Customer Service

I have always been big on customer service.   I work in a service industry and I am proud of the service that I provide for my customers and my customer service skills.  I must confess that there are times when I may have not shown the greatest skills in customer service.  For example, there was the time when I owned my own business that I told a nun to take her “laptop and get the f*** out!”  It should be noted that as a businessman I had already broken several of my own business policies in an attempt to give this particular person extraordinary service.  Suffice it to say that if Jesus were indeed married to this particular woman, it would explain why he spends so much time in heaven.  I do hate an ingrate, but I can say that I probably could have handled the situation better at the time…, maybe.  So, disclaimers aside, I thought I would deal with the issue of good customer service, and treating a customer well in today’s post.

As I drove to work this morning thinking about this, I was transported back to high school over twenty years ago.  I remember working at a Minyard’s Food Store as a bagger when I was in high school.  It was a nice and growing experience.  I remember once when there was an incentive program to encourage employees to be courteous to customers.  If an employee was seen by the manager doing something extra in the form of customer service for a customer, the employee received a star on a button.  At the end of the program, the employee with the most stars got $50.  I still remember going to the back of the store and getting a chair for an old woman to sit in while she waited for her ride to pick her up after shopping.  That particular $50 seemed to spend better than the other money I earned after I won it.

I also remember an episode of bad customer service that happened to me during this time.  We closed the store at night, and were usually finished cleaning up around 1:00 a.m.  Since we had only had one 15 minute break since 5:00 p.m., most of the guys I worked with were hungry when we got off work.  Lucky for us, the only fast food restaurant in town that was open that late, a Burger King, was in our parking lot.  I usually gave a couple of the guys a ride home, so on the way out we would swing through the drive-through and pick up a few burgers.  The other benefit was the fact that two or three of the local hotties worked the late shift at the Burger King, and we would flirt with them.  We did this pretty much every night, and honestly, we were the only business that they had between 12:30 and 2:00 when they closed.

In high school, there were times when I could be a bit of a knucklehead, and one night I decided to put my knuckleheadedness to work for me.  On that evening, knowing that the particular hottie that I liked the best was working, I decided it would be cool if I drove through the drive-through backward.  We did this without incident, and when we got to the window, there she was with a sweet little giggle.  I could tell she really thought it was funny, as did the other employees, except for the manager.  He walked over to the window, and yelled at me saying, “If you guys ever do this again, we won’t serve you.”  Here I was, his only business, and he was threatening me.  I looked right at him and said, “You won’t have to worry about that” (I really think this college-age punk was just jealous that we were pulling away some of the attention from his bevy of high school hotties).  To this day, I’ve never been back to that particular Burger King, and I subconsciously choose the other burger joint whenever I see a Burger King and another fast food place together.

When I was in college, I received a crash course (almost literally) in customer service when I road Greyhound one weekend to go home from school.  It was bad enough that the bus took 10 hours to make a 3 hour trip, but I swear the driver was on methamphetamine as he drove, and I was not the only one of the passengers to notice.  I stowed my baggage, and watched them put it on the cargo hold.  It held almost all of my cloths which, like any college student, I was bringing home to be cleaned for free.  The baggage was labeled as mine.  The ride was truly frightening, and I was glad when we got to my destination in Denton.  It had been obvious for most of the trip that the driver was running behind, and that he would have used a hyper drive to make the bus go even fast if it had been available to him.  When we got to Denton, he played his customer service card.  He informed the ten or so of us that there was no record of our luggage on his paperwork.  This, of course was a lie.  He simply did not want to take the time to get our luggage off the bus.  It told him which baggage compartment my luggage was in, and that it was labeled with my information.  He refused to even look for it.  Since most of my worldly possessions consisted of clothes at this time, I was reluctant to lose them in this manner.  It told him that I would not leave the bus until he looked for my stuff.  He actually touched me trying to get me off the bus at one point, but quickly let go, and threatened to call the cops.  Eventually, I relented.  I wish to this day that I had pushed it further and seen what the highway patrol would have had to say to him…, or me.

Of course, it was a holiday weekend, and my mom had to drive me to down-town Dallas, and spend about four hours of the weekend that I wanted to use for rest and recuperation retrieving my luggage.  They did not even offer an apology.  I informed my parents that we would be finding me transportation or I would not be going back to school.  It was an empty threat because I liked school, but it worked.  I have never considered riding the bus anywhere since then.  In fact, I will go out of my way to tell people of the awful service I received from Greyhound.  Don’t ever user this company (how’s that?).

I guess the best example that I can find has to do with car maintenance.  Since I was in high school, Just Brakes has run commercials touting brake service for $100 for each set of brakes.  Anyone who has ever been to this place knows it is a lie. 

