Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Sandy Incident


I have always viewed my neighbor as possessing a special touch with dogs. When we first moved into our house, I was repeatedly impressed by his pet’s obedience despite the absence of a leash. While my dog would use such an opportunity to escape from her life of moderately-priced dog food, his canine seemed perfectly content to remain faithfully by his side despite the temptations that a suburban neighborhood provided. We would talk in my driveway for extended periods of time without his dog wandering more than a few feet away. It was amazing.
It was during one of these chats that I mentioned my desire to be rid of Sandy for the afternoon so that I could complete some yard work without her interference. He kindly offered to watch her for a few hours, so I went inside to retrieve her and attach a leash. Despite his protests that a leash was unnecessary, he agreed to take it and led the two dogs back across the street for a fun filled afternoon.
I called him several hours later and told him that he was free to bring Sandy back over whenever it was convenient. He told me to watch him as he emerged from his garage. As I looked out of the front door, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was my neighbor, being flanked by my suddenly obedient and noticeably unrestrained pet. Although I cannot say definitively one way or the other, it is possible that a tear found its way down the side of my cheek as I watched this scene unfold. He had spent two hours with my dog and already she was a whole different animal. I opened the door to meet my newly-rehabilitated pet and imagined the possibilities leashless obedience would bring to our lives. I would probably be able to sustain our existence on the Purina commercials alone….
We stood outside the front door and exchanged pleasantries for several minutes and I was astonished to see Sandy sit calmly at his side for the duration of our conversation. Never had I experience such broad reform in such an abbreviated period of time. Then, just as I was about to take her inside, she spotted the only thing that could break the magical spell: a squirrel. By the time I realized what was happening she had already put 150 feet between us and was following her prey toward the four lane road that runs by our house.
Although Sandy is fast the squirrel had a head-start and quickly found refuge in my neighbor’s oak tree. With the squirrel safely treed, I watched in horror as she continued her adventure by darting between cars on her way toward a group of people across the street. In any circumstance, my dog running toward an ill-prepared group of pedestrians would be troublesome, but this had the potential to be particularly disastrous as I live directly across from a cemetery and the gathering was for a graveside burial service.
While not vicious, my pet is about sixty-five pounds and in her unbridled excitement she tends to jump on people. This is especially problematic for men whose height exceeds six feet as their proportions place her paws in direct contact with their “man croutons.” As my neighbor and I continued the pursuit, I had a vision of Sandy knocking down the grieving widow and briefly barking at the casket before engaging in a game of tug-o-war with the minister’s robes. I was almost certain we would be asked to move.
After finally crossing the street, we took several moments to catch our breath while making judicious use of profanity before we continued our pursuit. In my head, the next few seconds unfolded in slow motion to the Chariots of Fire soundtrack as she made her way toward the solemn faces. Fortunately, for both the bereaved and myself, something else piqued her interest and she detoured around the service and headed for a thicket that served as a border for the graveyard and residential area beyond.
Momentarily relieved, we broke into a sprint again and continued up the sidewalk until we had reached the opposite side of the bushes. The first thing we noticed as we rounded the corner was a terrified older woman who was backed against the outside wall of her home brandishing what appeared to be a hand trowel. She seemed oblivious to our appearance and it wasn’t until we followed her sightline that we noticed what had triggered her defensive posture. It was Sandy; she was balanced on two legs with her front paws perched on the brick planter box at the edge of the poor lady’s patio studying this reluctant new playmate she had discovered.
My neighbor attempted to explain that the animal was not dangerous and that she needn’t be concerned for her safety, but this did little to console the shovel lady and she exploited a momentary lapse in Sandy’s attention to run into her house. With her new friend gone, Sandy began exploring the neighboring properties while simultaneously ignoring our pleas for her to approach us. Over the next several minutes, we both attempted ill-timed flying tackles but she proved too agile to be caught by such a rudimentary method.
My neighbor and I held an impromptu conference and decided that a team effort would yield more favorable results. I would flush her toward his position allowing him the best chance to grab her. Eventually, he was able to tackle her midsection and place her in an improvised half-nelson allowing us to grab her collar.
Needless to say my deal with Purina never materialized, but I haven’t given up hope…..

