Canada is literally pinching pennies from its budget. The finance minister announced this week that the Royal Canadian Mint will cease distribution of the coin this fall. Producing a penny costs about 1.6 cents, so the change is expected to save 11 million Canadian dollars annually. As our northern neighbors eliminate a coin deemed a nuisance, our Congress is considering transitioning to a coin many consider inconvenient. Replacing the dollar bill with a dollar coin would supposedly help combat the deficit. The Americans for George coalition expresses concerns about the financial and practical implications of the change. A public opinion poll shows 97 percent believe the dollar bill is more convenient than carrying coins. The Government Accountability Office estimates over half a billion in net losses to the government during the first decade of the transition, and reports by the Federal Reserve Board and U.S. Treasury raise concerns that the long-term impact may also be negative. In the past 15 years, only one major country phased out a bill in favor of a coin: Russia. A penny for your thoughts?
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press)
Is anyone in charge at Major League Baseball? Someone figured it would be a great idea to begin the regular season by having the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s play two games this week in Japan — and then have them return to the states for a few preseason games before getting the real schedule under way again. No doubt MLB made a few bucks by taking the game, and Japanese hero Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners, to baseball-crazy Japan. But otherwise the stunt was a flop. Playing games at the crack of dawn here? Please. The real Opening Day is Wednesday but even that has been butchered — one game is on the schedule, the St. Louis Cardinals visiting the Miami Marlins. The teams play not a series but just one game, then both go on the road. Ridiculous.
Right: Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki prepares for a batting practice during the team’s training for the season-opening game against Oakland Athletics, at Tokyo Dome ball stadium in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
What do cauliflower, a sewing machine and an open palm have in common? All could appear on the ballot in municipal polls in India’s capital next month. Including a symbol next to candidates’ names, representing their political party, dates to 1951, when fewer than one in five people in the newly independent country could read. Though a nice idea, the proliferation of registered parties has complicated matters. Major parties get permanent symbols, but hundreds of smaller ones must choose from an ever-expanding list of approved “free symbols” every election. Nail clippers, a toothbrush and a dish antenna are now up for grabs. Two state parties are battling not only over ideology or parliamentary seats but over a bicycle; the dispute may have to be resolved by drawing a name from a jar. So much for a system designed to provide clarity to voters. America has about as much fun as we can handle with the contest between elephant and donkey. Just imagine nearly 1,400 parties fighting over candidates, plus mascot selection.
Left: A man rides his cycle past elephant statues, political symbol of the Bahujan Samaj Party, at Ambedkar Park in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. (AP Photo)
President Obama used his recent trip to the Cushing area to tout an executive order fast-tracking the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline. He should have saved taxpayers the money. Critics pointed out that federal help wasn’t needed to move the project forward. National Journal’s energy and environmental experts agree. In a survey, 71 percent said this week that the executive order was unnecessary, and most concurred that the pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf Coast needs only local approval. The president’s involvement is “not even remotely necessary,” one insider said. Another said it “looks like federal government interfering in the traditionally local decision of land-use planning, and it likely won’t actually change the permitting process, which is already under way. Not great optics — and I say this as a fan of the president.”
AP File Photo
His supporters might see President Obama’s newfound love of hydrocarbons as a Nixon-in-China event. Hardly. Obama has no serious interest in upping domestic oil and gas production — other than getting him to what he hopes is a post-re-election frenzy for alternative fuels. If you want a real Nixon-in-China event, look to Washington State, where enough Republicans and conservative Democrats joined liberals to get a gay marriage bill passed. What really turned the page in Washington was key support from the business community. Large corporations have taken the lead on benefits for same-sex couples and are helping getting gay marriage laws enacted. Corporations may want lower taxes and reduced federal debt, but they can be quite progressive on social issues. They’re not the Great Wall of Reactionaries that the “Occupy” crowd claims.
The final meals of executed murderers have long been the subject of fascination, derision and tut-tutting by death penalty opponents. A website that tracked the final food passages of Texas death row inmates was widely read but extremely controversial. Some folks think it’s nobody’s business what a condemned killer eats before taking the needle. The Tulsa World reports that artist Julie Green has painted more than 500 plates for an exhibition depicting the terminal meals of inmates. She hopes this will inspire people to discuss and debate the death penalty. That justification is an empty plate: No shortage of such discussions is evident. During the season of Easter and Passover, some might find the title of Green’s exhibition offensive. It’s called “The Last Supper” and thus links the execution of an innocent Christ with the execution of convicted killers. Their victims weren’t given a menu before losing their lives.
Artist Julie Green walks past her exhibit at Living Arts in Tulsa during a show of her work in 2006. Green’s project “The Last Supper” features painted images on dinner plates of death row inmates’ last meals. Several of the paintings depict the last meals of Oklahoma inmates. Courtesy Deborah Brackenberry
President Obama’s remarks in Cushing ran to about 1,060 words. The cost of getting Air Force One here from a previous stop in New Mexico was an estimated $149,792. So the Cushing speech ran to about $141 per word, or slightly more if you don’t count the obligatory “Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.” The figure doesn’t include any other costs associated with the stopover. The words themselves were utterly forgettable, but that was by design. This was a photo-op so an image of Obama could be framed by pipes ready for the laying. A picture is worth a thousand words; this picture was worth about $150,000. The lucky few who attended the Cushing speech got something priceless to them — camera phone photos of the president’s brief sojourn in our midst.
President Barack Obama waves to the crowd as he arrives at the TransCanada Pipe Yard near Cushing, Okla., Thursday, March 22, 2012. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Protests from the left and the right were staged to coincide with Barack Obama’s first presidential visit to Oklahoma, but the Sierra Club was not among those protesting Obama’s sudden love of hydrocarbons and pipelines. We regret the error of naming the Sierra Club as a participant in the protests, which we did in a Wednesday editorial. The protests seemed as hollow as Obama’s remarks in Cushing, but it was the only opportunity for local protests of the president’s environmental, energy and fiscal policies while Obama was actually here. Such eager opportunism reminds us of the local TV meteorologists who haven’t had much to do since the August wildfires until the emergence of typical spring weather in recent days.
Wisconsin freshman state Sen. Pam Galloway cited family concerns as the reason for giving up her seat. Republicans in Wisconsin feel the nastiness regularly directed Galloway’s way by a local union boss played a big part. After GOP-backed collective bargaining reform became law in 2011, Galloway was targeted by an agitator named John Spiegelhoff, who peppered the senator with emails blasting her position on various issues. He said he would help bring an end to her “reign of terror” and called her work “immoral.” Some subject lines in the emails included “we are coming for you” and “here we come.” Galloway said in one interview that Spiegelhoff’s tactics, while part of the nasty tenor so prevalent in politics today, were “anything beyond (what) I had seen.” Then again, this clown last year sued an 86-year-old volunteer crossing guard for taking a job Spiegelhoff thought should have been a union gig.
We’ve noted before the tendency of lawmakers to waste taxpayer money with politically-charged press releases. State Rep. James Lockhart, D-Heavener, piggybacked on the presidential visit this week to thank the White House “for agreeing to allow” a pipeline project linking Cushing to the Gulf Coast. The project didn’t need White House support. Whatever agreement came from the White House is as hollow as an empty pipeline. What does need White House agreement is a pipeline from Cushing into Canada. For the record, Lockhart supports both segments. We know this because taxpayers funded a press release so that Lockhart and fellow legislators can campaign for re-election on the public’s dime.
AP File Photo