Pants On Fire

17 08 2016

When you’re a liar, a person of low moral fortitude, really any explanation you need to be true can be true. Especially if you’re smart enough. You can figure out a way to justify anything.” ~ Samuel Witwer

Former NY mayor Rudy Giuliani spouted this doozie yesterday at a Trump rally in Youngstown, OH… “Under those eight years, before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States. They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office.”

Wow… wait a minute… damn. But no one paused, and the crowd went wild.

So I said to myself, “Self… this MUST be sarcasm, because he seems to forget the main event that gives people a reason to know his name.”

This blog post began as an attack on the GOP, highlighting another stunning example of the ineptitude of Donald Trump and his team. My question was going to be, “Has Donald Trump’s propensities to lie and pander to his audience become an airborne virus, affecting the entire team?”

But as my ideas started to coalesce, I began thinking about the larger issue – everyone’s propensity to lie, and accept the lies presented to us. I’ve touch upon this in a previous post, but I’ll try to expand here.

When I was a young man, one of the worst things you could call a person was a LIAR. It was an insult that cut directly to the core, and usually ended up with someone receiving a punch or two. Over the years it became less derisive, bandied about with equivalent terms like “cheater” or “bull shitter”.

You’re a liar. Uttered so matter-of-fact… with so little emotion.

One of the frequent statements I hear and see on social media is, “All of the politicians lie.” This is definitely true. The existence of websites like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com support that argument, or why would we need them?

liar-liar-pants-on-fire-your-pants-are-actually-on-fire-400x303It became bothersome to me in the primaries, when both Republican and Democratic candidates were wielding the word like a sword. But when the accusation was offered, no proof was required. That’s a lie. All of these wannabe leaders have embraced this willingness for lying by degrees – fibbing, or trying to be honest, or their brilliance of using the lie to make a point. Okay, he’s not the “founder” of ISIS, but you know what I’m saying… wink-wink…”

Seriously?

The statement by Giuliani is just a microcosm of American politics. The Republican side will say that this is a just a sound bite, part of a larger speech where he talked numerous times about 9/11. Or maybe it is a mistake… an error in the math. I’m predicting numerous excuses, and attacks on the media for highlighting this blunder and not focusing on the real problems in the United States.

I’m guilty of this as well. As an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, I have frequently referred to his PolitiFact Scorecard, that currently has a range of 4% “Truth” to 19% “Pants On Fire” (there are four more levels in between, which is hilarious). I’ve touted Hillary Clinton’s scores in comparison (22%, 2% respectively). They are better… but why should any of us settle for anything less than 100% truth? I know some of the subjects are complex, but anything they say is really just true or false, right?

Nope. Clearly, I’m wrong. And it’s not because candidate statements require room for latitude. It’s because we allow it as an electorate. We demand the truth, but along party lines. Red demands the truth from Blue, and vice versa.

In a perfect world, it’s either a lie or it’s the truth. Why do we accept this huge middle ground, instead of giving it a huge middle finger? What if we demanded the truth from both sides, would we get it?

And what if we demanded it from each other? Now I’m wondering about John Langan’s PolitiFact Scorecard…

Damn… That’s too many questions. I’ll shut up now.





Philly Rocks

1 08 2016

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“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” ~ William Penn (Founder of Philadelphia)

balloonsI saw a great story on the local news. The piece was about the beginning of the massive cleanup following the Democratic convention, held here in Philadelphia last week. An aside in the story was this unnamed worker popping thousands of balloons that had dropped from the ceiling of the Wells Fargo Center just hours before. It was funny, but brought to mind the huge multitude of things that had to be done right to make this event a success in my city.

I remember last year when Pope Francis was climbing the steps of his plane, getting ready to leave after his short visit here. He turned and waved at the top of the steps, then entered the plane. When the door closed I had a good feeling about his time in my city. I also felt a palpable sense of relief… that everyone was safe and that my city represented itself very positively.