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Big Brother


The Lower Merion School District outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania distributed 1,800 laptops to students in order to ensure that socio-economic status did not hinder anyone’s access to technology. All the child’s parents had to do was sign an “acceptable use policy” and agree to insure the laptop if it was used outside the confines of the school building.
 The cause was noble, but the execution was poor as the district is now a defendant in a class action lawsuit and the subject of an FBI investigation. How did this come about?
It turns out that the laptops were equipped with a built-in webcam that could be activated and accessed remotely anytime the student was on the Internet.  This feature was allegedly activated while a 15 year old male student was at home and at least one still image was clandestinely obtained by the school system. Then, on November 11, 2009 the young man was approached at school by a female assistant principle who accused him of participating in "improper behavior” in his home and presented him with a still image as proof of this behavior. The boy reported the incident to his parents, who filed a lawsuit against the school district, its board of directors, and the superintendent for unlawfully using the webcam to spy on students in their homes.
The system has issued a statement that "At no time did any high school administrator have the ability or actually access the security-tracking software.” They insist that only a handful of IT personnel have that ability and that the feature is only used to recover stolen or missing laptops. The district claims that in the current school year 42 laptops have been reported missing, stolen, or misplaced. In each instance the school claims that it accessed the cameras and in 18 cases they were successful at locating the missing device.
This story is disturbing on so many levels:
1.       If the assistant principle did indeed have a photo of the student obtained from the camera, she obviously has some access to the feature even if it is indirectly.
2.       There is no indication that the young man’s laptop was ever reported missing or stolen and even if it was, the mandatory insurance on the laptop would cover the replacement cost to begin with.
3.       The agreement signed by the parents simply stated that the school system had the ability to “monitor the hardware”, not the people using it. The webcam is never mentioned.
As someone who works in information technology, I can assure you that there are more effective and less controversial ways to keep track of laptops (LoJack immediately comes to mind) than spying on people in their homes via webcam. Personally I would like to know how the webcam helped them track down a stolen laptop. Did they recognize the Lady GaGa poster on the wall? Did the leather sectional look familiar? Was the perpetrator’s bone structure analyzed by the audio / video club?
The ability to remotely photograph someone in their home is a powerful temptation (I wonder what the cheerleading squad is doing tonight…) and should never be placed in the hands of a group of people with more than a passive familiarity with uploading videos to YouTube. Unless the young man was documented strangling a classmate with piano wire or watching a Jersey Shore marathon, I cannot imagine something heinous enough to justify such a gross invasion of privacy.
The school system has assured all of the parents that the “feature” has been disabled and no longer poses a threat to student’s privacy. In the meantime be on the lookout for www.lowermeriondistrictvoyeurs.com

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Terrible Song Lyrics


“Century” -  LIVE
I can smell your armpits
you stole my idea
you stole my idea
you stole my idea
this puke stinks like beer and everybody's here
I don’t even know where to begin. This cut off of 1997’s Secret Samadhi is either an extremely vivid account of a party attended by paranoid inventors with questionable personal hygiene or a failed exercise in hallucinogenic free association. Either way, it is difficult to defend a reference to fragrant underarms in a rock song. While lyrically this band has always been eccentric (they are likely the only artist to produce a top twenty hit that contains the word “placenta”) they have truly outdone themselves with “Century.”

“Chevy Van” - Sammy Johns
'Cause like a princess she was layin' there
Moonlight dancin' off her hair
She woke up and took me by the hand
We made love in my Chevy van
And that's all right with me
I put her out in a town that was so small
You could throw a rock from end to end
A dirt-road main street, she walked off in bare feet
It's a shame I won't be passin' through again
I imagine that every little girl dreams of one day being picked up by a nomadic sex predator in a minivan only to be unceremoniously deposited in a nameless town without her shoes. Apparently it was this very mindset that inspired Sammy Johns to pen this 1973 platinum single about the romance of the open road. Despite the fact that it reads like the deposition from a federal kidnapping case, the song was subsequently covered by several other artists including Sammy Kershaw, but as of yet has not been used in any General Motors marketing campaigns. And that’s all right with me….

