Monday, December 28, 2009

Resolutions for 2010

I’ve never been one to make resolutions at the end of the year. To wait until the year clicks on your calendar to me is a sign that you don’t want to (fill in your resolution here) in the first place. If you want to lose weight, start writing a novel, learn Chinese, etc., just do it -- no matter what the day, month or year.

But this year was different for me.

As I reflect back on a tumultuous year for me personally and professionally, I think we should take an honest look at ourselves, our city, state and country and make some resolutions. Because I am not afraid that we will repeat history and keep doing bad things or making wrong decisions, I think it is time to take stock and figure out we need for a clear and purposeful path if we want positive changes.

For Phoenix and Arizona:

We need to resolve to find some key people in on beyond the state and divine a mutually beneficial relationship for our collective future. It is abundantly clear that this state is bankrupt -- literally and figuratively -- and we need much better leadership for this state to not only survive, but thrive. We need ideas, plans, and a definite execution of these plans for this state to succeed. State Treasurer Dean Martin says that we are out of money. There is no more. The state doesn’t have a budget. Governor Woo Hoo has dithered with the future of this state to the point of embarrassment. Forget the almost $3 Billion shortfall, if there isn’t money for the state, people will start getting IOU’s in their state paychecks. You may get one for you state income tax return. This should have never gotten to this point.

Which brings me to my next resolution:

We need to resolve not to let Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon or any other elected political hero to go to Washington with a tin cup and beg for money. We are better than that and could be the example of how to stay fiscally viable as a state instead of a handout state if Mayor Gordon would stop racking up the frequent flyer miles and actually make some tough decisions on how to keep the City of Phoenix viable. Instead of a state that relies too heavily on the old standbys (citrus, copper, tourism, construction, etc.) why not become the leader in solar and water technology? Why can’t we become the next Silicon Valley? Why can’t we become the next Hollywood? We can do these things as well as promote and encourage small business. But this state’s political heroes have become lazy and addicted to tax money. Good luck taxing people who move outside of Arizona as California and New York are finding out.

Nationally, let’s resolve to stop government bailouts and allowing government to dictate to you how to live your life through taxes, healthcare and benefits. We have become a nation of slack-jawed wimps who allow others to dictate the rules.

Speaking of rules, can we please resolve to keep our focus on terrorism? As the Christmas Day Almost Attack clearly illustrated, Janet Napolitano needs to quit with the Politically Correct excuses and crack down on people who want to harm Americans who are trying to live their daily lives. But not calling the Fort Hood Massacre what it was, a terrorist attack, and by not catching an extremist on the watch list, it’s clear that this administration wants to handle terrorism like a hobby.

I could go on and bore you with my own resolutions, but I won’t -- except for one: I resolve to keep Gaydos in check, while keeping you entertained and informed 3 - 7 every weekday on KTAR.

Have a safe and prosperous 2010!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Xmas or Christmas?

‘Tis the Season! No, it’s not the time for holiday cheery and goodwill towards men. Battle lines have been drawn once again for what I like to call the “Xmas Controversy.” And this time, I almost fell for it.

Each year I wait with giddy anticipation for news stories about people who get their sticking all bunched in a wad, trying to take the “Christ” out of Christmas because it may make people “uncomfortable” or may be “offensive” to some people. I usually chuckle when reading these stories and count how many cards I get from people who send me warm tidings of comfort and joy with the most banal, meaningless greeting on them.

Well, this year I caught myself giving into the fraud and naiveté that has encircled and emasculated our culture called “political correctness,” almost becoming what I hate the most – a sheep, a lemming, a “xmas” conformist.

While shopping for Christmas cards at a huge box store with its bright fluorescent lighting and mesmerizing holiday music playing through loud speaking in the ceiling, I caught myself deciding between two all-inclusive, pedestrian “xmas” slogans that didn’t reflect me. In fact, I was heretically trying not to be offensive to Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Hindus, Atheists, Satanists, Agnostics and anyone else who wasn’t Christian or “Xian.”

In the momentary lapse of judgment I caught myself holding two sets of cards in my hands, trying to decide if I wanted to send my family, friends and co-workers a winter wonderland scene replete with a corn-cobbed pipe-and-button-nosed snowman and antique sled or a giant textured retro snowflake. Inside the snowman card read, “Happy Holidays!” When you opened the super-sized snowflake, your retinas were singed by huge red letters that screamed, “SEASON’S GREETINGS!”

I had fallen into the “xmas” trap, not picking a card that reflect my beliefs, my ideals, and what I think this season means to me.

Instead, I was trying to play it safe, go the easy route, not making any holiday waves for people celebrating Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or non-religious people who just wanted to bask in the warm glow of Rudolph’s bright red nose. I was so disgusted at myself; I threw both sets of holiday greeting bards on the ground. But feeling guilty, I picked up both packages and put them back in their respective places. (Hey, I worked retail when I was younger – I remember cleaning up after someone trashed the greeting card aisle.)

We are idly allowing the misguided and self-haters to win. Once again, this holiday season people are trying to take the “Christ” out of Christmas because it causes some to be “uncomfortable” or “offended.” Now I am no Chucky Churchgoer, but I am terrible and increasingly “offended” by this year’s example of the “Xmas Controversy.”

So I give Governor Jan Brewer a lot of credit this year for calling the tree adorned at the capitol a “Christmas” tree instead of a Holiday tree. And if you’re a state employee offended by this blatant reference to Christianity, then I suggest you show up to work December 25th because for you to take a “holiday” on taxpayer dollars in something you are “offended” by, “offends” me.

Now who’s being naughty and who’s being nice? Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, “do you hear what I hear?” It’s the state employees screaming their lungs out because they don’t get another paid holiday.

We go through this needless exercise every year of banning Nativity Scenes or Menorahs across the country. Maybe some knuckleheaded elected political hero should get a piece of legislation passed that officially changes the word “Christmas” to “Xmas” so it wouldn’t be so offensive.

Which would be unbelievably offensive to me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

President Obama Doesn't Get It

President Obama has lashed out at financial institutions, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “Fat cats” who “don’t get it" and will demand they start lending money when he meets with top banking executives this week.

The president needs to turn his accusatory finger back on himself. It’s not Wall Street, it’s not the banks, it’s not the American people – it’s the president who doesn’t "get it." And if he’s is not careful, his meeting with the so-called “fat cats” on Monday could have the opposite effect the president wants for the American people.

Already having a frosty relationship with the banking industry, the president says he wants to meet with the top bank officials to get them to loosen their collective purse strings and start lending money to more Americans.

As the president likes to say, let me be perfectly clear – this is exactly the WRONG thing to do right now in this economy. After the mortgage meltdown and the collapse of Wall Street, the banks shuddered and then shuttered much of their lending for a reason. They want to remain solvent and hang on to their equity to stay in business.

President Bush thought (incorrectly) that by infusing money into our financial system, it would help the banks to stay solvent and keep money flowing into the economy. It didn’t and most banks held onto the TARP money only to pay it back (with interest) once the Government started dictating terms and conditions of using the money.

Now the president thinks he can invite these CEOs, these Capitalists to the White House and strong-arm them into lending again?

If we are to give money to people who don’t have the means to pay back these loans, or if the bank wants to take on more debt by risking more lending, aren’t we back where we started from about 15 months ago? Wasn’t the entire collapse of our economy because of giving someone money for something they couldn’t pay back when the note was due and they defaulted?

Barack Obama can’t have it both ways. He can’t keep giving TARP money with strings attached and he cannot influence the banking system to go back on hundreds of years of conventional wisdom on how and when to lend money, (influencing an-already unstable, tenuous market) to people and companies.

If the banking system actually listens to Barack and lends money to people and businesses who cannot pay the money back, then we are right back on the financial precipice that Hank Paulson and Nancy Pelosi warned us we were teetering on last year.

Except this time when we fall into the abyss, we can’t blame faceless Wall Street “fat cats,” we can blame one person – one man. President Obama.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Specials Are Still Cool!

You can have the pathetic tree, Vince Guaraldi’s jazz piano-ladened soundtrack, and the Linus soliloquy. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” may be a true slice of Holiday Season Americana, but give me the cheesiest, low-rent, stop-motion animation full of characters with names like Winter Warlock, Burger Meister Meister Burger, Special Delivery Kruger, and Yukon Cornelius.

Call me immature, but don’t talk to me when I am engrossed in a Rankin-Bass Christmas special. This time of year when people are rushing around buying trees, wrapping presents and generally boosting our economy by purchasing gifts for friends, family and co-workers, I am setting my DVR for the best this season has to offer.

The unparalleled producers of what some call “Xmas Special Schlock,” were Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. During the 1960’s and 1970’s their production company cranked out some of the best (or worst, depending on you bah-humbug quotient) animated stories, which they called “animagic.”

