Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 2004 / 4 Teves, 5765

Lloyd Garver

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Consumer Reports

I'm ready to be sentenced | Last week, Jim Taricani, a Providence, R.I., television reporter, was sentenced to six months of house arrest for refusing to reveal who leaked to him an FBI video of a city official taking a bribe. Whether the First Amendment guarantees the press the right to keep its sources secret has been a controversial issue for quite some time.

But I'm not going to debate the legal merits here. What I want to talk about is the concept of "house arrest." How serious is it for citizens to have the basic freedom of being able to go wherever they want taken away from them?

There are certain situations in which being confined to your home for six months would definitely be serious punishment — perhaps even cruel and unusual. Here are some examples:

  • You're not allowed to leave your house for six months, and the entire time, your next-door neighbor is doing construction.

  • The cable guy is supposed to show up somewhere between this week and two weeks from now, and you have to make sure you hear that doorbell.

  • Your new puppy isn't close to being paper-trained.

  • You can't find the remote.

  • You've got houseguests who just love your house.

  • You can't figure out what that smell is coming from the basement.

  • Your next-door neighbor is trying to teach his parrot to talk in the backyard.

  • The painter arrives and wants to know which shade of white you want for the dining room.

  • The kid next door takes up drum lessons.
But generally, I'm not so sure it's really such a bad punishment. If I were sentenced to six months of house arrest, it could be a very productive time. I could look at those papers on my desk and throw out all the ones that have phone numbers and no names. I could go through my T-shirts and get rid of those purchased before 1990. I could get a really great shave every day. Every pencil in the house would be sharpened. I could actually have all our clocks set to the exact same time. I could organize all our photographs. Well, some of them.

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My confinement would also mean that for six months, I wouldn't ever be stuck in traffic. Or have to look for a parking place. I wouldn't have to stand in line at the grocery store behind that woman who takes forever and then decides to pay by check. And then can't find her checkbook.

I'd have an excuse not to go to the gym. I wouldn't have to buy any new clothes. I wouldn't have to go out to dinner with people I don't want to eat with. I'd never be in a crowded mall. I wouldn't run into anybody who looked familiar whose name I'd have to pretend to remember. I wouldn't have to listen to some stranger talking on her cell phone in an elevator. I wouldn't have to sit next to anyone at a movie theater who smelled like they just came from a perfume factory. I wouldn't have to stand in that line to get my driver's license renewed. I'd have a 0.0 percent chance of getting mugged. I couldn't have gum surgery.

Overall, this house arrest thing sounds like a pretty good deal. In fact, let me go on record right now as saying that if any judge asks me what my source was for this column, I'm not telling.

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JWR contributor Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. Comment by clicking here. Visit his website by clicking here.


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© 2004, Lloyd Garver