Friday, January 5, 2007

The Lightning Round:
Your Government At Work

The hard-working, deadline-beating staff of your Lightning Round have spent the past week on mandatory R & R, with concise instructions from our Fearless Leader not to go near a newspaper unless it's for a Fry's Electronics ad. Still, news being the bread and butter bastion of our lives, worthwhile headlines will creep into our ears like Christmas sales into March. Don't take down that tree yet.

CLEANING HOUSE. Nancy Pelosi is now the first woman ever elected House Speaker. She is promising the most ethical Congress ever, to which we have a simple refrain: Rep. Jim Jefferson of Louisiana, a.k.a. "Dollar Bill," the guy caught with $90,000 in cold cash in his freezer and no ethical way to explain it.

Pelosi, in all fairness, asked for and got Jefferson booted off the House Ways and Means Committee over objections oozing of lameness. Notes The Washington Post:
But at the closed-door caucus meeting, several black Democrats complained that Pelosi was not their emperor or queen, while Jefferson implored his colleagues to keep him on Ways and Means for the sake of Hurricane Katrina's victims. No one spoke up for Pelosi -- except Pelosi.

She began by praising Jefferson's wife and five daughters: Jamila, Jalila, Jelani, Nailah and Akilah. But she quickly made it clear that Jefferson's legal problems had become her political problem: "I am not an emperor or a queen. But neither am I a fool."
And neither are we. The Democrats are promising an ambitious agenda. We have yet to see if High Priest Pelosi will sacrifice one of her own at the altar of ethics beyond drawing some token blood. If she doesn't, then who's the fool?

BY THE BOOK. Rep. Keith Ellison is now the first Muslim member of Congress and also the first one to take the oath of office with one hand on the Koran. This is no ordinary Koran, we observe, but one once owned by Thomas Jefferson. We also observe much fuss over its route to the ceremony in addition to the presence of the book itself.

From the AP:
To protect it from the elements, they placed the Quran in a rectangular box and handled it with a green felt wrapper once inside the Capitol.

Instead of using surface streets, they walked it [from the Library of Congress] over via a series of winding, underground tunnels -- a trip that took more than 15 minutes. Guards then ran the book through security machines at the Capitol.
Interestingly, we don't believe Nancy Pelosi's new gavel was screened for explosives. But back to the subject at hand: some people -- cough -- Rep. Virgil Goode -- cough -- think the Bible is the only appropriate book for a swearing-in ceremony, and he should follow tradition if only to prove he's not a duly-elected sleeper cell.

We can only wonder what Mr. Jefferson would think about the whole affair, but we do note his own stance toward God is the subject of much curiosity, outlined here by Unitarians. He even went so far as to cut and paste his own version of the Bible, rejecting what he considered the unnatural parts of the Gospel. What would Rep. Goode have said about taking the oath with the "Jefferson Bible?"

CALL FOR HELP. Mexico is considering giving out GPS locators to potential illegal immigrants. Those who get lost would push a button, setting off a signal for Border Patrol agents to come get them.

Naturally, the idea is drawing stink-eye from border-control groups. Mexican officials -- who have also handed out informational comic books last year to illegal immigrants -- again throw up their hands when quizzed.

From the AP:
Supporters of the initiative argue that it could save hundreds of lives. Among those looking at the possibility is Jesus Torreblanca, who works for Puebla state's Commission for the Attention of Migrants.

"This won't guarantee that they won't be detained by the border patrol or face deportation, and it won't keep them from facing risks in the desert," he said Thursday. "It is simply an effort at rescuing people while they are still alive."
We at the Lightning Round are all for saving lives, but we note again the stark refusal of our south-of-the-border counterparts to address the root of the problem. Instead of pouring all that money into GPS units, why not use it to lift people out of the poverty they're obviously fleeing for better lives in the U.S.?

CRUMBLING EARTH. Call it prophetic, unfortunate, or just plain bad luck, but a million-dollar sculpture symbolizing our fragile planet now lays in pieces on the campus of Kennesaw State University in Atlanta -- just three months after its debut.

From the AP:
University officials say they suspect water damage or glue failure, but agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are also looking into the possibility of vandalism, said Frances Weyand, a spokeswoman for Kennesaw State.
A crack staff member is drawing up the list of usual suspects, including the Earth Liberation Front, the Bonding Compound Strike Force, and the Defenders of Concrete.

WE ARE A GENEROUS PEOPLE. The Financial Times reports a record year for charitable giving in the U.S., with $35 billion in donations. True, a lot of that came from Warren Buffett, who offered $31 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

From the Times article:
People who made money in real estate and financial services dominate this year’s list. The second and third largest gifts were by donors who profited from the sale of Golden West Financial Corporation to the Wachovia Corporation.
So the rich may get richer, but they also enrich others. How many times do you hear that corollary?

Remember, you can't take it with you... even with debit cards.

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