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Archive for September, 2010

Today Show

I have been watching the “Today” show for a good thirty years.  I’ve been through dozens of co-hosts and countless funky weathermen.  Unfortunately, in the last few years I’ve watched “Today” morph from a true news show to a morning version of “Entertainment Tonight.”  And I’m tired of it.  So, Matt and Meredith and Al, if you are listening, I need to tell you that I’m gone.

The tipping point came yesterday morning.  Waiting for my coffee to brew, buttering my toast, I switched on the TV to Channel Four and heard that familiar opening theme.  You know the one I’m talking about, the one that starts with the three heavy notes.  I can’t convey that sound in writing, but if you take a second you’ll hear it.  Then, after this dramatic intro, you hear the somber voice of Matt Lauer.

“Soaker,” he announces.

Huh?   Did he say “soaker?”    What the frig does “soaker”  mean?

I glance at the television and see a quick shot of a street and it looks like it is raining.  I am puzzled.

He then gives us the next one word verbal “headline,” which I will get to in a minute.

After this titillating intro, Matt proceeds to give us a little more information on that FIRST story on this NATIONAL television broadcast that is being watched my MILLIONS of Americans.  I have to assume it’s something significant.  I am on the edge of my seat.

He proceeds to tell us that it is raining pretty hard in Florida.  Yep, that’s it.  The first story of the day is that it is raining heavily somewhere in the state of Florida.  People are getting – you guessed it – soaked.  What the heck?  Is that it?  Are you kidding me?

Matt and Meredith

Then, for a live, action-filled report on this breaking story, the camera cuts to some dweeb who is standing in the middle of this “soaker” wearing the obligatory heavy rain gear.  His hood is over his head but, honestly, I don’t see any rain falling on him.   Now, mind you, he is not talking about a hurricane.  No one has mentioned the word “tropical storm.”   Heck, he hasn’t even used the word “tropical depression.”   No, it was just a lot of rain.  It was a “soaker.”

They cut to a street where you can see some water backing up.  I also see cars flying back and forth, zipping right through the puddles.   Meanwhile, this brave reporter, who wants us to think he is risking his life for us, is using the obligatory buzzwords to keep our attention.  “I will add, Matt, that there have been no DEATHS or no SERIOUS INJURIES due to this STORM. “

This was the first story of the day.  This was the hard news that the producers of “Today” thought I just had to know.   Then there was the second most important story of the day.

It seems that there was some beauty contest in Australia or New Zealand or one of those semi-English speaking countries.  After hours of inane interviews and silly talent displays, the field was pared down to two young girls.  The emcee, a woman, took out the card with the winner’s name on it and, in true Ryan Seacrest form, milked the announcement for several minutes.  The tension was palpable.  Finally, she declares the winner and the place goes nuts.  The new Miss Marsupial is screaming her lungs out, jumping all over the place.  The runner-up gives her the obligatory hug while no doubt cursing her under her breath.

But, wait a minute!   The emcee is yelling something over the din.  She is screaming “I made a mistake, I made a mistake!”   Well, it seems that she screwed it up and named the wrong person.  So, she had to suck it up, stop the premature celebration and announce, practically in tears, that the original winner was really the runner up.

A funny story, if you ask me.  Maybe a little sad as well.

But my point is was this really the SECOND MOST IMPORTANT

Anne and Al

NATIONAL story of the day?  I mean, c’mon folks, do I really need to know about this screw up?  Didn’t anything happen somewhere in the rest of the entire world that qualified as real news?   We’re in a war for God’s sakes, didn’t we win some skirmish somewhere or capture some terrorist?   Didn’t some city or state pass some controversial new law?   Believe me, Matt, I can take the hard news if you got it.

But the more I think about it, maybe the “Today” show and other “news” shows are just giving the public want they want.  Maybe most folks don’t want to hear about some boring debate in the U.S. Congress, even if it is about a bill that would reduce carbon emissions and possibly stave off the DESTRUCTION OF OUR PLANET.  Maybe people just don’t want to be too serious and they’re just looking for fluff.  In some ways I guess can’t blame them.  But, for me, I must say adios Matt.

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World Contraception Day

World Contraception Day

Did you know that today has been declared “World Contraception Day?”

I frankly do not know who declared it as such but I don’t care.  It’s a great opportunity to think and opine a little about the important of contraception and how it affects the basic human rights of women all over the world.

It is no secret that contraception is an important tool in helping women make one of the most important decisions of her life – whether or not to bear children.  Now I know there are a bunch of men out there who think bearing a child is no big deal, that it is just a “natural” thing for a woman to want to do.  Well, guys, it really is not that simple.