“Rico Suave” - Gereardo
So please don't judge a book by its cover
There's more to being a Latin lover
You got to know how to deal with a woman
That won't let go
The price you pay for being a gigolo
I'm used to good ol' fashioned
Homestyle Spanish cooking
If I try that I'll be puking
In this 1991 hit, Gerardo urges listeners not to “judge a book by its cover” which is apropos considering he spends most of this song’s music video dressed like the gypsy pirate leader of a metro sexual biker-gang. Gerardo’s entire persona became a caricature of every derogatory Latino stereotype available and the nauseatingly smarmy lyrics were mercifully dissected by several seconds of Spanish dialogue. It is also worth noting that just because two words end in “ing” does not necessarily mean that they rhyme. We can only hope that Mr. Suave made a better male escort than he did a lyricist.

"Let’s Get Retarded" – Black Eyed Peas
Everybody, everybody, let's get into it.
Get stupid.
Get retarded, get retarded, get retarded.
Let's get retarded , let's get retarded in here. Let's get retarded, let's get retarded in here.

The fourth single from 2003’s Elephunk album, most people would recognize it by its less offensive reincarnation, Let’s Get It Started. Apparently it took a team of attorneys and corporate publicists to convince the Black Eyed Peas that a song advising its listeners to “get retarded” and “stupid” could potentially be offensive so they changed the title and questionable lyrics after release. The word “retarded” is repeated over thirty-four times throughout the song while the verse instructs us to “disconnect from all intellect.” Perhaps even more chilling is the fact that these lyrics are the finished product of countless studio hours and brainstorming sessions. If getting “retarded” was the best and most marketable idea to emerge, I can only imagine the ideas they discarded early:
·         Let’s Get Dyslexic
·         Let’s Get Paraplegic
·         Let’s Get Gangrenous
·         Let’s Get Cancerous
·         Let’s Get Transgendered
·         Let’s Get Hemorrhagic



"Feed Jake" – Pirates of the Mississippi
If you get an ear pierced, some will call you gay.
But if you drive a pick-up, they'll say 'No, he must be straight.'
What we are and what we ain't, what we can and what we can't,
Does it really matter?


Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I die before I wake, feed Jake, he's been a good dog,
My best friend right through it all, if I die before I wake,
Feed Jake

Released as a single in 1991, it remains the band’s highest charting song and to this day no one knows what message the band was attempting to convey. The verse seems to indicate that a direct correlation can be drawn between a man’s sexual orientation and the motor vehicle he owns.
·         Man with pierced ear + 1990 Chevrolet Silverado = Not Gay
·         Man with pierced ear + 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity = Gay
·         Man with no piercings + 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity = Single
Although this type of information is certainly important, the song’s title and chorus indicate that canine malnourishment is also weighing heavily on the composer’s mind. The chorus transforms the song into an awkward combination of a living will and an Alpo commercial, pleading with someone to feed his beloved Jake since “he’s been a good dog.” A band member later explained the song “means something different to everyone who hears it.” This is musician code for “we had no idea that the song was to be released to the public and I have been blindsided by this question.”

“21 Things That I Want In a Lover” – Alanis Morrisette
Do you have a big intellectual capacity but know
that it alone does not equate to wisdom?
Do you see everything as an illusion
but enjoy it even though you are not of it?
Are you both masculine and feminine, politically aware, and don't believe in capital punishment?
These are 21 things that I want in a lover
Not necessarily needs but qualities that I prefer
Do you derive joy from diving in and seeing that
loving someone can actually feel like freedom? Are you funny and self-deprecating, like adventure, and have many formed opinions?

This track off Alanis’s 2002 release Under Rug Swept, was apparently used as a melodic personal ad for the Canadian rocker. This was unfortunate since the underlying track featured the guitar stylings of the brilliant Dan DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots. While I am not qualified to criticize the qualities Alanis finds attractive in a mate, I must say that her delivery leaves something to be desired. The lyrics carry the emotional weight of a 1040 Tax form and read like an intrusive phone survey set to music. Perhaps worst of all she seems to contradict herself. She detests ambivalence, unless it involves gender, desires someone intelligent enough to be thoroughly disillusioned, but simple-minded enough to be happy about it, and someone who is self-depreciating and humble about their “big intellectual capacity.” Isn’t it ironic…..


