Hair of the dog

cvs-storeYou probably heard that CVS, one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains, made news by announcing it will no longer sell cigarettes.

While a majority of pundits and health advocates were quick to heap praise upon the retail giant for its “bold and principled” move, some lingering questions remain about the decision and its fallout.

Depending on your perspective, one of the following things precipitated Wednesday’s announcement:

A: the CVS board of directors decided that their good conscience should prevail: selling tobacco products is in direct conflict with their company’s core value of promoting healthy lifestyles, and they made a “principled” decision; or

B: the CVS board of directors violated several regulations of the Securities Exchange Commission by willingly turning away an estimated $2 billion in annual revenue generated from the sale of cigarettes at its stores, and was thereby willing to accept a loss in profits for its shareholders because of principles; or

C: the CVS board of directors knew exactly what they were doing, and this was little more than a calculated and strategic move that would 1.) attract new customers; 2.) provide a significant public relations and marketing boost to a company that is constantly battling with fierce competitors; and 3.) most importantly, open up new sources of revenue and cost discounts with the chain’s affiliated vendors and health partners, including health insurance companies.

Which of those scenarios do you think is most plausible?

If you chose A, you are what people in my profession call completely gullible. If you chose B, you should probably get back to promoting your own grassy-knoll theory.

The right answer, of course, is C.

Allow me to explain. There is no defense for smoking cigarettes. It’s a terrible and nasty habit. But CVS is relying upon a questionable talking point here, especially when considering all the other products that are stocked on its shelves.

The last I heard, the United States is dealing with an obesity epidemic that is costing taxpayers and insurance ratepayers billions and billions of dollars each year. Yet, CVS, the self-proclaimed bastion of good health and righteous moral principles, has yet to announce that it will no longer sell soda, potato chips or candy at any of its stores. Why?

Every once in a while, I enjoy a cold beer, a nice glass of wine or a soothing shot of bourbon. Alcohol, however, is a known toxic. Many people are unable to consume alcohol responsibly. Alcohol related deaths are skyrocketing. Alcohol abuse can be found at the root of many social problems, including crimes that range from inxtoxicated driving and domestic violence to robberies and assault. Loss in workplace productivity related to alcohol consumption is staggering. The impacts of alcohol on our nation’s health care system is extraordinary.

smokingWill CVS sell wine or beer at any of its stores?

I am a free-market capitalist. I am tickled pink that CVS made its own decision. The government did not pressure the company. The market did. That’s the way it should work.

But for CVS to single out just one of several products its sells for profit earns them my Hypocrite of the Year Award.

And for health advocates to call this a “move of principle” is a joke because they conveniently (for now) ignore some much larger issues.

Today, it’s the smokers. And eventually, smoking will be eliminated. But then what?

Do you really think it will stop there? Do you really think that they won’t come after your food, your beverages, or any of your choices?

Attempting to create a physically fit, morally upright citizenry has been attempted before. Maybe some day, we will get it right.

Welcome to the Jungle, Part II

11-15-black-friday_full_600I actually hesitated before posting that status on Facebook.


Although it’s become so politically correct (and actually quite fashionable) to bash Wal-Mart, other large retailers like Kohl’s, Macy’s and K-Mart generally get a pass.

The especially self-righteous among us also bemoan the concept of “Black Friday,” that magical day, which has become a leading economic indicator of the retail sector. The day when retailers’ balance sheets will get out of the red and hit the black.

Still others whine and moan about the secular nature of a consumer-driven society that has manipulated religious holidays into a frenzied sense of consumerism, which exploits people and wage-earners at the wrong-end of the economic scale.

I am a card-carrying member of all three of those groups.

That’s why I hesitated to announce my presence at Wal-Mart only a few hours after celebrating my gratitude of all my blessings.

Like a lemming, I weaved with the rest of the herd through the maze of yellow-tape that had been strung along the giant parking lot, numb to the obvious and attracted to the glow of fluorescent lights like a moth toward a propane lantern.

But I was certainly not alone . . . not by a long stretch.

Fire and rain

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich

A few days ago, Robert Reich, former labor secretary during the Clinton Administration, urged his thousands and thousands of Facebook fans to boycott Wal-Mart.

I have a message for him: F-You, Mr. Reich! F-You and your smug, self-righteous hypocrisy!

