Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tammy Duckworth: Confused

Someone needs to explain politics to Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic nominee for Illinois' Sixth Congressional District. And while they're at it, they should hold a calender in front of her, pointing out today's date as well as that of the upcoming election.

Eight days ahead of the election, Tammy thought it would be a good idea to head to New York to receive an award from Glamour magazine, the Daily Herald reports. There's nothing wrong with the magazine or even accepting the award, unless your opponent, a veteran politician, is pulling out all the stops to ensure his victory --not yours.

Which is exactly what is happening. Peter Roskam, the Republican nominee, was visited yesterday by U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a rock star in American politics. Later this week, Roskam will receive First Lady Laura Bush

The Roskam campaign consistently shows itself to be one very well-organized machine. It has updated its television advertisements and sends new literature every week.

The Duckworth campaign, on the other hand, looks like a football team that's on its opponent's two-yard line but doesn't know how to score. Other than a new television ad shot with U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), most of the advertising that's seen for Duckworth is from the Democratic National Committee. And even then it appears on a cable channel, not a local channel that's likely being seen by most of the voters.

This is what happens when your campaign is nearly broke, which is the state of the Duckworth campaign. It's also confused. Someone needs to take Tammy aside and explain to her that the swank lunches and dinners stop the moment she loses the election. She needs to focus on campaigning to win the election -- and that's all.

It also makes me wonder: Do the Democrats really want Tammy to win? I'm not sure what the answer is but if actions are stronger than words, then the Democrats, at the national level, give every appearance of having thrown Tammy overboard so they can focus on elections they can win.

Tammy can't even vote for herself. She lives in Hoffman Estates, a Chicago suburb that's in Illinois' Eighth Congressional District. She'll be able to vote for fellow Democrat Melissa Bean, who will appreciate Tammy's vote because she's in a tight re-election contest against Republican David McSweeney.

If Tammy pulls off this election, it will be in spite of her campaign. But right now, I'm betting on a Roskam victory. It may be marginal but he's going to win.

And then we'll see the usual dribble from the loser. After conceding the election, Tammy will say she'll continue to speak out on the issues. As if anyone will care.

Friday, October 27, 2006

GOP Fights for Roskam

Worried that the hotly contested Congressional race for Illinois Sixth District seat is far from locked up is bringing out the heavy hitters from the Republican party next week.

First Lady Laura Bush will campaign for Peter Roskam, who seeks to keep the Congressional seat in Republican hands. And U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will also make an appearance next week for Mr. Roskam, attempting to show that Republicans of all stripes have more in common with one another than they do with a moderate Democrat like Tammy Duckworth, who's seeking an upset victory.

The Daily Herald reports that both candidates are in a "neck-and-neck race."

McCain's visit is considered controversial because Roskam doesn't support the illegal immigration bill that the Senator co-sponsored. Ms. Duckworth, however, supports the legislation.

This race, while interesting, is pretty boring. While both candidates led clean personal lives, neither is all that exciting. They're only separated by their ideas.

Duckworth does her best to come across as a moderate Democrat while Roskam is a GOP candidate in the mold Henry Hyde, the Congressional seat's current occupant.

It will be interesting to see if the Democrats respond in kind during the final days of the campaign by having some of their heavy hitters also make an appearance on Duckworth's behalf. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oil, The Fed & everyone's economic future

Last month, your correspondent weighed in on oil prices, suggesting that they'll sooner determine your economic future than just about anything else. Oil prices have been falling lately and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is now above 12,000. This just in, from the London Financial Times' investment editor:

The Short View: On the Fed and oil
By John Authers, Investment Editor

Published: October 25 2006 18:13

"The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee left the Fed Funds rate unchanged at 5.25 per cent on Wednesday, and warned that 'some inflation risks remain'. The market’s response to Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman, mirrored the deathless one-liner of Mandy Rice-Davies, caught up in a notorious British scandal of the 1960s, when told Lord Astor had denied sleeping with her: 'He would, wouldn’t he?'

