Back the Pack

For decades, the Dallas Cowboys have billed themselves as "America's Team." They could be right-if you think that America is typified by drug use, drunken escapades at strip joints, and orgies.

The Cowboy's owner, Jerry Jones, has thumbed his nose at league rules governing profit-sharing from corporate endorsements. The coach, Barry Switzer, says he can't be bothered...

Published in New Times
January 23, 1997

An After-School Haven Needed

As a child growing up in Nebraska and Minnesota, I remember coming home from school each day around 3:30 in the afternoon. My mother - a full-time mom - greeted me with a hug and some cookies. After we chatted, I practiced the piano until dinner.

Today, for most kids, things are very different. Schools - staying open later - could substitute for the parents that can't be there after school...

Published in The Christian Science Monitor
February 7, 1998

America Needs a Parliamentary System

It's been a wild eight months. We've gone through Monica Lewinsky and her baret, Linda Tripp and her microphone, and President Clinton and his finger-wagging denial. Now we've seen Kenneth Starr send a pick-up truck to Capitol Hill to deliver his report, and Clinton's four hours of hair splitting.

And the ordeal isn't likely to be over soon. There is nothing in Bill Clinton's background or character to suggest that he will voluntarily relinquish the office he has sought since childhood...

Published in the Christian Science Monitor
September 28, 1999

What Andy, Opie, and Barney Fife Mean to Americans,
Even in the '90s

This Sunday, tens of millions of Americans will watch the Green Bay Packers play the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. But there is a viewing alternative. Ted Turner, the man who gave $1 billion to the UN, is presenting his annual eight-hour "Andy Griffith Show" marathon on WTBS-TB. And I'll be watching.

Mayberry has a strong hold on American life. More than 5 million people a day watch Andy Griffith re-runs, on 120 stations. Aunt Bee's Mayberry Cookbook sold over 1 million copies. Money magazine, in naming Madison, Wis., the best place to live in the US, said the city "offers up a low crime rate and palpable friendliness you might assume are available only in, say, Andy Griffith's Mayberry."

Published in The Christian Science Monitor
January 22, 1998

When Good Grades Don't Count

Thirty years ago, President Nixon nominated G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court. Carswell was attacked for being a mediocre jurist. Sen. Roman Hruska (R) of Nebraska attempted to turn Carswell's perceived mediocrity into an asset. "Even if he is mediocre," Hruska said, "there are a lot of mediocre judges and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters, and stuff like that there."

Published in The Christian Science Monitor
December 12, 1997

English on the Chopping Block

Several months ago, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott asserted that homosexuality is a disease, like kleptomania. Defending the religious basis of Lott's position, House Majority Leader Dick Armey commented, "Both myself and Senator Lott believe very strongly in the Bible."

Allen Quist, a Republican candidate for Governor of Minnesota in 1998, stood before a group of realtors and said, "Thank you for inviting myself to this forum."

What's going on here? Does anyone know how to speak proper English anymore? Does anyone care about the decline of the language?

Published in the Christian Science Monitor
December 7, 1998

Adventures in Campaignland: My Saturday in Ames

Dan Quayle looked at the crowd at Iowa State University and quipped, "Just another summer day in Iowa."

Oh, sure: if you think it's normal for 25,000 Republicans to be packed into a parking lot to listen to Debbie Boone and Ronnie Milsap, meet Roger Staubach and Miss Iowa, hear fire-breathing speeches, see the Governor of Wisconsin show up on a Harley-Davidson, drop your kids off at the Gary Bauer Kidz Fun Zone, and wolf down freebie pork sandwiches and sweet corn--all in front of 600 members of the Fourth Estate.

Published in Minnesota Law and Politics
September 1999

Jesse The Cheesehead

I'm driving back from Madison, after a weekend of scalping Badger tickets, setting off fireworks, 2:00 am bar-hopping, and driving my studded snowmobile through a national forest, and it hits me: Jesse wants Minnesota to be more like Wisconsin!

