Thursday, June 26, 2008

A handshake once said it all

This first published June 26, 2008 in the Boulder City News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

There is a breakdown in the moral compass of American society, which seems to be spinning wildly as though it were seated on the North Pole.

Look at the headlines of teenage girls making a pact to get pregnant so they can raise their babies together, as though it’s a free pass to adulthood. The story is now being denied by city officials, while the high school principal is having a memory lapse, unable to recall where he heard the rumor. Either way, it is a sad indication of society.

Then there are more than 400 people connected to the real estate industry who have been arrested for fraud and other conspiracies connected to the mortgage crisis.

Remember the days when a man’s word was his bond and you could take it to the bank where the teller, who knew you, would accept it based upon your own word? I do!

Some of those folks were the ones who believed in Las Vegas and its potential to thrive, then blossom.

Some were of the unsavory kind. However, if they said they would do something like break your leg, you could count on it.

Then there were respectable ones who made a promise or even an indication they would do something and always followed through.

Growing up, I met many of them through my parents, who had the same high level of integrity.

I’m reminded of these folks who lived by their words after seeing the documentary “Where I Stand: The life of Hank Greenspun.” The film, produced by his granddaughter, Amy Greenspun, and directed by Scott Goldstein, was amazing.

Personally, it chronicled many of the incredible facets of Hank’s life that I already knew. Each segment was akin to untying a ribbon from a present, then opening it up only to discover another present inside. It unfolded the integrity of a man who feared nothing in the pursuit of justice, even if it involved the unjust actions of those sworn to uphold the law.

I said it chronicled many of the incredible facets. Not all, because there was much more to his life that may never see the big screen. His infectious adoration of children, his generosity to employees, his loyalty to his friends and his word as his bond.

Hank was magic, and he had a magic closet to prove it. Just ask the hundreds of children who experienced the mighty publisher opening the closet filled with joy in the form of stuffed animals, trinkets and a treasure chest. With their parents watching, Hank would invite the children to pick a toy to take with them.

I’m not sure who relished in the joy more, the lucky child or the inner child of Hank basking in a moment of unconditional love only a child can give.

He was generous with those who worked for him, even in the most challenging times.

Twenty-nine years ago, he gave a kid a job, even though the kid’s father thought it wasn’t a good idea. Hank said he would help him find a summer job, however. He would never promise then fail to keep his word.

The kid didn’t mind sweeping the mailroom and prepacking inserts for the Las Vegas Sun that summer. Who knew it would be the beginning of a lifelong career in publishing for that kid? Hank gave me my first job in the newspaper, or rather he suggested to someone else to do so.

It’s no secret my dad worked with Hank on a handshake that would extend another 15 years beyond Hank’s death, with his son Brian, until my dad’s death in 2004.

It had then become an annual ritual between my dad and Brian Greenspun. My dad would say, “It’s been another year,” and Brian would ask if he wanted a contract. The answer was always no, because he had one bonded by a handshake.

Hank was a fine example of the moral fabric that made this country great. If you ever get the opportunity to see “Where I Stand,” take it!

It may provide an opportunity for you to take inventory of your life and consider what you can do to help reset the moral compass of America. Perhaps, it’s as simple as following through on your word.

It sounds simple, but is it?

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Do Dems have time to recover?

This first published June 12, 2008 in the Boulder City News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

It's been exactly three months since I wrote about the Democratic dream team meltdown. That column can be found on my blog listed at the bottom of this column.

Now that Obama has prevailed and Clinton has conceded, she certainly has left the door open for the two of them to consummate a deal to seal the dream team, but will he be willing to dance?

It's hard to ignore the fact her spouse is a former president with very distinct opinions. This situation reminds me of something my dad told me more than a few times during his life when I made a decision he wasn't completely sold on. Depending on how little he agreed or disagreed, he would refer to me as Tim, son or boy. He would say “OK, boy, now that you let the tiger out of the cage, let's see if you can keep hold of its tail.”

The question for Obama is if he puts Hillary Clinton on the ticket, will he be letting former President Clinton out of the cage? Is he willing to hold the tiger by the tail?

Actually, it doesn't matter because Bill Clinton is a former president, and he will be an influence no matter who the next president is. That's just the way it is.

Hillary has much to offer the Obama campaign. She has great appeal to women voters. Even first lady Laura Bush said she admires Hillary for her grit and strength, only she wishes the first woman president would be a Republican.

