Lame duck Congress fertilizes Alabama and Kentucky

# 345, November 28, 2004

WESTON, West Va.: While everyone else was celebrating Thanksgiving week, our lame duck Congress passed out a few early Christmas presents. They said compared to our whole budget these little gifts don’t amount to anything. Well, when they add up to over $10 Billion, that’s more than pocket change to most of us.

Really we don’t even have $10 Billion, cause we’ll have to borrow it from Europe or China or Arabia. By the time we pay off the principal and accumulated interest who knows how much those nick knacks will cost us. Congress gets the credit, and a few more votes in the next election, but we get the bill every April for the next 30 years.

I can’t get into all these “gifts”, that’s for Senator McCain to handle, but I do wonder about a couple of them. Do the poor taxpayers really need to donate $450,000 to the Baseball Hall of Fame, when they could take up a collection among the players and owners and raise millions in loose change?

Do we need to invest $2,000,000 to study hog manure in Kentucky and $1,000,000 to produce more fertilizer in Muscle Shoals, Alabama? If Alabama is in need of fertilizer, couldn’t Kentucky ship ‘em a train load of manure and save us $3,000,000?

Folks, as I wrote this, I had an eerie feeling that it sounded awfully familiar. So I dug into it, and look what Congress did for Muscle Shoals 76 years ago….

“Spent the day looking at the marvelous Muscle Shoals dam and projects. Everybody should see it. It’s a monument to the neglect of our politicians. It was built to manufacture nitrates for fertilizer. It’s the only idle nitrate plant in the world. When you see a $150,000,000 plant lying here idle it gives you an idea of the pull in legislation that the power trust exerts. They say ‘If we don’t get it nobody else will.’” (DT #498, March 1, 1928)

Ohio got their share of useless gifts. One little town got $200,000 for a railroad depot. Only problem is they don’t have no tracks. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame got $350,000 to teach music. One question: by the time you get into that hall of fame, shouldn’t you already know music?

Congress acted fast on giving away all those goodies, but when it came protecting our homeland, they deadlocked. They got it backwards again.

I had a fine Thanksgiving in West Virginia. Ate a turkey dinner at Buckhannon Run, followed by a turkey supper at Wildcat with about thirty close relatives. (Hey, I don’t want any wisecracks about relatives in West Virginia.) We even had a light snow and it looked mighty pretty on the rhododendron. It’s deer season, and venison is just as popular as turkey.

PS… (Nov. 30) Secretary Ridge resigned today. I still think the person I suggested in September to replace him would be the perfect man to protect our borders: Zell Miller. That scowl he displayed at the Republican Convention would scare any potential terrorist from ever entering America, and might even cause a few to leave.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers: (on Congress)

“Washington, D.C. papers say: ‘Congress is deadlocked and can’t act.’ I think that is the greatest blessing that could befall this country.” WA # 59, Jan. 27, 1924

“Compared to [Congress], I’m an amateur, and the thing about my jokes is they don’t hurt anybody. You can take ‘em or leave ‘em. You know what I mean. You say, well they’re funny, or they’re terrible, or they’re good, or whatever it is, but they don’t do any harm. You can just pass them by. But with Congress, every time they make a joke it’s a law. And every time they make a law it’s a joke.” Radio broadcast, May 12, 1935

“The budget is a mythical bean bag. Congress votes mythical beans into it, and then tries to reach in and pull real beans out.” DT #2047, Feb. 24, 1933

Rain can’t spoil Iowa visit or Arkansas dedication

# 344, November 19, 2004

WATERLOO, Iowa: This is farm country, and I’m in Iowa to pick up some tips on modern practices. Down near Burlington the Mitchell family is trying a lot of new ideas, not only for better farming but for better living.

This is a fine farm family, like most of them, with young Clay Mitchell, his dad and mom, and an uncle and maybe a cousin or two, thinking up fresh designs to grow more with less time and labor and expenses, and preserve this precious black Iowa topsoil. It wasn’t just me that was here to learn, a bus load of farmers from Germany came to look over the machinery. The way they run their planter, sprayer and combine is getting attention, and they deserve it.

