Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

Splat of the Week: Carnival Cruise Lines

One of the first things they teach you in law school is that corporations are people. They’re not natural people—an attribute lawyers share—but they are people nonetheless and they can splat, too.  Just ask Carnival Cruise Lines.

Early Sunday morning, an engine room fire left the Carnival Triumph, which had been cruising through the Gulf of Mexico, in utter defeat.  The disabled ship drifted in the Gulf of Mexico for days until tugboats came to its assistance and began towing it north at mall-walker speeds.

Getting the ship to port was a logistical nightmare for the company and a horror story for the 4,000 people aboard.  Provisions ran low, the definition of “indoor plumbing” was expanded to include closets and hallways, and the Wayne Newton Revue on the Ledo Deck was canceled.

The unspeakable on-board conditions spawned comparisons to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, not to mention countless Poop Deck jokes.

Obviously Carnival has a PR disaster on its hands, on top of the floating one.  Company management recognized this and leapt right into action.  A few days ago its top executive, Gerry Cahill, promised to give passengers $500 and a cruise credit as compensation for their pain and suffering.  Some passengers found the gesture grossly inadequate and insulting.

“What more do they want from me?” Cahill asked.  “I already waived the excursion fees for the Open Sewer Tour.”

Mere hours ago, the ship finally docked in Mobile, Alabama, which ranks right up there with the French Riviera as exotic cruise destinations go.  In Mobile, passengers were reunited with their loved ones, to whom Carnival had given free immunization shots and jars of Vicks Vapo-Rub as a goodwill gesture.

Carnival’s latest disaster is nowhere near as catastrophic as last year’s Costa Concordia incident, which resulted in thirty-two fatalities, but it shows the company is about as seaworthy as the Triumph. If Carnival hopes to bounce back, maybe it should quit recruiting executives from the Herbert Hoover School of Leadership.

 

The Golden Pancake: A symbol of splatty excellence

 

Splat of the Week, from the “Where Are they Now?” file: An Update on Dignity and Discretion

Every now and then, I check back in on Golden Pancake winners to see what they’ve been up to since nabbing the not-so-coveted prize.

Sometimes I find that the splat-ter has used the time to get the rebound gone bad back on track, resulting an inspirational, feel-good story that’s a joy to write.

This is not one of those times.

Dignity and Discretion nabbed the golden pancake in November for not having the guts to stick around when the sordid details of the Petraeus scandal came to light.

The two were nowhere to be seen this week, either, when the New York Post broke the news that Dan Marino, legendary former quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, fathered a child outside of his marriage in 2005 and paid the mother millions to keep the whole thing private.  (On the upside, thanks to this development, Marino will undoubtedly score an endorsement deal with the Arnold Schwarzenegger Fatherhood Foundation.)

Apparently Marino told his wife about the affair and child in 2005 and embarked on a cover-up to prevent his image from getting tarnished.  It’s hard to fault him for that.  The pesky Truth, when forced out, can do a real number on an athlete with a squeaky clean image.  Just ask Lance Armstrong.

I can’t say I blame Dignity and Discretion for refusing to appear in public with the likes of Marino and Petraeus, but I’m starting to wonder if we’ll ever see the two of them again.

The Golden Pancake: A symbol of splatty goodness.

 

 

 

Splat of the Week: “Oh say, can you sing this for me?” by Beyonce

Forget the rousing speeches and poems.  The inaugural moment that may live longest in the collective memory is Beyonce’s singing (or not) of the national anthem.

A day or two after Monday’s festivities, a representative for the Marine Corps Band asserted that the pop princess’s performance (and the band’s) had been pre-recorded and the inaugural performance was a lip sync.  A flurry of media activity ensued, kicking up a cloud that makes the truth tough to detect.

Exactly what happened that day remains unclear in part because Beyonce isn’t defending herself.  If her lips are moving, no sound is coming out (which may not be the first time that’s happened to her this week).

Beyonce’s silence hasn’t stopped all sorts of other people from weighing in, though.