Philadelphia has a somewhat not-so-glorious reputation… mostly due to passion for our local sports teams based on decades old stories highlighting the actions of a few assholes. That same percentage of ass-holiness exists in other cities, but the stories seem to linger in the perception of our city. Seriously, if another SportsCenter anchorperson talks about us throwing snowballs as Santa, I may throw a lamp at my TV. (Inner monologue is noting the irony, “Your not making your case, John…”)

LOVEBut Philadelphia was named, founded and designed by William Penn. The name he gave his city combined the Greek words for love (phileo) and brother (adelphos), and gave us this enduring nickname: the City of Brotherly Love. And honestly… I have felt that here my entire life. Yes… we have had our issues: race riots and the MOVE fires, organized crime, etc… but no more than anywhere else in the world.

Last week the media was highlighting more negatives than positives, but that drives their ratings. They also grabbed the cliche stories… Rocky, pretzels and cheesesteaks, or Bill Cosby were shown ad nauseum! Credit was repeatedly given to the convention organizers, the current and former mayor and staffs, and other muckety-mucks. But I took pride in my fellow citizens who welcomed visitors, our shops and fantastic restaurants that served them, and our awesome police force that protected everyone. Just like the Papal visit, I had an overwhelming sense of relief when the DNC ended. I have many friends who are police officers and I was so grateful that they all came home safe, and represented us so well. Even if we don’t agree with the positions of a party, the reasons for a protest, or inflammatory rhetoric… the Philly people who serve will defend those rights and positions, and dedicate themselves to their safety.

All the best of the best… even the balloon buster. It’s in our DNA… the people of Philadelphia embrace the thoughts of brotherly love, liberty and freedom more than any other city.

Because it all started here, bitches! DROPS MIC!

“And I may leave this place tomorrow, but my soul is here to stay. In the town that rocked the nation, Philadelphia, PA!” ~ Beat-up Guitar by The Hooters (Philly’s Own)





Hanging It Up

12 06 2016


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““No soccer coach ever stops learning. That’s what makes the great coaches great. They strive to learn more every day and they never stop asking questions.” ~ Jürgen Klopp

Image[8]I’m a little sad today, and I hope you will forgive a post that will sometimes seem self-serving. (But please don’t ever forgive that alliteration!)

I coached my last game of youth soccer this morning. I wrestled with this for months, and made the decision to step down a few weeks ago. It was ultimately an easy one as it’s time for me to concentrate on some other things in my life.

A little bit of history and a bunch of appreciation…

With no knowledge of soccer, I was drafted into helping coach my son’s team about twenty years ago. I have been learning and loving this beautiful game ever since, and I am sure that will never cease. Besides my family and friends, there are few things that give me as much joy and I’m so grateful for the opportunities and connections I’ve made because of this great sport.

It’s been my privilege to be part of two fantastic youth sports organizations in Northeast Philadelphia – Academy Sabres and Danubia Soccer Club. I was also honored to coach at the Pennsylvania Keystone Games. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed placing teams to compete in the Philadelphia Dept of Rec, Philadelphia Area Girls, United Junior and Inter-County soccer leagues.

Danubia U-19

I’ve met and worked with some very special people, and I’d like to thank just a few of them here:

  • At Academy Sabres… Bill Rooney drafted me, Steve Gallagher gave me more responsibility, and Ed Magee and Jenn Dreibelbis dragged me back after a few years away.
  • It was my extreme pleasure to be a small part in the resurgence at Danubia Soccer Club, where my boys had such big success. We did well, but most importantly my players were seen by lots of college coaches – the Danubia name had a lot to do with that. All credit goes to Nick Kramer who led that club back to prominence. Thanks, Nick!
  • And special thanks to my good friend, Sal Calio… who taught me more about the guts of the game than anyone else. I still laugh at how our skill sets and overall philosophy synced… we sometimes finished each others sentences!