I had to get my brakes done one day, and I could not get a ride, so I was stuck at Just Brakes for several hours waiting for the work to be completed.  I proceeded to watch them up-charge every person who came through the door.  It was shameful.  The pitch was the same every time.  They would insist on replacing the same “worn-out” items on each car that they serviced (including mine).  It was fascinating that every car regardless of make, model or year would have the same problems with their brake systems.  For instance, they recommended replacing a particular spring on every car that came in.  The spring was $30 and the labor was extra.  As the day wore on, I watched every person who came through the door get charged over $600 to get their brakes done.  Anyone who balked at the price was told that if they did not have all of the recommended service done to their cars, then Just Brakes would not warranty them.  Of course, Just Brakes had already done work and labor by this time, so they had these people (including myself) over a barrel.  I thought about refusing the warranty, but something about the people who ran this particular outfit made me think that doing so would simply make me a good candidate for the example they needed to scare everyone into paying their fees.  You know, the guy who did not pay for the warranty, and oops, his brake line was worn out, came apart and led to his untimely death.  So, I sat there awaiting my fate like a WWII gypsy, and when my turn came, I paid their exorbitant fee.  But, I determined never to go there again, and I encourage you, unless you like to be lied to and have your money stolen not to use them either.

A good mechanic is hard to find, but since I found one, and his service is the best example I have ever seen of consistent, great service combined with a fair price, I will mention him here.  The business is 40-M Tire and Alignment in Lewisville, Texas (He does more than just tires and alignments).  His great service, often doing things such as plugging a tire for free, has led me to recommend him to every person that I know.  My whole family and many friends still use him.  I will still drive the 40 miles to get service from him if it is possible, and I can even trust him not to take advantage of my mother’s lack of automobile knowledge.  He treats her very well, often refusing payment for his services.

The best example of great service from him occurred when I was getting some work done to my vehicle.  I asked to have the front brakes done, an alignment, and an oil change.  On the way out the door, I remembered that I needed to get an inspection that month so I asked him for that also.  He said that the rest would be no problem, but that he did not do inspections.  I said, “Ok, just do the other stuff.”  He called me before 12:00 noon that day and told me my vehicle was ready.  When I went to pick it up, he said, “I went ahead and took it down the street and got it inspected for you.”  He did not even charge me anything extra!  Now that’s service!  And, this was all coming from a guy whose lot you could barely park in because of the amount of business he did.  I guess there was a reason for that.

 

If you have customer service stories (good or bad), please feel free to tell me (and the world)about it in the form of a comment.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I was reading a story today about an 89 year old lady who was arrested this week for keeping a football that had gone into her yard.  Of course, there was the requisite shaking of the head that was prompted by the words in front of me, but as I thought about it, I wondered “What was her motivation for keeping the ball?  What did she get out of it?”

I know some would like to turn this into a property rights issue.  Does she, as owner of the property, have the right to keep the ball when it comes into her yard uninvited?  Do the kids have the right to demand that she allow them onto her property to retrieve it, or do they have the right to compel her to retrieve it for them or give it back to them?  And, I’m sure the police did not go right to her house and arrest her upon receiving a complaint from a bunch of kids.  If any protocols were followed, they would have given her multiple opportunities to return the ball before she was actually arrested.  I’m sure she just refused to listen to reason or cooperate, and they were left with no choice.  Yeah, it’s pretty sad.

But the question of “Why?” still remains.  I think that I actually stumbled upon the answer on the way to work this morning.  It happened while I and everyone else on this particular road were being slowed down by unusually heavy traffic.  When the state authorities redesigned that part of the highway a few years ago, they did so with a view to the future.  There is actually room for four lanes (on each side of the road) to fit easily through this stretch of road, but unfortunately a couple of miles on either side of this stretch, there are areas that are still two lanes wide, and expansion would require massive engineering projects to ever get to the desired four lanes.  As a result, the area of the road that could hold four lanes, still has only two to keep from having a bottle-neck at the other end.  As I sat in traffic this morning, I saw two vehicles pull out into the huge shoulder area and simply drive about a mile down ahead of the other cars.  It was complete sorry-ness, and I found myself wondering “Why?” once again.  Why would they do this?  It shows a complete lack of regard for the law, and the other people who are being forced to wait their turn, and in the end, when they get to the point where they have to join the rest of the pack, they end up slowing traffic even further to let their sorry selves back in.

These people and the old lady from the first story reflect the attitude that they only care about themselves.  They have no regard for others around them or people that they might come into contact with.  Their greatest personal achievements involve elevating themselves above those around them (at least in their own minds). 

The answer is a reflection of the fact that there has been a removal of social mores, and it shows the death of the personal moral compass that has been encouraged by the cultural relativists in our land has begun to bear fruit.  People have been encouraged by schools, society, television, and psychologists to do what feels good to them regardless of how it affects other people.  There is no corporate desire to make our society a better, nicer place, and as result, it is not.