I won’t try to recap all the commentary but I did enjoy a piece Mike Doughty wrote for Slate on Wednesday in support of the view that Beyonce did sing the anthem after all.  Doughty offers a professional musician’s perspective on the matter and presents several pieces of visual evidence in defense of the claim that the diva performed the song live.

But even if we disregard that whole body of proof, he says, we shouldn’t ignore one piece of especially compelling evidence: the Veep’s facial reaction:

For me, the most compelling evidence that Beyoncé was doing it for real is the HELL YES smile on Joe Biden’s face.

Doughty may have a point.

Biden’s presidential campaign hopes a couple decades ago were derailed when he admitted he had plagiarized on several occasions, borrowing unattributed passages from RFK, JFK, and Hubert Humphrey, among others.  If anyone oughtta be able to spot lip service, it’s our veep.  But for once, he’s not talkin’.

So, in addition to all her other accolades, Beyonce now gets to claim the Golden Pancake, too.

The Golden Pancake

Splat of the Week: The Truth

The truth had a very rough week, in case you hadn’t noticed.

It had been hanging back, minding its own business and biding its time until Manti Te’o and Lance Armstrong forced it into the spotlight. The public had waited a while for it to come out (months in the case of Te’o and years for Armstrong), so the expectations for its entrance ran quite high.

This made the truth nervous, as you can well imagine.  It wasn’t ready for all this attention and didn’t want to take center stage alone.  But when it tried to convince grace to join it, she wanted no parts of the whole spectacle.  Instead, she shoved the reluctant truth out there solo, before it even had a chance to put on a costume.

The naked truth first flashed us Manti Te’o.  Te’o, Notre Dame’s star linebacker and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, had garnered a huge public following this year.  People loved him for his athletic skill and admired him for his inspired play after his grandmother and long-distance girlfriend passed away in September, within mere hours of each other (or so we were told).

Turns out the relationship with the girlfriend had been conducted exclusively online, and she never actually existed. Her life, her death from leukemia, and her relationship with Te’o (who had never met her, despite statements to the contrary) were all part of a hoax, perpetrated by one of Te’o’s acquaintances.  Te’o had gotten scammed.

People might have felt sorry for him–after all, who hasn’t had an imaginary significant other?—were it not for the fact that, after he learned about the hoax in early December, he continued to talk about the tragic death of his nonexistent girlfriend.  Te’o came clean to his family just after Christmas, and to Notre Dame shortly thereafter.

As if the T’eo hoax weren’t bad enough, the truth then shoved Lance Armstrong in our collective face.  The fabled cyclist who conquered cancer and won the Tour de France seven times in a row had been dogged for over a decade by a veritable peloton of former teammates and authorities who alleged that he blood doped and used performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour.

Armstrong spent years playing the part of the wrongly accused (complete with special effects like hurled epithets and lawsuits against his detractors).

This week, on the Oprah Network of all places, he finally came clean about the fact that he hadn’t been clean.  He cheated his way to all seven of his Tour titles, he told Oprah.  And when he called former friends and teammates liars and worse over the years, well, he’d been lying about that, too.

Now that it’s been dragged out in the open, the naked truth looks lumpy and ugly.  No wonder everyone had been avoiding it.  Some people, understandably, wish they’d never seen it.  But on the upside, we all know what it looks like now, so maybe we’ll be able to spot it right away next time, no matter what kind of appealing disguise it’s wearing.

The truth, like the pancake, didn’t look so hot this week.

Splat of the Week: The U.S. Legal System (aka “Cats and the Commerce Clause”)

As a lawyer and a U.S. citizen, I’m somewhat reluctant to speak harshly of the American legal system.  It works twenty-four/seven, spending half its time safeguarding us from potential abuses of Government and the other half trying to protect us from our own idiocy.

(And our capacity for stupidity must be boundless, judging by my recent purchase of a toaster that had the following warning label affixed to the back: “For indoor use only.”  C’mon, people.  Everyone knows toasters starve in the wild.)

Most of the time the system does a fairly decent job, but it screwed up royally in December in its handling of a Constitutional question involving, of all things, cats.  The 50-60 cats in question live at 907 Whitehead Street in Key West, Florida.