The fact is that almost 215 million women in this world do not have access to modern birth control.  Obviously, most of them are in the underdeveloped nations of the world.  So, in these often male-dominated societies, where having more children is a sign of the man’s “masculinity”, women are practically being forced to bear more children.  That, of course, then perpetuates the cycle of poverty that has been going on for generations. And it’s not just individual males who are perpetuating this situation.  For example, courts in Chile, Ecuador, and Peru have all recently restricted or banned emergency contraception based on the ridiculous claim that it is the same as performing an abortion.  In places like the Philippines, public clinics and hospitals have been prohibited for years from distributing any kind of contraception.

Emergency Conraception

Emergency Conraception

Here in the United States, while contraception is more readily available than in underdeveloped countries, there are still battles that are being fought on a daily basis.  One of the more aggressive groups trying to make access to contraception easier is the Center for Reproductive Rights.  For example, just last year they won a ruling in federal court which compelled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to revisit the restrictions it put on the availability of emergency contraception, otherwise known as the morning after pill.  Unfortunately, despite the presence of a pro-choice administration, they still have to press the FDA to comply with the judge’s order.  In addition, the Center is working on the world wide problem.  For example, they recently asked the Human Rights Council on Human Rights to focus on the high rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among low-income women.  They are also working with their local partners in Slovakia to examine how government subsidies can expand access to contraception to low-income Slovak women.

Center for Reproductive Rights and Abortion

Center for Reproductive Rights and Abortion

Kudos to the Center for Reproductive Rights!

Then, of course, in this country there are the persistent legislative efforts to allow healthcare professionals to refuse to provide emergency contraception to women if they personally object to the product.   Don’t even get me started on that one…

And while all this is going on, the anti-abortion movement sits back and refusesd to support providing better access to birth control.  To me, this is the height of hypocrisy.  Here they have the chance to prevent millions of abortions which I thought was their goal.  But, no, they’ve got their head in the sand and refuse to support the only real proven way to prevent abortions.  Indeed, I really believe that they would just rather stand outside of the clinics and scream at women as they enter abortion clinics.  The irony is that they may be yelling at a woman who is going in to get Norplant inserted or to start a new regimen of birth control pills….

And while I’m at it – where the heck is that male birth control pill?

Abortion

Abortion

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For the last few days, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do, if anything, about the responses to my last blog.  I’ve been accused of being a snob, a twit, a spoiled brat and, worst of all, a racist.  My stomach started churning the moment the comments started flying in.

My first thought was to ignore all of it, to just let things go.  That would be easy.  After all, none of you really know me, you don’t’ know where I live, there’s no way you can really “hurt” me except with your words.  But that’s not me.  Indeed, if you take a moment to read all of my other posts you’ll get a better sense of who I am.  You’ll also get a sense that I’m new to this and that I recently started dabbling in Dave Barry-like satire.

As you know, when you try to be funny you can come perilously close to being insulting.  It’s a delicate balancing act.  Of course, Don Rickles made a living out of insulting people to their face.  Others who think they are being funny have not been as successful.

The first thing I want to say is that this incident never happened.  When I started writing this piece I was trying to make a point about an incident from my past.  It was two years ago when I was standing outside a Toys R Us just before Christmas, waiting with hundreds of others for the doors to open so we could all dash down the same aisle to grab that new, you-just-have-to-buy-this-for-your-kid, action figure.  It was pouring rain, freezing rain at that.  We were getting absolutely drenched, including a whole bunch of infants.  I looked at my watch and it was 8:55.  When I looked on the other side of the locked doors, I saw three Toys R Us employees sitting in chairs, yucking it up, sipping their lattes.

I was by myself, so I didn’t give a crap about waiting another 5 minutes.  But I kept listening to these poor kids who were getting totally soaked and I wanted to burst.  No, I wanted to take out a brick and throw it through the glass doors to give the crowd refuge.  Anyway, the point I was trying to make was that, in a situation like that, what is the harm in letting the folks in just a few minutes earlier?  I just wonder if we are losing our humanity at times.

Come to think of it now, I don’t’ know why I just didn’t write about the actual incident.

As for my “racist” remarks, this will probably not assuage you but I was thinking about an episode of “The Simpsons.”  As you know, that show is replete with jokes about all cultural stereotypes and one of the main characters is a man from India who runs the local mini-mart.  In true “Simpsons” style, the jokes are always flying, as they are for the Ted Kennedy-Irish-type Mayor.