What Mr. Reich doesn’t seem to understand is that Wal-Mart, one of the world’s largest and most profitable corporations, is actually the great equalizer.

Mr. Reich points out that many Wal-Mart workers qualify for public assistance programs. Guess what? So do some employees who work for the state of Maine. It would be lovely if all the state taxpayers out there who moan about Wal-Mart’s wages would open their checkbooks and give a holiday bonus to those state workers.

Mr. Reich, how much do you “earn” for a two-hours speaking engagement? What is your billable rate? Does it include expenses, including accommodations? Do you sleep at La Quinta or at the Hilton when you are traveling? What is your net worth? What percentage of your income do you donate to charity?

I went to Wal-Mart last night. It was not my first foray into that world of consumerism on steroids. Later in the morning, Laura and I also visited some other retailers, including Target and Kohl’s. Based on the crowds at each location, it seemed like we were climbing an incremental, socio-economic ladder.

At Wal-Mart, we were surrounded mostly by people who likely do not own a home or have an investment portfolio. I know this is a gross generalization, but the truth cannot be denied. Far more of the people “shopping” at Wal-Mart were those on the bottom end of the economic ladder: people with EBT cards in their pockets, people with past-due bills, hard-working, decent people with blue-collar jobs, crappy cars and a mountain of debt.

They want a flat-screen television, just like yours, Mr. Reich. I know, they should wait and save their money. They should be redirecting their hard-earned dollars to the local economy by waiting at least 24 hours for Small Business Saturday before buying a television they cannot afford.

I saw the same televisions at Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl’s. These were the same foreign-made products that were manufactured in sweat shops all over the globe, and they ranged vastly in price . . . depending on the point of purchase.

By the time we got to Kohl’s, the crowd seemed much different. They were generally dressed more nicely. More of them had gold cards, not EBT cards. More of them likely own their own homes and do not qualify for public assistance. I think a lot of the Wal-Mart shoppers would have felt a bit out of place at Kohl’s.

Where are you going?

So, Mr. Reich: where will you be celebrating the holidays? How many of your “friends” or family members live in a trailer-park or on the third-floor of some shit-hole apartment? Will you put a dollar or two in that Salvation Army kettle and pat yourself on the back for your good deed?

You won’t find those Salvation Army kettles in front of Kohl’s. But you will, ironically, find them at the entrance of your local Wal-Mart. You see, the Salvation Army is not politically correct. But you already knew that, right?

Will you visit with your former boss during this festive time of the year? Will you drink some eggnog with Hillary? Do you lecture her about her tenure on Wal-Mart’s board of directors? Did the Clintons financially benefit from Wal-Mart’s growth into a mega corporation?

Relax, Mr. Reich. We’re not quite as dumb or naïve as you think. Sure, you earn more in a month than many people earn in a year, but most of us are not stupid enough to fall for your self-righteous, morally superior bullshit.

Down here, Mr. Reich, we work hard. Some of us have made poor choices. Some of us do not have the benefit of an Ivy League education. If only Harvard, Yale or (where did you go? Oh yeah, ) Dartmouth, would let us attend classes on a sliding scale, maybe more of us could have also earned a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford like you did.

Some of us made really stupid choices. Some of us are not claiming to be victims of corporate bullying. We just want a flat-screen television and still have enough money to pay the rent or day-care.  Really, is that so bad?

Sure, maybe you are morally superior to those of us who had the temerity to shop at Wal-Mart, but you are also financially superior to most of us.

So, please, save your hypocrisy for that holiday party in Little Rock or for your next speaking engagement where you will talk about “taking on bullies.”

Smoking in the boys’ room


Portland, Maine

I have a friend — let’s call him Todd — who thinks that the city of Portland, Maine is so hip, so cool and oh so wonderful.

Todd fled the pace and grind of Boston in order to raise his family in place that is consistently ranked as one of the country’s most “livable” cities, whatever that means. Today, Todd has become one of Portland’s biggest fans.

I like Todd. He is a smart guy. He has a law degree.  Generally speaking, Todd arrives at his conclusions following a painstaking and multi-layered process of analytical and critical thinking. Todd has jumped into Portland with both feet. He recently bought a home in North Deering. He is a civic volunteer. He is an under-40 professional with a beautiful wife, two small children and a promising life ahead of him.