Ernest Hemingway also lived there from 1931-1938 with a cat named Snowball.

Right out of the chute you find yourself feeling sorry for Snowball.  Who would want to be forced to shack up with the guy who inflicted The Old Man and the Sea on an unsuspecting reading population? As if that weren’t insult enough, Poor Snowball was walking around with extra digits on his paws.  A “polydactyl” cat, to use a technical term.

Eventually the bell tolled for Hemingway and Snowball.

Once Hemingway was out of the picture, the descendants of Snowball (who also have bonus digits) saw no reason to leave, so they stuck around and proliferated.

In 1964, the house effectively became a museum, but the cats, whose ranks had swelled to sixty or so, were never displaced.  To this day the museum owners keep and feed the cats and provide them with weekly veterinary care.

I’m sure they do it out of the goodness of their hearts, but it’s for the goodness of the business: People love these furry little six-fingered squatters.

One of the Hemingway House’s “six-fingered” squatters. Thanks, Wikipedia!

All was well until a museum visitor expressed concern to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2009 about the Museum’s care of the cats. To make a very long legal story short, the USDA decided that it had authority to regulate the Museum under the Animal Welfare Act.

The USDA based its authority on its view that the cats are “exhibited” to tourists (many of whom are out of state) and, therefore, affect interstate commerce, and fall within the domain of federal law.

The Museum responded by filing a class action suit on behalf of crazy cat ladies everywhere.  Okay, I’m kidding about the crazy cat ladies part.

But the Museum did file a suit, and when it lost at the district court level, it appealed.

And that’s how the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found itself fulfilling its lifelong judicial dream of presiding over a cat case.

The case turned on whether cats chilling at the Hemingway crib while the public tours constitutes “distribution” of the cats.  (The cats, meanwhile, never actually leave the grounds of the house, so this is more of a metaphorical distribution, here.)

In a decision handed down last month, the court shredded the word “distribution” to ribbons on its way to deciding that yes, these cats are distributed and they do, in fact, affect interstate commerce.  In other words, these cats aren’t polydactyl, they’re Constitutional.

The court must have felt a bit guilty about the little present it dropped in the Museum’s legal litter box, because it wrote, “Notwithstanding our holding, we appreciate the Museum’s somewhat unique situation, and we sympathize with its frustration.”

But that didn’t stop them from kicking some sand over the whole mess and concluding with, “Nevertheless, it is not the court’s role to evaluate the wisdom of federal regulations implemented according to the powers constitutionally vested in Congress.”

Indeed it is not. They’ve already got their hands full protecting citizens from their wild toasters.

 

The results are in for the Splat of The Year!

Happy New Year! While we look forward to a whole new year of splats, it’s time to take a moment to celebrate the one that just ended.

A few days ago I posted a “Splats of the Week” round-up, narrowed it down to three finalists based on Facebook likes (Marriage in the Golden Years, D.C. Voters and Cafe del Soul), and asked readers to cast their ballots.

Going into the run-off, Marriage in the Golden Years led by a mile.  It kept the lead for a bit but then, appropriately enough, petered out at the finish line.

The other two contenders overtook it and in the end, the D.C. Voters edged out the German cockroaches of Cafe del Soul by a nose. (And since the votes were counted in Virginia instead of, say, Florida, I report the results with confidence.)

What drove the come-from-behind triumph of politics over love and vermin (which I think we can agree are all somewhat related)? It’s impossible to say but I think Congress’s decision to take us all bungee-jumping over the Fiscal Cliff might have had something to do with it.

So in case you missed it, here’s the original D.C. Voters post, in all its splatty glory (published on July 15, 2012).

It can be tough to elect a leader who’s untainted by corruption.  Just ask the citizens of our nation’s capital, who have struggled with this problem since the Home Rule Act of the mid-1970s gave them the right to choose their own mayor.

Marion Barry held this top city post from 1979-1991, until he had a pesky encounter with federal agents over his alleged use of some flammable narcotics.  His lawyers raised the “Beeotch Set Me Up” defense, which sounded catchy but was more persuasive as a bumper sticker than a legal theory.

