Sunday, August 31, 2008

Home Run Records Come Back To Earth (letter)

To: Sports@LATimes.com

Dear Editor:

Apparently, random steroid testing in the major leagues is showing results. After years of watching cheaters Bonds, Sosa and McGwire fraudulently re-write the record books by regularly hitting 50, 60 and even 70 homers a season, we have returned to normalcy. With just four weeks to go, it appears that the home run title will be won by someone who hits about 40.

Burt Prelutsky

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why I'm Voting For John McCain

by Burt Prelutsky

Frankly, I’m amazed that the Democratic party is anything more than a cult. How in the world do they garner more votes than the Libertarians or the Greens? They are beholden to trial lawyers, teachers unions and the ecological crazies. So, why is it that upwards of 55 million Americans are ready, even anxious, to vote for Barack Obama in November? It’s a scary thought. But not half as scary as the notion of “Hail to the Chief” becoming Senator Obama’s theme song.

Democrats insist that we shouldn’t drill off the Pacific coast or in Alaska or in the Dakotas because they claim we wouldn’t get a drop of oil for at least 10 years. And that’s true, but only if the same left-wing idiots who are more concerned with moose than with people won’t allow the oil companies to build new refineries. Also, even if it were true that we wouldn’t be any better off for an entire decade, what do you suppose they’ll be saying in 2018, when gas is going for 25 bucks-a-gallon?

Speaking of the energy crunch, there’s a guy down in Georgia who claims that he can turn virtually anything, including grass clippings and table scraps, into methane gas. He got the idea while standing downwind from the cows at his food production company. He and the U.S. military are building seven pilot plants they claim will give us a million barrels of oil a day. If everything pans out as they think it will, they claim we’ll be free of dependence on foreign oil within five years. Best of all, it suggests that all those gas bags in the House and Senate will finally be of benefit to America. It’s my guess that hooked up properly, Nancy Pelosi, alone, could supply all the energy needs of Dayton, Ohio. Do you realize that Speaker Pelosi, who is only a few heartbeats from the Oval Office, owes all of her power and prestige to the fact that about a hundred thousand people in San Francisco, a city in which cross-dressers constitute a voting bloc, voted her into the House and about 125 House Democrats then elected her to the speakership. You need more votes than that to be elected the mayor of Fresno.

I probably shouldn’t belittle those so-called public servants in Washington, D.C. After all, how would you like to have to wake up each day, knowing you are going to have to listen to the likes of Barbara Boxer, Robert Byrd, John Kerry, Barney Frank and John Murtha, flapping their gums, and all the while pretending you’re paying close attention?

But enough about politics. Let’s discuss religion. That brings us to Barack Hussein Obama, the presumptive messiah of the Democratic party. It’s a funny thing about Democrats. Although they tend to be secular in nature, they are strict fundamentalists when it comes to their candidates. They refuse to acknowledge that their standard bearers have any shortcomings. Republicans, on the other hand, when discussing their own candidates, are eager to point out their every conceivable fault. Republicans are simply more honest and far more realistic than liberals. They acknowledge they are not voting for God, merely the better candidate.

For many of us in the GOP, the problem with John McCain is that he strikes us as wrong-headed when it comes to illegal aliens and campaign reform. On the other hand, he is in favor of appointing conservative judges; he is for attacking radical Islam on their home turf; he is for doing anything and everything to prevent a recurrence of 9/11; he is for lower taxes and for drilling our way out of dependence on the sorry likes of Russia, Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia; he is for siding with Israel, America’s single ally in the Mideast, and against the degenerates who support Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, who honor suicide bombers, and who danced in the streets when their friends and relatives brought down the Twin Towers.

But, to be fair, there is much to be said about Senator Obama. Where shall we begin? Perhaps with the fact that he’s married to a bitter, angry, anti-American racist. And let us not forget his minister, who damned this country and white people for a thousand Sundays while Senator Obama sat in a pew and somehow heard nothing offensive being spewed from the pulpit. Not to be overlooked is his friend, Tony Rezko, a Chicago fixer who went to jail on corruption charges, but not before making certain that Obama got a very favorable home loan. Other notables on Obama’s list of friends and associates are Bill Ayers, who was an American bomb thrower, and Father Pfleger, a priest who reminds some of us of the late, unlamented, anti-Semite, Father Coughlin.

The fact remains that Barack Obama is 47 years old and he doesn’t have a single friend, associate or religious mentor, who isn’t the sort of creep that most of us would cross the street to avoid.

Obama, we’re told, will bring us all together, but during four years in the U.S. Senate, he has never voted for a bi-partisan piece of legislation. His memoirs are jam-packed with illegal drug use, racist rants and sophomoric Marxism. He claims to be post-racial, whatever that means, but the church he attended for 20 years gave its highest honor to Louis Farrakhan just last December. I suppose that also escaped Obama’s notice.

Frankly, I never thought I’d feel sorry for Hillary Rodham Clinton, but I do. Thanks to the mainstream media banding behind her opponent, she lost primary after primary before talk radio hosts and Internet bloggers got the unvarnished, unpleasant truth out about Obama. By the time Americans found out what kind of man her opponent is and she started winning elections, it was too late to catch up. By that time, too many of the so-called Super Delegates had, like those horses in “Cinderella,” turned back into the rodents they really were.

It is my own belief that Barack Obama is the single worst presidential candidate in my lifetime. I bet some of you think I’ve already forgotten about Jimmy Carter. I only wish. To my way of thinking, Carter was undeniably the worst president. Among other things, he saddled America with 21% inflation and 12% unemployment. He also turned his back on the Shah of Iran, thus opening the door to the Ayatollah Khomeini and thirty years of world-wide Islamic terrorism. Then, not one to rest on his laurels, Carter became the worst ex-president in American history, capping it off by accepting the Nobel Peace Prize even after the committee announced they intended to use his selection as a way to kick President George Bush in the fanny. I’m sure that when Jimmy Carter dies, the Nobel Prize will be highlighted in his obituary. What I’m sure the press won’t mention is that it’s an honor he rightfully shares with North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho, Kofi Annan and Yasir Arafat.

Finally, I was wondering if someone could please explain why it is racist to vote against someone who is half-black, but not racist to vote for someone for that very same reason? I mean, it’s one thing for 90% of black Americans to troop out and vote for Obama in November. After all, they’d likely vote for David Duke so long as the Democrats saw fit to nominate him. But it’s quite another thing when they voted 90% for Obama when he ran against the equally liberal Sen. Clinton for no other reason than that he’s 50% blacker than she is.

In conclusion, let me just say that some of you were no doubt pulling for Mitt Romney, some for Rudy Giuliani, others for Mike Huckabee or Fred Thompson or even, God forbid, for Ron Paul. I, myself, backed a couple of those guys once I realized that Newt Gingrich wasn’t just playing hard to get. However, once I understood that John McCain was the one person in a position to make certain that the only way Barack Obama would get to the Oval Office was as a member of a tourist group, I swore my allegiance to the distinguished senator from Arizona, the man who served more time, more honorably, in the Hanoi Hilton than Bracak Obama has spent in the U.S. Senate.

Some months ago, I suggested a bumpersticker that read: Better an Imperfect Conservative than a Perfect Socialist. I hope it’s a message that resonates with all of you, come November 4th.

Oh, and by the way, have I mentioned that I’m nuts about Sarah Palin?