I admire Todd, but I want to vomit every time he feels compelled to tell me how great it is to live, work and play in Portland.

I know what you’re thinking: Dude, you live in Biddeford. You ought to shut to eff up and call U-Haul before you start dissing Maine’s largest city.

Go ahead and laugh. I can handle it. It’s not exactly an original thought.

Before we proceed any further, let me assure you that I know a thing or two about the city of Portland. I have some street cred when it comes to discussing the city I call pretentious-ville, a city that so transparently and desperately wants to be a mini-Boston.

I’ve lived in brownstone, I’ve lived in a ghetto

I lived in Portland before it was considered hip; before you thought it was actually possible to bump into Jack Kerouac’s ghost.

I worked in the kitchen at 39 Exchange Street, a restaurant that has since been replaced by a much-needed boutique store in the Old Port. I worked as a janitor at the McDonald’s that was located on the corner of Oak and Congress streets. I made pizzas at The Bag on Free Street. I also had a corner office across the street from Brian Boru.

I lived on “The Hill” (Vesper Street) and the West End (well, sort of the edge . .Walker Street) I lived on the fourth floor of the Trewlawny building and survived on Italian sandwiches from Joe’s Smoke Shop. I remember the State Theater when it showed pornos. Christ, I saw mainstream movies at the Fine Arts Cinema before it decided to give the State a run for its money with John Holmes flicks. I was thrown out of Horsefeathers.

I remember when Dewey’s was located on Fore Street; when DiMillo’s was just a hole in the wall on the other side of Commercial Street. I rented a room on Sherman Street. We used to call that neighborhood “the student slums.” Today, we call it “Parkside.”  I lost my virginity on Alba Street in Deering Center. I got picked up by the police on Canco Road, and I was there when the cranes arrived at the Golden Triangle to begin construction of One City Center.

I ate mushrooms in the basement of a friend’s house on Spring Street and then swore I could see telephone poles melting on Winter Street. I worked third shift at the 7-11 on Congress Street; and passed out in the median of the Franklin Arterial. I shared an apartment with a gay roommate on Park Street. I lived on Peaks Island when the Portland ferry terminal was little more than a dilapidated building. I sold pipe, valves and fittings at W.L. Blake, an industrial supply wholesale distributor that is today the Old Port Sea Grill and up-scale office spaces.

 I was evicted from an apartment on Preble Street; and fell madly in love with a girl who attended the Portland School of Art (today: Maine College of Art). I rode the escalators at Porteous, Mitchell and Braun. I ate scrambled eggs while hungover at Ye Olde Pancake Shoppe. I bumped into Sammy Hagar at the Sonesta Hotel, which quickly changed its name back to the Eastland.

I remember when WMGX had a studio on Cumberland Avenue and when Frank Fixaris announced high school sports scores on Channel 13 and Fred Nutter did televised editorials on Channel 6. I remember when you could get a great sandwich at Carbur’s or see the Kopterz play at Cayo’s.

Okay; you get the picture.

So, forgive me if I have a different perspective of Portland, Maine. Forgive me if I don’t buy into all the laddi-da crap about how wonderful and “livable” the city is.  Forgive me for believing that Portland is the most self-absorbed and obnoxious of Maine’s 457 cities and towns. Livable? Tell that to the people living in my old apartment on the third-floor of a Greenleaf Street triple-decker. Take a walk down Valley Street at 2 a.m. on a Thursday and tell me all about “livable.”

Suffragette City

Ironically, voters in the same city where the Temperance movement got its beginnings recently approved a referendum that allows the use of limited amounts of marijuana.

Neal Dow, the father of Prohibition and a former Portland mayor, must be rolling in his grave.

The referendum’s success was a much celebrated event among the city’s uber liberal progressives who spend their days dreaming about being free of “the man” and his corporate control over their lives; while simultaneously devising new ways to control and restrict the lives of their neighbors with a mountain of nanny-state regulations, from outlawing the use of Styrofoam to forbidding soft drinks on school grounds.

Portland — a once proud, prosperous and industrious community that hosted the North Atlantic Fleet during WWII — has today become the capital of hypocrisy and self-absorption.

I have no problem with legalizing the use or possession of marijuana. I am a Libertarian. But I wonder how a city that wants to celebrate individualism and diversity over everything else can keep a straight face when explaining the tobacco smoking ordinance the city council approved earlier this year.

