- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

CHIA NON GRATA

The national conversation on race takes many turns, and here’s one of them: Chia-gate.

The Chia population is fairly large. Now, you know about Chias - those diminutive clay figurines that grow living green “hair” when spread with a slurry of grass seeds and water. There are Chia cats, dogs, dinosaurs, cartoon characters. There are Chias modeled after George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and the Statue of Liberty.

There also is one in the likeness of President Obama. But the “Chia Obama” has created a major skittish moment for Walgreens and CVS. Both retailers have refused to carry it, with CVS pulling the supplies off its shelves on Wednesday.

“It’s crazy. First Walgreens, now CVS dropped Chia Obama for no reason. I have no explanation. I know consumers want it, and we never got any bad press,” Joe Pedott tells Inside the Beltway.

The president of San Francisco-based Joseph Enterprises Inc., which manufactures the line - along with the Clapper and other as-seen-on-TV fare, Mr. Pedott met with Mr. Obama himself in May, and even has the blessings of Jesse Jackson.

“He looked over Chia Obama and said it was a ‘fine product.’ I have three witnesses on that. I guess this rejection by retailers has to do with fear,” Mr. Pedott says. “There are always radical reactions. People think we’re showing the president in an Afro hairdo, or showing him as a ‘pet.’ That’s not it at all. The message is ‘I’m proud to be an American,’ and peace, hope and prosperity. There’s no ‘pet’ here.”

There could be a loss, considering that CVS has 7,000 stores, Walgreens 7,042. But Mr. Pedott is not discouraged. The Chia Obama has a new Web site now for those who still want one (www.chiaobama.com).

“And if people think the ‘hair’ gets too long on their Chia Obama, they can just cut it a little,” Mr. Pedott adds.

THE MAX FACTOR

Let Freedom Ring, the same grassroots group that persuaded scores of lawmakers to pledge to read health care reform legislation, is now playing hardball with a certain Montana Democrat through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed Thursday.

The FOIA letter requests “access to and copies of all correspondence, notes, e-mails, faxes, telephone logs, office visit logs, records of meetings and related documents exchanged between Sen. Max Baucus‘ office and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (CMS) directly or indirectly related to a letter that Humana Inc. sent to its Medicare Advantage policyholders suggesting that proposed health-care legislation could lower their benefits.”

The group’s president, Colin A. Hanna, notes, “This latest effort led by Sen. Baucus is just another example of Congress not being accountable to the American people. The way this investigation came about is sketchy, and we are calling for complete transparency. Sen. Baucus appears to be on a crusade to rush through the health care bill his committee crafted. We want to see if he applied improper political pressure to intimidate Humana in order to crush their dissent.”

GENE THERAPY

Gene Hackman has a few thoughts on celebrities and politics, which he shared with “America’s Morning News” talk radio on Friday. The famous do not hold their tongues, the Academy Award winning actor said.

“You’re a private person, a voter, and American citizen, and you shouldn’t rely on a sense of celebrity to determine what it is you’re saying. You have to be realistic. If celebrities have something to say, they say it, they put their foot in their mouth, or whatever they want to do,” Mr. Hackman said.

But supposing he disagrees with one of his fellow luminaries - say Robert Duvall, a pro-military kind of guy? Never fear. There’s still harmony in Hollywood.

“I might have a problem with Bobby Duvall’s political opinion, but I trust that he feels very strongly about it. We’re still friends, though we differ politically,” Mr. Hackman said.

He also has cordial feelings for Jon Voight, another silver screen conservative who has done much to support the troops.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Mr. Hackman said.

POLL DU JOUR

32 percent of employees have played hooky from work with a fake illness.

28 percent of supervisors say employees fake illness due to the “stress of the recession.”

Top-10 excuses given to supervisors by employees claiming to be “sick”:

“I got sunburned at a nude beach and cant wear clothes.”

“I woke up in Canada.”

“I got caught selling an alligator.”

“My mom said I was not allowed to go to work today.”

“A bee flew in my mouth.”

“Im just not into it today.

“A random person threw poison ivy in my face and now I have a rash.”

“Im convinced my spouse is having an affair and Im staying home to catch them.”

“I was injured chasing a seagull.”

“I have a headache from eating hot peppers.”

Source: A Career Builders survey of 3,163 managers and 4,721 workers conducted Aug. 20-Sept. 9

Excuses, whimpering, press releases to jharper@ washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085. Follow her at twitter.com/harperbulletin


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