Top 5 Worst Presidents in U.S. History

1. Jimmy Carter– He is hands-down, the greatest embarrassment to the office in the history of the Presidency.  He was an abysmal failure while in office, who could not even pass legislation with a sympathetic Congress.  His economic policies led the U.S. into one of the greatest recessions in its history, and his foreign policies led to events such as the storming of the U.S. embassy in Teheran.  At least, he did his constituency the service of hiding out in the rose garden during most of his presidency and refusing to be the leader that he was elected to be.

Today, he spends much of his time violating two centuries of Presidential decorum by decrying the work of the men who have succeeded him, and sticking his nose into affairs in which it does not belong, such as working with terrorist organizations like Hamas.  Giving him the Nobel Peace Prize cheapened it, and it has become the sad political tool that it is today.  No amount of house building can make up for the awful way he has dragged the most prestigious office on Earth through the mud.

2. Warren Harding– I tried not to hold the fact that a president died in office against him.  Presidents like William Henry Harrison or James Garfield get an incomplete from me.  They are obviously near the bottom, but as a result of their untimely deaths, did not have the opportunity to do anything truly bad to the office.  However, the Harding administration, though only two years in length was simply packed with Presidential embarrassments.  His administration is generally viewed as the single most corrupt in the history of the U.S., and that includes the Grant administration.  Harding was barely by his own party.  He did poorly in the primaries, was part of a split vote at the RNC, and after a deal was struck for his candidacy in the predawn of a hotel room, it still took ten ballots for him to receive the nomination. 

He won the general election by a landslide, and then had to pay back those to whom promises were made.  This led to the appointment of several corrupt individuals to his administration.  Many of his appointees were personal friends who were completely unqualified for the posts to which they were named.  His nominee to head the Veteran’s Bureau robbed its coffers of $200,000,000 and fled the country.  The Justice Department was accused of taking bribes.  The Attorney General was proven to have illegally profited from allowing alcohol to be taken from government supplies during the middle of prohibition, and corruption was discovered in the office of the Alien Property Custodian.

The most egregious example of corruption in his administration was the Teapot Dome Scandal in which the Secretary of the Interior received $400,000 in bribe from oil companies after leasing oil-rich land to them without any competitive bidding.

This was all bad enough, but Harding’s personal problems were also prominent.  He was married, but he carried on several affairs while he was president.  These eventually came to light adding to the cloud that surrounded his presidency.  Today, there are some theories that he was actually poisoned by his own wife.  In any case, he was dead after serving only two years.

3. Andrew Johnson– He was impeached but not convicted on two occasions.  Most historians agree that he did not deserve to be convicted, but his track record in office showed that he did not agree with his party or Lincoln in regards to the position of former slaves in post-Civil War America.  He repeatedly vetoed legislation that was meant to protect the former slaves and allow them to be absorbed into normal American society.  His appointments and policies promoted the establishment of so called ‘black codes’ that allowed southern blacks to be kept in some sort of servitude as second-class persons.  He was instrumental in defeating the 14th Amendment which eventually made the former slaves actual citizens.  Lincoln was a practical man who would do what it took to eventually get the outcome that he wanted, but his appointment of Johnson was easily his biggest mistake, and one, that with his death, could not be undone.  Johnson’s apparent racism which undermined many of the victories that so much blood was shed for during the Civil War put him high on the list.

4. Ulysses S. Grant– Grant’s two terms as president of the U.S. were notable for their corruption and failed domestic policies.  Waffling on the issue of ‘greenbacks’ and allowing unrestrained speculation in the gold market by Jay Gould and James Fisk led to Black Friday in which the Stock Market shut down.  The Grant administration failed to react by releasing gold early.  This caused the ruin of many investors, and when the administration finally did release its gold reserves, it caused a crash in the gold market that led to more ruin.

Though he was never personally accused of corruption, his administration was involved in several famous instances of corruption.  The most famous of these were the Credit Mobilier swindle and the Whiskey Ring.

Grant may have been a great general, but he was not a great president.  His two terms and his military legacy keep him off the bottom of the list.

5. Richard Nixon– Nixon is an anomaly.  His foreign policy achievements could easily have put him into the top 20 presidents of all time.  The problem was that his own paranoia and character flaws led him to use abuse his power as president and to eventually sanction crimes committed at the expense of his political opposition.  Of all the people on the list, his actions as president were probably the worst, but his extremely effective foreign policy keep him off the bottom of the list.

6. James Buchanan– I added a sixth because he is really the only other bad president.  For the most part, America’s presidents have been good and able men who led the country to the best of their ability.  Some may have been less effective than others, and some served short terms, but the true bottom-dwellers are a short list.  Buchanan’s lack of any attempt to keep the U.S. from devolving into Civil War puts him near the bottom of the list.  He and Nero could have played a duet.

