Friday, May 10, 2024

Pedal Blocks Killed My Malibu Moment

I’ve driven many cars since I obtained my license 57 years ago, some I’ve owned or leased, most I rented during business and pleasure trips across the United States, Canada and Europe. 

But never a Malibu. I most likely will never drive a Malibu as General Motors announced Wednesday it is dropping the model from its Chevrolet lineup ( 

Not that I didn’t walk into a Chevy showroom in early 1982 with every intention of buying a Malibu. Our second child had been born weeks earlier. Gilda needed a car she would be more comfortable driving than the blue Buick LeSabre my father had “gifted” to us a year or two before. He made us give him Bertha, a red with black vinyl top 1969 Buick Skylark Gilda had learned to drive on. He wanted our Skylark for one of his workers, Lucy, as his months-old car was too new to just give away to a non family member. To Gilda the LeSabre was a boat. Used to driving a Buick Electra 225 or a Cadillac DeVille, my father thought the LeSabre was too small. 

On a Saturday afternoon we entered the Chevy showroom looking for a Malibu. Gilda sat down in the driver’s seat, adjusted it and proclaimed it “undriveable.”

Why? Because no matter how far forward my 5 foot 2 inch wife set the bench seat—yes, the Malibu had a bench seat, not bucket seats—she was not able to touch the accelerator or brake pedal. 

Not wanting to lose a commission the salesman speedily suggested blocks could be fastened to the pedals to make them accessible. Gilda’s scornful laugh still reverberates in my ear. 

As Gilda wasn’t going to grow any taller we reasoned we needed to find a car company with experience serving the vertically-challenged. We drove to the nearest Datsun dealership in the midst of its rebranding to Nissan. 

Gilda hopped behind the wheel of a Nissan Sentra hatchback and became an unofficial apostle for the Japanese carmaker’s marketing sensibility in producing cars for short drivers. She credits GM’s shortsightedness about meeting the needs of female drivers as a major reason for the decline in its market share. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Careful Donald, Your Claim of Presidential Immunity Could Backfire on You

It has been postulated by Donald Trump’s legal team that a president has absolute immunity for any “official act,” even so far as ordering the assassination of individuals. If the Supreme Court affirms that theory, what would prevent Joe Biden from ordering the elimination of someone he and constitutional scholars believe is a real and current threat to our democratic republic—Donald Trump?

Far-fetched? To be sure. But plausible? You betcha, if the Supremes rule there is no mountain too high that a president cannot scale in pursuit of defending our country. 

Would Biden do it? Convinced as he is that a Trump return to the presidency would be catastrophic for the nation and liberal democracies the world over, he just might reach the conclusion that Trump is expendable. 

Trump, himself, might reach the same conclusion, so he might stay sequestered in Mar-a-Lago through the election and beyond to January 20 inauguration day. Even with Secret Service protection Trump might feel safer in his Florida bunker than in public where Biden’s assassination team would have easier access to a kill. 

He’d still be able to campaign. In 2020 during Covid, Biden showed you can win an election from your basement with Internet links. 

If ever there was cause for the Supreme Court to rule intelligently and with unanimity the issue of presidential immunity needs resolution. If we are to be a nation where no one is above the law the taking of an innocent life must not be enshrined as a presidential power. It should not be a right of the presidency.  

We should thank Donald Trump for forcing the Supreme Court to clarify this principle. And if the court doesn’t, Trump should be mocked for his inadvertent willingness to be the first potential victim of presidential impunity. 

(A Scary Coda: Former attorney general Bill Barr confirmed last week that Trump often advocated for the elimination of critics and leakers. Though Barr qualified his remarks by saying Trump eventually got over his hissy killing fits, it is not inconceivable to imagine a Thomas Becket result from overzealous staffers if presidential murder power is condoned by the Supreme Court, particularly if a second Trump administration is staffed by aggressive loyalists rather than by politically savvy and mature officials.)

Monday, April 29, 2024

Protestors: The Enemy Is Not Israel

As a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s-1970s, I don’t begrudge college students and other activists demonstrating against Israel’s aggressive response to the October 7 butchery by Hamas of Israelis who were among their nation’s most left wing peace advocates with Palestinians. 

But what exactly are they protesting for? Yes, they want the killing to stop. But with what entity do they want to entrust Gaza and beyond? 

Surely they cannot seriously believe Hamas is an option. The same Hamas that has systematically killed anyone who has vocally and publicly disagreed with it? The same Hamas that denied Gazans sanctuary in its tunnel network from aerial and artillery bombardments, giving shelter just to its terrorist forces? The same Hamas that has killed relief aid workers and taken for itself food and fuel intended for all Gazans? The same Hamas that imbedded itself in hospitals, mosques and schools, insuring that Gazans would be killed by Israel shooting at terrorists? The same Hamas that does not tolerate the LGBTQ+ community? The same Hamas that planned and executed an assault that killed more than 1,200 mostly defenseless civilians and wounded more than 3,300 including the elderly and children as young as less than a year old, that assaulted and raped women, that in violation of international law has taken hostages now held for more than six months? The same Hamas that for nearly 20 years has indiscriminately fired rockets and mortars on civilian Israeli communities without regard to who or how many might be killed or wounded? The same Hamas that has refused to hold elections since 2006?  

