Friday, December 25, 2015

Of Sad Snowglobes and Crestfallen Advent Calendars

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. (I've covered that silly tempest in a teapot many times before.)

Among the many commercials that have blasted us over the past month, two similar ad campaigns have been for cars I can't afford. One of them explains that there is a snow globe for every family, and we see a few examples of happy families or of children experiencing the joy of Christmas. Another shows tabs of an advent calendar being lifted, and similar happy holiday scenes on the other side.

Those scenes might not be as happy for some other people, though. People can feel sadness or disappointment at any time of the year, but Christmas somehow has this amplifier effect. When I see the snow globes, I'm picturing someone alone at her kitchen table on Christmas Eve, looking at pictures of her siblings and their families and children, and wondering if she'll ever get to experience that herself. Behind the tab on the advent calendar we find someone spending his first Christmas without the spouse who has just divorced him, or without a parent he's recently lost.

Have a season filled with cheer, but leave some place in your hearts for these people who aren't as fortunate. Or as jolly.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Judging Many for the Actions of a Few

When terrorists from ISIS killed 130 people in Paris last month, we were told -- rightfully -- that most of those who practice Islam are horrified by the killings, and that they should not be lumped in with the savages who committed the atrocity.
When two NYC police officers were assassinated last December amid several months of anti-police rhetoric, we were scolded not to lump all critics of police behavior in with the killer. That's fine.
So why is it, after a mentally disturbed individual shot multiple people near a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, that some of those same people seem perfectly content to associate all pro-life critics of Planned Parenthood with Robert Lewis Dear?
Apparently, when it comes to smearing entire groups based on the actions of a few, some people need to have their judgment recalibrated and made a little more consistent.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Yeah, We'll Manage, Hank. You're So Right, Camille.

How can you replace a man such as Stewart? I guess you just need to find someone with zero integrity, with the ability to hoodwink a couple million gullible twenty-somethings. Playing heavily edited clips of people you don't like, and stopping them abruptly before they say what they really mean, followed by pressing your palms down on the desk, staring incredulously into the camera, and pointing your magic marker backwards towards the inset are all plusses. An obsession for tilting at Fox News windmills and throwing in an F-bomb or sixty in lieu of actual substance should seal the deal for you.

Fans of The Daily Show aren't as big a group as they'd like to think, but they're not aware of that because of the hive mentality they're so fond of. Interestingly, they're so busy laughing at those they consider ideologically different from them (e.g. their parents, or FNC-watching, Republican-leaning farmers in Nebraska) that they fail to realize that their foils are laughing at them, too.

And it's because of headlines like this:

Can we go on without Jon Stewart? Of course we can. He’s shown us how.

The Washington Post's Hank Stuever is simply adorable here. One can imagine him emerging from the group hug to whimper, "Hey, guys...[sniff]'ll be okay! After all, there's a little bit of Jon in all of us now! We just have to remember to be smug, sarcastic, dismissive, and condescending to anyone we disagree with...we can do it...I mean...we have to try!"

Camille Paglia -- not exactly Ronald Reagan, I'll point out -- has a refreshingly different view:

My favorite excerpts:

"I think Stewart’s show demonstrated the decline and vacuity of contemporary comedy...He’s certainly a highly successful T.V. personality, but I think he has debased political discourse.  I find nothing incisive in his work.  As for his influence, if he helped produce the hackneyed polarization of moral liberals versus evil conservatives, then he’s partly at fault for the political stalemate in the United States."

"I don’t demonize Fox News. At what point will liberals wake up to realize the stranglehold that they had on the media for so long? They controlled the major newspapers and weekly newsmagazines and T.V. networks. It’s no coincidence that all of the great liberal forums have been slowly fading. They once had such incredible power.  Since the rise of the Web, the nightly network newscasts have become peripheral, and the New York Times and the Washington Post have been slowly fading and are struggling to survive."

"Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true!  Liberalism has sadly become a knee-jerk ideology, with people barricaded in their comfortable little cells. They think that their views are the only rational ones, and everyone else is not only evil but financed by the Koch brothers.  It’s so simplistic!"

But read the whole thing!


Sunday, March 22, 2015

BeneGram's 2015 Final Fourcasts

...already shot, but here they were:

Women: Connecticut, Tennessee, Baylor, South Carolina. Connecticut over South Carolina in the final.
Men: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Villanova, Gonzaga. Villanova over Kentucky in the final. So much for that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

HBO Jumps the Neck-Biting Shark

We all know that Home Box Office hasn't been conservative, family-friendly territory for a while now, since its most popular series have been about mob relations, sordid taxicab confessions, women in their thirties looking for sexual conquests, women in their twenties looking for sexual conquests, or Bill Maher.