In a March 6, 2013 Portland Press Herald story, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said the city’s tobacco ordinance was created to address a serious public health issue: second-hand smoke.

“Secondhand smoke is a dangerous toxin,” Brennan told the newspaper. “Whether it’s children on a swing set or joggers circling the Back Cove or someone walking their dog along the Eastern Prom, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to reduce the exposure to such a serious health hazard.”

Sure, it’s hard to argue with Brennan on this point, but I wonder if he can answer my next question: Why does the ban also apply to electronic cigarettes, which emit only a water-based vapor while delivering nicotine to the user?

I’m a smoker, so I can’t hold my breath waiting for Brennan to answer the question, but it’s really quite simple: Even the appearance of smoking does not fit with the fluff and pompoms of Maine’s most “livable” city.

Hiding behind the pretense of a public health concern (what is the city doing to control automobile fumes that I am forced to inhale while walking through the Old Port?) is little more than a ruse. Smokers are the ugly people, the less-than people. The NASCAR-watchin’, beer drinkin’ types who probably buy their clothes at Wal-Mart. That doesn’t quite match the image, does it?

And if there’s one thing we know about Portland, it’s that image is everything.

So, go ahead, Portland . . . keep patting yourselves on your collective backs.

Me? I’ll take cities and towns like Lewiston, Rumford, Sanford or Biddeford every day of the week.

Smoke ’em, if you got ’em.

Mark Johnston: Rocket Man

Mark JohnstonSomething strange is about to happen on the other side of the Saco River. It’s as rare as a blue moon and perhaps more difficult to understand.

Mark Johnston will not be running for mayor in Saco.

Johnston, 61, says he has spent nearly 40 years in service to his community. Now, he says, it’s time to let someone else take the reins.

“I’m tired. I’m going to be 62, and now it’s time for Mark,” he said during a recent interview at his Main Street delicatessen, which is often mistaken as City Hall with an amazing selection of wines and good sandwiches.

Johnston came into the world of politics in the usual way: He was a malcontent, a young man worried about a used car lot that was planned near his home.

That was nearly 40 years ago, when he was appointed to the Saco Zoning Board of Appeals. His political career would extend over the next four decades and he served under five different mayors, including Sam Zaitlin, Paul Jansen, Haley Booth, Fred Clark and Eric Cote. He also served on the planning board and the city council.

Of course, Johnston also served as the city’s mayor for the better part of two decades, beginning in 1989 with four consecutive terms that ended in 1997. Six years later, in 2003 he was again elected as the city’s mayor and served another three terms, 2003-2007; and 2011-2013.

Every time his name was on the ballot he easily won his election . . . except the first time.

Despite the fact that he was unopposed and his name was the only one on the ballot, Johnston was forced to sue the city in order to become its mayor because he did not get enough votes to meet the criteria of a provision in the city’s charter.

A superior court judge sided with the politician over the city, but Johnston did not escape unscathed. He was mocked on national television by David Letterman and Jay Leno.

Round and round

Johnston runs Vic & Whit’s with his ex-wife, Beth. They have been divorced 25 years but seem to have a successful working relationship.

Two years ago, I named Johnston as the single-most politically influential person in the Biddeford-Saco area, describing him this way:

Mark Johnston is the consummate politician….

He’s Bugsy Seigel, Charlie Lucianno and Meyer Lansky all rolled into one affable, near-sighted man with an uncanny resemblance to Sir Elton John.


This is not the first time you announced that you were stepping down from politics. You always seem to come back for more?

(Laughs) “I really meant it the last time, but I had to come back to correct some very serious mistakes that were made during the Ron Michaud Administration. My intent (in 2011) was to correct those mistakes: our bond rating was lowered, the city had blown through its reserve balances. It was a lot of smoke and mirrors because no one had the courage to raise taxes slightly in order to keep up with very basic infrastructure.”

Are you leaving now because people are angry about significant tax hikes?

“No. I think most people understand the position we were facing. It’s not easy to raise taxes, even a little bit. But leaders are not elected to do easy things. Leaders are elected to lead.”

What was your proudest moment as mayor?

“The train station, hands down.  We were entering a new century and thinking about new transportation. Passenger rail had long been abandoned, but having it come back has paid huge dividends for Saco. It really redefined this community. We have people who live here because of the train and such easy access to their jobs in Boston.”