Making The Case For McCain (classic)

by Burt Prelutsky

A while back, I admitted that John McCain was not among my three favorite candidates for the Republican nomination. But I went on to say that if he emerged as the standard bearer for the GOP, he would get my vote. And to tell you the truth, I don’t feel I’ll have to bite the bullet in November so much as maybe gum it a little bit.

Needless to say, I have been hearing from a great many conservative hardliners. Among the things they’ve called me are sell-out, traitor, closet liberal and a mole for the Democrats. When a few of them settled for calling me a fool or an idiot, it almost felt like a compliment.

When you write what you honestly believe, you have to expect to raise occasional hackles. After all, I know very well that when I write about the sad fact that 80% of my fellow Jews can be counted on to vote for any cretin so long as he or she has a (D) after their name on the ballot, I can count on receiving a fair number of e-mails questioning my legitimacy and several more condemning me as a self-hating Jew. I also know that if I write a piece in which I defend Israel’s right to defend itself against Arab terrorists, I fully expect to be called a (expletive deleted) Zionist.

The thing that surprised me about the responses from those who hate McCain and who therefore hate me for insisting that there are meaningful differences between him and Obama/Clinton is how little sense they make. For instance, many people have taken me to task for not recognizing that McCain won all those primaries because Democrats crossed over to vote for him. In case they didn’t notice, the Democrats were a great deal more interested in their own hotly contested primaries than they were in ours. How many liberals did they really think were less concerned with the fight between the white woman and the black man than they were in whether McCain or Huckabee was our standard bearer? Frankly, I haven’t met one such person.

Then there were those Neanderthals who insisted they’d stay home in November or even vote for the Democrat in order to send a message to the GOP. These galoots seem to be stuck in a time warp. I tried my best to point out that it’s been a long time since a few big city bosses went into a smoke-filled room and emerged with a presidential candidate. In one primary after another, McCain took on and defeated all the Republican contenders. It was like watching Joe Louis in the old days, dispatching the likes of Tony Galento and Tami Mauriello on a regular basis, while barely breaking a sweat.

Worse yet, these disenchanted Republicans have to pray that the Democrat’s administration will be as awful as Jimmy Carter’s was, and that, come 2012, a Reagan clone will ride his white steed straight into the White House. How silly can you be? First, you have to hope that, with a sagging economy, gas at $3.40 a gallon, and the constant threat of Islamic terrorism, things will get even worse for America. Next, you have to hope that there is another Reagan out there. If there is, I’d like to know where he’s been hiding.

I say it pays to remember that the first, best thing that Ronald Reagan did before turning his attention to inflation and unemployment, even before pounding the final nail into the Soviet coffin, was defeating the smarmy disaster known as Jimmy Carter.

So, first things first. If the single greatest accomplishment John McCain performs is to keep Mr. Obama, the slogan-spouting radical, and Mrs. Clinton, the woman who never met a tax she didn’t want to raise, out of the White House, we’ll all owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

To sum up my position in the form of a bumper-sticker:  Better an Imperfect Republican Than a Perfect Socialist.

Dear Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines

Burt supports Operation Gratitude, which sends gift packages filled with books, DVDs, toiletries, candy, cookies, stationary, and the like to our men and women serving overseas. Once a year Operation Gratitude publishes a magazine which is widely distributed. Burt donated hundreds of copies of his first anthology, “Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco” to Operation Gratitude. This year, Burt was asked to provide an article and a letter, which he did with pride. - editor

Dear Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines:

It is an honor and a privilege to address you. Many of us here in America don’t know members of the U.S. military personally, but we regard you as members of our family; as grandchildren in my case.

One of the sorriest periods in the history of our great nation took place during the 1960s and 1970s, before you were even born, when veterans returning from Vietnam were treated with contempt and public ridicule. Thank God those days are long past. Today, I’m pleased to say that the vast majority of us appreciate your selfless dedication to our nation’s ideals.

The fact that we now have an all-volunteer military does not go unnoticed. All of you could have stayed home, gone to school or gotten a job, but you elected to serve your country. Each of you answered to a higher calling, one that demanded courage, honor and self-sacrifice in the extreme.

While politicians talk about being public servants, you folks are the real deal. Every single day you risk life and limb because you understand that, just as there’s no free lunch, liberty comes with a price. It’s a price tag that would scare off all but the bravest of the brave, all but the best and the brightest.

I hope you will all come back safe and sound to your friends and loved ones. For my part, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say that you have millions and millions of friends and loved ones you will never meet, but who pray for you and who know that we can never hope to repay our debt to you and your comrades in arms.

The best we can do is offer our heart-felt thanks and our undying respect and gratitude.

Best wishes,

Burt Prelutsky

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Obama And Biden: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

by Burt Prelutsky

I’ll be the first to admit that I think Barack Obama made the perfect choice when he selected Sen. Biden to be his running mate. But, then, why wouldn’t I? After all, I’m a Republican.

Frankly, although Biden’s name had been floating around for quite a while, until Obama made it official, I had worried that he’d pick Hillary Clinton. It would have been an uncomfortable fit, but not all that much more awkward than John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson or Ronald Reagan and George Bush. There are, after all, millions of female Democrats who think that Obama and the party knifed their Hillary in the back, and they may not be won back just because the convention will give her a moment in the spotlight. They just might see it as the equivalent of a philandering husband who figures all he needs to do to keep his wife from going after the community property is to send her a dozen roses.

There are so many nice things about Obama’s adding Biden to the ticket, it’s difficult deciding where to begin. For some of us, Biden will forever be the man who couldn’t even give an original speech, but had to plagiarize chapter and verse from a speech made by England’s Neil Kinnock. Lest anyone think that it was just a one-time deal, Biden had also plagiarized a law review article when he was attending Syracuse Law School. Compounding the sin, once, when asked how he had fared at Syracuse, Biden, not wishing to be seen as a braggart, modestly said that he’d graduated in the top half of his class. He had in fact graduated 76th in a class of 85. As Winston Churchill once said of Clement Attlee, “He’s a very modest man. And with good reason.”

For McCain, the good news about Biden’s getting the nod, is that he can afford to take the high road during the campaign. He won’t have to say a single negative thing about Obama’s lack of experience, about his being on the wrong side when it came to Iraq or about his abysmal lack of knowledge when it comes to a wide range of essential issues. McCain merely has to quote his fan and good friend, Joe Biden.

There are some people who claim that by selecting an old political pro, a man who has spent over half his life prowling the Senate chambers, Obama gives the lie to his claim that he’s the candidate of change. But inasmuch as all thinking people realized that “change” and “hope” were no more than meaningless slogans, sort of like a breakfast cereal claiming to be “new” and “improved,” only a few knee-jerk pinheads, such as Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann and some of the sappier college sophomores, thought they were harking to a profound message.

I’m sure that a certain number of left-wingers are convinced that Obama was being very clever in picking Biden, seeing it as a brilliant way in which to shore up his candidacy in those areas where he is weakest. I, on the other hand, believe he has only managed to underscore his deficiencies when it comes to foreign affairs and national security, the two areas in which the electorate fully expects a president to be strongest.

I not only don’t think that Biden is the best choice Obama could have made, I’m not sure he could have made a worse one. How can anyone look at this ticket and not find it mind-boggling? In a less bizarre world, Biden, a man about to turn 66, a six-term U.S. senator, would be at the top of the ticket, and Barack Obama, a very junior senator, a man I would call an empty suit if it weren’t an insult to clothing, would, as a sop perhaps to black voters, be at the bottom. To me, it’s like making a Batman movie in which Bruce Wayne stays home and knits a sweater while his butler, Alfred, fights crime in Gotham City.