"The market brushed off the ritual hawkish sentence at the end of the Fed’s communique, and also gave a Rice-Davies response to Jeffrey Lacker, who for the third time dissented and voted to raise rates. The rest of the statement was doveish enough – 'inflation pressures seem likely to moderate over time' and 'the economy seems likely to expand at a moderate pace' – to convince traders that the Fed believes the economy is heading for a 'soft landing'.

"They had feared something more hawkish, so this was enough to trigger an afternoon rally. The dollar weakened, the yield on the 10-year treasury bond shed 4 basis points (making 6 basis points for the day), and US stocks showed solid gains for the day.

"But was the Fed decision really the most important market news on Wednesday? Earlier, the energy market was shocked by supply figures showing that US crude oil inventories actually fell last week. The market had expected a rise. The result was a sharp bounce in oil prices. Nymex crude futures gained 3.6 per cent to stand at $61.52 per barrel, above the $60 floor that the Opec group of oil exporters is trying to establish.

"This matters. The 'reduced impetus from energy prices' was a factor the Fed named for believing that inflation pressures would moderate over time. And there is good evidence that the current remarkable world stock rally has more to do with falling oil prices than with the Fed’s 'pause' on interest rate rises.

"Data from Tim Bond of Barclays Capital show that since the start of 2004, the negative correlation between forward price/earnings ratios on the S&P500 and spot oil prices has been 0.87. Thus, 87 per cent of falls in multiples could be explained by rising oil prices, and vice versa. And if oil keeps rising, expect equities to fall, whatever the Fed says."

So there you have it. The house expert at the Financial Times writes that there's an inverse relationship between oil prices and stock prices.

More fodder for the Democrats. Not only could they create a campaign centered around making U.S. foreign oil dependence a national security issue, but now they could also make oil prices an economic security issue for the common man.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Firing the Big Guns

The Democrats’ big guns are coming out in support of Tammy Duckworth. U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), considering a run for his party’s presidential nomination in two years, is featured in the latest television ad endorsing Duckworth while today, in Chicago, former President Bill Clinton provided his official backing.

The latest Chicago Tribune-WGN Channel 9 poll says that Duckworth is running nearly tied with Republican Peter Roskam. She’s supported by 39 percent of the people in Illinois Sixth Congressional District, says the poll, compared to Roskam, who is supported by 43 percent of the voters.

Without a doubt, this is the strongest run any Democrat has ever made for the office she seeks. Still, her campaign is out of money and gives every appearance of being lackluster.

Yes, the new ad helps, as does the endorsement from the former President, but more needs to be done in the next two weeks if she hopes to win. She needs to remove the gloves and create some more excitement about her candidacy.

The highlight of the new television commercial is Senator Obama explaining that Tammy supports the same illegal immigration legislation that’s supported by 2008’s leading Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Duckworth has taken some hits from Roskam over her support of this legislation. By saying that she supports the same legislation that’s supported by McCain, Democrats are attempting to show that she’s, at the very least, a centrist, not some crazed liberal.

To be sure, highlights of the illegal immigration legislation that was passed in May by the U.S. Senate include allowing illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for two to five years to enter a temporary worker program.

Those inside the country for more than five years are eligible for citizenship after an 11-year probationary period. They’re also required to learn English as well as pay a penalty and back taxes. Those illegal immigrants here for less than two years would be returned to their home countries.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What about those yard signs for Duckworth and Roskam?

Perhaps it’s no big deal, but it’s interesting to note the differences in the yard signs for Tammy Duckworth, Democrat, and Peter Roskam, Republican, the leading candidates in the Sixth District Congressional race.

The Duckworth sign states prominently that it’s all about Tammy. There’s no mention of her party affiliation.

The Roskam sign, on the other hand, makes clear that a vote for Peter is a vote for a Republican.

Does the Duckworth campaign think it should hide her party affiliation? Or are they attempting to say, in an understated way, that she’ll be an independent voice in Congress?

Is the Roskam campaign boasting that the state senator is the choice of the Republican Party? And that because of the District’s longstanding habit of returning a Republican to Congress that such a marking on his yard sign assures victory?

I don’t know what to think, but if you have any thoughts, please send them. I’ll post them. Thank you.

