Thursday, May 31, 2012

Obama and Me: We're Just a couple of Humans

        Poland's president, Bronislaw Komorowski, is outraged over President Obama's latest gaffe.


        America's commander-in-chief was at a ceremony honoring the memory of Jan Karski, the Polish hero who fought the Nazis  as part of the underground resistance during World War II.


        During the tribute, Obama referred to  German concentration camps as  "Polish Death Camps."

        Poland opposed the Nazis.

        They abhorred the atrocities perpetrated by Hitler's minions at places like Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Treblinka.

        Modern Poland remembers.

        And it has publicly decried Obama as misleading the world into thinking Polish nationals operated these camps.

        Jay Carney, presidential spokesman, says that our president "misspoke".

        Obama meant to refer to "German death camps in Nazi occupied Poland".


I'm no fan of the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but the Polish government should back off.

        Smart people often make mistakes when speaking off the cuff.

        Obama is allowed to be human.

        You try speaking to over 500 audiences in a year.

You're bound to say something dumb.

        Everyone does.

        Who can forget Obama campaigning in Oregon in 2008?

Announced the community organizer, "I've visited 57 states and tomorrow it will make 58."


        Gerald Ford handed the presidency to Jimmy Carter with a classic goof during the  1976 debates.

        Ford proclaimed that Eastern Europe was free from Russian domination just as the Russian Bear was squashing human rights in Hungary and East Germany.

        Carter pounced on this idiotic misstatement.

        Virtually comical was Vice-president Joe Biden in 2008 at a political rally.

From the podium he asked State Senator Chuck Graham to stand up and take a bow.

        Graham's wheelchair told everyone that standing was not on his "to do" list, despite orders from the Veep.

George Herbert Walker Bush once referred to September 7 as Pearl Harbor day.

        Like I said, it can happen to anybody.

Just a few days ago, Kathie Lee, the former Carnival Cruise pitch lady, committed a humdinger live on the Today show.

Interviewing Martin Short about his new movie, she asked Martin about his wife Nancie.

        Lee said Nancie was a great wife.

Lee said Short and his wife were the perfect couple.

        Lee said the laughter and joy of their marriage was obvious for all to see.

        She finally formed a question.

        Martin, just what makes Nancie love you so much?

        Martin murmured that Nancie loved him because he was cute.

        One problem.

Nancie Short died two years ago from ovarian cancer.

        Kathie Lee, I can name that tune in one note: scrambled egg facial.

        Bad mistake.

        I once asked a lady when she was due.

She wasn't.

 She had put on a few pounds, not unlike me.

        Only she had to face a dope like me who didn't have the smarts to consider that maybe she wasn't expecting.


And human.

        Oppose Obama because of his policies if you wish but cut him some slack when he makes the occasional bad choice of words.

        He's human.

        Just like me.

        And just like you.

        Have a gaffe-free day.



Thursday, May 24, 2012

Can't Stand The land Where Nice Is Banned

        Here's one that'll steam your shorts.

        A form of spontaneous kindness has been sweeping the country.

        Meter feeding.

        Here's how it works.

        You're strolling along, probably downtown, cars lined up along the curb.

        The automobiles, bumper-to-bumper, silently pay tribute to Metal Sally, the parking meters aligned like centurions guarding prisoners.

        Something catches your eye.

        One meter is expired, flashing to signal its hunger for human suffering.

        It can't wait for a public servant to pounce, dinging some poor sap for a parking ticket which will cost the equivalent of a steak dinner at the Outback.

        I hate these damn things.

        Nothing says "Don't come downtown" like these cheap contraptions developed by cities raising revenue on the backs of those trying to patronize  local business.

        If it's broken, you're screwed.

        They never believe the barely legible "out of order" note  you scrawl on a napkin wedged into the coin slot.

        Anyway, you decide to do something nice by popping a quarter into the meter to help a complete stranger.

        Jake Gyllenhaal, star of Brokeback Mountain, is famous for this.

        The millionaire actor seeks out expired meters just for the pleasure of helping.

        He's spent thousands plunking two bits into the iron maiden.

        He says his family raised him to help others, and feeding the meter allows anonymity and it feels good.

        Enter the evil geniuses lurking in a few city halls across the nation.

        Some municipalities are prosecuting the do-gooders.

        They've actually made it a crime to feed someone else's parking meter.

        Meet Sylvia Stayton, a 63-year-old grandmother of ten.

        Granny was recently jailed for obstructing official business.

        She opened up her coin purse so some restaurant customer in downtown Cincinnati wouldn't  be greeted by a ticket after dinner.

        The Queen city considers this Queen of kindness to be a threat.

        Sylvia got off with a $500 fine in the end but I'm not going to let the local government off the hook.

        Is the thirst for parking ticket revenue so unquenchable that we prosecute those just looking to serve their neighbor?