Anyway, apologies if it came out the wrong way.  I’m not a racist.  Indeed, I am the only white person who is a member of our local school’s Black Student Achievement Council.   And I never really said those words to any real person.  It was an attempt at satire that obviously touched a nerve.

Hope we can move on from here!

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Abortion Law

Abortion Law

It’s 5:45 a.m. on a cold, New England, February morning.  I’m in a total coma, surrounded by the warm blankets.  Suddenly, the friggin alarm goes off.  What the hell?  What’s going on here?

My spouse gently kisses me on the check and reminds me that the night before I had promised to go to the 7-11 the minute they opened up to pick up snacks for our son’s 8th grade field trip to the Occuquan Sewage Plant.  I had to get up at 5:45 because, as everyone knows, 7-11 stores now open earlier than 7.  Ours opens at 6:00 a.m.

I throw on some sweatpants, a sweatshirt, socks and sneakers and head out the door.  I am hit with a ridiculously cold blast of wind, numbing my body.  There is a light dusting of snow on the car windshield and when I climb into my Honda my way-too-big butt practically freezes to the driver’s seat.  I crank the ignition several times and it reluctantly engages.  It is dark.  It is cold.  I don’t want to be here.

The 7-11 is only about a mile away, so it takes just a minute or two to get there.  When I pull up, my car clock says it is 5:56.  There are no other cars in the parking lot but I can see that the lights are on and there is some activity inside.  I park the car, brace myself for the cold breeze that will greet me when I open the door, open it and run to the entrance.  I grab the door handle, pull it back and my arm almost falls as I realize the friggin door is locked.

I look inside and see the clerk behind the cash register.  He is sipping a steaming plastic cup of 7-11 coffee.  I wave to him nicely and point to the door as if to say “hey, can you unlock the door?”   He responds by looking at his watch and pointing to it.

It is now 5:58.

Abortion World Community

Abortion World Community

For the love of God, what the hell is this?   This guy is sitting on his stool all comfy and cozy, with his freshly brewed coffee, and I’m outside, staring in like a kid gazing at the toys in the window at Macy’s.  The clerk just won’t budge.  He’s got his rules, he cannot violate them or, or, well, who knows what the hell would happen if he opened them up before 6?

Give me a break guy.

I finally screamed to him:  “HEY, GANDHI, OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR!!”

That, of course, clinches it.  I am forced to wait another minute and a half to get my stupid overpriced snacks.

We see this kind of behavior all the time.  Rules are the rules, you can’t bend them at all.  God forbid a store owner or a bureaucrat or anyone else should go out of their way to show a little humanity.  Nope, I’ve got my instruction manual and that is my Bible.  If I actually interpret it a little, if I use some discretion, I’ll get struck by lightning.  Don’t want that to happen now, do we?

We seem to forget that we live in a community of human beings.  We are too focused on ourselves, on our jobs, on our next recreational activity.  Life is way too short, folks.  The next time someone tries to get attention, remember that there’s another human being at the other end.

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Christian Alleged Terrorist

Christian Alleged Terrorist

FBI agents have arrested and charged Justin Carl Moose with describing how to make explosives in his effort to bomb an abortion clinic. The agents found the instructions on Moose’s Facebook page. Moose describes himself as an “extremist, radical” and the “Christian counterpart of Osama bin Laden” according to the FBI. They arrested him in the northwest Concord neighborhood on Tuesday.

Extremism has been on the rise of late with advocates of violence referring to the possibility of “Second Amendment” remedies if the Tea Party does not win Congress this year, and at least one Tea Party member threatening to put a bullet in the head of the leader of Delaware’s GOP. The FBI was alerted about Moose’s plans by Planned Parenthood and the FBI began an investigation into that Facebook page which advocated the use of extreme violence against abortion providers. Last week, he began collaborating with a confidential informant in crafting a plan to bomb an abortion clinic in North Carolina. Moose was, apparently, also in communication with others who advocate violence against abortion clinics.

Among the targets of Moose’s anger were abortion doctors, President Barack Obama’s health care plan, and the plans to build the so-called Ground Zero Mosque in New York City. He also expressed his support for anyone killing abortion providers. According to the affidavit, he stated on his page “Whatever you may thing about me, you’re probably right. . .Extremist, Radical, Fundamentalist…? Yep! Terrorist…? Well, I prefer the term ‘freedom Fighter.’

