Friday, September 26, 2014

FEAR AND LOATHING IN ATLANTIC CITY

As chickens came home to roost on the NFL shield, the world of “pageantry” imploded . Though the ratings for the storied Miss America pageant dropped 15% on September 14th, Miss America’s handlers were thrilled that their Twitter traffic was up considerably. The initial “buzz” seemed to indicate the traffic was somewhat driven by outraged incredulity in the “sash states” of “red state America” that a third consecutive crown could go to a Miss New York.  Again. 

Sadly for Kira Kazantsev recent events show that being victimized by the “politics of personal destruction and vast “right wing conspiracies” might not be the exclusive territory of fellow Empire State Residents, Bill and Hillary Clinton. 

First, there was the matter of that red Solo Cup. 


In the rockiest post election honeymoon since Barack Obama’s, Miss America 2015, has had to address questions about her three month internship at Planned Parenthood and being kicked out of her Hofstra University sorority for abusive hazing. This led to Ms. Kazantsev’s painful appearance on Good Morning America the next day, to do the same bad celebrity “perp walk “ , that served Paula Deen, Jerry Sanduskyand Martha Stewart so very poorly in scandals past. 




“Under the broad definition of hazing, yes, I was involved,” Kazantsev told "Good Morning America" earlier this week. “At the time, unfortunately, that was just the culture of the university, and I was hazed, and I was kind of brought up through the organization thinking that is appropriate behavior.”

As the story made headlines, the Miss America Organization noted that the pageant knew about Kazantsev’s issues with her sorority before the firestorm. "Kira has been fully transparent with the Miss America Organization about her termination from the Alpha Phi sorority," a Miss America Organization spokesperson told Faux News. "It's unfortunate that this incident has been exploited to create a storyline that distracts from what we should be focusing on: Kira's impressive academic achievements at Hofstra University.” 

Sadly for the MAO, HBO comedian John Oliver has made certain that the storyline will be focussed elsewhere, as he has raised questions about the longtime claim that Miss America is the nation’s number one provider of scholarships for women. Oliver’s recent segment revealed that the MAO pays out only a fraction of the $45 million in scholarships to contestants through its local, state and national pageants. The staff of Oliver's news satire show, were hard pressed to demonstrate the pageant had distributed even $4 million in scholarships. In one of the most artful reinterpretations of math, this side of Capitol Hill, the MAO offers only a fraction of the money it claims to, the funds go only to one contestant , (who might not even use it), and counted as potential recipients, is the entire contestant pool. Even though ithe prize is often is “winner take all.” 

This bought MAO the following editorial from the home state Newark Current Argus, which begins: “Take a look at her now: Miss America, lying through her teeth about scholarships.”  Reporter Amy Kuperinsky summed it up, in an associated story.... “It’s safe to say this wasn’t the best week for Miss America — the pageant or the person.” On the bright side for a contest begging for social media attention, Miss America’s itevails are getting a lot of Twitter attention. But then again, so does ISIS. 

“I must’ve aged 10 years over the past 24 hours,” writes Ms. Kazantsev in her blog - written hours after the site Jezebel went with this post (citing an sole unnamed source), accusing her of promoting hazing at Hofstra University’s Alpha Phi sorority. “Over the past 24 hours, I have experienced cyber-bullying, hatred, and judgment unlike ever before,” Kazantsev writes “People write you off at a moment’s notice, simply rejoicing in the fact that you might’ve done something wrong.” A venture into Miss America's online communities, indicates that the new title holder is an expert in understatement. 

