At Times I Wonder

by Norman Horowitz

Growing up in the thirties, my family lived in an apartment building in the Kingsbridge Road section in the Bronx.

Playing baseball in the streets was not possible for a variety of reasons, so we played a street game that I loved: “stickball.” There were a variety of forms to the game, but you always needed a ball called a “Spaldeen” and a stick, usually borrowed from my mother’s carpet sweeper. This all worked out well…except that the police would sneak up on our game and confiscate our sticks. We would post lookouts to guard against police intervention, and when a cop was spotted, the warning cry was: “Chickey, the cops!”

I always wondered about this, and still think about it today: Why did the cops do this?

In light of the Petraeus “scandal,” I have to ask the same question about “the morality police” who judge what sexual behavior is acceptable.

And now a small joke to make a point. [Stop reading if you’re offended by foul language.]

Those who have died throughout the world the previous day are lined up outside the pearly gates to be interviewed by St. Peter, who will determine if they will be assigned to Heaven or Hell.

As the teeming throng waits, a roar passes through the line. The people are joyous!

Someone asks what has happened and one man replies, “Thank God, thank God, fucking doesn’t count.”

Just exactly who makes these rules concerning sex?

I admit, men who are sexually aroused have a tendency to do the stupidest things. However, in my experience, sexual transgressions have nothing at all to do with the effectiveness of a person’s work.

In my opinion, we suffer from a collective societal craziness that accepts going to war for questionable reasons in Iraq, killing and wounding so many, yet questions the appropriateness of a grown man having consensual sex with a woman not his wife while married to someone else.

We appear to have forgiven Clinton, bring back and forgive Petraeus!

Excuse Me? Would You Please Repeat That?

by Norman Horowitz

Mitt Romney is an “off the cuff” disaster. I can only wonder what he would say were he to become our President.

I believe that Romney was trying very hard to communicate something very important when he said the following:

“Corporations are people, my friend…of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.”

“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.”

“I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.”

“There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.”

I can understand a mistake or two when discussing such complex issues as global warming or the federal budget, but these comments qualify as a genuine “Good grief!”

Just for fun, let’s take a trip down memory lane. My favorite “off the cuff” disaster was Vice President Dan Quayle, whose quotes put Mitt Romney’s to shame. Here are some of his classic moments:

“If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.”

“Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.”

“Welcome to President Bush, Mrs. Bush, and my fellow astronauts.”

“Mars is essentially in the same orbit… Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe.”

“The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation’s history. I mean in this century’s history. But we all lived in this century. I didn’t live in this century.”

“I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future.”

“The future will be better tomorrow.”

“We’re going to have the best-educated American people in the world.”

“We have a firm commitment to NATO; we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe.”

“I am not part of the problem. I am a Republican.”

“I love California; I practically grew up in Phoenix.”

“It’s wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago.”

“A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls.”

“When I have been asked during these last weeks who caused the riots and the killing in L.A., my answer has been direct and simple: Who is to blame for the riots? The rioters are to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? The killers are to blame.”

“Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it.”

“We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.”

“For NASA, space is still a high priority.”

“Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children.”

“It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.”

“[It’s] time for the human race to enter the solar system.”

“The American people would not want to know of any misquotes that Dan Quayle may or may not make.”

“Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things.”

“I stand by all the misstatements that I’ve made.”

I continue to wonder why the United States of America is unable to find better candidates for high office than Dan Quayle or Mitt Romney. Where have we as a nation failed?

The Charming Republicans: Issa, Ryan, and Cantor

by Norman Horowitz

In 1960, at Screen Gems International, I met a “tall, dark, and handsome” man named Larry Hilford.

Larry was very smart and very charming when he wanted to be. He was a Yale graduate, as well as a Harvard MBA, all of which I could tolerate. But I will never forgive him for his “movie star” good looks.

Larry and I both worked for Lloyd Burns, a South African/Canadian who was the personification of “two faced.” Lloyd had a farbissina punim, which, loosely translated from Yiddish, means that he was sourpuss. He saved his farbissina punim for people like me and other junior staff people. He was at his charming best when with our major customers and senior management.

Yes, he was smart, but to me smart is not enough for an executive (or politician) to function as effectively as possible.

Larry and Lloyd were a study in contrasts. Larry would cringe when anyone called him a salesman, but that’s what he was: a well educated man of vision who could sell what he believed.

I have noticed in my career that people like Larry, an actual operating executive and salesman, were not then, nor are they today, respected as they should be. America has bought into the notion that MBAs and lawyers are somehow qualified to run operating divisions or companies. Nowadays, it seems that senior management executives are mostly operationally inexperienced and sport their farbissina punims as a badge of honor.