But it wasn’t his lawyers’ fault, really.  The Monica Lewinsky scandal had not yet occurred, so they didn’t realize an entire defense could be developed around the meaning of the two-word intransitive verb “is.” So Marion Barry fell victim not only to the beeotch but to some very bad timing, legally speaking.

The citizens of DC tried to rebound from this embarrassing electoral splat and promptly elected Sharon Pratt Kelly, who ran on the compelling “I Haven’t Done Time (Yet)” platform.  But the voters gave Barry his job back in 1995, recognizing that Pratt Kelly’s resume lacked the kind of real-world experience you can only get in prison.

Barry “The Sequel” proved to be an underwhelming one-season spinoff.   Barry didn’t seek re-election, citing a desire to focus all of his attention on not filing federal tax returns.
He was succeeded by Tony “Bow Tie” Williams, followed by Adrian “Proudly Courting the Triathlete Vote” Fenty.  Though Fenty’s term did involve an investigation or two into potential contracting improprieties, it had appeared DC was recovering fairly well from the Barry splat.
In 2010, Fenty was ousted by Vincent Gray, who had voters convinced he was less concerned with swimming pools and more interested in connecting with citizens. Recent allegations indicate that, unfortunately, some of the people Gray connected with quite closely weren’t so skilled at following the rules about public accounting of campaign funds.
It appears that these folks somehow forgot to disclose more than $650,000 expended to help Gray gain the mayoral seat. Gray claims he had no knowledge of this shadow campaign, even though it blocked out more sun than the Empire State Building.
Here we go again.  DC voters, come on over and grab your golden pancake!

The not-so-coveted Golden Pancake: An international symbol of splatting excellence

Cast Your Ballot Now for the Splat of the Year (and other stuff)!

Splat-ospheric has been a going concern for a little more than six months now.  On the first Friday of its existence I rolled out the “Splat of the Week,” a feature in which I present third party splats that are unusual/funny/noteworthy.  Let’s be honest: unless you gave birth to me, you probably don’t want to read about me, my love life and my family all the time.

With six months of weekly splats in the books and 2012 winding down, now is the perfect time to look back on the (half) year in splats and vote for your favorite.

I think you’ll agree that 2012 has been a very good year for splats.  Then again, I suspect every year is, in the same way that there’s never a bad year for Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill.

From the 20 nominees, I selected three finalists based on the number of Facebook “likes” they generated.  Those three appear below in order of popularity.  The remaining candidates are presented chronologically, oldest to newest.

Cast your vote for the Splat of the Year by clicking the “comments” link and using the form, or by sending an email to splatospheric@gmail.com.

THE THREE FINALISTS:

1. Marriage in the Golden Years – for shattering our visions of elderly couples finishing out their lives sitting side-by-side in rocking chairs on the porch.  This post garnered the most “likes” by a landslide, not that this should nudge anyone in a particular direction.

2.   Cafe del Soul – for oversharing information about its food safety violations.

3.   DC Voters  – for attracting corrupt politicians like metal to a magnet.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

1. Greece – for the “handling” of its financial crisis, which is ongoing. (Yep, I, too, am detecting the faintest whiff of hypocrisy coming from the direction of the fiscal cliff at whose edge the U.S. is currently standing, but I’m going to hold my nose and ignore it for now.)

2. UVA Board of Visitors – for manufacturing a leadership crisis that resulted in the abrupt resignation of its first female president, her equally abrupt reinstatement, and then an eventual downgrading of the University by a higher ed consortium. This third feat netted the Board a second nomination on December 14.

3.The Post-Derecho Undercaffeinated Throngs – for only caring about where their next cup of coffee was coming from even though all kinds of real havoc had been wrought around them.

4.  The NCAA – for not taking a long, hard look at itself while it was examining what went wrong at Penn State.

The Golden Pancake

5. Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte – for the much-hyped 2012 Olympic rivalry that turned out to be a big belly flop.

