- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

Food critic

“It has all the charm of the place where the cooks at my junior high school prepared their customary inedible meals.”

Finlay Lewis, White House correspondent for Copley News Service, describing in the White House pool report the kitchen of Porto Vittoria in Brasilia, Brazil, where yesterday President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with local students.

Cheers to Tom

We asked the question recently whether it makes sense for Americans to vote on a Tuesday — a day established in 1845 to make it easier for farmers to cast ballots.

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young is one who finds it disturbing that the world’s leading democracy has a smaller voter turnout than 36 developing nations whose electoral systems the United States helped establish.

He draws attention to U.S. census figures reflecting one reason this country has dropped to a disturbing 139th out of 172 nations in terms of voter turnout: Americans report “being too busy” or having “scheduling conflicts” to vote on a Tuesday.

So, Mr. Young will be in Washington this morning to announce a bipartisan call to move the federal Election Day from Tuesday to the entire first weekend in November, allowing voters at least two days to cast their ballots.

Of all the mail this column received — from a farmer named “John,” who pointed out that he never did much farming in November anyway, to poll worker EstherR. Dyer, who says, “if you have ever worked the polls, you would not suggest a two-day election” — our favorite is from Tom Whelan of Ryan Commercial LLC.

“In response to your article about moving the date for voting from Tuesday to a weekend,” he writes, “I would add that if our tax returns were due the Friday before the weekend for voting, turnout would be maximized and the power of incumbency would diminish. I long for that combo. Cheers.”

Eat to live

One congressman applauding last week’s passage of the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act (believe it or not, 119 lawmakers voted against the measure) is Rep. Tom Feeney, Florida Republican, who says Americans ought to know when they’ve had their fill of cheeseburgers and fries.

As Mr. Feeney puts it, the quantity of food one shoves into his or her mouth comes down to “personal responsibility,” especially in an age in which “frivolous” lawsuits have run amok.

He says that while the congressional vote represents a loss for trial lawyers and career plaintiffs, it “reiterates an elementary notion that, as free-thinking individuals, we have the responsibility and aptitude to make choices that benefit our personal well-being.”

The food-service industry repeatedly has come under attack by lawsuits claiming it should pay monetary damages for “overconsumption” and weight gain. The act would prohibit obesity-related claims against food providers.

Hill language

The Blue Dog Coalition in Congress presents figures showing that in the past four years, Congress and the Bush administration borrowed more money from financial institutions and foreign governments than in the nation’s first 224 years combined.

In fact, the House just passed budgets causing the country to break the $8 trillion debt threshold. That, in the opinion of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, California Democrat and co-chairman of the Blue Dogs — 35 centrist and conservative House Democrats — makes former House Majority Leader TomDeLays speech last week at the Heritage Foundation, “Action and Accountability: Restraining Spending and Redesigning Government,” all the more laughable.

“Only in Washington,” says Mr. Cardoza, “can you push through a reconciliation bill that increases the debt by nearly $20 billion and try to get away with calling it a cut.”

Quote of the week

“Avian flu. Global warming. Real estate bubble. World oil supply. After all the headlines, are we getting close to mass hysteria over theoretical doom or are we becoming so inured to apocalyptic warnings that we are turning a deaf ear to them? If we keep ringing the alarm bell like Chicken Little did when she turned an acorn into a national crisis, when it comes time for a real emergency, people may not pay much attention.”

Raj Dandage, chairman of the Chicago-based American Disaster Preparedness Foundation, as paraphrased by Pam Harbaugh in the publication Florida Today.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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