I finally got around to watching HBO’s John Adams this week.  It was great.  I noticed that there was indeed a corporate sense of honor and duty that led men to fight and to give their lives without pay, and without even being ordered or asked to.  During those times, a person could strongly disagree with another person.  He could even say that his ideas were ridiculous in print.  But, I also noticed that when they spoke face to face, they always spoke cordially to one another, and referred to the other person as ‘Sir’ even if they were skewering each other at the time.  They might question the man’s sanity or ability to reason, but they never questioned the motives of the other person because, if they did this, they might end up dead.  See Alexander Hamilton for a good example of what happened when people acted without decorum during this time.

People had expectations of other people during this time, and society reacted negatively when a person failed to live up to those expectations.  A good example of these attitudes could also be found in the Adams series.  In it he, John Adams, refused to help his son-in-law, and disowned his own son because they failed to live up to societal expectations.  Later generations still felt the pull of duty and a sense of corporate responsibility.  You only have to go back to WWII to find a time when Americans offered up their sons and themselves to fight in a war.  This was not a war where there might be a chance of getting killed by an insurgent (please do not think I am taking anything away from the bravery and sacrifices made by servicemen today).  It was a war where, if you were in the military, there was a strong likelihood of you suffering death or serious injury.  If you were able-bodied and you did not serve during WWII, you and your family were stigmatized by this decision.

During the 1940s and 1950s people were still expected to perform up to societal standards, and families that did not were also rightly stigmatized.  This corporate societal expectation motivated people to act in a way that was mutually beneficial to all.  It is not so today.  The adoption of the welfare state in cooperation with the elevation of the individual and the advocating of the ideas espoused by relativists have deprived Americans of the corporate disdain that would beneficially keep us all in line (sometimes literally).

Persons without a religion to assist them in attaining a moral compass today, often have no way of attaining any sense that they have a duty to the rest of the people around them to at least treat these people as they would like to be treated.

On this subject, I have no answers, only complaints.  Popular religions continue to cut off their collective noses to spite their faces (see the Baptists boycotting Disney for a good example, but they are not alone).  They seem to drive more people away with the self-serving rants than they bring in.  I believe many young parents would use a church as a good way to instill good morals and mores in their children if the churches would actually stay on message and not veer off to attack Miley Cyrus, for instance, whenever they get bored.  As far as society getting a handle on itself and reestablishing its own set of social mores to help encourage decorum, this would be impossible at this point.  Not only is that horse out of the barn, but that barn has long since burned down.

In the end, we are left with individual choices to do the right thing or not.  Those of us who choose to act with decorum and respect for others while teaching it to or children will be the ones that keep society from completely falling apart.

You still have a choice.  You can be the mean old lady at the end of the block that keeps the ball, and no one will mourn you when you die, or you can be the old lady who gets the ball for the kids along with a cookie.  Which one of these makes more of a mark?

I’ll bet his lifetime stats are awesome!

This is just funny.  giggle.  It hardly seems fair, though.

Come on Baby Light My Ire

I was walking down the hallway at work this week and noticed a poster that had obviously been photocopied in the wall.  It was supposed to be reminding me and my fellow employees that it is “Fire Prevention Week,” but unfortunately, the “F” was caught up in the copy process and was cut out of the poster.  Now, it seems that I am being asked to take part in ‘Ire Prevention Week.”  Being a self-actualized person, I am quite aware that ire is my defining quality.  In fact, this whole blog is basically one great homage to my own personal angst.  I, therefore, have determined that my own continued existence precludes my taking part in “Ire Prevention Week” in any form.  I will put it in the same file with Earth Day.

Andy Rooney had better lay low for a while.

Christian Attitudes Toward Halloween

Many Christians are confused and troubled about what to do with Halloween.  The imagery, movies and media coverage associated with this the events surrounding the 31st of October often leave us wondering what is the best thing to do, especially when we have kids. 

Some Christians take the popular and age-old Christian stance that if there might be a problem somewhere with it, then it is best to run away from the situation entirely.  These people just stay home and ignore the holiday all together.  Some Churches promote fall-themed alternatives or ‘Hell-houses.’  While others simply view Halloween as a fun family activity where the kids get to dress up and get candy.

I have a friend who subscribes to the ‘Halloween is evil, and we should ignore it’ theory.  Last year we both expressed our ideas about Halloween in a few emails.  They were cordial and respectful, but we did not agree.  I have decided to break down his arguments against Halloween and my responses to him.  I think the basic arguments for and against participating in the holiday were covered pretty well by both of us.

The main point made by Christians who oppose the holiday is that it appears to be evil and that it leads to or promotes evil things.  Most people who oppose the holiday see the images of skeletons, demons, devils, witches and ghosts, and say that it is inappropriate for children to see these evil images promoted in a positive setting.  The popular Bible verse that is used by any Christian that is against anything is used here.  Romans 14:13 says, “…make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”  They say that these sorts of activities should be avoided so that we do not set a bad example for others.

