Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stop bashing public sector employees

I get tired of all the “public sector employee” bashing by people who know nothing about the workload and responsibilities these people carry, or simply classify all of them under their idiotic attitude that government shouldn’t exist.
In Dallas, scores of teachers camped out overnight on Saturday to be the first in line to accept the Dallas ISD’s offer of a $10,000 payment to induce retirement at the end of the current school year. In all, the “retirement fund” totals $7.3 MILLION - that’s a bunch of teachers getting out.
Mind you, with the plight of EVERY district in Texas, taking the payment means you’re done as an educator. No other districts will be adding staff; almost ALL of them will freeze hiring or cut back.
It begs the question: if you’re a teacher, would you take that Dallas ISD monetary “incentive?”
It won’t be as bad (hopefully) as Providence, RI, which pink-slipped the ENTIRE teacher staff of that city ... EVERYONE got a notice of termination because the city (which runs the schools) couldn’t figure out at this point in time how to pay anyone. Think about how you’d feel with that prospect stewing in your head for weeks on end, while STILL expected to perform your job at the highest level imaginable.
When people start bitching about how “good” teachers got it, in the workplace, and how they ONLY teach 9-10 months of the year, and have ALL these invisible benefits, active teachers should tell them the truth (even if they refuse to listen to facts instead of political propaganda) and tell them to spend one WEEK in their shoes in a classroom – facing those students, their parents, those administrators and school boards.
No one would take that offer ... too scared of the prospect of facing what these underpaid, underappreciated, disrespected, but unbelievably important pieces of the social puzzle see every day.
And that tells you everything you even need to know. Remember that before you utter another false, insincere word about teachers, police, fireman, EMTs, AND the person who checks your utility account to make sure your water or gas won’t be cut off because your dog ate the invoice.
And can the bashing about the receptionist who faces the minute-by-minute verbal abuse from utility customers, seldom nice on the phone to discuss some problem; or the municipal worker (in Dallas making minimum wage, mind you) to collect your stinky garbage; or fixing aging water lines that break in the middle of a blizzard so others can drink and bathe; or those who do hundreds of different positions at LESS than market value (sorry, but you read correctly – the public sector pays LESS than the private sector and my household is a shining example).
In many cases, public sector unions have foregone pay raises in exchange for the pension benefits – to get their earned income LATER rather than immediately. They are ALL middle-class members (no one is getting rich working for local-state or federal governments) so bashing them is ... kind of un-American, don’t you agree?
Here in Texas, there are “unions” – for the purpose of collective bargaining – exist only for those cities where civil service has been approved by voters (and fought tooth and nail by every city administration because it removes the “take it or leave it” attitude than management loves to possess). Teachers in Texas cannot strike because, technically, they are “state” employees since Austin provides school districts with the funds for each teacher’s base salary. And in Texas, state employees cannot strike.
I just find it incredible that people, who have jobs that are often far from being tagged as “essential” are the same ones demanding that their neighbors be forced to become unemployed. How cruel! How ... un-American!
To me, government is like a lawyer – you despise lawyers ... until you NEED one and then they become your best friend in life. Our government leaves a lot to be desired and our political leaders even less to be desired. But compared to other parts of the world, we look better by the minute.
Whether the United States is actually “exceptional” is a matter for debate, however we are unique. No other nation exists with so many major populated centers spread across vast territory; it’s difficult to govern and tough to unite. But, despite our many problems, people still flock to immigrate here like OUR ancestors did – because of our laws, our government and our opportunity.
Even for public sector employees.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Thank God that crap is over!

Granted it's 48 hours removed from the end of Super Bowl 45 (a good editor once told me that only ancient Romans should use their numerals in stories for XVL will stand for someone’s name starting with Xavier), but the fallout is raining down on Dallas-Fort Worth like nuclear winter.

The game itself was exciting enough – with the proper combination of big plays, tough defense (at times), turnovers and last-minute drama. The Packers might not have had the superior talent but it had the best performing quarterback, maintained its composure (no fumbles or interceptions) and won the game because they played better. Pure and simple.
But all the crap surrounding the game, and its buildup and its execution will be fodder for the gristmill in the days, months and years to come. If the Cowboys honestly believe they can successfully bid on the 50th anniversary Super Bowl, after ALL the major problems encountered (forget the minor glitches), then to quote Judas Priest, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.”
The ridiculous embarrassment over the seating fiasco on Game Day, the inability to move traffic to-and-from the Death Star, the less-than-successful usage of a large area to host events (instead of compacting things within an area accessible by transport) … and the response to the adverse weather are all strikes against a quick return to the Metroplex by the NFL.