Terrorist

Terrorist

According to the affidavit he also wrote “The Death Care Bill passed last night. Keep your phone and rifle close and wait. . .There are few problems in life that can’t be solved with the proper application of high explosives :) . . If a mosque is built on ground zero, it will be removed. Oklahoma City style. Tim’s not the only man out there that knows how to do it.” The last, of course, refers to the actions of Timothy McVeigh who murdered several hundred people when he detonated explosives in front of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. Despite claims of links to external sources from others, McVeigh has been proven to be the originator of the plot.

Moose was an unemployed father of three who now faces a very long stay in prison without much chance of finding gainful employment as he faces twenty years in prison for distributing bomb making instructions.

Moose posted detailed isntructions for making TATP this August. That explosive was used by the terrorists in the 2005 London subway bombings. After obtaining a search warrant, the FBI read through Moose’s private correspondences with his fellow abortion opponents including one that stated “I have learned a lot from the muslim terrorists and have no problem using their tactics.”

The sting operation began on 3 September when the FBI informant phoned Moose and told him a story about his best friend’s wife’s plan to have an abortion. Moose offered to help, and on 4 September, Moose and the informant met in the Concord Mills TGIFridays. There, Moose described several bombs that the source could make to destroy the clinic, and Moose gave the source instructions on how to do surveillance on the clinic including drinking a few beers and staggering around drunk. After being confronted, the source was suppose to ask for the bathroom.

On 5 September, the source contacted Moose and Moose walked him through making the explosives.

To date, no one involved with Moose has been willing to offer a comment.

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Gout

Abortion not associated with Gout

My doctor just told me that I have gout – and I am disgusted with myself.

Let me first say that I have never experienced more pain in my entire life.  The pain is focused on my left toe and there is no escaping it.  All I keep thinking about is how Ben Franklin, who had gout for years, could have accomplished all that he did because, aside from writing this post, I cannot focus on anything other than the pain.  Fortunately, at night I overdose on Nyquil so I’m sleeping okay.  But the fact that the gout will probably go away in a week or so is no consolation.

There are many causes of gout.  If you eat a lot of rich foods, like shellfish, if you don’t drink enough water, if you don’t exercise, etc.   You can also get gout if you drink “heavily.”   Let’s talk about that one for a second.

My mother was an alcoholic, a mean, nasty one.  I didn’t drink until I got to college, then I went nuts.    To this day, I do not know how I am alive because there were many times when I drove home from a bar totally inebriated.  I don’t remember the rides home.  I’m also lucky I never killed anyone.

Over the years, I continued to drink.  I became what my father used to call his father – a “weekend drunk.”   I would play or work all Friday and Saturday but then around 5 o’clock I’d open up the bottle of Vodka or Rum and start making some sweet drinks.   Every Saturday and Sunday morning was a nightmare, as my head was one giant hangover.

I am now 60 years old and about two years ago – after a gout attack – I vowed to get off the hard stuff.  Since then, I haven’t had any more serious alcohol, the only exception being when I visit my good friend Scott in Del Ray Beach and we share a bottle of Southern Comfort as we sit on the shore, talking about life.  These days, I “only” drink Amaretto, which is not as alcoholic as the hard stuff.   On Friday night at about the same time, I pour a small glass and quietly watch TV.   I have about three glasses, which gives me a nice buzz.  I wake up the next day with no hangover, I’m ready to go.  Then, that Saturday night I do the same.  I just sit there quietly and don’t disturb anybody.  My two older boys know I drink and at times they have found the hidden bottles and they just throw them out.  I don’t say a word to them, but I certainly appreciate their sentiment.

I don’t believe I am an alcoholic.  I don’t crave alcohol in the mornings and it doesn’t affect my work.  It’s just that once I get through the week, I’m ready for my weekend buzz.  Maybe I’m in denial.  Perhaps if I went to a counselor, he would determine I am technically an alcoholic.  I continue to insist that I am not, that I am stronger than those folks who desperately crave a drink.    I really don’t know and I don’t care to find out if I am an alcoholic.

But this gout has really got me to thinking.  I am totally paralyzed and cannot imagine going through this again.

For the sake of my kids, my spouse and myself, I gotta stop.

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Abortion Doctor

Abortion Doctor

On Wednesday, New Jersey officials filed legal documents seeking to suspend the medical license of an abortion provider involved in a procedure that critically injured an 18-year-old woman who was 21 weeks pregnant, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The physician, Steven Brigham, owns American Women’s Services, which operates clinics in New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The filing is the first step in revoking a medical license.

According to the filing by Attorney General Paula Dow’s (D) office, Brigham “has committed serious violations” of the rules of medical practice and “would represent a clear and imminent danger to the public health, safety and welfare.” The filing stems from a case involving a woman who “suffered a uterine perforation and small bowel injury” during an abortion at one of Brigham’s Maryland clinics. Brigham allegedly initiated the abortion process at his New Jersey clinic and told the woman to travel to his Maryland clinic for the completion of the procedure.

