Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I have a question, Mr. President…

If I could somehow smuggle myself into one of those meetings whose invited attendees are friendly to the president, and if I could get called upon to ask Mr. Bush a question, here is my first one.

“Mr. President, we have heard you explain several times how firmly you believe in democracy for the world, that it is the United States’ responsibility, even obligation, to export democracy, to help make all peoples in all regions of the world free, and to change governments to democratic ones where they are not.

“Sir, I began taping your televised comments when you were a candidate in 2000. In one of your interviews from that year you responded to a reporter by saying, “I don’t think it is such a good idea for America to go around the world telling other countries how to live. I don’t think we should engage in ‘nation building.’ That only makes other countries hate the United States.” Your supporters agreed with you in great numbers.

My question, Sir, is: ‘Why did you flip on that position?’”

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Is the answer a strong third party, or another revolution?

LOS ANGELES TIMES syndicated columnist Cal Thomas has for years been an outspoken supporter of the far right wing of the Republican Party. His consistently conservative position has almost never strayed from the tenets of Republicanism held dear by Goldwater and Reagan and the ultra right wing religious neo-cons of recent years. And he has been a staunch supporter of nearly all Republicans.

I was, therefore, surprised to read the following in Thomas’ column on March 22, 2006: “The Senate vote increased the debt ceiling for the fourth time in five years. The statutory debt limit has now risen by more than $3 trillion since President Bush took office. That any Republican majority could preside over such fiscally irresponsible spending ought to be grounds for revoking their party membership.”

Ouch! Bush has vetoed exactly zero spending bills, you know! Zero bills of any kind.

Thomas continued, “This is mostly about politics, not terrorism. Republicans fear that only gobs of money will endear them to voters in sufficient numbers to re-elect their increasingly precarious majority.” And he asks, “Why should Republicans be re-elected when one of the major reasons the GOP exists is to reduce the size and cost of government and free more people to do for themselves instead of restricting their liberties through big government.”

Double ouch!

Thomas points out that the immense national debt is largely owned by countries that are, or who could become, our enemies. He mentions that Republican Calvin Coolidge and Democrat Bill Clinton left office with a surplus. “That a Republican Congress and administration are engaging in such promiscuous spending is obscene.”

Such obscenity seems to me to be dangerous to our national security, as well.

There is more. Thomas criticizes Republican increased spending for health and education programs and the folly of the money spent on No Child Left Behind when there is no evidence that increased money alone increases learning.

Thomas can’t quite advocate voting for Democrats, however. He assumes in print that they would be as guilty of deficit spending as the Bush League, even after mentioning the budget surplus of Democrat Clinton.

So what is the Thomas solution? “Maybe it’s time for a strong third party or, failing that, another revolution.”

Is Cal Thomas calling for American armed insurrection? Or simply a voter revolution at the polls? It is hard to tell.

It is, indeed, a different world, however, when I read that Cal Thomas seems to feel the Republican Party has left him! I know many other Republicans who feel the same way these days. Perhaps that includes most of the increasing number of registered Independents. But Cal Thomas?

Years ago Walter Cronkite broadcast his changed view that Viet Nam was a lost cause, and that we should not be fighting there. LBJ said something to the effect that he knew it was over when he lost the support of Cronkite. Soon after, he announced that he would not seek another term.

Well, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and the other puppeteers pulling the strings of the Bush League should similarly shake in their boots to read that ultra-conservative Cal Thomas is now advocating either a third party or a revolution as alternatives to voting Republican!

~ ~

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Pick a number... any number

A few years ago I stood in a grocery checkout line and noticed the tease headlines on a number of magazines in the rack. Nearly all advertised an article by including a number in the blurb. “3 Secrets Every Bride Needs for Her Wedding Night,” “The 6 Most Sensuous Places to Touch Your Lover,” and “2 Secrets Your Man Will Never Tell You About His Desires.” You get the idea. I chuckled and began looking at the way numbers are used to advertise.

Successes with that marketing ploy, and inflation, have made the numbers game a big deal in other areas of commerce than just magazine publishing. For example, disposable razors once had a single blade. Then two were a big hit, one cutting edge stretching the hair and the second shaving it closer to the skin! Next we were given a triple blade. After a few years, the Quatro was introduced, and we have recently been offered a five bladed, disposable safety razor.

Six must be on someone’s drawing board. “The first five blades each stretch the hair a bit farther out of the follicle, and the sixth blade cuts it so close that you need shave only once a month.” Or something like that.

Magazines may still be the best at using numbers to market their products, though. I stood before a rack in a Barnes and Noble bookstore yesterday and copied titles from covers of 18 magazines onto the back of the only paper I had – a long receipt from a shoe store and the credit card slip stapled to it.

BRIDES featured an article, “160 Creative Ways to Personalize your Day.” But who would buy that when next to it was MODERN BRIDE with a cover ad saying, “520 Creative Ideas”? Three hundred and sixty more ideas for about the same price!

The cover on the winter issue of WEDDING FLOWERS magazine brags, “108 Bouquets.” It has been some time since I attended a wedding; however, 108 bouquets seem to be more than needed for any ceremony. But what do I know? Perhaps wedding planners now have the bride issuing a bouquet to every woman in attendance.