The shocking weather calamity could not have been avoided, but it instantly focused on problems that existed but were going to be overlooked. Cowboys Stadium is situated between two major population centers but is difficult (to put it mildly) to access. The only east/west route is Interstate-30, which, in essence and in actuality, is the old DFW Turnpike; except for the exit ramps to the faraway parking spaces for Jerry World, it is the same old, crumbled solitary roadway that was laid down in the 1960s.
Between the Grand Prairie exit to Lone Star Park/Verizon Theater, and Loop 12 (Walton Walker), there are NO exit ramps of any kind and nowhere to go if they even existed (it’s nothing but the smelly part of the Trinity River and undeveloped wilderness). If there is a fender bender, or stalled vehicle, or an 18-wheeler jackknifing on a slip surface, the traffic tie-up is normally monumental. Add the stress of people trying to get to a particular destination by a certain kickoff time, you have a recipe for disaster; Mother Nature simply ratcheted it up 10 fold.
And, no, no city in Texas owns snowplows (possibly Amarillo and Lubbock where weather produces different problems); it would be a waste of money. Texans employ the natural form of snow removal – da sun! Or if you’re the right age, your SON! If the same storm that also struck the East Coast appears in two years’ time, the bellyaching will be just as coarse and loud.
Still, it will be a major factor for consideration if the Cowboys offer a bid for the game in five years. Critics think the Super Bowl should be limited to “warm” weather climates (South Florida, Southern California, Phoenix, New Orleans), but I think diversity is best; why not use San Francisco as a host city, or Seattle, Atlanta, Houston (again) or Nashville? You can’t guarantee the forecast unless the game gets moved to Honolulu.
Much has already by penned and spoken about the non-existent seating situation. Blame falls to the NFL and Jones because his ego, and the league’s greed, wanted an attendance record and mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money (multiply 1,250 tickets by an average face value of $750 and you ain’t talking chump change). According to scores of reports, the city of Arlington warned of this problem with those bleachers (situated at the very top of the stadium where no seats are suppose to be) two weeks prior.
Still someone at the city kept approving the non-work (can you say PAYOFF?) and it remained unnoticed until it was too late (the night before). The bleachers were the responsibility of the Cowboys and such an omission should cost lots of people their employment.
To make such a decision (no admission to more than 400 legitimate paying customers), three hours before kickoff, was as stone cold-hearted as it gets. No amount of refund can replace being told to get the hell out; these were also shuffled around from gate-to-gate in order to segregate them and keep them confused. In fact, the entire admission process was a huge cattle drive. Many fans did not get into the stadium until 15 minutes before kickoff, jammed into long, serpentine lines as unprofessional gate managers (NOT the Cowboys’ normal ticket handlers) were as slow as molasses in Irving all during the week.
It was just another black eye on an already negative review.
Here are some other observations:
My top Super Bowl commercials – Too many of them were lame as hell; most of the humor was forced and unnatural. I’d like for ad agencies to officially retire using chimpanzees and talking babies in the future, for Bud Light to stop showing people getting pummeled, and forced celebrity couples (Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Beiber???).
My favorites were: Budweiser (“Tiny Dancer”), Teleflora ad with Faith Hill (these were back-to-back and actually were clever), Pepsi Max with the telepathic couple (it was more truth than humorous), Bud Light with the dog partiers, the NFL commercial employing scenes from various TV shows, all about watching football, and Fox’s own “House,” and a parody to the age-old Coca-Cola commercial with Mean Joe Greene.
But my “favorite” was the Chrysler commercial, toward the end, starring Eminem, entitled “Born of Fire.” It was a rare 60-second spot, allowing the theme to breathe and soak into the viewer (the rebirth of the company and its hometown, Detroit). It was classy, it was upbeat at the end, and it was soaked in Chrysler’s new direction – luxury, just like its other ads highlighting when the car builder used to be known for (luxury cars like the New Yorker, but now it’s the 200).
Let’s not go to the movies – Based on what was previewed during the Super Bowl, everything this summer will be a sequel of some sort – Kung Fu Panda 2, Transformers 3 (without Megan Fox, so what’s the point)? Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Fast and Furious 5), concepts too strange to conceive (“Cowboys and Aliens” with the Bond guy and Indiana Jones???), and comic books characters coming to the big screen (Captain America, Thor). What the hell happened to actual creativity?
Turf warts – I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but … I’m sorry, but something was wrong with the stadium turf/surface Sunday night. There were too many players suffering impact injuries on plays that shouldn’t have hurt anyone. Green Bay lost defensive back Charles Woodson to a broken collarbone on a tumble he takes 50 times a game.