The other main argument is the ‘gateway drug’ contention.  They believe that the evil ideas that surround Halloween provide a gateway for children to become interested in other evil activities.  In this argument, dressing your child up as a fairy princess who has magic powers will lead to her wanting to dress up as a witch later.  As they grow older, the positive images created by dressing up like this as they were younger will add to the possibility of them being attracted by actual occult activities.  My friend referred to the candy associated with Halloween as ‘the trap’ that gets kids interested in the first place.

Some see true problems with Halloween activities, and paint all Halloween activities with this brush.  They see some people having rowdy parties with a lot of drinking or possibly a Ouija Board or Séance.  They also see fringe occult groups garnering attention during the Halloween season by performing actual dark rights in ‘celebration’ of the holiday.  They sometimes look at the history of Halloween, and see its negative effects on people (mostly Chrstians, by the way) in centuries past.

Finally, there are truly evil people such as pedophiles who could be having children come to their doors looking for candy.  This is a truly disturbing possibility.

There may be other arguments against Halloween, but the ones supplied above are a good example of most of them.

I, however, do not agree that Halloween is evil.  The idea, that we, as Christians must ‘flee any appearance of evil,’ is just not supported in the context of Halloween.  Christians use Romans 14:13 is a Catch 22 saying, ‘because I believe there is an appearance of evil, then an appearance of evil exists.  Therefore, I can use the argument that we must flee any appearance of evil to support the fact that the idea is evil in the first place.’  This circular logic is not even supported in the context of the same verse that it is taken out of, much less in the context of the surrounding passage. 

Romans 14 verse 13-

13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

We are definitely admonished not to cause each other to stumble, but leading into the verse, it also admonishes us not to stop passing judgment on one another.  These same arguments have been used for centuries by some denominations to decry drinking (at all) and dancing and other denominations to condemn music.  The point is that the Bible, for the most part, does not deal with innocuous things such as Halloween.  In fact, often these people who tend to ‘make up sins’ when they see something that they do not like, do it in the face of scripture that argues against their point of view.  For example, in the case of drinking, Jesus made the best wine when he attended the wedding.  The word used for it describes a particularly good and potent form of wine, not grape juice.   Admonitions against dancing and music also do not hold up to Biblical scrutiny. There are hundreds of examples where the Bible calls upon someone to play an instrument, and the women who condemned David for dancing, in the nude no less, were punished by God for their actions.  My point is that it is never a good practice to go labeling something as a sin or wrong just because we are personally uncomfortable with it. 

The ‘gateway drug’ argument really just expounds upon the same idea.  The thing that worries me the most in it is the hidden message that our imaginations are a bad thing.  I find it personally sad when children are not allowed to indulge the fantastic imaginations that God gave them.  There is nothing wrong with a kid pretending to be a fairy princess.  We start down a slippery slope when we start to label fairies as magical servants of the devil.  The idea of a magical fairy has nothing to do with Satan, and really neither does what most people think of as a witch.  It is all pretend.

The point is that good Christian parents have an obligation, as their children grow older to teach them the difference between pretending and true acts of evil.  If you allow your child to dress up as a witch, and they use that as a springboard into Satanism, then you have not done a very good job of parenting.  Somewhere along the way, you did not communicate the true nature of good and evil with your child.  It is the job of any parent to spend (sometimes inordinate) amounts of time communicating what it is to be a good person, a good Christian, and a good citizen to their children.  If they do not take the time to do so, their children may fall through the cracks, but it won’t be Halloween’s fault.

Regarding the argument that there are events planned by some around the Halloween holiday that do involve acts of evil, such as drinking parties and rites performed by occults, I would say that those who despise Halloween on religious grounds tend to lump too many things together.  The people who use Halloween as an opportunity to get drunk, do not do so because it is Halloween, they just want to get drunk, and use the occasion of Halloween as an excuse.  Just as NRA proponents will say correctly that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people,’  Halloween does not make people evil, evil people can, however, use Halloween for evil things.  The same is true for occult members.  They simply use Halloween to promote the evil that they would be doing regardless of the holiday.

Remember, most sins in the Bible are sins of excess.  Almost anything when done to excess can become a sin for the person doing it.  Drinking is a good example of this, but almost anything else can become a bad thing when done to excess.  I’ll use prayer for an example.  Can prayer become a sin?  Well, if a person spent every moment of every day in prayer to the detriment of his physical body and his family, I believe for him, this would be a sin.  Drinking, dancing, music, Halloween, almost anything in excess is a bad thing, and since God wants good things for us, we should refrain from excess.  We do not, however, need to through the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

The final argument against Halloween is that you do not know who is behind the door when your kids go up to it.  It could be a pedophile or someone that has laced the candy with something that will hurt them.  This is true.  These things could happen, and they are why responsible parents chaperone their children when they go trick-or-treating.  They only allow their children to go to houses where they know the people, and they already know where the pedophiles in their neighborhood live, because that information is available online.  They just stay away from those houses in the first place.  Responsible parenting requires parents to be extremely proactive.  If you are sitting at home, and allowing your small child to run around the neighbor trick-or-treating while unattended, I question your parenting skills.