Naturally I checked out the political news for you. I do have one surprise to report… I’ve been in Iowa two days, and haven’t seen or heard a single Presidential candidate. But that don’t mean there’s no news. I read in the Courier… the fine newspaper that has the challenge to satisfy subscribers in both Waterloo and Cedar Falls… that Senator Tom Harkin says the Democrats would be foolish not to name Governor Vilsack to lead the Democratic National Committee back from oblivion or wherever they went after Nov. 2. Well, not only is the governor a fine man, he is sure to get the job, because no Democrat running for President in 2008 would dare oppose an Iowa Democrat for DNC chair, unless maybe New Hampshire put up a candidate, and then they would want them both as co-chairs.

The big Democratic news this week is the dedication of the William J. Clinton Library in Arkansas. They held the ceremony yesterday and it rained all day on them. It’s a beautiful new building, they spent $165,000,000 on it (which works out to about $1750 per book), and you would expect them to set aside sufficient floor space to set up a stage and a hundred or so temporary seats under roof. When you’re putting on a show attended by a half dozen Presidents (counting former, current and prospects) you shouldn’t count on a $5 umbrella and a pair of galoshes to stand between them and pneumonia. President Clinton can be proud of this wonderful edifice, and I look forward to seeing it.

Now I couldn’t get down to Little Rock, but I did the next best thing. I stopped at another Presidential Library, one dedicated to Herbert Hoover in his home town of West Branch, Iowa. And not to be outdone by Arkansas, it rained here too. Now Mr. Hoover had the unfortunate distinction of presiding over the 1929 stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression, kinda like George W presided over September 11, so he is looked down on in some circles. But let me point this out to you… yes, it was raining yesterday at the Hoover Library, but not a single person was asked to sit outside.

You probably read recently about these overweight airline passengers costing millions of dollars in extra jet fuel. Seems we’ve gained 10 pounds on average in the last 15 years. Well, I ran into an airline that’s tackling this problem of obese passengers head on. I flew here on Comair… actually flew to Moline, Illinois, and rented a Buick…, but back to my story, these Comair flight attendants offered us not just your usual pretzels or raisins or half dozen peanuts, but rather these Atkins low carb Advantage bars. What a treat for us low carb dieters. They said it’s a trial, and if passengers like them, they’ll become a regular item. So fly Comair and they’ll help you stay on your diet.

I appreciate the effort from Comair, and once all these airlines get back to making a little profit I’ll suggest another tasty low carb menu item: steak.

The big excitement around here is tomorrow’s game between Iowa and Wisconsin.** The Hawkeyes haven’t lost at home is 3 or 4 years, so these folk are mighty optimistic. I’ve got to fly to Columbus tonight to go to another big college football game. See if maybe Ohio State can rain on Michigan’s Rose Bowl Parade.

**Update:  Ohio State stormed Michigan 37-21 in a big upset. But then Iowa knocked off Wisconsin, which let Michigan back into the Rose Bowl after all.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“Should Mr. Hoover lose [the election this Tuesday], I don’t think there is a person that wouldn’t feel downright sorry for him, for he certainly has meant well and did all he could, and I expect it won’t be long till we will be feeling just as sorry for Roosevelt.

This President business is a pretty thankless job. Washington or Lincoln either one didn’t get a statue till everybody was sure they was dead.” DT # 1951, Nov. 4, 1932

Will Rogers seeks work for TV reporters

# 343, November 13, 2004

COLUMBUS: Any of you folks contemplating a murder and getting your picture on television, this would be the time to do it. The Scott Peterson trial and the election are over and television folks have a lot of air time to fill. They both ended abruptly after going on too long.

So our cable news channels are in kind of a lull. Our newspapers still have plenty of important local stories to fill the space between ads, but these television networks were counting on the election ending in a tie and a hung jury.

