It didn’t take long for Nebraska lawmakers to realize the huge mistake they made with their safe-haven law. Intended to protect unwanted children, the broadly written law wound up providing an out for parents – some from other states – who didn’t want to deal with unruly or high-maintenance kids. Some as old as 17 wound up being dumped at Nebraska hospitals. One widowed father of 10, overwhelmed and out of work, left nine of his children at one Omaha hospital. Now that state’s governor and legislators have agreed to rewrite the law so it applies to infants up to 3 days old. The statute has had “serious, unintended consequences” and “needs to be changed to focus on infants,” Gov. Dave Heineman said. No kidding. It’s hard to believe the powers that be didn’t see this coming when they wrote the original bill. Heineman doesn’t want to call a special session to fix it, but says he could change his mind if the out-of-state dropoffs continue. Read more about the law here.
Americans have heard lots this week about the voter-registration exertions of the liberal non-profit group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), whose political arm has endorsed Barack Obama. Zeal for the task at hand is one thing, but ACORN’s efforts to sign up potential Obama voters are breathtakingly rife with allegations of fraud. Nearly 4,000 voter applications submitted by ACORN were deemed tainted in one county in Ohio. In Florida there was a report of an application from Mickey Mouse, stamped with ACORN’s logo. So much for election integrity. Another sobering fact: Nationwide, ACORN reportedly has registered more than 1.3 million new voters. Some analysts suggest looking to Iraq and Afghanistan for a solution — implementing “purple finger” rules for U.S. elections to prevent individuals from voting more than once. Interesting idea.
Time will tell what all bodies are buried in the $700 billion economic bailout bill. We already know about the one that would pay $20 a month to people who ride a bicycle to work. That should be a big economic boost to San Francisco and Portland, Ore., but not so much in Oklahoma City. Also in the bill but little noticed is renewal of alternative energy tax credits that have expired or would expire by Dec. 31. Wind and solar technologies will get a boost from including this in the bill. And you thought the rescue plan was only about financial institutions and the most essential steps needed to restore confidence in the markets. No bill that goes through Congress, even ones that go through in a hurry, is immune from being packed with the non-germane.
Two years ago Florida Democrat Tim Mahoney benefited when incumbent Republican Congressman Mark Foley resigned in scandal, caught sending lewd messages to teen-age boys and Capitol Hill pages. Now Mahoney, campaigning for re-election, has a sex scandal of his own. ABC News reports Mahoney agreed to pay $121,000 to a former mistress and staffer, Patricia Allen, who was threatening to sue him. ABC says the affair between Mahoney and Allen began in 2006, when Mahoney, who is married, was running for Congress promising voters a world that is “safer, more moral.” Allen’s friends told ABC she ended the relationship with Mahoney after learning he allegedly was involved in other extra-marital affairs. They said Mahoney threatened to fire Allen if she broke things off. Now there’s a $121,000 settlement. It’s all too bad for voters in Florida’s 16th District, who must wonder what they’ve got to do to get scandal-free representation in Washington.
Years from now political scientists will have a ball analyzing different aspects of the 2008 presidential race. Either way, Americans’ choice will make history — electing either the first black president or the first female vice president. That’s important, but maybe not as eye-catching as a look at the role played by television satire. Late-night hosts Jay Leno and David Letterman have had an expected field day with the campaign news, with Letterman breaking especially hard against Republican John McCain. Then there’s NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which created a sensation for itself and actress Tina Fey with Fey’s dead-on impersonation of Gov. Sarah Palin. Fey’s characterizations of Palin as a pretty-faced airhead no doubt have helped erode Palin’s approval ratings — testimony to how entertainment-centered our culture has become. It’ll be interesting to see if Palin can overcome the Fey-popularized image, not only in the current race but in future races.