I believe that most Christians who do not like Halloween are fundamentally wrong about what Halloween is for most people.  Halloween, like the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and even Christmas is a fundamentally American institution.  For most people, Halloween is simply a day when people decide to get together by the millions and do something nice and fun for children.  For them, it is about the act of giving a piece of candy to a child.  It is a wonderful gesture, and many parents use this as a teaching tool to reinforce good manners in their children by encouraging them to say ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir,’ ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’

Taking the argument one step further, I would make the case that those Christians who turn their noses up or pull their children away when offered a piece of candy may be further from God’s will in all of this than those who take part in Halloween.  Spend some time researching one of the strongest themes of the New Testament, that of “Hospitality.”  The Bible has a lot to say on the subject, and some of the admonitions against being inhospitable are very strong.  Paul knew he did not have to keep the old dietary law anymore, but he did so because he was Jewish.  However, he went out of his way to point out that, for the sake of hospitality, he put these rules aside.  He said that if a Christian were invited into a person’s home to eat, then he should eat the meal graciously whether it was Kosher in a Jewish home or bacon in a Roman’s house. 

If a person in a spirit of hospitality offers my child a piece of candy on Halloween, I let them take it with a smile, and I make sure both of us say, “Thank you!”  If I do not know the person, I may discard the candy later.  I may even explain why to the child, but I respect the fact that the person giving the candy was trying to be nice.

In the end, I believe that for most people and for my family, Halloween is about imagination and millions of Americans taking the time to brighten the day for the children around them.  Might it be better if we had a similar day without any of the dark imagery?  Perhaps, but this is what we have, and the great thing about Halloween is that you can make of it whatever you want.

The 16%, and Why I Hold Them in Contempt

I have developed a lot of theories over the years.  Earlier this year, I posted one of my best, ‘The Five.’  Though I am surprised at the little interest that it has garnered.  Recently, one of my friends admitted he has discovered that one of my oldest theories is true.  It is the theory of the 16%. 

In this theory, it is supposed that 42-43% of Americans have core values that are conservative in nature.  These are most often sons and daughters that embrace the values of their parents.  They are mostly pro life and are fiscally conservative.  They usually embrace America’s heritage of rugged individualism, and are more likely to vote for the Republican party regardless of the candidate because they agree with most of the values that are promoted by the Republican Party.

The theory also supposes that there are 42-43% of Americans that have core values that are on the left.  These people believe that it is the government’s responsibility to make sure that all Americans are happy and cared for.  They believe that it is appropriate to tax people who work and are successful in order to make sure that everyone is able to live at some high standard of their determining.  They definitely have Socialist leanings, and believe (for some reason) that bigger government, and the good intentions of lawmakers will lead to a better world.  These people almost always vote Democrat regardless of the candidate because they believe the Democratic party supports the issues that they believe are important. 

I could get into an argument as to why I think the first group is right, but that is not the point of this particular post.  I am writing this article to deal with the 16% that is left over, and that is why many years ago during the 1992 elections that I developed “The Theory of the 16%.”  Thank you Ross Perot.

The point of the theory is that about 84% of Americans vote on issues.  For them, them primary season is when their candidate for president is determined.  Coming out of the conventions, they already know who they are going to vote for.  The debates will do nothing to sway them one way or another, because they already know the core issues and values of their party, and they support its candidate.  The problem is that 42% is not enough to win a presidential election.  That is where the 16% come into the picture.

There are 16% of Americans out there that have not taken the time develop a set of core values, or if they have, they do not take the time to determine which party or candidate actually is closest to the values that they hold. 

I have more respect for the hard-line person on the left than I do for the people in the 16%.  At least the liberal has developed a set of values and know why it is that they believe the things that they believe.  The 16% simply blow around like a leaf waiting for the right person to tell them what it is that they are supposed to think.

These people choose a candidate for any number of reasons.  Looks are a big factor (if you ever want to see the impact of looks on these people check out the numbers of the first Kennedy/Nixon debates, and compare the radio numbers to the television numbers at the time). 

Talking points and catch phrases become very important in winning over these people.  They do not take the time to develope ideas or investigate the details of the issues, so if you want to win their vote on the issues, it is better to have a catchy phrase or a good ‘one-liner.’ that they will remember.  Having your facts straight is unnecessary because these people cannot be bothered with the facts.  It is more important to say the things that you think they want to hear whether you believe them or not, and whether you are actually planning to carry them out or nor.  You can bet that they won’t check up on you.

