Monday, December 29, 2008

2008: Not So Great





George Bush isn't the only one who's been a lame duck for the last couple of months of 2008. I have, too. I think all Americans have been lame ducks. We've been in limbo. We've been waiting to see how the financial crisis will be resolved, waiting to see what's going to happen with the automakers, and waiting to see how things will be under President Obama. Like a lame duck, we've been treading water. And time doesn't fly when you're treading water.

I can't be the only person who feels that the end of 2008 has dragged on and on. It seems like 2008 will never end. Doesn't it seem like it's been the longest year ever?

One of the reasons, of course, was because we had an interminable Presidential campaign. And the war continued without any hints of a dramatic ending. And we kept hoping that the bad financial times would be over. So it certainly was not a year's end that zipped by.

And to make it even longer, not only was 2008 a leap year, but scientists added a "leap second" to it. Apparently, they do this every once in a while when they notice that the earth's rotation is slowing down slightly. In case you're interested, the leap second will be added onto December 31st. Let's all make the most of that extra second.

Things that didn't really happen that long ago seem like they happened ages ago. For example, can you believe that John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate only four months ago? Doesn't it seem longer? Were we really able to live our entire lives, minus four months, without Sarah Palin?

Were the Olympics really just this past summer? And were the John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer scandals really this year? They seem like something from a distant, more innocent past. Of course, they have been trumped by year-end scandals, but neither Blagojevich nor Madoff made the time pass more quickly.

Think your memory of 2008 is perfect? Who won the 2008 Super Bowl? Not a sports fan? Who won the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize? (Hint: it wasn't any of the football players from the Super Bowl).

Remember when gas prices were ridiculously high? Remember when houses sold ridiculously fast? Remember when I lost my cell phone? (Okay, that's a hard one).

Remember when the polygamists' ranch was raided? That really happened just this year.

This was a year when some things were all turned around. I don't know about you, but I can remember when people went to banks for money instead of the other way around.

And didn't you think pirates were a thing of the past?

One of the most outrageous Congressional earmarks was $50,000 proposed by California Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon. He felt the money should go to the National Mule and Packers Museum. And they say government doesn't support the arts.

Speaking of four-legged animals, a Norwegian equestrian was stripped of his Olympic bronze medal because his horse had taken a "banned substance." That's right. The horse didn't pass the drug test. With all the publicity about how harmful these drugs are, plus with every newspaper talking about how stringent tests are at the Olympics, how could a horse be so stupid and risk everything by taking drugs? What was he thinking?

The news story that defines 2008 has to do with Burger King. In the beginning of this month, the fast food company came out with a cologne – actually a men's body spray -- that smells like "flame broiled meat." "Who would want to smell like cooked meat?" But isn't this a perfect move for a company to make in 2008? People are worried about not having enough money to buy groceries, and they think that men are going to spend their hard-earned dollars so they'll smell like a hamburger? Maybe they're going for the burger bailout.

If "Flame" – as Burger King's cologne is called -- actually turns out to be a hot product, watch for the banks to follow suit. They could sell "Bucks," a cologne that smells like money. That way, Americans can walk around in 2009 with nothing in their pockets, but at least they'll smell like money.

And if the banks' cologne is successful, I'll bet other fragrances will follow. I just hope those in charge of that mule museum don't get any ideas.

Happy New Year, and have a great 2009.






Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What Now? A Tsunami?






Like most people these days, I've been trying to put on a happy face for the holiday season despite the war dragging on, the failing economy, the bailouts, the scandals, the non-bailouts, and my not being invited to the Inauguration. We all know that smiling helps us feel better, and it even helps people who see us smile feel better. Besides, we know that there are so many people who have it far worse than we do. Things aren't really that bad, right? That's what I was telling myself until I recently learned that I live less than a mile from a "Tsunami Hazard Zone." There's always something.


A few weeks ago, my son asked if I had noticed that there are new blue signs up that tell us that we're entering a "Tsunami Hazard Zone" as we drive towards the ocean, and other signs that tell us we're leaving the "Zone" as we drive away from it. I hadn't noticed them, but the next day I saw them, and I've seen them every day since then. I know the signs aren't actually very large, but because of what they say, they seem to be among the biggest signs I've ever seen. It's like they are dripping with danger and flashing with warning. Because of their implications, they would dwarf a Las Vegas billboard advertising Cher.


Some 90 signs have been placed in the area, and there are more signs throughout the state, dotting the 101 and the coast area. It's all part of the recommendations of California's Seismic Safety Commission. The Commission determined in 2005, that earthquakes can cause tsunamis, and they don't give much warning time. I wonder how much it cost the taxpayers to come up with that startling conclusion.


Somehow, these signs are supposed to make us safer. I'm not sure about that. If I'm driving along the ocean, and then a tsunami starts up, how is reading a sign that tells me I'm in a tsunami zone going to make me safer?

I guess they'd reply that one should follow the signs that say, "Leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone" and go to higher ground. No kidding.

I tried to find out what we are supposed to do now that we officially live in a tsunami evacuation area, not far from a tsunami danger zone. However, none of the officials returned my calls. Maybe they were busy getting ready for The Big Wet One.


I moved into this neighborhood about 11 years ago, and I've loved living here. I used to think it was a good thing that we lived only a mile from the beach. So now am I supposed to worry every day, knowing that I'm uncomfortably close to the tsunami zone? And what is this going to do to property values in my neighborhood? Did the value of my house really need another reason to go down? Wouldn't you have second thoughts about buying a house a big wave away from the tsunami danger zone?


