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.