Elections chief stink has a whiff of partisan odor

September 05, 2004|By DAN RODRICKS

GOOD THING Linda Lamone, the Maryland elections chief, wants a court fight over what looks -- and smells -- like a blatant attempt to oust her for political reasons from a independent position she has held since 1997. The whole thing carries a stench, and looks more and more like an effort by the Republican governor and his pals to boot a competent administrator based on trumped-up or minor complaints. (And, gosh darn it, I hope I'm wrong about that!)

Lamone should be thankful for one small blessing -- she's in Annapolis 2004, not Salem 1692. In Salem, they hanged you or crushed you under stone. Here they just humiliate you and raise doubts about your integrity.

I scratch my head: Apparently, this Lamone thing has something to do with the fact that there is lingering bitterness among Maryland Republicans over the disputed 1994 gubernatorial race between Parris Glendening and his GOP challenger, Ellen R. Sauerbrey. You remember that surreal episode? The difference in the election was about 6,000 votes (Glendening won), and there were accusations, aired day after day on wacky right-wing radio shows, of fraud and misconduct. ("Dead guys in prison voted!") I can't believe anyone is still bitter about that, but if that's the case, all I can say is: Increase your dosage.

Enthusiastically Noted: The most entertaining commercials I've seen in months -- the TV spots in which "Egomaniacal Normans" and "Egyptian Navigators" promote the pleasures of Emerald Nuts. They are off-the-wall, flying-into-gonzo-space great, a clever parody of how all of us, as school kids, tried to remember proper names using alliteration.

Did you see where a Baltimore strip club owner feels duped because she sold her place to Larry Flint's Hustler Club enterprises for too little money? Ask her about the time I bought a $25 glass of "champagne" for a performer of modern dance in a Block night club. Talk about "duped." I thought she was really interested in me as a person.

Sad but true: That guy who attacked the Brazilian marathon runner on the last day of the Olympics set kilt-wearing back 100 years.

Vice President Dick "Five Deferments" Cheney likes to keep saying President Bush will never seek a "permission slip to defend the security of the United States." It's catchy, and it's true. According to people present during meetings of Bush's National Security Council, this administration was consumed with an invasion of Iraq long before Sept. 11, 2001, and no one seemed too concerned about getting a permission slip. Getting rid of Saddam was Topic A 10 days after the inauguration, some eight months before the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, according to former Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill. It's likely that all justifications -- weapons of mass destruction, a connect between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks -- never had any substance. Cheney's got a point. If they can get away with that, why would they ask permission from anyone ever again?

And as for winning the war against terrorism, here's an extra-credit project for an enterprising high school student: Tabulate the number of terrorist attacks, including those in Iraq, that have occurred in the world since we toppled Saddam. I think newspaper reports would be adequate -- and extensive.

Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham took my advice to avoid that annoying $5 Maryland toll on Interstate 95 at Perryville by exiting at Havre de Grace and buying the 12-month Hatem Bridge commuter decal for a one-time fee of $5. That saves you five smackers on every trip north.

"To save even more money," writes Bickham, "your gentle readers who travel the Boston-Washington corridor might consider the following: After crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge, take Interstate-295 north toward Camden/Trenton. It runs alongside the Jersey Turnpike and there are no tolls. At the Bordentown Exit (Exit 57) take Route 130 toward Trenton. Gas is only $1.75 per gallon. Take this through Bordentown to 195 East. This takes you back to the Jersey Turnpike at Exit 7A. You save $4 on the roundtrip, plus the $5 from your Hatem tip. This adds about seven miles to the trip."

Yeah, baby. Enough for a little slots action at Dover on your way back.

Looking for a way to observe Labor Day in its true meaning? Go to the Wal-Mart on Dobbin Road in Columbia -- not to buy cheap shoes made by small children in Sri Lanka, but to join the Maryland chapter of the National Organization for Women for a soulful protest of the company's low wages and subject-of-class-action policies toward working women. Starts at 1 p.m. Ample parking.

I was very close to a particular tomato. I saw it grow from a tiny ball of green into an exquisite red orb, a work of art in the backyard garden. We nurtured it. We protected it. We waited until it was perfect. It was perfect by Friday morning. By Friday morning it looked, at last, like Friday dinner. Unfortunately, a certain Baltimore squirrel thought it looked like Friday lunch. He got to the tomato before we did. End of story, end of summer.

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