Note Worthy, Quote Worthy

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.

Groucho Marx

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Mark Twain died in 1910, yet his writings somehow anticipated the Raymond School Board.

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards.”- Following the Equator; Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar

But rather than demonstrating uncommon prescience, perhaps he was merely voicing the ageless truth that such idiocy is an affliction known to every generation.

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Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan president and devoted follower of the Central American traditions of government-by-dictatorship, suffered a political setback at the polls yesterday. As part of his continuing grab for absolute, irrevocable political power Chavez had proposed a package of more than 60 amendments to the Venezuelan constitution that would have granted him virtual dictatorial powers over the people and their government for the rest of his life. His proposal failed.

President Chavez was calm and understanding in defeat. “I understand and accept,” he told reporters, “that the proposal I made was quite profound and intense”

By his words it can be seen that Chavez is like all great statesman of history. He realizes in his generous and understanding heart that sometimes great leaders are too profound in their thinking to be understood by ordinary men and women. He clearly understands that the intensity of his proposals can sometimes overwhelm the unsophisticated sensibilities of the common folk.

Such statesmanship is universal among the greater leaders, and it is no less so among our own leaders here in the town of Raymond. Our Selectmen, School Board, Budget Committee, Planning Board, Conservation Commission are all possessed of the great quality of profoundness shown by the esteemed dictator-wannabe, Hugo Chavez.

Raymond’s community leaders often propose profound and intense ideas – public works projects, regulations, taxes, pay raises for the government caste – only to see them fail at the polls. In defeat they are invariably tolerant and understanding. They acknowledge that those who voted against their profound proposal were most likely “uninformed” or simply lacked the sophistication to grasp the wisdom of such lofty ideas.

The great statespeople of Raymond, like Hugo Chavez, know their wisdom will ultimately prevail. The process is often long and tedious, but wise leaders recognize that one disappointment at the polls is not final defeat. They know from long experience that to overcome intransigent masses it is simply a matter of conducting election after election, and counting ballots again and again until the people finally recognize the profoundness of their idea or yield quietly to inevitability of their proposal.

President Chavez and those of his sort also understand a fundamental precept of democracy that is often overlooked by lesser political leaders who usually faded quietly from the pages of history. For a democratic republic to function and survive it is necessary to give the people a voice in their government, but for the rulers of that government to fulfill the promise of their own greatness it is often unwise to take the voice of the people too seriously – at least on the first ballot.

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The day that I have dreaded, the day I had hoped was at least 5 years in the future has come. Woody is gone.

Early Tuesday afternoon he became weak and listless. During the night he had to go out repeatedly to pee and he seemed unable to get comfortable enough to sleep. By morning I was worried. In the morning light I checked his pee in the new snow and discovered that he was passing bloody urine.

I took him to the Raymond Animal Hospital. Theorizing that Woody had a bladder or kidney problem like stones or tumors, the vet took x-rays and conducted blood tests. The x-rays found no sign of calcification or tumors anywhere in Woody’s urinary tract. Nothing appeared to be physically wrong internally. His blood test showed a slight anemia which suggested that Woody’s bleeding had been ongoing for at least a few days or it was more severe than could be seen in his urine. The vet discovered bruising in Woody’s groin which he thought suggested trauma. The vet’s operating theory was that Woody had been kicked. He speculated that someone had attempted to kick him in the butt, but instead caught him in the belly.

The only treatment the vet could offer was a course of anti-inflammatory medication plus antibiotics to help Woody feel more comfortable and to control infection while his suspected injuries healed.

At home, as the day progressed, Woody’s symptoms became worse. The blood in his urine could easily be seen streaming from him even without the contrast of the white snow. He eventually grew so weak he could hardly stand on his own. It seemed to me that he would not live through the night without urgent help.

At 9:30 that evening I took him along with the lab reports provided by Raymond Animal Hospital to the new emergency clinic in Brentwood. There, with the lab results from earlier in the day and new test results of her own, the vet concluded that Woody’s blood clotting factor and his blood chemistry were very wrong. His anemia had gotten measurably worse since it had been first measured that morning. The vet’s conclusion was that Woody had NOT suffered physical injury as theorized by the other vet, but that he was experiencing some kind of major systemic failure due to causes such as cancer, autoimmune disease or, most likely, poisoning – specifically rat poison.