Now, Mr. Arafat has been a popular news subject for 40 years but he got sick, died and was buried, all inside of a week. The battle for Fallujah is practically over in a few days, although more terrorists escaped than were killed.

There will be more battles to occupy our foreign correspondents, but the only hope on the horizon for these court reporters is a jail break by Martha Stewart.

England’s Tony Blair came over for a visit and asked President Bush to work harder for peace in the Middle East. Mr. Bush said he already was working on peace in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that those countries are at least in the neighborhood, if not exactly in the Middle, of the East. But he told the Prime Minister that if he can persuade Europe to join up he is willing, in our President’s words, to “spend the capital” to solve the age old Palestinian problem.

Before our President spends too much capital, someone should remind him our capital is mostly borrowed. But regardless of our debts, if another $10 Billion will buy a little peace, we’ll dig deeper into our pockets. We would gladly send the dough if we can keep our boys at home.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“We are a funny people. We elect our Presidents, be they Republican or Democrat, then go home and start daring ’em to make good.” DT #2700, April 1, 1935

“There’s the one thing no nation can ever accuse us of and that is Secret Diplomacy. Our foreign dealings are an Open Book, generally a Check Book.” WA #45, October 21, 1923

Will Rogers celebrates another birthday

# 342, November 6, 2004

CLAREMORE, Okla.: I’ve been our here a few days, first at Tahlequah, home of the Cherokee Nation, then Claremore and Oologah. This election has been kinda rough on some of us. (Remember one of “my” little sayings: “I’m not a member of any organized political party… I’m a Democrat.”)

We have all these commentators talking about red states and blue states. But till you see a map that’s colored by county, you don’t get the full brunt of the catastrophe. You could take all the counties that voted for Senator Kerry and they would fit into an area the size of Texas. Of course Texas don’t want them, so they’re scattered across our various states. Except for Oklahoma and Nebraska which are solid red.

The last time Oklahoma was this “red” it was still Indian Territory. Even the Legislature went Republican for the first time in state history and broke a losing streak longer than the Red Sox. It may not be easy being a Democrat for a while, but don’t look for any of them to hit the road for Canada. The last time Okies left in droves was during the Dust Bowl, and most of ’em that ended up in California wished they had stayed and taken their chances with the drought.

On Thursday they had a big birthday celebration, starting with the dedication of a mural at the Claremore Post Office. But really, it was a re-dedication of a big painting that had been hidden away for thirty years and they restored it and it looks good as new. You know, if your picture is gonna hang on a wall at a post office, make sure it’s a painting.

Then out to the ranch at Oologah where fifty or so elementary school students sang a few songs. Lynn Doughty was there, cooking beans and biscuits behind his chuckwagon the way they did it over a hundred years ago. And Kalvin Cook put on a great show. He is a grand champion trick roper, whip cracker and gun slinger. Then everybody hightailed it over to the school auditorium at noon where there must have been two hundred students that put on a delightful new musical production called “The Life and Times of Will”.

If that weren’t enough to exhaust a fellow on his 125th birthday, then it was back to the Museum at Claremore where the Cherokee Women’s Pocahontas Club conducted their annual tribute, and dedicated a new bronze plaque. Next time you go through Oklahoma stop in and see it, and the exhibits, pictures, movie posters, and even saddles, at the Museum.

After all the celebrating was over with, one wonderful lady told me, “For 125, you look mighty well-preserved. You must drink formaldehyde for breakfast.” Well, right there she uncovered one of the secrets of long life. And it don’t taste bad mixed with orange juice.

It sure was good to see so many family members, over a hundred of them. Some of them said they’ll be back for the 150th. Now, brother, that’s confidence.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“Democrats give me a birthday yesterday, Nov. 4. I was 51 years old, and they elected fifty-one Democrats. When I am 90 we will be running this country. The Republicans carried California, but lost America.” DT #1337, Nov. 5, 1930.