These wonderfully sappy Holiday specials cover every myth associated with Christmas and even invent a few new ones, such as the Island of Misfit Toys. Titles include “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” narrated by Fred Astaire, to “The Year Without a Santa Claus” with such memorable characters as Snow Miser and Heat Miser.

So why waste so much valuable shopping time on Christmas Specials that I have watched every single year since the Johnson Administration? Because underneath the paper-thin plots, ubiquitous sugar-powdery snow, and ridiculously decorated characters with oblong bodies and construction paper eyes, is a theme that resonates every Christmas Season.

Christmas is a time to spend with family and friends, a time to share special memories and create fresh ones with new family members, new friends, and new experiences. It’s also a time to exchange gifts – symbols of love and expressions of selflessness that we may not have the opportunity to give any other time of year.

Since Christmas falls at the end of the month at the end of the calendar year, it makes sense to reflect on the past year and maybe a bit farther back. If time heals all wounds, Christmas makes us more open to forgiveness and with that, redemption.

The reason I love these cheesy Rankin-Bass productions is that they all deal with the theme of redemption. In “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” the Winter Warlock, who is frigid from the inside out, gets to redeem himself after Kris Kringle melts his heart by giving him, as Winter calls it, “a choo-choo!” When the Burger Meister jails the whole Claus clan, Winter feeds his last few pellets of magic feed corn to the reindeer, this allowing them to fly Santa and the gang out of prison.

In the classic “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year,” the villainous Eon, the vulture who want to stop the New Year from coming, because when it does, he turns into ice and snow at the stroke of midnight. So he captures Baby New Year who has been hiding in the Archipelagos of Last Years due to his embarrassment over his big ears. Eon tricks the baby into his being his friend until Rudolph finds him and uses Happy’s cab door ears to make Eon laugh.

Well, Eon laughs so hard he falls right out of his nest and down the side of the treacherous mountain. Happy is saved, but Eon isn’t dead. When the New Year does come on January 1, Eon doesn’t turn into a wintery mix because as Rudolph says, “He’s laughed so hard, he’s filled up with warmth inside.”

Yes, I realize I should get a life. Still, the irresistible theme of redemption is the underpinning of every Rankin-Bass production.

Good more than triumphs over evil – evil is redeemed.

I know it’s insipid, saccharine and so syrupy sweet you want to shout “Humbug!” just to feel human, but every time I watch one of those Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, it warms me from the inside.

Thanks to the ABC Family channel and the 25 Days of Christmas, I am redeemed every year. Without fail I am transformed from a jaded, cynical, curmudgeon-cuss of an adult into a wide-eyed seven year-old. I am once again sitting in front of my parent’s RCA with one knob missing, turning the channel knob with an old pair of my grandfather’s needle-nose pliers, waiting to be redeemed all over again.

Redemption is a powerful and inspirational thing, no matter under which marshmallow snow pile you find it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tuesday Night

Tuesday night is when the president will outline his plan for future action in Afghanistan. The president is caught between a rock, a war and a hard place for his re-election so his speech has to be carefully crafted and worded in way that is palatable to all sides.

If recent polls are any indication, America has lost her interest in ferreting out terrorists in the Af-Pak war. When we decided to go after Uber-terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden many years ago, it was out of revenge, fueled by the savage attacks on our own soil September 11, 2001.

But the palpable fury has been replaced by grim pessimism. Not because of our lack of will power and determination in our military, but because people are worried about losing their home, their job and the piece of mind that comes with a stable economy. We could stomach two wars a couple years ago. Now people are more concerned about how to get through the week being un- or underemployed.

Also, polls show that people are getting weary of the president’s lack of accomplishment. For the first time in his first term, the president’s approval rating has slipped below 50 percent. Tuesday night he can re-affirm and re-energize the American people and tell the world what his plan has to be, not what he wants it to be.

There is a huge distinction. “Having” is a commitment, a passion and a metaphysical certitude for something to be achieved. “Wanting” leaves room for doubt and distraction. And worst of all, settling. We can’t settle for another long, drawn out conflict in Afghanistan. Nor can the world. Decisive action must happen.

Here is what Barack Obama needs to say to the American people: He needs to be succinct and his conviction must be resolute if he is sending in more troops. For the people who elected him into office, he must steadfastly remind them of why we are fighting and why committing enough of our brave men and women is necessary.

For those who haven’t forgotten why we are in Afghanistan and want more troops, Obama needs to show that he understands the task at hand and has to demonstrate a willingness to win. There is nothing more disheartening than watching a man try to be passionate about something he doesn’t believe in. Look at LBJ during his term during the Viet Nam war. It literally drained him and he didn’t seek a second term.

Obama has to get this speech right if he wants to succeed in Afghanistan. If he doesn’t, the world will know immediately.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's Not About You, Lou

After meeting Lou Dobbs at the Economic Summit at Baylor University in 2003, I couldn’t help but notice his ego matched his physical stature and girth. He was outside on a break from anchoring on CNN, smoking a cigarette, when I approached him and asked what he thought of the summit. He couldn’t be bothered. He was on his way to marginalizing himself in an industry where you need an ego, but can’t be consumed by it.

So last Wednesday night when Dobbs suddenly announced on his cable news show that it would be his last broadcast on that network, I wasn’t surprised. Lou, like so many who have come before him, made the easily attractive but fatal mistake of believing he was bigger than the network, and more importantly, thought he was bigger than his audience. Here was a man who thought he was a blowtorch, only to realize he was a disposal lighter in the conflagration that is broadcast cable.

Dobbs and CNN president Jon Klein reportedly had been butting heads about the direction Dobbs was taking on his show. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter was; it could have been anything. But Dobbs’ massive ego felt that he knew better than the audience, and even more ludicrous, he knew better than the bosses at CNN.

I’ve been broadcasting for over 15 years and have seen too many times this cautionary tale play itself out. When someone thinks they are bigger than the station, they are doomed to fall.

When I played Top 40 music as a DJ, did I like every song? No. Did I stick to the play list that management created for the station every day? Yes. Why? Because it wasn’t about me – it was about playing the songs that people wanted to hear to maximize the ratings for the station.

If Gaydos and I only myopically talked about stuff that interested us, you’d be listening to four hours of NASCAR, the Yankees, why Gaydos hates parades, why Michael Buble makes my skin crawl, or how I want Regis Philbin’s gig. Actually, you wouldn’t be listening and management would have a serious Stop N Chat about our show.

The show ain’t about us; it’s about ratings. The show is what you, as an audience, want to hear going on in the Valley and the nation.

Lou Dobbs was perennially third in his time slot on CNN. That’s not ratings success. Heck, that’s not even being in the ratings game.

Much research and strategizing go into how to make KTAR or CNN or FOX or NBC 12 successful. Broadcasting is like taming a cobra. It’s always a dance between snake and snake charmer and if the charmer starts believing that he truly he has control, the snake will fatally remind him with one strike.

Once a host thinks they’re bigger than the network or station that gives them a paycheck, it’s over. Ask Imus, ask Stern, ask Dan Rather how it feels to marginalize one’s self in an industry called Broadcasting. Not Ego casting.

Last Wednesday, Lou Dobbs corpulent corpse was thrown on the bone yard of previous hosts and talents who are now vague and irrelevant afterthoughts because their own ego ultimately undid their successful careers.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tragedy Strikes HOT...Again

When the tragic events happened last week at Fort Hood, I watched intently on what was unfolding. Not only because of the horrific nature of a lone serviceman shooting his brothers in arms, but also because I lived and worked in Central Texas (also called the Heart of Texas) for six years.

Fort Hood is an Army post that borders small, close-knit towns in Texas you’ve probably never heard of: Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, Belton. Like so many small towns in Texas, they are filled with good people just trying to make a living and raise their kids the best they can.

But last week, I was reminded of small towns I lived and worked in that have suffered through horrendous tragedies just like what happened at Fort Hood.

Killeen, Texas, is due west next to Fort Hood and was the scene of the largest mass-shooting rampage in United States history until the Virginia Tech shootings. In 1991, George Jo Hennard, took his pickup and slammed it into the front of a Luby’s Restaurant. He then proceeded to shoot 43 people, 23 of whom died, before committing suicide.

Waco, Texas, is 30 miles to the north of Fort Hood, and now synonymous with a man named David Koresh. In 1993, Waco suffered through the events that unfolded between the Branch Davidians and the FBI. It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on, people died under tragic circumstances.

If you also count the tower shooting on the University of Texas campus back in 1966 where 13 people were shot dead, you quickly realize that Central Texas has seen it’s share of tragic shootings.

What is so ironic is that after living there for so many years, it’s the last place where such horrific crimes should happen. It’s beyond comprehension how this small, simple, bucolic area of our country has witnessed so much catastrophic, murderous rampage.