Since we're not in the "danger zone," but are around the "evacuation route," are we going to have special responsibilities if there is a tsunami? Are we supposed to open up our home to those who had to evacuate? Does that mean I need to get the house painted and clean up my home office? And what do you serve people who have evacuated a tsunami? I don't think seafood would be appropriate.


I assume that very soon, I'll employ the same psychological tactic I've used for years regarding earthquakes -- denial. Obviously, you can't live in this area and worry about earthquakes every minute. The same goes for tsunamis. So why did they have to put up signs to remind us of the danger?


I just didn't need something else to worry about. What are they going to do next, put up signs that say things like, "You Might Have Left Your House Unlocked," "They Know About That Book You Never Returned," or "You Should Have A Dermatologist Look At That Thing On Your Back?"


But I decided not to express all these feelings to the officials in charge. If I did, the next day they'd probably put up a sign in my neighborhood saying something like, "Entering A Neurotic Writer's Zone."


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Misunderstood Blagojevich





Isn't it possible, that Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, is just misunderstood? I'm not a lawyer, but I've seen lawyers played on TV. And I've been thinking about Blagojevich ever since the FBI arrested him. Like many of you, I've been wondering what his defense can possibly be since the Feds taped so many damaging words of his. By the time you read this, he may have resigned or have been impeached. However, as of this writing, he has not been found guilty of anything. So, isn't it just possible that the man is completely innocent? Okay, I know that's a stretch. Regardless, I decided to put myself in the wing-tipped shoes of a criminal lawyer making hundreds of dollars an hour to try to get this man off the hook. If I were his lawyer, this is probably the kind of thing I'd say:

Citizens of Illinois, ladies and gentlemen of the press (or of the jury, depending), I represent Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. I maintain that not only is his name often mispronounced, but it has also been cruelly sullied. Rod Blagojevich is not the money-hungry, vulgar, crooked, arrogant, stupid man that you may think he is. Wait, I left out "disgraceful." Anyway, this is a man who has suffered his whole life. As a child, other kids made fun of his name. As an adult, people have made fun of his hair. And yet, he was able to rise to one of the highest offices in this land that he loves so much. That's got to be worth something, doesn't it? Uh, you know what I mean.


Let's talk about the charge that people find the most shocking: the alleged attempt to sell the Senate seat formerly belonging to President-elect Barack Obama. This is perhaps the biggest example of there being a misunderstanding. When Rod Blagojevich said that he was interested in "selling Obama's Senate seat," he literally meant "Obama's Senate seat" -- the chair that Obama sat in while in the Senate. He did not mean that he was selling someone the lofty position of Senator; he was talking about furniture.

Now, this was probably a mistake, a mistake that he is quite sorry for. He shouldn't have been trying to sell a Senator's chair anymore than I should've tried to sell that Supreme Court Justice's couch a few years ago. I wasn't thinking straight then, and neither was Rod.


Mr. Blagojevich has done his best to be a proper Governor for the people of Illinois. He is an old-fashioned guy who believes in tradition, and he was trying to follow that tradition. If he is guilty of anything, it is of trying too hard. Historically, four of the last eight elected Governors of Illinois have been charged with a crime. Since 1971, approximately 1000 Illinois public servants have been convicted of corruption, and in Chicago 30 Aldermen have gone to jail. Should he be demonized for just trying to follow in the footsteps of the public servants who came before him?

The "Corporate Crime Reporter" recently crunched some Department of Justice statistics to see which state was the most corrupt in the nation. Louisiana was Number One, followed by Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, and finally Illinois. That's right. Illinois was only sixth. To someone who always wanted Illinois to be Number One in everything, can you imagine how the Governor felt when he read these statistics?


He decided he'd do his best to bring Illinois up to being at least in the top three. Who knows? Because of Rod Blagojevich, he may have pushed Illinois past Louisiana!

You decide. Should someone be severely punished for trying to sell an old chair while he was attempting to make Abraham Lincoln's state Number One?


I don't think so. I rest my case."

That's what I would say if I were his lawyer. And who knows? Maybe that's the kind of thing that'll get him off. Crazier things have happened in court.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Smokey The Bear Accidentally Shot









That headline about Smokey could appear in newspapers across the country soon. For the first time in 25 years, a new Bush Administration rule will allow people to carry loaded, concealed weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges. Will the majority of people who visit these parks feel safer because of this new ruling? What do you think?


Which do you think is going to happen first, or more often: A law-abiding citizen with a permit to carry a concealed weapon will use his gun to protect himself or his property? Or, there will be a tragic accident involving a drunk and a gun, an animal and a gun, or a little kid and a gun?


Why do gun owners think it's so important to have a gun with them in a national park? Is this part of their "slippery slope" theory. You know, that if guns are prohibited in the parks, next they'll be saying you can't have a bazooka in your garage.


Here's the ruling: beginning in January, people who are licensed to carry concealed weapons will be allowed to carry those weapons in national parks So, people will be allowed to carry firearms, concealed and loaded, in 388 out of the 391 national parks. Wisconsin and Illinois don't issue concealed carry permits, so the parks in those states are exempt. But I'm sure the National Rifle Association is taking aim at those three parks, too.


You're probably wondering what liberal, left-wing, Constitution-hating regime banned these weapons from parks 25 years ago. Well, the bill that did so was signed by Ronald Reagan. It required firearms to be unloaded and placed somewhere that wasn't too accessible, such as a car trunk, while people visited federal parks. I guess the NRA feels that the Founding Fathers were against keeping things in locked trunks.


