More Dogs on Main Street
Having just wrapped up what Time magazine declared the decade from hell, we launch into 2010 filled with hope, optimism, and a sense that everything will be better. I got a newsletter from a stockbroker the other day. The cover showed a happy couple packing armloads of firewood into a cabin. From the look on their faces, you just know that, at some point in the next decade, their economic situation will improve to a point that they can get the utilities turned back on.
A couple of months back, NASA scientists announced that they had discovered water on the moon. They were immediately sued by Summit Water Company, which insists that the water on the moon belongs to them. They announced plans to build a pipeline from the moon to Snyderville. It will be completed just in time for the grand opening of the golf course at The Canyons. See, things are changing for the better already.
On Christmas Eve, the Senate passed its version of health-care reform. It is radically different from the bill passed by the House. So the two bills get negotiated into one in a conference committee, and that unified bill then goes back to both houses for a final vote. The Senate version was larded up with all kinds of special deals to buy the necessary 60 votes. Now that it’s in conference, the real lobbying work begins. In the end, I’m sure that we will see a bill that is reflective of the best Congress money can buy.
I have my doubts they will get it passed. The Republicans have nothing to contribute to the process, and are simply digging in and saying no to everything and anything. That solidarity gave one senator from North Dakota, with a population of 640,000, absolute control over the Senate bill. Meanwhile the Democrats are cutting deals with the pharmaceutical industry and others, making sure that reform doesn’t diminish campaign contributions in any way. It’s too soon to know who the big winners are, but I think we already know who lost.
But at least we are more secure now than we were a decade ago, right? A terrorist with a bomb in his underpants was stopped right at the instant of detonation by other passengers. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was practically glowing on "Meet the Press" last Sunday when she announced that the system had worked. I don’t know if it was a satellite delay, or incredulity, but the puzzled stare on David Gregory’s face said it all. What the . . .?? Later she admitted that perhaps the system hadn’t worked so well, allowing a guy we had on a terrorist watch list to get on the plane without extra screening, without luggage for an international flight, with a valid U.S. visa. He apparently went through airport security in Nigeria, and was good to go from there to Detroit. So we’re relying on the Nigerians for security. Janet, honey, don’t you look at your email from Nigeria?
There were calls for the head of the Transportation Safety Administration to be fired. That would be a good idea, if there were a head of the TSA. Obama was slow to appoint a director, and then South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint blocked Senate action on the appointment because he was afraid that the TSA employees might join a labor union. God forbid. So there is nobody in charge at TSA.
Of course now there are all kinds of stupid new regulations on passengers. Nobody is allowed to bring underwear on board unless it is worn on the outside, like in the old Woody Allen movie. Nobody can go to the restroom. Computers, books, babies, and anything else have to be stowed out of reach for the last 60 minutes of a flight. Apparently airplanes are bomb-proof prior to that. Who knew?
At least we have a clear direction on the Afghan war at the start of the new decade (which is almost the start of a second decade of the war). It’s not exactly clear how adding 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan would have prevented a lone Nigerian, educated in a London university, from attempting to blow up a plane flying between Amsterdam and Detroit. Maybe 30,000 additional security people at airports would be a better use of manpower. Joe Lieberman is demanding preemptive strikes against Yemen, where this guy apparently got his explosives training. The CIA is already running a pretty good covert operation there, by all accounts. So far, nobody has demanded that we nuke London, where the guy went to college and attended radical mosques.
So as we stand here on the threshold of a new decade, it’s tempting to slam the door shut and crawl under the bed. Call me in 2020.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs on Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.
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