Many thanks to all the coaches, administrators and league officials I’ve worked with over the years… and to most of the parents and some of the refs! Just kidding… much respect to all!

I’ve been so lucky to work with great kids… every last one of my players were fantastic. I now feel such happiness connecting with them in person and on social media. I have been extremely proud to see their successes… in school, in business, and serving our country. And some of these young men are getting married and starting families of their own. I hope some of these former players become coaches, and feel that same pride that I enjoy so much.

JL_Soccer_01bLast but certainly not least, I thank my son, John… my all-time favorite player. My love for the game of soccer is because of the talent, desire, and joy that he exuded while playing and practicing. As many know, it can tough on a player when his parent is the coach. I realized that after a few years, and when he entered high school I stopped coaching him… a good move because he excelled and I got to watch. I’m sure he learned a lot from his successes and failures on the field, and I did too. And for the rest of my days, I will continue to let him think he knows more about soccer than I do!

I’ve written my thoughts on coaching in a previous post, and although my philosophy has evolved it has always been simple. The primary job of a coach is to instill two things in the hearts and minds of players… joy and respect for the game and your teammates. That principle alone will help them succeed in sports and, more importantly, in life.

FullSizeRender (12)At the end of the day, and the decades… we won some, and we lost some. There were some great days, and we celebrated. There were some not so great days, and we learned. We learned from each other as well, and we had a lot of fun. I will always be thankful for all the ups and downs!

Cheers to you all!

My Academy Sabres team was good enough to sign my hat after the game this morning… it will have a very prominent spot on my shelf of memories.





Embracing My Inner Nitwit

16 05 2016

twits02

“Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!” ~ Albus Dumbledore

Recently, a friend re-introduced the word “nitwit” to me. Besides cracking up every time she said it, I was completely charmed by the word… but it wasn’t obvious why right away.

Over the course of a very short conversation she used the word about five times. She was clearly on a roll that day… Interestingly, she was applying the term to a few different people, not just one nitwit.  The fact that she has surrounded herself with nitwits is her issue, and the smart move for me is to not nitpick about that in this post. That would be stupid, not nitwitty. Yeah… I know that’s not a word, but dammit it should be!

Based on the conversation and the people involved, I simply enjoyed to both the complete accuracy and silliness that the word conveyed. But allow me to get to some nitwit nitty gritty…

The best etymology I could scrape together was this: nit (a minor shortcoming), and wit (clever or apt humor). This combination doesn’t seem to get to the real heart of the word, especially given details of my friend’s nitwit backstories.  Merriam-Webster’s definition is “a scatterbrained or stupid person”, and that description seemed right on the money.

When I looked at the synonyms, a silliness factor became quite clear: “cuckoo”, “dingbat”, “nutcase”, etc. Those words pretty much described every Monty Python Flying Circus episode, and that certainly appealed to me.

BJ_Nitwit_FINALPlease know that my investigation was thorough… I did find evidence of Nitwit Beer and a lice removal treatment. Even I can’t make a connection there…

So after my exhaustive research was complete, the conclusion for my nitwit enthusiasm was very clear… it was the simplicity of the silliness. Meaning… why make anything – even judgments we sometimes make – more complicated than they need to be?

What I really found interesting about my friend and the nitwits she cited was her willingness to embrace that small amount of silliness, versus denigration. Simply put, she was making a conscious decision to let some possibly annoying people off the hook, and not think less of them.

We are exposed to these types of shortcomings in people all the time – from some who don’t have the intelligence to some others who don’t have the drive. And we all expose our shortcomings as well. (Go ahead… insert whatever joke you please.)

Sometimes I am dumb as hell. I try not to be, but it happens. I have a firm grasp of my imperfections, so I know those instances will happen again and again despite my best efforts. And I can live with that.

But sometimes I’m a nitwit, and I can live with that as well. I will try to embrace that silliness, and hope that all of my friends will embrace it in me.

Thanks always to all of my nitwit friends. You know who you are… or maybe you don’t! Special thanks to SG for embracing the silliness and giving me some inspiration. Yay! You’re a nitwit!!





