Odds & Ends: Eunuchs & Soybeans on the March; Bloody Valentines; USPS Down for the Count

Cut Them Off at the Halls of Power Wire reports recently indicated that the latest political story out of India is the entrance of eunuchs into politics. One is running in the current state assembly elections, and another was elected to a mayoralty last year. There are thought to be over a million eunuchs in India, a possibly–ahem–potent force. Could this be the movement that the folks from Zero Population Growth have been waiting for?

The Soviet Union Is Gone, But the KGB Remains Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking to old pals from his organized crime days to staff his administration. Former KGB officers have been recruited for top staff positions in the new regime, particularly in the FSB, which is Russia’s successor to the murderous KGB. Putin served as a colonel in the KGB before, we thought, the Evil Empire was consigned to the ash heap of history. No doubt his experience working in an organization which routinely made citizens “disappear” is serving him well as he attempts to make Grozny disappear from the map. We are curious to know why all the people who raised holy hell about Kurt Waldheim and Jorg Haeder in Austria are taking a pass on the Russian authoritarian. Shouldn’t the term “Never Again” apply to Soviet evil as it does to Nazi evil?

I Have a Dream, That White Farmers Might Get Better TV… Been hearing a lot about the “Digital Divide” recently but aren’t sure exactly what it means? Don’t worry. Neither does the Clinton administration, despite the fact the president has made very clear that the nation must address this “racial ravine” quickly. Turns out it may be more than just trying to address a racial inequity in this new computer age. It might include basic TV as well. And it may have nothing to do with race. Adam Clayton Powell III wrote last month that Assistant Commerce Secretary Gregory Rhode told an audience that “he would soon announce a program to use the federal digital-divide fund to pay for analog TV service to rural areas.” Rhode pointed out that “the digital divide is real,” and that he has seen it in his home state of North Dakota, which has among the highest percentages of white people of any state in the union.

Shazam! And It Moves, Too! President Clinton’s railing about the “digital divide” is particularly funny considering he probably has no idea what the speeches he’s reading mean. According to a Reuters report, while visiting a Florida senior citizen center’s computing class, the president was absolutely dazzled by “a basic and ubiquitous display of software–a screen saver. ‘Amazing,’ Clinton said as he watched a series of images–coffee cups, deer, and a blackboard–form and dissolve on a monitor.” It makes President Bush’s marveling at a grocery store checkout scanner seem quaint by comparison. And it also makes one wonder: Is our commander-in-chief someone who is captivated by bright, shiny objects?

Politics of Personal Annihilation The Award for Grossest Political Hyperbole has to go to House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for his February remarks about Republican efforts to eliminate the marriage penalty in the tax code. In a typical bit of the ineffective political grandstanding that has come to characterize Capitol Hill Republicans, the GOP waited until Valentine’s Day to make its big push to get rid of the quirky aspect of the tax code that forces a married couple to pay more in levies than they would as two singles filing separately. Hoyer’s reaction, captured in the Washington Post, rivals that of Rep. Major Owens (D-NY) last spring when he described efforts to get rid of the minimum wage as akin to “ethnic cleansing.” Hoyer announced, “We’re not going to stand by and let you turn Valentine’s Day into the Valentine’s Day Massacre of America’s future.”

Hey, They Can’t Do That to Us! Green groups rarely quarrel with arbitrary and heavy-handed government action, at least when used to serve their ends. But the tables appear to be turning in Russia, where the AP reports that state prosecutors are targeting a number of environmental groups for a variety of vague offenses. The enviros speculate that the police crackdown is “part of an effort to silence” their criticism of various environmental projects. It’s almost enough to make you favor limited government and the rule of law!

Be Like Mike? Bill Bradley is probably hoping that voters will only partly want to be like Michael Jordan. The retired superstar filmed a campaign commercial supporting Dollar Bill for the White House. That’s nice. But should we really take him seriously? Reportedly, Jordan has never voted.

Heir-Head The growing irrational opposition to biotechnology and genetically enhanced foodstuffs brings to mind the words of England’s Prince Charles two years ago. Said the king-in-waiting: “I happen to believe that this kind of genetic engineering takes mankind into realms that belong to God and God alone.” Spoken like a man perfectly at ease with the principles of the Divine Right of Kings and primogeniture.

Soybeans of the World, Unite! How irrational is this opposition? National Review’s John J. Miller wrote an excellent article March 6 about the uptick in violence manifesting itself in the anti-biotech protests. Labs have been firebombed and crops destroyed by opponents seized by “revolutionary fervor.” Miller quoted one pro-violence Web site: “These [genetically-engineered] plants are held captive as biotech slaves. By harvesting them early, we free them from the bonds of corporate servitude.” Continued Miller: “This is the language of Marxism, projected onto soybeans; more, rather than less, alarming because of its sheer insanity.”

Barkeep, Get These Guys Something Lite It wasn’t so long ago that we could expect some honest-to-goodness drinking on the part of our elected officials. Former Senator John Tower was denied confirmation as secretary of defense because of concerns about his tendency to hit the sauce. And a number of solons–like Ted Kennedy–are legendary for their ability to function despite epic bouts with the bottle. So what do we make of the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination? When Bill Bradley’s heart arrhythmia started to become an issue in the campaign, he speculated it might have something to do with all the cream soda he’d been drinking. And Veep Al Gore? He’s drinking lots of iced tea. So much, he says, it might have kept him from committing a crime. Faced with evidence Gore attended a Democratic National Committee meeting at which hard and soft money specifics were discussed–information Gore previously claimed he knew nothing about–Gore gave investigators an intriguing excuse. He does not dispute that such matters were discussed. He just didn’t hear them. How come? Because, he said, he was either talking to the president, and thus not really listening, or he was off in the bathroom because of all the iced tea he’d swilled.

Charge Denied Back to the drawing board for the electric car, once the best hope of environmentalists trying to wean society off its dependence on fossil fuels. General Motors is recalling 900 of its 1,400 electric cars and pickups because of a little dilemma. Fires tend to start during battery recharging. There are other reasons to avoid these firetraps: They hardly work. Today’s electric cars can go only about 80 miles before having to be recharged.

Better Reread That Constitution, Judge US District Judge Stanley Sporkin retired from the bench in January, having secured a reputation as one of the most imaginatively activist and grandstanding jurists in recent memory. Known for never letting a trifle like the Constitution get in the way of doing what he thinks is right, Sporkin explained the roots of his judicial philosophy to the Washington Post: “The whole concept I had of doing justice came from watching [my father, also a judge] when he would do the right thing….Doing justice–that’s what judges have to do.” Therein lies the rub. Judges chiefly are supposed to apply the law, not “do justice.” Justice is the province of those who make the laws.

Stand Up and Be Counted! Is this any way to kick off a new millennium? As the Census Bureau was preparing to send out 115 million census packets, it noticed a small problem: 115 million wrong addresses. They blame a private contractor, and say that the error is fixable and the packets can be delivered to the correct locations. It’s just going to require a little help from the Postal Service. That’s right. Aside from the fact it would be folly to count on help from the USPS if a private mailer had bungled, another thing strikes us as ridiculous: They are going to be counting on the Postal Service to make things square!