The Democrats have discovered something else that is important to these people.  They will watch a terrible television program, or go see an awful movie simply because a celebrity that they like is in it.  If they can be motivated to spend their hard earned money to see a terrible movie just because Brad Pitt, for instance, is in it, how much more easily can these same celebrities be used to get this 16% to vote for the Democratic candidate?  That costs them nothing, and they get the feeling that they are able to connect with Oprah, for example.

The media is the other ace that the Democrats have in the hole.  These media outlets (excepting Foxnews) have decided to shamelessly support the Democratic candidate, in this case Obama.  The interesting thing is that their obvious bias is not where they are having the biggest effect.  Their biggest influence comes in the areas where they shape the arguments by throwing out their own suppositions.  They have intentionally changed many of the fundamental questions in these arguments so that only the democrats can win.

For instance, on  the question of the bailout, the issue that they raise is not what is best for the economy and the future of America, but “Isn’t it the governments responsibility to make sure that these Americans who were cheated are fairly compensated for it?”  On the abortion argument, they do not ask, “What is your stance on abortion and why?”  They ask rather, “Do you believe in the Constitutional right to Privacy?”  This is a loaded question.  On gay marriage, they will ask “Don’t you think all Americans should have the right to choose their own life-partner and live happily?”  Rather than, “Do you believe that the definition of marriage is one man married to one woman?”  And, on the global warming issue, they have so taken over the intellectual high ground, that we will probably never be able to have a real discussion of the issues.  Anyone who questions a “man-made cause to an imminent global catastrophe” is dismissed as an idiot who does not believe in science by the media without even allowing an argument based on science.  On issue after issue, they have chosen to frame the debate in a way that supposes the Democratic ideas are right.  The 16% is extremely susceptible to this sort of thing.

These people are also influenced heavily by polls.  As they see the polls trending one way or another, they sway towards the one that is winning.  They feel comfortable being part of the majority, and it keeps them from having to actually determine whom to vote for on their own.  They just assume that since more Americans are supporting one of the candidates over the other, there must be a reason for it.

So with all of this being said, it is easy to see why Obama is inching ahead in the polls.  He definitely is a better looking guy than McCain, and is also more telegenic.  Obamas has shown the ability to be all things to all people.  He has no problems promising anything even both sides of the same issue, because he knows that he will not be called out for it.  Since the press has already moved the arguments into his playing field, it is more easy for his answers to sound appealing.  McCain, however, is in the position of having to either reinterpret all of the questions the press asks him in a way that works for his point of view, which looks awkward, or he has has to appear more populous which offends his constituency and makes him look disingenuous.  Obama definitely has the support of Hollywood, and cashes in on it daily.

The best move McCain made in the election was to choose Palin.  She was a legitimate attempt to grab some of the 16%.  Unfortunately, in the end, the choice of the VP does not carry enough weight to make a difference.  The Republican Party has to figure out that while it is important to choose someone who that tows the party line (which by the way is not McCain), it is more important to choose a candidate that is telegenic, and is a good and forceful communicator.  This is why Fred Thompson would have been a good choice, but it is too late now.  The only hope we have now is for a huge skeleton to fall out of Obama’s closet, and it will have to be one that the press cannot ignore.

Well, Well, Well. In your face Chaddick!

Every now and then a small person (and I mean small in character) finds himself in a position of authority.  These people tend to use their positions abusively and at their own discretion.  Nathan Chaddick, in his attempt to deal with an unfortunate situation at the high school where he is the Pricipal did just this.  The derogatory language that he used to characterize several young ladies and a mother showed the world the power that he felt he had in his position.  He forgot that his position is a public trust, but obviously the head of the school disrict did not.  Good for the superintendent, but I would have rather seen a little more public discipline of the Principal and the faculty sponsor of the cheerleading squad, since the Principal chose to denegrate the young ladies on school newspaper in public.

And, I want to take a moment to praise Mollie Garrigan, Katy Rushing, Suzanne Choate, Harry Duncan, Hannah Frizzell and Nicole Wilson.  They are the ones who stood up and told the truth on this, and they should be commended.  I’m sure they will have a great future in journalism.

Skit Portaying Executions is Inappropriate

After Reading an article that I found off of Foxnews this morning, I am now insane…

 

I usually only link to articles that spark my interest.  Today, however, I am going to place the whole text of the article on my post because I do not think I can effectively comment upon it without having it here for you to read.  So, to give appropriate credit, I will tell you that this article was published at dailysentinel.com and can be found here.  The Article was written by Tyesha Boudreaux.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A performance during a Nacogdoches High School pep rally last month has created some controversy between students and the administration over the appropriateness of a skit that included the executions of rivals and toy guns.

Some students say the skit was inappropriate and are circulating a petition — which currently has 122 signatures — protesting “gun promotion” at pep rallies.

 However, NHS principal Nathan Chaddick contends that the skit was a “simple, innocent satire” aimed at boosting school spirit, and with the exception of one complaint from a parent, Chaddick said “everybody enjoyed it and had a good time.”