And players were slipping all over the place, and it potentially cost Pittsburgh the game because, from my vantage point, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger never looked comfortable with the footing and appeared to be hobbling much of the contest.
Other players slipped and slid on key plays (Troy Polamalu fell down on one of Green Bay’s touchdown passes) and people acted as if the field surface was somehow … wet. It was yet another black eye for the NFL.
Black-Eyed halftime – As great as some country music is when performed live, it’s still not the cup of tea for the NFL. There are many big names, in that orbit, who could have been chosen, including someone like “King” George Strait, a native son of Texas.
But he’s smooth as 18-year-old aged scotch; not the fireworks and power I think is required for a huge venue (even if he HAS performed in such places).
There was nothing wrong with the Black-Eyed Peas; the show was colorful, loud and bombastic. But Cowboys Stadium is a horrid place for live music and often the Peas’ microphones reflected the many gremlins that often emerge. And despite the crowd noise that made it appear to be hugely receptive to all their “hits,” I have a strange suspicion most in attendance didn’t know any of them or any of the words.
Now, I would have LOVED to have seen, or heard, a different Texas icon perform ... that little ole band, ZZ Top! After all, they’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and for a 13-minute window, they could have blow the doors off the venue (“Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Tush,” “LaGrange,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs”).
But who would have been better? I answered my own question Monday afternoon when I watched a taped presentation from the CMT Network of a Pepsi Fan Jam event Saturday at the Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie.
The show, “Cross Roads,” which I assume pairs country and rock icons to discuss their music and play together, joined country diva Faith Hill with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders. Folks, of ALL the musical performances televised on Sunday (and before), THIS was the best, the rockingest and most energetic show of them all and IT should have been the halftime extravaganza at the Super Bowl.
The two ladies belted out Hill’s hits, “Breathe” and “This Kiss” as well as the Pretender classics “Middle of the Road,” “Brass in Pocket,” and “Down on the Chain Gang,” before concluding with the Janis Joplin tune, “Piece of My Heart.”
It would have brought the entire stadium to its feet and would have been remembered for its quality well beyond anything the Peas did, which was instantly forgettable.
The O’bama Factor – Of anything shown on the FOX pre-game presentation, the only piece of significance was the interview of President Obama by the FNC’s biggest star, Bill O’Reilly. People expected this confrontation to be as hard hitting as the game itself … but it wasn’t because President Obama refused to fence for long periods of time, instead parrying away any hot-button political questions and establishing a warmer tone than O’Reilly might have wanted.
In truth, it was simply a conversation between two men before the Super Bowl. The President would not engage when O’Reilly tried a little “liberal” smackdown, instead maintaining that his positions have been “centrist” for the first two years. Egypt was an easy question to ask, a difficult (but not unexpected) answer to explain and the health care bill points have been plowed over and over during the last two weeks.
What WAS interesting were the questions and responses to how the office, and job and its constant 24/7 spotlight, had changed the life of Obama-The Man. It might have been the first natural, unscripted answer delivered in months, and it was actually worth hearing.
Poor Bill was rushing to ask and questions and move to more of them in the short time-frame (15 minutes), so he often cut off the President in order to check off subject matter. Finally, President Obama said, “Wait!” and answered a query in the proper tone and slowed the entire interview to give a thoughtful response. At that instant, he, not the interviewer, gained the upper hand.
The two shook hands at the end (of part 1 with part 2 coming on O’Reilly’s show soon) and smiled. No blows were struck and the President demonstrated he could more than hold his own against the right-wing press’ most visible critic. Expect him to be seen (at selected times) on Fox News Channel to reinforce that impression.
Exactly where is this? – Truth be told, there was NOTHING “Texas” about anything presented on Sunday – televised or in the stadium. Say “Indianapolis” and you think of Peyton Manning; say Dallas and you conjure a different image. That was never reflected on FOX or even at the stadium. Shame on them for ignoring from whence they spoke.
Ritz Crackers’ guest chef made nothing with a Texas flavor, no one did a segment on the stadium itself (you’d think a billion dollars would get a tad more notice) and other than a misty-eyed hugfest with Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson, the Cowboys were an afterthought.
Hell, at least a Texas singer would have KNOWN the words to the national anthem and there’s enough rock, pop and country singers who would have trumped anything Christina Aguilera produced. In fact, even the pre-game parties lacked a Texas flair, with too many imports for this transplanted Texan’s taste.
The best thing about this entire episode is the coming of spring and that means BASEBALL!!!! Here in D-FW, we can transfer our sports emotions from the Cowboys to the Rangers, one soap opera to another (apparently). Spring training starts in a week or two and all will be right with the world…