This paragraph is specifically for members of the NRA and other gun owners. I'm not saying that you don't have the legal right to carry a gun into a national park. So you don't have to send me that nasty email. (But you can if you want to). I'm just appealing to common sense when I ask the question, "Why do you feel a need to bring a gun into a national park?"


The way the NRA explains it, "We are pleased that the Interior Department recognizes the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families while enjoying America's National Parks and wildlife refuges."


But what is it that they feel a need to protect themselves from? Until now, people weren't walking around with guns, so it can't be other campers. Shooting those bears who are sniffing around your garbage isn't allowed. Those Boy Scouts who might be singing too loudly aren't really a threat. So what are you so afraid of that you feel the need to have your gun with you?


Part of the above NRA quote refers to "enjoying" the parks. You mean, until now, there were people who visited the parks, and then afterwards said to their friends or spouses, "I loved the hiking, and the beauty of the park was breathtaking. But I really would have enjoyed the experience more if I had had my concealed weapon with me?"


I believe the NRA folks when they say they will feel safer because of this ruling. But what about the rest of us? Are you going to feel safer, knowing that those guys in the next tent who just drank a case of beer might be carrying concealed weapons? Are you going to be afraid to ask the woman by the campfire who's playing her radio too loud to turn it down now that you know that the thing in her pocket might not be a flashlight? And will that nervous guy with a gun who sees something moving in the middle of the night shoot it before realizing it's you running to the bathroom?



Gun guys, take a break. We all know the law says you can have your gun with you, but it doesn't say you must have it with you. Can't you leave it at home for one little weekend? Just have fun at the park, and if you think you're going to miss your gun too much, you can always bring a picture of it. Just don't reach for that picture too quickly. One of your buddies might think your reaching for something else.



Friday, December 5, 2008

CEOs At The Wheel






Or



? ? ?

The CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler have been trying some public relations moves lately. They're saying that if Congress bails them out with billions, they will only take a dollar a year in salary. It's part of the "we all have to make sacrifices" approach. I guess they think it makes up for the fact that they made millions last year while their companies were going in the toilet and many of their employees lost their jobs. They probably also think this sacrifice says, "We care more about this industry and our country than we do about personal wealth." Yeah, right.



I know that what's happened to the auto business is not just the fault of these three guys. We can't blame them for the fact that fewer and fewer people have the money or can get the credit to buy cars these days. And there are all kinds of reasons why the American car business has a hard time competing with foreign manufacturers. But these are the guys at the helm. This is their watch. They are the ones getting the big bucks to take the credit or blame for their companies.



I rarely begrudge anyone a big salary. If an actor or an athlete makes $20 million a year, it doesn't bother me. For one thing, it's not coming out of my pocket. I also figure that whoever is paying them is making hundreds of millions. But there's something wrong with how the auto CEOs acted. Picture these execs, sitting down at the dinner table at home after work: CEO's WIFE: "How was work today?" CEO: "Pretty rough. I had to lay off 3,000 workers. Pass the caviar."



In another P.R. attempt, the CEOs decided to drive to Washington this time to ask Congress for money instead of taking their private jets. Was that stupidity or arrogance that guided them to get in those planes last time? Anyway, I don't think driving to Washington was enough of a gesture. For one thing, it was three guys going from the same place to the same place. Don't you think they could have carpooled? Of course, they never would have been able to agree on whose car to take.



Now, I've never been the CEO of a company. I didn't even appoint myself CEO when I had my own corporation. But maybe the business needs some fresh ideas today. So, if I were one of the CEOs, I would have challenged the other two guys to race to Washington in the cars their companies make. Winner gets the most money from Congress.



There would have been some rules. Each of them would have to have driven a five-year-old mid-level model. A lot of people would be interested in knowing how those cars drive when they aren't brand new. Another thing: it would make these executives look more human if their wives and kids were in the car for the road trip, too.



If they were really interested in good P.R, they'd have videotaped the whole drive. Besides, if the taxpayers are going to give or lend these companies billions of dollars, don't you think we deserve to see how their cars hold up on a 525-mile road trip? Wouldn't you like to see these guys dealing with things like driving in the snow, maybe having to jump a battery, and finding a roadside restaurant that all members of the family agree on? These men are paid for making big decisions. I would've loved to have seen how they handle a really big decision – like when their kid says he has to go to the bathroom two minutes after they've pulled away from a rest stop.



But I think the best public relations move for these guys would be for them to resign. And it's not too late. Resignation would really say that they care more about the country and their industry than they do about personal wealth. Then they could take their millions and their stock options and go on a vacation. I'll bet that by the time they get home, some other big company will offer them a CEO job.



Why not? This is America where everybody deserves a second chance. And I have a feeling they will have learned from their earlier mistake. Oh, sure, they might run their new companies into the ground, too. But I'll bet when they go to Washington to ask Congress for another bailout for those new companies, they'll be smart enough to leave those private jets at home.





Monday, November 24, 2008

If Hillary, Why Not Me?





With all the talk in recent weeks about the surprising choices that President-elect Obama has made in terms of people who will probably work for him, one question has come to my mind: if Hillary, why not me? Or you? Why shouldn't we be part of the Obama Administration if we want to be? And then I learned the good news that anybody can apply for a job with Obama simply by going online at Change.gov.