That brings us to yet another flaw in Obama’s thinking. He and the Democrats, along with late night TV chuckleheads, have tried to convince America that McCain is too old to lead. Well, if Obama and Biden win this election and the one in 2012, as the liberals fervently hope, Biden, the man a mere heartbeat from the Oval Office, would be two years older than McCain is today.

I mean, aside from being grateful for the ringing endorsement Biden gave Barack last January, when he pointed out that his primary opponent was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” I can only think of one good reason for Obama’s selecting Joe Biden to be his running mate. Being the astute politician he is, Obama foresees a very close election and wanted to do everything in his power to lock up Delaware’s three electoral votes.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Judging The Olympics

by Burt Prelutsky

I didn’t want to spoil the Olympic Games for the rest of you, but now that they’re over and done with, I’d just like to say that I’ve always disliked them and wish that they’d just disappear.

Understand, I don’t begrudge Michael Phelps the millions of dollars he stands to make in endorsements. I do wonder, though, why it is that swimmers like Phelps and Mark Spitz get so many more opportunities to take home medals than all the other athletes. If I were a sprinter, for instance, I think I’d wonder why it is that I couldn’t compete in the 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90-meter dash, and not just the 100 and the 220.

As far back as 1936, before I was even born, the Games were already a blight on humanity. That was the year that the International Olympic Committee, the IOC, decided to let Adolph Hitler play host even though the Nazis had officially excluded German Jews from competing.

Although 1936 is best-remembered because the great Jesse Owens embarrassed Hitler by showing the world that Aryans weren’t so superior, after all, at least when it came to running and jumping. What is often overlooked, however, is that the American Olympic Committee, at Hitler’s behest, replaced the two Jewish runners, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, in the 400-meter relay. The president of the IOC, Avery Brundage, was only too happy to comply. After the Games, he even went so far as to praise the Nazi regime at a German-American Bund event held at Madison Square Garden, and, in 1938, his company was awarded the contract to build the German Embassy, in Washington, D.C.

Brundage, by the way, was the fellow who refused to restore the Olympic medals to Jim Thorpe before Thorpe passed away. The medals had been taken away from him when it was discovered that he had been paid to play baseball prior to the 1912 Games. The fact that Thorpe died without his medals shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that it was Brundage who had blown the whistle in the first place. But why, you ask, would anyone care if Thorpe, who earned his medals in track and field, had played in a few professional baseball games? Could it possibly have been because one of the Americans he’d bested when copping the gold medals in the decathlon and the pentathlon was none other than young Avery Brundage?

Although Brundage professed that his only motivation for denying Thorpe the return of his medals was his belief in the purity of the Olympics as a venue for amateur athletes, he had no problem sanctioning “amateurs” from the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern bloc nations, all of whom were paid to train and compete by their governments. Apparently when it came to dictatorships, Mr. Brundage never played favorites.

But if Brundage was the only reason I disliked the Games, I would have had 36 years in which to get over my pique. He did retire, after all, soon after the 1972 Olympics. Those were the Munich Games at which Palestinian terrorists massacred 11 Israeli athletes. There were many people who thought that after the blood bath, the Games should have been called off, but, predictably, Brundage wasn’t one of those people. All things considered, I suppose the good news is that he didn’t send the terrorists home with a suitcase filled with gold medals.

I first became disenchanted with the Olympics in 1948. Even though I was just a little kid -- maybe because I was just a little kid -- the whole shebang just seemed terribly hypocritical. I’d hear people talk about how the Games were supposed to be a showcase for athletic achievement, with individuals, not nations, competing against one another. But I could plainly see that was just a lot of hogwash. Every single day, the newspapers would report how many medals the U.S. had won, as opposed to how many the Soviet Union and East Germany had claimed. It was just silly propaganda, as if America could only prove that we had a superior system to theirs because our athletes could shotput or pole vault better than the Reds.

In fact, it was back then, long before the likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, were making a mockery of baseball records, that everybody was making jokes about steroids giving the East German women not only the strength and stamina of men, but, more often than not, hairy chests and five o’clock shadows.

All through the years, the Olympics, allegedly dedicated to good sportsmanship and fair competition, prove that they’re about as decent and honest as Chicago politics. In 1968, in return for making their dreams of competing in the Olympics a reality, a couple of boneheads named Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave America the finger by raising their black-gloved hands in the Black Power salute. In 1972, the referees turned the basketball final into a bad farce by twice adding seconds to the clock so that the Russians could finally manage to eke out a one-point victory over the U.S. In 2002, two Canadian skaters had to share a gold medal with a Russian couple all because the French judge conspired with her colleagues from Poland, the Ukraine, Russia and China, in order to guarantee their votes for the French couple performing in the upcoming ice dance competition.

In 2002, the IOC found itself mired in a scandal when it came out that several, if not all, of the Committee members had been bribed to bestow the Winter Games on Salt Lake City.

This year, with all the countries to choose from, the IOC, true to form, saw fit to reward China, no doubt out of appreciation for China’s efforts to promote peace, liberty and goodwill, around the world.

Avery Brundage, who never met a totalitarian state he didn’t like, would have been so proud.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Marxist Brother

by Burt Prelutsky

I must confess that I am spending an awful lot of time thinking about Barack Obama. I hasten to add that it’s not, as is the case with Chris Matthews, because the senator sends shivers up my leg. Rather, it’s because I simply can’t figure out how he’s managed to convince so many people that he should be the president of the United States. It’s a lot like trying to figure out how Las Vegas magicians make lions and tigers disappear.

To be perfectly honest, I invariably feel that way about the candidates the Democrats try to foist off on us. But, as a rule, guys like Dukakis, Gore and Kerry, are just typical party hacks. But at least none of them attended a racist church, they didn’t associate with known terrorists and they usually didn’t display their contempt for national symbols and the U.S. military quite so blatantly.

Liberals have tried to convince me that Obama is brilliant. I find that odd because he has said that there are 57 states, that JFK got the Russians to remove their missiles from Cuba by sitting down and chatting with Khrushchev, and that Iran doesn’t really constitute an actual threat because they don’t spend as much money on weaponry as we do. Funny, but “brilliant” isn’t the first word that comes to mind. But what do liberals know? They were also convinced that Jimmy Carter was intelligent.

As if Obama’s lack of smarts weren’t bad enough, he compounds the problem with his arrogance. The way he’s forever tilting his head as if he were posing for a statue and employing the royal “we,” I’m never sure if he thinks he’s campaigning to be president of the United States or the queen of England.

Frankly, I’m always surprised when, every four years, the candidate with the (D) after his name is able to muster tens of millions of votes. When you realize that the party has become increasingly Marxist, I find it mind-boggling that the Democrats can consistently fare better than the Greens or the Libertarians in a national election.

If you listen to Obama, you’d get the idea that we’re a third world nation, tottering on the edge of poverty. Every word out of his mouth suggests that America is being ground down by corporations when every sane member of the middle class is well aware that the Democrats, who have never met a tax increase they didn’t love or an illegal alien they didn’t see as a potential vote, and who promote class and race warfare as party policy, pose more of a threat to this country than the Soviet Union ever did.