Regardless of the cause, the bottom line was that Woody’s internal bleeding was systemic, not just in his bladder or kidneys and that, without major intervention and a lot of luck he would not live to see the sunrise. The only intervention the vet could recommend was hospitalization for 2 or 3 days during which they would conduct a course of transfusions to replace his own blood. The vet admitted that the treatment would only address the symptoms. Without knowing the actual cause of his illness there was no way of knowing if he could be cured. She didn’t say so in so many words, but it became clear that the only hope she could offer me was a very expensive fishing expedition costing no less than $3,000 with only a faint hope of finding an actual cure.

I have to give the vet credit. She led me gently, patiently through to the hardest decision of my life. Sometimes her eyes welled up and her lip quivered as she watched the realization of what she was saying spread across my face. I could see in her eyes and hear in her voice that there was only one option left to me. It finished with the vet saying, “I’m sorry.”

Those of you who have been through this know what follows. They took me to a small room furnished more like someone’s den. They brought Woody to me, obviously weaker and sicker than he had been just an hour before, and placed him in my arms. Then they left us alone – oh, so very, very alone.

During those few private moments allotted to us I was supposed to be saying goodbye, but what words would a little dog understand? Dogs only understand chasing through the woods after rabbits and chipmunks. They only understand the thrill of playing with little children who squeal and shout with the absolute abandonment of care. They only know the words “good boy” and the treats and petting that are sure to follow. I could only pet his head and mutter whatever words would escape my clenched throat. Fortunately they didn’t make us wait too awfully long. My courage had almost failed me.

Woody passed away quickly and quietly in my arms when the vet gave him the shot. It was 12:30 am, Thanksgiving morning.

About an hour later I buried him in the hill overlooking my mother’s house in Hampstead. After placing the little coffin-like box in the ground I lifted the lid for one last look. His was lying on his side, still soft and warm, unblemished and peaceful in sleep as I had seen him countless times in the past 10 years.

Woody Sleeps.

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The Paris Hilton Standard

This afternoon everyone is in a tizzy, incensed at the apparent double standard on the part of law enforcement officials of L.A. county who released hotel heiress Paris Hilton to serve the rest of her 45-day sentence for probation violation at home.

True, in revoking her probation for her original drunk driving conviction, the judge was very specific in his order that Hilton serve at least 23 days of her 45-day sentence in the county lockup. To the rest of us out here in the vast American wasteland, a judicial order of jail time should be immutable. Anything less appears to us like a gross miscarriage of justice based on a double standard granting extraordinary leniency to the rich and famous. But the double standard in this instance is not what it seems.

Early release from jail is actually very old and very embarrassing news for law enforcement officials in L.A. County. Follow this link to a May 2006 story in the L.A. Times titled “Releasing Inmates Early Has a Costly Human Toll.”

Faced with substantial budget shortfalls and serious over-crowding in his jails in late 2002, Sheriff Lee Baca began releasing inmates. Sheriff Baca didn’t seem too concerned about the impact of his informal early release program on the quality of life in the county. Rapists, murders and hardcore gang-bangers were released to the streets to resume their violent trades, and few beyond a few newspaper editors seemed at all concerned.

Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer, who had issued Hilton’s original 45-day sentence, has never before, so far as I can determine, expressed any particular concern at Baca’s policies. But today Judge Sauer chuffed his indignation in Paris Hilton’s face and sent her back to jail, forthwith.

So why, if they have been content to let violent criminals stream through their revolving door back into the streets to rape, kill and peddle their drugs, are they suddenly so indignant over the early release of one inconsequential celebutramp? Why have they been so unconcerned to this date about the “costly human toll” of their standard early release practices and only now, when it is a relatively harmless rich-bitch who benefits from standard policies are they expressing concern? What did Paris Hilton do in the eyes of the law that requires her to be held to a harsher standard of punishment?

