James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ironies big and small

Irony – one definition: “the incongruity of this.” Random House Webster's College Dictionary

The big one:

The Los Angeles Times, among other news outfits, reported Saturday (Sept. 22, 2007) that George Bush, “after smothering efforts by war critics in Congress to drastically cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq,” plans to ask Congress this week to approve a “massive spending measure – totaling nearly $200 billion” to fund the Iraq war next year. That will make 2008 the most expensive year of that war. So far.

The Washington Post reported the same day that the war in Iraq is costing $720 million a day, or $500,000 a minute, according to calculations by the American Friends Service Committee. The report noted that the same money could buy homes for almost 6,500 families or health insurance for 423,529 children.

On Friday (Sept. 21), the New York Times reported that military officials revealed the previous day that contracts worth $6 billion (with a b) to provide necessary supplies to American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait are being investigated for criminal activity by contractors. That's twice what the military had admitted in the past. It does not include more than $2 billion that have simply “disappeared” but are not be hunted for or investigated, nor many other contracts about which serious observers have serious questions.

The Associated Press reported that on Saturday (Sept. 22) Bush again called Democrats “irresponsible” for trying to push an expansion of a children's health insurance program. Bush also repeated in his weekly radio yak that the Democrats are pushing the expansion knowing full well that he will veto it. He claimed the Democrats are seeking to expand health coverage for poor kids “purely to make a political point.”

At issue is the Children's Health Insurance Program, a state-federal program that subsidizes health coverage for poor people, mostly kids, in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to pay for private insurance. The program expires Sept. 30.

A bipartisan, but mostly Democratic, Congressional group said their proposal would add $35 billion over five years to the cost of the program. It would given an additional four million people (over the 6.6 million now covered) health care coverage. It would be financed by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents, to $1 a pack.

Bush said the program costs too much and would unacceptably raise taxes. (Didn't say whether he's concerned about smokers' taxes or the effects on tobacco company income.) In this and previous statements, however, he strongly indicated that his real objection is that the program might cut into insurance company profits.

The small irony, or rather big irony on an issue of less significance (but one that still rankles):

On Sunday, the crowd at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis gave a long, standing ovation to Minnesota Twins center fielder Torii Hunter as he left the field at the end of the eighth inning of a game with the Chicago White Sox. It was the last home game of the season for the Twins. Hunter was pulled from the game to give fans a chance to express their thanks to the greatly admired fielder, who, after nine years with the Twins, now becomes a free agent.

Everyone connected with baseball in any way – players, coaches, broadcasters, writers – agree that there is no way the Twins will give Hunter a new contract acceptable him in order to keep him. He wants a contract of at least five years, the Twins will give him two, just maybe three.

Some weeks earlier, the Twins traded a way a superb second baseman, Luis Castillo, for the sole purpose of saving money. Informed speculation says that other valuable players will be allowed to go away by the end of the 2008 season for the same reason.

Also Sunday, online news outfits released some information from the new Forbes Magazine annual report or America's richest people. Forbes reveals, among other things, that Twins owner Carl Pohlad is the fourth richest person in the world of sports. (He ranks third, if you drop out one entire family counted as an individual.) His personal wealth is estimated at $3.1 billion. (That's more than three thousand millions of dollars, in case you've forgotten the definition of billion.)

Spokesmen for the Twins, and its hired broadcasters, have been repeating over and over and over for years that the Twins are a poor, small market team and simply can't afford to do the things that would keep them consistently competitive. Sportswriters for the local rags pass that on as though it is gospel.

The team worked a legal but nevertheless shady deal with the county board and the Minnesota Legislature to require residents of Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, to pay an additional sales tax to build Pohlad a new stadium for his ball club.