Some Proposed Rules Regarding Christmas Etiquette

It has been obvious for the past few years that Christmas has gotten out of hand.  Now it is apparent, too much of a good thing is indeed too much.  As a result, I have proposed a few rules to help people navigate the Christmas season with some sense of decorum.

I do not need to start seeing Christmas items and sections in stores before Halloween.  I swear, I saw some stores with Christmas sections in August this year, and I’m not kidding.  We already have way too many stores doing ‘Christmas in July’ sales.  Pretty soon it will indeed be Christmas all year around.

Rule: Christmas sales and sections should be limited to the day after Halloween (preferably the day after Thanksgiving) through the weekend after New Years Day (for After-Christmas sales).

Christmas decorations are also way out of hand.  There is no need to cover every inch of your lawn and house with Christmas decorations and lights.  Trying to limit yourself to one giant ugly blow-up Christmas item would be preferable.  Also, I see lights going up sometimes before Halloween and staying up as late as March or April.

Rule:  If you think to yourself, I wonder if it would be too much if we…?  It is too much.  Stop it!

Rule: Do not put up any Christmas decorations until the day after Thanksgiving, and take them down by the week after New Year’s Day

Finally, Christmas music played on the radio and in stores is way out of hand.  Some retail outlets and radio stations go to an “All Christmas” format the day after Halloween.  There is no need for this.  One awful result of this is that these stations find any (and I mean ANY) Christmas music, and put it in their playlist.  Unfortunately, every recording artist feels the need to make at least one Christmas album, no matter how bad it might be.  These stations tend to force these horrible songs on their audience because they do not want to play the same music all of the time.

Rule:  Christmas music should not be played before the day after Thanksgiving (and it would be better to wait two more weeks), and should be stopped the day after Christmas.

Rule:  Only play the Christmas standards or legitimate attempts to perform nice Christmas music (so my head will stop exploding).





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 am the Sherriff of Movie Town

I must confess that I am a movie snob.  I always see the oval dot.  You know the one in the top right corner of the screen that tells the projectionist when to start the next part of the film (this of course is an anachronism, as films are now rolled up on platters if they are still even produced on actual film at all and not a digital image).  If there is a repair in the screen, trash on it or a pin-sized hole, I find it extremely distracting.  There is a cinema called the Rave that I went to once where I could see a slight reflection of some speakers through the screen.  It bothered me throughout the whole movie, and I never went back. 

On another occasion, at the late show, the projector actually broke with about five minutes left in the movie Jackie Brown.  They gave me a free pass to come back and see the end.  I did not.  In fact, I have made it a point to never see the actual ending of that movie.  I just made up my own ending in my mind.  In my version Louis Gara (Robert DeNiro) comes back to life and kills the entire cast of characters and director Quentin Tarantino.  He then kills Nick Nolte and the cast of Cape Fear.  He caps off this award deserving performance by arriving at the theatre where I saw the movie and killing the incompetent and unprepared projectionist.  The point is, if I am going to plop down my $10 to see the newest supposedly great flick, I want it to be the best experience that it can be. 

When I was growing up, I lived in a moderately sized suburban community north of Dallas.  For most of my youth, it had one cinema with two ‘houses’ inside.  The seats were small and crowded, and the sound system was primitive.

Then, someone built a mall with a larger multiplex that had 10 houses featuring actual THX and Dolby sound.  It was great, except of course for the bleed-over sound from the other houses.  I remember seeing one movie there.  I don’t actually remember the movie, but I remember the one next door.  It was Congo.  The whole time, I was sitting there, I was wondering why I was not enjoying getting two movies for the price of one or at least the sound from two movies for the price of one.  It was awful.  However, in the same theatre, I remember watching Jurassic Park.  This time I was in the house with the soundtrack that downed everything else out.  There was one point when the characters on screen were walking around outside, and I actually heard something moving through the forest behind and to the right of me.  A good surround sound track can definitely add a lot to a movie. 

Later, in college, I went to another decent theatre with good sound and saw the greatness of The Hunt for Red October on the big screen.  It was this movie, and later, The Last of the Mohicans that made me realize the greatness of watching a movie on the ‘big screen’, especially when it deserves to be there.  In the case of Red October, I remember the submarines slowly moving across the whole screen, emphasizing their huge size.  In Mohicans, there were moments when a battle was taking place that encompassed the whole screen.  I particularly remember when Chingachgook hurled his axe/sword completely across the scene in one battle.  I saw this movie later on video (regular definition), and the battle scenes seemed very disjointed.