The people in these towns that dot the flat, green patchwork landscape along I-35 are good, honest, and God-fearing. Last week we were unfortunately and lugubriously brought back to Central Texas to witness another tragedy.

As we learn more about the disconsolate circumstances surrounding the Fort Hood Massacre, I feel fortunate to have so many good memories of that part of the country, even when tragedy invades.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One Year Later

Last year this month, this country made history. We elected an African American to the highest office in the land.

Already the word “failure” has seeped into the media about this president. Failure? Even college coaches get more time be a total and complete “failure.”

Barack Obama was ushered into the White House on a momentous wave of a simple, audacious, and ephemeral mantra: “Hope and Change.”

“Hope” has given way to pragmatism. “Change” has stagnated to political gridlock. The recession has shown signs of abatement, but consumer confidence is still lower than the APR on a regular savings account.

When Barack inherited the crushing economic recession, the housing market avalanche, as well as two long and entrenched wars, his approval ratings were above 70 percent.

A year later the president’s approval ratings have precipitously fallen. Obama’s approval rating has fallen farther and fast than his predecessor in the same time frame of GWB’s first year in office.

But has Barack Obama’s first year as president been a failure? Political hacks that get paid to yammer on cable news shows will say yes. They’re idiots. Plain and simple.

There is no way any person, man or woman, could have changed the course of our economic downturn. It wouldn’t have mattered if John McCain were elected president. Ronald Reagan inherited a worse recession, stagflation, gas lines, a long-standing Cold War as well as the Iranian Hostage Crisis. His approval numbers didn’t start to tick up until his second year in office. And we were still in a recession.

The economy is its own entity, a juggernaut of prosperity in good times, the grim reaper of jobs, GDP and investments in a downturn. No one man can control it; even the Fed Chairman has a Herculean task, trying to change its direction, sometimes with catastrophic results.

Now I do not agree with Obama’s politics, and I have been outspoken about his positions, decisions and issues like reforming health care. I have denigrated his Czar appointments, his repetitive and unnecessary press conferences as well as his style-without-substance speeches.

But has he failed? Even I won’t go there.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meghan, Please Stop!

Ok. Seriously. You need to stop.

Meghan, I kept my mouth shut when you appeared on The View with all the other cackling hens. I didn’t say anything about the Twitpic controversy (see above), but after last night, Meghan, someone needs to pull you over for a "stop-n-chat."

I guess that has to be me because no one else has or no one cares.

Meghan, you don’t need to do the Leno Show, you don’t need to be hanging with D celebs like the faux-liberal Arianna Huffington, the least popular Baldwin brother (Stephen, or as he likes to be called, “Stevie B.”) and a comedian who can only make pedophile jokes to get a laugh.

Even though your father is a senior senator from Arizona, a former POW, and a graduate of the Naval Academy, you need to learn a lesson from dad and know how to do damage control. Instead of posting pouty, petulant pieces on Twitter, or throwing tempest-on-a-Twitter retorts to people who take pot shots at you, pull back. Even your father knew when to bail out instead of going down in flames.

You’ve chosen this life, this mock mash-up of pop culture and serious politics. But it’s become like a cheap ride at the Arizona State Fair and the only thing that separates you from careening is the toothless carnie whose fingers are too sticky from eating cotton candy to stop the ride in time.

Just because you grew up in the “Valley” doesn’t mean you have to be that “Girl.”

You’ve decided that you want it all and when people call you out, you lash out like a reality star claiming you didn’t bring this on yourself. That’s total horse-spit and you know it.

You are the best and worst of your parents combined. You’ve got your father’s quick temper, steadfast resolve, and passion for politics. But you also possess your mom’s insight, intelligence and sophisticated visage.

But you have to learn to harness both and stop this precipitous descent into a has-been, washed-up celeb-utante by the time you’re 30. Hello, Paris Hilton anyone?

Personally, I want you to succeed. I want people to know the person who has wonderfully insightfully, challenging ideas for the GOP. I want you to invigorate and rally young people to be more politically active and invest in the future of this country. I love the Meghan McCain that I read, not the ditz on television or the petulant child that erupts with venomous, sophomoric tweets.

Leave that to Perez Hilton or Bill Maher.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Promises From Obama

Barack Obama can’t win.

In the past few months of his new administration, the president’s health care reform bill has stalled, the closing of Gitmo has been as mired as his plans for what to do in Afghanistan, and he went to Denmark thinking he was the lynch-pin in securing Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics. America (and thusly, the Obama Administration) was slapped across the face by the IOC with a first round dismissal.

And I won’t even get into the whole Nobel Peace Prize award, contending it was not his doing and he was going to be criticized for taking or declining the award.

But when the president accepted the Nobel Peace prize, he said it was a “call to action.”

That quote got me thinking. Barack has called all of us to higher action, more involvement in our communities, etc., but we’ve really not seen any action since his historic election last year.

Saturday was another example. Speaking at the Human Rights Campaign annual dinner in DC, the president received a standing ovation when he reasserted his campaign promise to revoke the gutless and shameful military policy that Bill Clinton initiated in 1993 of homosexuals’ service in our military.

Obama, eloquent as usual, stated that he will, “end ‘don’t ask-don’t tell. I appreciate that many of you don’t believe progress has come fast enough. Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach.”

Once again, the president made no clear, decisive remarks on a timetable and never stated a goal of when the ban would be lifted on gays who proudly serve in the military. This is just another example of what the president’s term has been about: great ideas, no real sense of urgency or direction, and no end date. One gay activist said that although the speech was brilliant, “it lacked the answer to our most pressing question, which is when.”

Stand in line, sir. That has been a major complaint of not only partisan hacks who want this administration to fail, but also of key Dems who are tired of sitting on their hands and waiting for a timeline…for anything.

Obama’s Achilles heel in his administration has been his unwillingness or vague realization that anyone can have ideas; it’s the decisive execution that counts. If Thomas Edison, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Bill Gates, Thomas Jefferson or even Jesse James had all these ideas and never took action and made them realities, they would not be famous (or in James’ case, infamous).

The time for pretty prose and inspirational oratory is over. Barack Obama has got to roll his shirt sleeves up, get his hands dirty, and take decisive action.

Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, says that his group has, “never had a stronger ally in the White House.” Careful what you wish for. Sometimes allies can make you stronger, helping you to reach your goal, (e.g., the Brits in WWII) or they bring inaction and ultimately become your enemy (e.g., the Soviet Union during and post WWII).

Barack Obama was ushered into the White House on a message of Hope and Change.

Hope is theoretical construct with no onus, no accountability. It’s all based on “if.” Change is a hard, steady grind that doesn’t come easy. Let’s hope Obama learns how to grind out some victories for this country instead of wishing for “ifs.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hot Doc

Some listeners have asked me to re-tell the story of my hot doctor story. Here it is:

For the past twenty-some years, I’ve had a lump in my leg right near my groin. I went to the doctor when I when I first noticed it and he told me to not worry about it, it was something called a lipoma. It wasn’t cancerous, it wasn’t going to hurt, but if I wanted to have it cut out, he could do it. I declined and haven’t thought about until I visited my primary care doctor about a month ago and he said that I should have it removed before it actually started to interstitially grow into the muscle.

So, on his recommendation, I made an appointment to see a specialist who could take care of my lump that has grown from a pea-sized annoyance to a golf-ball sized distraction. And that’s all I am going to say about my nasty lump since HIPPA laws preclude me from divulging any more information – and I’ve already gone into the realm of “TMI.”

Now I have never really been keen on doctors. Ever-so-lucky, i've inherited all the weak, recessive genes in my family tree. As a three year old, I was diagnosed with asthma/allergies to anything with fur, pollen or spores. For the next 11 years, instead of watching Captain Caveman, School House Rock, Jabberjaw or Scooby Doo cartoons, I spent every Saturday morning going to different doctors, getting numerous allergy shots to build up my immunity.

So anytime I see a person in a white coat with a stethoscope, my eye starts to twitch as I break out in a sweat. I’ve gotten better in my old age, but nothing prepared me for what happened when I visited the specialist for a consultation on my lipoma.

As you get older, you learn what to expect in professional situations. When you go onto a car lot, you’re ready for the car shark; when you go to church, you speak in low, whispered tones out of respect.

Before I go to the doctor, I make a list of questions, trying not to remember the trauma of being held down when i was three years old on an examination table, getting poked by dozens of needles as the allergist tried to determine what I was allergic to and the severity of my reacion. My mother said it took two nurses and my father to keep me down. I guess that makes me a fighter.

Doctors are usually plain, medically neat people who come in with prescription pad and lollipop handy.

