I’m Shocked By That Language

Wayne Rooney said “fuck” after scoring a goal and the FA has decided to suspend him for two matches. You read this correctly. While Rooney was celebrating scoring an important goal in a key match he said fuck loud enough to be picked up by the nearby cameras. The FA stated that Rooney was suspended for using offensive, insulting and/or abusing language. Maybe I’m too cynical, but I imagine that fuck is uttered many times each match. I imagine that fuck is heard numerous times by the referee, the linesmen and the fourth official. I imagine that fuck is often directed at the referee, the linesman or the fourth official. Yet, for some reason, suspensions are so rare that I can’t remember another example of one.

To be clear: I’m a Rooney fan. That said, I know he’s no angel. He’s probably been suspended less times than he should have been in his career. Rooney is not above retaliating at a perceived slight. (Often these slights can be impossible to perceive.) Rooney has plenty of faults and no one should feel sorry for him. That being said, why the silly attitude towards swearing? There is not one English-speaking person watching the match who hadn’t heard the word fuck. No doubt the majority of those people have uttered the word fuck. I would guess that a number of the non-English-speaking people watching the match have heard the word fuck. Who exactly is the FA protecting here?

The Danger of Expectations

Recently, HBO aired a fourteen minute preview of the upcoming “Game of Thrones”, a series based on the first book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin. The preview was only part of the long line of promotion that HBO has been providing in a effort to generate interest in the series and to reassure the hardcore fans out there. (Does science fiction and fantasy have anything other than hardcore fans?) I was introduced to the series a few years ago by a good friend and have been excited for the series ever since it was announced. I have read everything about the series and watched every preview and featurette. I am pumped for this series. So why, while watching the preview last night, which is basically the first fourteen minutes of the first episode, did I feel anxiety about how good the series will be?

The obvious answer is that those fourteen minutes weren’t any good, but that’s not the case. Aside from not caring for the look of Winterfell, I thought everything else looked spot on. I like the casting decisions and I thought that the pacing was very efficient, covering the prologue and half of the first chapter in one quarter of an episode. The initial critical feedback has been positive. So why was I worried? Simple. I have trouble just being in the present, enjoying what is happening now and not worrying about what may happen later.

With regard to “Game of Thrones” there is plenty for me to worry about. Will the series be any good? Will people who haven’t read the book like it? Will my wife like it? Will it get renewed for a second season? Will the things that I loved on the page have the same impact on the screen? How will I feel about the changes? How much will I have to explain to my wife while we are watching it? (The early answer is, quite a bit. Even in the preview last night my wife had questions.) The list goes on and on.

This is the way my mind works. This is why when I was at Old Trafford a few years ago, I didn’t enjoy the match as much as I wanted to. (United won.) This is why I end up feeling vaguely unsatisfied when I finally get to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m always thinking ahead, trying (and failing) to anticipate the next thing.

But life isn’t about seeing it all coming. Life is about what happens to fuck up whatever plans you have. And life is about feeling that thing when it happens and riding it, whether its good or bad. I have trouble doing that when my expectations are too high. Yet I don’t have the discipline to stop myself from building those expectations. I’m not sure what the answer is but I need to deal with it as “Game of Thrones” is set to begin on April 17 and I really want to enjoy it. The memory of my vague unhappiness with the three “Lord of the Rings” movies is still fresh in my mind. It would be nice not to ruin something good for myself.

This Round to the Republicans

Evidently it has been the strategy of President Obama to keep out of the budget fight in order to appear like he’s above the fray, stepping in only to settle down the unruly children. At the same time, the President refused to present any realistic plan to address the Federal debt, wanting the Republicans to make the first move. The only problem is that what was calculated to appear as maturity instead came across as indifference. It didn’t look like leadership.

I’m not a big believer in electoral mandates. The new members of the House, primarily Republicans, felt like they came in with a mandate to shrink the Federal government. One problem is that the key issues for voters are not always the key issues for those they elect. Voting is often about what effects us on a personal level. People may talk about the debt and the deficit (and mix the two up) but they care most about money in their pockets.

The fact is that candidates run on a number of issues, any one of which may be the key issue for an individual constituent. Deciding what the election means always says more about the candidate than about his or her supporters.

The other problem with the electoral mandate with regards to government spending is that, in general, the American voter is relatively ignorant about what the government spends money on. Polls regularly expose this ignorance with regards to the amount of money spent on foreign aid. Responders often believe that 25% of the federal budget goes to aid foreign countries. Even those who guess 10% are way off as the real number is approximately 1%. Eliminating that from the budget would have little to no effect on the real problems. Most Americans don’t know what budget reform will really mean and I wonder how rabid their support would be if they did.

That said, budget reform needs to take place at some point and they answer will have to include a combination of reduced spending and increased revenue (taxes). The agreement on the 2011 budget did not include any tax increases, which shows that none of the politicians are actually serious about the debt. The Republicans will trot out the old reliable myth that cutting government spending will lead to job creation. Ignoring that some of the cuts will directly lead to the loss of government jobs, the current record corporate profits aren’t exactly stimulating job growth. Corporate American is taking advantage of the results of the global economic crisis; people are afraid to lose their jobs and are willing to do what they have to to keep their jobs. Corporations have found that they can do theĀ  same or more with less and make higher profits. What incentive do they have to add staff?

It’s safe to say that the Dems played this round all wrong, from not settling the budget business last year to the 2012 budget proposed by the President earlier this year to not moving fast enough to identify their own cuts until brow-beaten to do so by the motivated Republicans. Now the Dems will proclaim victory by agreeing to a worse deal than the one that was initially proposed by the Republicans and was rejected. No doubt the Dems moved for the only reason that politicians ever move; in order to get re-elected. This cynical strategy assumes that the voting public really cares about government spending. I have my doubts. Most people I know care about earning enough money to pay their bills. The debt and the deficit are difficult concepts to understand and they don’t have the luxury to devote more time to understanding it. They outsource their understanding to the disingenuous politician class assuming that the politicians care about the same things that they do.

Tonight, President Obama will finally lay out a plan which is expected to be based on the recommendations of the President’s bipartisan commission, the same recommendations which he ignored when they were presented at the end of last year. Welcome to the fight, Mr. President. In the meantime, the budget debate is being fought entirely on the Republicans’ turf. In the end, the budget agreement will be somewhere between the centrist recommendations of the commission and the conservative recommendations of the Republicans, which will again be a victory for the Republicans. And what will the President get for all his dithering? We’ll know in November 2012 when the President either gets rewarded or punished for the state of the economy at that time. If it were me, I’d rather have succeeded or failed on my own terms.