        What will be banned next?

Opening the door for shoppers loaded with packages?

        How about a fine for letting someone go ahead of you in the checkout line?

        I saw you picking up trash at the neighborhood park the other night.

        Cut it out.

        There must be something illegal about that.

        Mayor Jackson, don't even think about it.

        I know you love those red light cameras.

        But if you start prosecuting meter feeders in Cleveland, I'll launch a protest.

        In the meantime, I'm headed to Cincinnati on a mission.

        I've got 10 rolls of quarters and I'm really fast.

        I'll feed the meter and then run like hell.

        And if they start to catch up to me, I got a place to hide.

        Grandma Sylvia says she's ready to harbor a fugitive.

        And I also understand that she bakes chocolate chip cookies that can't be beat.

        Happy parking.





Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Lawyer Can Be A Real Jerk

        It bugs me that lawyers think  they know everything.


        Church choir, softball team, condominium board, trivia competition, swim meet.


        If there's a lawyer in the group, he will likely try to make his presence known because, well, he thinks he knows a better way.


        For this reason, you find lawyers running things where you wouldn't expect to see a barrister.


        Maybe it has to do with law school training.


        Law schools use something called the "Socratic Method".


        That's an elegant way of identifying a brutal educational technique.


        The law student stands before her peers in a  huge tension-filled lecture hall and answers the questions of the professor.


        If she fails, she is humiliated.


        Lots of students quit in year one.


        If you can't stand the heat,  ditch out of the kitchen before the second year.


        The result is that lawyers, having survived the academic equivalent of Paris Island, are often cocky know-it-alls.


        So they try their hand at anything.


        Take Tony LaRussa, Florida State University College of Law graduate.


        Loaded with self-confidence.


        Enough to help him manage the St. Louis Cardinals to several World Series crowns.


        Carmen Policy: this lawyer thought he knew everything about professional football.


        Browns fans found out that Policy's swagger couldn't  be converted to success on the field.


        And then there are the politician lawyers.


 Congress is loaded with 'em.


        Of course the slimiest of overconfident attorneys in politics was John Edwards.


        Nixon comes to mind  as well. 


        That's part of the reason Jimmy Carter got elected.


        Americans saw in Carter a chance to elect a normal person: a non-lawyer.


        Sometimes that I-can-do-anything attitude of attorneys does have its benefits.


        Atticus Finch called upon his confidence to help him defend the unpopular case of Tom Robinson.


To Kill A Mockingbird is fiction to be sure, but it shows that it takes guts to stand up for the oppressed.


        Abraham Lincoln was a fearless lawyer.


        In the midst of America's greatest crisis, that attitude served him well.


        So it was with great fascination that I read a recent News-Herald article about a man dispatched by the government to hunt down missing moon rocks.


It seems that lunar souvenirs have been disappearing for years, showing up on the black market to be sold at huge prices.


        How much would you pay for few pebbles retrieved by Neil Armstrong?


        The going rate is about $20,000 per  pebble.


        So who is the cosmic dust detective?


Some guy named Joe Gutheinz.


        Gutheinz is skulking around taverns in Texas these days, hot on the trail of NASA's most treasured missing children.


Of course Gutheinz has no training in aerospace technology or geology.


        He's a lawyer.


He thinks he can do anything.


        I guess we need people like that on occasion.


But they are a pain in the keister sometimes.


Do me a favor.


If you encounter a smart mouth lawyer, tell him to shut up.


The world will be a better place.


Unless of course his name is Atticus.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How Do I Hug Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

            How often do you  hug your family?


          You see, I have seen this tender communication of unconditional love cheapened.


          It has evolved into the new handshake.


          When the Knicks  got over-Heated by Miami the other night, the opponents met at half court to exchange postgame hugs.


          No one seemed too happy to be hugging  250 pounds of exhausted Lebron as he dispensed 6 quarts of hot sweat to each hugger.




          These pro sports hugs have all the sincerity of an apology from John Edwards.


Teens, meanwhile, have turned the hug into the common greeting between acquaintances.


According to a recent survey, hugging is creeping into the business world.


Here's the problem: Outside the home, the hug is gaining.


          Inside the home, the hug is fading.


And it's inside the home that it is most needed.


The hug you give your son, daughter, spouse, parent, or sibling is silent therapy.


Your eyes closed, arms tightly around her.


          Time stops.


          Something powerful flows through you.


 You are momentarily safe from all threats, removed from whatever's bothering you.


In the loving hug, you're like a baby in the arms of her mother.


Isn't it strange that the act that says the most to us about love is without words?


          My dog Marby doesn't do much from a practical standpoint other than bark at strangers and the mailman.


          But she makes us feel so loved with her form of hugs.


She wants to touch us: chin on my knee, sleeping on my wife's foot, or leaning against me just watching TV together.


