Paul Greenberg: Opinions in a flash
Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border, coast to coast, and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press!
CVS pharmacies. They plan to clear their shelves of cigarettes and other tobacco products by October. For an outfit that size, it's not just a symbolic gesture. The decision is expected to cost the country's second-biggest chain of drug stores $2 billion a year in revenue. But its conscience will be clearer. And its shareholders can sleep better o'night knowing they're no longer peddling cancer -- and may be spared a hacking cough, too . . .
"The perception can't be that a wealthy felon can just write a check," an assistant U.S. Attorney named Michelle Petersen told a federal judge in Chicago. She was asking him to give a billionaire tax evader, Ty Warner of Beanie Babies fame, at least a year's prison time for hiding a fortune in an undeclared Swiss bank account that netted him almost $25 million in income. But that was just the perception left when His Honor Charles Kocoras, describing the poor misunderstood defendant as "very unique," gave him a couple of years' probation instead, plus 500 hours of "community service," probably behind some desk in a nice comfortable office.
Once again money, trumped justice as the judge bought the kind of argument made by every gangland figure who ever gave a nickel of his ill-gotten gains to charity ("He had a good heart, Mr. Capone..."). Chicago really hasn't changed all that much since the Roaring Twenties, only now the robberies are carried out with a pen and checkbook instead of tommy guns . . .
Over in East Tennessee, a federal magistrate named Lu Ann Ballew, who achieved her 15 seconds of fame by not letting a family name their child Messiah, has been replaced. Her "reasoning" was that Messiah is a title that belongs only to Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish carpenter and itinerant preacher of some note. In the event Her Honor is interested in further research, she can find scores of Messiahs in the Tel Aviv phone book . . .
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The prime minister of Canada got a hero's welcome in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, when he defended the Jewish state against the kind of libelous attacks that are common at the United Nations and far beyond, especially on American college campuses joining the campaign to boycott Israel. This being the Israeli parliament, there was bound to be dissent. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was heckled by Arab members of the Knesset, whose very presence there is more evidence that Israel is scarcely the "apartheid" state its critics claim to see.
When will peace come to that part of the world? Here will be a sign: when a guest speaker at some Arab parliament is heckled by its Jewish members. Or just has a Jewish member . . .
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What will science discover next? Neuroscientists report that the brains of men and women differ in important respects. How about that? Will science soon reveal that women are more socially aware, family-oriented and communicative than we XYs? And that men are the blundering, muscle-bound, feather-unfurling peacocks many women already suspect we are. That is, the weaker sex in essential ways. I am shocked, shocked at this latest scientific discovery. It hurts my feelings. Or it would if we men had any . . .
The president continues to renege on one promise after another about his Signature Accomplishment, aka Obamacare: If you like your health insurance, you can keep it, and if you like your doctor, you can keep him/her. Also, the numbers of unemployed won't increase because of Obamacare. (Tell that to the Congressional Budget Office, which begs to differ.)
And, oh, yes, your insurance premiums will be lower, and Obamacare will take care of the 30 million uninsured in this country. (That number remains much the same now as it was before the (not-so) Affordable Care Act went into clanking effect.) And so unconvincingly on.
As one false assurance after another about Obamacare falls apart, and voters start to catch on, Democratic incumbents who supported the president's prescription for American health care look increasingly vulnerable in this year's midterm elections, while Republican challengers are getting their hopes up. One of them out in Oregon, Monica Wehby, M.D., has found one of her bumper stickers flying off the shelves: "Keep your doctor. Change your senator." . . .
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There may no longer be a Soviet Union, for which let us give thanks, but Sovhistory is still alive and unwell as ever. At that tower of Babel on the East River, aka the United Nations, the "Security" Council was holding one of its typically futile discussions the other day about how to achieve world peace. This is the centennial year of the outbreak of the First World Catastrophe, and the UN observed it by holding a discussion formally titled "War, Its Lessons and the Search for a Permanent Peace." If this had been a college catalog, the international symposium could have been listed as Tedium 101.
At one point in the course of this gabfest, the distinguished representative of the USSR, which is now just plain Russia again, put in his two rubles' worth. Russian regimes may come and go, but the party line never changes. The distinguished representative referred to the Second World War as "the victory of the Soviet Union-led anti-Hitlerite coalition," conveniently ignoring the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 that made the Soviets a partner in that Hitlerite coalition. And made the Second World Catastrophe unavoidable. Britain would be left to stand alone in what would become her Finest Hour.
But the Kremlin still knows, to quote a phrase from George Orwell's "1984," that whoever controls the past controls the future. It's an ever-malleable thing, history. Or what's called history in Russia. . . .
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Tune in again tomorrow. Till then, this is your devoted correspondent signing off for Jergens with lotions of love . . .
(Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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