What do Barack Obama’s Illinois, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, John McCain’s Arizona and Joe Biden’s Delaware have in common? They all have higher unemployment rates than Oklahoma, based on figures for August. But then only five states have a lower jobless rate than Oklahoma. Illinois (7.2 percent unemployment rate) and Alaska (6.9 percent) are especially hurting. Arizona (5.6 percent) and Delaware (4.9 percent) are in better shape. The Oklahoma rate for August was pegged at 4.0 percent. Most of the states with the lowest jobless rates are small and connected to the energy sector. South Dakota has the lowest rate, 3.3 percent. Some states are having difficulty finding money to pay jobless benefits. Nationally, joblessness is the worst it’s been since just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In this key economic measure, though, Oklahoma is holding its own.
Life in the fast lane keeps getting faster. Not only did we experience rapid rises in gasoline prices through much of this year, but the stock market declines are happening at an accelerated pace – pulling down John McCain’s poll numbers at a brisk clip. Gasoline prices are now falling rapidly, dropping 64 cents a gallon in less than a month. At this rate, marketers will practically give away the stuff by Christmas. Oklahoma already has the lowest gas prices in the country, but of course this won’t last. Economic indicators tend to snowball, gaining speed in one area such as consumer spending as another (such as the jobless rate) accelerates. What would be nice is a slowdown in the trends, even if it means gas prices won’t fall as rapidly as they have been. Consumers inclined to demonize Big Oil for high energy prices tend not to praise Big Oil for falling prices. Scapegoating is a trend that never loses speed.
Presidential politics may take the national stage, but school districts certainly have their fair share of drama.
Those living in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and many parts in between are well aware of the superintendent sagas that have played out in those cities during the past year. No doubt parents in a Tulsa suburb are embarrassed and angry that there’s a showdown between the school board and superintendent in their hometown.
The stage is Broken Arrow, where a divided school board suspended the superintendent and forbid him from stepping onto school grounds without approval. The Tulsa World reported that when Jim Sisney, the suspended schools chief, tried to retrieve his belongings from the administration building, police were called. He wasn’t arrested and police said he’s not a criminal suspect.
The request for police assistance wasn’t the first legal skirmish involving Sisney. In September, he filed a defamation lawsuit against five people, including three school board members. He’s also suing an attorney who has done legal work for the district.
The shame is that school leadership dramas detract and distract from the important work happening in schools. That’s not good for the kids who need adults to rise above the theater of chaos.
Florida Republican Jim Piccillo is voting for Democrat Barack Obama and as such was picked for a high honor this week: introducing Obama running mate Joe Biden at a rally in
Tampa. Piccillo’s moment came. The crowd was cheering and signs were waving, and Piccillo gave a short, enthusiastic speech befitting a new convert to Obama. And when the time came to introduce Biden, Piccillo exhorted the crowd to welcome the next vice president of the
United States … John McCain! “It’s one of my most honored moments and one of my most embarrassing at the same time,” Piccillo told a
Tampa television station. Biden didn’t say anything about it when he came on stage, and Piccillo said he didn’t know he’d goofed up until he heard people talking about it on the radio on the drive home. Many Americans probably can empathize. Old habits — and political instincts — indeed die hard.
Tuesday night’s presidential debate is being panned across the political spectrum as a general snore. John McCain and Barack Obama plodded through 90 minutes of mostly uninteresting questions that shed little new light on the candidates or their positions. Some flak is directed at moderator Tom Brokaw, who selected the debate’s questions and was responsible for follow-ups, many of which didn’t penetrate the candidates’ defenses. The debates and a general dearth of media probing — especially into Obama, the race’s frontrunner — has syndicated columnist Brent Bozell pining for newsman Tim Russert, popular host of NBC’s “Meet the Press” who died of a heart attack this summer. Bozell laments the national political media’s relative disinterest (so far) in the roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the current financial crisis and Democrats’ efforts to protect the two from stricter congressional oversight. Bozell notes if Russert was still around he’d have hauled the key figures onto his show for grilling, with text boxes plastering their “What, me worry?” statements across the screen. The same could be said of Russert’s missed impact on this year’s crop of debates, where his trademark refusal to accept canned or non-answers might’ve made a difference.