Not this doctor. As I was sitting in the chair, reading my magazine, a woman came into the room and introduced herself as my doctor. I looked up from my Sports Illustrated to see a tall, statuesque woman in a tight black dress instead of a white lab coat. Instead of running shoes or those ugly crocs which are de rigueur in most doctor’s office and hospitals, she had black stiletto heels. Her long, blonde hair was perfect, not pulled back with a pragmatic, solid-colored scrunchee. She wore pearls instead of stethoscope around her neck.

So when she opened my folder and asked how she could help me, I did something I’ve never done to a doctor before. I couldn’t remember why I was in the doctor’s office in the first place.

When I finally fumbled and stumbled for the words to describe that I had a bump on my leg, she looked in my folder again and said something that made me forgot my lump, my list and my name. Smiling with perfect, white teeth, she told me that I needed to show her where the lump was located.


Unlike my radio persona, I am very self conscious and rather shy. I hate pulling my pants down for any reason, but especially an exam, whether it be for a man doctor or a female nurse or vice versa. But she insisted, saying “I need to see the diameter and location so we can proceed.”


She smelled my fear which had overtaken her fragrant, scent; sweat beaded on my forehead. All I kept thinking was, “Where is the androgynous white coat, the loose, billowy scrubs that hide any kind of sexiness? I’ve watched ER and Grey’s Anatomy and those TV doctors don’t dress like this! What kind of doctor wears stilettos in the office?”

She does. And it was killing me.

Finally, I gathered enough courage to pull my pants down, showing her exactly where the location of the benign growth. She examined it, touched it with her manicured fingers, made some notes in my folder, and said that I needed to schedule another appointment to get it removed.

I wonder what she wears for surgery?

Thank goodness she didn’t ask me to turn my head and cough, I would’ve passed out.

Don't Blame Us

Last week when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius held a press conference, telling the American people to “step up” and get the H1N1 or Swine Flu vaccine, I had a sneaking suspicion that we, in the media, would be blamed for people not getting immunized against the Swine flu.

Not surprisingly, I was right. A report has come out that doctors and health care providers across the country have growing concerns that the way the media is covering the Swine Flu “umbrella,” (i.e., the vaccines, controversy, deaths and infectious outbreaks), is contributing to low vaccination rates in parts of the country, especially in major population centers like New York City.

Because there has been an almost non-stop deluge of news about the possibilities of the Swine Flu pandemic, the public may be at greater risk because they’ve stopped listening or paying attention.

Reporting science is a tricky, mercurial venture. If something is cool, like NASA bombing the moon, people will watch because of great computer graphics and pictures simulating blowing a crater out of the lunar surface.

Not so with something as opaque and ephemeral as the flu. News organizations have a hard time finding the right balance of information without turning into a “Science Guy” special or a catastrophic infomercial. If the news tries to explain a concept that takes more than two minutes, people tune it out. When there isn’t enough reporting, whether that perception is accurate or not, health care officials cry foul that they are trying to educate and warn the public about a national health problem and their message is not being broadcasted.

So how are we doing?

I may be biased, but I think our show (Mac and Gaydos on 92.3 KTAR in the afternoon. If you're not in the Phoenix area, got to for more information) does a better-than-average job when it comes to reporting, disseminating and then opining about this would/could-be pandemic known as H1N1.

Because of our own personal biases and natural curiosity, Gaydos and I have made a concerted effort to analyze, but not spew bombast. Since we are not educated as doctors or immunologists, we bring a more populist perspective. Sorting through information, we tell you what we know without the lexicon of a JAMA article.

Gaydos, who is a certifiable hypochondriac, scours the Internet and television for information on the flu, seasonal or Swine, talks to people at the Health Department and calls his doctor brother almost on a daily basis culling the latest information. I, on the other hand, read as much as I can but I don’t panic.

Being superstitious and cautious, I don’t get a flu shot. The only time I got a flu shot was the year I actually got the flu. In my opinion, since getting the shot isn’t a panacea or magic bullet, so I will take my chances.

It’s that type of balanced perspective, our Everyman approach, based on our different personalities, that our show, in my humble opinion, shouldn’t be lumped into the rest of the media who are postulating and speculating on the benefits or the catastrophe of getting a Swine flu vaccination.

We give you information without panic or hyperbole; and we always tell you to seek the advice and opinion of your doctor.

Not many other talk shows or news organizations can say that.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

High Speed Boondoggle

When was the last time you took a train? If you said "never," you wouldn't be alone by a long shot. Train ridership has precipitously plummeted since the early 1950's with the advent of the interstate highway system and the burgeoning airline industry.

But that hasn't stopped some from trying to revive a rail system that would include Phoenix and other southwestern cities.

The Western High Speed Rail Alliance is a recently created group wanting to use stimulus money and get Phoenix on the high speed rail line "train," if you will, with service to Los Angeles in less than two hours and other cities like Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

They would have more success and spend less money in making better buggy whips.

Let's make one thing blindingly clear: We already have something that will take you to these cities faster, with more departures and a better business model. It's called the airline industry. Sure, the airline industry is flailing, some airlines are in their death throes and some have been bailed out since Sept. 11, 2001. But it has not been government supported -- it is a viable private business venture. Unlike our passenger railway system.

But consider our passenger rail system that was consolidated back in the 1970's when the train industry was ready to go under. The government decided that the passenger train industry was "too big to fail" and monopolized the small train companies like the B&O, Burlington Northern, Union Pacific, leaving them to haul goods but not people.

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (the Federal Government) launched it to much fanfare, dubbing it "Amtrak" on May 1, 1971.

With its sleek silver cars and locomotives and red white and blue logo, Amtrak services over 21,000 miles of track across the United States.

And it's never made a profit. In fact, as a nation, we still have one of the lowest inter-city rail usages of all the developed nations.

Why does the government keep insisting on using tax-payer money to re-invent the train wheel, with the same, tired argument that if we update technology, more people will use it? With the exception of the Northeast (the Boston to DC corridor, as it's called), using a train instead of a plane doesn't make sense for commuters or people wanting to get from one place to another.

Yet every decade or so, there is a push to modernize and make high speed rail a reality like Japan or Germany. What the eggheads in Washington fail to realize since they never venture outside of the beltway, is that our country has triple or quintuple the real estate and people than smaller countries that utilize and favor high speed rail.

Until gas prices soar to European standards and sprawl creates endless strip malls from here to LA, high speed rail for the Southwest will not only be a waste of our tax money, it'll be a colossal waste of time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Birthday Letdown

I turn 41 this week and so far, the anticipation has been anticlimactic. It’s not that I dread getting more lines on my face and more gray in my hair. To the contrary; my life has gotten better every year since graduating college. I am in the best shape of my life, more successful than I could imagine, and live in a terrific town. And while I’ve achieved a lot at this point in my life, I look forward to accomplishing much more.

When I was 30, I wrote some goals down for myself. Still a young man, I found that by fixating what I wanted to accomplish on paper, my goals became more real, giving me a sense of urgency. Some goals were simplistic but important to me, others were close to unattainable but I figured that if I didn’t at least try, why bother having goals in the first place. I wanted to be more successful in radio, although I didn’t know talk radio in my future and my true passion. I also wanted to lead a healthier life, since I had gained 30 pounds. Other goals, like traveling to Europe and touring the great museums, have not come to fruition, but I am working on them.

Turning 40 was a scary, wonderfully rewarding experience. People made a big deal, sending cards and calling me to share their birthday wishes and good will. Since the big 4-0 is the midpoint of an average man’s lifespan, you can really gauge how you’ve done in your career and personal life, what goals have been accomplished, and what lies ahead.

So far, my 41st birthday feels like catching leprosy. People acknowledge it, but they would rather leave me on the island and just move on to something else, like looking at baby pictures or winning American Idol.

Turning 41 is like a vast, lost, wasteland for birthdays. It’s like turning 26 or 72. I’ve never heard someone say, “You know, when I turned 41, my whole life changed!” Or, “When I was 41? Now that was a great year!” No one asks, “So what’s it like turning 41?” Why? Because it doesn’t feel like anything. It’s just another day in the week of October, as the days get cooler and shorter, and the football season finds itself in mid-season.

I wish I had more to look forward to as I turn 41, but my goals have been laid out for over a decade. Some I have accomplished (like not killing Gaydos; that is still a hard one to keep) and others are still down the path for me. But for now turning 41 feels as important as being on time for work. You know when to expect it and that it’s coming, but what’s there to be excited about?

So if you want to wish me a happy birthday, I have an idea. Save it. Wish me a happy birthday when I turn 42. Maybe that’s the birthday I should be looking forward to. After all, I have a whole year to think about it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

SNL Bomb

A bomb was dropped on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live this past weekend and I am not talking about guest host Meghan Fox’s performance.