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

As heated as the invective surrounding the Nixonian behaviors of Roger Goodell has been, it’s nothing compared to the message boards feeding the pageant subculture. And though there would seem to be a gulf of difference between the journey into the darkest recesses of the human spirit Ray Rice has taken us on and the allegations against “our new Miss America” for sorority “hazing”, there are those who see no proportional difference in scale . The suddenly cleaned up “Pageant Guru” message board still contains these trending , burning topics. 
  • Kira's platform is Domestic Violence. It was Kira herself who said she was abused by a former boyfriend. When asked on Good Morning America and another major talk show to give a few details about it, she said it wasn't about her and avoided the issue. THIS IS HER PLATFORM! What better opportunity for her to give young women a few details on what they should look for. NOTHING! TMZ can't even locate a former boyfriend. Nobody at Hofstra University can even recall that she had one! Am I the only person doubting this story?
  • Here are the latest "extreme hazing" details from Jezebel, although they cannot attribute this to Kira
  • What Miss America has aged well and not so well?
  • This controversy with our new Miss America is actually a good thing. It unfortunately brings out what we believe to be the truth about MAO and what they stand for. It has been known for many years now, by many insiders who are no longer part of the program, that MAO hears of issues that are quite important and even horrifying, yet choose to turn a cheek, and sweep it under the rug. We live in a state where many young women, volunteers and board members have served under an abusive leader, and though so many have contacted MAO with their complaints, nothing is done! We are tired of trying to police an organization that reputes to being one that supports and upholds young women, and yet allows their own insiders to dole out abuse that is just not acceptable! Perhaps Miss America's relevance has finally come to an end, and young women can find a healthier way to locate scholarships for themselves. Signed: Been A. Victim
  • Bullying has been the basis of Sam's (MAO Chairman-Sam Haskell) leadership since he created his little cult. His flaming, bible quoting tirade at the ED meeting is only the most recent example. If you dare expect to be treated like an adult, your service valued, don't ask a question or expect accountability for Sam and his board minions will attack you, call you a hater, ban you, write letters that tell the country to shun you. MAO has seen the enemy and it is THEM. Kira is the perfect spokesperson for the culture of bullying, fear and intimidation Sam and his incompetent board have foisted upon the volunteers. don't you recognize it yet? stop being a victim. Demand change.
  • What most of you involved in MAO the local directors, state directors, board members and thousands of volunteers nationwide don't seem to understand is that you are all the soldiers in this organization. Without you they couldn't survive let alone produce every local and state pageant nationwide. All of you work so hard to raise money for CMN, purchase season tickets at Miss America, sell those $2000 ad pages for the national book and $40 badges don't realize is that yes you are "volunteers" but your CEO Sam Haskell makes $500,000 a year, that's half a million dollars! He sits in that air conditioned office in Atlantic City at the prettiest hotel in the city (while the rest of the hotels shut down) to tell all of you that "You can't make any money as a "volunteer" while he collects his hefty paycheck!
  • Are they nuts on the PG board? Is its owner so consumed by this year's drama, they are reduced to "phishing" for scoop from alleged Hofstra students? One must wonder what they are drinking in Falwell-land or wherever, to think it is going to succeed. If I were KK's lawyer, I'd be going after the board owner to get IP addresses soon. It may be hard to sue as a public figure, but methinks they have crossed the threshold. Why won't they just stop? She is not going to go.
Lest we forget, last week’s hot diversion was calling the 23 year old titleholder a “baby killer” for her 90 day internship at “Planned Parenthood.” That was interspersed by attacks on her Russian immigrant background. It seems that it would be difficult for any young woman to navigate the treacherous waters of pageant-land. The politics of personal destruction are not a recent development in the world of Miss America either. Long before the loathsome Bob Guccione printed the pictures that caused Vanessa Williams to be dethroned in 1984, there was an element that threatened the then 20 year old with personal harm. 

Back in the days after World War II, Miss America 1945, Bess Myerson,  was largely boycotted by sponsors for being Jewish. In her great recent memoir, Miss America 1998, Kate Shindle writes of the challenges she faced (before social media was invented online). being badgered on her appearance, and for daring to speak of AIDS in an era where Miss America actually was encouraged to have something of significance to say. And last year, we had the horrible racist reaction to an Indian-American winner of the pageant. Being attacked has been part of the price of the sash since 1921. But this year's story,  raises questions more difficult to answer than alleged hazing or poor sports whining via the Internet. The associated scholarship story, raises the same questions the world has asked about the NFL, in terms of transparency and accountability. 