6.  NASA – for turning things around with the very successful Curiosity mission.

7.  The Presidential (then) Candidates – for not turning things around and deciding, instead, to just stay in the dirt.

8.  Diana Nyad – for trying four times to make the swim from Cuba to Florida.

9. John Mayer and Katy Perry – for their rebound that didn’t go according to plan, and for proving that two negatives don’t always make a positive.

10. Teddy Roosevelt (the mascot) – for finally winning the Presidential Race at Nats’ Stadium.

11.  MizYank – for taking it a little too easy while vacationing with my sister in South Beach, and for being dumb enough to let her guest post without asking what she was planning to write about.

12.  Pizza Hut – for trying to hijack the Town Hall-style presidential debate with the time-honored “pepperoni or sausage?” question.

13.  Banana Boat – for creating a product that, in exchange for shielding people from the sun, sometimes caused spontaneous human combustion.

14.  Claudia Connell – for bemoaning her single-at-middle-age state and blaming it on Sex and The City.

15.  Dignity and discretion – for deserting General David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell when news of their affair surfaced.

16. The Black Friday Mob – for abandoning all semblance of civility in pursuit of the deal.

17.  PG County Democrats – for trying to make the D.C. voters look good.

And lastly, aside from asking you to cast your ballot, I’m also taking this opportunity to solicit your candid, and politely worded, feedback about the blog in general.

Love/hate the graphics? What about post length? Frequency? Contents? This is your open invitation to sound off. You can use the comment form or send an email to splatospheric@gmail.com. Without readers, there’s no reason for this blog, and we all know the premise is pretty thin already.

Happy splatting, everyone!

 

 

Those Three Little Words

Since I’m currently hosting a slumber party for three kids under the age of 10 I’ll keep this short.

For those of you who were waiting with bated breath to find out about the holiday missive from FBM, your suspense ends tonight.

But before I tell you what arrived in the mail, I must talk about the emotions it evoked.  As these holiday transmittals are wont to do, it brought tears to my eyes. I’m just glad to have opened it in the presence of my entire family (14 people, as we were shy one nephew who’s spending the holidays in Ohio with his mom and her family). Their love, warmth and support at poignant moments like this means so much, as you can well imagine.

The bright, red envelope was a standard size, though it felt like it might hold something slightly heavier than your average greeting card. Small wonder FBM had to spend $.80 to send it from Santa Barbara to Virginia. FBM turns out to be the kind of careful sender who probably insured it, too.

My mom had already opened the envelope so I could see that it did, in fact, contain a greeting card with all kinds of people in suspended motion on the cover, as if Hallmark had vogued. And that’s pretty much where the similarities between this card and your average Hallmark ended.

Most cards convey their message through unspoken words. This one sent it with digestive noises.

That’s right: my greeting card farted.

“FBM” didn’t stand for the name of a former suitor–the senders are very dear, and hilarious, friends– but rather a groundbreaking (and possibly pants-rending) company called “Farts By Mail.”  I’m sure they do a booming business (har!) at Christmas but they must really clean up on Boss’s Day.

When you least expect it…

I can’t reveal the identity of the givers–all great donors appreciate a little anonymity lest they get bombarded with requests for similarly grand philanthropic gestures –but I will say they read this blog and must’ve split a side or two before they busted my family’s collective gut tonight.  (And my mother, by the way, knew what it was the whole time, proving that the “never lie to your mother” maxim does not have a converse.)

What they pulled off was nothing short of brilliant, and they certainly showed me how much they cared this holiday season with those three little words that go by the initials: “F.B.M.”

(Oh, and since I whiffed on the Splat of the Week yesterday for lack of time rather than material, I think this post can do double-duty.)

Splat of the Week: The UVA Board of Visitors (again!)

I could not be more proud and embarrassed to feature my alma mater’s governing body for the second time in six months.

When I launched this little writing project last summer and instituted the Splat of the Week feature, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors was the second honoree.

Helen Dragas, Rector of the Board, and her cohorts got the golden pancake then for their unsuccessful and ham-handed attempt to oust the University’s popular president, Teresa Sullivan. The Board professed concern about Sullivan’s ability to lead UVA at a time when higher ed is in the midst of great transformation.