Published in Minnesota Law and Politics
May 1999

Shh! Can You Turn Down That Leaf Blower?

Modern life is noisy. Freeway traffic, 6 a.m. garbage pickups, middle-of-the-night street sweepers, lawnmowers, 747 takeoffs, car alarms, and ghetto blasters pierce the ears and disrupt life.

Noise pollution leads the complaints to the quality-of-life hotline in New York City. According to the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, "Good neighbors keep their noise to themselves." The Clearinghouse also calls noise polluters "bullies, claiming rights and freedoms that are not theirs while degrading resources that are ours."

And what is the most egregious, the most loathsome, the most needless form of pollution from the noise bullies?

Published in the Christian Science Monitor
October 3, 1997

Kids Grapple with Wrestling Violence

The shootings at schools in Colorado, Georgia, and Oklahoma have reenergized the debate over juvenile crime. Pundits and politicians have pointed to guns, R-rated movies, violent video games, Marilyn Manson concerts, and family breakdown as causes of America's culture of violence.

I have another pernicious force to suggest: professional wrestling. The epitome of violence, sadomasochism, and sleaze, professional wrestling is trash TV for ugly Americans.

Published in USA Today
March 30, 2000

Why the Reform Party Reforms Won't Work

Third parties have played an important role in American politics. The Republican Party, founded in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1854, was formed to oppose the expansion of slavery. The Libertarian Party, established in 1971, seeks to protect citizens from governmental tyranny. The Green Party was founded in the United States in 1986 to promote economic justice and save the planet.

And then there's the Party of Jesse. The Minnesota Reform Party is based on two not-so-great ideas: (1) their trash-talking hero; and (2) tinkering with the mechanics of elections and government.

Published in Minnesota Law and Politics
May 1999

Modern Orphanages for Troubled Kids: Not a Bad Idea

In 1994, Newt Gingrich suggested placing children of teen mothers in orphanages. If they could not support their children, the Republican Congressman said, "America should tell them, 'We'll help you with foster care. We'll help with orphanages. We'll help you with adoption.'"

Published in The Christian Science Monitor
May 15, 1998

Senior Citizen Discounts Are Affirmative Action for the Wealthy

What if private businesses and government agencies offered discounts for white people? Movie theaters, restaurants, the national parks, hotels, car rental agencies, airlines - just prove you're a Caucasian and you get a 5 to 30 percent discount.

It would be universally denounced as unfair and racist. So why does the nation put up with discounts for senior citizens - the wealthiest sector of the American public?

Published in The Christian Science Monitor,
September 2, 1997

Girls-Only Is OK

The ACLU is at it again. The organization that opposes school uniforms, obstructs teen curfews, fights metal detectors at airports, and challenges restrictions on child pornography is now turning its legal firepower against single-sex public schools.

Last fall, the Young Women's Leadership School opened in East Harlem, NY. It has 165 students in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. School officials plan to expand it to the 12th grade by adding a grade each year. The school is intended to emphasize math and science and allow young girls to attend school in an environment free of sexual pressures. It is one of three all-girl public schools in the country.

Published in The Christian Science Monitor
October 23, 1997

California Living: Snuff Out That Cigarette, Please

California is a political trend-setter. From cutting property taxes to banning leaf blowers, from eliminating affirmative action to enacting term limits, from limiting public services for illegal immigrants to ending bilingual education, the Golden State leads the way.

Now it's taken the lead on another big issue: smoking. AB 13, which took effect Jan. 1, bans smoking in virtually all indoor public places, including bars.

Published in The Christian Science Monitor
January 12, 1998

Noise Pollution: Sounds of the City Are Not Music to One Man's Ears

Both candidates for mayor of Los Angeles are focusing on "quality of life" issues, but neither has uttered a single word on the greatest threat to the quality of life in Los Angeles: noise pollution. In major US cities, noise levels have increased six-fold in the last 15 years. The Census Bureau reports that noise is Americans' top neighborhood complaint.