Brigham has never been licensed to perform abortions in Maryland, and he is not authorized to perform the procedure after 18 weeks’ gestation in New Jersey, the complaint says. However, Brigham performed about 50 abortions from January through August 2010 at his Elkton, Md., office, using a “two-step process” initiated in New Jersey and completed in Maryland, the complaint alleges. The complaint also alleges that Brigham created false records or asked others to create them stating that two physicians working for him — George Shepard and Kimberly Walker — performed the procedures in Maryland. Shepard and Walker deny that that they performed any procedures (McCullough/Goldstein, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/9).

Md. Case ‘Not Representative’ of Abortion Care, Letter to the Editor Says

As the Maryland Board of Physicians investigates the allegations against Brigham, “it is important to note that cases like this are not representative of the state of abortion care in Maryland or throughout the country,”

National Abortion Federation President and CEO Vicki Saporta writes in a letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun. The case in Maryland is “just the latest problem for [Brigham], who has come under fire from state licensing boards and health departments throughout his career,” Saporta continues, noting that Brigham “has had his medical license temporarily suspended, relinquished or revoked in five states.”

Abortion is “one of the safest medical procedures” in the U.S., Saporta writes, adding that the “repeated disciplinary actions” against Brigham indicate that he “operates outside recognized standards for quality abortion care” (Saporta, Baltimore Sun, 9/8).

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Abortion

Abortion

I am sipping my morning coffee, casually glancing at the television, when I see the screen yelling at me:  “Breaking News!”

It seems that yet another young man has allegedly been killed by a raging posse of – you guessed it – Los Angeles cops.  And, of course, it was all caught on tape by some guy who happened to be walking in the same dark alley at 3:00 A.M., who happened to be carrying a Panasonic R-543 Ultra Sleek Camcorder and who happened to have the cool presence of mind to turn on the “record” button as he observed some badges beating the crap out of some kid.

First of all, don’t the police know by now that EVERYONE is walking around with a video camera or at least a cell phone that takes videos?   I mean, if they feel it is totally necessary to pound on someone, wouldn’t you think by now that they would scope out the area for any would-be Stephen Spielbergs?  Don’t the police get special training on how to avoid being seen doing something that will not look so good on the local news?

Well, I guess that isn’t the case.  But what really weirds me out is that the very next day, the day after their SON HAS BEEN KILLED, while their son is lying in a morgue somewhere getting a paste up job, the parents of the kid are in New York City sitting right next to Matt Lauer giving him an “Exclusive Interview.”  Will they be going to Maxine’s for a late breakfast after pouring out their hearts to the world?

“Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, first of all, thank you for coming on to our show and please accept our sincere condolences on your son’s death.  This took a lot of courage for you to come.”

The couple, holding hands for the first time in fifteen years, look painfully at Matt and meekly manage a barely audible “thank you.”

Then Matt hits them over the head with:  “Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, you’ve seen the tapes of your son surrounded by six L.A. policemen and I can’t imagine what went through your mind as you watched it.  But there have been allegations that your son was resisting arrest after being pulled over for going 110 in a school zone.  The police also say that he had in his possession 14 grams of pure, uncut Columbian cocaine, three surface to air missile launchers and the floor plan of President Obama’s summer retreat at Camp David.  How do you react?”

Before they can answer, their lawyer, who is joined at their hip and who was on the phone to them minutes after their son’s death, whispers into their ears.  Mr. Murphy nods his head and responds.  “Well, Matt, all I can say is that Seymour was a good boy.  He was well like by his classmates and his teachers.  He was a leader in his church group.  Clearly, the police had the wrong man and we will fight until we receive justice.”  Or until HOB contacts us for our story.

Then Matt interrupts to announce that they have another “exclusive.”  They have Seymour’s third cousin on the show who will share with the world his memories of Seymour.

“Thanks, Bobby G, for joining us.  Tell us about Seymour.”

“Well, I only met him once, you know.  Actually, I never spoke to him but one night I saw him hitting on some girl at this party.  He seemed like a cool guy.”

“Thanks, Bobby G,” says Matt, “I’m sure you’re gonna miss your friend, Seymour.”

Needless to say, I feel for any family that has gone through such a tragedy.   I can’t imagine the pain.

But why do so many people have this compulsion to grieve, to admit to an addiction or to confess to an affair in front of the whole friggin world?  Can that really be the healthy thing to do?

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