to meet with NFL investigators who are looking into pay-for-performance funds he administered while a coach with the Saints, Redskins, Bills and Titans. These funds are strictly against NFL rules, because they violate the salary cap but, what makes it worse, is that players could, allegedly, earn money by injuring their opponents. Not beating them, not outplaying them, but injuring them. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a look at this ESPN article which sums it up.
As despicable as this is, I do feel a bit bad for Williams and the other folks who were a part of these “bounty” funds. I have no doubt that many, if not most, NFL teams have something like this. And, truth be told, this is coming out at the worst possible time given the renewed focus from the league on keeping players safe. The NFL HAS to make an example of the Saints and the players/coaches who were involved and send the message that this type of behavior can not be tolerated. And, if other teams are found to have had similar programs, I hope they are punished in the same way. When push comes to shove, this isn’t just about sending a message to current NFL players. This is about the league making a stand and telling kids all over the world who dream of playing on Sunday afternoons that fair play is crucial and cheaters don’t win. The NFL has the chance to show that anyone who engages in this sort-of conduct – player, coach or owner – will be held accountable.
That is why, in my opinion, anything less than a full season suspension for Gregg Williams, would be a travesty. Commish, Roger Goodell, has become very good at punishing players for flagrant hits and other offenses and now he can make the point that those in suits can be just as culpable. If not for the fact that, apparently, Williams has been very cooperative with the investigation, I would have suggested a lifetime ban. That said, the facts as we know them (he’s done this with at least 3 teams over the course of 7 years) certainly do encourage lifetime ban to be in the conversation.
As for the others involved, I do believe that fines and suspensions, along with loss of draft picks, is appropriate. Without knowing all the details of who knew/did what, it’s hard to know for sure what is deserved. But you can bet the whole NFL community – fans, players, alumni, prospects, advertisers, coaches, employees etc… – will be watching closely to see if all the rhetoric about safety is for real or if it was all just a well-done and convincing PR stunt. Is that fair? Probably not. But then again, neither paying players to injure their opponents. That’s not just against the rules, it is borderline criminal.
Can you believe I haven’t posted since July? Shameful is the only word I can use to describe my blog silence. Thank you to all of you who have emailed me asking for new posts (Mom) and those hearty souls who have been checking my blog every day just hoping for something new. I can’t promise a post every day, but I can promise I will post more than once every 4 months.
Ok, with the midterms tomorrow, I know you are dying to know who I am voting for. Rather than just tell you, I will reveal my choices Randy Moss style. That is, I will ask myself questions and then answer them.
Q: Mr. Weisman. Who are you going to vote for in the Governor’s race?
A: Great question. For me, this is not a hard choice. I will be voting for Deval Patrick and Timothy Murray and am looking forward to 4 more years of their leadership. The fact is, the state is on the mend. The most recent jobs report was not what we hoped it would be, but overall, Massachusetts has recovered faster than the nation. Even in the midst of the downturn, Governor Patrick passed significant reform measure – including ethics, transportation, lobbying and pension – and was responsible for the largest land conservation initiative in the history of the Commonwealth. Under his leadership, Massachusetts implemented the landmark health reform bill and pushed laws and policies to curb rising costs. Beacon Hill has been more accessible and transparent under Governor Patrick and, despite some early missteps, he has been a really strong and good Governor. Above all, however, Governor Patrick exemplifies the qualities we are always looking for in our politicians – he listens, is able to connect, truly cares, isn’t afraid of taking a tough stand and is honest. We are a better state for his leadership and, if given another 4 years, what we will accomplish together will be truly special.
I encourage you to vote for Deval Patrick and Timothy Murray.
Q: Interesting stuff. What a wise man you are. How about in the treasurers race? Grossman or Polito?
A: Thank you for the kind words. This one is easy. I am so excited to be supporting Steve Grossman for state treasurer. Throughout his entire career in both the private and public sector, Grossman has demonstrated his intelligence, commitment and business savvy. However, he has also demonstrated an understanding of how his actions will affect the community and he takes special care to ensure that impact is a positive one. As treasurer, I know he will have the best interests of his constituents – all of them – at heart and will make decisions that will be the best ones for the Commonwealth and not his donors.
A: Well I am supporting John Tierney in his race against Bill Hudak for the Congressional seat in the 6th district (where I live). Congressman Tierney and I agree on many issues and I trust him to do what is best for his district and for the USA.
A: I am supporting Mary Connaughton. I really like her independence from her time on the Turnpike board
and I was really turned off by Suzanne Bump claiming two houses as her primary residence and then, rather than apologize right way when it came out, claiming that she was in the right. In addition, she has also has been really slow to collect legally mandated voter information
I had another post ready to go today but that can wait. The AP and other news outlets are reporting that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner suffered a massive heart attack this morning and has passed away. Details are not yet known, but they don’t matter – the fact remains that baseball has lost a giant today and the game will never be the same.
Now, as you all well-know, I am a huge Red Sox fan which, by definition, means I hate the Yankees. And, for my entire life, no one embodied the Yankee mentality like Mr. Steinbrenner. He was a hands-on and tough leader who tolerated less than winning. Each year he did whatever he had to do to ensure his team would be the best and, when they didn’t win, he was ruthless in figuring out how to make them better. When getting better meant spending more, he did it. The Yankees payroll was far and away the largest in the league but, for Steinbrenner, when it came to putting forth the best possible product, money did not stand in the way and his fans were the beneficiaries.
At its core, sports is about entertainment (see James, Lebron) and for so many years there was no entertainer in sports quite like George Steinbrenner. Always willing to mock himself and get a laugh at his own expense, Steinbrenner helped make the Yankee – Red Sox rivalry that I grew up with such fun. There is no question that he made me a bigger Red Sox fan and our World Series Championship in 2004 was made so much more sweeter by the fact that we beat George. How fitting that today is the All-Star Game – the day when the league pauses to honor the greatest players. George Steinbrenner changed the game of baseball and, tonight, when the whole league is together, we will have the opportunity to say thank you.