223 Mar 25, 2002

COLUMBUS: The Academy Awards was last night. Well, they started last night, but nothing much happened till just before breakfast this morning. If Hollywood movies developed that slow, nobody would be there to watch ’em but the ushers.

Whoopi Goldberg was MC, but she didn’t just walk out on the stage like an MC usually does. No, she dropped out of the sky, over the audience, on kind of a swing. All the other ladies were wearing fancy gowns, trying to look their best. But she wore an outfit that made her look more like a plucked chicken. Except she still had her tail feathers. Can you imagine Bob Hope or Billy Crystal with tail feathers?

ABC broadcast the show. If it had been on NBC, they would have done it like the Olympics and shown it on tape delay. Giving us less suspense, but more sleep. And Whoopi would have swooped in as a peacock.

There was so much talk about the Oscars all over television, radio, and newspapers, most of us have spent more time hearing about the movies than we spent watching them.

The awards show is mainly for the women anyway. The men are all watching basketball. The NCAA narrowed the field down to four teams: Oklahoma, Maryland, Kansas and Indiana. So pick your favorite state. I’ve got Oklahoma.

We’ll find out next Monday night who wins. CBS says it’ll be over by midnight because they don’t stop a game for acceptance speeches. They only stop for commercials.

These past few weeks I’ve been ignoring Washington, and look what happened. They put high tariffs on everything, from steel to wood to sugar. I had read where steel studs were ready to take on the old reliable pine 2×4. But tariffs have raised the price of both so high the old home builder can’t afford either one.

Candy manufacturers are closing down and moving to Mexico where sugar is half price. Sugar is so high here… can you believe it?… you can afford to make it out of corn. If Congress doubled the tariff again, you could probably make it out of sawdust.

So, timber cutters, write your Congressman, and stop worrying about Canadian studs. Bet on Oak Sweetener, that’s where your future lies.

Congress passed their Election Reform bill. My reform idea from last week didn’t get very far. I was too late. If I had been a week or two earlier, it could have picked up a few votes.

If you don’t understand where the benefits lie in this Reform package, just wait, the lawyers and accountants will figure it out and let you know where to send your campaign contributions.

You just watch, there’ll be more money spent in the next Presidential election than ever before. According to the bill, they can spend just as much, but they have to spend it sooner. And, as usual, the ones with the most dough will win 90% of the time.

I read today where the Indian tribes will be big contributors because the government can’t limit the amount they give. That news will thrill the poor old Indian, till he realizes he don’t have any money to give.

Speaking of Indians, West Virginia is going to stop teaching Indian history at 4-H camps the way they’ve been doing for 80 years. Think of the number of young people who learned about the heritage of the tribes that inhabited West Virginia years ago: the Senecas, Mingos, Delawares, and of course, Cherokees. I think West Virginia got it backwards. Instead of them stopping, the other 49 ought to start.


Historic quotes from Will Rogers: (on tariffs)

“(Congress is) still doing a little light work on the tariff, each member according to the needs of his own State. Being 48 States that makes 48 versions of the tariff. In fact, 49, as the North and South of California both raise different stuff. The tariff is an instrument invented for the benefit of those who make, to be used against those who buy. As there is more buys than there is makes, it is a document of the minority. But what a minority.” DT #912, June 28, 1929


“Mr. (Henry) Ford issued a statement last week that this new tariff bill if passed will be the worse thing in the world for all of us. You see a lot of manufacturing establishments try to cover up their own business ability by having the Government protect them against somebody that handles their business better than they do. They can always holler ‘Cheap labor!’ But the cost of transportation to this country more than makes up for that. So every little Industry that can’t make a big profit hollers for protection. We won’t see the real effects of this till we have all these other Countries passing restrictive tariffs against us. You can’t stop the other fellow from shipping his goods to us without him doing something to get even.
Some of the smartest and most conscientious men in our National life have been divided on the tariff question. It’s not all Politics, a lot of it is a matter of real opinion, based on a long study.
Arguing tariff is sorter like arguing religion. There just ain’t any answer. If a business thrives under a protective tariff, that don’t mean that it has been a good thing. It may have thrived because it made the people of America pay more for the object than they should have, so a few have got rich at the cost of the many. There is never any way of estimating the damage done by a tariff.”
 WA #388, June 1, 1930

“Senator Reed Smoot interrupted President Hoover’s vacation with a plea to please help the sugar industry. There is 120,000,000 of us eat it, and exactly 1,231 that raise it. But Reed has dedicated his entire political career to make sugar not only sweet but dear to the 120,000,000.” DT #943, Aug. 4, 1929

“My old friends (in Congress) Pat Harrison and Bob La Follette was investigating sugar. We have more arguments over sugar than we do over all the things combined that sugar goes on, or in. Pat was kinder protecting Mississippi. They got a kind of kaffir corn that renders out a thing they think is sorter sweet.” DT #2359, Feb. 23, 1934


222 Mar 17, 2002

IRELAND, WV: Can you imagine being in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day? Around here, one day ain’t enough, so these folks celebrate an Irish Spring Festival all week.

