Wednesday, August 22, 2007


*A Gallup poll finds that only 14% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of faith in the U. S. House or Senate. Our congressmen have “earned” this nadir of confidence. It is time that we petition our elected officials to change some of the rules and procedures. A few examples:
-They cannot police themselves. An independent oversight ethics body is needed and a breach of ethics must carry serious penalties.
-Congressional actions must become more transparent – earmarks (money for pet projects) must have a congressman’s name attached to the spending. “Anonymous” is not the name of an elected official.
-Too many of our legislators are in the pocket of lobbyists and special interest groups. It is essential that elections be publicly funded. This would also allow our legislators more time to do their jobs rather than to be constantly raising money for re-election.
-An arcane rule allows a single Senator to anonymously block a piece of legislation. This is contrary to the functioning of a democracy.
-It must be required that before a congressman votes on legislation he or she must first read the proposed law. Perhaps a quiz must be passed before one is allowed to cast a vote.

*What’s in a name? The Ottawa-Carleton School Board, budget challenged, is considering selling the naming rights for its schools to corporations. Taco Bell High School or Wal-Mart Public School may soon appear on school fronts and diplomas. In an effort to reduce the soaring cost of higher education in the U.S. I offer the following marketing suggestions:
University of Florida Gatorade Gators
Hamilton College Lincoln Continentals
University of Virginia Yahoo Wahoos
Pepperdine University Clairol Waves
University of Southern California Ribbed Trojans
Xavier University 3 Musketeers
Pacific University Fruit of the Loom Boxers
Mississippi University for Women Prozac Blues
Providence College Frank Perdue Friars
University of Massachusetts Viagra Minutemen

*Rudy Giuliani is a Republican candidate for president. He is running on a “law and order” theme. Bernard Kerik, his former driver and then Police Commissioner of NYC when Giuliani was mayor, has been indicted for various crimes including mob connections and tax evasion. Thomas Ravenal, chairman of Giuliani’s presidential campaign in South Carolina has just been indicted for cocaine distribution (Ravenal’s father has now replaced him as Chairman – an individual widely-known for racist remarks). Most disturbing is Giuliani’s employment of a childhood friend Monsignor Alan Placa who in 2003 was identified in a Suffolk County, NY grand jury report for multiple instances of sexually abusing children as well as covering up similar indiscretions by other priests. The character of one’s friends is a reflection of whom one is.

*I recently commented, somewhat skeptically, on James Dobson’s assertion that God is abandoning America because of lesbian sex. My skepticism is waning. It has been discovered that in a recent release of new dollar coins featuring John Adams some are missing edge inscriptions including “In God We Trust”. This “error” also occurred on the new dollar coins released in March featuring George Washington. Is Reverend Dobson a seer or a numismatist?

*The Artificial Insemination Award for Creativity goes to our Vice President of the United States Richard Bruce Cheney. According to the Dick, his office is not part of the executive branch, not part of the legislative branch, accepts no oversight, reports to no one and makes up the rules as he goes along the yellow brick road. All of this is accomplished with his middle finger standing proud and erect.

*I have been in a quandary over what to do about the 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. Unlike the conservative thinkers on the right of our political spectrum I find it impractical if not impossible that these illegals can be rounded up and shipped back to their country of origin (you may recall that our army and National Guard are somewhere between overextended and devastated). It seems that solutions to our problems rarely take into account our own responsibility for the problem. Was it not our own failed policies and procedures that created this complicated and perplexing situation? We did not protect our borders. Bush announced that he was adding hundreds of new border security guards but his budget did not fund this initiative. We have laws against businesses hiring illegal immigrants but current laws are not enforced by our “law and order” President. These failures did not begin with Bush but they metastasized on his watch. Perhaps before enacting new laws we should enforce the ones we have. If we do not curtail the enticement of jobs and the unlimited flow of illegal workers any new immigration legislation is folly.

*Bull in a China shop. Reuters Business reports that a N.J. importer of 450,000 light truck tires produced in China lack an important safety feature and has asked the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for help in recalling the product. This follows recent revelations of tainted ingredients from China used in pet foods (resulting in illness and death) and foods for human consumption as well as 24 categories of children’s toys being recalled for safety issues. Buyer beware because the U.S. and Chinese governments take the approach of Sgt. Schulz in Hogan’s Heroes – I know ‘nuthinnnnng’.

*Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice - Tuesday June 26, 2007 was a good day for America. Thousands of citizens from every state representing 85 organizations rallied in Washington D.C. demanding that lawmakers hold the Bush administration accountable for the past six years of kidnapping, torture and abuse, Guantanamo prison, illegal wiretaps, illegal investigations by the FBI and many other alphabet organizations of our Federal government. They want the return of American values and the rule of law. To quote the ACLU, “Our Constitution is more than a piece of paper”.

*A report this week tells us that the Afghanistan opium crop, which the U.S. has tried to eradicate, in 2006 grew by 50%. Both higher yields and expanded growing area resulted in a bumper record crop of 7300 tons. Perhaps one day our policy makers will conclude that the decades-long policy of attempting to solve America’s abuse of illegal drugs by attacking the source is not working. When we have a new President perhaps a qualified task force will be assembled to create a new approach.

* I am optimistic about the 2008 elections and the implications for the direction of our country. Recent votes in the Senate on Iraq, stem cell research and union rights went along party lines. In each instance the position of Democrats reflected the opinion of approximately two-thirds of Americans. The stranglehold Republicans have had on progressive ideas over the last decade is about to be broken. Our major media outlets continue to pontificate about the divide of red states and blue states, conservatives and liberals. It may look attractive on a large map but it is not the reality of the state of this country. The election results of 2006 and the opinion polls since then strongly indicate that what we are hearing from the Republican party and its hopefuls is not what the vast majority of Americans want. It is likely that many of the 22 Republican Senators facing re-election in 2008 will be looking for new careers. Expect a number of them to jump off the sinking Bush ship in the near future as they prepare to face their constituents.

Have a nice weekend.

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