MISS AMERICA MEETS LULU MASTODON

In the Internet age, we are all potential publishers. That has brought us great benefits in terms of “You Tube” footage, or bloggers filling in where more traditional news sources have fallen short. In cases such as the Hofstra sorority story, a weakly sourced story can be amplified across the planet on message boards before anyone can discern its credibility. Understanding that Miss Kazantsev was bounced from Alpha Phi, is not the same as understanding why the action occurred. The “Jezebel” story was correct in stating there was a fire in its subject’s background, but certainly deficient in areas that provide much context in terms of her actions. The same concerns exist in the “Planned Parenthood” stories of a week before. In the broadest context, interning at a group infers some support for an operation. It logically follows that whatever her duties entailed, a 90 day stint does not merit the title of “babykiller” posted on pageant bulletin boards, or this hatcherjob on prolifenews.com, that seems to accuse her of medical malpractice. 

So the woman representing the nation as the new Miss America interned for the very organization that has killed millions of Americans in abortions. Kazantsev worked for the abortion giant just outside New York City proper for three months, from February 2013-April 2013. One month later, one of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in New York City botched an abortion. “

Below is a humorous example of the dangers of confusing one blogger’s opinion with a news operation. It’s attached to illustrate the difference between responsible journalism practices, and blogger LuLu Mastodon’s work product in the fictional community of Prescott Place. It illustrates that just because a story exists online does not mean it’s well sourced or true. And though a lie about a public figure may be posted anonymously, it could still end up meeting an actionable definition of libel. Incorporated in that definition, are many of the things posted about Ms. Kazantsev, these past two weeks. 



FINAL THOUGHTS

Is it troubling to hear of pledge hazing by any party? Absolutely. Do two wrongs equal a right or a free pass? No they do not. Is it possible Kazantsev is a “mean girl”? In the context of the current "evidence", one cannot say for certain. Absent TMZ video of a pledge being KO'd in an elevator, we can only speculate. 

In that context, one would think being forced to appear on national TV and answer for something thoughtless and immature done in college is a steep price for anyone’s daughter to pay. Even Miss America. In the context of life experience, most would shudder to have our youthful transgressions in the public domain. The fact that the last person qualified to toss stones has been MIA for nearly two millennia, usually serves as a check and balance. 

Sadly, the trolls of pageant cyberspace have burned thousands of hours , seeking "crown change" of late, As of writing there seems to be no satisfaction of their blood lust on the horizon. On last report, their "online petition" to remove Ms. Kazantsev from her throne has fifteen signatures. When asked why the response was so anemic, one reply was revealing. "I could never be caught dead, with my name on such a thing." 

One final irony.  The trailing videos from "Pageant Planet" were actually banned from the leading MA system message board. It was deemed offensive. It features several title holders offering their sadly experienced take on online bullying. No wonder they were deleted. 







MANY BLESSINGS- NOEL



FORMER WINNERS IN 2011



WINNERS FROM 1921-2013

Monday, September 8, 2014

TMZ COOKS RICE.

Late last night, TMZ uploaded video footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out cold his then-fiancee, now-wife Janay Palmer in a parking garage elevator, at the recently defunct Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on February 15th. Here's the Story



Back on February 19th, TMZ uploaded the now famous video of Rice dragging Ms. Palmer unconscious from the elevator. Today it was apparent there was irrefutable evidence condemning Rice, although given the previously released video there seemed to be no doubt. 

An initial ban of two games that Rice was assessed seemed especially malodorous, given the fact that trace amounts of increasingly legal herb found in a player's urine triggered an automatic four-game ban under the league's substance abuse policies. Making the Rice penalty even more absurd is the fact that last year's Super Bowl (Seattle vs. Denver) was a clash between two states populated by millions of retail pot users. 

The firestorm over the NFL banning Rice from playing only two games came as a shock to those who feel Penn State was punished too severely in the Sandusky case. Thankfully the majority felt it was a shockingly lenient penalty for an apparent felonious assault. and that incited mass criticism. 