My turn on the agenda came three nights ago when I followed the candidates for King and Queen to the stage. They were asked to give a campaign speech, but because you had to be over 60 to get nominated, they didn’t say much. They all figured folks in these parts knew everything about ’em already. In fact two of the six said they were roped into running, and one didn’t show up at all. You could tell they were all deserving and had a long record of service to the community.

There is something about the way these folks get elected that is worth sharing with the world. See, they are elected by dollar contributions, a penny a vote.

There’s no novelty to the concept, in fact it’s kinda like we elect most folks in this country. Whoever collects the most, wins.

Here in Ireland all the proceeds, every penny collected, is put to good use: the upkeep of the old community building. (It used to be the grade school for this end of the county, but somebody figured the students would be smarter if they spent an extra hour a day on a bus.)

Now just suppose we did the same in all of our elections. Imagine the good it would do. Whatever a candidate for President or Congress collects… 50 million, or 100 million, or 200 million…. it would all go into the U.S. Treasury to pay off the National debt. For Governors and Legislators, all the money would go into their own state Treasuries. Same way for all the city and local elections. No more throwing away campaign money on television ads and political consultants.

This way, whoever collects the most is automatically elected, without going through the pretense and expense of an election.

Out of the money collected, the national candidates would get a small weekly allowance, just enough to hire a bus to take them around the country, like John Madden to football games. The in-state candidates would get a pickup truck, like Janet Reno.

What if there’s a tie, like Florida, and everyone collects the same amount?

Well, do what they do in a basketball game, go into overtime. Add another week to the campaign. That would raise even more money for a good cause. It’s not likely you would have another tie, but if you did, a second overtime week couldn’t hurt. This way you keep the Supreme Court out of it, and it’s all decided before deer season.

But, what about the poor person who can’t afford to contribute?

This is where Election Reform comes in. I would make one change, and I think I would have the unanimous support of John McCain and Ted Kennedy on this one. Let the poor, and the unemployed and anybody else, volunteer their time instead of dollars. But instead of working directly for the candidate, stuffing envelopes and making those annoying phone calls at supper time, they would work for a charity or other needy cause, including the government.

Every hour worked would count so many dollars for their candidate. That way, you make it a fair election. One candidate might collect a pile of dollars, but if the other guy can collect hundreds or thousands of hours of work, why you have yourself a real election campaign.

Now I don’t know if it’ll work nationally, but it sure went over here. If Congress adopts this Election Plan, there’s plenty of folks here in Ireland that can teach ’em how to run it. I hear that Sen. Daschle intends to adopt some kind of election reform plan this week, so why not pick one with a proven record.

Before I go on, I’ve got to be perfectly honest with you. I don’t want you to think I’m plum loco with what I’m about to admit to you. Yes, I was in Ireland Thursday, but I’m not in Ireland today. I’m in Berlin. It’s only twenty miles between Ireland and Berlin because this is West Virginia, not European geography.

Speaking of Europe, did you read about the study in England on gum chewing? It seems chewing gum improves your memory, makes you smarter. They say the key is the “repetitive chewing motion”, which may explain why the smartest animal in the barnyard is the cow. Since I’ve chewed gum all my life, and single-handed kept Mr. Wrigley in business, imagine how poor my grammar would be without it.

Riding a bus might be all right for these Ireland students after all, if they give ’em a stick of gum when they get on.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers: (plus an Irish fact…)

“Well, today is the seventeenth of Ireland. Of all the nationalities that have helped to root out the Indians over here, the Irish are the only ones that have made enough impression on everybody that we celebrate their birthday… When you are laying out your European trip this Spring, don’t overlook the old Emerald Isle. It’s got ’em all beat for beauty, romance, humor and hospitality.” DT #1450, March 17, 1931

“Ireland quieted down, just as I told you it would. You see, they found out in a war with each other that somebody got hurt, so why shoot each other for no good at all? So Ireland is going fine.” Saturday Evening Post, May 12, 1928

Fact: Will Rogers’ great-grandfather, Robert Rogers, was an Irish-Scotchman. He came to what is now West Virginia around 1800 to trade with the Indians. He married Lucy Cordery who was half-blood Cherokee. They moved to Georgia, and had a son, Robert Rogers, Jr. in 1815. He grew up and married Sally Vann, a 3/8 Cherokee, in 1835, and Clem (Will’s father) was born in 1839. He married Mary America Schrimsher in 1859. They had 7 babies before Will came along in 1879. (Main source: Will Rogers: a Biography, by Ben Yogoda.)

