A reader who chose to remain anonymous sent along a copy of a story that ran last week in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, about the ongoing adventures of Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania's junior Republican U.S. Senator.
What with being a leading proponent of the Cheney/Bush administration's scheme to divert Social Security funds to Wall Street, overturning Roe v Wade, and preventing homosexuals from undermining the very foundations of this great land, you'd think Ricky would have enough on his plate.
But no. Now he has, in a way, taken up Charles Dudley Warner's 108-year-old challenge: "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Ricky doesn't propose to actually do anything about the weather, but he is determined to make sure that only certain people talk about it.
As things now stand, weather information -- current and coming soon to your neighborhood -- is available from the National Weather Service, via its Web site, or over one of those little battery-operated gizmos, like the one I keep in my kitchen, that broadcasts up-to-the-minute information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA).
According to the Tribune-Review, The National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005, introduced by Ricky on April 14, would, if passed, "bar the National Weather Service from providing any service that competes with the private sector."
In other words, American taxpayers, whose dollars support the NWS, would not, if this wacky legislation were to become law, be able to obtain weather information from that source, because the same or similar service is provided by private weather forecasting companies such as AccuWeather, and the Weather Channel.
And here the plot thickens. The Tribune-Review notes that Joel and Barry Myers, founders and executives of AccuWeather, which has its headquarters at State College, Pa., have donated to Ricky's election campaigns.
Not being able to access the National Weather Service Web site would not be a great hardship for me, because as a borderline computer illiterate I can't access much of anything on a computer. But I hate to think that our wonderful Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, might send some of his agents to seize my little weather radio.
As for Ricky, his Senate career may be as short-lived as his Weather Services Duties Act is outrageous. He's up for re-election next year, and early surveys show him trailing his probable challenger, Robert Casey, Jr., by a substantial margin, thanks in no small part to Ricky's enthusiasm for Social Security privatization, and his supporting role in the Theresa Schiavo morality play staged by the Bush, DeLay and Frist little theater group, which wound up getting mostly dreadful reviews.
There's delicious irony in this contest, because Casey's father, the late Robert Casey, was indirectly responsible for Ricky's election to the Senate in 1994. Casey was Pennsylvania's Democratic governor then, and a largely undistinguished one, in part due to chronic health problems.
Casey's role in the senatorial contest, in which Ricky was pitted against the incumbent Democrat, Harris Wofford, came about because he did not get to deliver an anti-abortion speech at the national convention that year.
Casey's version, which was accepted by much of the news media, was that he was denied the opportunity to speak. In fact, he was offered speaking time, but not the prime time slot he wanted, and so he went into a protracted sulk and sat on his hands in the ensuing campaign, refusing to campaign for Wofford, a liberal supporter of a woman's right to choice. Wofford might have lost anyway, but Casey's lack of support certainly hurt.
Now Casey's son may be poised to undo the sin of the father. We can only hope.
Rossie is associate editor of the Press & Sun-Bulletin.
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