Capitalists, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Death Pay etc.

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Aug 16, 2002 12:00 AM
In the Annals of the Ludicrous, the past weeks have given us the O'Neill/Bono tour of Africa, the Bishops' Squirm in Dallas, and the rollicking D.C. revelry celebrating the anniversary of Tom Daschle's first year as Senate majority leader. Oh, and renewed speculation 30 years after Watergate as to the identity of Deep Throat (as a guess, how about - remember, you heard it here first - an amalgam of David Gergen and Jonathan Rose?). Herewith, more miscellaneous summer items.... The list of companies troubled or brought down by high-up hanky panky continued to lengthen. Tyco, Global Crossing, Arthur Andersen, Adelphia, Dynegy, WorldCom, CMS Energy, Xerox, ImClone, Sotheby's, Riet Aid, Bell Labs. And the latest news from Enron, contained in federal bankruptcy filings, is that in the year before going toes-up it paid $681 million in bonuses and other retention instruments to execs: 58 received $1 million or more; chairman Kenneth Lay received $103 million. The guy got it right who said, "The trouble with capitalism is (some) capitalists." In the wake of soaring numbers of kamikaze attacks on its citizenry by Palestinian terrorists, Israel continued defending itself - mobilizing reserves, moving into heavily Palestinian areas, building a security fence hundreds of miles long. And still the pro-Palestinian lobby blamed ... Israel. Some people just refuse to acknowledge the relationship between cause and effect, action and reaction. Good foreign news came in the form of (a) NATO's acceptance of Russia as a non-voting partner, and (b) Colombia's election of Alvaro Uribe, the resolute "hard hand" mayor of Medellin, as president - Colombia's voters evidently finally fed up with the losses incurred in the 38-year war against drug bosses and quasi-Communist guerrillas. ABC named Mr. Snuffleupagus - er, George Stephanopoulos, of Clinton White House fame - to replace Sam and Cokie on their Sunday show, thereby sustaining the proposition that broadcast "news" brims with partisans, ideologues, and shills. Even CBS' own Andy Rooney now describes Dan Rather as "transparently liberal." Could it be that the spreading perception of the leftism infusing the broadcast media helps explain the hemorrhage of viewers from the network nightly news shows? And could the same perception help explain why the transparently conservative Fox News now has twice the number of viewers as the far older, and far-left, CNN? The growingly litigious AARP reportedly joined three class-action lawsuits against prescription drug makers. The group is fast on its way to becoming the new ACLU - and rivaling it in disputed credibility. Isn't there a disconnect between the amount of money (an average of $1.6 million, which some of the recipients are complaining is not enough) going to families of those lost in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, and the amount going to surviving family members of those in the American military killed in action? In the latter cases, the government pays $6,750 in death benefits and burial costs to families of those enlisted for fewer than a dozen years; surviving spouses receive $833 per month until remarriage, and $211 a month per child under 18. For troops putting their lives on the line for their nation, how about at least the $250,000 minimum guaranteed the families of the WTC victims? Put it down that Sen. Joe Lieberman, panting passionately after the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, voted against making permanent the temporary tax cuts - including elimination of the death, or estate, tax - approved by Congress a year ago. In speeches prior to his vote, Lieberman accused President Bush of undermining the swoony economic policies of the Clinton administration. Bulletins from the cancer-therapy front have been good and bad. Tests on ballyhooed drugs such as ImClone's Erbitux and Johnson & Johnson's pancreatic cancer drug (R1115777) haven't elicited the desired results. And a third European government's food agency has found surprisingly high levels of a probable carcinogen in starchy fried and baked foods such as potato chips, french fries, and breads. On the good side: (1) Genentech's Avastin continues to hold big promise, and (2) scientists have discovered that spontaneous changes in a certain gene are involved in 70 percent of melanoma cases - possibly the biggest breakthrough in melanoma research ever. These items from the world of children: (a) Parents are putting their youngsters in organized sports programs at ever younger ages: The majority in at least one D.C. area tennis program are now under 7, some as young as - ridiculously - two and a half. (b) After a generation-long failed experiment, Harvard will re-institute a normal 4.0 (A) to 0 (F) grading system; it also will cap the number of students graduating with honors (90 percent in 2001) at a modest 60 percent. And (c) high schools have begun to ban dirty dancing at proms. At Washington's Oakland Mills High School, for example, this year the principal decreed these oh-so-civilized dances and moves to be out: "grinding," "doggy dancing," "front piggy-backing," "hiking up skirts," and "hands on the floor." Polls showed a majority of the Catholic laity opposing as insufficient the actions of the church hierarchy in Dallas regarding the church's sex abuse crisis. Regarding which this quote from a recent Associated Press dispatch is apt: "The number of Roman Catholic priests accused of molestation was soaring. Church leaders acknowledged protecting abusive clergy and apologized. Even the Vatican took notice. The year was 1992, and U.S. bishops - taking heat for their handling of errant priests - began developing a plan to stamp out clerical sex abuse. ... 'Ten years ago, what the bishops did seemed enlightened and the right thing to do. But it was a failure,' said Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops."