The goofiest month of the year
It's not the cruel weather of April that Washington is expostulating about right now. It's the cruel ironies.
Even as we're digging through shoeboxes searching for receipts and proof of income to file our tax returns, Fed Chairman Ben "Bailouts" Bernanke warns us that taxes have to go higher or Medicare and Social Security benefits and education and defense spending have to be axed.
Speaking of taxes, did you know that anyone may put out a shingle and prepare tax returns for the public? As the nation prepares for its 224th Fourth of July, the IRS is finally proposing guidelines for tax preparers. But they won't take effect this year.
The governor of Virginia, right next to the District of Columbia, which houses the White House, where the nation's first African American president lives, issues a proclamation asking Virginians to spend the month of April recalling the glory days of the Confederacy that reigned in his state. He makes no reference to slavery, an immediate cause of the Civil War, until forced to do so by public outcries. (Even the governor of Texas has stopped talking about secession. At least for the time being.)
Two of the nation's largest airlines, US Airways and United, are in merger talks because they want to cut capacity and raise fares. Meanwhile, fighter jets are scrambled after a minor-league diplomat joked about setting his sandals on fire on a flight to Denver. Thousands of passengers are inconvenienced as Los Angeles terminals shut down, when a passenger innocently carries his carry-on luggage through security without extra scrutiny. And when's the last time you were on a flight that wasn't packed like the proverbial can of sardines?
But taking the train isn't much of an option any more. So guess who wants to help the United States build high-speed railroads across the continent? Yes, the Chinese, who were imported by the thousands to build rails across America decades ago. The New York Times quoted the director of high-speed rail in China, Zheng Jian, as saying, "We are the most advanced in many fields, and we are willing to share with the United States."
A West Virginia coal mine operator who long has castigated the federal regulatory system for finding numerous safety violations in his mine has little to say as more than two dozen miners are killed in his mine. Despite hundreds of serious violations, the mine was never shut down.
Even as the clamor grows for more Internet freedom around the globe, a U.S. court ruled that Internet-providing corporations such as Comcast may put up speed limits on the information highway. The ruling was a blow to certain high-volume users of the Internet and to the Federal Communications Commission, which under a policy of "net neutrality" was pursuing consumer protection, cybersecurity and privacy issues, all of which now face an uncertain future.
Just as the military has begun beefing up its forces in Afghanistan, the country where its main supply base is located, Kyrgyzstan, erupts into violent demonstrations as the president is toppled from power. Now we have to worry about another breakaway republic whose name we can't spell being a cause of disruption of vital supplies to help U.S. troops.
Even politics, always a little crazy, seems particularly loony this month. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., standard-bearer of his party in 2008, now says he never considered himself to be a maverick. Unfortunately, he forgot to tell Sarah Palin that before he insisted she appear in his state to campaign for him to keep his Senate seat, even though he's running against a blowhard ex-football player who couldn't keep his House seat. You betcha Palin once again, for about the millionth time, called McCain a maverick as he stood next to her.
Ah, April, you are the goofiest month, and you've just begun!
-- Scripps Howard columnist McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.