"Big Girls Don’t Cry" - Fergie

And I'm gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket
But I've got to get a move on with my life
It's time to be a big girl now
And big girls don't cry
This is perhaps one of the worst analogies ever to appear in a love song. It is inexcusable that someone with practically limitless financial resources cannot produce a more appropriate phrase to capture their emotional longing for another human being. This songs makes “It’s not you, it’s me” read like a Walt Whitman poem. Again, we can only speculate at the ideas that were discarded in favor of this little nugget:
·         I’m gonna miss you like Ike misses Tina
·         I’m gonna miss you like infant dehydration misses Pedialyte
·         I’m gonna miss you like my colon misses dietary fiber
·         I’m gonna miss you like OPEC misses 2008
·         I’m gonna miss you like a parrot misses a pirate’s shoulder
·         I’m gonna miss you like scurvy misses Vitamin C


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Help for Haiti

The outpouring of love and support for Haiti has been unparalleled. Between the celebrity telethons and the steady influx of civic and religious organizations, I find myself reassured by our response to such a devastating event. However, like any large scale relief effort there have been a few notable misfires:

The first was the attempted removal of 33 Haitian children from the country by a group of missionaries from Idaho’s Central Valley Baptist Church. The group was led by a woman named Laura Silsby (subtle yellow arrow) whose credentials and experience would seem to make an ideal candidate to lead a relief effort in a devastated third-world country:

  •           Her online “personal shopping” business, is floundering and she is currently being sued by 14 separate employees for unpaid wages. Nine of the employees have won their judgments already and the other five are still pending. The state of Idaho has already gone so far as to place liens against her business’s bank accounts.
  • ·         She piled up nine traffic violations over the past several years including four citations for failing to register or insure her car.
  • ·         She defaulted on her mortgage last July, yet still uses that address to register her charity New Life Children's Refuge, which has received thousands of dollars in funding from church members but yielded no tangible assets.
All ten members of the group have now formally been charged with child abduction and criminal conspiracy for their role in a January 29th attempt to take 33 Haitian children (22 of which have at least one living parent) to a non-existent orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Their plan was to temporarily house the children in a beach resort hotel while they found them homes in the United States or built an orphanage. The group (which includes a couple of teenagers) is being held by the Haitian government until their trial.

Let me make it perfectly clear that I do not believe this group was involved in human trafficking or even consciously exploiting an international tragedy, but this was one of the worst executed ideas since the upcoming A-Team remake. At what point did the collective consciousness of this group decide that their best plan of action was to place thirty-three undocumented children in a Dominican Motel 6 until their fiscally-challenged leader built an orphanage with the funds she did not have? If headlines was what they wanted it would have been much more efficient to ignite the Haitian flag and take turns urinating on it outside a Wendy’s.

Not only is this group responsible for ensuring two American teenagers will spend weeks in a Haitian prison, they have damaged the reputation of all other religious missionaries (including other Southern Baptists) who truly wish to bring comfort and aid to a country that has been through so much. When CNN reported that John Travolta had flown in several Scientology ministers to practice “touch therapy” on wounded citizens, I thought “at least we can’t do anything more counterproductive than this.”  I wasn’t even close…..

The second, and perhaps equally as nauseating, response was to remake We Are The World and donate the proceeds of the single to relief efforts. The original, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, has generated over $60 million for humanitarian causes in Africa over the past 25 years and continues to be a popular single. It featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Kenny Rogers among others.

When Quincy Jones decided to issue a remake this year the only question was, “Who represents the pinnacle of musical talent and innovation in the current era?” It would seem that Quincy and I would disagree on the answer to that question. Here is a partial roster of his musical all-stars:

·         Justin Bieber
·         Miley Cyrus
·         Fergie
·         Vince Vaughan
·         Nicole Richie
·         Kevin & Joe Jonas
·         Tito Joe Jackson
·         Fonzworth Bentley
·         Bizzy Bone

All in all there were over 90 celebrities who lent their voices to the effort which plans to raise money by charging $1.29 per download for the song. The concept was so bad that Jay-Z refused to participate calling the original “untouchable.”

