March 31, 2003

COLUMBUS: For a while last week the war was going pretty smooth; gasoline dropped to $1.30. But tonight it was back up to $1.60, so perhaps our optimism was a bit too high.

We watch this war too much like a basketball game, where our whole disposition changes in an instant depending on who has the ball and who scored last. These folks saying the war should have been over in a week are the same ones that yelled at their microwave because it took more than two minutes to cook supper.

Give the Generals a chance to make a few mistakes, on both sides, and just wait and see who adjusts the best. The diplomats had this war all to themselves for 12 years, and you see what a mess they made of it. You can’t expect the marines to clean it up in 12 days.

A week or so ago I was over in Lewis County, West Virginia. I went to a pancake and sausage supper Saturday night, all you could eat, with butter and maple syrup. It was held at Horner, in an old historic school building, one with 2 classrooms at the front and a slightly bigger room at the back with a stage at one end so it could be used as an auditorium or lunchroom or even a small gym in a pinch. They had live bluegrass and gospel music, and I want you New Yorkers to hear this, a ticket to the whole shebang was only $4.00.

Nobody could ask for more freedom than that.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers: (on the value of an Air Force)

“If we were told tomorrow that the future and the safety of our country depended on football and athletics, why everybody the whole country over would be out practicing and all excited about it. But when any sane person absolutely knows that the success of the next war is in the air, why they just drag along and think somebody is kidding ’em.” WA #227, April 17, 1927

“I tell you any experiment that is being made in the air is not a waste of time or money. Our defense (and) offense have got to come from the air.” WA #492, May 29, 1932

An old/new immigration plan

Eight senators are working on an immigration plan. Big business and labor unions seem to agree with them on allowing the ones who already sneaked into the country to become citizens eventually. How will this turn out?

Let me tell you a true story about illegal immigration. Once upon a time, a nation prospered in peace and affluence for many years. But trouble lay just across the border. In the neighboring land people eyed the vast inviting lands with envy. Small numbers of “intruders” would sneak across the boundary, and the government would catch them and kick them out. But many avoided detection and more followed.

Before long the intruders were pouring in. Some were there legitimately as employees, but others sneaked in. Quite a few were criminals. The biggest business in the nation lobbied relentlessly to allow even more intruders.

Finally, a prominent local citizen got so annoyed he wrote a letter to his national leader. “Are we powerless to enforce our own laws? Are we to submit to such great wrongs by these men who are not citizens? Our laws are not enforced. How in the world can we hold up as a nation when our officers don’t respect the law and the oath they have taken to uphold the law.”

Seeing the looming conflict, the U. S. Congress jumped into the fray, led by a Senator from Massachusetts. Should this prosperous, peaceful nation receive assistance in protecting its borders? After much debate Congress made a pivotal decision: they sided with the intruders.

What? How could Congress make such an outrageous decision? Well, since Congress put itself in the middle of this illegal immigration issue, they created a Commission to negotiate with a delegation of representatives from the nation. One of those representatives was the “prominent local citizen” quoted above. He soon became peeved at the delegation’s inability to agree on what their position should be.

It took Congress five years to reach a decision, but they forced the end this “nation” as we knew it. In 1898 a bill was signed by President McKinley that abolished the laws of that nation.

So who were the main “characters” in this story? The Senator from Massachusetts was Henry Dawes, head of the Dawes Commission. The big business encouraging the Intruders was the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The 1898 bill was the Curtis Act. The Intruders were mainly from Kansas and Arkansas.

And the “nation?” It was the Cherokee Nation, part of Indian Territory which in 1907 became the state of Oklahoma.

The “prominent local citizen” (who also helped write the state constitution for Oklahoma), was Clem Rogers, Will’s father.

March 17, 2013

Will goes to Ireland for Spring Festival

COLUMBUS: I just returned from three days in Ireland. But there’ll be no jokes about TSA or middle seats or green beer because this Ireland is in West Virginia. Every year the country folks around Ireland hold an Irish Spring Festival in the old 2-room schoolhouse they turned into a community center about thirty years ago.
Let me tell you about this festival. Every year they elect a king and queen and that election funds the whole year for the center. Yes, this election is different in that every vote costs a penny. At only a penny a vote, no one is left out. They start by selecting 3 candidates each for king and queen. The candidates are picked based not for their desire for a taste of royalty but for their “maturity” and willingness to have their arms twisted to run.
The oldest king was a 99-year old everyone knew as Uncle Bill. He had lived in that neck of the woods for all but a couple of years when he was in Europe helping us defeat Germany in World War I. No one ever had the nerve to ask the age of the queens.
The secret to the financial success is that you can vote early and as often as you want, with as many pennies as you wish to drop in the can. Or dollars. Nobody knows who’s ahead because the money doesn’t get counted until the “polls” close. And all the money goes to support the community center.
Just think, if we elected our President that way we could reduce the federal deficit. They say the candidate who collects the most money usually wins; this way it would be guaranteed. Everyone would contribute because, win or lose, it goes to a good cause. If the Koch Brothers or Michael Moore want to give ten million dollars for their candidate, let ‘em. Instead of it being wasted on TV commercials and annoying phone calls the money would go straight into the Treasury.
Here’s another idea the government could adopt. Nobody at the community center gets paid. Everybody volunteers. And nobody ever applied for a big government grant to organize the community. If they need to add a room, someone with a sawmill donates the lumber. Need to expand the parking lot? A bulldozer shows up, followed by dump trucks full of gravel. Once in a while the organizations that meet in the building – 4-H Club, Lions, CEOS – put on a pancake breakfast or ramp supper to make a little extra money.
Back to the Festival… after the new King Andrew and Queen Elizabeth were crowned, the fun included square dancing, Irish costume contest, hayride, Irish road bowling, bingo, a duck race in the creek and a parade on the main highway.  There’s gospel singing and harp music in the nearby Methodist church. The festival will end Wednesday with a climb to the Blarney Rock on top of a hill in front of the center. In the parade, the King and Queen rode in style on a John Deere Gator. But they’ll have to walk up to the Blarney Rock to celebrate the vernal equinox; the hill is too steep and the path too narrow for a Gator.
Everyone has a high old time at the Irish Spring Festival, and without the aid of liquor of any kind, a rarity for anything Irish.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:
“I have been in twenty countries and the only one where American tourists are welcomed wholeheartedly by everyone is in Ireland. They don’t owe us and they don’t hate us.” 
DT #3, Aug. 1, 1927

