#495, March 31, 2008

Hillary drops out; may accept McCain’s offer

COLUMBUS: Offer? What offer? Why, the offer to be his Vice-President.

Of course, if she doesn’t take him up on it by the end of the day, it’ll be just another April Fools joke.

Senator Obama is ahead in the polls and some newspaper writers think Senator Clinton ought to concede. Anybody getting paid by the day to talk politics, or write about it, wants her to stay. Now on the other hand, if you agreed for a fixed sum to cover the Democrat campaign until there’s only one candidate standing, why then you’ve got a gripe coming. You can send your gripe directly to the Democrats’ head honcho, if you can figure out who it is. For entertainment, Mr. Ziegfeld himself couldn’t have put on a better production, and these Democrat Follies are running almost as long as most of his did.

Only thing that’s gone according to plan is the big college basketball tournament. Out of all the teams in the country, the men in charge said, “These four are the best ones.” Then those teams heard the news and went out, played the games and proved ’em right. So now you’ve got Memphis, Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA to choose from. Put your money down, and by next Monday night you’ll know if you picked the right one.

Do you wonder if this could work for the Democrats? Well, did you notice that after the field narrowed to four, it’ll only be a week or so till we know the winner. Then all the shouting and celebration can begin without delay. But here we have the Democrats down to two, and they spread the final playoffs over two months. Even after the game ends in June, they’ll wait two more months to declare the winner.

Here’s my suggestion: as soon as the last primary is counted, hold the convention the next weekend. If Denver won’t go along with the switch, then find another town with empty hotels. Maybe New Orleans. That would put the Democrats back in the race with a two-month head start on McCain. That’s a big lead even if Hillary ain’t running with him. No foolin’.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

[Will wrote 18 daily articles on the 1924 Democratic Convention (for a fixed sum), from June 23 to this one on July 10.]

“Who said miracles don’t happen? Didn’t the Democratic National Convention nominate a man at last? This should bring more people back to religion than any other one thing. It has been a demonstration of faith, because, after all, God is good.

It is generally conceded and understood that a comedian has no sense, and that we are only to make people laugh and not to think. About six days ago (seems like six years) I devoted a whole article to my prediction of John W. Davis’s nomination.”


#494, March 23, 2008

Weekly Comments: A museum and dude ranch recall memories in Arizona

COLUMBUS: Last week I told you I had just returned from Arizona. But with Eliot Spitzer and Bear Stearns grabbing all the headlines I didn’t have time to tell you much about it.

I flew to Phoenix on Southwest Airlines. They had been in the news themselves lately about some small cracks in their planes. So I took along a roll of duct tape in case any showed up near my seat.

Drove to Wickenburg where they have a wonderful award-winning museum called the “Desert Caballeros Western Museum”. They built a new addition and Pavilion and wanted “Will Rogers” to help with the dedication. Well, I was honored to be invited. Wickenburg is northwest of Phoenix, on the banks of the Hassayampa River. Most places in Arizona, the word “river” is used mostly as a joke. They flood sometimes, but mostly they’re dry, kinda like some of their lakes. So finding one with water in it is like discovering gold. And this one has water. Sometimes you have to dig to find it, but it’s there.

In the old days (that means before interstate highways) this was a major resting point for anyone heading on to Los Angeles or the Grand Canyon, and it’s still the shortest route to Las Vegas. In 2013 this town will celebrate its 150th birthday.

During my talk I got the mayor up to do some rope tricks with me. And also a local ranch lady named Elladeen Hayes Bittner. She’s 89, and said she remembered everybody I talked about. I asked her about her roping experience. “I was the state champion roper”, she quickly answered, “in Alaska.” That got a laugh, so I had to ask her, “Exactly how many ropers were in the contest?” “Just one.”

Well, Mrs. Bittner is authentic. I bet she roped plenty of steers in her day.