While I applaud the sentiment, perhaps the next time Quincy picks up his Blackberry and calls his famous associates to raise money he could spare use all the agony of a song and just have them write a check.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Affair to be Billed For...


Unfortunately, infidelity is as old as the institution it undermines. As long as human connections thrive on loyalty and trust, they will susceptible to the decay of betrayal in whatever form it manifests itself. That being said, a broad commentary on the current state of monogamous relationships is beyond the scope of this piece. Instead, I wish to illuminate the efficiency with which our lapses in morality can be turned to profit, particularly on the Internet.
Although verifiable information on infidelity is scarce (not exactly something people are forthcoming about) most estimates are that between 30 – 60% of married individuals will participate in an affair during the course of the relationship. In the face of such sobering statistics, some have chosen to turn cheating into a recreational activity. Gone are the days when you need only concern yourself with threats posed by your spouse’s attractive coworkers (although interoffice affairs still constitute a sobering 36% of the whole) instead all of cyberspace has come into play.
Entrepreneurs like Noel Biderman have turned our propensity toward infidelity into a successful business model. As the founder and CEO of Ashleymadison.com, a moniker derived from the two most popular female baby names the year he started the company, he has turned affairs into big business. Boasting over 5 million active members, it is the Internet’s largest “married dating and affairs” web service. Their television spots are outrageous enough to be banned from the Super Bowl and the company reportedly offered Tiger Woods 5 million to be their new spokesperson.
The site makes money by charging you for “credits” which are used to communicate with potential partners. If you opt for the $249 high-roller package, they guarantee that you will have an affair or your money will be refunded in full. The idea seems to be popular as the site has reportedly produced profits in excess of $20 million dollars and continues to grow exponentially every year. Biderman, a former sports agent, got the idea after reading that up to 30% of all online dating profiles were married people lying about their status to seek out extramarital sexual partners. His philosophy is, “Why lie about it?”
When pressed about the ethical implications of his business, Biderman responded, “I’m not going to convince anybody to have an affair in a 30-second TV spot. I’m just cannibalizing a human behavior that’s been around as long as marriage itself.” Ironically Mr. Biderman is married with two children, and when asked how he would feel if his wife used his site he replied that he would be “devastated.” In short, Mr. Biderman feels that there is an important distinction between condoning an action and generating revenue from it.

Is Biderman justified in his ethical reasoning? Is there anything wrong with creating a more efficient delivery system for behavior that would continue to occur with or without his presence?

I asked an impromptu panel of my co-workers (all male) how they felt about these very questions and the response was mixed. About half felt that since the service was perfectly legal and the customers would not patronize the business if they had not already decided to have an affair, there was nothing wrong with making an honest living from it.

The other half disagreed and cited the possibility that the prevalence and convenience of the service might be the tipping point for someone who was on the fence about infidelity and otherwise might have remained faithful.

To be fair, Biderman’s site is not the only one in the game; his is just the most popular and well-marketed. There are hundreds of sites that provide the same services and were he to close up shop they would be more than happy to snatch up his table scraps. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that relatively benign social networking sites have begun to shoulder some of the responsibility concerning infidelity. A recent study published in the U.K. Telegraph found that 20% of recent divorce cases cited Facebook in their paperwork as at least a “contributing factor” to the split.  

Of course, it could be argued that we are reading the statistics backwards. That infidelity and marital decay are not caused by these websites, these websites just happen to be the current forum for pre-existing marital issues to manifest themselves. Perhaps the problems run deeper than that. Are the majority of marriages doomed from the beginning? Has the institution become hopelessly archaic and irrelevant?

Certainly the statistics are not encouraging:

·         43% of first marriages will end in divorce
·         60% of second marriages will end in divorce
·         73% of third marriages will end in divorce