During a sketch between two “biker chicks,” newbie cast member Jenny Slate dropped the F word with veteran Kristen Wiig. Censors on the East Coast missed the fleeting F word when it flew, but did bleep it for the West Coast feed. I don’t know if new cast member Slate wanted to make a controversial impression and decided to boldly go where not many cast members have gone before in a performance, but I am always shocked and a little disheartened when people overreact to using a word that has been in the English vernacular since the Middle Ages.

The blogosphere is rife with opinions, some bloggers using the same word Slate dropped on NBC Saturday night, which I find highly ironic. Viewers want NBC and Saturday Night Live to take a strong stand and punish Jenny Slate. Some even say she should be fired for dropping the F word, writing in their screeds that she should be professional enough to know when and how to use coarse language on free television.

I have always had a problem with the perception of the use of curse words. Not because I agree with our collective Puritanical roots. On the contrary – I love curse words; all forms, all functions. Now if you’re one of those sanctimonious, high-horse people who feel that cursing has no place in polite society, this opinion piece is not for you, and I hope you don’t break your neck when you fall off that horse.

No word in the English language can be used so many different ways and for so many situations. You can use the F word as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, even a gerund! It is one of the most widely used words in social circles, yet we deny its monumental impact in broadcasting.

As a society, we are nowhere near eradicating a word that was used as an insult when the Normans invaded the Anglo Saxons in 1066. In fact, the reason we use the same curse words today goes back to the Anglo pride of keeping the most debased, guttural insult(proudly saved), and defiantly hurled back on their Norman conquers. (And notice who had the last laugh in the First and Second World Wars – take that, France, and your polite, sissified language!)

I think in certain situations and circumstances they are not only funny, but useful and in some instances, cathartic. There is nothing like letter a few F words fly when you’re upset, angry or frustrated. A recent study even suggests that cursing is good for a person's mental state because there is not only a verbal but physical release when someone vents their frustration in a curse-ladened tirade.

I am not endorsing using the F word during children’s programming or during a church picnic. Did Jenny Slate gratuitously use the F word repeatedly during an episode of Hannah Montana, turning it into a Tarentino script? No. Does SNL always like to push the envelope? Yes, since it’s inception in 1975. So I don’t have a problem with the F word at 10:30 at night. Because I know the dirty little secret that many people use that word during the morning, noon and night as well.

As the bumper sticker says, sometimes S*@# Happens.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't Call It a Comeback

The American people secretly enjoy two things, especially in politics: Power and Scandal.

John Edwards’ political career has all the trappings and context of a Shakespearean tragedy with a healthy dose of TMZ.

So when word came out this week that John Edwards is staging a comeback to the political landscape, I scoffed. This isn’t a comeback; it’s a reintroduction.

Think of it as John Edwards 2.0.

John Edwards’ rise was too good to be true: a small town trial lawyer, who came from nothing, married his college sweetheart and celebrated every anniversary at a fast food restaurant. This small town trial lawyer went into politics and had a meteoric rise that eventually saw him tapped by John Kerry as his Vice Presidential nominee in 2004.

But his fall has been just as fast as allegations that he fathered a child out of wedlock as his wife was dying of cancer splashed across news crawls and headlines in 2008.

But just this week, John Edwards has engaged in a new low in his political career; there are rumblings of a comeback. But wait. Even if Edwards is going to do more of a mea culpa than he did on ABC’s Nightline the first time when he admitted, “in 2006 … I made a very serious mistake. A mistake that I am responsible for and one else,” crying crocodile tears on camera, he still has to face the grand jury.

A federal grand jury in North Carolina is investigating whether or not Edwards or his staff used campaign contributions to pay his mistress hush money or paid her a salary. The New York Times reported that people familiar with the grand jury investigation as trying to untangle the legal morass of “whether payments to a candidate’s mistress to ensure her silence (thus maintaining a candidate’s viability) should be considered campaign donation and thus whether they should be reported.” Two of Edward’s main backers provided the mistress with large sums of money, including a new BMW and a house that was used to keep her out of public view.

That’s not a good thing for any politician – even a Kennedy wouldn’t be able to survive this kind of infidelity mess. Or could they?

Today, not many pesky problems, perverted peccadilloes, or salacious scandals survive in America’s Collective Conscience.

In recent months, Senator David Vitter R-LA, is seeking re-election after a prostitution scandal. Senator John Ensign, R-NV is still in office after having an affair with a staffer’s wife. And who can forget Mark Sanford, the married governor of South Carolina, whose lusty emails and covert trip to Argentina to see his Buenos Aires baby doll didn’t get him kicked out of office.

John Edwards wants to come back. He wants to, again, be in the spotlight and be in politics even though he has fallen out of favor in his own state of North Carolina.

But we have seen other elected political heroes survive scandals and maintain their political toehold in Congress. Why should John Edwards be any different?

Americans’ memories are short. John Edwards cheated on his dying wife, fathered a child out of wedlock and, allegedly, misappropriated campaign funds to keep his mistress hidden and his run for president viable.

John Edwards will be back – maybe not representing the good people in North Carolina – but he’ll find constituents that will fall for his narcissistic charm and forgive him enough to get him re-elected.

But don't call it a comeback.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jay Leno's New Show Is An Old Shoe

I was expecting more last night. A lot more.

Jay Leno’s new show on NBC debuted last night to a lot of hype, a lot of expectations and a lot of hand wringing about the future of late night talk shows as well as the fate of primetime shows. All of this based on a man who people thought wouldn’t last a year into his stint as the replacement for Johnny Carson. Those doubts have been erased and now Jay Leno is an iconic television fixture.

But last night I was expecting something more, something different than just a Late Night Redo.

I was shocked when I tuned in that everything was basically the same. Same monologue, same interviews, same bits. The only thing that was different was the set. And by the way, did anyone catch how reminiscent Jay’s new set looks like the set from Later with Bob Costas when he was on late night?

Jay deserves the mammoth, expansive and creative set that Conan now enjoys. It looks like Leno got an Ikea afterthought. Just horrible.

The actual show was too comfortable. I didn’t expect jitters or flop sweat like Conan and Jimmy Fallon had when they debuted, but there should have been some kind of nervous excitement – something to be giddy about whether it’s the new time slot or even if it’s to show off the new set they built Jay. Oh, that’s right…no one could get mildly or feign glee over the new set.

As far as the guest for Jay’s inaugural foray into primetime, Oprah was forced and felt out of place, Jerry Seinfeld was great as always, and Kanye West really proved what an absolute douche bag he is with his lame, inarticulate apology to Taylor Swift and the debacle that was the VMA’s. I understand why Jay decided to bring him to the comfy chair, sitting down and talking a bit, but if there is one skill Jay sorely lacks, it’s how to handle a tough interview. When the giggles and fluff are flying, he’s fine. But when there needs to be some gravity to his interview, Jay turns chicken. And asking about how your late mother would feel about your behavior is just stilted and unnecessary. I would expect that out of Oprah, not Jay Leno.

Jay Leno is a talented guy, but he’s also reached a comfortable place in his career and in his new time slot. Maybe too comfortable.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Obama Overexposure

What do Jon and Kate, Speidi, Nickelback and Ann Coulter have in common? They suffer from a cultural phenomenon that is akin to having an itchy skin rash.

It’s called being overexposed and no one in the public spotlight wants to suffer from its debilitating effects.

Come this Sunday, the president may need some Calamine lotion.

Since President Obama’s Health Care Plan has not been greeted with accolades but with resistance, (which quickly turned into downright skepticism) Barack has been on the offensive. He spoke in front of both Houses of Congress last week to push for Health Care Reform, even invoking Teddy Kennedy's name to punctuate the immediacy and urgency of his plan.

But the president’s eloquent speech has not translated into a huge bump in the polls. Almost half of the American public is not sold on Health Care Reform. So what is Obama to do? The White House announced yesterday that Obama would take his message to the American people…again…by going on television.

Be ready to start applying the cortisone cream.

This Sunday, unless you’re watching HGTV or ESPN, it will be hard to miss the president. He will appear on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, Meet the Press on NBC, as well as Face the Nation on CBS. In between the major networks, he will do interviews with CNN and Univision.

That’s a lot of TV. That’s a lot of exposure. Too much, in my opinion. Barack’s message is getting lost in his own limelight. What this administration has to learn is how to handle the magnitude and his rock star quality that got him to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So far, they’ve overexposed a man that should not have to go on every major network to get his message across.

Most presidents since the television era began have had all the presence and stiffness of a cardboard cut out – or worse. Comedians, late night talk shows and regular people mock them because they are utterly inept at connecting with the public. Not this president. Not since JFK have we seen someone who electrifies the podium.

But like chocolate or fantasy football, too much is not a good thing.