Laughter from the crowd of spectators, which includes several adult voices, is prevalent throughout a video of the skit, which was performed during a Sept. 5 pep rally.

The skit opens with a few cheerleaders dressed to represent that week’s opposing team, the Center High School Roughriders. Wearing cowboy hats and carrying toy pistols, the “rivals” run into the gym to take the NHS mascot hostage as the theme from the movie “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” plays in the background.

As the Center team scuffles with the mascot, NHS cheerleaders run to the rescue, freeing the mascot. They then force the Center team to kneel as they stand behind them with guns.

The music shifts to a popular song which includes the sound of gunfire. As the NHS cheerleaders hold the guns to the back of the kneeling “prisoners'” heads, gunfire is heard. The “prisoners” fall over, dead.

The victorious NHS cheerleaders then toss what appears to be fake money into the air in celebration, then drag the bodies representing Center into a pile, whereupon the NHS mascot holds up a tombstone over the executed “prisoners,” to the sound of clapping and cheering from the spectators.

But not everyone found the skit enjoyable or appropriate.

Soon after, a petition “against gun promotion at pep rallies” was circulated, and an article and two editorials on the subject appeared in the student newspaper, The Dragon Echo.

The editorial defending the skit, written by an NHS cheerleader, was published in its entirety. An editorial critical of the skit, written by two students, was edited — by Chaddick — to eliminate three paragraphs that questioned the administration’s support for the skit.

In addition, a news article detailing the skit as a whole was moved from the front page to the third page of the Echo, at Chaddick’s direction, because he felt there were more important issues at hand.

“We just had the hurricane going on and people without power in their homes and homeless,” he said. “And there’s just more important things going on than a personal agenda of three little girls. I don’t think three girls and one mother have the right to make this a top story for our school newspaper.”

However, Mollie Garrigan, who wrote the editorial with fellow student Katie Rushing, denied that the motives were personal.

“In no way are we against cheerleaders,” Mollie said. “We are against gun promotion.”

Chaddick said he didn’t believe that using a toy gun in a skit promoted the use of guns.

“In any school district, there’s a zero tolerance regarding illegal weapons, certainly,” he said. “But this was just a simple skit done by our cheerleaders just to promote some school spirit and motivate the football team at a pep rally … they were doing like a little country, cowboy-type skit.”

Although the NISD Student Code of Conduct and Student Handbook says that “using or possessing a pellet gun, air-powered rifle, toy gun, or any other instrument that may be perceived by a third party as a firearm” is a prohibited conduct, Chaddick said it didn’t pertain to a toy gun used in a skit.

He compared it instead, to the use of a prop in a play.

“What do they want us to do with Shakespeare when kids have swords stabbing each other or plays with some shooting?” Chaddick asked. “It’s the same thing. It’s the same little skit. But because these three girls have a personal thing going on against some cheerleaders, they feel they have a right to use this venue for their personal agenda or purpose, and I’m just not going to allow that.”

In addition to the title of the editorial “Fearleaders,” Chaddick also eliminated the following paragraphs:

“We realize it was intended to raise school spirit, but it is inappropriate to allow such a display of excessive violence in a high school. This is not only unacceptable in a school environment, but also from a moral standpoint. This skit did not portray the other team as our opponent in a sports game, but as an enemy.

This skit and all of its implications were approved by an authoritative figure with the power and responsibility to edit the skit.

Such an authority should certainly show more discretion in the future.”

When asked what he found inappropriate about the material edited from the editorial, Chaddick would say only that it was “obvious” that the comments were a personal grudge.

“They were calling the cheerleaders ‘fearleaders’,” he said. “That’s just inappropriate.”

“In a public school setting, you can’t just publish anything you want to,” Chaddick said. “There is going to be some censorship and some editing if there’s something that’s inappropriate.”

“I got one parent who thinks it was so wrong that we had some plastic guns in the skit here at the schoolhouse,” he said. “I let her know, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion and your personal own beliefs. One person’s personal agenda is not going to drive what we do here at Nacogdoches High School.”

Here is a link to the actual video of the skit.

 

It is hard to know where to begin with this one.  I guess I will begin by saying that I do not agree with anyone involved with this story.  I commend the students who saw that the skit was wrong for taking it upon themselves to say so when no one else was doing so.  Good for them.

They make a good point in their editorial that the school has been, at the very least, inconsistent in its interpretation of its own policies regarding guns and images of firearms, and more likely selective in its interpretations.

However, the fact that guns were involved in a skit is not the true and appropriate source of outrage here.  The true offensiveness of this skit is in the imagery of an execution-style murder.  The reaction of the students who were against the skit came across to me like a group of people who, after seeing a noose hung on a tree outside of the home of a black family, are offended at the blatant reference to capital punishment that they saw in the image.  The point that I am making is that the imagery of execution-style murders carries with it a stronger connotation than simply that of gun violence.  There is a stomach-turning feeling associated with this type of activity be it by Al Qaida in Iraq or some thugs robbing a Quick Stop, just as there is a stomach-churning feeling associated with blatantly racist images like the noose in the reference above.  Society has little patience with people who take it upon themselves to execute another human being in cold blood, more often than not giving the perpetrator the death penalty on states where it is allowed. 