Obviously, more people are going to be applying for positions than there are jobs. But I think I've got a really good chance. I don't even have some of the strikes against me that some people have that he's already hired. Here's what I'm talking about:


I've never said that Barack Obama's entire experience comes down to "just one speech back in 2004." I've never said that he "isn't ready" to be President. He won't have to ask me more than once, if he decides to offer me a job. My family's finances are an open book – a pretty thin one, at that. I don't even have to move to Washington. I'll be happy to do something part-time from my house. How can they say "no" to all that?


Obviously, I'm not expecting a Cabinet position. I'll be happy with a lower level job. I'm not looking for fame and fortune. I just want to help the country. Okay, I admit it. I'd like a little perk, too. I'd love to have "franking privileges" in which I get to mail things for free. By four years from now, an ordinary stamp might cost about as much as an ordinary car.


I'm not going to get too cocky about this. I know I have to apply like everybody else. So, I went to Change.gov and started to toss my electronic hat into the ring. Once there, I found a link at the bottom of the page that says, "Jobs, Apply Now." I clicked it, and got to the page that I guess Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton had to fill out.


Under "Application Process," they explained that soon after filling out the application, I'd receive a link to a more complete application, then I'd get an acknowledgement, and then "if and when" I'm considered for a specific position, I'd have to fill out more stuff and possibly be checked out by the F.B.I.


I confess that the idea of being investigated –- or "vetted" -- by the F.B.I. made me nervous – even though I have nothing to hide. If they want to stop me from serving the country just because of what happened in history class in high school, or in Reno when I was in college, or that flashback episode of "Family Ties," then that's their loss.


I submitted the form. Almost immediately, I started wondering if this was really a scam. Was this something just to make people feel good, make us feel like the administration was open to hiring people in a new way, but it's really not? After I hit that "submit" button, was my information really going anywhere?
But within seconds – yes, seconds – I received an email from them. This is what it said:


Hello Lloyd,

Thank you for your interest in joining the Obama-Biden Administration.
Within a few days, you will receive an email with a link to the more complete
on-line application. Please be patient, as we are trying to respond promptly
to the large number of people who are interested in working in the Administration.

Thanks.



So, it's legit! I thought the "Hello Lloyd" (with no comma in between) was a bit informal for a response to a job application. However, I realize this is the "new politics," and we're all going to have to get used to things not being done "in the same old way."


When I started to reflect on the hiring process, I began to realize that they hadn't asked me what kind of a job I wanted. What if they ask me to do something really dull? I don't want to have to have to figure out how many bushels of Brussels sprouts American farmers should produce or count bathtubs for the Bureau of Statistics. Or worse, what if I'm humiliated and they don't offer me a job at all?


But then I calmed down. The Obama-Biden group is considered by some to have run one of the smartest campaigns in history. They know what they're doing. They'll know how right I am for this. After all, isn't my more than thirty years of working in sitcoms the perfect experience for someone wanting to get into politics?


I'll keep you posted.



Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Email Day






According to his staff, once Barack Obama becomes President, he'll probably have to stop sending all those emails he likes to send. Not surprisingly, there are some concerns about email security since it seems like everybody but me knows how to hack into someone else's email. In addition, the Presidential Records Act requires that all correspondence of a President must be made part of the public record. Obviously, we don't need to have hours and hours of him saying things like, "Love you, too," or "Who won the game?" in the Smithsonian. So, it looks like he'll be hanging up the old Blackberry – his emailing, phone calling, Internet checking, etc. device.


It's ironic to cut Obama off from the Internet since the Internet was such an important part of his campaign – and of his victory. It also seems somewhat unfair. I mean, if he's comfortable communicating this way, should he really have to stop? He was elected President of the United States. It's not like telling your teenage kid to stop using the Internet. And let's put it in an historical perspective: suppose they told Lincoln he could no longer use a pen to draft his speeches? We might never have had the Gettysburg Address.


But as we've seen over and over again, President-elect Obama is a very disciplined man. If he has to give up communicating via the Internet, I'm sure he will. But would you be able to? It might not be as easy as it sounds. I think a lot of us are addicted to writing e-mails, checking our e-mails, sending messages via Facebook or I.Ms., etc.


Here's a simple test to see if you are an Internet messaging addict:


1)You come home from a party. Are you capable of going to bed without checking your messages?

2)In the morning, do you feel you have to check your messages before you eat breakfast?

3)You're having sex when you hear a beep that means you have an incoming message. Do you ignore it, answer it, or try to get the sex over with as soon as possible so you can check the message?

4)When you're bored or waiting for a phone call, do you sometimes send completely unnecessary messages to people, such as: "Call you later," "I'm thinking of getting a haircut," or "I'm really bored?"

5)Do you ever go through your electronic address book, looking for people you haven't sent messages to lately, and then send them a message like those in Question 4?


If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you could be an Internet messaging addict. If you answered "Yes" to Question #3, your relationship is also in trouble.


I'm not saying that this is necessarily a dangerous addiction. What I am saying is that many of us waste a lot of time doing this and could probably cut down on it.


Here's my proposal. Even if you're not an addict, why don't we all show some solidarity with the President-elect by having a No Email Day? Let's all just stop using email for one day. (And by email, I also mean all the other electronic ways people communicate, so don't be a wise guy and think you can keep I.M.-ing). These are difficult times for our country, and by doing this we can demonstrate that we are capable of making sacrifices.


You get to pick your own day for your No Email Day. We don't all have to do it on the same day. That way, you can pick a Sunday when you know you won't need to send messages for work, or a Wednesday when you know you won't have to send messages about last night's football game.