In my remarks I talked about a letter I received in 1926 from a talented local fellow, asking is I could help him get hired as an entertainer. Here’s part of his letter: “I can do a lot of Rope spinning…, also I punish a guitar, and sing Cowboy songs. I can lie on my back on a (high) wire and sing too. I can spin the rope either while standing on the wire or on the floor. I can play a Harmonica standing on my hands.” And it was signed, Romaine H. Lowdermilk, Wickenburg, Arizona.

A cowboy with all that talent ought to be encouraged, so I included his letter, and my reply to him, in my syndicated column the next week. I figured if getting promoted in five hundred newspapers won’t get you work, what will.

It seems Romaine and his mother (Katherine) had bought land in 1909 along the Hassayampa and named it the Kay El Bar Ranch. In the 1920s a long drought dried up all their pastures, they lost their cattle, and Romaine switched to dude ranching. That’s no surprise because Wickenburg soon became known as the “Dude Ranch Capital of the World”. But what he really wanted to do was be an entertainer.

Well, imagine my surprise when I heard the ranch Romaine founded is still operating, hosting folks from all over the country and the world. They can ride horses all day, mostly along trails across the desert hills. Some folks, especially the teenagers when they get a bit bored with roughing it, like to ride about three miles down the dry riverbed to town, climb the riverbank and tie up their horses at McDonald’s. In the evening, for those unaccustomed to staying in the saddle for hours a day, a hot tub and heated pool feels mighty soothing.

(If you want to check out these places, go to www.westernmuseum.org and www.kayelbar.com.)

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Arizona prolongs the life of the afflicted (and) makes perpetual the lives of the well.” DT #2158, July 4, 1933

“Going to fly over in Arizona tomorrow and see Mr. Coolidge dedicate the great Coolidge Dam. Arizona had to build the dam way over in the middle of the State to keep California from claiming two-thirds of the water.” DT #1124, March 3, 1930

“The (Hoover) dam is entirely between Nevada and Arizona. All California gets out of it is the water.” DT #1900. Sept. 6, 1932

“Dude ranching is one of the healthiest and finest vacations in the world.” DT #2089, April 14, 1933

“All your life every man has wanted to be a cowboy. Why play Wall Street and die young when you can play cowboy and never die?” DT #1549, July 10, 1931

#493, March 17, 2008

Politicians and J. P. Morgan haven’t changed much

COLUMBUS: Eliot Spitzer, governor of New York, kinda got caught with his pants down, and resigned. The scandal reminded me of something I wrote eighty years ag “Today they are voting in New York State on whether to keep a Governor two years or four. I think a good, honest Governor should get four years, and the others life.” (Nov. 8, 1927)

I included that line in a talk Saturday in Wickenburg, Arizona. Afterwards a ranch lady who had seen Spitzer with his wife on television, told me she was tired of seeing these various wives have to go endure such embarrassment with their scandalous husbands, “Just once, I would like to see the wife haul off and slug him.” You know, that might be as good a preventive measure as the threat of a life sentence.

J. P. Morgan stepped up again to save the country, like he often did in the 1930s. JP Morgan Chase volunteered to pay a couple of dollars for Bear Stearns if the government committed thirty Billion to make sure they didn’t lose any dough on the deal. Some homeowners behind on mortgage payments are complaining: why should a big investment bank getting bailed out, but not us. Well, I can assure those distraught folks that Mr. Morgan will be happy to take the house off their hands if they are willing to accept two cents on the dollar. He won’t even ask for a government guarantee.

Just when you figured Florida democrats had figured out a compromise, they announced, “No, we’ll sit this one out.” Only chance for those Democrats is to find a state that ain’t voted yet (Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan??), and move there for the summer.

One thing you can count on, whether Republican or Democrat: taxes are due in a month.

