Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sad For My Friend

I am terribly saddened over the fate of my friend Bob Ney. I know the proper position is supposed to be outrage over his "shaking down the system" and being part of the "culture of corruption", but I see a man who tried to do good and got run over by a system way out of control.

Bob is going to spend 30 months in a federal prison in Morgantown, WV (and yes, before some sarcastic caller asks, I do plan to visit him when I can). He will also get treatment for his alcohol addiction. You may have heard some of the comments from close friends who tell of his heavy drinking. I must say I was aware of the same problem.

Bob was a man who always had the interests of his district at heart. But he was also a man of small means, who became a major player on the national stage. A stage that runs off 2 things--cash and connections. For "the Congressman" to maintain his stature, he needed to be at the best restaurants, attend the sky box games, and play at the best courses. Bob Ney's family is a fine one (I know them) but not a wealthy one); and Bob's only career was that of a public servant which meant there wasn't much money after the bills were paid.

Bob Ney played the game he saw being played every day in DC. He took the steps he felt he had to take to stay in a position to help his district.

It was a mistake. It was wrong. And he is paying the price.

I had a note from Bob this week. His house has been sold. His family scattered. He has filtered his life to a box of memories. He has lost all he had. For those who say he made himself rich, you should know he has nothing at all.

But he has family and friends.

And a box full of memories.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the leadership crows about changes in ethics.

And there is a young Congressman somewhere who is just starting to serve his citizens wondering how he can manage to keep up with the high-fliers who seem to run the town.

And a guy in a suit nearby is smiling.

The Race Is On

It's official. Hillary Clinton is going to test the Presidential waters. You will note her web site now is bannered "Hillary for President" and the home page announcement is "I'm in".

Frankly, I thought she might not run. I thought she may come to the conclusion that she has 20 years to be a Senator of substance as opposed to a potential 8 years in the White House.

Her first obstacle is Oback Barama. He also announced his intent to test the Presidential waters. I think Obama is a real rising star on the Democrat horizon. Articulate, attractive, controlled and with some interesting ides. Consultant Susan Estrich has written a piece pointing out he is no younger than Bill Clinton was when he ran, and Obama actually has more years in elected office than Hillary does. But to me he lacks the national "gravitas".

She's clearly an early favorite. I'm not sure either is the best choice. New Mexico's Bill Richardson has always intrigued me, although I don't know if he's the guy. This should be the Democrat's year and we need the right man or woman to be in front. We don't need a repeat of Kerry.

The race is on.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's Time To Come Home

There was no surprise. President Bush announced plans for "The Surge"--an additional 20,000 American troops to Iraq.

When you hear or read the word "surge", remember to interpret that as "escalation".

I was pleased to see the President acknowledge--years too late--that the Iraq war plan isn't working. I just wish he had actually proposed a new one. The latest administration proposal is simply "give us more men and some more time and we'll keep doing door-to-door and see if we can figure something out".

Enough, is enough, Mr. President. We never should have been in the war to begin with. But now it's time to get out. All of the reasons you told us we needed to go are gone:

*There are no Weapons of Mass Destruction
*Salaam is out of power, and dead
*The Iraqi people now have control over their own destiny with a democratically elected government
*There is no imminent threat to America from any terrorist activity in Iraq

We gave the Iraqi's a new country. Now it's their job to manage it. We have a real war on terror to battle elsewhere, Mr. President, and our own people have a lot of problems that could use your attention.

Pay For Play??

When you watched the OSU-Florida championship game Monday you saw a packed stadium of folks who paid big bucks for tickets, dozens of ads that made FOX millions, and plenty of promotional banners and signs around the stadium. Lots of people made lots of money--including the 2 schools. But not a penny to people who were on the field. The young athletes, we are told, received a commemorative watch and a satellite radio.

Personally, I think we need to recognize that at the major football schools, the programs are big money-makers, revenue-generators. They are part of the "business" side of the school. Why shouldn't the "employees" (players) who make it possible to raise the big bucks get a "taste". Perhaps, as Powerful Pierre today suggested, it could take the form of some sort of "seed" money for their pension or some sort of "trust fund".

I would only apply the pay-for-play opportunity to the major schools where the football program is actually big business. And I might even agree that it should only apply for special occassions (undefeated seasons, bowl games) because the athletes DO get a free education out of it.

But when big bucks are being made for the schools, networks, coaches, and others, the players should get more than a watch.

Know The Goal

The role of government is NOT to make money. Nor to save money. It is do DO THINGS.

I have said this over and over, and I need to remind you of it again.

In West Virginia, a legislative audit report says the artisan center Tamarack is not making money. There is talk about changing the way it's run or even closing it.

What a pail of hog wash!

Tamarack was created to give West Virginia artists a place to sell their wares. A way to preserve the cultural heritage of our Mountain art. And a way to present that to the world. Tamarack does just that. A hundred artisans congregated in Charleston to make that point this week. Tamarack admirably does what it was created to do--it supports West Virginia arts and artisans. If that means the state needs to subsidize it, so be it.

Government is supposed to DO THINGS for the common good.

And success or failure is almost never measured in dollars and cents.

Keep Your Promises--no matter how small

It is, as a practical matter, no big deal.

But as a symbolic gesture, it is important.

And it has me steamed.

The Democrats have promised a "new day" in Congress. They have said it is time to stop the junkets and jockeying for cash contributions. Time to buckle down to work. And one "symbol" of the change was a return to a 5 day work week.

Now, let me be clear, I understand that Members of Congress do a lot of work off the floor. Time in the office or with constituents is vital. I know that just because they aren't standing behind those historic desks in the Rotunda, they are not goofing off.

But the Democrats said when they took over it would be a 5 day work week.

And it didn't last a week. Not one single week.

Monday, the House was not in session. And the reason was football. OSU-Florida in the national championship game. Big game, indeed. But the SYMBOLISM is disgusting. Members of Congress couldn't keep their pledge to work a full week for a single week--so they could watch football.

Symbols and image are important. It may indeed be true that there is no practical difference in starting a 100-hour clock Monday or Tuesday. But it is already a broken promise.

Is it any wonder the public is disgusted?