Commissioner Roger Goodell belatedly convened with experts to rewrite the NFL's policy on players accused of domestic violence. To his credit at the time, Goodell admitted that "he didn't get it right" with respect to Rice's punishment. 


With the involvement of Kim Gandy of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and other experts the NFL's new policy, includes "a six-game suspension for first offenses and a lifetime ban with the second, though players have the opportunity to apply for "reinstatement after a year." Sadly for the league, they did not "get it" in time. ESPN reports that Goodell was blown away by the initial reaction saying to Gandy, " ...we actually did something. Half a million is a lot of money. Why aren't people mad at the judge and prosecutor who did nothing at all?"


The new video makes the NFL's initial suspension/slap on the wrist appear even more insane than it seemed at first. Sadly, one does not even need to see the footage to understand what went down in that elevator. An NFL running back goes into an elevator with his fiancĂ©e, doors close, doors open and she's being dragged out, knocked out. It's not hard to conclude that Ray Rice should be in jail with O.J. 



What Goodell and his owners did not understand is that money is largely irrelevant to the controlling abuser. Half a million dollars is nothing to those types. It's a compulsion like Jerry Sandusky's manifested another way. 500 K is a pittance, given our societal refusal to tolerate violence against women. The thoughtful-minded public didn't want to see metaphysical examples of excrement like Rice on the field. With a fan base that is 35% female, the NFL should have set an example to the public, and epically failed. 

What seems incongruent is that Cleveland Brown Josh Gordon was banned for two games for substance abuse last year. He asserts the substance was actually cough syrup containing codeine that he took for strep throat. Rice receiving the same punishment for brutally beating a woman as Gordon did for taking cough syrup when sick seems utterly insane. During the offseason, Gordon was arrested for a DWI and was suspended for 2014 for violating the substance rule a second time. At the time Rice was suspended, the NFL didn't have a second-violation rule for domestic violence. 

What we have seen today was Rice's punishment being amended, not due to what's been shown in this second video, but because he has become the Donald Sterling of the NFL. They were forced to make an example of him to prove their stance on domestic violence to players, fans, and society . It should not be forgotten that the track record to date has been nothing short of a travesty.

Courtesy of TMZ, here are some of my favorite celebrity "tweets"


Linda Cohn -- Looks like this #RayRice video was more important to discover for TMZSports than it was to the @NFL. Very sad.

Jay Glazer -- I am never speechless. That ray rice video... beyond words. Ban him now! ... If you play a violent sport & are violent toward a woman ur right to play that sport should be taken away. Plus his callous disregard for her well being after she was KO'd is equally as disturbing. Absolutely disgraceful

Keith Olbermann -- Roger Goodell's position as Commissioner of the NFL is no longer tenable. Whether he saw the #RayRice video or he did not, he failed.

Doug Gottlieb -- Remember when #Ravens fans gave #RayRice a standing O.... Twice? Good times


Deion Sanders -- Instead of @RayRice27 and his Wife being the topic of your conversation today for the video let's PRAY for them and their marriage.

Michelle Beadle -- She must have used some pretty inflammatory words to deserve those punches. Two freaking games. Criminal act. Go sit in the corner.<span >Did @nfl and @nflcommish really think this video wouldn't eventually surface? That we wouldn't see that disgrace? Never too late, Goodell


Seth Rogen -- I don't know much about football, but I know that Ray Rice is a piece of garbage who shouldn't be allowed to play it professionally anymore. @nflcommish your punishment for beating a woman is less than for smoking weed. Get your head out of your f**king ass.


Remember the Dylan song about the first famed boxer maned Davey Moore who died in the ring? The NFL would do well to review this footage for two reasons. First is that due to the proven danger to participants, and coupled with overexposure on TV, the once-dominant sport of boxing is not even the most popular combat sport. The second is that seeing Ms. Palmer hit her head on the elevator grab bar on TMZ, was like watching the base of Davey's head hit a glancing blow to the turnbuckle. It's a miracle the now Mrs. Rice was not the victim of a basilar skull fracture. 