I do not care what justification is given, the skit performed by the cheerleaders at this school was incredibly out of bounds.  They could just have well have marched the ‘cheerleaders’ for the opposition into an oven in the skit, and I would have been equally offended. 

There is no defense for this, and someone should have said. “No!”  As is true in most schools, there is almost always a member of the faculty that sponsors the cheerleading squad.  Both that person and the cheerleaders should be held accountable for this.  The students need some sort of reprimand to teach them and the other students at the school that this sort of activity is wrong, and the teacher/sponsor of the squad should be suspended or released depending in her track record.

The person that I have the biggest issue with in all of this is Nathan Chaddick, the Principal of the high school.  First, he is inconsistent and selective in his application of the printed rules of the school, and that is not right.  The students at this school are being sent the message that we see coming from many small town schools that cheerleaders are special and above the level of other students.  It is these same attitudes that have led to several recent incidents in which high school athletes think that they can sexually assault the younger athletes in the school and call it hazing.  These cheerleaders have to be forced to follow the same rules as any other student.

Second, Chaddick seems to be inappropriately making accusations against the students who have questioned the appropriateness of the skit by questioning their motivations.  This, once again, looks like they are putting the cheerleaders on a pedestal, but it goes farther when he accuses the other students of using the skit to promote their own petty “personal grudge.”

I would make the case that he does not reside inside the minds of the students who raised the objection, and therefore cannot and should not comment on their motivations, especially when they are making a good point.  There is nothing in their letter to the editor that is a personal attack on anyone.  He says that it was inappropriate for the students to call the cheerleaders ‘fearleaders,’ but is that so bad?  In fact, there was nothing to be offended by in the redacted material, unless he was simply offended by the fact that their argument was so much better than his.  Look, I am the last guy to say that students have the right to say anything that they want to in a school newspaper, but it is apparent that the only reason he redacted their editorial was because he did not like their argument (which was obviously better that the opinion that he and the cheerleaders held).  Giving the cheerleaders the forum of the school newspaper to print their opinion of the incident, while redacting a cogent, appropriate counterpoint is simply another example of the preferential treatment shown to cheerleaders in this school.

However, the biggest problem with Chaddick is not his treatment of the students in this matter (though it is bad enough), but it is the fact that he shows himself to be so completely out of touch with social mores in this matter.  His statement comparing this skit involving execution-style killings to a Shakespearian play with swords shows him to either be stupid or a liar.  His smug attitude shown throughout the story shows him to be both, and the faster this school district sends him packing and apologizes to these young women the better.

Come On, Fox News!

I have to throw an offsides flag on Foxnews for using the very unfortunate and unnecessary headline, “Good Spirit, Poor Execution” for their story about a group of Texas cheerleaders who recently performed a skit portraying the execution style killing of rival cheerleaders. 

If Foxnews wants their reporting to be taken seriously, then they must treat their stories in a more serious manner.  Placing this headline on this story is, on the one hand, tabloid, and on the other hand, just as irresponsible and insensitive as the skit that was done by the cheerleaders themselves. 

I used to listen to Limbaugh, but eventually I stopped for two reasons.  First, I felt that he was simply preaching to the choir, but later, I realized that I couldnot talk to anyone about things I heard on his show because sometimes he ran with an unsubstantiated rumor, and if I did reference his show in a conversation, it could affect another person’s opinion of me.  I’m beginning to have similar feelings of Foxnews.

Unfortunately, Fox does not work hard enough at appearing to be a legitimate media outlet.  This places their readers and viewers in the position of having to filter the information that they get through Foxnews.  What bothers me the most, is that there is no conservatively leaningmedia alternative to force Foxnews to take itself more seriously.  For people like myself, they hold an ideological monopoly.

Gaffe ’08

I always enjoy getting comments on my posts (well mostly), but I do not often blatantly request people to post their opinions.  However, today I find myself in a quandary.  Recently, we have been graced with two of the greatest faux pas in the history of the English language, and I find myself wondering which one is worse.  Which one is the most painful?  So, here they are, and please let me know which one you think is the worst. 

The first is a nice fluff piece from NBC’s Toady Show in which Matt Lower asks Robert Kennedy Jr. how his father is doing.  It can be seen here.  Enjoy.

The second is the famous Joe Biden gaffe in which he asks wheel chair bound Missouri State Senator Chuck Graham to stand up.  After realizing what he has done, he has the crowd scoreboard the poor guy by standing up ‘in his honor’ and showing him how good all of their legs are working.  See it here, and please cast your vote for the one that is most uncomfortable.

Thanks.