The student body, alum and faculty didn’t buy what Dragas and the Board were selling, or the disingenuous way they were selling it.  We’re talking leadership at a renowned public institution, not a $30 Rolex in Times Square.

The backlash that followed was swift and severe. Dragas and the Board did an abrupt 180 and reinstated Sullivan almost as quickly as they’d shoved her out the door, but not before the story had been picked up by news outlets around the country.

Things calmed down at Mr. Jefferson’s University after Sullivan’s reinstatement, or so it seemed until this week when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, an accrediting body, put the University on warning.

According to the SACSCOC, UVA broke two rules. The first prohibits a minority of board members from being in charge, and the second requires the institution to specify the faculty’s role in governance. The way the Sullivan issue was handled demonstrated compliance with neither, said SACSCOC. The very concerns Dragas prophesied were ones she helped fulfill.

But I don’t want to spend too much time mired in her and the Board’s failings. They got at least two things right.  When it  came to manufacturing a leadership crisis, this group produced a perfect specimen. And, they passed the law of unintended consequences with the kind of blazing speed that Congress only wishes it could bring to its handling of the fiscal cliff.

For that, they deserve a second golden pancake. Mr. Jefferson would’ve wanted it that way.

 

 

Splat of the Week: PG County Democrats

The weekly splat hasn’t hailed from the local politics arena in quite a while.  It’s just not as consistent a producer as national politics (fiscal cliff, anyone?).  But the stuff that’s been going on in Prince George’s County in Maryland just can’t be ignored.

For a couple years now, PG County has struggled to put suitable candidates in office. Jump-suitable candidates, on the other hand, were coming out in droves.

In December 2010, the top County executive, Jack Johnson, and nine others were arrested for a long-running bribery scheme through which Johnson accepted cash and all sorts of luxury items from local businesses.

Even when he knew the jig was up, Johnson still tried to keep it going by calling his wife, Leslie, and instructing her to stuff cash in her underwear as investigators were coming through the front door of their family home.   (Whatever other flaws he might have had, Johnson obviously understood the importance of good succession planning.) In late 2011 Mr. Johnson was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

The system snagged Mrs. Johnson, too.  Her conviction for tampering with evidence was quite inconvenient—she’d won a seat on the County Council and had just started to serve her term in December of 2010.  Prosecutors agreed that she deserved to serve a term, they just had a slightly more guarded environment in mind.

Mrs. J’s attempt to fight the conviction with the time-honored innocent spouse defense failed, which is a real cautionary tale for those of you who’ve fielded ostensibly benign calls from an absentminded spouse.

“Honey, I forgot my briefcase,” the spouse might say.  “Do you mind grabbing it and that big stack of Benjamins I left on the nightstand? There’s probably room for a few dozen of ’em in your underwear.”  Even the briefly married among us has had this conversation at least once, for heaven’s sake.  Mrs. J. was nevertheless removed from office.

The County was just starting to recover from this blow when, in the fall of 2011, Tiffany Alston, a County delegate to the Maryland General Assembly, was indicted for using campaign finances to help pay for wedding and legal expenses.  This little snafu prevented Alston from keeping her seat, so the Maryland Democratic Committee nominated Greg Hall to fill it.

Their choice spurred more than a little controversy because of Hall’s criminal past.  Hall made no secret of the fact that he’d been a drug dealer.  He’d also been involved, but convicted of no crime, in the shooting death of a young man in Capitol Heights in the 1990s.  And Hall continues to struggle with his taxes, an affliction so common among politicians that it barely warrants comment.

Few doubt that Hall has reformed himself, and most people love a good comeback story.  Martin O’Malley, Maryland’s Governor (a democrat, like Hall and Alston), does not happen to be one of them.  He’s trying to block the nomination.  Meanwhile, Alston wants her old job back and doesn’t think a pesky conviction should stand in her way (she need to look no further than D.C. for ample precedent to support that position).

If nothing else, this whole mess bolsters the long-held belief that reformed criminals struggle with life on the other side.  Sooner or later, most return to a life of crime, which certainly explains their abundant presence in politics.

PG County politics can’t catch a break, but it can catch the Golden Pancake for the week.