Tammy Duckworth for Congress

I’m voting for Tammy Duckworth for all the reasons presented in the Chicago Tribune’s endorsement. She's not wedded to Democratic Party politics, giving every appearance of someone who would be a moderate voice on Capitol Hill. But I question whether or not she really wants the job and whether the leadership of the Democratic Party wants her to win.

I've lived in Illinois' Sixth Congressional district for 13 years and this is, without a doubt, the most contested congressional race I've seen during my time here. Never before have more signs for a Democratic Congressional candidate been posted on the front lawns of so many residents. She’s the best candidate the Democrats have ever had in this District.

Peter Roskam is basically Henry Hyde Light while Duckworth is an entirely different candidate. She's hard to define, making her a candidate that's difficult to dismiss as simply a "liberal."

For the record, I’ve always voted for Henry Hyde. I didn’t always agree with his positions – abortion comes to mind as does the impeachment of Bill Clinton – but Henry was an excellent representative if the job is defined as working for the people he represented. What sold me on Henry was how he went to bat for the residents of Glen Ellyn whose houses are located near the train tracks.

One night, about 10 years ago, a Union Pacific freight train was parked on the tracks in the middle of Glen Ellyn. Its engine was running and one mother decided she’d had enough. The train’s engines were keeping her kids awake. So she walked out onto the tracks to talk to the engineer. She was killed by an oncoming train.

This tragedy, as might be expected, caused quite the uproar. There was a meeting between town officials and representatives from Union Pacific. Henry Hyde was there, too. Just by being there, Hyde changed the dynamic of the meeting and Union Pacific agreed to park its trains further up the tracks, away from the houses, and to turn off the engines. Henry forever earned my vote.

The problem with the Duckworth campaign is that it doesn't have any pizzazz. There's nothing sexy or unusual about this campaign. There are the customary campaign stops, debates, television ads, endorsements, and signs posted throughout the district. But that's it.

If Duckworth really wants the job, she needs to do something different. She needs to take a "walking tour" through the neighborhoods that she’d like to represent. I'm not belittling her war wounds. I'm suggesting, instead, that she do the unexpected, something different, that will help break longstanding habits among Sixth District voters. Maybe she's getting this advice from her political consultants. Maybe she isn't. I don't know.

To make matters worse, the Daily Herald reports that the Duckworth campaign is running out of money. As of September 30, it was down to just over $200,000 for the final month of the campaign. Compare that to Roskam’s war chest, which, as of October 1, had $1.5 million.

What this means is that Duckworth can’t afford the television ads. A new ad is now appearing on television and it’s paid for the Democratic Congressional Committee. It essentially slams Roskam. Nothing new there.

But other than taking over the television ads, where is the leadership of the Democratic Party? Here's a chance to represent a district which, heretofore, has been safely in Republican hands. Why aren't they making campaign stops with her? Why are they missing in action? Do they really want her to win? My worst fear is that Senator Durbin set her up to take a fall.

I can see why they might be worried about sending Rahm Emanuel or Nancy Pelosi out here, but certainly there are other, more moderate Democrats who could give her a helping hand. Senator Hillary Clinton could come here for day, maybe even her husband, someone who could give the campaign that extra push.

Or is the lack of an appearance from top party leaders indicative of today's politics? Is this just another way of telling Tammy and others that unless they tow the party line adinfinitum, forget it? They'll do nothing to help.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Say again?

“Condoms, diaphragms, sponges, cervical caps, and spermicidal jellies and creams, which must be applied at times of sexual activity, often fail because couples are unprepared or unwilling to interrupt a moment of passion," writes New York Times health writer Jane Brody in this week's Science Times section.

How can they fail if they’re not used?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hold the applause on North Korea

While President Bush and his administration are giving themselves high fives for their diplomatic victory against North Korea at the United Nations, let’s keep in mind what the sanctions didn’t address on Saturday – the demise of North Korea, which means, for the foreseeable future, Kim Jung Il will continue to menace the world in general and the United States in particular.