After I came home from college, the greatness of Grapevine Mills was built.  It was the first of the modern ‘stadium seating’ theatres that was close enough to go to on a regular basis.  That place was and is great.  It has great sound, huge screens, tall backed chairs, raise-able armrests, and aisles between the rows of seats that are wide enough walk down without touching the sitting folks or having to have them stand up as you are making your way to your seat.  It is movie heaven, and even though I live much further away now, I will still drive there to see a movie.

Unfortunately, as the years have moved forward, movie decorum has not, in fact, it has digressed.  Sometime during all of this, I appointed myself the Sherriff of Movie Town, and I began to codify a set of laws that in my opinion should actually eventually be ratified as a constitutional amendment.

Section 1: Food and Drink

I do not care what you have to eat or drink in a theatre.  The price that they charge for their food and drinks is outrageous.  If you can squeeze a side of beef into the chair next to you and gnaw on it for the entire movie, I don’t care as long as you do not bother me.  That being said, there are ways to abuse food or drink in a movie theatre.

1. Do not bring candy or food with wrappers that audibly crinkle or rattle.  Unfortunately in some cases the theatre will sell actually sell candy that makes noise.  If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having food in which the wrapper makes noise, the onus is on you, the purchaser.  You need to find a way to silence it or put it away until later.

2. Do not bring food that has an audible crunch such as Doritos.  Other issues covered by this include, smacking while you chew your food, smacking or popping your gum, and crunching the ice at the bottom of your cup.

3. Do not move your straw up and down in your cup so as to makes the sound of a wounded baby harp seal.  Why are you the only person who does not notice this?  Thanks to a friend for this submission.

Section 2: Respecting and Occupying your seat and repect the seat of others.

1. Arriving Late:  Did you see that line of people outside?  Yeah, the one with the people behind the rope waiting for the movies in the next house when you came in late?  All of those people who are sitting up there in the good seats in the theatre that you just walked into late did that too.  That’s why they have the good seats.  Don’t stand at the bottom of the stadium seating looking up at the crowd and talking with your friends in the expectation that there are five seats together up there that no one else saw.  And please, do not violate the sanctity of someone’s coveted empty-side-seat (the coveted empty seat next to you that you have strategically arranged to be there by the way you sat so that there would not be a stranger next to you) by asking them to move down.  Go and sit down at the front of the theatre where the people who walk in late are supposed to sit.

2. Staying in your seat:  This rarely applies to anyone over the age of 18.  It’s funny that when you actually pay that $10 of your own good money to see a movie, you actually want to see it.  On the contrary, unaccompanied groups of minors as many as ten strong inevitably enter a theatre and spend the next two hours repeatedly entering and leaving the theatre en masse.  The best way to combat this is for parents to explain to their children the importance of staying in their seats, or better yet, these parents could actually make sure their children ages 10 to 14, actually have a chaperone when going to the movies with friends.

3. Kicking the seat in front of you:  It’s amazing, but this problem occurs more than a person would think.  A person who is oblivious to the world around him will absentmindedly kick the back of the chair in front of him.  The poor person in the chair being kicked had no idea that there would be Morse Code subtitles associated with this particular movie.  I know you want to really get into the movie, and sometimes you actually feel nervous for the characters on the screen, but you must remember that you are not the only person in the theatre.  Police yourself.  Sit on your foot if you have to.

Section 3: Strong Scents:

1. Perfume or cologne.  Few things are worse than trying to escape into the fantasy world of a good movie while being continually dragged back to musk-land by the 14 year old Axe saturated kid four rows behind you or the woman, sitting alone, who smells like a candle factory at the end of the aisle.  Look, no one is going to stand up during the middle of a movie and approach you with the line, “What a wonderful aroma you have.  Is that a flower shop or just your armpits?  Can I get your number?”

2. Body odor:  This is worse.  Be on the lookout for this at Star Wars premiers or movies based on comic books.  These guys are usually alone, unshaven and are playing with a portable video game or reading a book while waiting near the front of the line for these movies.  Be strategic and make sure you are not sitting anywhere near them.  Social mores are lost on these guys, so don’t waste your time.  They just do not understand.

Section 4: Smoking

Really.  Does this really need to be said?  Unfortunately, the answer is, “Yes.”  I was actually in a theatre where a guy lit-up once.  Luckily for everyone else the Sherriff was in town.  I moved as fast as I ever have to get the ushers, and surprisingly, they actually kicked the guy out of the theatre.  Good.

Section 4: Sex and PDA

1. Public Displays of Affection:  When you go to see a movie, the point is to watch it.  Though they are legendary as places to first hold hands or put your arm around the girl on your first date (which is fine), they are not places to express you chosen sexual preference or reaffirm the physical bond between to people who already have an intimate relationship.