Obama and his fellow left-wingers keep parroting the line that all the other nations of the world hate us, but I’ve noticed that they never name names. And who can blame them? They’re not likely to mention that they’re referring to the likes of Iran, China, Yemen, Venezuela, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, just as they’re not likely to mention that England, France, Germany and Italy, have all elected conservative leaders in the past few years, while dumping the leftist likes of Mitterand and Schroder along the way.

Because the MSM adores Obama, they continue to promote the notion of Obama as a great orator, but he is actually no more silver-tongued than your average radio announcer reading ad copy for baby wipes. The fact is that when asked a direct question, the man turns into a blithering idiot, even though you would imagine that by this late date he would have memorized the appropriate lines. Perhaps the problem is that this new style politician is so driven by polls that from moment to moment he’s not sure exactly how he feels about the 16-month deadline in Iraq, the surge, offshore drilling for oil, election financing or dividing the city of Jerusalem. Heck, he even changed his opinion about Reverend Wright overnight. On one notable occasion, during the primaries, he was heard to ask if he could just have a moment to finish his waffle. We all thought he was referring to his breakfast. But apparently that wasn’t the case because the man hasn’t stopped waffling yet.

Even after all this time on the stump, I have yet to hear what he would have done about Saddam Hussein if he’d been president. After all, his liberal colleagues had spent much of the 1990s insisting that there had to be a regime change in Iraq. And as Georges Sada, Hussein’s air vice-marshal, has stated in his 2006 book, “Saddam’s Secrets,” Hussein had all the WMD that Kerry, Kennedy and the Clintons thought he had, but had his chemical arsenal airlifted to Syria after the allied invasion began, in the hope of convincing the world that he was the innocent victim of American aggression.

Knowing Obama as we do, we can only assume that if he’d been occupying the Oval Office he would have sat down with Hussein, and through the sheer power of his personality and his white teeth -- or do I repeat myself? -- would have convinced the Butcher of Baghdad that while it’s nice to be important, it’s more important to be nice.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tweedle-Dee & Tweedle-Dumb

by Burt Prelutsky

Timing, as they say, is everything, and not just for baseball players trying to hit a 95-mph fastball. For example, if Hitler had come along 70 years later than he did, I have no doubt that he would have succeeded in conquering all of Europe. One only has to look at how close he came, and that was in spite of all those nations and the U.S. aligned against him. Today, much of Europe has no backbone, and I doubt that, in the wake of Iraq, Americans would have the collective will required to oppose Nazism. It bears remembering that when we went to war against the Axis powers, FDR was never asked if he had an exit strategy.

While it’s true that our presidents must deal with a great number of issues other than war, war and national defense are at the top of the list. Can anybody actually picture Barack Obama, a man born to be a left-wing social worker, as commander-in-chief? Keeping America safe is simply not on Obama’s to-do list. He has made that perfectly clear by several of his statements.

For instance, he insisted that John Kennedy got Nikita Khrushchev to pull Soviet missiles out of Cuba by sitting down and reasoning with him. He obviously believes he will turn evil dictators into peaceful lambs by the sheer power of his personality. He seems to have confused Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with Oprah Winfrey and three Vassar coeds. And whether he is or isn’t a Muslim, it’s obvious that he doesn’t take Iran seriously. After all, as he pointed out, Iran spends far less on its military than we do. I guess it slipped his mind that on 9/11, 3,000 lives were lost for the price of a few airplane tickets and a handful of box cutters.

Frankly, what I find even scarier than Iran’s getting its dirty little hands on a nuclear bomb is the fact that tens of millions of my fellow Americans are eager to elect this numbskull in November. As someone or other once observed, success doesn’t change people, it reveals them.

But, lest you think I’m just another right-wing partisan hack, let me assure you that I’m not too enamored of most Republican politicians, either. From 2000-2006, while the GOP controlled Congress, I watched those wimps waste six years trying to curry favor with the Democrats. What they needed was Newt Gingrich with a whip, what they had was Dennis Hastert with a very wet noodle.

The biggest question I have regarding the Republicans in Washington is deciding if their stupidity outweighs their cowardice or whether it’s the other way around. On Monday, they seem to be worried about offending homosexuals. On Tuesday, they’re terrified of angering blacks. Wednesday, they’re scared stiff of alienating illegal aliens. By Thursday, they’ve taken to their beds, suffering from the vapors. The really nutty thing is that very few of those people are going to vote for them anyway. But of course if they dared come out against same-sex marriages, affirmative action or tax-funded social services for Hispanic scofflaws, they’d be scolded by the New York Times and the Washington Post, and that’s something they simply couldn’t bear.

The latest example of Republican goofiness is something called First Tee. The Justice Department oversees the Office of Juvenile Justice and delinquency, a federal boondoggle if I’ve ever heard of one. Recently, these bureaucrats decided to give 500,000 of your tax dollars to the World Golf Foundation to help get urban youngsters interested in, of all things, the game of golf.

Bill Clinton had his midnight basketball program, which gave inner-city teenagers a government-sanctioned reason to avoid doing their school work, but at least the youngsters only needed a basket and a ball. But golf?! Are we tax payers going to have to pony up greens fees, golf carts and those red-and-yellow knickers, for these kids?

Apparently, the Justice Department had 102 ideas on their list, and this one was green-lighted even though it was judged to be only the 47th best one. Perhaps the fact that George Herbert Walker Bush is the honorary chairman of First Tee had something to do with moving it to the top of the list or perhaps I’m merely being my usual cynical self.

But the thing that’s keeping me awake nights is trying to imagine, if First Tee was only in 47th place, what the heck was dead last? What could have possibly been in 102nd place? Getting our urban youths to take up the accordion or perhaps teaching them to polka?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Myth Of Moral Equivalency

by Burt Prelutsky

There was a time not all that long ago when most of us agreed about what constituted good and evil. But that time, I’m afraid, has come and gone and is now as passé as five cent cigars and 45 cents-a-gallon gasoline.

Our former sense of morality hasn’t been replaced by immorality, at least not entirely, but by something that’s probably more dangerous because it comes cleverly disguised as broad-mindedness. Those in the mass media and academia ridicule people who still believe there are nations, values and cultures, that are superior to others, and they regard those Americans who have the temerity to disagree with them as yokels, super patriots and religious hypocrites. The elitists trumpet moral equivalency as an ideal. And yet, time and again, they display their own double standards. The same folks who were so upset about George W. Bush’s time in the Air National Guard and his early problems with alcohol aren’t the least put out by Barack Obama’s avoidance of military service and his admitted use of illegal drugs. Apparently even moral equivalency doesn’t exist if one of the parties is a Republican and the other is a Democrat.

Steven Spielberg and his sophomoric cohorts got the moral equivalency ball rolling with “Munich,” a piece of Hollywood hooey that contended that there was no real difference between Palestinian cut-throats murdering 11 Israeli athletes at the ’72 Olympics and Israel’s tracking the murderers down and meting out justice.

More recently, we had Barack Obama’s insisting that Israel’s taking steps to defend itself against the constant missile attacks from Hamas is as inexcusable as the attacks, themselves. But then what can you expect from a guy who kept insisting that Iran wasn’t worth worrying about and that the Jews should seriously consider giving up half of Jerusalem to people who insist that any piece of real estate they covet is a holy Islamic city?

Those on the left regard themselves as the moral, as well as intellectual, superiors of those on the right because they claim to see shades of gray whereas conservatives see only black and white. The problem is that most things are black and white, and the inability to realize that doesn’t suggest clearer vision, but only lack of courage and conviction. So, while those on the right are convinced that capitalism, for instance, is better than communism and socialism, and have no problem saying as much, liberals go around parroting sound bites. They would have you believe that Guantanamo is the same as Buchenwald, Bush is the same as Hitler, and that the members of the U.S. military are either the same as storm troopers, in the words of Sen. Dick Durbin, or merely uneducated suckers, according to Sen. John Kerry.