What she did, by virtue of her celebrity and the intense media attention that she naturally attracted, was to draw world attention to the absurdly lax system in L.A. County. Far from getting preferential treatment, Paris Hilton’s early release is no better than the treatment afforded common muggers, rapists and thieves. Sheriff Baca, being the classic political hack that he is, has never been inconvenienced by public scrutiny or troubled by scruples. But now that the glare of public attention has illuminated conditions in his jurisdiction, Judge Sauer must at least play the part of outraged jurist. Sounding for all the world like Captain Renault in the 1942 film Casablanca, Judge Sauer is shocked!, shocked! to learn that the L.A. county jail system is a public joke.

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The Same Tarnished Coin

The other day I wrote comparing Democrats versus Republicans using the famous 1968 quote from George Wallace that between the two parties there isn’t “a dime’s worth of difference.”

It seems almost irrefutable that whenever an opportunity arises to enrich themselves or feather their political nests with tax dollars, members of both parties are equally susceptible to temptation. If there is any measurable difference between parties it is manifest only at that moment when a pol is caught with his ethical trousers down around his ankles.

When Republican congressman Bob Ney of Ohio got trapped in the flypaper of the Abramoff bribes scandal, the chorus of voices demanding his resignation included many prominent Republicans.

Tom Delay of Texas became embroiled in a scandal in his home state over questionable campaign contributions. Democrats howled for his political head but few of his liberal critics could be heard over the din of his own party members demanding his resignation.

Florida Republican Mark Foley was accused of sending inappropriate, sexually suggestive emails to a 16-year-old male congressional page. Again, Republicans were prominent in their efforts to get Foley to resign. More than just Foley, Democrats AND Republicans demanded the resignation of Speaker Dennis Hastert when it became evident that he had turned a blind eye to serious allegations about Foley’s behavior.

Democrats like the game of political gotcha. They like to rub Republican noses in the many examples of Republican lapses and forget that it is often Republicans who have lead the effort to purge their party of the bad boys. The favorite Democratic trump card is the Watergate scandal that disgraced Republican president Richard Nixon. The joker in the deck that Democrats are quick to discard is that Republicans were instrumental in exposing much of Nixon’s corruption. Republican Howard Baker asked the now famous question, “what did the president know, and when did he know it?” While working as a staffer on the Irwin Committee, Fred Thompson, recent Senator from Tennessee and likely Republican candidate for president in 2008, asked the critical questions that divulged the existence of the White House tape recordings that ultimately provided the famous “smoking gun” of Richard Nixon admitting his role the Watergate cover-up.

Compare the Republican behavior in the Watergate scandal and others that have followed on in the last 30 years with the behavior of Democrats in their own scandals such as the Clinton impeachment trial for perjury. Compare the Democratic rationalizations of Clinton’s perjury with their fervor to lynch Bush White House aide “Scooter” Libby.

Earlier this week a grand jury handed down a 16-count indictment against Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson. The charges against Jefferson are at least as damning as those brought against Tom Delay. Will Democrats show the same determination to rid congress of corruption as they did in the Delay case or will they suddenly lose their moral compass and their voices?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: absolute power attracts the absolutely corruptible. In their corruptibility, Democrats and Republicans are the two sides of that same tarnished coin. Where they differ is that the Republicans sometimes remember the rule of law and a few Republicans even try to enforce it.

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Eternal Truth

In the history of American politics some truths are eternal.

Republicans of the late 80’s and early 90’s accused Democrats, then the majority party in control of the national government, of pork barrel spending and corruption. Building on those accusations and the wrecked political careers of Democrats Dan Rostenkowski and Jim Wright, Republican hordes swept the Democratic scoundrels from the political heights of Capital Hill in 1994 with a pledge of fiscal restraint and honesty.

Once in power, however, Republicans quickly proved that they were equally adept at plundering the U.S. Treasury in pursuit of their own political and personal interests. Far from setting a new and higher standard of political integrity, the Republicans proved instead that dishonesty and hypocrisy are endemic to the species politiceans Americanus.