A few years ago, most of us were spending zero minutes a day emailing. Surely, we can go back to that for just one day, especially if Obama is going to be refraining for at least four years. I'm going to set a good example, by starting things off. Right when I finish this column, I'm going to stop sending and checking on electronic messages for 24 hours. Ready, set, go!





Okay, okay. I admit it. I only lasted 20 minutes. In a moment of weakness, I walked back to my computer, and once I was there, the next thing I knew I was checking on my email. (No new messages, by the way). Well, I guess it proves one thing: Now we know I'll never be able to be President.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Real American Familes






For the past several years, we all know that there has been an emotional issue that has divided the nation. The other day, Connecticut became the second state to make the practice legal. After that happened, I interviewed Frank Wilson, the head of the Campaign For The Preservation of Keeping American Families The Way We Like Them. When I talked to him, he was a bit upset because he thought that his proposal should have been on all of the ballots across the country in the recent election. He calls his proposal Proposition 8A and it deals, of course, with the controversial issue of making it illegal for "anything other than the traditional lawn to be legally called a 'lawn.'"

We conducted the interview on his beautiful green lawn:



ME: Mr. Wilson, why shouldn't couples be allowed to have whatever kind of lawn they want?


WILSON: If you look up "lawn" in the dictionary, you'll find that it's defined as "a stretch of open, grass-covered land." It doesn't say a lawn is something that contains a rock garden, a waterfall, or a big tree in the middle of it like some people are trying to get away with these days.

ME: So, you don't like the way some of these non-traditional lawns look.

WILSON: We do not object to the way they look. What we object to is calling them "lawns."

ME: What do you think they should be called?



WILSON: Civil Union Front Yards. But they say that's not good enough.


ME: Maybe in the spirit of equality, they feel the same word should be used for them as the one used by more traditional lawns.


WILSON: Tough. We had the word first. Look, sure they should have the same legal rights as those who have normal front lawns – water, sunshine, etc.— but they are certainly not entitled to the name. These people have an agenda of changing a definition that has been important to the sanctity of American families for generations.


ME: What does a lawn have to do with the sanctity of American families?

WILSON: A lawn is where Americans have tossed baseballs and footballs around. It's where little kids wrestle. It's where young couples have sat and smelled the recently mowed grass.

ME: Yes, but...

WILSON: A lawn is made of American grass. Period. It's not a place where people admire a rock formation or listen to a waterfall. If two consenting adults want those kinds of things, they should put them in the privacy of their backyard. We don't want our children being taught about non-traditional lawns that belong to a small, but loud minority.

ME: Mr. Wilson, maybe it's time to accept that over the years, the meaning of the word "lawn" has evolved.

WILSON: Please don't bring that ridiculous "evolution" theory into this.

ME: But obviously, the vast lawn and garden of something like the Palace of Versailles is quite different from your own front lawn.

WILSON: Let's not bring the immorality of the French into this discussion.

ME: Mr. Wilson, you don't only object to couples having non-traditional lawns, but you claim that their having these lawns somehow denigrates your own lawn. Could you explain that, please?

WILSON: Glad to. If a couple has some weird thing in front of their house and they are legally allowed to call it a lawn, that diminishes the status of my own lawn. Next, anything could be called a lawn. A monkey could be called a lawn. And we don't want to allow monkeys to replace American families frolicking on their lawns.

SUDDENLY, THERE IS A LOUD NOISE COMING FROM NEXT DOOR.

ME: What was that?

WILSON: Next door neighbors. Those Macmillans are fighting again. One of them probably threw something at the other. It happens all the time.

ME: That's terrible.

WILSON: Yeah, it's one crazy family. Each of them has been married three times, their kids are on drugs, empty beer bottles come flying out of their house at all hours,...

ME: And yet, their lawn is perfectly manicured green grass.

WILSON: What's your point?

ME: Isn't it just possible that the couple down the street that has the nontraditional lawn with a rock garden and a waterfall might have a loving, caring family?

WILSON: How would I know? I've never met them. And I don't plan on it, either. Hey, is that crabgrass?

As Mr. Wilson bends over to weed his lawn, I resist kicking him in his traditional, American rear end.












Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tears For Obama?





The political cartoon that has probably affected me the most in my life was the Bill Mauldin drawing after the Kennedy assassination. As you can see, it shows the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln memorial, with his face in his hands, obviously crying. In response to Barack Obama winning the Presidency, maybe an appropriate cartoon today would show Lincoln crying once again, but this time they would be tears of joy or amazement.


I'm not so naïve as to think, as Rush Limbaugh and others scorn, that Obama is "the one," the Messiah, the person who is going to single-handedly cure America of all of its problems. I don't even know if he's going to be a great President -- only time will tell. I'm also not so naïve as to think that his election means that bigotry is a thing of the past in the United States. I'm sure there are people who don't think Obama's election represents progress so much as a lucky Democrat who happened to be running at the right time. I disagree. There are several areas of real progress. Personally, I'm going to give Obama a chance and my support despite his rooting for the Chicago White Sox and my being a Cubs fan. I think you'll agree that's real progress.


Barack Obama and his family are now preparing to move into the White House – which was built with slave labor. That's progress, isn't it? Apparently, there was no "Bradley effect" in this election in which people claimed to the pollsters that they were going to vote for Obama but when they got into the voting booths, they just couldn't bring themselves to vote for a black man. It's possible that some people did feel, "I hate voting for a black man, but this economy is killing me and maybe he can get us out of this jam better than McCain." If that's true, maybe it's not such a bad thing. It means that some people's self-interest trumped their prejudices. Maybe in a few more generations, their families won't have these prejudices at all. No progress?