It is not the height of sophistication to insist, as left-wingers do, that modern day Judaism and Christianity are no better than Islamic fundamentalism. When the Islamists are blowing up school buses and pizza parlors, flying jet planes into skyscrapers and beheading innocent human beings, to suggest that these blood-thirsty Neanderthals are the moral equals of Christians and Jews is not only absurd, it’s an evil slander of religious people who have never done anything wrong, and who are guilty of nothing worse than worshipping a God whose name doesn’t happen to be Allah.

Furthermore, when leftists claim that Israel is no better than its enemies, they are not merely mistaken, they are lying and, what’s more, they know it. After all, Israel is a western-style democracy. They don’t go in for honor killings. They don’t go in for suicide bombings. They don’t bestow honors on people who bash in the heads of little children. They even allow Israeli Arabs to vote and to hold elected office. What’s more, Israel is the only real ally America has in the Middle East, no matter how many bribes we pay out to the Arab world and no matter how much lip service our politicians pay to the likes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Whenever I hear someone claim that he’s not an anti-Semite just because he’s always condemning Israel’s policies, I know he’s lying. On its worst day, Israel is better than Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority. When a nation of five million Jews is surrounded by 150 million enemies who, day in and day out, plan and pray for its extermination, only a confirmed Jew-hater would insist that it’s Israel that must be reined in.

In conclusion, let me just say that moral equivalency may be a lot of things, but moral isn’t one of them.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It’s Time Israel Woke Up

by Burt Prelutsky

Because December 7, 1941, was when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, FDR quite aptly called it a day that would live in infamy. For Israel, July 15, 2008, is just such a date. That was the day that Ehud Olmert’s government swapped child murderer Samir Kuntar and four of his Lebanese cohorts to Hezbollah for the corpses of Israeli army reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Israel agreed to do this even though the Arabs reneged on their promise to disclose the present whereabouts of Israeli airman Ron Arad.

While one can sympathize with the families of Goldwasser and Regev, who desired closure and only wanted to give the young men a proper burial, one can’t help wondering what’s gone wrong with Israel’s leadership. Have they decided for some odd reason to take their lead from people like Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama?

Once you begin trading live terrorists for dead soldiers, what have you done but encouraged your sworn enemies to abduct and murder your soldiers as well as your civilians? How do you trade for the corpses of Goldwasser and Regev, but not for the dead bodies of the next two Israelis or the next dozen or the next hundred? Once you open the door to such depraved swapping, how do you ever close it? How do you tell the next set of Jewish parents that the remains of these two were worth infinitely more than the corpses of their own sons and daughters?

Frankly, I have no idea how Israel has so far resisted the urge to unleash nuclear bombs on the likes of Syria, Iran and the Palestinians. But be that as it may, I do have a couple of suggestions I wish they’d take to heart. One, I wish they’d finally institute capital punishment. Until the day they begin to execute terrorists, they will leave themselves open to more of this same sort of emotional blackmail.

Until they can bring themselves to exterminating the likes of Samir Kuntar, who went home to a hero’s reception, the Israelis will continue to find themselves swapping human garbage for human cadavers. Furthermore, the next time Kuntar murders a Jewish child, and assuredly this unrepentant savage will, the child’s blood will not only be on his hands, but on the hands of Prime Minister Olmert, President Shimon Peres and the rest of the gutless politicians currently running things in Israel.

My second suggestion is that Israel announce that from this moment on, the remains of any suicide bomber, in fact of any Muslim terrorist captured and executed in Israel, will be buried carefully wrapped in pigskins. Not only should that policy act as a deterrent, but what could be a more appropriate fate for swine?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Talking Back To A Black Man

by Burt Prelutsky

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a radio talk show when a black man called in to take Barack Obama to task for suggesting that black men were sloughing off their responsibility as fathers. The caller didn’t deny recent data that indicated that 80% of black babies were being born to unwed mothers. Instead, he said that this dire situation wasn’t the fault of irresponsible young men and women, but, instead, was the logical result of rampant racism in our country. He claimed that black American males simply can’t find jobs, and that’s the reason they don’t support their families.

I waited for the talk show host to set him straight, but it never happened. So I guess, as is so often the case in this cowardly, politically correct, age, I’ll have to do it myself.

If I had been hosting the show, I probably would have laughed in the caller’s face. Which may very well explain why I’m not hosting a radio talk show.

The notion that in 2008, anyone can seriously suggest that it is whitey’s fault that millions of black men are abrogating their responsibility to get married and help raise their children would be laughable if the results weren’t so tragic both for the black community and for America at large.

How is it, I would have challenged the caller, that his grandparents and their grandparents managed to get married and bring up their youngsters in spite of Jim Crow laws, separate-but-definitely-unequal schools and rampant racism that kept them in menial jobs, but that all these years later, in spite of decades of Affirmative Action, government-enforced equal opportunity in the workplace and quota systems that benefit minorities, black men lack the ability to do the same? And how is it that people all over the world who are much poorer than American blacks manage to pull it off?

It’s obvious that millions of black men simply prefer shirking their responsibilities, while simultaneously insisting that they’re the victims of white society. They make a huge deal of demanding respect, of insisting they’re men and not boys, but all the while millions of them do precious little to earn anybody’s respect or to prove that they are anything but irresponsible brats.

How can I be so certain that I’m right and that the angry caller wasn’t? Simple. After all, how can it be possible that all these millions of black men are unable to support their babies, but millions of single black women somehow manage to do it?

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Few Words Of Wisdom

by Burt Prelutsky

For my latest book, “The Secret of Their Success,” I interviewed 78 notable people, including the likes of Gerald Ford, Billy Wilder, Ginger Rogers, Steve Allen, Art Linkletter and the recently departed George Carlin and Jo Stafford. One of the many questions I asked them was the best piece of advice they had ever received. In most cases, the gist of their responses was that people should never cease pursuing their passion, whatever it might be.

Even I can’t quibble with that. I do believe that far too many people surrender their dreams far too soon. I mean, unless you believe in reincarnation, this one life here on earth is all we have. Why be so anxious to settle for less than you really want?

I have never been invited to give a commencement speech at a college graduation, and that is probably just as well, seeing as how the order of the day seems to be to praise the youngsters to the heavens, to insist that they’re the shining hope of the future. How could I, in good conscience, promote such nonsense when so many of them have squandered their parents’ hard-earned money majoring in such kiddy fare as black studies, Hispanic studies, lesbian studies and binge-drinking? When I see thousands and thousands of these so-called scholars gazing goo-goo eyed at Barack Obama as he utters endless banalities about hope and change, my own hope for the future doesn’t extend much beyond the middle of next week.

It always struck me that there was something wacky about teenagers, whose biggest decision in life has been to choose which of the dumb Hollywood comedies to go see this weekend, deciding what they’d be doing 50 years down the road. Quite honestly, I don’t know how I’d improve on the present system, but I think simple logic indicates there is something amiss about a 65-year-old selling insurance or fixing teeth or teaching phys ed because an 18-year-old, whose opinion he wouldn’t trust to pick out a magazine, got to pick out his career.