221 Mar 11, 2002

BURLINGTON, Wisconsin: This is the home of the Burlington Liars Club, started in 1929 by a newspaper editor. Every year they pick a winner from all the lies folks mail to ’em from all over the world, and last year they got over two thousand letters. The winner was a lady who said her car was so old that when she registered it with the state, they gave her upper and lower plates.

They put the winning lies from each year on a brass plate, and they are bolted to the front of the various buildings downtown, along with the name of the person who submitted it. As I was walking around town reading all these award winning lies, I told the man who was showing me around, Dick Morris, “I don’t see any lies attributed to any governors or senators or mayors. Shouldn’t there be at least one winning entry from a LaFollette?” He said, “Oh no, we don’t allow politicians to submit lies for the contest. It’s open only to amateurs.”

I was speaking tonight at the Burlington Farm-City Night, a big affair of appreciation put on for 73 years by Kiwanis and all the local businesses. It was called “A Salute to the American Farmer”, and I told the farmers the way things are going in Congress on the Farm Bill, a Salute is maybe all they are going to get.

Well, these are fine folks, and we had a lot of fun this evening. The next time you sit down to a tasty meal, pause and thank a farmer, even if you don’t stop to salute him.

On my way here this morning I flew to Chicago on Southwest. Have you ever flew on that airline? If you haven’t you should, even if you have to go out of your way to do it.

I was sitting near the back of the plane reading the paper, and a flight attendant said to me, “Aren’t you Will Rogers?” He said, “We’d like for you to come up to the front and do some rope tricks for the passengers.”

Now, I had heard that Southwest is known for Positively Outrageous Service, and any ropin’ I might do for ’em would certainly fall in the category of Outrageous.

As I followed him up there, carrying my ropes, I got some concerned looks, so the first thing I did after he introduced me on the intercom was assure everybody I had no intention of lassoing the pilot. I told them I was headed to Burlington, Wisconsin, to speak at a banquet. But because of the town’s reputation, I wasn’t sure if the invitation was on the level.

Well, I spun a rope for the first class passengers for a minute or so… (by the way, do you know who sits in the first class section on Southwest? The ones who arrive three hours early) Before I went to the back to put on a second show, I apologized to ’em, because normally for a passenger to be annoyed with live entertainment you have to be booked on a cruise ship.

So when you fly Southwest, you’ve got to be prepared for almost anything, except for arriving late. (Since they are paying me the same for that little plug as they did for the rope spinnin’, it don’t even qualify as a commercial.)

Did you read about McDonald’s settling a lawsuit over French Fries? It seems the vegetarians found a tiny bit of beef fat in with their Fries, so they made McDonald’s give twelve million dollars to “vegetarian supported charities”. Now you may be wondering, exactly what kind of charity would a vegetarian support? Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Rutabagas? Save our Daffodils? Potatoes for Ethical Treatment of Anchovies?

First, remember you’ve got a company here that can stretch a pound of meat into dozens of burgers. Can you imagine how many tons of fries it takes to soak up a pound of their beef tallow? For one serving of fries… well I bet you would get more animal by-products on you petting a dog.

Besides, if you’re a vegetarian for religious reasons, would you want to be seen eating at a hamburger joint?

If you’re a vegetarian for nutritional reasons, are you going to order bean sprouts, succotash, and a bottle of spring water, and then say “and give me some french fries… and super size it.”?

Vegetarians are wonderful folks, and I suggest they eat at Olive Garden so the rest of us can eat our French Fries the way we like ’em… beefy.

Did you see where, after Vice-President Cheney has spent the last six months holed up in an undisclosed location for national security reasons, the government announced he will be making a 12-nation tour of the Middle East. Including Israel.

If I were Dick Cheney, I think I would call up Mr. Rumsfeld, and say, “How about loaning me one of your Stealth planes. I’ll just fly over all 12 of ’em in one afternoon, and get back to my hideout.”

The college basketball pairings were announced Sunday. They got most of ’em right. Except for Gonzaga. Some of you might remember last year, after they kept winning so far through the tournament, I said the NCAA should go ahead and write ’em in as a #4 seed for this year, because they always win so many tournament games. But really, I was wrong… they deserved a #3, but got pushed down to 6. So all you teams in line to play ’em, watch out. Gonzaga is on a mission.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“I am here tonight as kind of a peace offering. I have told a lot of jokes about these eating outfits, service clubs, or whatever you want to call them because I could not see much sense in them… But they were beneficial to the hotels because they got rid of a lot of bad food…. But now you have reformed and you are going along all right. I know from personal experience that you are getting along fine and doing something worth while. That is about all I can think of to say that would be any good for you.” Speech to Kiwanis International Convention in Los Angeles, June, 1933.