#750, March 10, 2013

Filibuster returns to the Senate

President Obama’s luck on the sequester keeps getting worse. Just when he was ready to agree with the Republicans that it won’t hurt much, he cut us all an hour. We’re all sleepy headed and a bit dazed, hoping he will give it back next fall. But don’t count on it. He may hold that hour as ransom till we agree to give up some beloved tax deductions.
I read where 5000 illegal immigrant criminals were turned loose. President Obama said we can’t afford to feed ‘em. So he let ‘em out with the understanding that when the sequester ends, they agree to return to prison.
The President has started talking to Republicans instead of throwing (verbal) stones at them. He invited a dozen or so to dinner at an expensive restaurant to discuss how to save money. Well, right there’s an idea. Next time make it a potluck picnic on the White House lawn. Mrs. Obama can provide the fresh vegetables from her garden and every Senator can bring a meat dish from his home state. Make homemade ice cream for dessert with everyone taking a turn at the crank. That’ll do more for reaching an agreement than haggling over who pays the tab for an overpriced dinner ever could.
New York Mayor Bloomberg has spent all his energy lately banning salt, fat, and big drinks with sugar. Fortunately for New Yorkers, alcohol is still available, in any size.
Meanwhile 80 percent of the students graduating from their high schools cannot read and write well enough to enter college. Shucks, 30 percent can’t read the name of the high school on the diploma when it’s handed to ‘em. That’s why the graffiti is indecipherable. Even the ones that write it can’t read it.
Over in Rome, a bunch of men are meeting to select a Pope. That’s the same way we used select a President, or at least the nominees. The individual parties would meet and argue and horse trade until everybody had dropped out except one. Those were the famous “smoke-filled rooms” you’ve heard about. But the only smoke you’ll see from the Cardinals is after they’ve voted. They burn the ballots in an old wood stove, and if they have not reached a decision, they throw an old tire in with ‘em so it puts off black smoke. This can go on for days until two-thirds finally agree on one man. Then they want white smoke so they burn the paper ballots without having to round up another old tire. The Catholics learned this smoke signal system from the Indians.  I’m guessing the whole world will learn of the decision within a second or two of the first sight of the smoke, showing you that old traditions can survive along side new technology.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky took the Senate floor for an old fashioned filibuster. He wanted the President to guarantee that no American, even a terrorist, would be killed by a drone on American soil. Sounds reasonable, but he had to stand there and talk for 13 hours without a break of any kind (yes, not even for that). Finally, Obama took pity on the poor soul and sent the Attorney General over to agree with him.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:
“I suggested a plan one time to shorten Senate debate. Every time a Senator tells all he knows, make him sit down.  That will shorten it. Some of them won’t be able to answer roll call.”
 Radio, April 27, 1930

Writing a column that’s shorter, yet longer

In honor of our officials in Washington, this article is 2% shorter than last week. But it is still 3% longer than a year ago.

Unlike Washington, I’ll include the important stuff, if any, and leave out the part you might prefer to never be bothered with.

Last week I was kinda wondering what would a President Romney do in this economic standoff. Well, today he was interviewed on television and here’s part of what he said (paraphrased): Washington is wasting a perfect opportunity to solve a long term problem. That opportunity is being squandered by politics. It’s time for the President to put politics aside and lead. Nero is fiddling while Rome burns.

Of course it’s easy for the fellow who’s out to offer advice to the one who’s in.

Did you notice, President Obama has backed off his scare tactics from a week ago. Before the sequestration deadline hit, I compared his economic aptitude to a man running a restaurant with 2 cooks and 10 waitresses, and if tough times forced him to lay off 2 employees, he would lay off the cooks. But when March came, and the sky didn’t fall, he wised up a bit. And I think he would figure out a way to maybe layoff one waitress, or perhaps keep everyone around while he worked harder to attract more paying customers to the diner.

Here’s some good news. The Keystone Pipeline got a thumbs up from the new Secretary of State. The government finally figured out there are thousands of miles of gas and oil pipelines cutting across the Great Plains without any disasters. One more pipeline won’t hurt. But the EPA is still dragging its heels; they can’t decide if Canadian oil burned in the United States would raise global temperatures more than burning it in China.

Did you hear about this Harvard guy, Dr. Samuel Betances, who has made millions of dollars from the government conducting so-called “cultural diversity training?”  He was taped berating agriculture department employees for discrimination against Indians, African-Americans and Mexicans that occurred a hundred to four hundred years ago. No doubt that discrimination happened. However instead of spending millions of our tax dollars, why not have the government heads send an email to their employees with this message: Previously, our government has from time to time discriminated against certain races. If you’re still doing it, cut it out!

Here are some cuts to the Defense budget that even Republicans can agree on. First,… oh, shucks, I’m out of space. Goodbye till next

Historic quote by Will Rogers:
“(The list of new Cabinet members) shows us that three of ‘em escaped from the Senate. That’s like going to the Old Men’s Home to get an athlete.”  DT #2046, Feb. 23, 1933