Most of these commencement addresses are nothing more than a series of platitudes emphasizing the importance of courage, honesty and devoting one’s life to good works. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with such speeches, aside from the fact that they fall on deaf ears and are typically sleep-inducing. Most of the kids are not looking to slay dragons. They’re looking to find the fastest way to pay off student loans and get behind the wheel of a new Infiniti. That’s not to say that among the hordes of mortar-boarded youngsters there aren’t a few who will make their mark in some extraordinary fashion, perhaps by curing a disease, inventing a low-cost fuel or even by becoming that most essential of human beings, an essayist. But it won’t be because they sat in cap and gown, sweltering in the sun, listening to a lot of hogwash.

If the responsibility were mine, I would not waste my time or theirs by trying to curry favor by comparing the young grads to the gods on Mount Olympus. It’s bad enough that their parents have already made too big a deal out of their having done little more than endure endless lectures, which only speaks well for their survival skills.

Instead, I would give them three pieces of practical advice, which, if followed, would do a great deal to improve everyday life in America. First, I would advise the grads to always slow down when leaving their phone numbers on answering machines. It’s at the very moment when people should be speaking slowly and distinctly that they usually turn into motor mouths. I can’t tell you how often I have had to replay messages eight or nine times while trying to decode something that sounds like seventhreefoureightsixninefive.

Next, when giving someone directions, don’t just say “Take Sixth Street to Lipton Drive, turn left and go south to Main. Then take a right on Main until you reach Harper. It’s on the southeast corner. You can’t miss it.” At least until the great come-and-get-it day when everyone has a navigational system in his or her car, you must learn to indicate the distances the person is going to have to drive on Sixth, Lipton and Main. On one memorable occasion, I was given directions to a meeting by someone who neglected to mention that the last leg of the drive, which I assumed would just be a couple of blocks, was actually 17 miles!

And, finally, as I gazed out over those fresh, young faces, I would advise them to have nothing whatsoever to do with people who insist on using their computers to send Instant Messages. IMs, as they are better known, combine the worst aspects of phones and computers. Like phones, they are rude and obnoxious, demanding, like some bratty two-year-old, your complete and immediate attention; like computers, they require typing. I never believed Al Gore when he claimed to have invented the Internet, but I never doubted for a moment that he had a lot to do with foisting IMs on the rest of us. It has his carbon fingerprints all over it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

On Turning 68 (Classic)

a classic by Burt Prelutsky

As some of you may be aware, I am one of the 175 or so older writers involved in a class action lawsuit that accuses the movie studios, the TV networks and a number of Hollywood talent agencies, of engaging in the unlawful practice of ageism. The suit was first filed about eight years ago. As is typical in such cases, the lawyers for the defendants try to delay the proceedings by every means possible.

It’s been a while since I and my colleagues had to respond to the interrogatories, so I may not remember the questions in detail. But as I recall, they not only wanted to know about every sale I had ever made; every editor, producer and network executive, I’d ever met; every draft of every script I had ever written; but needed to know when my parents first met, the date on which I was potty-trained, and my dog’s middle name.

Of course, considering the nature of the suit, it only makes sense that opposing counsel would do all in their power to bury us in time-consuming paperwork. They’re figuring, no doubt, that eventually we’ll all be dead before a ruling can be handed down.

Some of you may be skeptical, and justifiably so. After all, you’re thinking, why should they be prejudiced against older writers? Especially when it comes to TV, where the pay scales are more or less standardized, and older, more experienced writers can be had for about the same price as younger writers, it would seem pointless. Yes, it would, were it not for demographics. However, sponsors want a young viewing audience, which naturally means the networks want a young viewing audience. Well, being simpleminded in the extreme, the way they went about trying to reach that target demographic was to hire younger and younger executives. They in turn turned to writers with whom they felt comfortable; namely, clodhoppers their own age. Then, as night must follow day, writers over 50, then 40, and finally 30, found it increasingly more difficult to get an agent. In my own case, when I turned 50, I was advised to take my “M*A*S*H” episodes off my resume because they dated me!

But my biggest shock had nothing to do with TV. Back around 2000, because I’d sold an article to a magazine, I decided to try to come up with an idea for a second piece. One day, while scanning the movie ads in the newspaper, I noticed that Elmer Bernstein, who was then 80 years old, had just scored another movie. Voila!

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Bernstein -- no relation to Leonard -- he was the film composer who’d scored over 200 productions, garnering Oscar nominations in each of six consecutive decades. He was not only brilliant at what he did, but amazingly versatile. Just consider for a moment that the same fellow provided the music for “Man With a Golden Arm,” “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Sweet Smell of Success,” “The Great Escape,” “Hud,” “The 10 Commandments,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Animal House,” “Ghost Busters,” “Moonraker” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

I immediately dashed off a query letter to the editor, suggesting I write a profile of Mr. Bernstein who, in spite of being an octogenarian, was still cutting it in Hollywood’s competitive jungle.

A week later, I received a postcard letting me know that they weren’t interested. The magazine, the editor informed me, was looking to appeal to a much younger demographic. He didn’t think that people in their early 50s would be interested in reading about a guy as old as their father, no matter how talented he might be.

The magazine? Modern Maturity, as it was then called, the monthly published by AARP!

To Hell And Back; Ageism In Hollywood (Classic)

By Burt Prelutsky 

Ageism in Hollywood has had so much media attention focused on it that you would think everything that could be said about it has been said. That was how this award-winning TV writer felt until he hit 50, and it got personal. Until then, ageism was just a word bandied about by statisticians and tongue-clucking sociologists. Suddenly, Burt Prelutsky woke up to find himself one of Hollywood’s new breed of zombies — another writer at that awkward age, too old to be hired, too young to be buried.

By this time, I suspect you’ve all heard and read far more than you care to about ageism in Hollywood. As one of the first TV writers to have come forward on the subject, I know that I’ve spoken and written more about it than I care to admit. For a while, I took to identifying myself as the Poster Boy for the Chronically Unemployed. I felt that was classier than whining and less embarrassing than crying.

This, then, is about the pain of ageism and how the evil practice nearly led me to take my own life.

Until I hit age 50, I had enjoyed a fairly successful TV writing career. I had earned decent money and I had won my share of awards. It began in the late ’60s, when Jack Webb, who introduced himself as a fan of my L.A. Times humor column, and Leonard Stern, who introduced himself as a fan of my Los Angeles Magazine movie reviews, invited me to try my hand writing a Dragnet and a Governor & J.J., respectively.

Although there were occasional dips and detours in my career over the next 20 years, I managed to earn a comfortable living writing episodes of McMillan & Wife, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, M*A*S*H, Bob Newhart and Family Ties, along with a number of TV movies that starred the likes of Jean Stapleton, Martin Balsam, Ed Asner, Jean Simmons, David Soul, Barnard Hughes, Sharon Gless, Richard Thomas, Jack Warden, Keith Carradine, Dennis Weaver and Mare Winningham.

I’d had at least a couple of opportunities to work on staff, especially during the ’70s, but I had a young son at home and decided I’d rather spend time with him than with John Astin or Alan Alda.

It wasn’t that I lacked the greed gene, but between the MOWs, the episodes and the occasional pilot, I figured I was doing fine. Furthermore, inasmuch as I wrote comedy as well as drama, and wrote both quickly, I assumed I’d always be in demand. To top things off, I not only met all my deadlines, but I didn’t turn in 200-page scripts and insist they were carved in stone, I didn’t bare my teeth at network meetings and I also worked well and often with women.