China, North Korea’s best ally, sharing a border with the rogue state that’s about 880 miles long, has every reason to support Kim Jung Il. While Beijing may have lost some respect for not being able to control their stooge in Pyongyang, their interest in mining North Korea for gold and other precious metals supersedes anything they lost last week.

The Chinese have their eyes on the country’s natural resources and are prepared to pay North Korea for the rights to mine them. China will sell these precious metals. North Korea, for that matter, needs assistance bringing these natural resources to market; in addition, Kim Jung Il knows that whatever payment he receives from the Chinese will prop up his regime.

China will talk a good game about enforcing the U.N.-approved sanctions against North Korea, but don’t expect them to lead the charge, let alone do much. In addition, China views North Korea as part of their area of influence. As The Economist reports, Beijing considers a unified Korean peninsula a potential threat to national security. They prefer a divided peninsula because it maintains their influence with Japan.

To be sure, some damage has been inflicted on North Korea. Kim Jung Il’s favorite bank, Macao-based Banco Delta Asia, has been pressured by the United States to shut down or freeze the accounts of the North Korean leadership. This certainly crimps Kim Jung Il’s style but not so much that he feels his days are coming to an end.

So, essentially, very little progress has been made against North Korea. The only thing that’s likely to bring the regime to an end is either a U.S.-led war or a charge led by renegades inside North Korea. Neither is on the horizon.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Requiem for my mother

I love my mother. I love her dearly. And because my love for her is so strong I want her dead.

When I think back on my childhood, she’s the one parent who was there during key events and turning points, doing whatever she could to make sure everything turned out just right. No matter how bad things looked, she always had a way of showing me it was never as bad as it appeared. She was my fiercest critic and my biggest cheerleader.

Whether it was putting me on the path to recovery from a childhood illness, to making sure I was actually learning what was being taught in school, to helping me understand people and the human condition, my mother was always there. She taught me how to love, how to conduct myself at all times, and even how to drive.

She could talk about anything. Whether it was people at my dad’s office, events at his company or current affairs, mom could discuss it all. She had a way of making people so comfortable that they would take her into their confidence. Maybe it was her youth, her beauty or her charm that made her so trustworthy.

With few exceptions, I never held much back from her. And I never once felt embarrassed talking about the most intimate of topics with her.

She could discuss sex openly and frankly, never hesitating to answer difficult or embarrassing questions. As she said many times, “My mother never talked to me about sex. I want you to understand it.”

When I think about her, I think more people should have had my mother as their mom. She coached a few of my friends through some difficult days; she was easily able to make friends with all of my friends as well as their parents. Everyone loved her.

Whatever she lacked, she made sure I had. This was especially true of self-confidence. My mother never really believed in herself. But she made sure her two sons believed in themselves. She helped us find our strengths and showed us how to hedge against our weaknesses.

I’m not sure why she never had any confidence. Maybe it was her mother’s fault. Or maybe it was a generational thing. She was one of the last groups of women expected to marry young, stay home and rear the children. And, basically, that’s all she wanted to be – a wife and a mother. And a stay-at-home one at that, long before the term “stay-at-home mom” became fashionable.

She packed up our house eight times in 12 years for moves across the country and overseas. She managed nearly all of the details, making sure everything arrived just as it had been packed.

Looking back on her abilities and accomplishments, I’m impressed. There wasn’t anything about her background that would have led someone to predict the kind of life she would live. Her education was limited to a high school diploma from Charles City, Iowa, and about a year’s worth of secretarial school in Des Moines, where she worked for the state attorney general. By the time she was 32, she had two sons, 12 and 8, and had just returned to the United States after living in Hong Kong for two years.

Her life, I believe, caused quite the rift with her mother and even her sister. I’m sure there were some personality differences between them but there was also some jealousy, too. My mother left Iowa while they remained behind.

I suspect that’s not a new story. I’m sure there are other families with similar stories, where one member leaves to see the world while the others remain close to home.

The most devastating thing that happened to my mother was her divorce. She was married to my dad for just over 20 years when they announced they were separating. About a year later, their break-up was made official.