There comes a time, however, when pure desperation takes over, and the mask completely falls off. When the hard-core (take that word to mean whatever you wish it to) creators of True Blood see the writing on the wall, that Republicans are primed to expand on their lead in the U.S. House of Representatives and (the likelihood grows stronger each day) take over the U.S. Senate, more serious measures are needed. What other explanation can there be for Sunday night's controversial episode, in which its vampire protagonists infiltrate a Ted Cruz fundraiser at the George W. Bush Presidential Library, and end up -- spoiler alert -- acutally, IDGAF -- causing the death many of the Republican benefactors there?

Sen. Cruz has responded with appropriate wit to the show, actually showing more creativity than True Blood's writers did.

Nonetheless, you can get f---ed, HBO. It's the only thing you're good at, really.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

John Pinette, 1964 - 2014

I'm devastated by this news. One of my favorite comedians, and, according to those who met him, a very nice, genuinely decent human being. First Mitch Hedberg, now John Pinette. I need to stop liking people.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bloggers Distort James Taranto's Column

This week, James Taranto took a look at consent laws:

Here's a key excerpt:

As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes, at some campuses the accuser's having had one drink is sufficient to establish the defendant's guilt:

Stanford's definition of consent to sex imposes a concept that is foreign to most people's idea of adult consent and inconsistent with California state law. Stanford policy states that sexual assault occurs "when a person is incapable of giving consent. A person is legally incapable of giving consent . . . if intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol." In other words, any sexual activity while intoxicated to any degree constitutes sexual assault. This is true even if the activity was explicitly agreed to by a person capable of making rational, reasoned decisions, and even if the partners are in an ongoing relationship or marriage.

In theory that means, as FIRE notes, that "if both parties are intoxicated during sex, they are both technically guilty of sexually assaulting each other." In practice it means that women, but not men, are absolved of responsibility by virtue of having consumed alcohol.

This has, unfortunately, led to a chorus of Internet critics, perhaps half of them lacking in comprehension skills and the other half simply intellectually dishonest, referring to Taranto as a "rape apologist" or similar slur to that.

I'm amazed that so many people can read Mr. Taranto's column and completely misconstrue (or willfully distort) what he is saying.

Mr. Taranto is NOT talking about a drunk man forcing himself onto a drunk woman who's either saying no or is passed out (which would be rape, whether it's a man doing it to a woman or a woman doing it to a man).

He IS talking about two drunk people consenting to sex -- and then later someone decides that a woman cannot consent to sex when she's drunk -- except that HE is drunk too and that technically HE cannot consent to sex, either. So, technically, they have committed rape or sexual assault against each other. That was obvious to me the first time I read it. How could so many others not get it?

Monday, February 10, 2014

...And, Other Times, Guns Can Bring an Early Gun to Crimes

Letter I had published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on February 9. Below the link is my original draft.

Enough of the exploitation of tragedy to malign the NRA (Wilkinson, Jan. 28). I'm neither an NRA member nor a gun owner, but I am certain that those who do belong in those categories are just as horrified by the deaths of innocent people as anyone else.

The Columbia Mall in Maryland, like so many sites of similar tragedies, was an official "gun-free zone." This did not deter a disturbed person from arming himself and committing murder. In fact, a similar situation in the Clackamas Mall (Portland, Ore., December 2012) came to a premature end when the gunman was confronted by a law-abiding citizen who happened to be armed (including a concealed carry permit).

This doesn't suggest that arming everyone is the answer, any more than stricter gun-control measures are. There are no easy answers, as much as we wish there to be.

Monday, March 25, 2013

BeneGram's 2013 Final Fourcasts

"Four" what it's worth, anyway...

WOMEN: Stanford, Connecticut, Baylor, Texas A&M. Baylor over UConn in the final.
MEN: Louisville, Georgetown, Indiana, Gonzaga. Indiana over Louisville in the final.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Biden Still...Still...STILL Not Telling the Whole Story on Domestic Abuse

I have again written to the Office of the Vice President of the United States to ask Vice President Biden to begin acknowledging facts on the issue of domestic abuse, and to stop pretending that this is solely a problem of men abusing women.

Indeed, more than 250 studies, reviews, and analyses indicate that women initiate (i.e. not acting in self-defense) domestic violence against men approximately as often as the reverse occurs: Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control issued a study in 2007 and found that, within heterosexual relationships in which there was non-reciprocal violence (i.e. only one partner was becoming violent), the woman was the violent party in slightly more than 70% of the cases:

The misinformation on domestic violence needs be cease, so that we can begin to help ALL victims of domestic abuse, big and small, male or female.

Stop Abuse for EVERYONE (

The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women (