Something that seemed to elude Sarah Palin and some of the Palinites is that while it's true that "Joe the Plumber" is a real American, he's not the only real American. The Muslim who became a citizen a year ago is also a real American. The rabbi with Russian parents who was born in Brooklyn is a real American. And the black woman whose great-grandparents were slaves is also a real American.


One thing the election seemed to do was repudiate fear of or hatred for "the other." It didn't represent a triumph for the stereotypical "typical American," but for all Americans.


Most of all, to many of us, it represented an enormous step forward in American history. Just like the elderly African-American woman crying in Chicago's Grant Park, I never imagined that I would see the election of a black or a multiracial President in my lifetime. I'm old enough to remember visiting Florida in the Fifties and seeing "colored" water fountains and bathrooms. I recall going on driving vacations with my family to Wisconsin, and not being able to stay at certain motels along the way because they were "restricted" to white Christians. I can certainly remember the killings, the lynchings, and the other violence associated with the Civil Rights Movement of the Sixties.


Coincidentally, I was in Grant Park for the last big political demonstration there during the violent days of the 1968 Democratic Convention. (I wasn't a war protestor, I was a journalism student at Northwestern. I was covering the all-important delegation of Hawaii. They showered me with flowered leis, not tear gas – but I think I'm allergic to both). Even though there were many more people in Grant Park for Obama's acceptance speech, there was no violence. That's real progress, too.




Friday, October 31, 2008

Sex News





Obviously, most of what you've been reading, hearing and seeing in the media lately has been about politics. But that doesn't mean that nothing new has been going on in the world of sex. All the pesky Presidential press has just buried the sex news. So, in case you've missed these developments in the area that can get just as hot as a debate about banking regulations, I'm here to fill you in.


Perhaps making the biggest waves in bedroom science is a recent study that discloses that women have definitely made some progress towards sexual equality, at least in one area. The area is infidelity. Yes, in this dubious race for equality, the number of women committing adultery is catching up to the number of men. So not only are some women breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling, but I guess they are also breaking through the motel's cottage cheese-plaster ceiling with the water stains on it.


Of course, some wives aren't the only ones fooling around. According to studies reported in the New York Times and elsewhere, infidelity in general has been on the increase. I wonder if cheating is going to continue to go up in this bad economy. Affairs are not for cheapskates, so fewer and fewer people will be able to afford a double life. But maybe all the tension people feel because of money problems will push them away from their marriages, regardless of the cost. Or the opposite could happen. Sometimes in times of trouble, stress can bring a couple closer together. For years, there has been a theory that when women's hemlines drop, so does the stock market. Only time and future studies will tell how the stock market will be affected by underwear dropping on a motel room floor.


Marriage experts often point to poor communication as a cause for infidelity. There is a new invention that's supposed to help with this. It's called the SweetieDo. It's a "silent whistle," much like a dog whistle. I'm not kidding. The theory, supported by something called the NeuroImage Journal, is that it's a lot of work for a man to understand what a woman is saying, because the man first interprets the female voice as music. I wonder what music the researchers feel men are hearing instead of their wives' voices? The theme song for ESPN'S "SportsCenter?"


Anyway, they say that it's often difficult for men to understand what women are saying, because a woman's voice contains complex frequencies, like music. So, it's hard for a woman to get a man's attention.


As much as I'd love to use this as a rationalization, I'm not buying – either the theory or the device. If a wife has to blow a whistle to get her husband's attention, the problem's the guy, not the wife's frequencies. The music that will probably be playing in that marriage is "Taps."


In another ring in the circus of sex, there will soon be a musical, actually a "rock opera," about "Deep Throat's" Linda Lovelace. For those too young to remember, Ms.Lovelace starred in the most famous porn movie in history in which she, well, you know the title. Those involved in the new musical production say they aren't interested in the salacious aspects of the late actress' life. Instead, they see her as a tragic, exploited figure. They maintain, "This isn't about a porn movie. This is the story of a woman's life."


All of that may be true, and I'm sure this could be handled in a way to make it a play that's not about sex. I'm just not sure I'll be able to sit in the theater while the play about Linda Lovelace is going on without thinking about how she became famous. It would be like going to a musical about Sarah Palin without having a song about mooseburgers. However, I just noticed that there are 43 songs in the Linda Lovelace play. That's a lot of songs. with all that singing, they'll have to call it, "Sore Throat."


In a strange event, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was scandalized recently when he was found guilty of seven felonies. What's so strange about it is that none of the felonies has to do with sex. What kind of Senator has a scandal without sex?


Finally, it was announced that it's Viagra's tenth anniversary. I don't remember any other medication having an anniversary, do you? And what do they expect us to do because of it? Are we supposed to buy Viagra an anniversary present? I have no idea what to get a blue pill that has revolutionized sex for many people. Although I guess I do know how we're supposed to celebrate the occasion.


Check out Lloyd's new Bob Newhart video, "The Challenge" at youtube or at striketv .

Saturday, October 25, 2008

America's Pastime: Politics or Baseball?



I need a rest from this Presidential race. Like many people, I'm too obsessed with it. And now that it's down to just days before the election it's getting worse. More and more news stories are about anything that has to do with the campaign. Maybe you're like me and need a little break from all this. A diversion. Fortunately, that diversion is being offered to us in the form of baseball's World Series.