Ah yes, what about the meltdown? Do the Democrats have enough chillers to remold the dream team, or will the Republicans keep turning up the heat? It might be easier to hire a Zamboni and create an ice rink in the desert.

In my previous column, I considered Sen. John McCain as non-threatening to the Democrats, but my consideration is quickly changing.

The election of the president hinges on the quality of the running mate by either candidate.

If I were a tag team wrestling promoter and looking to draw in voters rather than spectators or pay-per-viewers, I would select Obama-Clinton vs. McCain-Romney for a major payday. A matchup like that could give either a party a win.

Its all speculation at this point anyway.

Here's a bit of speculation you can chew on. A friend of mine has suggested to me the Republicans have pretty much given up and are letting the Democrats have the next four years to deal with the mess the economy is in.

That would be a mistake for them. In my opinion, which isn't much, they would be giving up the White House for at least four years and possibly 16. Imagine for a moment that Obama picks Hillary, they win, and she hangs in there for four years, possibly eight. She will still be younger than McCain is today, and he is not too old to run for president. Perhaps, she decides to run against Obama in 2012 — then she could possibly do two terms as president.

This is what I like most about elections, because it allows us the opportunity to imagine strategies that may never happen.

However, if I had a Democratic strategy, it would have been to nominate Hillary first and run Obama the younger of the two as vice president, then in eight years he would have been unstoppable. I'll let you know in November or 2012 if hind site is 20/20.

Tim O'Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

Monday, June 2, 2008

Gas prices change family's fun

This first published May 29, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

What used to be relatively cheap entertainment is no longer so.

For years, we have enjoyed less expensive gasoline in our Northwest Arizona getaway, primarily because there are fewer local taxes added on than in Clark County, which has plenty.

This was true until this past Memorial Day weekend, when the gouging began. The week before, I had checked our only local gasoline retailer in Arizona, and the price was $3.67 per gallon. Imagine my shock over the weekend when I went to fill two 5-gallon gas containers and the price had jumped to $4.19 per gallon. Heck, that’s 10 cents more than the notoriously high-priced Chevron station across from the Hacienda Hotel between Boulder City and the Hoover Dam.

That is a 52-cent jump in price with no explanation. It is taking advantage of unsuspecting visitors and tourists, who quickly realize the nearest pump is at least 30 miles away.

It has always been my habit to spend money at the combination gas station-grocery store to help the local economy by purchasing odds and ends like milk, eggs, bread and filling up with gas before heading home. Although I’m miffed about the weekend price hike, I’ll probably continue to add to the local economy. After all, they bake the best bread around. But I’ll think twice about purchasing gas before heading home.

The days of tossing $25 into the boat tank for a day’s worth of fun whipping the kids around on a towable are quickly fading, along with $20 to spend a day quad riding. The challenge for me isn’t in the price of gas so much as it is the challenge of planning our excursions with better purpose.

This concept makes my bride giddy with excitement, because for her this is an opportunity for families to get back together to spend quality time with each other. This may include shorter boat rides and more family games on the beach or shorter distances on the quads with longer hikes and picnics while out exploring.

Her excitement over quality family time has been resonating with me lately, causing me to rethink how we’ve spent time with our children. Although it has always been our intention to engage our children, it seems I have spent plenty of time entertaining them probably more than I should have.

For example, we have a vacation home with a boat and a few quads. Granted the boat is small and 13 years old, but it has provided us special opportunities to engage our children by experiencing nature in ways not available to most Americans.

Are our children any worse off being entertained? I would say probably not.
The real question is would they be better off without the material stuff and spending more time playing board games?

Maybe so. Or maybe a modified combination would be better to build interpersonal communication skills.

Suppose for a moment that gas is $8 per gallon, you live in an urban city, work within a mile of home, you have no big toys and no car. How concerned are you about the price of gas?

Now suppose for a moment that gas is $8 per gallon and your situation is the same as today. How concerned are you?

It’s not out of the question to consider these situations, because gas is $8.93 per gallon in Germany. Why could it not happen here?

What adjustments would you make to your lifestyle? How would you entertain your children? Would you use the opportunity to engage your children? These are all interesting questions to ponder if you have a moment.

As the economy slumps and the price gougers gouge, look for opportunities to endure by bringing family and friends closer together. Throw a simple barbecue, listen to music and play a few games.

Why wait for the price of gas to go up in order to engage your family in healthy communication and board games?

My bride loves board games. I’m less than enthusiastic about them but willing to play.

So what about you?

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at