Robert Silverman in the Daily Beast wrote a great post about the question of what did the NFL know, and when did they know it. An Excerpt from (and a link to) How Could the NFL Not Know About the Brutal Second Ray Rice Tape? are here. 

"The suspension, both the inadequate two-gamer and Monday’s release and indefinite ban, doesn’t change the fact that the NFL doesn’t care about domestic violence. It didn’t care when Jovan Belcher shot his wife. It does not care that Ray McDonald suited up this weekend for the San Francisco 49ers or Greg Hardy did the same for the Carolina Panthers. If the second tape weren’t being played and replayed horridly on screens everywhere, Rice would be getting ready for practice come Friday.

For now, Rice is gone, and the NFL will point to its new zero-tolerance policy and shake its head sadly. Don’t buy it. That’s not morality. That’s damage control. 

For non-fans, the public face of the league isn’t what remains a beautiful, exciting game but an arrogant doof who insists on holding on to a racist slur of a name or the continuing efforts to conceal the mounting pile of bodies/ex-employees suffering from various forms of chronic brain trauma. 

For fans—and yes, I still count myself as one; if you want to call me a hypocrite, go ahead—there’s a choice. You can either consume this plasticky PR nonsense and keep watching, or you can walk away. Sad to say, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that there is no way to be a fan of football without sticking your head in the sand. "

MANY BLESSINGS-NOEL

ONE OF THEM

“Should you find yourself the victim of other people's bitterness, ignorance, smallness, or insecurities, Remember this, things could be much worse. You could be one of them!”

These words resonate more as time goes on. 

A few months ago, I wrote a series of posts on bullying in the adult working world. linked here 

The stories resonated with my readers and I was moved as I read their stories. Back then the focus was on the tale of Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito and the Miami Dolphins. Trailing are new stories others have shared, in light of recent developments. (The Usual Disclaimer goes here, any resemblance to living people is both coincidental and is mainly due to the fact there are certain archetypes everywhere that any of us may have met.) 

PARABLES

J. Willard Marriott and Norman Brinker succeeded by leveraging the idea that the cornerstone of business is “treating people right.” In that spirit the stories that follow are marginally less than obscenities. 

The first writer tells a story that involves nepotism and the despicable behavior of a person hired to a job she was totally unqualified for by experience and personality, by her good friend, who happened to be “the big boss.” As time went by, and mistakes multiplied, each day brought metastasizing dishonesty, attempts to undermine other managers, and bullying. This person sacrificed her own integrity in the name of putting lipstick upon errors, to the point of screaming at the team in the presence of clients and demanding they be questionably disciplined or even wrongfully fired, with her scowling presence in the same room . 

Almost all experienced managers have come across this type of employee. Over the years we all see these types of people come. The best of us have discernment, and see to it that those people are excised from the body of an organization when they play that type of game. Sadly in this case “friendship” seems to have trumped all with the usual results, a business harmed by the defection of those working hard and playing by the rules. And that is no wonder, when the corporate response to her bullying is to retaliate on team members/victims whenever a customer complains. Coach Marv Levy often said, "nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills."  Apparently the same can be said for certain companies. 

Another reader writes, "Sad are the times where people are placed into positions of trust that should not be." Even in the most nepotism ridden situations, an annual turnover of thirty team members in a twenty person operation would invite some scrutiny. Especially when coupled with employee surveys that recounted in wrenching detail, the injustices and pain one misplaced person can cause a group of people. Hannah Arendt once wrote of the “banality of evil”. Perhaps that was the reason a manager was actually transferred to her domain, with the express purpose of securing a pretext for a questionable termination. To the unknowing it was difficult to equate the well crafted innocent voice and demeanor with the person who has made an art form of the pre-textural termination. 