It's great timing. Right when I think it's possible that people could be turned off by the long campaign, along comes America's Pastime to take our minds off politics. Without some other interest, I'm worried that some people are going to O.D. on politics and be completely turned off. I fear they might even stay home and not bother to vote. So if you feel you're too obsessed with the campaign, maybe you should join me in trying to get as immersed as possible in the Series. I figure I should be able to wean myself off politics at least a little bit in these last days of the campaign.


It's not going to be easy. I have to summon interest in a Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and a team called, the Tampa Bay Rays. Yes, once again, my beloved Chicago Cubs blew it and won't be winning the World Series for the 100th year in a row. The Rays are the Cinderella team that went from "worst to first," finishing in last place last year and winning the American League Pennant this year. Until this season, they were called the "Devil Rays" and their record was awful. As soon as they dropped the word "Devil," they did great. Hey, maybe those on the Religious Right would say, oh, no. No way. I'm not going to bring politics into this. It's baseball. Pure and simple.


Because I grew up on Chicago's North Side – home of the Cubs -- I generally root for the National League team. To me, the American League always represented the enemy White Sox or the always-winning Yankees. The Yankees were the team in pinstripes with the Big Money salaries, so they always seemed somewhat Republican and Oops! Sorry about that. No politics.


Anyway, I like the Rays' storybook history, but since the Phillies are in the National League, they will probably get my vote. Wait! I didn't mean to say, "vote." I meant to say that I'd probably root for them. I've got to stop being obsessed with politics. Sorry.


Even the candidates can just enjoy baseball without injecting politics into it. Or at least that's what I thought until John McCain accused Barack Obama of "flip-flopping" on the World Series. He said about Obama, "When he's campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies, and when he's campaigning in Tampa Bay, he shows love to the Rays."


They've traded insults for months, and the campaign has gotten pretty nasty. But to accuse someone of "baseball rooting malfeasance?" Now, that's serious. And which team is John McCain rooting for? Here's what he said, "I'm not dumb enough to get mixed up in a World Series between swing states." He refuses to answer because he's afraid of alienating Florida or Pennsylvania. And he admits it!


That probably means that Obama will accuse McCain of not having the courage to take a stance. Then McCain will proclaim that he's been a baseball fan all his life. Then Obama will say, "Of course McCain's been a baseball fan... just like George W. Bush." And on and on and on.


So, maybe it's impossible to get away from the campaign by turning to the World Series, but I'm going to try. First I have to look up and find out what network it's on. Let's see ...it's on Fox. Fox? As in "Fox News?" Does that mean the commentators are going to call the National Leaguers who allow everyone an equal chance at bat "socialists?" Are they going to call some home runs out if they are "too far to the left?" And will the Democrats cry out every time someone "steals" a base, that it reminds them of the 2000 election? Oh, man. I can't get this stuff out of my head. When will this election be over?



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Comments On "It's Because He's Black, Stupid"



I received many comments from readers of my previous
column, "It's Because He's
Black, Stupid." The
comments reveal, not surprisingly, that race is
still a very
emotional issue for many people. That
is why I have decided to publish some of
those comments
here. I have left out some comments because of space

limitations and edited others for the same reason --
not because the reader/writer
may have disagreed
with me. After reading them, of course, you may
comment on the
comments.

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90-95% of African Americans are going to vote for Obama? Mostly because he IS black?

Some of us don't like socialists of any color.

Some of us don't like candidates of any color who are so extreme on abortion. (That one is my reason.)

Some of us don't like candidates who are not only liberal, but closer to being radicals.

There are conservative black individuals I would vote for in a nano-second and be proud to do so.

Obama is also 1/2 white.

Who cares?

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Home run Lloyd!! You absolutely hit the old, lingering fear of difference, American "racist" nail on the head.

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A little comedy would have made this less a preachy lecture. In my humble opinion, knowing most liberals think all Republicans and hinterland-voters are racists,

This isn't 1982, and you're going to be proven wrong when the final poll numbers before the election prove to be accurate.

The enormous amount of new voters ACORN is registering aren't voting along racial lines?

­ --------------------------------------------------

..."He's inexperienced" really means, "He's black." What? What kind of stupid statement is that? He really is inexperienced and quite naive about many important issues. His lack of experience has nothing to do with his race. I would have voted for Alan Keyes if he were a viable candidate and had won one of the major party nominations. Not because he is black, but because I like his views.

Besides, he's not really black anyway. Half white, mostly Arab for the rest with less than 10% black from his ancestry. So we are not voting for the first "black" candidate, we voting for the first half white, mostly Arab candidate.

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"Loved it Lloyd. And you are so right. But I'll be in there voting for him. Of course I've kissed a few black guys - think everyone should."

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Too much LA smog for Lloyd. Obama is a socialist... he wants to redistribute wealth. He is dishonest about his associations with Ayers and Wright... he has long standing associations with people who dislike this country and by words and actions have acted against this country... that is his prerogative...just don't deny it. Still want to vote for Obama ..that is your choice ... race will not be as much a factor in people not voting for Obama as age is for young people not voting for McCain.

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Lloyd wonders why there are still “undecideds” in this election. He thinks the answer is racism. That’s an odd conclusion. Have you ever met a racist who was undecided about their opinion? Me neither. Racists by definition are decidedly decided. They aren't open to being swayed. They don't sit around picking petals off flowers wondering aloud “I love people, I love them not. I love people, I love them not.”

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Lloyd, you lost me with this one. I'm not voting for Barack Obama. It has nothing to do with the color of his skin and everything to do with the content of his character. To see you equate "He's inexperienced" with "He's black" tells me everything I need to know about your political judgment. In effect, you just called me a racist. I'll not hang around for more of that.

