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Politicians silenced by Suns offer

August 06, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

It may not have been exactly the result the Hagerstown Suns were shooting for, but you have to admire the fact that they inadvertently discovered a way to get politicians to shut up: Charge them by the word.

Those wacky Hagerstown Suns - home to the failed Osama bin Laden bobblehead doll promotion and the faked story that a former U.S. president would attend a game - announced a "meet the candidates night," in which they planned to charge would-be officeholders up to $800 for a package that would include a campaign stand on the concourse and a brief speech before the, and I use this word loosely, crowd.

It's getting to the point the action in the Suns' front office is more interesting than what's transpiring on the field. The Suns, as of this writing, are mired in seventh place with a 14-25 record.

Now, I am not squeamish; I can watch bad baseball. And I am also able to listen to politicians. But to ask me to suffer both on the same evening is more than my digestion would be able to stand.

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Happily, the response has been, for politicians, eerily silent. And it got me to wondering if perhaps the political class would be quieter if it knew that every blowhard speech on C-SPAN or every inane quote in the paper would be metered and assessed a fee.

Here are two examples from our own Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of quotes for which he should have had to pay:

"Except in very unusual circumstances ... the people will be best served if the incumbent is re-elected."

That should have cost him $5,000 minimum, especially because when he first ran for office he was in favor of term limits, comparing congressional incumbents to "rats." Now that he is an incumbent, his feelings have changed.

The second $5,000 offense would be when Bartlett - in explaining why he refused to vote to expel Rep. James Traficant, convicted bribe- and kickback-taker, from Congress: "The easy vote would have been to vote 'yes.'"

The easy vote and the right vote, I might add. Maybe Bartlett simply admires Traficant's hair. Maybe Bartlett feels that a congressman taking bribes and kickbacks is no big deal. Whatever, the satellite from which Bartlett receives his signals appears to be moving farther away from Planet Earth.

And if he would have to pay for spewing this nonsense, at least maybe we could pay for a few park benches somewhere with his name on them, and there would be some minuscule contribution to the public good.

But moving right along, another local event that I hope has larger implications occurred at the Washington County Ag Expo last week, when 22 capons entered in the poultry competition had to be killed before they were judged.

It needed to be done that way, because fears of an avian flu epidemic had prompted the state Department of Agriculture to ban poultry exhibitions. The ban was lifted Monday.

Initially I thought that killing the entrees and picking over the carcasses before awarding the prize might have other uses beneficial to society, and I was thinking specifically of the MTV Video awards, but my Conscience in High Heels informs that this is decidedly not funny.

Indeed, after reflection I agreed that recommendations of killing out certain segments of our gum-snapping-twits' pop culture may be too abrasive, so in sticking with the kinder, gentler chicken parlance, I will advocate only that they be "harvested and dressed."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. You can phone him at 301-733-5131, extension 2324, or e-mail him at timr@herald-mail.com

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