          She somehow knows that physical closeness is therapeutic for her and for me.


          There is an Indian mystic called "The Hugging Saint" .


        Her name is Amma.


          People all over the world line up by the tens of thousands just to get a hug.


Most leave in tears, some kind of dam broken to release pent-up emotion.


          My dad's  hugs were of the big bear variety, bristly whiskers  scratching my cheeks, old spice filling my nostrils.


          Mom gently enveloped us kids in an overstuffed comforter kind of hug, so soothing you could fall asleep mid-hug, faint traces of her delicate "White Shoulders" perfume left on my face.


          In a couple of days, my daughter is headed off to an Asian trip.


Won't see her again until January.


I'll take her to the airport and just before she heads down Concourse A, she and I will pause.



           I won't be able to talk.




We will hug.


The universe, just for a few seconds, will consist of her and me and an unbreakable bond of love.


          In your family, delete the words for just a minute.


          Nothing is as articulate as the loving soliloquy you deliver with your arms bent around those you love.


          So hug your family.


          Shock the heck out of them.  


          You won't be embarrassed.


You'll be invigorated.


          Shut your mouth and open your arms.


          Let two hearts connect.


          If you don't, l'll make you hug Lebron.



Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mr. President, Let Me introduce You To A Real Community Organizer

        His family was beaten daily while armed guards surrounded the rundown hovel the government forced him to call home.


        What a bleak existence.    


        This unlikely freedom fighter, Chen Guangcheng by name, is the most famous lawyer in China.


 Whoever thought this blind 41-year-old self-taught attorney would ever overcome his handicap to challenge the most powerful dictatorship on earth?


        How did Chen get here?


        With the same relentless determination he used to overcome society's attitude toward the sightless, Chen initiated legal actions to protect farmers stripped of their land by the greedy government.


        Chen then went after China's holy cow: forced abortions.


        He said it out loud: no moral authority should kidnap pregnant women to bloody their wombs with the atrocity of "pregnancy terminations" conducted at gunpoint.


 Corpses of the tiny pre-born  accumulate in Chinese solid waste facilities.


        Chen forced the government to listen to him.


And to the unheard voices of over 400 million children ripped from their mothers strapped to a gurney.




        So Chen, the prisoner under house arrest, hatched a  plan.


        He pretended to be ill for six weeks.


        The guards became lax.


        How closely must you watch a blind man riddled with infirmity?


        He snuck out of his room late at night.


        A garden wall was his challenge.


        Summoning all his strength, he scaled the wall like Spiderman, landing on the other side, snapping his ankle bone.


        Almost one thousand  yards away, a car waited.


He hobble-sprinted to the automobile and the escapee's chauffeur, another young dissident, put the pedal to the metal.


        In no time, several hundreds of miles later, Chen's chariot of freedom pulled into sanctuary: the American Embassy!


        The outraged Chinese government decried the meddling by the Americans.


        Meanwhile, the world beheld the  breathless daring of this new international hero.


His ever-present sunglasses gave him a certain cachet.


        Not since Lech Walessa challenged the Polish Politburo has one man so galvanized millions across the globe.


        James Bond was a fiction.


Chen is the real deal.


        How will the drama and?


        Not well, if our president continues to sit on his hands.


        Obama has been no-commenting his way through this saga of courage since it began.


        After the State Department announced that it had negotiated Chen's safe exit from the embassy into a police infested Chinese hospital, the Chinese government said nothing had been negotiated with anyone.


 So today Chen lives in the medical facility converted into a militarized holding cell to keep Chen under wraps.


        A congressional committee talked to Chen live over a cell phone during a committee hearing Thursday.


It was riveting.


        Chen pled for help for himself and for his family.


Will it come?


I pray that it does.


        Does Secretary of State Hillary Clinton share my prayer?


        Does she really want Planned Parenthood to see her assist the world's greatest pro-life activist?


        Does President Obama want to help the Communist Party's biggest critic when the White House is hawking American debt in Beijing?


        Don't let Chen's story die off.


The speedy driver who took him to the United States Embassy has disappeared, Mafia style.


 This is a moment in history, Mr. President.


        Seize this moment.


        Be like the president who intoned, " Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."


        Stare down the Red Dragon: Don't pet him while you feed him treats of American jobs and American real estate.


You and Walmart are slowly bringing that Dragon to American shores.


Stop it now and use  this opportunity to force the Dragon into the bright light of public scrutiny.


        Then perhaps the Red Dragon will face the same fate as the Russian Bear: ultimate extinction.


        Let's secure freedom for Chen.


        And for the world.


        Don your sunglasses, Americans.


Pray for presidential courage.  


And for a gutsy  blind lawyer who hopes the bald eagle will carry him off to freedom for himself and for a  world holding its breath.