Odds & Ends: Toe Sucking Advice; Nader’s Right?; Deputy Undersecretary for Hot Sauce

GO GREEN, AL! Disgraced political consultant Dick Morris has weighed in with advice to the vice president on how to win in November: Play up your environmental stances, and big. “Americans are ready for bold leadership on this issue,” Morris wrote recently inthe Washington political newspaper The Hill, “and Gore should offer it.” Morris, recall, caused headaches for the Clinton reelection team in 1996 when it was revealed that he had a fondness for sucking the toes of a comely prostitute, who he also let listen in on his phone conversations with the president. Still Morris, in the grand tradition of political consultants, takes full credit for the Clinton 1996 victory, though perhaps more might owe to the Republican Party’s Dead-Man-Walking nomination strategy. Seriously, though, does Morris think that calling for the end of the internal combustion engine is the key to electoral salvation?

AMEN, BROTHER RALPH! There aren’t many areas where we find ourselves agreeing with Ralph Nader, but opposition to public financing of ballparks and sports arenas is one of them. So we say kudos to Ralph, and echo his sentiments, when he blasts a plan for public subsidy of a $600 million stadium in Boston to replace Fenway Park, saying, “I don’t think the Boston Red Sox want to be known as the Boston Tax Sox.” Maybe this is what Rodney King meant when he wondered if we could all just get along.

NOW WE REMEMBER! Let’s all slap our foreheads at once. Now we remember why we don’t care much for Nader. He recently petitioned the group that designates Internet domain name classes to expand the pool. Nader wants permission to establish a service providing a number of new domains to go along with .com. These would include .union, .complaints, .ecology, and most outrageously, .sucks. Naturally, according to Nader’s plan, IBM would not be permitted to register www.IBM.sucks.

THIS TIME I’M REALLY GONNA TRY Nader will be the Green Party’s presidential candidate in this fall’s election, reprising a role played in 1996 when he garnered less than one percent of the vote. According to his statements to the AP, that was because he wasn’t really trying. This time is different. He told the wire service he plans to raise millions, qualify for federal matching funds, and campaign in all 50 states.

SLOW DOWN! Whatever Nader does, he probably wouldn’t be helped by following the lead of British Green Party politico Darren Johnson. Johnson, running for mayor of London, said that speed limits across the city should be slashed from 30 miles per hour to 20. Opinion polls showed no change in his fortunes after his draconian suggestion was announced.

MONEY WELL SPENT? Do federal job training programs work? Some clues might be found out in the west Texas town of El Paso. The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Department of Labor has committed $45 million to retrain 4,500 workers along the US-Mexico border in the wake of NAFTA. In the two years since the program started, it has spent $25 million, but placed only 375 trainees in jobs.

DEPUTY UNDERSECRETARY FOR HOT SAUCE? In the hopper in Tallahassee, FL, is a bill to create a new cabinet post: secretary of barbecue. The bill’s sponsor tells the AP: “I am very serious. It’s a serious subject. Barbecue is big business in this state.”

EXCUSE ME FOR BELCHING From the Washington City Paper: “Each weekday, a pack of blue-and-white buses idle on I Street SW, belching black smoke and hazardous fumes in front of the Amidon Elementary School playground. Who are the buses waiting for? You guessed it: Nature’s safekeepers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose workers shuttle between the regulatory agency’s old offices at the Waterside Mall and its new digs [downtown]. ‘They’re leaving the neighborhood and polluting their kids as they go,’ says one person.”

SUDSY SUITS The wave of litigiousness rolls on. In Florida, according to the AP, a man “who said he was shocked by 13,000 volts of electricity after climbing up a transformer in a ‘drunken stupor’ has sued six bars and stores that allegedly sold him alcohol.” In Brazil, meanwhile, a court has ordered a brewery to pay $30,000 in damages and a lifetime pension to its former senior brewer, who retired at age 40 because of alcoholism developed from drinking up to 8 liters of beer each day. His lawyers stressed that the brewery was negligent in failing to inform him of the risks associated with the job, such as alcoholism.

THE POLITICS OF ENVY Guess who is enraged at Regis Philbin’s success with Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? Adam Werbach, former president of the Sierra Club. “I read that Regis has now reached 195 million Americans. That’s more than could articulate the names of the candidates for president,” Werbach whined to Reuters. “Regis lacks everything that is wrong with media right now: money, greed, and lack of content.” Why the sour grapes? When Werbach pitched ABC on a show called The Thin Green Line, aiming to highlight environmental concerns on TV, the network passed, telling him his idea to satisfy public demands should run more along the lines of Millionaire. “I thought it was stupid and that nobody would watch it,” said Werbach. He was only off by about 50 million, which is the number of viewers who enjoy each edition of Regis’s show. Of course, failing to gauge what the public might or would like was a hallmark of Werbach’s short tenure at Sierra.

FEAR HERE! GET YOUR FEAR HERE! “[Biotech opponents] need to promote new evils, new fears, because that’s what brings in their money. They peddle fear. Today it’s biotechnology. Three years ago it was global warming. Five years before that it was nuclear power.”

~Tuskegee University Professor CS Prakash, quoted in the Associated Press

WE’RE ON A MISSION FROM GOD The Government Accounting Office said the amount of time businesses and governments spend reporting to the EPA rose 9 percent (a 10 million hour increase) from 1995 to 1998, despite a congressional edict to cut paperwork. According to the Washington Post, EPA Administrator Carol Browner claims the agency has eliminated 26 million hours of paperwork. This is offset, she says, by the Lord’s work she and her colleagues must carry out. “At the same time we are streamlinging existing programs, we have been expanding other programs,” Browner told a congressional panel. “That is our job.”

MAY A THOUSAND JEUNE POSSES BLOOM Culure police at the French Ministry of Finance are taking a stand against the English-speaking tint of the new dotconomy. Aiming to halt the spread of the English language throughout the Internet, UPI reports, French authorities are insisting that government documents and civil servants use the phrase “une jeune pousse” (a young plant) for “start-up” and the phrase “courrier electronique” for “E-mail.” Perhaps the zealous regulators in Paris might ask themselves why all the jeunes posses are springing up in Silicon Valley and Northern Virginia instead of in Bordeaux or Cannes.

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING You have to admire the chutzpah. Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan has proposed using LA’s $300 million share of the $2 billion national tobacco settlement to, get this, pay off on the barage of anticipated lawsuits stemming from his out-of-control police department’s tendency to fabricate evidence and lie to secure convictions. More than 40 convictions so far have been overturned, the AP reports, and 20 officers have been relieved of duty, fired, suspended, or quit since the revelations surfaced last fall.

NO, REALLY, THE CHECK IS IN THE MAIL! About 150 United States Postal Service employees in Pensacola didn’t receive their paychecks on time last month. The checks were being sent from Minneapolis, but somehow got lost by, you guessed it, the USPS. Better send those Fedex next time.

TAXING BUSINESS A GAO study recently slammed the IRS for shoddy work. The Associated Press said the report cited “weaknesses in such areas as improper refunds, sluggishness in correcting taxpayer accounts, poor tracking of agency property, and inefficient followup on unpaid tax assessments.” The IRS, for its part, wants a nearly 10 percent increase in its budget to hire 2,000 employees and counter these problems.