I don’t like it but they are within their rights to demonstrate against Israel. Even against American support for Israel. But when, as Palestinians and their fellow protestors in Dearborn, Mich., did a few weeks ago, they chant “Death to America,” that crosses the line. It was offensive and, if determined not to be within free expression protections, should be prosecuted. They are no different than the January 6 Capitol rioters whose objective was the overthrow of our legitimate government. Similarly, cries to kill and to intimidate Jews is not acceptable behavior.

Unfortunately, the protestors lack context and accuracy in their belligerence. Israel is not an apartheid state. It is not practicing genocide against Palestinians. It is not conducting an anti-humanitarian war against Hamas. 

Nowhere else in the Middle East—especially not in Hamas-controlled Gaza—are Palestinians able to protest without fear of retribution. On the other hand, Palestinians who are citizens of Israel are permitted to vote and protest against their elected government. Neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has held an election for more than a decade. 

Unlike Hamas, Israel does not restrict the rights of women and LGBTQ+ members. 

Sixty years ago we sought an end to the Vietnam War. North Vietnam and the Viet Cong were not ideal enemies, not without evil actions. But they were not dedicated to America’s destruction. Today, Vietnam is a strong commercial partner with us. Some see it as a bulwark against Chinese regional hegemony. 

Hamas does not recognize Israel’s existence. It is dedicated to Israel’s annihilation and the killing of Jews. Until Hamas and its allies accept Israel’s reality conflict will continue.

The death and injury of thousands of innocents in Gaza is tragic, but not unusual in any conflict. Keep in mind, Israel did not initiate the war with Hamas. It is difficult to not conclude criticism of Israel’s defense of its sovereignty and effort to liberate hostages taken by Hamas is not anti-semitic when critics, especially college/university students, have been largely silent about, among other worldwide hot spots, the horrific treatment by China of its Moslem Uyghur citizens, Assad’s brutal actions in the Syrian civil war, Modi’s plans to strip rights from India’s Moslem population, Myamar’s persecution of its Rohingya minority, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with attacks on civilians and their infrastructure.

The pro Palestinian faction demonizes all associated with Israel. According to The New York Times, “Student demands (at Columbia University) include that the university divest from any financial interests connected to Israel and amnesty for all activists for their protest actions.”

So here’s a thought—perhaps those urging a boycott and divestment from Israel should practice boycott and divestment on a personal level. I wonder, just how far these zealots are willing to go? Would they, in fact, be willing to live their lives without the conveniences and health-oriented tools they currently enjoy that originated in Israel?

Here’s a partial list of Israel’s contribution over the last 75 years to raising the world’s standard of living:

  • Israel contributed to the development of Microsoft Windows, Intel computer chips, instant messaging, the cellular telephone including the iPhone
  • USB Flash Drive
  • Waze, the GPS-navigation software app
  • Sabon cosmetics and bath products
  • Wix website-building company
  • Jaffa Oranges
  • SodaStream
  • AHAVA cosmetics
  • Max Brenner chocolates
  • Bamba peanut-butter-flavored snack useful in developing in infants tolerance to peanuts
  • Drip irrigation
  • Epilady 
  • Firewall computer network security system
  • NIR heart stent
  • Voice over Internet Protocol, PC-to-phone software solution
  • PillCam

The list can go on and on (

By comparison, while the world owes a debt to the Islamic community of 700 to the late 19th century for preserving ancient teachings and giving us the foundation of modern society (, aside from expanding the crime of airplane hijacking and killing passengers as well as exporting radical Islam, I can find no comparable list of inventions and benefits from Palestinians and other Moslems over the last 75 years. 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

My One Degree of Separation from Star Trek's Sulu

 Eighty-six-year-old George Takei is enjoying another moment in the spotlight (

The venerable, venerated actor and activist is now author of a children’s book (“My Lost Freedom”) based on his experience during World War II as an American citizen of Japanese descent interned in a relocation camp away from their West Coast homes, a dark moment in our nation’s history after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan when our country let fear overwhelm constitutional rights and protections. 

Takei first vaulted onto the public’s consciousness as Lt. Hikaru Sulu on “Star Trek,” the sci-fi television series that ran on NBC 1966-1969. Through reruns, films, comic books and trade shows the Star Trek franchise has kept Takei and his comrades from the Starship USS Enterprise in the public eye for more than half a century. 