Never Trump – My Reasons

22 04 2016

TrumpCrowd

“Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money.” —Donald Trump on Donald Trump

I have spent a good amount of time recently criticizing Donald Trump in writing, in conversations and on social media. I have been exhorting my fellow Pennsylvanians to vote for anyone else in the upcoming primary, because I love my state and don’t want to see it embarrassed by supporting such a candidate. But the more important long game is denying Trump the Republican nomination… because so much damage will be done if he is still a candidate after the convention.

I’ve been asked many times why I have taken this “Never Trump” position. I’ve also found it very interesting that when I post something anti-Trump, the only responses I get are negative towards his competition… never citing reasons to vote for him other than he’s different.

My reasoning is simple: he is not qualified and his mere presence on a ballot is an embarrassment to our country. But to be fair, I will expand my thoughts on this very sad subject.

Donald Trump is a manipulator, and his enthusiastic supporters are the “manipulatees”. He is an outstanding marketer, and has hit a nerve with a base that was desperate for this kind of dialogue. While it would be easy to take cheap shots at a small portion of them for their racism and bigotry, that would not be fair. The majority of Trump supporters have had a difficult time for many years, and their candidate has marketed himself to be the answer to their prayers. Trump has recognized a base that has lost traction because of the domestic economy, foreign competition and – by their logical extension – immigrants. Legal or illegal, it doesn’t matter. Mexican or Muslim, that doesn’t matter either.

But as legitimate victims of corporate greed or government policies, they absolutely must have their problems addressed because they are citizens of our country. That failure is a completely different debate. These people deserve better… better than Donald Trump. Because after the rallies are over and the Trump circus heads out of town, his supporters are left with promises for change and no real solutions to achieve it.

Trump has opinions on what is wrong with our current foreign policy and the state of our economy… all gloom and doom. But he offers no real solutions, not a one. When asked for specifics he dodges the questions, only saying that he will have the best people and he will solve all of the problems.

Go to his campaign website and read his “positions”. You will find his policies to be vague and lacking detail. But they have been composed by professional writers on his staff… clearly more professional than the candidate. And Trump continues to confuse and confound everyone by straying from this published platform during speeches and interviews.

I know, I know… all of the other candidates’ plans have come into question. That is part of the political process. But at least they are consistent, and I suggest you read those positions as well. Whether you agree or disagree, you will certainly find Trump’s opponents have put more organization and thought into their plans… and have been consistent in their presentations.

Personally, I disagree with his opinions on energy and climate change, foreign policy, the economy, immigration, guns, etc. But I do agree with his opinions on some things. Maybe…

  • I can agree with his abortion stance, as I am Pro-Life. But I don’t think he is telling the truth about that because he wants to court evangelical voters.
  • I agree that our commitment to NATO is out of balance with other member countries, but I don’t think we should remove ourselves.
  • I’ll also agree with Trump that our system of electing a President is completely flawed – on both sides. But he wouldn’t care if it was working to his advantage.

Above anything else, Trump’s attitude is the main reason I would like him to disappear from the playing field. He respects no one, and changes his position on issues frequently – sometimes several times in the same day. And his quickness to call an opponent a liar flies in the face of the fact that he doesn’t tell the truth.

His hate is unprecedented in an election – at least in this country. That fact alone should stop his campaign in its tracks. Because America has always been – and should always strive to be – better than this.

He is a misogynist. I am constantly amazed at the sheer amount of dismissive and derogatory statements he makes about women. And I seriously question any woman who could possibly consider voting for him.

I’ve said in previous posts that when Trump announced his candidacy, he probably didn’t think he would win. I don’t think he ever wanted to be President, instead to be the trouble-making pundit on the fringes, getting financially rewarding speaking engagements and book deals. But now he’s clearly in over his head, and the American people are bearing the weight.

