Friday, September 24, 2010

If it worked once ...

When movie studios in Hollywood run short of ideas or are desperate for a hit film, they often churn out sequels to movies that have been big successes in the past. The Republican Party is trying much the same thing. In 1994, Newt Gingrich and the gang came up with the Contract with America, a list of promises that resonated with voters and led to a Republican massacre of Democrats in House and Senate races. Halfway through President Obama’s term, current Republicans are hoping for a replay of that success and have come up with their “Pledge to America.” The main points can be boiled down to this: They’ll cut taxes and at the same time cut government spending. They also promise to repeal Obama's health-care reform law and put an immediate stop to stimulus spending. According to an AP story, the GOP plan is short on specifics in some important areas, but that’s not surprising. If you start answering vital questions, such as how you're going to cut spending or how you’re going to bail out Social Security, you might anger some people, and that’s not advisable in an election year. In this case, honesty appears to be far from the best policy. There’s really nothing new in this “Pledge to America.” But Republicans were fairly giddy about the manifesto, acting as if they had just cured cancer and herpes all in one fell swoop. Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said, “It’s a contrast to the way we conducted ourselves a decade ago. We spent too much money. We lost our way.” Frankly, if somebody tells me that he helped to spend too much of my money and lost his way, I really don't think I'd be interested in returning him for another shot at it. Ryan might want to avoid that "lost our way" stuff in future speeches. Another Republican congressman, Pete Sessions of Texas, shown above, crowed that “We’ve put things on a sheet of paper.” Well, whoop-de-damn-doo. These fiscally prudent Republicans want to save money by halting the spending of any more stimulus money, but then they want to turn right around and spend about $700 billion to give continued tax relief to rich people. And if you still believe that any significant portion of the money those rich folks get to keep will trickle down into the pockets of the poor, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. One last thing. It's an interesting little story about Pete Sessions, reported by the Politico website. Politico noted that on Sessions' Internet site last year, he referred to congressional earmarks as “a symbol of a broken Washington to the American people.” Sounds like a guy who is taking a stand against government waste. Right? Wrong. Politico went on to report that in 2008, Sessions got a $1.6 million earmark for blimp research for an Illinois company “whose president acknowledges having no experience in government contracting, let alone in building blimps.” How did the company, Jim G. Ferguson & Associates, come to Sessions’ attention? Through Adrian Plesha, a former aide to the congressman who once pleaded guilty to lying to the feds about some dirty political dealing in which he was involved and who made almost half a million dollars for his work with Ferguson & Associates. But if Sessions could help a company in his Dallas-area district create jobs, who could argue with that? Just one problem. The would-be blimp-building company was based in suburban Chicago. At least the company had a second office in San Antonio, far from Sessions’ district but at least in Texas. But somehow, when Sessions turned in his earmark request, the company suddenly had a Dallas address. Did they open a new office? No. According to one of the owners of Ferguson & Associates, that Dallas address was actually for the home of one of his close pals. There was no office there at all. Bottom line: When somebody pledges to you that they're going to take better care of your money than the guys in charge now, check carefully before you swallow it hook, line and sinker. It seems to me that no matter who is running the show – Democrats or Republicans – the lies, ineptitude and corruption don’t change much.

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Heck, cover her with some of Big Bird's feathers

Katy Perry’s breasts got her kicked off Sesame Street. I never thought I’d have to write that sentence, but because there is no shortage of prudes in this country, I finally got my chance. Perry, who is a rather attractive pop singer, did a musical number with the Sesame Street puppet Elmo that was supposed to run on the show, but when a clip of the video turned up on YouTube, some people apparently were aghast about the dress Perry was wearing, featuring a gold bustier top much like the one in the photo above. And, of course, with this being one of the leading countries in the world in which people are highly outraged by next to nothing, those folks complained. And Sesame Street, of course, bowed down immediately and killed plans to run the segment. You can still see it on Perry’s website at Judge for yourself. But here’s my opinion. Katy Perry is a pretty gorgeous human being, but I find it hard to believe that anybody was offended by her cleavage because, well, she really doesn’t have much to speak of. I guarantee you that you can go to pretty much any beach in this country and see a lot more skin that what’s revealed by Perry’s dress. Heck, go to Washington Crown Center and you’ll see a lot more. Back in the day, the women’s underwear section of the Sears catalog featured more in the way of partial nudity. Honestly, unless it was pointed out by an adult, if kids watched this video, they wouldn’t think a thing of it. And I wonder if we’d even be talking about this if Perry’s dress had a couple of little straps on it. Unfortunately, children are too often taught that the human body is something to be ashamed of. The folks who are griping about Perry are probably the same ones who want women who breast-feed their children in public to be treated like Hester Prynne. Some people in this country are becoming more like the Taliban every day.

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This and that

– A few days back, some of you might have seen a North Carolina sheriff pleading with law enforcement officers across the country to be on the lookout for his 23-year-old daughter's killer. It seemed pretty cut and dried. The guy in question is a convicted sex offender and all-around scumbag. The girl was described by her father as "perfect." But now you have to wonder. The suspect, Michael Harvey, claims that while he panicked and stuffed Valerie Hamilton’s body in a storage unit, he didn’t kill her. Instead, he says Hamilton, shown above, overdosed when they both took heroin, and she was dead beside him when he woke up the next morning. Add to that the fact that police said medical examiners found evidence of drug use, that it appears Hamilton left a bar of her own free will with Harvey, and that there were no outward signs of violence on the young woman’s body, and you have to begin to wonder if the guy might be telling the truth. Toxicology tests will most likely tell the tale in this case. It just goes to show that initial impressions in a criminal investigation can be dead wrong. The cops might get Harvey for providing the drugs that killed the woman, but the real blame for her death, if it was an overdose, lies with her poor decision-making.

– A school district in central Pennsylvania is engaged in a dispute with the mother of one of its students. Janet Malin wants Lampeter-Strasburg School District to exempt her son from its random drug-testing policy, with which the boy must comply in order to get a permit to park on campus. The woman’s reasoning? According to an AP story, the mother says her boy was raised in the Quaker faith, which “requires him to be truthful and obey society’s laws.” I’ve got two words for Ms. Malin: Richard Nixon. Nixon was a Quaker, and he was one helluva liar. Case closed. Verdict for the school district.

– The latest case of official stupidity came out of a New Jersey school district this week. It seems a fifth-grader who found a cigarette lighter on his way to school has been suspended because the lighter was considered a threat to student safety. I kid you not. Never mind that the 11-year-old never even tried to flick the Bic. The idiot school superintendent said the district considers something a weapon if it “has the potential to cause harm.” Guess what? Being exposed to dim bulbs like the school officials in that district pose a greater threat to students than an unlit lighter ever could.

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