You told residents it would not cost ‘one red cent’ in taxes. That didn’t quite work out, did it?

(Laughs) “People misunderstood me. I said not one red cent, it ended up being a whole lot of red cents. But seriously, this has become a huge asset for our community. We wanted to embrace it. A lot of things changed in midstream. None of us knew then that Guilford Rail was going to require us to have a $250 million liability policy. But we were able to use the Saco Island TIF and revenues from the MERC settlement and rental fees from the Chamber of Commerce.

“I am very proud of that station. It was the first green station built in the United States. It has geo-thermal heating; and the roof was made with a composite material from recyclables. It meets every standard of LEED certification. It was built by all Maine contractors, with wood beams from Maine forests.”

And the wind turbine

“I’ll take all the fault for that. It’s not the one I wanted, but I couldn’t get the council to approve the one I wanted. What we have is basically a kit that cost us $250,000. I wanted the million dollar one, which would have been much taller and as a result much more efficient.

“The council didn’t want to spend $10,000 for a wind survey study. But what we have is iconic, and it sends a message about our community: we are embracing the future, we are recognizing that we must wean ourselves off fossil fuels.”

What was the worst moment of your time as mayor?

(Pauses) “It happened roughly three minutes after I was sworn in for my very first term, when I publicly fired the city attorney (Mary Kahl). She was a good attorney, but I thought she was interfering too much in the city’s day-to-day business. She ended up going to work for the city of South Portland. I don’t regret what I did, but I deeply regret the way I did it.

“I humiliated her in public, and that’s not leadership. That’s not how you should treat people. We were able to be civil, but the wounds never healed. Unfortunately, she passed away a while ago, and I don’t know if she ever forgave me. I was young and brash, but I learned a valuable lesson: always be willing to talk to those with whom you disagree. Never embarrass or humiliate someone in the public arena.”

Who do you think will be Saco’s next mayor?

(Smiles) “All I can say is that I will have to work with whoever becomes the next mayor.”

Ok, so who do you think will be Biddeford’s next mayor?

“Alan Casavant. He is an outstanding leader; a leader for the future. He is helping Biddeford make huge strides forward. He is also professional, calm and always a gentleman; all those tiny words that define character.”

Who was your favorite Biddeford mayor?

“Roger Normand. He was a man of integrity. He was a normal, average guy who never let the power of being mayor go to his head.”

Do you think there should be term limits for mayors and city councilors?

“Yes. Absolutely. After four terms, it’s time for a change. It’s too easy to get cocky.”

What are your thoughts about the RSU 23 issue, considering some in Saco are advocating for leaving the regional school district?

“I’m a little disappointed by the way some members of our community have acted during this debate. I think it’s a disgrace that some folks have called Old Orchard Beach residents “free-loaders.” RSU 23 has failed because of Saco’s penchant for elitism. We never talked about test scores, we never talked about how to bring teachers up through the ranks. We never talked about the important stuff. I want Thornton Academy to have the test scores that Scarborough is getting, and stop hiding behind the façade of a beautiful campus.”

Elitism in Saco?

“Yes, without a doubt. I grew up on Middle Street, a neighborhood that was known as Little Greece. Many of those people from that neighborhood became important and respected members of our community, civic leaders. It’s like we never got beyond the days of the “Battle of the Bridge.” Why do we still use that name? We never used it when Thornton played St. Louis. There has always been a false air of superiority in Saco. It’s been here a long time.”

What advice would you give to the city’s next mayor?

“Talk less and listen more.”

What will be your legacy?

“The elimination of Maine Energy. It took a long time, but I helped (and so did a lot of other people) keep the pressure on. Joanne Twomey and others never let up the pressure. I honestly never thought I would see the day. I am so proud of what Mayor Casavant and the Biddeford City Council did. That took leadership and vision, but they were not alone. A lot of people helped set the stage for finally getting MERC gone.”

So, will you be back as mayor?

“No, I really don’t think so. I have a new woman in my life, and it’s turning into something special. I was mayor when I got divorced, when I had a granddaughter, when one of my sons went to the battlefield. I’ve given a lot to this city. It’s time for me to take some time for myself and my family.”

Stairway to heaven

Now here’s something funny!

Brian Keely, the author of what he describes as “Biddeford’s Best Blog,” recently decided to share his thoughts about an uptick in negative campaign activity tied to the upcoming municipal election.