I don’t think it is possible for voters to agree with everything a candidate puts forth. There are way too many things that matter, so many details. While it’s very easy to blame a President for the economy and other problems, most of the big issues we face are shared by the Senate and House as well.

At the end of the day, I want my President to represent our country positively and professionally, and be committed to keeping my family safe. That is why a President Trump scares me to death. That is why I insist, “Never Trump.”

He may be rich, successful and a fantastic real estate entrepreneur, but Donald Trump is not qualified to be President of the United States. His attitudes and core beliefs will consistently make enemies around the world, and the indifference or loss of our allies. His hatred and policies will bring war to our country, and to our shores. And they will be fought by our children and grandchildren.

We can never let that happen.

Never.

No pics in this post other than the banner as I wanted my opinion to be the focus. As of today, I am still undecided who gets my vote, but I continue to shudder as some candidates stoop to Trump’s level. I will probably wait until there are only two left to make my choice. Hopefully, it won’t be the lesser of two evils…





B-Musings – Pants On Fire Edition

18 04 2016

“B-Musings”… sharing random blurbiage and ping-pong balls rattling around my dome.  Haven’t done this in over a year, but it doesn’t mean my brain is resting peacefully.

liar_liar_pants_on_fireLiars – Not so long ago, calling someone a “liar” was one of the worst insults you could say. In this supercharged political season of today, it’s commonplace. Every presidential candidate has said  the “L” word frequently, certainly exacerbating a campaign that has been definitely not “presidential”.

It’s not just in politics, I’ve seen it occur in the workplace as well. I’m not sure what’s worse… the ease at which people wield this knife, or that the increased frequency of the sin that makes the accusation so normal. It’s just another subtle decline of our values, part of a larger landslide.

Beautifully Played – If you have read my blogs before or know anything about me personally, you are aware of my love for soccer. I watch, coach, live and love the beautiful game. I’m not writing this to expand my thoughts further on these feelings, but today I was reminded what the game is about for me.

the-beautiful-game-shirt-alt_grandeAs I said, I am a coach. For most of the last twenty years or so I have been involved in youth soccer. I’ve held several official and administrator roles at various times, but I’ve always been a coach. Sometimes I’ve been a good one, sometimes not so much. But I’ve always tried to teach my players to respect the game and their opponents. We don’t always win, but we try to play with integrity.

I knew going into my U-13 match this weekend that I would have some trouble fielding a team. Some players were sick, some had some family conflicts, etc. But we had the full eleven side and started the match. At halftime, one of my defenders had to leave to attend his lacrosse game. The opposing coach saw him leave and immediately took one of his players off the field.

I’ve been in this situation before… on both sides of the ball. What to do depends on many factors, and a somewhat meaningless spring soccer game made it easier to make the sides even. And he did that.

Sometimes in youth sports you see examples of adults behave badly because of a skewed sense of proprieties… not that day. It really doesn’t matter who won the match, and these kids all played beautifully. Clearly, I love this word…

It was a beautiful thing, on a beautiful day, and it’s all part of the beautiful game.

GeorgeClinton1Funkified – I’ve been feeling funky lately. No… not George Clinton Parliament Funkedelic funky, but I’m not above posting a picture of him to add some color to all your lives… you’re welcome!!

I’ve just been in a rut. I’ve been busy at work, travelling, more work, etc. I’ve also been distracted by many things, like politics and the unbelievable rise of Leicester City Football Club (that could be an entire blog post). So I haven’t been reading and writing much in the last couple of months.

Reading a book usually gets me out of these funks, and that simple act rescued me again over seven flights in the past two weeks. This time it really made me think, as I am reading the autobiography of my favorite artist – Elvis Costello.

To be honest… this is a good book, not a great one. If you are familiar with Costello’s career you know that he’s pretty much done whatever he wanted, sometimes risking success and certainly record sales. In this book he tells his story… the one he wants to tell. It is sometimes boring and sometimes exhilarating. The chapter stories are told randomly, without regard to his chronology.