For the record, President Obama has done 114 interviews in his first seven months in office compared to 37 interviews by former president George W. Bush and 41 by Bill Clinton. I was no math major, but Obama has been on almost four times than Dubya.

Barack Obama is a Hollywood casting agent’s dream for a calm, assured presence on camera. (As long as there is a teleprompter.) But the main rule of Hollywood success, and to a lesser degree, political success, is not to be overexposed. People tire of you then turn a deaf ear to your message

Sunday, Barack will reach that level and the America public will be itching for a new message.

Ellen Judges AI

Pardon the drool, as I have spent all weekend trying to pick my jaw off the floor.

Now I am a pretty jaded person and nothing really makes my jaw get so slack that my lower mandible finds itself, teeth and all, in a jumble on the tile.

But last week, the announcement that Ellen DeGeneres would replace Paula Abdul on American Idol stunned me more than the news that Michael Jackson’s death was ruled a homicide.

The conventional wisdom behind Ellen joining the Island of Misfit Judges is simple. Ellen is huge with women (no lesbian joke intended). Her daytime talk show has had steady female numbers and Idol producers have noticed a lack of female eyeballs watching would be singers turn into starts for the past couple of seasons.

Also, Ellen is likable and funny without being too saccharine or insipid like Paula. As a side note, I have to admit, one of the reasons I enjoyed AI the last couple of seasons was because you never knew what kind of verbal train wreck would chug forth from Paula’s pert little mouth. Her slurry, confusing non-sequitors were something that drinking games were borne out of. “Take a shot if Paula says anything with the word ‘beautiful!’”

Sure, she was a lighthearted distraction, like a funny Aunt at a reunion that makes you shake you’re head and thank God she doesn’t live with you. That was, for good or bad, Paula Abdul and I, for one, will miss her drug-addled ramblings.

But the main reason that I cannot believe Ellen DeGeneres was picked to be the new judge on AI is that she (and this is tantamount) has no musical background whatsoever.

None. Zip. Nada.

Sure, Ellen can dance as she’s proven on her successful talk show when she moves her hips like some stuffy tart at a Junior League function, but does she know what pitch is? Can she pick out a warbler versus an actual singer?

Simon and Randy have actually produced world-class singers who have smash hits and gold records. Ellen? We don’t even know if she sings in the shower.

Ellen has that Everyperson quality to her that AI producers are looking for. She says she loves music, but without the one-hit wonder factor or the rehab stints. DeGeneres reminds you of a someone who goes to your church, but without the fashion sense.

Her likeability may have been the “it” factor for Ellen, being huge for test audiences, but remember this cautionary tale. A couple of years back – forever in TV time – Monday Night Football was looking to shake things up in the booth and found someone who they thought would reflect the Everyperson, sitting between the football guy and the announcer guy. He was smart, quick and was a self-avowed “football fanatic.” His name was Dennis Miller. And he sucked so bad, he was replaced after two seasons…by a man who knew a lot about football. His name was John Madden.

Ellen, you ain’t John Madden; you’re Dennis Miller. And that’s not a compliment.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Too Little, Too Late


Speaking to both Houses of Congress, and to the nation, President Obama finally gave details of how his Healthcare Reform Bill would help millions of uninsured Americans.

Too bad it’s too little, too late.

Last night his speech (by my notes) had eight separate parts. But what political heroes, cable and radio talk show hosts, and many Americans have been clamoring for are details in how the president’s magnanimous plan will directly affect the American health care system and medically and monetarily impact citizens.

Last night some details emerged.

The president said that if you already have health insurance, are covered by Medicare/Medicaid, your status will not change. For the rest of Americans who don’t fall into those categories, he outlined a comprehensive, detailed plan that sounded good, but really failed to live up to the “game changer” he needed to push those opposed to the plan into supporting it.

Under Barack’s proposed plan, the government would:

• Offer an affordable plan for those who don’t have medical insurance.
• Create a new insurance exchange where companies will be competitive.
• Provide tax credits based on your needs.

The president also took on those who were putting forth lies, untruths and misrepresentations of his plan. Calling Death Panels a “lie, plain and simple,” the president also said that the plan would not cover illegal immigrants. Then Barack Obama took a swipe at those who dared question his plan by saying that anyone who misrepresents what’s in his plan, he and the administration will “call you out.”

These are bold, confrontational words (almost a thinly-veiled threat; maybe he’s channeling the “Chicago Way”) from the president. But they are also understandable because the president was on the defensive after letting his own plan and bill get mired and tarnished by his own inaction. When he proposed the plan needed to be ratified and voted on in three weeks last July, people scoffed, questioned and jeered his timeline. Moderate Democrats even started to raise objections saying that that kind of sweeping comprehensive reform was too much, too soon, too fast. But the president believed the American people truly wanted this and since he needed a solid victory before Congress went on vacation, he did something utterly baffling: he went on vacation, thinking it would be passed because he wanted it. Big mistake.

And that’s when he lost control of the narrative on health care, even with the death of Ted Kennedy and the rallying cry from people like Nancy Pelosi that we needed to pass health care reform because of Kennedy’s commitment to reform. The debate shifted and was changed by those who were strongly opposed to government-controlled health care.

The proof is in the latest poll numbers where over 52 percent of Americans are now against President Obama’s plan, while his overall approval numbers continue to plummet below 50 percent.

So last night was a good speech – a solid, passionate performance from a man whose oratory ability cannot be questioned.

But the timing was too late. He should have made this speech a month ago.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Obama Needs To Say

Tonight, President Barack Obama will address both houses of Congress, trying to garner support from those elected political heroes, but also from the American people.

(We will carry the speech live at 5pm on Mac & Gaydos on News Talk 92.3 KTAR and then have live reaction.)

With his poll numbers precipitously falling below the important 50 percent approval rating, the president needs to say three things for the Congress as well as the people to rally behind his bold, almost radical, plan to offer health care to everyone through the government.

1. Barack Obama needs to tone down the rhetoric about the have’s versus the have not’s. We all understand that there are people who do not have health care. But we also need to remember that this isn’t the 19th century and people are not dying in the streets because of pestilence, lack of caring or crisis. Don’t scare us into your plan, Mr. President.
2. The president needs to give more details and less oratory. Don’t finger point. Let’s not get caught up in politics as usual casting shame and pointing an accusing finger at people (who have every right) who are skeptical and want more details on what your “public option” truly contains. The president is a wonderful, inspirational speaker. But when someone tries to radically shift the way we get and receive health care, which is a truly personal decision, the public needs more information.
3. And, finally, Mr. President, please shift your focus from the government or “public” option to making our health care conversation about the patient first. Let’s make sure the insurance companies can stay in business, but let’s stop treating people on the defensive. Let’s have doctors treat people, not live with the fear of being sued. It’s a simple, almost elementary cliché: When you put people first, people respond.

So let’s hope President Obama has seen the error of his ways. By trying to shove something down the American people’s throats, his poll numbers have plummeted. By including the American people in the debate about national health care, Barack may not get exactly what his agenda set out earlier this year, but he won’t suffer from Americans losing confidence in the man who is all about Hope and Change.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Economic Recovery Equals Babies

Barack Obama said last week that the worst may be over for this country and the recession. He said this after new unemployment figures revealed that the nation’s loss actually went down from 9.5 percent to 9.4 percent. Not exactly a precipitous fall, but the president was optimistic nonetheless.

The Obama Administration, economic experts and everyday citizens all want to know when our economic prosperity will not just return, but will it last? Jobs are a lagging indicator of an economic recovery, consumer confidence is an inexact science; but one factor that can be counted as an economic downturn or recovery has nothing to do with pie charts, GDP results or a stimulus package.

It’s a simple as procreation.

The correlation between United States’ economic prosperity and recovery comes down to babies – whether we have a baby boom or baby bust.

Since we began our downward spiral into a recession in 2007, it’s impacted many different aspects of our lives. Obviously, the job sector has been steadily eroded to the tune of 7 million jobs lost – so far. That, along with a loss in consumer confidence, has had a trickle down effect on spending, savings, retirement, business, travel, recreation, as well as one part of our lives you wouldn’t expect: babies.

Since this recession is more than a year old, a new report says we are having less children. This is the first annual drop in births, since the beginning of the 21st century.

According to the National Center for Health, births were down about 68,000 babies to 4,247,000 after climbing steadily from 2002. But can the economy be blamed on people planning to postpone maternity? Experts have varying opinions but if you look at birthrates from the Great Depression in the ‘30s as well as every recession since the Post War era in our country, one thing is for sure. Birthrates go down as we pull back on our purse strings, weathering economic recessions and depressions.

So when the president comes out in a press conference with a tepid statement about how we may be back on the road to recovery, I remain skeptical.