On his blog’s Facebook page, Keely castigated all of the mayoral candidates for what he describes as a campaign season of nothing more than “bickering,name calling, finger-pointing and smoke and mirror campaign tactics”

Keely goes on to say that “This is very sad for Biddeford and unfortunately, whomever wins this election will only ensure two more years of the city struggling under the weight of its “leaders.”
I implore the candidates to rethink their tactics and start thinking about the amazing people and city we live in.”
This is sort of funny and a tad pathetic, especially since this warm-fuzzy sentiment is coming from a guy who is so desperate for attention that he routinely resorts to plenty of “bickering, name-calling and finger-pointing” whenever he gets within three-feet of a keyboard and an internet connection.
Now, little, sad Brian is howling for civility, leadership and a more positive atmosphere in Biddeford. Wow!
In one of his recent blog posts, Keely describes City Councilor Richard Rhames as “King Kumbaya” He went on to pen this:  “This hippie hero was tambourineing (sic) at every meeting, getting quoted in every local paper and flooding Biddeford Public Access with his kumbaya routine . . .”
 Keely previously and repeatedly describes those who support Mayor Alan Casavant as “kooks”
Here, from his own blog, is the advice Keely so civilly and politely offers to those who disagree with him and support Casavant:  “[those] who continue to blindly follow Casavant and still lineup to kiss his ring, don’t forget that as you pucker up, his ring isn’t on his finger.”
But Keely doesn’t limit his name calling to local politicians. He also rails against “fat people,” and check out this gem of civility and pure homophobia: “I would like to blog about something that is very important to me. Cockfighting. No, not the cockfighting that happens in gay bars in Ogunquit, Maine.”
Keely actually wonders why a private function at his restaurant was cancelled a few days after he posted his thoughts about “cock-fighting.”  Gee, Brian . . . maybe it’s because that pathetic attempt at humor was incredibly offensive to a lot of people.
Several months ago, Brian felt compelled to defend the content of his blog and his penchant for mud-sling, name-calling and shit-stirring by writing this:  The “positive people” also love to cry foul about me and this blog, but I don’t claim to be solely a “positive person.” I write positively and negatively about local and national people and issues. I call a spade a spade and sometimes I call a spade a dirty, nasty, rusty, jagged spade with a broken handle – but that’s what I do.”   June 14, 2012, B3 Blog
In closing, I admire and applaud Brian’s call for civility in the political process.  I should take his advice. I have a tendency to do quite a bit of name calling and finger-pointing myself.  In fact, there are far more examples of hard-ball politics on this blog than on Keely’s blog. In fairness to him, I have been doing it longer.
So, maybe — just maybe — Brian ought to consider his own advice instead of trying so hard to imitate me and my blog.
I think even he would agree that’s a bit pathetic.
Three of the four mayoral candidates have publicly shared strategies and ideas for moving Biddeford forward. I’ll leave it to you to figure out who’s ready to lead and who is not. Do your own research and vote your conscience.

Let’s give ’em something to talk about

Concept - politically correctMany years ago, when I was still a teenager, my mother gave me one of those funny key chains that featured a picture of a gorilla and the following text: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

That message seems to encapsulate the rather recent drive to create a Utopian society by imposing a vernacular corralled by the concept of “political correctness.”

Of course, my mother was not always so jovial or light-hearted, especially when it comes to politics. In fact, my mom makes most progressives seem like Bush-appointed circuit court judges. She is an avid reader and a regular subscriber to Mother Jones.  She was one of the first people in Maine to carry a Working Assets credit card. She read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as a bedtime story to me and my sister.

Okay, I’m sort of kidding about that last part, but let’s just say that my mother pretty much defines the word, liberal. May God have mercy on her soul.

It is without question that my political opinions and rantings have caused my poor mother many a sleepless night, wondering exactly where she went wrong.

Here’s where my mom went wrong: She had the temerity to teach her children about critical thinking. She taught us to question authority, and she loves us so much that she allows us to have our own voices, not merely reflections of her own pinko-commie-subversive thought process.

My mother, like most mothers, also had a handful of favorite adages that she never hesitated to repeat;

  • “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
  • “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” And my favorite:
  • “Don’t put that in your mouth!”