The combination of intellect and charm and operating experience matters, and to me the political poster child for this would be Bill Clinton.

Antithetical to this would be Congressmen Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Darrell Issa.

While I never agreed with the policies of the Bush boys or Ronald Reagan, none of them could be referred to as having a farbissina punim. The same cannot be said of these three infantile Republican Congressmen who, not too long ago, were setting sail for a witch hunt against Eric Holder, while a good deal of the world is falling apart.

Much to the chagrin of many of my Republican friends, our President Barack Obama is bright, charming, and ingratiating, and I would ask those who might be open to it to compare the countenance of Barack Obama to our three resident farbissina punim champions, Darrell Issa, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor.

I’m reminded of my days at MGM, where I was accused of being a bad manager because I was “too nice.”

Welcome to America.

Where Did I Park My Horse?

by Norman Horowitz

In the beginning, there was the heavens, the earth, NBC, CBS, and ABC.

This was quickly followed by Robert Edward “Ted” Turner.

Ted was/is, in the true sense of the words, a “media mogul.” He literally founded the “superstation” concept with TBS. At the time, the major studios, including Warner Brothers, fought against Turner’s superstation because it would compete with their broadcast networks. Now, of course, Turner’s media empire is part of that itsy bitsy benevolent American company Time Warner.

In a twist of irony-cum-hypocrisy, now it’s Ted’s company that’s railing against a new technology that might impinge on their business.

I’m reminded of a short story from my own career.

In the mid-70s, the very-big-deal Australian broadcaster Kerry Packer told me that the prices for American programming sold to Australia must be controlled in order to create “an orderly marketplace.” He went on to tell me that he raised the prices he charged to advertisers regularly because the advertisers had no alternative but to pay it. I remarked that he wanted an “orderly marketplace” when he was buying but not when he was selling. He took a moment and replied: “Norman, it’s different because it’s MY MONEY!”

Back to Ted.

There’s a new DVR technology that lets consumers delete broadcast TV commercials at the touch of a button. It’s called “Auto-Hop,” and it’ll be offered by Dish Network. Nothing has really changed, except fast-forwarding is no longer required. It’s a good thing if you’re a consumer (but who cares about them?) and a bad thing if you’re selling time to advertisers.

So, naturally, Time Warner executive Glenn Britt immediately expressed disapproval over Auto-Hop, putting him on the side of television networks that want to kill the service. “I don’t think we want to destroy one of [our] revenue streams,” said Britt.

Fox and NBC went further by refusing to allow ads for the new DVR on their networks. NBC Broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert justified the decision by calling Auto-Hop “an insult to our joint investment in programming.” It’s a little like the provider of candles saying that the providers of electricity are “an insult to our candle-making operation.”

This isn’t the first time TV executives have reacted this way. In 2001, the networks sued the company that made Replay TV, a DVR with a similar feature. The company removed the feature from its next model, and they eventually went bankrupt.

Clearly, the big studios will stop at nothing to stifle any competition, no matter how beneficial it may be to consumers.

And clearly, the feds are willing to stand by and watch these mammoth companies have their way with the American public.

The point is this: Had municipalities never paved roads, we would still have horses and wagons, but alas, no one ever organized the horses!

Were Kerry Packer alive today, he would be pleased.

I Once Visited Third Base

by Norman Horowitz

Barry Switzer was a famous football coach. A Chicago Tribune article once opened with a quote from Switzer: “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”

To me, this fits Mitt Romney perfectly.

I write this out of a sense of frustration in that Romney comes from “the landed gentry” and cannot “pull off” his portrayal of being an “everyman.”

I was not raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, as Mitt was.

I was raised in the Bronx.

I did not attend Stanford for a year, as Mitt did.

I was not in France for 2 1/2 years as a Mormon missionary.

I entered the United States Air Force during the Korean War.

I did not earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Brigham Young University or a joint JD and MBA from Harvard University in 1975 as a Baker Scholar.

I attended the RCA Institute studying electronics and worked at a minimum wage job to be able to support myself.

I did not enter the management consulting business, which led Mitt to a position at Bain & Company.

I got a clerical job at Screen Gems International.

I did not serve as CEO of the company.

Maybe that’s why I do not oppose mandatory carbon caps known as “cap and trade”…

And why I do not favor increased domestic oil drilling…

And why I do not support a managed bankruptcy of the American automobile industry…

And why I do not favor getting tougher with China on trade issues…

And why I get annoyed when Romney says:

The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of the family.

The dignity of work? Really? How would he know?