A Major Beef With "Minor Surgery"

(CBS) I had some "minor surgery" recently, and I have to say I was deceived beforehand. No, I wasn't tricked by my doctor. He was great and told me exactly what it would be like. But I guess I didn't believe it would be that bad because it was just "minor surgery." 

Years ago, when my wife was pregnant, none of the medical people ever used the word "pain." They would always say, "discomfort." I learned that in medical terminology, discomfort is somebody else's pain. Similarly, "minor surgery" is surgery on somebody other than the doctor talking about it. 

I know that the operations erroneously dubbed "minor surgery" should not be put in the same category as brain or heart surgery or anything that's life-threatening. On the other hand, they shouldn't be lumped in with skinned knees. 


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Worrying About Not Worrying

(CBS) President Bush passed his recent physical with flying colors — and I mean "flying." He's 59 years old, but does not need cholesterol-lowering or blood pressure drugs. He eats healthy foods, and has lost 8 pounds since December. And the most amazing revelation is that his resting pulse is 47 beats per minute. That's not the kind of pulse rate usually associated with people in high-stress jobs or situations. It's the kind of pulse that well-trained athletes have. 

To put it in perspective, the average pulse rate for a healthy male is about 72 beats per minute. (Unofficially, the average pulse rate for a writer on a deadline is 102). President Bush's remarkable 47 is down from an also exceptional 52 beats per minute in December. Obviously, I'm thrilled that he's in such good health. But I have to admit that part of me would feel more comfortable if his pulse were just a little bit higher. 

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Parents, Iraq And Worry

(CBS) I'm usually the guy who tries to make you laugh, or at least smile. But there are some things that I just don't find funny, yet still feel the need to write about. 

Yesterday I was in the dentist's chair at 8:30 in the morning. It's never a great place to be. But as I was getting my teeth cleaned, I had a fascinating and moving time, listening to my hygienist. She told me that some people she talks to say she is a "bad American." 

Her stepson is 20 years old and is fighting in Iraq. She and her husband get a phone call from him every few months, and a short e-mail every few weeks. She doesn't mind how brief the e-mail is, because at least it's a demonstration that he "still has the use of his hands." So far, he's healthy and doing OK. 

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This Water's All Wet

As we head towards summer and people are getting more and more thirsty, I want to talk about the popularity of the fastest-growing beverage in today's modern world. This miracle drink has 0 calories, 0 sodium, 0 fat, and 0 carbohydrates, so no wonder it's becoming increasingly popular. The drink is called "water." Bottled water. The stuff that used to be for the rich and pretentious is now being lapped up like, well, like water. And I'm not talking about flavored water or bubbly water. I'm talking about Americans spending billions of dollars just to drink something that they could get out of their tap.

Everyone who has seen "Erin Brockovich" knows that not all water is safe (and that not everybody should wear a push-up bra). However, assuming that the water in your area is not poisonous, why buy the bottled stuff? There is the assumption by the consumer (and the impression by the advertiser) that somehow bottled water is healthier for us than regular water or other drinks. Considering that the most popular bottled waters are sold by Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, and Nestle, it's hard to think of them as health foods.

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Modern Times: The Swimsuit Issue

(CBS) As you read this, you are participating in history. This is CBSNews.com's first swimsuit edition of a column. 

I have mixed feelings about being the author of this historic column, but the realities of today's competitive market have forced my hand. For years, sex, skin, and swimsuits have been used to attract people to products, publications, and productions. Many of us in the media have resisted joining the flesh peddlers for as long as we could. But when National Geographic came out with a swimsuit issue this month, that was the straw that broke our sunscreen-slathered backs. No, you won't see sexy pictures in this column. But I am wearing a swimsuit as I write. 

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Are We Raising A Nation Of Wimps?

(CBS) I'm not for going back to the bad old days of bullies running the playground, corporal punishment, or throwing a kid into a pool to see if he can swim. I don't think we need teachers and coaches who spend their days embarrassing and yelling at kids. But in our desire to be more humane towards children, I wonder if our politically correct urge to be sensitive has gone too far. 

An elementary school in Santa Monica, California recently expressed a negative opinion of a game that it not only considered physically dangerous, but potentially harmful to a child's self-esteem. The name of the dangerous game is "tag." 

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The Shortest Presidency

(CBS) Last Saturday, Dick Cheney was President of the United States for two hours and fifteen minutes. He got this position without controversy, without spending a dime campaigning, and without the Supreme Court making a dubious ruling. 

President Bush invoked the 25th Amendment making Cheney the temporary President while Mr. Bush underwent a routine colonoscopy. The only other time the 25th Amendment had been used was when Ronald Reagan had colon surgery and transferred his powers to the first President Bush. Historians will note that, so far, this amendment is only used when it involves both a George Bush and a colon. 