To complete the eternal cycle of the corruptible following the corrupted, Democratic candidates for congress last year trumpeted the customary and predictably empty pledge to end fiscal irresponsibility and corruption. But like the Republican hypocrites of a dozen years ago, this class of Democrats includes its share of scoundrels. Among Democratic leaders is one found to have had thousands of dollars in cash wrapped in aluminum foil in his home freezer. At least two others have been forced to address embarrassing questions about unusual real estate transactions in their home districts. American’s first female speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi appears to have been manipulating the award of government contracts in favor of her husband’s businesses.

Then today in the New York Post comes this AP story titled “Democrats Hide Pet Projects From Voters.” From the article we learn that just months after taking command of the federal government on a platform of openness and honesty, Democrats are manipulating their own rules of procedure to hide at least 36,000 items of pork barrel spending earmarked for favored constituencies.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In 1968 the former segregationist governor of Alabama George Wallace said, “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between Republicans and Democrats. It is awkward and embarrassing to me as an American to be forced to face this essential truth of our two-party system and agree, even this one time, with a racist like George Wallace.

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Honest Cop

I keep telling you that there are no honest government employees or officials, and until September I was right. Then Police Chief Richard Knoebel of Kewaskum, WI did a remarkable thing. While on patrol one morning, Chief Knoebel drove past a stopped school bus with its emergency lights blinking. For most of us, passing a stopped school bus with it lights flashing is an absolute no-no, but for a uniformed police chief on patrol in his official cruiser, well, not so much. When you are the head cop in a small town, who exactly is going to have the authority to pull you over and issue a ticket? Not, me; Not you; Not nobody. Nobody, that is, unless you are the police chief. Then you can issue your own ticket, which is precisely what Chief Knoeble did. He wrote himself a ticket for $235 and docked his own driving record 4 points.

Okay, so I have finally found one honest government official. What do you suppose are my chances of finding a second?

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The British Model

This article from the Guardian (UK) seems timely in light recent demands by Democrat Ted Kennedy and erstwhile Republican Arnold Schwartzenager that federal and state governments create a “universal” government-controlled healthcare system.

Domestic advocates of a nationalized healthcare system often cite the British National Health Service as the template for their own ambitious proposals for American. What American socialist healthcare advocates seem unable or unwilling to recognize is that the inevitable result of every government system is at best a form of institutionalized mediocrity. Rather than distributing quality service equally to the population as a whole, socialized systems impose a shared misery on the general population while preserving the highest levels of service for the ruling elites.

Since the introduction of the British NHS the quality and integrity of their system has been in a steady downward spiral to such a degree that many experts are now saying that the system is in danger of complete collapse. James Johnson, chairman of the British Medical Association, is quoted as saying, “the message this year is we have one year to save the NHS. “

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A Prayer

There is a prayer attributed to the Rev. Joe Wright, senior pastor of the Central Christian Church in Wichita, that often circulates on the Internet at this time of year. Although I am not at all religious, the prayer seems to me to be a strong and very important statement condemning many of the unpleasant contradictions that eat at the moral foundations of our society. Its message resonates with my own very personal. very secular beliefs

There are two versions of the prayer, one version written in a more general voice, available to everyone here, and another version as delivered by Rev. Wright to the Kansas House of Representatives. The later version was amended by Rev. Wright to reflect ideas more meaningful to his political audience, and for that reason is more meaningful to non-religious folk like myself. It is also for that reason that many of the Democrats stormed out of the assembly in a huff.

Heavenly Father, we come before you to ask your forgiveness. We seek your direction and your guidance. We know your word says, “Woe to those who call evil good.” But that’s what we’ve done.

We’ve lost our spiritual equilibrium. We have inverted our values. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your word in the name of moral pluralism. We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We’ve exploited the poor and called it a lottery. We’ve neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. In the name of choice, we have killed our unborn. In the name of right to life, we have killed abortionists.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it taxes. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, oh, God, and know our hearts today. Try us. Show us any wickedness within us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of the State of Kansas, and that they have been ordained by you to govern this great state.

Grant them your wisdom to rule. May their decisions direct us to the center of your will. And, as we continue our prayer and as we come in out of the fog, give us clear minds to accomplish our goals as we begin this Legislature. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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