It was interesting to note that once a person experienced the dissolution of their first marriage, any subsequent forays into the institution were even less likely to succeed. Why is that? Many of us would assume that in most cases of multiple marriages the initial union failed due to inexperience and immaturity of the participants. Maybe they married young and were ill-prepared to identify the qualities they needed in a long-term mate. Maybe their unrealistic expectations of a marital relationship doomed the pairing from the start.
While there are certainly instances where that was the case, the statistics indicate that such cases are in the minority. After all, if inexperience and immaturity was the issue I think we could safely assume that a person’s next wedding would be the product of intense scrutiny and careful deliberation thereby eliminating these culprits. Instead, in many cases it seems that once a person experiences their initial disillusionment with marriage any confidence in its long time viability is irrevocably tarnished. In other words, both participants start the marriage all too prepared for its demise.
Despite the grim outlook painted by statisticians and reality television, I personally believe that marriage is just as relevant and viable now as ever. For the past 6 ½ years I have had the privilege of being married to an amazing woman. For those of you who read these entries, she is the only reason that I am able to maintain even the thinnest fa├žade of grammatical competence. I say this because she proofreads every one of my ravings with a level of care that far exceeds their literary value, and for that, among countless other things, I am truly grateful. I cannot imagine my life without her, and I cannot imagine me without us.
Marriage is not and will not be easy, but the rewards of a committed monogamous relationship cannot be distributed under any other circumstance. It is a unique package deal, and one that is equally adept at causing the same wounds it can so miraculously heal.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tea Party


This weekend my home state hosted the first ever Tea Party Convention. For those who don’t know, The Tea Party movement began as a series of protests over the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. At nearly $800 Billion Dollars, the A.R.R.A. is largest government bailout since the last government bailout, which was a $178 Billion Dollar stimulus package passed in 2008. Most Americans remember the 2008 package as “the time I got $1,200 for being married.” At any rate, it is crucial to disambiguate the A.R.R.A with the money allocated to General Motors, AIG, and other private industries. These funds came from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (T.A.R.P.) which was signed into existence on October 3, 2008 by then President Bush and later utilized by the Obama administration to issue loans to the above mentioned corporations.
The A.R.R.A funds were generally doled out as tax cuts, supplements for COBRA and Medicaid, and to extend unemployment benefits. To be fair, it also includes the obligatory pork, like $100 million to help remove lead paint from public housing, and Tea Party members felt that such measures were needlessly deepening the national debt and took to the streets in protest. This self proclaimed “grassroots” movement culminated last week with the Tea Party Convention, a three day extravaganza featuring Sarah Palin as the keynote speaker. The event was to be a gathering of “regular folks” who wished to discuss issues like smaller government, protecting freedoms, and modest spending.
I agree with many of their points concerning overspending (this is capitalism, let GM plug their own leaks) but I was disturbed by several items that emerged from the convention:
·         For a movement concerned with overspending and “regular folk” perhaps you shouldn’t charge $549 a person. It is rather tough when you are giving interested citizens the choice between attending a convention and making the monthly payment on their Honda Odyssey.

·          There is no organization. One of the mantras of the gathering was that the movement did not need a leader or even a hierarchical structure to accomplish their goals. Phil Valentine was quoted as saying "The tea-party movement has no leader, and ... neither did the American Revolution!”The historical ignorance of this statement is somewhat frightening considering our war efforts were lead by then commander-in-chief George Washington who was given that position by the Second Continental Congress. Someone is always in charge, whether you see them or not.

·         Palin was reportedly paid $100,000 for delivering her speech; a sum she now insists will flow back into the “movement” which has no financial oversight in place due to the previously mentioned disdain for centralization. She also undermined her own message by negatively alluding to Obama’s use of a teleprompter while referring to the talking points written on her own hand.


·         Make some goals. So far the biggest accomplishment of the Tea Party Movement is elevating the projected revenue for the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center. Will this be a new political party? An emphatic no. Will there be a lobbying group in place to repeal unwanted legislation? There is no leadership to spearhead it. Can we elect Congressional delegates to represent the views of the group? There isn’t any. Will this movement prevent me from receiving pointless text messages from AT&T? We can only pray….
While some of the intentions of the movement may be honorable, I am wary of any group that takes donations but refuses to implement a system to make decisions on how that money is allocated. If there is one thing we do not need, it is another rudderless movement with a corny theme song.
On a personal note, if I have to hear the word “grassroots” used in a political context one more time I might seriously contemplate Canadian citizenship. I have decided that in the next election I will vote for the candidate that uses these phrases the least:
·         Grassroots
·         Main Street
·         Reaching Across The Aisle
·         Everyday People
·         Synergy
·         Bipartisan
·         Special Interest Groups