For this column, I invited you, the readers, to tell politicians what you'd like their 2003 resolutions to be. Without further ado:
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.): "I resolve to do exercises each day to keep my spine stiff." (Gregory V. Macievic, health physicist, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Health-Related Energy Research Branch)
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.): "I resolve not to use the phrase, 'Frankly, I'm troubled' for the entirety of the year 2003 because, frankly, troubled people belong in therapy, not in the U.S. Senate." (Milt Kelly, Fisher, Ill.)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.): "As a member of the U.S. Senate, I resolve to investigate why the United States hasn't built schools, roads, infrastructure, day care facilities and health care facilities in Third World countries so that we can get the same respect these countries have for Osama bin Laden, who was mainly known for building terrorist organizations." (Dave Dahlke, Port Orchard, Wash.)
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.): "I resolve not to spit out a two-word thought while whining interminably." (Frances Haynes, Memphis, Tenn.)
Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.): "I resolve not to vote for funding any more building projects in West Virginia to be named for Sen. Robert Byrd." (Les Sper, Cincinnati)
Democratic Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri: "We resolve to release the formulation of our hair spray in order to allow Harley riders to purchase it and thereby obtain waivers from California's motorcycle helmet laws." (Fred Daniels, Fairfield, Calif.)
Sen. Byrd: "I resolve to look in my dictionary for the definition of ad infinitum." (Dick Tracey, Washington, D.C.)
Sen. Kerry: "I resolve to ensure that my haircut reflects my position on Iraq." (R.O.H., Charleston, S.C.)
Sen. Daschle: "I resolve not to use the terms 'bipartisan' or 'bipartisanship' until I learn what they mean." (Robert S. Teachout, Crofton, Md.)
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.): "I resolve that all children should have access to the same educational opportunity as my children, so I will introduce legislation to make vouchers the law of the land and have federal education monies go directly to the children for use in any school of their choice." (Alvin J. Kushner, College Park, Md.)
Sen. Frist: "I resolve to develop the intestinal fortitude (guts) to stand up for what the party purports to believe and not cave in to the rantings and ravings of the Democrats and certain special interest demagogues." (Joe McCullough, Clarksville, Tenn.)
Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.): "I resolve to get rid of telemarketers who continue to use and abuse my phone and my answering service for soliciting and advertising purposes." (Brenda Bonilla, Tucson, Ariz.)
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.): "I resolve not to investigate all the people who sent me fruitcakes." (L.S., Cincinnati)
Former President Bill Clinton: "I, William Clinton, resolve to no longer bore the people of this country with my opinion or face and will retire to Arkansas." (J.M., Mystic, Conn.)
President Bush: "I resolve to protect our borders and stop pandering to illegal aliens, by using our troops to protect our borders and not other nations." (Chris Taylor, Phenix City, Ala.)
Mr. Bush: "I resolve to enact our border protection equal to or more than protection enacted to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border." (L.D. Fore, Miles City, Mont.)
Mr. Bush: "I resolve to round up all illegal aliens and expel them so far from our borders that they'll need months at least to try to return." (F.B. Mitchell, Silver Spring, Md.)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): "I will be John McCain, not the media creature of 2000." (Ken Howes, Holyoke, Mass.)
President Bush: "I resolve to learn the correct pronunciation of the word 'nuclear.'" (Padma, Washington, D.C.)
Sen. Frist: "I resolve to declare legislatively that Christianity is the foundation upon which our country and Constitution are built. Therefore, Christian symbols and rituals are not threats to the separation of church and state, nor is any religion a threat unless believers are forcibly denied the right to practice beliefs at appropriate times and places." (Mrs. M. Hagemann, Louisville, Ky.)
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.): "I resolve to wear my glasses next to my eyes." (Martha Windscheif, Rochester Hills, Mich.)
All elected officials in Washington: "I resolve that when I do or say a dumb, stupid, inexcusably inane thing, I will own up to it immediately, throw myself upon the mercy of my fellow Americans, and ask for their forgiveness instead of trying to evade responsibility with a bunch of carefully crafted, slick words that I think will get me off the hook but which succeed only in identifying me as just another political hack who thinks that saving my career is more important than being truly repentant." (Pat Bloebaum, Jacksonville, Fla.)