I will be paying attention to the maternity ward at Valley hospitals to tell me when our long national economic nightmare is over.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

AZ Cardinals: Why Not?

I don’t care what the naysayers loudly proclaim on sports talk radio or the constant blathering on their blogs, I am excited for this upcoming football season.

I am aware of the devastating statistic that the last 8 out of 9 teams who went to the Super Bowl didn’t even make it into next year’s playoffs. I am not delusional.

But there is an undeniable quality to last year’s dream season for the Arizona Cardinals that cannot be denied: why not?

Why not again this year? Why can’t Coach Wiz and the crew get it done a second year in a row? Sure, I understand that the NFL has parity and that there really hasn’t been a dynasty of sorts since Jerry Jones’ Cowboys in the 90’s, or maybe you’d like to include the Pats in the 21st Century.

But not a lot was expected last year of the Cardinals. In fact, there was a caustic, almost snide arrogance that the Cardinals would find interesting ways to LOSE games, so that’s why you rooted for them. Not because they had a chance, but because they would find the most interesting, sometimes baffling ways to let a lead slip out of the jaws of victory.

But not last year. Last year we went to the Super Bowl. Last year we took all the Doubting Thomases under Big Red’s Wings and said, “Let’s show you how we win.” And slowly, but surely, we kept winning, beating teams that surely should have pounded into the ground the year before. We made teams look like they were JuCo football programs that had been to the playoffs the year before.

Last year, we turned the NFL on its head and defied all logic and convention.

So this year, I am not going to side with people who are already tempering expectation when they report from Flagstaff about training camp. I am going to say it loud and proud: “Why not?”

After all, we weren’t expecting to go to the super Bowl last year, WHY NOT this year?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vick's Comeback Story Shouldn't Happen

America loves a comeback story. But Michael Vick's comeback story should not happen.

Yesterday, Vick got his dispensation from the Pope of the National Football League. Roger Goodell re-instated Vick to play in the NFL. After being released from prison, he served out the rest of his prison sentence for operating an illegal dog-fighting ring back home in Hampton Roads, Virginia under house arrest and working a construction job for 10 bucks an hour.

But Roger Goodell wants everyone to know that he will not be a pushover commissioner.

Vick can begin training and taking part in training camp immediately, and he could be allowed to play by week six. Goodell says he will rule again, giving Michael a chance to transition back into the NFL.

Vick is happy to be given a second chance to play in the league saying through his agent, “I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to commissioner Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League. I fully understand that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have been given.

So far, and surprisingly, there haven’t been any teams interested in having Vick even be a third string QB on their team.

I am shocked that not one team would be so desperate to take (another) a chance on an agile, scrambling quarterback who can make plays on the run.

But if there is a general manager or coach wanting to give Vick a spot on their roster, I offer you some free advice: don’t take him. In fact, don’t even talk to his agent. Vick comes with not only enough baggage to get a Samsonite endorsement, he will also come with an unlikely entourage.

Back when we first started learning about what an inhumane and cruel operation Bad Newz Kennels was, and read the news reports of how many dead dogs were buried on Vick’s Surry County, Virginia property, (the rape stands, the dog pits, and the thousands of dollars that were bet on this senseless sport), People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals made a promise.

It’s a promise they are still more than willing to keep and your franchise doesn’t need the head ache and the angry and offended fan base.

If any team decides to pay Michael Vick to play, PETA has vowed to show up and protest. In a day when people protest everything and anything, when television news outlets have their pick of what group is protesting where, this may just sound like an empty threat or cacophonous din and nothing more.

But PETA will not just protesting outside of the stadium of the team Vick plays for on any given Sunday. They have vowed to go on the road and protest at the opposing teams stadiums. PETA has vowed to show up at any camp, appearance or event that is directly or indirectly involved with Vick or the team.

They say that the NFL has a short memory when it comes to talent. Just ask the Dallas Cowboys last year when they hired Adam “Pac Mac” Jones, as well as a host of other teams.

But if you’re an NFL owner, do you really want that kind of entourage following your team around? Just because you’ve “conveniently” forgotten what Michael Vick did?

This is one comeback story that should never have been.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Television Disappointment

The summer television season is here. And it stinks.

Every fall when the network television season starts, it’s a frenzied thrill ride of plotline twists and turns, great characters and stellar shows. Whether it’s who is going to win the Amazing Race on CBS, or will Liz Lemon find true love (or something close to it without stalkers being involved) on 30 Rock on NBC, or can Mike and Susan every really stay together on Desperate Housewives on ABC? One thing is an assured constant: each week brings a steady stream of good, and sometimes great, television.

Spring is when the television schedule starts to sputter. Some shows take two weeks off, which the networks coyly call a “hiatus” starting in February, or the networks aggravatingly space the rest of the season schedule in between insipid and pedestrian specials, or pompous, navel-gazing awards shows. And before you know it, season finales come way too soon in mid-April, or, (if a series can pace itself longer than 13 original eps) the show wraps up in May leaving a TV addict like myself to wander the desolate arid wasteland that is network and basic cable throughout the summer.

But this particular summer has been brutal. Not just because I live in Phoenix and the temperatures like to hover around 100 degrees at night, (see my Five Stages of Summer Heat blog posted on 7/21/09) but the shows that the networks have held off because of last year’s writer strike and waited to dump them on the airwaves over the summer, (a pathetic link to what was great in the spring and an optimistically looking fall) have been poor. Really poor.

Rescue Me has been on a roller coaster ride of late. The show that has been critically acclaimed and well received by the public has fallen on hard times lately. Denis Leary has been the creator, the driving force and the main character since its debut on F/X five seasons ago, but it lost its way last year, ultimately ending up with a WTF ending that left you scratching your head and questioning why you were watching the show in the first place. This season has been like the monsoon season here in the Valley: hailed as one of the biggest and the best, but actually being spotty, all wind and dust, no lightning and thunder, no torrential downpours flooding viewers with great plot lines and emotionally sweeping viewers like myself away, looking forward to next week.

Entourage is all about fluff. But it’s good, not always clean, fluff on HBO. Unfortunately this season, we are left without any kind of compelling story lines because the show has become formulaic, grinding itself into a predictable story arc every episode. E.g.: The boys get into some kind of trouble, Ari yells, Vinnie sleeps with a gorgeous woman, Drama kvetches, Turtle is…Turtle, and E desperately wants to be taken seriously. At the end, trouble is averted and all is good in Hollywood. Yawn. Roll credits.

Because of my utterly crippling disappointment and strained relationships with the new but uninspired summer season of shows, I have been put in an awkward position. I have been looking elsewhere for summer escapes. That’s right, I’ve been cheating on my TV shows. And I am not proud.

I have been watching Next Food Network Star on Food Network and ashamed to admit that it’s got more drama and more unexpected twists and turns than Entourage, while packing more passion and hubris (without the alcoholism) than Rescue Me. I have also been absolutely hooked (no pun intended) on Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel. Watching one episode of these fishermen makes any guy with a desk job and an expensive car look like a teat-sucking, sissy-Mary.

I’ve also rekindled my interest in Major League Baseball, watching games on ESPN and Fox Sports. Too bad the Diamondbacks are finding ways to lose instead of winning games. Note to Arizona Diamondback President Derrick Hall: this makes it incredibly hard to root for the home team. Enough said.

So where does that leave me for this summer? I have been patiently, almost forbearingly waiting for one of the best dramas on television to start on August 16th on AMC. Mad Men is on its third season with Don Draper at a crossroads. Season two was one of the best culminations of style, substance, and plot I’ve seen since The Wire.

Unfortunately, the way my summer’s been going, I am hesitant to get overly excited. The summer malaise has hit so many of the shows I used to watch. But something tells me that creator and producer Matt Weiner isn’t going to rest on his laurels and shouldn’t let Don or anyone at Sterling Cooper coast on their retro good looks and suave (and sometimes lurid) behavior.

I just want my summer malaise to be washed away like a good monsoon storm in the middle of a hot summer in Phoenix. So, I am putting my trust into a guy who drinks like a fish, smokes like a fiend, recklessly cheats on his wife while always looks dashingly dapper in a grey flannel suit. I guess there’s a first time for everything.

I hope it’s not too much pressure.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shine Comes Off the Penny

Last week the president realized that his Health Care Reform bill was stalling in Congress. Not only were Republicans balking over nationalized health care, but Blue Dog Democrats were expressing hesitation and concern about cost as well as feasibility; just how could we pay to insure every America while our national deficit just topped a trillion dollars the week before?

As he has done in the past, the president took his case to the airwaves, before the American people holding his fourth (fourth!) press conference since taking office in just over six months. Obama was emphatic and stridently determined; laying out a plan to make sure that not only would 47 million uninsured Americans (a “fuzzy math” stat, by the way) be covered, but also all Americans would have a choice under the government’s plan.