Historical quotes from Will Rogers:

“You can tell this is an election year from the way these appropriation bills are passing. It will take the taxpayers fifty years to pay for the votes in this election. Our only solution seems to be to fix it so people who are in a hole through borrowing can borrow some more. Borrowing, that’s what’s the matter with the world today. If no individual or country could borrow a dime for five years that would be the greatest five-year plan ever invented.” DT # 1717, Jan. 25, 1932

“The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. (President) Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the driest little spot. But he dident know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands. They saved the big banks but the little ones went up the flue.” WA # 518, Nov. 27, 1932

“The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. Even when you make one out on the level, you don’t know when it’s through if you are a crook or a martyr. Of course, people are getting smarter nowadays; they are letting lawyers, instead of their conscience, be their guides. There is some talk of lowering it, and they will have to. People are not making enough to pay it.” WA #17, April 8, 1923

#492, March 9, 2008

Snow slows Ohio, but politicians plow ahead

COLUMBUS: You probably read about the snow storm that stretched from Texas and Oklahoma up through Kentucky and Ohio, and into Canada. Columbus got 15 to 20 inches, and the Columbus Dispatch headline read, “Blizzard of 2008”. Cleveland got twice as much and they called it a weekly occurrence.

Everything is crammed together this month. Ohio blizzard Saturday, daylight savings time Sunday (if you’ve got to give up an hour, this was a good weekend to do it); then next week we’ve got Palm Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, first day of Spring, and Easter. Only thing that’s stretched out is the Democrat race for President. Nothing left in April except Fool’s Day, Tax Day and the Pennsylvania Primary.

Hillary Clinton sure bounced back in Texas and Ohio, but Senator Obama still holds the delegates. Michigan and Florida are back in the spotlight, and the only thing keeping ’em from scheduling new primaries is about thirty million dollars. Howard Deen says the Democrat Party won’t pay it; the Governors say it’s not our bill.

Only choice left is donations to fund ’em. I heard James Carville on CNN today promise to raise fifteen million. You just watch; if they schedule those primaries in the middle of June the other fifteen will quickly be donated (anonymously of course) by the Republicans.

Before I go on, in fairness, I must admit to you that “I’m not a member of any organized political party…. I’m a Democrat.” This campaign season, for both parties, has shown an inherent deficiency of judgement in organizing primaries and caucuses. They stretch ’em out, in all 50 states, from January to June, but then admit they really want the races decided by the first week in February. Well, the voters rebelled at the idea of ending the game after the first inning.

I bet, if you could get ’em to admit it, they wish they had accepted my proposal from a year ago, to hold all 50 primaries on the same day: the first Tuesday in November 2007. As it is, the Democrats are looking at a convention resembling the one in 1924 in New York. Main ones benefitting, besides Republicans, are us comedians. (See second quote below)

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

   “Thank you very much. We’re here an hour earlier today. It seems kind of funny – with everybody advised to spend and the government spending everything, and then – it seems sort of funny for somebody to save a little daylight nowadays. Put a little bit of it on the budget or something.” Radio, April 28, 1935

   (After 5 days, and about 50 ballots) “Well, they have been balloting all day at the Democratic side show at (Madison Square) Garden, for that is what some misguided people think is the nominating place. The real nomination is taking place in a room at some hotel with less than six men present. And when it is known it will be as big a surprise to those delegates as it will be out in Arizona, and you will have just as much to do with it as they will have had.
They have been here so long it looks like a scheme on New York’s part to hold these people here until after the next census is taken. Every day somebody prays. Yesterday it was the audience.
I sat up on the speaker’s stand and I found a book of rules. An uninstructed delegate [super delegate in 2008?] is one whom his district sent here with a free rein to use his own judgment, but when he comes back he is supposed to give up 50 per cent of whatever his vote brought. An alternate is a man sent along to watch the delegate and see that he turns in the right amount, and it is also his duty to get out and drum up trade and keep track of prices and see what they are bringing other places. He, according to the rules, is to receive 10 per cent of the gross.” Democratic Convention, Article #9, July 1, 1924

“America has the best politicians money can buy.” (Undated notes)