The official version of what happened during Cheney's two hours and fifteen minutes as the most powerful man in the world includes an intelligence briefing and staff meetings. 

Yeah, right. Isn't it a lot more likely that what happened during those 135 minutes was Dick Cheney getting a kick out of being President? 

He probably sat in the big chair, put his feet up on the desk in the oval office, and phoned all his old friends, saying, "Guess where I'm calling from?" I wouldn't be surprised if he put in a special call to that high school teacher in Wyoming who said he'd never amount to anything. If you peeked in the White House during those hours, you might have seen Cheney joyously dancing to "Hail to the Chief." And would he really be able to resist calling to make dinner reservations for "President and Mrs. Cheney?" 

If he's the prankster that many think he is, maybe he toyed with his aides by saying things like, "What happens if I press this red button? Oops!" 

At 9:24 AM, Mr. Bush sent a fax to the White House, telling Mr. Cheney that he was no longer the temporary President. How tempted do you think he was to pretend that he never received that transmission? 
AIDE: "Now that you have the fax, it's time to surrender the Presidency back to President Bush, sir." 

CHENEY: "Fax? What fax? I never got a fax. I'm going to take Air Force One for a little spin now. See you later."
I find it interesting that the Amendment was invoked because President Bush was going to be unconscious for about twenty minutes. Certainly this was not the first time, nor the longest time, that a sitting President had been unconscious while in office. 

And why invoke the amendment while the President was asleep because of the anesthetic, but not every night when the President is just asleep? That way, we could have a daytime President and a nighttime President. While Congress will probably spend years and millions debating my proposal of a Night and Day Presidency, I have a suggestion that requires more immediate attention: 

The most significant thing about those two hours and fifteen minutes while Cheney was president is that nothing bad happened. No new wars were declared, the stock market didn't plunge, and not one politician was arrested for a felony. Was there ever a more successful Presidency in the history of the United States? 

Does this mean that Dick Cheney has the stuff to be the greatest President ever? Not necessarily. What it means is that two hours and fifteen minutes is not enough time for a president to get in any trouble. Or, for that matter, it's not enough time for a president to get our country in any trouble. 

Therefore, I propose that we take another look at, not the 25th, but the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution. That's the one that says that the longest a president can serve is eight years. I propose that those eight years be reduced to two hours and fifteen minutes. That's how long we should elect our presidents for. It seems like the perfect length of time for a person to do no harm to the country, but still enjoy sitting in that oval office and bragging to his friends and old teachers. 

On second thought, maybe we'd better round it down to two hours. These people can get in trouble awfully fast.

Paris On Two Prozacs A Day

(CBS) The other day, I received an invitation from Tom DeLay, HYPERLINK "http://www.majorityleader.gov/" \t "new" Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. Some people would probably say it's just a computer-generated form trying to elicit a contribution to help reelect the president. However, I felt compelled to reply: 

Tom DeLay, M.C. 
Majority Leader
United States Congress
H-107 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515 

Dear Congressman DeLay: 

I just received the invitation to serve as an Honorary Chairman of the House Majority Trust and to come to the 2004 President's Dinner in Washington. I accept. 

Since you invited me personally — it said "Lloyd Garver" right on the envelope, and the letter started off "Dear Friend" — you are apparently familiar with and, I guess, a "friend" of my column. Perhaps one reason you invited me was so I would share with the other guests the views expressed in your favorite columns of mine. With that in mind, I will be prepared to discuss such things as the First Swimsuit Column,Dan Quayle as a possible running mate for John Kerry, and the survey that determined that slobs make better lovers. I don't mind admitting that I was flattered when you said, "some of the best and wisest decisions will come from working together with exceptional individuals like you." 

As a columnist, I have often been rough on politicians from both sides of the aisle. I have certainly not treated the current president with kid gloves. In fact, I have often expressed how appalled I've been at things President Bush has done and said. And yet, you still invited me to this occasion. I am very touched. Until now, I had dismissed the president's description of himself as a "uniter, not a divider" as so much political rhetoric. But because of your desire to include me in this group and at this dinner, I must view the Republican Party as the party of inclusion. 

Similarly, I was pleased by your admission that "the Democrats embrace an agenda far different from the principles and ideals of our Republican Party." I think that such an admission may be the first step to correcting the mistakes of the Republican Party, and I congratulate you on your bravery in making this admission public. 

I noticed that you put "M.C." after your name, so I guess you will be the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. I have a couple of suggestions about that. The Republican Party is often accused of not being the party of minorities, so I would lay off the ethnic humor. The safest thing might be for you to just do a few impersonations. You could start with the old, stiff Al Gore and end with the new, ranting Al Gore. But if you feel yourself losing the audience, just say how optimistic you are about America and mention the words "national security." It always works. 