To those who confront this drama, it conjures memories of Joan Didion’s take on Nancy Reagan, “her face was a mask of frozen insincerity". Yet the sadness continues unabated even with moments caught on security cameras of mocking discourtesy in the workplace, replete with this alleged leader openly making faces and issuing unflattering impressions of others. More amazing still, is her termination of an assistant manager for "insubordination". The sin was accurately translating the exact words of Spanish speaking team members in a meeting she instigated with a notoriously overworked department. Known for broadcasting in the public domain the minute details of an apparently unhappy private life, the weight of her public/private pain makes her appear decades older than her years, lending credence to the idea that unabated anger ages faster and misery is like hemlock upon our souls. 

 Left unheard is what the team says when asked in surveys: things such as "this is not right" and "when it is going to end?" Thanks to recent legal developments the time for taking personal pain out on others may be drawing to an end. In the interim, the person in question occupies herself in assuring the recently terminated remain unemployed by the artful use of backdoor references. 

A NEW LEGAL RECOURSE

Many are the workplaces that live by the tactic called “constructive discharge.” Sadly many readers have seen its application. Sometimes a resignation is not really voluntary choice; many feel forced to quit jobs due to mistreatment. Often a resignation is really a “firing without good cause” through being “forced to quit”. Until recently there was limited recourse for victims. On June 14, 2004 a shaft of light cut through the darkness. The United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision setting some new standards for the law of “Constructive Discharge” in Federal Title VII Employment Discrimination cases. In the opinion PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE V. SUDERS  - the Justices write of,

“...harassment so intolerable as to cause a resignation may be effected through co-worker conduct, unofficial supervisory conduct, or official company acts. Unlike an actual termination, which is always effected through an official act of the company, a constructive discharge need not be. 

A constructive discharge involves both an employee’s decision to leave and precipitating conduct: The former involves no official action; the latter, like a harassment claim without any constructive discharge assertion, may or may not involve official action.” 


Surveys note people most often quit their jobs after being faced with insurmountable job problems, high stress, or depression. The unethical manager seeks to “shock and awe” the team member into quitting, before they can find a more rational means of resolving their pain. The team member is continually badgered into having the powerful urge to quit or be fired. because they cannot relieve the pressure or end the job-related suffering. In more cases than not, such as those noted above, escalating the matter through the HR chain does not work. Sadly there are certain companies that address their “problems” by creating pretexts for termination or simply by “beating people up. “ There will be fewer as time goes by, as cases percolate through the judicial system. 

We face challenges in our journeys by happenstance, or having to shine daylight upon mistakes of actions that are plainly wrong. Thankfully there appears to be a greater legal understanding of the challenges faced by those who choose to be better than them, in places defined by behaviors somewhere between simply unfortunate and inept, and in a blue moon - even evil. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Leaders should have zero tolerance for people who are dishonest, disloyal, and who undermine those around them for their own selfish purposes. 

Like it or not, we encounter people, companies and even communities who act this way because of insecurity, bitterness, or narcissistic entitlement. It is really unfortunate that anyone would treat other people so inappropriately, while occupying a position of trust over another family’s economic well being. Most unfortunate is when people are willing to sacrifice their own integrity in life to do so. 

Take this advice from Gandhi “the way of truth and love always wins. “ Even the cases noted above may be able to seemingly succeed in undermining and lying to and about others, but the truth eventually come out. Karma always catches up either now or later. When it does - the damage to a transgressor reputation endures far longer than whatever temporary achieved through despicable behavior.

For those wronged by someone else, it is tempting to stoop down to their level. It is our obligation to do the right thing no matter what the other person does. Life is short, but people’s memories are long, and it will catch up to them at day’s end. It is difficult to handle reptilian bullies and liars with grace and integrity. A greater tragedy is becoming “one of them” as a response. 

To those who rightly or wrongly read these words and believe it's about them - my advice is simple. Don’t trade integrity for anything, as truth is not a fungible asset. There is not one ounce of anything that is worth trading it for. Guard the legacy you will leave behind. It’s never too late to do the right thing. 

MANY BLESSINGS- NOEL

A Great Link follows.