As usual, the president was long on rhetoric and short on specifics, with reporters tossing softball questions for him to expound upon. It was the lowest rated press conference so far. In fact, NBC had to be talked into carry his address; the Fox network completely passed.

Then, toward the end of the press conference, a reporter asked President Obama about the arrest by the Cambridge, Massachusetts police of his long-time friend, Harvard professor Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. The president said the police, “acted stupidly.”

With that one comment, the president inserted himself into a story that was about race and law enforcement in a city that has had a long history of strained race relations. Forget the particulars, the president became part of the story and suddenly, his message about health care and insuring every American faded into the back pages of newspapers and television coverage. Now the story was about the president calling into question the integrity and responsibility of the Cambridge Police Department.

When you step into the cow pasture, you are bound to step into a cow patty. I can only imagine as soon as the president walked back into the Oval Office after the press conference, his staff was not pleased. Now he would have to do something that presidents loathe to do: damage control and try to get the self-inflicted stink off of his shoe.

For the latter part of the week, the president has come close to apologizing about his remarks, but will not fully give a mea culpa for his stinging, personal words about a local matter that has ballooned into a national debate.

Barack Obama had been the master of the media. His oratory ability and calm assurance not only in front of the camera but the American people as well got him elected. Not this time. Not this past week.

A new Rasmussen poll indicates the president’s approval rating has dipped below 50 percent. This is lower than Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush’s poll numbers in their first six months of office.

I thought that Barack Obama’s first real enemy would be from an outside threat: North Korea, the ecomony cratering, or a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina. Instead, this past week Barack Obama has had to deal with another kind of enemy: himself.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Five Stages of Heat

This is my second summer in Phoenix and I’ve noticed a pattern of behavior that I don’t understand. Starting in April, the temperature, without exception, starts its slow, steady climb into the triple digits.

We laugh at people back East and the Midwest who are still digging their way out of another frigid winter. We scoff at the inevitable sun and heat. That’s why we live here…in the desert, we delusionally proclaim.

Then July comes and the temperature (like every July) climbs past 110 and we suddenly are outraged, insulted. We go through what I call the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Summer Grief.

First, we are in denial. June was unseasonably cool this year. So by June 20th, we absolutely convinced that there was no freaking way we could see 110 degrees this summer.

Second, we get angry. This happened last week as the temps shot past 110 for more than two consecutive days. It was as if Mother Nature punked us, played us for a sucker, took us for a mark. Yes, our anger was righteously deserved, we thought. How DARE she trick us and invite the Heat Miser to stay in our town and burn everything under the sun to a crisp. Our anger was palpable.

The third stage happened on Sunday. We start bargaining with God. We sit in our house or apartment and as we wipe the dripping sweat off the back of our neck as we sit three inches from an industrial fan used in hog barns, frantically trying to get cool, trying to get God to turn down the sun. We make deals with the Almighty that are ignored and unheeded. We promise to stop nefarious habits or give copious amounts of money to a religious charity, swearing up and down that if only God would talk to Mother Nature and stop this ridiculous heat wave, we would all be better people. Bargaining never works. The sun rises in the east, roasts the Sonoran desert for about 14 hours and then sets near Tonopah around 7:30PM.

The fourth stage of our collective Summer Grief is settling in the Valley now. It’s depression. In the morning you hesitate opening the front door to the oven that is the outside. You dread getting into the car and having your back instantly turn wet with sweat as you wait for the AC in your car to move enough air around to promote a stale breeze. You have no energy; you don’t want to go to Starbucks or Taco Bell because you’ve seen birds burst into flame in mid-air and snakes sweating because it’s so hot.

And this depresses the Hades out of you. In fact, you imagine Hell is a nice place this time of year compared to the Valley of the Sun as the temperature hovers around 118 degrees during the day and doesn’t go below 100 at night.

You pray for death, but even Death doesn’t come to the Valley this time of year. That robe he wears is too heavy and that scythe he carries is just too heavy when lugging it down Van Buren in the concrete inferno.

The final stage comes late; too late for you to realize that summer and Summer Grief is almost over. It’s the most interesting stage because you don’t realize you’ve reached it until it’s too late.

It’s Acceptance.

By the time late August sluggishly arrives, you’ve adjusted to the blazing cauldron that is the Valley. You’re mind is so numb that you forget to sweat. You’ve become quasi-Saharan. You enjoy taking three showers a day just to feel mildly fresh. You have finally figured out a system to get your Starbucks, get back in the car and not look like a bad comedian on stage in the midst of being soaked in flop sweat.

And it’s around this time that September comes and the temperature only (ONLY!!!) hits 100 degrees. You feel like Prometheus finally capturing and taming fire. You regale your friends with “it wasn’t that hot” stories and how you survived a 118 day with nothing more than a pair of khaki shorts and an old ASU t-shirt, your only liquid refreshment being a warm bottle of Yoo-Hoo.

Then it hits you – summer is over. The heat wave has broken and Mother Nature has moved back north because she doesn’t like the snow birds either.

And we’ll go through the Five Stages of Summer Grief all over again next year.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Most Selfish Mom

Maria del Carmen Bousada decided to become a mom after caring for her own mother who died at the ripe old age of 101.

But Maria wasn’t in her 30’s or 40’s. Instead of a selfless decision to bring another life into the world, she made a selfish decision to have a child at 66.

Yes, she decided to have a baby a year after she could receive a Social Security check.

Modern medicine has provided some great and fantastic procedures to not only lengthen but also improve the quality of our lives. But to have a child at the age of 66 is not only irresponsible – it’s inherently reckless. Maria thought that she would live well into her 90’s, being able to enjoy a good 20-25 years of being a mom.

Unfortunately, she died at the age of 69 from stomach cancer. I guess that’s relatively young for her family. She was a mom for three years to twins. Upon receiving the news she had the deadly disease, she said she didn’t regret giving birth to twin babies. And no matter what, they would be cared for by her extended family.

What I cannot comprehend is why someone would try to push the bounds of medicine but could not see the folly of that decision, nor have the foresight to realize that what she did was unfair and terribly selfish to those two babies. Maria wanted the immediate gratification of being a mom, without realize a mom is a life-long job.

Maria lied to her doctors claiming she was 55, which is the cutoff age for being inseminated. When she gave birth to her sons, she was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest woman to give birth.

Congrats, Maria. I hope your record is never broken. But you were a terribly selfish mother. You sons deserve better.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Still Scratching My Head

After John McCain “went maverick” and picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate, I was left scratching my head. And, unfortunately, I still am over her latest (and not so greatest) move.

Last week, Sarah Palin announced, rather abruptly, that she is stepping down from being governor of the state of Alaska to pursue something, to do something. The blogosphere and talk radio has been swirling with punditry and prognostications about what Sarah is going to do.

Some of the theories that have been floated, flummoxed and tweeted are, in no particular order that she will run for the Alaskan Senate seat in 2010. She’s getting her own tv show on Fox. She is being investigated by the FBI, which has already been shot down by the Bureau. She is sick of being criticized so she’s going rogue once again and will start up her own consulting business, and, of course, that she is preparing for a 2012 challenge of Barack Obama.

On Sunday, she came out and threw the media another curve ball. She told the Washington Times something that left me scratching my head – again. She stated, “I will go around the country on behalf of candidates who believe in the right things, regardless of their party label or affiliation.”


Some people are still hanging on to Sarah with these delusional last vestiges of saving the GOP.

Far from it.

This woman isn’t a savvy politician. She’s become a low-rent media hound. Obviously, quitting being Governor to start campaigning goes against her “I am no quitter” stance she railed on during her oft-missed opportunity campaign. We saw how badly she handled the media and yet, she keeps popping up. Whether it’s by her own press conference or late night talk show feud, Palin hasn’t gone away to re-tool, refresh and gone back to run Alaska, she’s kept a slow burn relationship with the media; to the point where many Americans are burnt out on Palin-mania.

This also opens her up to more and strongly worded criticism. This is a page from Al Gore’s playbook after her lost in 2000. Instead of going quietly, he insisted on reforming and remaking his image and placed all his chips on saving the planet. If Sarah is to be believed, never mind her abrupt quitting, and her secrecy) saying it’s not about ideology but about the “right things” just leaves me where I was when John McCain announced her as his running mate.

So where does this leave Sarah Palin? Who knows. She told the Washington Times that her goal is to keep going, to make some kind of difference. “I’m not ruling out anything — it is the way I have lived my life from the youngest age,” she said. “Let me peek out there and see if there’s an open door somewhere. And if there’s even a little crack of light, I’ll hope to plow through it.”

Even the bull doesn’t hit destroy every piece of fine China in the shop…Palin may just take down the whole building.

Which leaves me still scratching my head.