The April issue of ALLURE suggests, “97 Tips on the Best Sleep Solutions.” I have never considered sleeping in a solution, though there are milk baths, and I have dozed in a tub of water, a wonderful sleep solution, especially if it is really warm. I wonder what the other 95 or 96 solutions to immerse oneself in might be. ALLURE readers know.

A magazine new to me is FAMILY TREE. The cover of the April issue claims, “7 Techniques to Analyze Ancient Evidence,” and another article, “6 Tools to Make Sense of Surnames.” Not the highest of numbers, but the only magazine on the rack with two “number articles” on the same cover.

MODEL RAILROADING has a special issue this month advertising, “12 New Track Plans.” Now, come on; who couldn’t create a new track plan? Come up with twelve, and get a special issue featuring them.

SMART MONEY for April claims, “9 Steps to a Healthy and Prosperous Retirement.” But KIPLINGERS offers, “89 Solutions, Strategies, and Secrets That Will Save You Thousands and Still Live the Good Life.” I am not sure of that syntax. Maybe I left out a word. But KIPLINGER’s 89 trumps SMART MONEY’s 9, for my money!

There is a magazine titled, FORBES CIGAR AFIECIONADO. The cover brags, “25 Best Cigars of the Year.” Don’t you wonder about the circulation of that publication? Perhaps there is a feature article waiting to be written: “Profiles of the 3 Readers of This Magazine!”

Sexual innuendo is still present, but does not seem so prevalent as it was in the past. March and April must be poor months for sex-help articles. The April COSMOPOLITAN does list, “7 Ways to Make Him Ache for You.” And the March issue was still on the rack, telling readers, “99 Things to Do to a Naked Man.” Female readers, I presume. And it would be tempting to try adding a number 100 for them.

The April AMOUR magazine headlines, “66 Dirty Details of Other People’s Sex Lives.” The dirtiest thing about that is AMOUR reporting on other people’s sex lives, in detail!

MS magazine claims in the winter issue, “5 Ways a Woman’s Heart Differs From a Man’s.” I suppose that could be physiological differences rather than romantic ones. But in MS?

The April VOGUE features, “53 Swimsuits for Every Size.” There are some sizes that no one want to see in even one swimsuit, let alone 53!

And the March HARPERS BAZAAR has, “783 New Ideas to Flatter You.” Seven hundred eighty-three! Not seven hundred eighty-two or even seven hundred eighty. Imagine the author going crazy trying to come up with just two more flattering ideas to make it a neat “785.” Like the author trying for an even 100 things to do to a naked man, the writer couldn’t think of even one more; so, the editor went with “783”! And all are “New Ideas.” It says so on the cover.

CONSUMER REPORTS for spring advertises “350+ Brand Name Products Rated.” Why not the actual number? Is it “351”? Whoever decided to say “350+” probably laughs at HARPERS BAZAAR saying “783 New Ideas to Flatter You.” The CONSUMER REPORTS editor would say, “780+.”

The April edition of LUCKY: THE MAGAZINE ABOUT SHOPPING features a cover blurb touting, “124 Bags You Want Right Now.” Insert your own joke here.

The champion numbers-game-cover-blurb among the magazines goes to a British publication. Frankly, that is not surprising. I have said before that the Brits seem so fond of superlatives that if anything truly unique needed describing in their country, they would be at a loss for words, having used all their adjectives to describe the mediocre. But that is another rant. Anyway, the British GLAMOUR magazine cover claims, “1243 Hot Spring Buys.” They win. Again, couldn’t the editors have found seven more hot buys for spring and made it 1250? I suspect many of the 1243 hot spring buys are bags.

The April issue of WRITERS DIGEST reveals, “23 Agents Looking for New Authors.” Naturally, I bought the magazine. All 23 agents will soon hear from me, too. We’ll see how truthful cover blurbs are. Let the bidding war begin!

Just don’t ask why I stopped the survey at 18 magazines. If you must know, there wasn’t room on the back of the receipt to write a nineteenth and twentieth.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Thank you, Kirby Puckett

Three years before Kirby Puckett retired from baseball, my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson moved to a different community. My grandson endured the agonies of entering eighth grade in a new school.

Shortly after the move, another man from the office was talking sports with my son, who acknowledged being a fan of the Minnesota Vikings.

The man revealed that Randal McDaniel, then a Viking, is his relative. Talk continued, and the man asked how my grandson was coping with the move.

“All right. But he misses good friends and is finding it hard to get acquainted as a new kid in eighth grade.”

“Is he also a Vikings fan?”

“Yes, but he likes baseball better right now. He loves the Twins and idolizes Kirby Puckett.”

Perhaps two weeks later, the man walked into my son’s office and placed a brown paper bag on his desk. “Take this home to your boy.” Inside was a baseball, signed to my grandson, from Kirby Puckett.

The fellow had told Randal McDaniel about the eighth grade kid who had moved to a new school. McDaniel and Kirby were good friends. So, the story was repeated, and Kirby passed a ball along to a young boy coping with new surroundings.

No media. No public relations announcement. Just a gesture to an unknown fan he thought needed a lift. My son and daughter-in-law suggested that a “thank you” letter might be in order. My grandson happily wrote it.

The man in the next office later related that Kirby said it was the first “thank you” letter he had received.

I wish he could know that this is another.