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The Tentacle


May 5, 2004

Where's Alfred E. Newman When You Need Him?

John W. Ashbury

I worry about America and where she is going. Perhaps I shouldn't because she has survived so much in the past 200-plus years.

But, today, the news everywhere is filled with distortions and "cute" little revisions that make it more palatable for Americans to swallow.

Just last week we heard of some alleged war-time atrocities in Iraq. News men and women made it sound like it was something no one expected. And yet such incidents have occurred in every war America has ever been involved in. We just didn't know about it immediately like we do today.

Certainly we should treat the perpetrators with distain and punish them to the full extent of military and international law. But we also shouldn't condemn everyone serving in the military for the actions of some. And how in the world can the president be responsible for their actions?

The national and international press has not distinguished itself in the coverage of this conflict. Where are the stories about the millions who have welcomed us as liberators in their country? Where are the stories about individual kindnesses committed by U. S. military personnel toward Iraqi citizens? How come more Iraqi citizens have electricity now than before the war?

Here at home, we will elect someone to serve as our president for the next four years in November. Are you at all comfortable with either choice?

The Democratic challenger has an exemplary war record on which to boast. But his after-service conduct is unacceptable from someone who wants to lead all the citizens of this country and not just the radical few at his side on every issue. As a U.S. senator, he has voted against the development of most of the weapons our servicemen and women used to defeat Hussein's forces.

The Republican incumbent has issues himself. Democrats have labeled him as less than bright and questioned his reasons for going to war in Iraq, saying, all too frequently, that he lied to the American people.

The president did manage to graduate from both Harvard and Yale. And he is qualified to fly fighter jets. Anyone who is able to do that will tell you that it is a job difficult to manage. And the failures of our intelligence communities may have lead to his misinforming us about many things.

The talking heads on both radio and television should have duct tape over their mouths for the duration if the subject is presidential politics. Before television and radio the citizens of this country did a pretty good job, with a couple exceptions, of electing honorable, energetic, hard working men to the post. Would FDR have been elected to four terms in today media climate? I doubt it.

I listen daily to reports about Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's dislike and distain for Governor Robert Ehrlich. No matter what good could come from state assistance to the City of Baltimore, Mr. O'Malley has harsh words for the state's chief executive. Yes, we know he is thinking of running for governor in 2006, but speaking publicly - and constantly - about what he perceives as the failings of the present office holder isn't going to help his own election bid.

And just the other day Mayor O'Malley went into a tirade on WBAL radio against one of the hosts of a talk show on that station. He is coming across as a mean-spirited, egocentric politician who doesn't know how to extricate himself from a mess of his own creation.

And then we hear about a group of high school students at a prominent Baltimore County high school who allegedly spiked their teacher's coffee with hydrochloric acid. She'll survive, but at what cost to her health.

And what of these idiot children? Just where did they come from? Are their parents going to accept responsibility for raising such irresponsible brats? Where were the school administrators and guidance counselors who failed to recognize the potential problems these criminals posed, especially in light of other horrific incidents at other high schools across the country?

These students should be charged with attempted murder. After a trial perhaps they - and others - will realize, FINALLY, that there are consequences for one's action, sometimes good, sometimes bad!

And here is Frederick County, our politicians can't seem to agree on anything. The county commissioners are as dysfunctional a group as has ever occupied those chairs in Winchester Hall, at least in recent memory. There is no real leadership to speak of. Three of them are out to claim any glory that might come the county's way. Their decisions don't even seem prudent most of the time.

They forget - all too often - who it was who put them where they are. They seem to think that a close circle of friends were the only ones who voted for them. They forget that they represent ALL the citizens of the county, even those who voted for others on the ballot. Surely they make decisions that favor some, as opposed to others, but that's our system of government.

But they have forgotten to look at the overall picture of what is best for everybody. Are they leading us down the path of destruction?

And what about those in the General Assembly? They are wielding a power sword so recklessly that we all are at risk of being caught on its edge. Brilliant politicians, to be sure, but at what cost?

Del. Michael Busch (D., Anne Arundel) may well become the second consecutive speaker to lose in the next election. Senate President Mike Miller is the consummate political leader. He knows the ropes better than anyone else in Annapolis, but is he going to succumb to another Rumble in the Jungle when voters get their say in 2006?

And who can forget the administration of the City of Frederick. Everyone who has observed Mayor Jennifer Dougherty in action refers to her as a control freak. One example being bandied about is that Eva Roswold, the mayor's executive administrator, resigned after a bitter, loud and abusive argument with Herzonner about priorities and job responsibilities.

This mayor is not alone in ignoring the budget crisis coming down the pike for Fiscal Year 2006. The state has a structural deficit in the neighborhood of $850 million facing it during the 2005 session. The governor is adamant that he will not endorse either a sales tax or an income tax increase. General Assembly leaders seem hell bent on increasing them. Nothing else will do but to further burden ordinary citizens.

So where do legislative leaders go to make up that financial shortfall. They have only about half of their total $24 billion budget from which to make cuts. At this moment it would appear that the local governments across the state will take the hit.

This means that unless some common sense takes the place of politics as usual on the local level, we all face hefty tax increases next year.

The mayor wants to fund her pet projects on the backs of Frederick residents by instituting a "trash fee." Trash collection has forever been a part of the service the city provided through its property taxes. Now the mayor wants to add a $166 per year fee (less for senior citizens).

And she wants to add 10 new employees. When will politicians learn that building a bureaucracy isn't necessarily helpful to the citizens?

Why is it that at all levels of government, officials what to expand government programs? When are programs going to be cut? When are politicians going to stand up to the vocal few and just say NO?

Reasonable people can sit down and work things out for the betterment of our communities. But the current crop of "leaders" seems interested only in their own aggrandizement.

I'm sick of it! Aren't you?



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