Noise isn't simply a nuisance; it's harmful. Excessive noise is associated with increased blood pressure, headaches, low frustration tolerance, ringing ears, and loss of sleep, and it affects sexual activity. . .

Published in The Los Angeles Times
May 26, 2001

Hurry Sickness

Westerners live in the age of instaneity. We have instant coffee, instant replay, instant polls, and Instant Messaging--all in the pursuit of instant gratification.

And there are products galore to help us save those precious milliseconds! In your car, you can read your e-mail on your. . .

Published in HOPEDANCE
April 2001

Teaching Political Advocacy

For the past two years, I have taught a class on Political Advocacy and Activism at UCLA, designed to help students become more effective citizens. The first year, there were 39 students; last year, there were 85.

Published in HOPEDANCE
September 2001

No Logo

As a college freshman, Naomi Klein had a job folding sweaters at an Espirit clothing store in Montreal. She reports that "mothers would come in
with their six-year-old daughters and ask to see only the shirts that said 'Espirit' in the company's trademark bold block lettering. 'She won't wear
anything without a name,' the moms would confide apologetically as we chatted by the change rooms.

Published in HOPEDANCE
September 2001

Palm Pilot Al

Al Gore is a man of many wardrobes. For years, he donned dark blue suits with white shirts and power ties, while standing stiffly next to the president. Upon the advice of Naomi Wolf, "Alpha Al" switched to earth tones. When he met with Jesse Ventura, the vice president was wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots. At most summertime campaign appearances, Gore sported khaki pants and shirt-sleave cotton shirts.

Published in the UCLA DAILY BRUIN
October 10, 2000

The ACLU and Community Interests

The fundraising letter had impressive testimonials. Chief Justice Earl Warren said that the American Civil Liberties Union "stood foursquare against the recurring tirades of hysteria that from time to time threaten freedoms everywhere." Senator Adlai Stevenson was "glad the ACLU gets indignant, and I hope this will always be so." President Kennedy commented that "our nation needs the services of organizations who will remain vigilant in defense of our principles."

Published in The American Enterprise
July/ August 1997

Flunking Quayle

The presidential election isn't over. The Electoral College will meet on December 19 to elect the next president and vice president. While the nation has clearly expressed its preference for George Bush for the presidency, it has profound misgivings about Dan Quayle. It is the responsibility of the 538 members of the Electoral College to dump Quayle.

Published in The Boston Globe
November 25, 1988

Strike a Blow

Sacramento had been dubbed the "City of Trees" by the National Arbor Foundation. After living here a few months, I think a more appropriate name would be the City of Leaf Blowers.

Published in The Sacramento News and Review
December 27, 2001


Richard Mahler spent 97 days in solitary confinement in the snow-covered Tusas Mountains of northern New Mexico, in order to spend "quiet alone-time" and to live "deliberatively." He was the winter caretaker of a ranch with no electricity, a wood stove for heat, and a short wave radio for emergencies. STILLNESS: DAILY GIFTS OF SOLITUDE is "part memoir, part adventure story, part spiritual reflection, and part self-help."

Published in HOPEDANCE
November/ December 2003

Stop Howard Dean

The Democratic Party seems intent on nominating Howard Dean for president. Governor Dean leads in the polls and has a powerful grassroots organization. He raised $40 million in 2003, a one-year record for a Democratic presidential candidate. Dean has energized the angry, Bush-hating, anti-war cultural left--those who are mad as hell at President Bush and aren't going to take it anymore.

Paper or Plastic?

In "The Graduate," Dustin Hoffman was offered one word of advice about his future: plastics.

Well, maybe no more. There is a growing national and international movement to ban plastic bags, a symbol of waste and environmental destruction. We are choking the planet with these non-biodegradable bags.

Published in the Chicago Tribune
April 26, 2007


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