“A child born in Wisconsin is taught two things. One is to love LaFollette, and the other is to hate Minnesota.” Life Magazine, December 7, 1922

“Wisconsin is never doubtful. You can always depend on it doing just exactly what the other forty_seven don’t.” DT #577, June 1,1928

220 Mar 3, 2002

ATLANTA: I’m down here in Bobby Jones country, spending the weekend with 500 professional speakers. There’s 10,000 high school principals from all over the country convening in the same place, so the speakers are here, mostly, to caddy for ’em. You can imagine all the demerits we accumulated, and are still working off, for talking out of turn in class.

We’ve heard some great oratory from the platform. Actually, with this bunch it’s more like casual conversation and clean entertainment, presented with a clear message of hope for a bright future. We heard Gus Gustafson, T. Scott Gross, a former Miss South Carolina Jane Jenkins Herlong, and Bob Danzig, the former CEO for the publishing company founded by William Randolph Hearst. And a man you all remember from the Newlywed Game on television, Bob Eubanks. These folks, and dozens more who took their turns at the microphone, were at their best, to help make us all better.

But the one speaker we were all thinking about was not in Atlanta, except in spirit. Art Berg died suddenly two weeks ago, just shy of his fortieth birthday. He had been paralyzed in an accident almost twenty years ago, but life in a wheelchair had not slowed him down. He was always optimistic and cheerful, so much so that doctors treating him in the months after the car wreck that took away use of his legs, diagnosed him as having “Excessive Happiness”. Well, they were right about the Happiness.

Art Berg may be gone, but his message remains. By coincidence, if your Sunday paper today came with the Parade insert, look at the inside back cover and you’ll see a column from his book, The Impossible Just Takes a Little Longer.

All I know is what I read in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution or what I see from my window on the 31st floor of the Marriott Marquis. It rained yesterday, but Georgia is suffering through a long drought and water is getting mighty scarce.

Let me give you an inkling of how tight the supply is. On the bathroom sink in my room, next to those little bottles of shampoo and body lotion, the Marriott had placed a quart jar of water, imported all the way from the French Alps. The sign said it was there for my convenience, but in fine print it said if I opened the bottle, a charge of $4.00 would be added to my room tab.

There was no sign suggesting what the cost would be if I took a drink from the sink, or warning me as to where that water had come from. But those Marriott folks are some of the nicest you could ever meet, and they can’t help it if the Chattahoochee is running on empty.

According to the newspaper, everyone is cutting back except for the farmers. There’s a state law that says farmers can use all they want to irrigate their crops, and don’t even have to tell how many gallons they use. This is an old law, passed during Prohibition. Every farm had a still, and the Legislators didn’t want to risk cutting off their private supply during dry weather. A Legislature can pass laws in a pinch without water, but to lubricate the fine-tuned machinery of government, alcohol is essential.

So the farmers have the water, and the folks in Atlanta, and surrounding states, would like to get a share of it. Florida wants to irrigate the Everglades, but after Georgia waters all the peach trees, peanuts and watermelons, there won’t be a drop make it past Valdosta.

Now I ain’t getting myself caught between farmers and a newspaper, but it is surprising that here we are in a country where folks complain if they have to pay $1.50 a gallon for gasoline, or $2.50 for milk, and yet water at $16.00 a gallon gets not a mention in the editorial pages.

If the French want to sell us their water at $16 a gallon, we should trade ’em our corn for the same price.

Georgia isn’t the only state worrying over water. In Oklahoma the Choctaw and Chickasaw hired a lawyer to re-read the old treaties, and they have found, or at least they think they have found, that these two fine Indian Tribes own the rights to all the water on, and under, about two-thirds of the state. That seems fair because the farmers and everybody else can have what falls on the other third. Except for one little defect, it don’t rain but seldom on their third. You might wonder what will the Indians do with all that water, it’s too far to pump it to Atlanta.

Well, they have found a closer market, in North Texas. They may not draw the same rate as the French, but even if they only get 16 cents a gallon, it beats what they’re getting now, which is nothing. But you just wait; the Governor will figure a way to keep a hundred percent of the water, and a hundred percent of the wampum, leaving the old Indian high and dry as usual.

I saw a headline in USA Today: “Hollywood and Congress Team Up on Ethics Probe”. What a laugh. I don’t know what the story was about, but can you picture those two on Ethics. Why, that would be like Colonel Sanders and Oprah Winfrey combining to open a Texas Steakhouse. There couldn’t be any two with less interest in a subject, or know as little about it.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“You could be the World’s greatest orator and if you don’t say anything while orating, they are going to walk out on you after a while.” WA #139, August 9, 1925