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I totally agree with this article. AMERICA just say it... He's black! This river of racism is as much apart of the American fabric as it has ever been. Most black people I know realize this. We have always known, believed and experienced this. I think white America most of the time likes to keep their head in the sand about it. This is not to say that every white person is a racist. This is not to say that every black person is down trodden and persecuted minute by minute, but as they say on Clean House, "Take off your blindfolds and Open your eyes!" Racism is as much a part of America as Apple Pie! The sooner we all admit it, the sooner we can all work to rise above it.

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...if i have to hear from another white liberal baby boomer my head is going to explode. they are so consumed with white guilt they see everything thru the prism of race. Racism is alive and well but give me a break. I am undecided not because of race, but because i don't like either candidate!!!! … I'm a fan of this user

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Thanks for speaking TRUTH, my pale skin brother.. (LOL) I believe it was best said by Jack Nicholson, "You can't handle the truth!!" The UNDECIDED group seems to lack the all important ability to be Honest with ONES SELF. This made my day. Keep up the good work.

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…Of course you can have legitimate complaints against both candidates and I laud your decision to not cast a ballot for either of them. Hence, you are not one of the "undecideds" Garver is citing. My problem is with people who truly like Obama's message and would (arguably) benefit from an Obama administration but either can't commit to him or, worse, will, sadly, vote against either their ideological or economic interests by punching the ballot for McCain/Palin. There does seem to be an inordinate amount of people this election cycle who--for whatever reasons--fall into one of these two categories.

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Die for me. Get an education, get a job, follow the rules, you will be ok. You can do anything you want in America.

If I kick you, your role is to be quiet and pretend that 0I did not. If you ever speak of the fact that I kicked you, I will deny it through charges that you are trying to profit from a victim mentality.

If you are brown, you are looking for a handout or you are following the orders of superior people who know best. These are your only options in this society. Either way, suffer silently, never point out disparity, know with clarity your place and never try to rise above societal definition of your place or we will crucify you.

It is imperative in a world that hates and labels it love that one retains their own definitions. It is imperative when one lives in a world where a fellow human being can be slandered in society and some consider that "the rough and tumble nature of politics" to be self-sufficient in all things moral. One cannot look to their country for moral guidance when it is a wasteland of immorality. Once cannot trust their country to do what is right when it shows ample evidence of leaning towards that which is evil and wrong.

1968 -- 2008, this was the lifespan of a wake-up call to get things right. Regret or fear not the results of getting it wrong. We were warned.

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You are absolutely correct. Unfortunately, these people are trying to appease their own consciences by saying they're not racist, but the bible says, "out of the heart, the mouth speaketh," and their words are saying plenty. They can say whatever they want, however because there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. The time has come for change, the time has come for unity of races, cultures, creeds and colors, and those who can't get with the program will be left far behind to wonder what the hell happened.

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"What are they waiting for?" Good question and I think you're right--more of these undecideds than we would like to believe are having a hard time committing to Obama because he's black. When I hear them in the post-debate interviews singing his praises and then, finally, lamenting, "I still haven't decided," I want to pitch my remote through the TV screen. For most people, there is only one rational and reasonable choice in this election. "He's black" isn't a good reason someone to vote against his/her ideological and economic interests. These folks either need to get off the fence or sit this election out.

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Lloyd,
Do you have ANY evidence to support this latest story?

-------------------------------

Here's your real racist author, Lloyd Garver:

"He's inexperienced" really means, "He's black."

You've been hypnotized and you don't even know it.

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Any one who votes for a political candidate because he or she is black, red, yellow, brown or because he or she is a democrat or republican, catholic or Jew, male or female has some serious mental problems. …

When I hear people say ... "I'm voting for Obama because he's black." or "I'm voting for the republicans because Sarah Palin is a female.", makes me sick to my stomach.

I also look at the type of people who support a political party and this year, one of our political parties is made up of liberal scum bags, radical left wingers, gays, freaks and kooks who I have absolutely no respect for. Bet you can't guess who I'll be voting for.

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I would have to agree [with you, Lloyd]. It’s the ONLY thing I can think of that would cause people to be “undecided” at this stage. I do wonder though, has there ever been a study to determine what percentage of our population is just completely incapable of making a decision? And make all their choices based on whim? So I’m hoping on Nov 4 that at least half of them will walk into that booth and feel like voting for Obama and doing so.

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You forgot:

He's Arab = He's Black
Powell endorses Obama because He's Black
He isn't from the "real" part of America = He's Black.
He's a Socialist = He's Black
He's a Communist = He's Black
He's establishing a welfare state = He's Black
He has radical ideas = He's Black
Tony Rezko = He's Black
ACORN = He's Black
William Ayers = He's Black
Not the "right" kind of Christian = He's Black

Those who think this is just about politics try this little experiment. Place an Obama/Biden sign in your front yard or better yet - an Obama bumper sticker on your car and see what happens.

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I am not a 'who me?' kind of person but I do have issues with Obama. I was a strong supporter of Hilary, and the fact he didn't do the wise thing of selecting her to be his vice (which would have united the democratic person) made me lose some respect for him. Furthermore, despite being quite left wing, in recent economic discussions, I've felt McCain has taken the favorable approach. This has led to a little dilemma as I would feel very guilty to support the Republicans but at the same time, this election campaign has raised doubts over Obama as a president. Am I a 'who me' person? No. Am I racist or remotely prejudiced on issues of race or background? Far from it. Am I sure I support Obama? No sadly not. Where does that leave me?

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