My mother was single at 42. The previous 23 years of her life had been defined as being a wife, homemaker, mom and hostess for my dad’s business functions. Suddenly, everything that gave her life meaning was ending. I was graduating from college and about to start my first job while my brother was off to college.

She was scared. Alone. And probably depressed. Her mother couldn’t advise her because she’d never experienced such a devastating blow. Her sister’s advice: Return to Iowa.

Mom remained in Connecticut and overcame some of the trauma with the help of close friends. They supported her but I suspect even they were eventually at a loss for words or guidance. She probably should have found a therapist.

But that wasn’t mom. She was the type of person – at least when it came to her own health – who thought freshening up her make-up, lighting up a cigarette, a new drink and a few good friends would make the pain go away. It did – until the party was over and she had to confront reality again by herself.

Today, at 64, she’s an Alzheimer’s patient. She lives near us in an assisted living facility. She still recognizes me, my wife and my children.

But her condition, in spite of all of the drugs that she’s taking to keep her brain working, worsens. Lately her mind’s demise has started affecting her behavior. She acts like a child, not only in front of my sons but also in front people she’s never met.

She demonstrated this behavior this week while we were waiting for her dental appointment. She went into her kid routine, with two other adults in the waiting room, and then proceeded to walk backwards out of the waiting room.

Then she peeked around the corner of the lobby into the waiting room to see if I noticed she was missing. These are the antics of a child who’s 6 or 7 – not a 64-year-old woman. An hour later, she acted like a kid for a 19-year-old waitress at the restaurant where we’d had lunch.

Her dignity is gone. If I introduced the mom I knew five years ago to the mom I know today, she wouldn’t want to be around. In fact, she’d want to be dead.

And that’s where I am on this. I want her dead. I’m not about to kill her or help her commit suicide or anything of the sort. But if there’s any one thing I pray for it’s her death. The sooner, the better.
Sometimes people commend us for all that we’re doing. We sold her house, moved her here, and her financial assets are well looked after.

But I feel like I’m walking on quicksand. Other than doing the best we can, I don’t think we know what we’re doing. She’s alive, somewhat healthy, comfortable, safe, and I guess that’s as good as it’ll be. But I keep thinking I failed her.

And even though modern medicine can slow her brain’s death, it can’t change the eventual outcome. At some point, if she’s still alive, she’ll be in some sort near-coma. This is what happens to Alzheimer’s patients if they live that long. They appear to be asleep; but, really, they’re just gone.

They don’t recognize anyone; they can’t do anything for themselves; they don’t know their name; they might recall pieces of their childhood. Mentally, they’re dead. Why should anyone stay alive at that point?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

North Korea

If we are to believe today’s news reports, North Korea has a nuclear bomb. If you’ve been following the news for the last few years, this shouldn’t surprise you. The best guesses on this most secretive regime was that it was developing a nuclear bomb for quite some time.

The question, as always, is does North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il, have the willingness to use it. And this is a question that can only be answered with sheer speculation.

To be sure, the latest reports indicate this isn’t much of a bomb. It wasn’t anywhere near the size of the atomic bomb, today’s Wall Street Journal reports, that the United States dropped on Japan during World War II.

Still, a nuclear-armed North Korea shouldn’t settle well with anyone. It doesn’t help China’s self-perceived position as Asia’s honest broker to see its key ally openly defy it, which it did by exploding a nuclear bomb. And it begs the following questions:

• Do the Chinese still have any influence with Pyongyang?
• Are the Chinese, while officially against a nuclear-armed North Korea,
secretly celebrating this latest development?

The answers: Who knows?