Now, to a ticklish topic. When I got to the end of the letter and saw that you were asking people to donate $5,000, well, frankly, I was shocked. You don't invite someone to dinner and then ask them to pay you for the privilege of being invited. It's okay to ask a guest to bring a bottle of wine, a dessert, maybe a side dish. But $5,000?! 

Now that I think about it, asking me for a contribution must have been some sort of computer mistake. Someone with your experience is certainly aware that as a columnist, it would be unethical for me to make such a donation. So I guess somebody on your staff "cut-and-pasted" when they were just supposed to "paste." No biggie. Don't even bother trying to find out who messed up. Sometimes the chain of command gets awfully fuzzy. Besides, everybody will probably just say they were following orders. 

So, obviously, I won't be contributing any money. But from your letter, it's clear that this dinner is not about money. It's about ideas, people, and, yes, America. So I know that you won't rescind my invitation just because I'm not contributing financially. 

I look forward to seeing you on July 21st, and don't worry about me. I can just take a cab to the dinner. 


Lloyd Garver
Honorary Chairman 

P.S. If there is going to be Japanese food, I'd rather not sit next to the president's father.

The Fighting Pacifists

(CBS) There's a crisis in sports today. I'm not talking about the high salaries and ticket prices, the drugs, or the abominable Designated Hitter rule. I'm talking about the state of team names and mascots. Political correctness and social consciousness have changed nicknames that were once sacrosanct. 

Opposition to racism has been the prime motivation for the change. Understandably, Native Americans did not like having their culture portrayed as simultaneously goofy and war-like. They felt there was more to their heritage than tomahawks and face paint. In response to this, hundreds of teams have changed their nicknames. Some remain. Despite all kinds of opposition including a public denunciation by Hank Aaron, the Atlanta Braves remain the Atlanta Braves. Possibly worse, our nation's capital is represented in the NFL by a team shamefully called, "Redskins." Think about it: the color of someone's skin is the actual name of a team. 

I'm not against getting rid of the offensive names. It's just that dubious ones often replace them. The problem is that almost every name might insult somebody. So, how do we find names that conjure up the proper images for sports teams without offending people? 

In addition to racism, those in charge have tried to rid sports of sexism. This has resulted in some pretty odd names. For years, the men's athletic teams at the University of South Carolina have been known as, "the Gamecocks." Obviously a gamecock is a male animal. So, as women's sports became bigger at the school, they had to come up with a name for the women's teams. They call them "Lady Gamecocks." What exactly is a lady gamecock? 

In the NBA, some people thought the "Washington Bullets" sounded too violent. They changed the name to the "Washington Wizards," thereby offending those who don't believe wizardry is an appropriate image for a sports team. Similarly, how about "Blue Devils," "Red Devils," and "Demons?" There are plenty of people who probably don't want their kids to root for a team whose symbol personifies evil. 

What about teams named "Conquerors," "Pirates," or "Marauders?" Do we really want to have teams named for people who killed and plundered? How much longer can the Idaho "Vandals" exist without protest? The "Brewers" promote alcohol, something sports can probably do without. And I'm sure some religious people are offended by teams like the "Monks" of St. Joseph's College or Centre College's "Praying Colonels." However, I guess the Whitman College "Missionaries" are probably good at converting extra points. 

There are other names that just don't seem right for all kinds of reasons. The men's baseball team at California State University at Long Beach is called the "Dirtbags." Do the "Runnin' Rebels" of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas imply a cowardly Confederate army? Richland High School in Washington state is near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, one of the sites involved in producing the first atomic bomb. The nickname for that school? "The Bombers." And the athletes at Yuma High School are known as, the "Criminals." 

There are many team names that probably don't offend anybody. But do they really sound like the name of a team you can cheer for? What image does the University of California at Santa Cruz "Banana Slugs" bring to mind? Do the "Purple Cows" of Williams College sound ferocious to you? How about the Amherst Lord Jeffs? Or the Freeport High "Pretzels," or the Washburn University "Ichabods?" What's the cheer for the Teutopolis High School "Wooden Shoes?" – - "Clog 'em?" And are visiting teams really intimidated by Scottsdale Community College's mascot: the "Fighting Artichoke?" I can't help wondering about any team that goes well with vinaigrette. 

I don't know what the answer is, but we'll have to work harder to try to come up with names that are not offensive but still evoke an athletic image. The WNBA is trying its best to go with names that don't hurt anybody's feelings. Maybe they're trying too hard. They have a team called, the "Miami Sol." To me, that doesn't sound like a sports team. It sounds like a retired guy who hangs out at a deli.