I own every second of Elvis Costello’s published music, plus hours of concert stuff and radio shows. I’m guessing I’ve seen him live close to thirty times. He’s recorded about a thousands songs… I love some, I like some, and a few I don’t like at all.  But I always respected his commitment to be his own artist, and he always inspires me.

You are reading this now because this week, he inspired me to read and write… and get funky.

Turn the sound up and enjoy my favorite Elvis Costello song… and maybe ask that same question. Enjoy your day!





On Politics, People and Gray Areas

22 02 2016

“He’s a gray area in a world that doesn’t like gray areas. But the gray areas are where you find the complexity, it’s where you find the humanity and it’s where you find the truth.” —Jon Ronson at TED2012

GrayArea

I’d love to say that the above quote was about me, but the author is describing what he terms to be “a semi-psychopath”. I can live with that, because I’ve been confused lately… struggling with gray areas. And not just the ever-increasing acreage on top of my head!

Areas of gray… I just don’t know. It’s been bothering me for weeks now. There have been questions in my head that I can neither qualify nor quantify. Looking at a thesaurus… “ambiguity”, “open to question”. I’m getting close. “Debatable”… that could be it. Although, the word “debate” has been terribly overused these days.

Two months ago I wrote a blog post about Donald Trump, and I was tough on him – there was pretty much nothing gray about paralleling him to Adolf Hitler! I haven’t softened my stance… if anything Mr. Trump continues to provide more examples confirming my assertions.

But I really should take this opportunity to thank the Donald for igniting in me a new awareness of politics. I have never been this interested in a presidential election so early in the process. Trump has done this service to the country in two ways, with supporters delighting in his views and people like me looking forward to the next crazy ass blurb to leap from his mouth. But in spite of this, he is the front-runner for the GOP nomination… a clear dose of reality for me and my silly little blog!

There is not one iota of gray in Donald Trump – his beliefs and policies are dead right, and if you disagree you are dead wrong. And that makes you a loser, or a liar. No gray areas there, thank you very much… and most of the other candidates aren’t much better!

But let’s get back to my boggle. I’ve realized my failure to accept the existence of ONLY two options – the perceived right and the perceived wrong – is the issue I’m wrestling. I’m hard pressed to identify any friends, relatives or candidates that I agree with completely, on every level. The consideration for some people of only an A or B solution eliminates gray areas, rendering compromise impossible.

Look at some of the buzzword battles we concern ourselves with today: Rich vs Poor, Pro-Choice vs Pro-Life, Gun Control vs Second Amendment, Apple vs FBI… just to name a few in the news. All can inspire passion depending on what side of the street you reside. The worst battle is Democrat Blue vs Republican Red, where the possibility of compromise and achieving a positive result is growing more and more elusive. And few conflicts in my lifetime require more time and scrutiny than Black Lives Matter vs Blue Lives Matter, the poster children for two sides not interested in conversation and solutions. With many “colors” speaking so loudly, that poor gray area has no voice and – ironically – is getting killed.

gray-areaThe amount of people who now only consider one of two choices is continuing to grow. I’ve had several conversations with friends – in person and via social media – that have basically ended like this: “If you don’t agree with me about (insert issue) then we can no longer be friends.” Sound familiar?

I completely disagree with several friends regarding the Second Amendment and Gun Laws. I consider some of them to be smart people, and I respect their opinions. So I listen and discuss, and/or read what they have to say. Solutions are in the gray areas.

I readily agree that I can be opinionated, but no more than most people. I also try to admit when I’m wrong. I may disagree with people on some issues, but I am not ready to terminate relationships because of it. If we are friends or family or whatever, I’m trying to respect your opinion out of the gate.

Listening to the politicians frame the dangers of our world – terrorism, death, illegal immigration, too much government, etc. All of that is nothing compared to ignoring the gray areas of opinion, and the cost is the end of opportunities to learn.

That’s too large a price to pay.