I never really was a Star Trek groupie. The concept, after all, was a space-age oater, oater being a crossword puzzle word for a moral-based Western entertainment treatment. In my family Westerns dominated our television viewing. The Lone Ranger. Hopalong Cassidy. Sky King. Roy Rogers. Paladin. Cheyenne. Maverick. Wanted Dead or Alive. The Rebel. Sugarfoot. The Rifleman. Wagon Train. Wyatt Earp. Bat Masterson. Tales of Wells Fargo. Last of the Mohicans. And, of course, Gunsmoke and Bonanza. 

We didn’t need to fly into outer space to learn American values of right and wrong. They were imprinted onto our moral code on horseback on the plains of the West. 

George Takei mostly was a curiosity to me until after I took over as editor of Chain Store Age Executive in November 1987. Among the staff I inherited was a Los Angeles-based writer, Brad Altman. 

I cannot recall why, but corporate said I had to trim the editorial staff. For nothing to do with his talent, the axe fell on Brad. I flew to Los Angeles to deliver the news in person. 

A few years later I was jolted by the surprising news that Brad became the partner of George Takei. They married in 2008. They were the first gay couple to receive a marriage license in the City of West Hollywood. Brad changed his last name to Takei in 2013.

He’s my one degree of separation from George Takei (

Friday, April 12, 2024

O.J.'s Passing Revives a Moment of National Divide

There are moments in our national history when we learn something, usually something unpleasant, about our collective selves. 

When, in 1991, Los Angeles police savagely beat Rodney King, only to be subsequently found not guilty of brutality even though the assault was captured on camera, we learned of the near invincibility to accountability of men in uniform, especially when their victims were people of color. 

Four years later, when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of brutally murdering his ex-wife and her friend, the euphoric reaction by blacks and the amazement of whites to the verdict brought to the surface the disparate beliefs in our justice system as they pertain to racial outcomes and, no less important, the impact financial resources can have on a trial’s resolution.   

Only recently, as in the case of George Floyd’s murder at the hands and knee of police, have the scales of justice begun to balance out. O.J.’s death Thursday no doubt will stir renewed debate on equality of justice plus police and prosecutorial behavior. 

Consider this: Lead L.A. prosecutor Marcia Clark and co-prosecutor Christopher Darden kept secret their romantic liaison during their work on the O.J. trial. The truth came out years after his acquittal. 

Now consider an affair’s current day template: Fulton County, GA., district attorney Fani Taifa Willis and her chosen special prosecutor Nathan Wade have admitted to an affair. The alleged criminal they have been investigating? None other than Donald Trump, past president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee. 

Oy vez mir, as my mother used to say. 

Now, I am not hypothesizing that a clandestine romance could taint the outcome of an investigation. But the optics are not pleasant to consider. Those hoping for a Trump conviction in Georgia might well castigate Willis and Wade if a not guilty verdict is tendered by a jury. Their conduct might not have risen to the level of prosecutorial misconduct but it clearly was prosecutorial impropriety 

Do you remember where you were when you heard the O.J. Simpson murder trial verdict? I do. 

I was crammed inside a standing room only, glass-fronted conference room of Lebhar-Friedman, parent company of Chain Store Age, on the sixth floor of 425 Park Avenue in Manhattan. For the mesmerizing pronouncement a television had been wheeled into the room. 

In microcosm to national trends, reaction to the not guilty verdict—not innocent, just not guilty—provided a local snapshot of a divide that has yet to lose its grip on the country. 

Almost all people of color in the room cheered. Whites shook their heads in disbelief. We—the multi-racial members of my staff—did not talk about it. Yes, whites talked with whites. We just didn’t talk about it with anyone of color. I’m not proud of that. I’d like to think 30 years later we would be more forthcoming if a similar defining event transpired. 


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Adventures in Flying

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

At least that’s what the old saw says. Case in point—News from Sunday that the cover of an engine of a Southwest Airlines jet came off and forced a flight to return to Denver brought back memories of a similar incident during my family’s trip to Japan 32 years ago. 

Watching the cover of the Southwest engine shred no doubt was a harrowing experience for the passengers. Our brush with a potentially similar condition was equally unsettling.

We were flying American Airlines from Dallas to Tokyo 32 years ago, I to interview executives from retail giant Ito-Yokado for our joint-venture Japanese publishing company, Gilda, Dan, 13,  and Ellie, 9, to enjoy the hospitality of our hosts.

About an hour after leaving Dallas, Dan thought he saw part of the skin of the left wing flapping away. He asked the man sitting next to him, a Navy air technician, to take a look. He confirmed Dan’s discovery. He called a stewardess who called the relief pilot who flies along on trans-Pacific flights.

Though he advised we’d be safe proceeding, he cautioned that the prudent thing to do was turn back to Dallas and transfer to another plane. It resulted in an eight hour delay, making our total travel time from New York to Tokyo a whopping 28 hours instead of the normal 18.