2. Sex: Again, does this really need to be said?  Well, I have failed to mention that I actually worked at a theatre many years ago, and had a patron come out of one of the houses to tell me that a teenage couple was actually having sex on the back row.  Being the responsible guy I am, I referred the gentleman to my female manager and beat a hasty retreat.

There have to be a million better places to have sex than a theatre with other people, including children in attendance.  Find one of them.

Section 5: Foreign Objects

1. Throwing things at the screen.  This one is generally abused by teenagers who seem to get a kick out of throwing popcorn and other things at the screen so they can see how it catches the light and casts annoying shadows on the screen.  Stop it!

2. Laser Pointers.  I generally do not subscribe to any form of Sharia Law, but in this case I would not be opposed to cutting the hands off of those responsible for this.  I actually saw this happen in a crowded theatre during the first week of Saving Private Ryan, and I thought the crowd was going to attack the kids who were responsible.  It is difficult to find a better example of full blown egocentrism than using a laser pointer at a movie theatre.

Section 6:  Small Children:

1. Inappropriate Movies:  That rating that they put next to the title of the movie is to assist parents in making wholesome choices for their children.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had a guy tell me with a horrified expression on his face, “I went to Saw [for example] last night and there was a guy on my row with his seven year old son!”  I have a friend who saw five year old at 300.  Are you kidding me?  This is yet another unfortunate example of a parent feeling that life is all about them.  They have kids for their own enjoyment, and they see movies for the same reason.  So, why can’t the two go together?  It’s just a shame, and I really don’t have a good answer for it other than this rant.

2. Day Care:  I think some parents mistake movie theatres for day care centers.  Some mothers drop their kids off at the theatre in the evening so they can go and get laid by Hairplugguy0001 that they met online today.  These women will encourage their children by saying, “If I’m not there when the movie is over, just go into another movie.”  Later, they are still on the date as their ten year old kids sneak into the late show of Basic Instinct II for a little sex education.

3. Chaperones:  If your kids below the age of 14 ever go to the movies with a group of kids or you take a group of their friends to the movies, you need to make sure that they have a chaperone or chaperone them yourself.  This means that you or the accompanying adult needs to buy a ticket to Cars and watch it with them.  This does not mean that they go to see Cars while you go see The Notebook.

4. The Crying Child:  No, this is not a movie with a very unfortunate and inappropriate plot line (sorry).  If you are in a movie, a church service or a wedding and you child starts crying, the best thing to do is to politely excuse yourself to the foyer until they are able to regain their composure.  It is not going to kill you to miss a minute or two of the movie while expressing your love to your children and being polite to the other people in the theatre at the same time.

Section 7: Keeping Quiet

1. Talking:  In general, movies are not good places to have a business meeting, catch up on things with an old college buddy, gossip, or get to know someone.  And, if you are the person who cannot follow the plot and needs a constant update, maybe DVR would be better for you.  In that case, you can stop the movie, and ask for an update or rewind and try to catch what you missed without bothering a whole theatre full of people.

2. Coughing:  We all do it, and for the most part it is just something that you have to understand is going to happen when you attend a movie.  However, once you have lost control of the situation or if it is incessant, you owe it to the rest of the crowd excuse yourself for a drink or a cough drop, or in the worst case to actually surrender to the sickness and go home.  Besides, it is not very thoughtful to sit in a room with re-circulated air and infect everyone with your tuberculosis.

3. Crowd Reaction: This is a touchy situation.  I have seen two or three movie on opening night where the infectious reaction of the crowd added to the experience.  However, if you find yourself being the only person who is laughing out loud repeatedly, or if you feel compelled to warn a character by saying, “Don’t go in there!,” it may be time to reevaluate your active participation in the movie experience.  Remember, the movie is not about you.

Section 8: Cell Phones

1. Ringers off:  Turn your ringers off!  ‘Moto’ is not in the theatre, and no one needs to be calling out for him.  Turn them off, or leave them at home or in the car.  If you have to know when you are getting a call, put it on vibrate, and put it in the pocket of your shirt.

2. Looking to see who called:  This is a favorite of the unaccompanied minor who sits with his friend in the front of the theatre.  They might as well light a fire down there.  It would be just as distracting.  All you have to do is to politely excuse yourself to the foyer and see if it is an emergency.

3. Texting: Please see the description above regarding “looking to see who called” and stop it!

4. Answering the phone and talking on it in the theatre:  I swear I saw this happened once, and it was the guy sitting next to me.  After my head exploded, I turned to the guy and said, “Take that outside.”  He actually cursed me, and I actually did not kill him.  I did walk past him, found an usher and had him removed.  Obliviot.

As you can see, I am a little passionate about this, but isn’t it time for all of us to pull together so that we can help each other have a more enjoyable movie-going experience. Or, maybe I’ll just by that 62 inch LCD screen, and eliminate these problems all together.