It never occurred to me that the day would come that the only writers my age who were working were those who had taken the staff jobs and wound up being what came to be known as showrunners. How was I to know that running rotten shows would come to count for more than writing good ones?

Suddenly it was 1990, and it was as if the tom-toms announced that I was turning 50. Not only couldn’t I get a job, I couldn’t get an agent. Although I had earned good money for two decades, a divorce you wouldn’t wish on Donald Trump and a four-year custody battle in which the same judge who’d poleaxed me in the divorce settlement decided I should pay both sets of attorneys, had left me stone broke in my early 40s. I had saved some, but clearly not enough, as I was soon to discover.

By the time I was 54, my wife Yvonne and I had cashed out my life insurance policy, my IRA and sold our Santa Monica condo. It was then I realized that once you’re entrenched in the middle class, becoming poor turns into a full-time job.

Fortunately, MasterCard and Visa never gave up hope. They had faith in me, even if agents idn’t. All they required was a minimum monthly payment. I was happy to oblige, as we slid deeper and deeper into debt.

In the meantime, I tried to find work I was qualified to do. It turned out there wasn’t much. I tried to get back my old gig as a humor columnist for the L.A. Times, but they didn’t want me. I suppose they decided that their editorials were funny enough on their own.

It turned out they weren’t alone, though. I wrote to every paper and magazine I could think of and got nixed by one and all.

I wrote some spec screenplays, but they were either too good or too bad, and didn’t sell.

Then I decided to do a book of interviews devoted to America’s billionaires. The one thing that all of them — from Ted Turner to Bill Gates to Sam Walton’s brood — had in common was that none of them wanted to talk to me. Perhaps they sensed that I was going to hit them up for a loan, or maybe they just worried that my poverty was contagious.

In any case, I decided to change the focus from sheer wealth to fame and achievement. I had far better luck approaching the likes of Billy Wilder, Gerald Ford, Norman Lear, Judith Krantz, Jerry Herman, Jack Lemmon, George Carlin, Paul Williams, Bea Arthur, Randy Newman, Steve Allen, Father John Catoir and Jo Stafford. However, even though I eventually had about 70 subjects, including final interviews with Gene Kelly, Sammy Cahn, Ginger Rogers, G. David Schine and Dinah Shore, I couldn’t find a publisher. Finally, a friend steered me to Dove Publishing, which accepted my proposal. A month before publication, Dove’s board of directors ousted publisher Michael Viner. For good measure, they killed all of his projects in the pipeline.

My next venture into publishing came about when my old friend Leonard Stern suggested I was just the fellow to write a funny little book about angels. By this time, Price Stern Sloan had been bought out by Putnam, but they retained their autonomy. That is, they retained it right up to the day I was scheduled to turn in my final draft. It seems that with the exquisite timing I tend to bring out in people, Putnam had just pulled the plug on Price Stern Sloan, having decided they didn’t want to be in the funny book business after all.

By this time, I could no longer make even the minimum monthly payments requested by the credit card companies. As a sign of good faith, I would send checks for four or five dollars. I wanted to assure them that I hadn’t forgotten my obligation and that I hadn’t disappeared into the Federal Witness Protection Program. But they didn’t want to deal with my piddling little checks. Instead, they preferred calling me several times a day to find out if my luck had changed in the past few hours. I confess that I seriously began to contemplate suicide. I didn’t oppose the practice on moral or religious grounds. I can’t even say that the thought of being dead frightened me. As I don’t believe in any sort of afterlife, I can only point to two reasons why I didn’t do myself in: 1) it didn’t seem fair to leave my wife to deal with poverty and my death; and 2) now that MasterCard and Visa had decided to shun my little checks, I felt entitled to invest a few dollars a week in the state lottery. When well-meaning friends would point out how slim my chances were, I’d reply that, realistically, I had a far better chance of winning the lottery than I had of ever again working in TV.

Some people may be aghast that I considered killing myself just because of money woes, and frankly, I don’t blame them. But unless you’ve gone to sleep for years worrying about money and reached a point where nine out of ten phone calls is a call dunning you for money, you don’t have any idea how grim and gray and pointless life can become.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is the kinder, gentler IRS. You see, when you cash in an IRA prematurely, you’re hit with enormous penalties. If at tax time you can’t come up with Uncle Sam’s ante, they set up a payment program the Mafia would envy.

We finally caved in. In 1997 we filed for bankruptcy. But we continued to owe the tax collector, who put a lien on all our belongings. Even so, it was a relief to have the phone stop ringing every 15 minutes

Because I was one of the only members of the Writers Guild who was willing to admit he was a has-been in his 50s, I received a great deal of media attention (Primetime Live, 60 Minutes, the L. A. Times, the trades). One day the phone rang. It was an old friend, a reporter. She told me that a Washington, D.C., attorney named Daniel Wolf was investigating the possibility of bringing a class-action suit against the networks and the studios. Would I be interested in speaking with him? Sure. God knows I had nothing to lose.

After chatting with him, though, I didn’t see where I had a case. It wasn’t as if I’d been fired from a job. All they had to do in their own defense was to lie and claim there were thousands of better writers in the WGA, and all of them younger than I.

Besides, nobody at a studio or a network had ever told me I was too old to work. It was always one agency head or another who gave me the good news. The code used was, “I’m a big fan of yours, but I ran your name past the staff, and they all want to be career-makers.”

It was always agents who had insisted I shave my beard, buy a toupee and lop credits like M*A*S*H off my resume.

I told Wolf I’d be the first to sign on if they decided to go after the agents. After all, without representation, you can’t get a pitch meeting or even submit a spec script in this town.

Wolf said he’d have to research California law. Months later, he got back to me. Very excited. They were going to include agents, because if people collude in an illegal practice (i.e., ageism), they are guilty of breaking the law.

I signed on.

The one bright spot during this decade of calamity was Emmy magazine. When Dove deep-sixed my book, I decided I would try to get the individual interviews published in a magazine on a regular basis, hoping that after awhile I’d be approached by a book publisher. Hank Rieger, then editor-publisher, accepted three of my subjects: Sid Caesar, Ed Asner and Jackie Cooper. But along the way, he and editor Gail Polevoi also assigned me interviews with the likes of Michele Lee, David Kelley, Beth Sullivan, Chris Carter and, finally and most fortuitously, David (The Sopranos) Chase.

One of the people I needed to talk to was obviously Stephen J. Cannell, who’d been Chase’s boss and mentor at Rockford Files. I had left a message at Cannell’s office, and the next day he called back from his limo. After supplying me with several quotable anecdotes about the young Chase, he asked me what I was doing these days. I said, “I’m doing this — the occasional piece for Emmy.”

There was a long pause. Then he said, “You’re too good a writer not to be working steady.”

Now to put all this in proper context, you have to understand that he and I were not old chums. I never even wrote for Cannell back in the days when he was ruling the TV roost, before metamorphosing into a best-selling novelist. True, I was once supposed to write a Rockford Files, but an overeager, overgreedy agent cost me the opportunity.

In the intervening years, we had met briefly on one occasion and, back in 1988, had agreed during a phone conversation to disagree about WGA politics. That was the whole of our relationship.

Suddenly I hear him say, “I’m taking my family to Hawaii tomorrow, but I’ll call you when I get back to set up a lunch.” True to his word, the following week we had lunch. I filled him in on my nine bleak years. He said that he knew a lot of people who were running shows and that the following day, back at his office, he’d go through his Rolodex.