Brave New World

My mother also encouraged her children to read; and to read voraciously. Although I caused my mother consistent grief, sorrow and disappointment, I generally exceeded her ingrained expectations about reading. I recall a lengthy conversation we had over Kentucky Fried Chicken about George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a study of the good intentions and the eventual pitfalls associated with the Bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution in 1917.

All of this brings me to my point (finally) and an admission that this post was written as a lengthy response to my eldest niece, Bre Kidman, a law student and Loyola graduate. (Also a card-carrying pinko, feminazi who apparently lives in a world where every little girl receives a pink pony on their eighth birthday.)

Actually, Breanne is one of the smartest people I have stumbled across during my near half-century of wandering this planet. She’s also a gifted writer and has a sharp wit. In essence, I am intimidated about tackling her logic. Bre had a visceral reaction to one of my earlier blog posts: Talking in Your Sleep  That post highlighted my contempt and loathing of the politically correct model. You can read the exchange that took place over the next three days by clicking on the comments link at the bottom of that page.

While I find “political correctness” to be a dangerous hybrid of processes envisioned years ago by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, Breanne bases her rection on the false premise that being “politically correct” and being “polite” are essentially the same.

PC is just another way to be polite?

Breanne and I agree that people should strive to be polite, respectful and courteous. These are laudable goals and foster an ability to absorb differing perspectives and enrich our lives.

Surprisingly, especially considering that Breanne is such a strong “pro-choice” advocate, she fails to acknowledge that political correctness is too often imposed; while being polite is basically voluntary. Although I will concede that a failure to be polite has its consequences, those consequences are typically more severe when one fails to adhere to the dictates of our “newspeak.”

Breanne challenged me to provide tangible examples of when a political correctness failure has “bitten someone in the ass.” (My words, not hers)

Roll up your sleeves, Bre. It’s about to get tense. I will start with the words of a black woman. Note: I did not describe her as an African-American, but please hold your criticism until you finish reading her thoughts on the subject of political correctness and its unintended consequences

Yvette Carnell, a former Capitol Hill staffer and now a blogger, published a piece entitled Why is Pro-Black Being Attacked? The Unintended Consequence of Political Correctness.

Carnell wrote her piece in response to the uproar caused by the hiring of a white editor by the publishers of Essence Magazine, a publication specifically marketed toward black women.

An excerpt: The real cause of cognitive dissonance here is the political correctness which has returned to devour the very little angel faced darlings it was designed to protect.  Political correctness was initiated in an effort to soften language and expressions which could be interpreted as offensive to disadvantaged communities. 

So instead of ‘black’ or ‘colored’, those of African descent were assigned the glossier, new and improved, Negro 2.0 category of African-American, and so on.   A new school of words were employed to shave the jagged edges of the language which had been blamed for causing much of the emotional angst observed in the black community.”

Another woman, BJ Gallagher, writing in the Huffington Post, offers some salient food for thought in her essay: The Problem With Political Correctness

Excerpt: I wonder, do the TV talking heads understand the true definition of the labels they hurl at public figures: “racist,” “sexist,” “bigoted,” or worse — based on nothing more than a comment taken out of context, someone’s clumsy attempt at humor, or a photo or image that’s the artistic expression of a creative person?

How many of us understand these definitions when we call someone a racist or sexist jerk? Jerk, perhaps… but racist or sexist? Perhaps… perhaps not. Do we really understand the seriousness of those labels? Or, are we simply indulging in destructive name-calling based on political correctness?

Damn, I love Google! Let’s keep going for just one more because who doesn’t love a Top-10 list? For example: this list from Jay Carlson and our friends at the ListServe blog ( 10 Ridiculous Cases of Political Correctness,) is chock full of juicy tidbits, such as an office worker who filed a complaint and was deeply offended about the words “master” and “slave” to describe computer files.

You get my point, and I am confident that you can use Google without my biased guidance. But before you blather on about mind-numbing topics like political correctness, please at least acknowledge that its consequences are real, if only to force us into uniform conformity, like cattle headed for the slaughter.

Final note: If you think there are no consequences for living in a world that has gone overboard with a zealous push for political correctness, you may want to have a chat with four former lacrosse players from Duke University or the now-disbarred District Attorney who rushed to prosecute them under the pressure of political correctness.

Be polite, and try to keep your feelings in check because they are not facts and they belong only to you.