Clinton: "I still resolve to stop cheating at golf." (Ryan J. Baker, Atlanta. Ga.)
GRAB YOUR HELMETS
Junk-science competed with the Islamic jihad for 2002's "Most Dubious News Stories of the Year," as compiled by the National Anxiety Center.
"In a year when Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein made the bogeyman look like the Tooth Fairy," says center founder Alan Caruba, "the environmaniacs kept telling anyone who would listen that the Earth was doomed and everything you ate, drank or breathed would kill you."
Among the center's top dubious stories of 2002 are the obesity "epidemic," where trial lawyers representing obese clients pursued lawsuits attacking chocolate, dairy products, vegetable shortening, pastries, crackers and fried foods.
Then there was the assault on plastic, with warnings of "carcinogenic" consequences from handling items like grocery bags (don't put them over your head, either). And a declaration of oceans as "wilderness" areas so as to limit sport fishing.
Last, but not least, there were the customary "end of the world" claims, the latest broadcast by the BBC warning that a space rock is scheduled to hit Earth on Feb. 1, 2019.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Almost a year before debate over U.S. immigration policy heated up in the wake of Sept. 11, the immigration-watchdog group ProjectUSA erected a billboard at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City reading, "Immigration is doubling U.S. population in our lifetimes."
It pictured two children and cited the Census Bureau as its source.
The board lasted just 13 days. The owner of the property where the billboard was erected, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, ordered it removed after, according to the New York Times, "an authority employee noticed it and told his superiors."
"That the Port Authority would force down a simple Census Bureau statistic linking immigration and population growth is extraordinary, really, a blatant abuse of government power to suppress free speech," says Craig Nelsen of ProjectUSA.
In response, ProjectUSA filed suit on First Amendment grounds in July 2001. Now, Nelsen reveals that the Port Authority has paid an out-of-court settlement to ProjectUSA.
"Immigration moderates should savor this victory as yet another example of the new and encouraging climate in the United States on immigration," he says. "The Port Authority's removal of ProjectUSA's fact-based billboard about population growth - and the media's almost complete silence about this outrageous attack on the First Amendment - was motivated, of course, by the dictates of 'political correctness,' a thankfully dying ideology that suffocates free and open democratic debate about over-immigration."
The government of Saudi Arabia, still stuck in the relentless wake of Sept. 11, forked over $14.6 million to Washington-D.C.-based Qorvis Communications for public relations and advertising during the most recent six-month federal reporting period.
"That tops the record $14.2 million that Hill and Knowlton (public-affairs group) got from Citizens for a Free Kuwait in the early '90s to build support for the Persian Gulf war," Kevin McCauley, editor of O'Dwyer's PR Daily (www.odwyerpr.com), tells this column.
Each year at this time, we pay close heed to Washington, D.C. malpractice lawyer Jack Olender's annual legal predictions. And for good reason.
Not only is Washington world headquarters for lawyers, Olender's crystal ball has been accurate an astounding 90 percent of the time.
Few stood with Olender, for example, when he predicted the acquittal - despite DNA evidence - of O.J. Simpson in his criminal trial. He also was among the first to foretell the still-difficult-to-swallow (given the lying that took place before a federal grand jury) acquittal of President Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial.
As for his 2003 forecast, Olender says one would assume, given the presence of President Bush, a Republican-controlled Congress and eager business lobbyists pushing to cap malpractice and product-liability awards, that the stars are in alignment for successful passage of tort reform.
Not so, he says, as trial lawyers will join filibustering Democrats and prevent such an outcome. In addition, says Olender, Mickey Mouse will team up with Bill Gates to fight Internet pirates, although Disney and Microsoft will need additional "platoons" of lawyers to fight off the upstarts.
Finally, 2003 will be the Year of the Woman. Already, 50 percent of law students are women, 54 percent of lawyers working for corporations are women, and 41 percent of law firm lawyers are women. The latter number, he predicts, "will edge up closer to 50 percent in the coming year."