The next day he called. He began by saying he didn’t know anyone at a sitcom and that, unfortunately, most of those he did know seemed to be working on cable sci-fi shows. However, he thought he might be able to help me at Pensacola, JAG, Touched by an Angel and Diagnosis: Murder.

A few days later, Cannell gave me a name at Pensacola. I called and wound up writing two episodes.

A while after that, Cannell phoned again. I still remember how moved I was by his words: “I didn’t want you to think you’d fallen between the cracks. I have a call in to Ms. Chris Abbott at Diagnosis: Murder, but she’s out of town until next week. I just wanted you to know I hadn’t forgotten about you.”

The next time he phoned it was to tell me Abbott had returned and I should call. I did. It seems one of her colleagues on the show, Steve Brown, and I had co-written an unproduced pilot 10 years earlier, and he had salvaged our story as a possible Christmas episode for Diagnosis. Steve got on the phone and said, CBS likes it, but it’s only July, and Dick Van Dyke could walk in one of these days with a Christmas story he’d rather do. But assuming he doesn’t, you’ll hear from us in a few months."

In October I got the call. Together, Steve and I wrote Santa Claude. Chris was so pleased with the result, she offered me a job as executive story consultant. And thus it was that two months shy of my 60th birthday, I came to be the oldest TV writer to get his very first staff position.

Originally I was to work on the final 11 episodes, but CBS ordered two additional hours. Then I was rehired for the first 13 episodes of the 2000-01 season, but CBS went on to order 22 one hours and two two-hour episodes. So it was that the original 11 hours of programming expanded into 39 hours, of which I got to write all or part of nine scripts.

Money aside, I enjoyed the experience. I met and worked with some of the nicest people I’ve ever known. It felt like a family, and not just because — aside from his co-starring son, Barry — Dick Van Dyke had eight relatives on the show at one time or another.

On top of everything else, it was a learning experience. Having freelanced all my life, my most astonishing discovery was that lines don’t get changed and scenes cut simply because the writing staff is determined to sabotage one’s wonderful work. In fact, many were the occasions when I was the first to ask that one of my favorite moments be eliminated because the director had screwed up or the tone-deaf actor had botched the job.

If there was a downside, it was that thanks to my 18 months of steady employment, I could no longer be involved in the class-action suit. Breaking the news to my wife, I said, “When I’d been hired, I had assumed it was because I was cute and talented. Only now do I realize that it was the industry’s sneaky way of neutralizing me right out of court.”

As for Stephen J. Cannell, writer/producer/guardian angel, I wrote him a thank-you letter when I was hired, when I was signed for a second season, and again when the show was canceled. Along the way, I sent him Christmas cards, birthday wishes and even lunch invitations. To this day, I have never heard back from him.

But then, the Lone Ranger never hung around to be thanked either.

Reprinted with permission from Emmy® magazine.

A Long Night’s Journey Into Day (Classic)

by Burt Prelutsky

People often ask me just exactly when I stopped being a liberal and, depending on their own political persuasion, saw the light or sold my soul to the devil. My fellow conservatives assume I had something akin to an epiphany. Liberals simply wonder if I suffered a head injury in a traffic accident.

When I fail to come up with anything specific, I can invariably read disappointment in their eyes. The truth is that it was a fairly gradual process. I grew up in a typical middle-class Jewish home, the third son of Russian immigrant parents. In other words, FDR was our patron saint. In our house, the feeling was that Roosevelt could walk — or at least roll — on water. Then, after his death, when Harry Truman recognized the state of Israel in 1948, that cinched things. After that, if the Republicans had run God for president, we wouldn’t have voted for Him.-

So, by the time I got to cast a vote in my first presidential election in 1964, naturally I cast it for Lyndon Johnson. Then, in ’68, I voted for Hubert Humphrey. After that, things only got worse. Over the course of the next two decades, I actually voted for McGovern, Carter, Carter, Mondale and Dukakis. I would say that sounds like the name of a sleazy law firm, but that would be unfair to sleazy law firms. The thing is, even back then, I’d wake up the day after voting for one of these clowns and I’d hate myself.

Back in the 80s, I was still one of those shmoes who laughed at jokes about Ronald Reagan nodding off during cabinet meetings. Somewhere along the line, though, it began to sink in that the sleepy head had managed to turn around an economy that had a 21% rate of inflation under his predecessor, and, for an encore, managed to end the Cold War. Even a dope like me who had voted for a sanctimonious phony like Jimmy Carter had to admit that was a pretty sensational performance. It turned out that the actor had finally found the right role.

Then, in the early 1990s, two things happened that convinced me that I could no longer vote Democratic or identify myself as a liberal, even if it meant that my relatives were going to start spinning in their graves. I could only hope that, were they still alive, they would have felt that being a liberal no longer meant that you opposed the poll tax and segregated lunch counters, but that you were blindly beholden to well-heeled defense attorneys, the morally bankrupt ACLU and the self-serving likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters.

From 1987-1991, I served on the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America. It was my first hands-on experience in the political arena. I think it’s safe to say that of the three officers and sixteen board members, virtually all of us were registered Democrats. A handful of the older members had been blacklisted forty years earlier because they’d been Communists. Nearly everyone in the boardroom, I should hasten to say, was a nice, decent, at least fairly intelligent human being. There were certainly no more than four or five whom I would have gladly fed to the sharks.

Because the agonizing six month strike of 1988 took place during my first term in office, I had seen my colleagues at their best and at their worst. But it wasn’t until one of my last days in office that I realized how far apart I was from the others. The way the by-laws of the WGA were written, the Board could, without putting it to a vote of the membership, elect to bestow sums up to $5,000 to any cause we felt deserving of our largesse.

On this occasion, the defense attorneys for photographer Robert Mapplethorpe had contacted us, requesting that the Guild sign on as amicus curiæ in the pornography case that had recently been filed against their client.

Mapplethorpe, in case his name has slipped your mind, had received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts over the strong objections of North Carolina’s Senator Jesse Helms. The senator felt that the U.S. government had no business subsidizing a man who devoted his career to photographing naked children. Naturally, in elite circles, that made Sen. Helms a buffoon, a lunkhead, a southern rube who couldn’t tell the difference between a pedophile and an artiste.

When it came time to take a vote that night at the Guild, I was the only person who spoke out against supporting Mapplethorpe legally or financially.

In the first place, I never thought the federal government had any business supporting the arts with even a single dollar of tax funds. There were even back then about 250 million Americans. I figured if an artist couldn’t appeal to a sufficient number of that many people to earn an honest living, it wasn’t a federal subsidy he required, but vocational guidance.

In the second place, I didn’t think the WGA should be wasting the hard-earned money of its members supporting the artistic freedom of some creep who could only have his creative vision satisfied by having an eight or nine year old child stripped down and posed for his camera.

That night, when I was out-voted 15-1, I clearly saw the enormous gulf that separated me from the liberals in the room. It wasn’t simply that we disagreed about whether or not to support this guy, either. It was the fact that they didn’t even need to consider what I was saying. It was enough that the ACLU was on Mapplethorpe’s side and a southern reactionary was opposed. That was really all they needed to know.

The second thing that turned me into a raging Republican? That’s easy. After naturally assuming that the Democrats couldn’t possibly do any worse after selecting Michael S. Dukakis to be their standard-bearer in 1988, they accomplished that seemingly impossible feat in 1992 by nominating Hillary Rodham Clinton’s husband.