So this latest development begs us for options. Here they are:

1. Invade North Korea. While this might settle well with all of the hawks, the problem with this policy is that President Bush doesn’t have enough political capital to take the country to another war. If North Korea successfully launches a nuclear strike against the United States or Japan, then the President’s political position changes. But until then, North Korea remains safe from a pre-emptive war.
2. Cut off aid to North Korea. This one might actually fly. For years, the United States, through the United Nations, has provided food to North Korea. The deal went something like this: We give food to North Korea so they don’t develop nuclear weapons. Since this deal has been violated, the United States is in a good position to tell North Korea, the United Nations, and, more importantly, China, that it will no longer provide food assistance to North Korea. The latest reports suggest that North Korea, a country of around 23 million people, is practically starving.
3. Give nuclear arms to Japan. This changes the balance of power in Asia dramatically and it won’t settle well with China, which views World War II as something that happened last week. But it might actually be something the United States can do to keep North Korea guessing. It might also be the strongest military action the United States can successfully carry out in the near term. Questions about this option will involve China’s response. China can be expected to react strongly against a nuclear armed Japan. Japan might resist this option because it has a new prime minister, and he may not be ready to risk any chance he has of improving relations with China.
4. Complain to the United Nations. The problem with this body is that it can’t resolve the average, run-of-the-mill genocide. So don’t expect it to resolve, to our liking at least, anything as complicated as North Korea and nuclear weapons. This is a nice choice from the standpoint of increasing our goodwill throughout the world; but, seriously, don’t expect it to do much in terms of bringing this issue to a resolution.
5. Do nothing. This policy might settle well with the isolationists in the United States but it’s problematic. South Korea is an ally and the United States is committed to its defense and survival. This is not an option.
6. Find out what the Chinese know. Spending time with the Chinese makes sense because China is North Korea’s best ally. The latest developments in North Korea make the merits of such talks questionable; but the Chinese, on the q-t of course, might release information about North Korea that only they know. Which might help the case the United States is making.
7. Survey our allies in Asia. This means finding out what the thinking is with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand about the developments in North Korea. This is helpful and important but doesn’t provide any immediate satisfaction in terms of resolving the issue.
8. Continue the six-party talks with North Korea. Given yesterday’s news, the possible results of this plan are questionable.
9. Talk one-on-one with North Korea. This is exactly what Kim Jong Il wants – respect from the United States. George W. Bush is in the final two years of his presidency. He’s coasting, you might say, until he turns over the keys to the Oval Office. There’s a case to be made for him to talk one-on-one with Kim Jong Il but it’s highly unlikely that the United States will ever enter into direct talks, alone, with North Korea.

The problem with all of these options is that, with the exception of the first one, none of them leads to the solution which is needed – the demise of North Korea. The problem with keeping North Korea around is that it will likely behave in the same manner – or worse – in the coming months or years.

And it begs the question why does the United States want this problem to remain unsolved. It doesn’t but right now the president doesn’t have the political capital and the military doesn’t have the means of taking out North Korea once and for all.

So we’re stuck with this problem – unless Kim Jong Il acts irrationally. He won’t. He’s far too smart. Be prepared for more saber-rattling from North Korea and a few more explosions.

Friday, October 06, 2006

"I never touched her!"

It was just phone sex. It’s not like I really touched her.

That was the position of former Congressman Mel Reynolds (D-IL) while being tried on sexual assault charges 11 years ago.

Reynolds was a great story. He was one of those rare finds in American politics: someone who worked his way up and succeeded because he had skill and talent – and a few breaks. Like the president he served under at the time, Reynolds was a Rhodes Scholar who likely had a bright future in politics.

In fact, had he kept his sexual desires at bay, he might very well occupy the U.S. Senate seat that’s held by Barack Obama.

But his desires and fantasies got the better of him.

As a result, he was convicted in August 1995, of criminal sexual assault, stemming from a recorded telephone conversation he had with 16-year-old Beverly Heard, one of his campaign workers.

”He maintained that he and Ms. Heard had only fantasized about sex in telephone conversations,” reported The New York Times. “Mr. Reynolds, who is black, said he was the target of a racially biased, politically motivated prosecution.”

The Times went on to report that “prosecutors built their case on graphic tape-recorded telephone conversations in which Mr. Reynolds discussed sex acts with Ms. Heard.”

The interesting thing about the trial was that Ms. Heard spent 13 nights in jail because she refused to testify. She later told the jury that she and Reynolds had a consensual sexual affair.

Keep all of that in mind as you consider the case that should be made against former Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL). Like Reynolds, it doesn’t appear that Foley actually touched someone, but he certainly engaged in behavior that’s out of line – for anyone!