More Airborne Trauma: Usually, I fall asleep on a plane even before takeoff. That’s what happened when Gilda and I were returning aboard United Airlines from one of my magazine's conferences in San Francisco 31 years ago. We were sitting near the rear. In my dream I smelled something burning. It didn’t jive with the other action in the dream so I woke up about 20 minutes into the flight. Gilda also detected the odor. We alerted the stewardess who informed the pilot.

While they assured everyone there was no danger, the cabin started filling up with acrid smoke. The pilot decided to return to San Francisco, but since he had a full load of fuel for the transcontinental run, he first had to release fuel over the Pacific.

As we approached the landing, the stewardesses told everyone to assume the crash position, that once we came to a full stop we were to calmly walk to the emergency exits and slide down the evacuation chutes. Bent over with arms crossed shielding our heads, Gilda and I awkwardly held hands, thankful we were together. Nobody panicked. Young and old alike slid down the chutes with only one elderly woman slightly injuring her ankle (I’ll admit now I didn’t fully follow orders—I didn’t remove my shoes). Once safely inside the terminal, though, a gold-chained, muscled guy fainted. So much for macho appearances.

For our adventure, United gave everyone a free round-trip ticket to any domestic destination. American had offered no such compensation.


Thursday, April 4, 2024

Israel Fighting on Two Fronts: Hamas and Media

Welcome to the world of unequal proportional responsibility. 

Hamas claims all Israelis—no matter how young or old, civilian or military—are justified targets because they empower a repressive government that denies Palestinians rights and a homeland. Terror attacks, rocket attacks, invasions, are to Hamas legitimate means of Palestinian dissent.

Israel is a legitimate country with a legitimate government. When Arab states tried to erase its existence Israel defended itself. In 1948. 1956. 1967. 1967-1970. 1973. 1971-1982. 1985-2000. 2000-2005. 2006. 2008-2009. 2012. 2014. 2021. 2023-2024 (

Is Hamas a legitimate governing body? It won an election in 2006, but has not permitted another vote. No protests for another vote have been held in Gaza, unlike the weekly protests Israelis have held for the last year questioning the continuation of its government’s policies. 

Israel subsidizes safe rooms and community shelters for its citizens to protect them from mortar and missile attacks. Hamas siphoned off international monies intended to build infrastructure, homes and businesses in Gaza to construct an extensive tunnel network, not to shelter its citizens from Israeli aerial attacks but to shield only its members and to store weapons.

By inserting combatants among the civilian population of Gaza, Hamas guaranteed many noncombatants, including women and children, would die when Israel retaliated. 

Deaths of innocents are inevitable in any armed conflict. Israel investigates tragic mistakes, as it will for the killing of seven World Central Kitchen workers earlier this week. If warranted, those at fault will be disciplined. That’s a far cry from the failure of Hamas to investigate and discipline its fighters for atrocities perpetrated October 7 and subsequently to hostages held in Gaza. 

Nobody grieves more than Israelis about the deaths of the aid workers. It undercuts the legitimacy of Israel’s response to October 7. 

But let’s put in context the outcry against Israel, not just for the World Central Kitchen losses, but for its battle to destroy Hamas and the resulting deaths, according to Hamas, of more than 31,000 Palestinians.

Is there ever equivalency in war? On September 11, 2001, America lost 2,977 innocents. Through 2021, our retaliation in subsequent wars killed 46,319 civilians, 446 aid workers and 74 journalists in Afghanistan, and 185,831-208,964 civilians, 63 aid workers and 282 journalists in Iraq, according to the Watson Institute of Brown University ( 

In Syria’s civil war and fight against ISIS, 95,000 civilians died, as well as 224 aid workers and 75 journalists, Watson reported.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, killed 68 civilians. To achieve victory the United States and its allies killed 550,000-800,000 Japanese civilians through bombings. More people died from the March 10, 1945, firebombing of Tokyo (105,000) than from the August 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima (80,000) and Nagasaki (40,000).

In Darfur, Yemen, Somalia, Ukraine, to name just a handful of countries, civilians are dying from indiscriminate warfare with barely a ripple of public condemnation. Only Israel seems to be held to a higher standard of responsibility despite Hamas being the instigator of the conflict. 

Israel voluntarily left the Gaza Strip in 2005. Palestinians could have transformed the area into a “Dubai on the Mediterranean.” Instead, they accepted its transformation into an outpost of terrorism. 

No country could be expected to accept repetitive attacks on its population. Hamas has repeatedly violated ceasefire agreements, making calls for another cease fire ring hollow. 

There’s no dispute that the visuals of Gazans suffering are hard to bear. Absent the release of all the hostages taken by Hamas, Israel will continue its on the ground warfare even as its media battle leaves it looking like an oppressor rather than the aggrieved.