The problem here is that the age of consent in Washington is 16. So there’s a good chance that Foley will never see a day in prison.

But, like Reynolds, he should. And if does go to prison, he should be forced to display a sign by his house or apartment that tells everyone he’s a sexual predator.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Capitol Hill's double standards

Congratulations to House Speaker Dennis Hastert for putting together an independent investigation about what we already know: A member of Congress sent out sexually explicit e-mails to a teenager.

With all due respect to former FBI Director Louis Freeh, what's he going to tell us that we don't already know? Not much.

To put this in perspective, last week, Hewlett-Packard's top officers were summoned to Capitol Hill to testify about nefarious wrongdoings under their watch. They're also being investigated by California's state attorney general, who's filed charges against HP's former chairwoman, Patricia Dunn, and others.

Here's the point: Hewlett-Packard's top leadership is forced to live with the law. Congress, however, goes on as if nothing really happened.

Sure, there's lot of noise and everyone's posturing on the issue involving former Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL), but top Republican leaders, unlike the people who oversaw Hewlett-Packard's corporate governance, aren't resigning -- or even being forced out.

When will Congress live with the laws they make?

Post a Sexual Predator Sign on Capitol Hill

The problem with the revelations involving former Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL), and the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, is that it shows just how far out of touch Washington is with the rest of America.

If the average office worker, teacher, minister, doctor, in other words, anyone, sent sexually oriented and explicit e-mails to a teenager, their careers and lives would come to a crashing halt. First, they’d be convicted by public opinion. Then they’d be convicted in court.

And once they did the time for the crime, they’d be forced to register with the local police force. In addition, they’d be forced to place a sign outside their house or apartment, informing their neighbors about their past conviction.

Maybe it’s time to post such a sign – a damn big one! – on Capitol Hill.

Maybe all of us, especially the parents of these teenage Pages working in the House of Representatives, should know that their children are rubbing shoulders with child sexual predators.

Maybe it takes this kind of drastic action to get Congress to realize it’s not above the law.

And, ultimately, that’s the problem. Members of Congress think, their actions suggest, that because they make the laws, the laws don’t apply to them.

None of this started with Congressman Foley. This kind of behavior has been seen before.

And none of us, the voters, do enough to stop it. We’re upset for a week or two, or maybe the next time we’re at the polls, but, basically, we give these guys a pass. Not, perhaps, the congressman who’s charged with the crime but certainly the rest of them.

It’s time to start demanding accountability from these elected officials. Let’s start by voting out all of those whose hands touched this crime but didn’t do enough to stop Congressman Foley. Then let’s force Congress to unfurl a huge banner on their lawn – something that can be seen for miles – that says the Capitol houses child sexual predators.

Let’s do to Congress what they, through the legislation they’ve passed, would do to us if we were charged and convicted with the very same crime!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Feeling Rich?

If you invest in the stock market, you might be feeling a tad richer today. That's because, as you likely know, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped nearly 57 points yesterday to a high it hasn't seen in more than six years.

It was brought about by falling oil prices. A barrel of crude oil is running just under $60 a barrel, which means it's not as costly as it was two months ago to run a business.

Oil prices are directing our economy. The Federal Reserve, which overseas the money supply and our banking system, experts say, will likely not increase interest rates any time soon because oil prices have fallen so low, reports today's Wall Street Journal.

Stockholders at ExxonMobil and other U.S. energy companies, however, aren't so happy. Falling oil prices make their stock prices drop.

So perhaps you're feeling richer. Let's face it, it's not as costly to fill that gas tank; and your company or business may find it easier to increase the bottom line because energy costs are easier on the budget.

The problem with this feeling of elation is that it's short lived.

Oil prices will increase; and American consumption isn't about to change. The United States will remain the world's leading oil market.

So if President Bush is serious about ending the country's "addiction" to oil, as he puts it, he better set about creating a plan to bring this about. The Democrats, for that matter, might stop harping on the Page scandal in the House of Representatives and show themselves to be a party of ideas by coming up with their own plan to reduce America's oil consumption.

Be on the lookout for what our two political parties do -- not for what they say.