But first . . .


And now she can be one.

Randy Wolff: ‘Have you heard about Lifegems? After your loved one passes away, this company will turn the remains into a diamond. A real diamond, only more expensive.’

☞ I would have assumed this was a Halloween joke until I clicked through to see. And there’s more good news! According to Lifegem’s frequently asked questions (to be read in hushed, caring tones), they can turn your deceased pet into a bag of diamonds, too. Dust to dust, ashes to diamonds. Starting at under $4,000.

Michael: ‘Your column yesterday shows that you know a lot about how to accumulate a nest egg. It also proves beyond a doubt that you know nothing at all about women. I, personally, would take your advice in a moment (assuming for the sake of argument that I had not been married for 31 years, but instead were just thinking of becoming engaged), but my Significant Other … no way. Don’t take it personally, though; we all have our areas of expertise – and mine isn’t women either. DeBeers, on the other hand, does know something about women. PS – Those ‘A diamond is forever’ commercials nauseate me; my wife loves them.’


Dan Roberts: ‘I face a dilemma and would appreciate your two cents. What do you do when the candidate of your party is a slimeball? I’m purposely going to leave the relevant parties out of this so there’s no bias involved. If you were me, would you rather vote for a good person of an opposing party, even though you don’t agree with his views; vote for the slimeball of your party, even though you know he would vote the way you want him to; or simply abstain from casting the vote? I’m leaning to a no-vote, but feel like that’s a cop-out on my civic duty.’

☞ I’m sorry to say it, but this is an easy one. Vote for the slimeball. I would feel differently if control of the entire government were not at stake, or if the parties were not so starkly disparate in their visions – but it is and they are.

(I would feel differently, too, of course, if your daughter were thinking of marrying one of them, or if one of them were offering to buy your business.)

In the present instance, if you are one who believes abortion must be outlawed, or who applauds the recent cuts in the budget of the S.E.C., or who worries that auto manufacturers might be coerced into improving fuel efficiency, or who is relieved that the top choice to run the new Accounting Oversight Board was jettisoned for knowing too much about accounting – if you are one who fears that tax cuts might be frozen for the top 1% or 2% in order to balance the budget or to provide a prescription drug benefit for seniors – then you just have to vote for the Republican, whether he’s a slimeball or not. This is your chance to move the Judiciary substantially to the right for the next 25 years! Possibly even to rid the country of the ‘separation of church and state.’ (‘The ‘wall of separation between church and State,” wrote Chief Justice Rehnquist in Wallace v. Jaffree, ‘is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.’)

Similarly, if you believe we had a pretty good balance in the Clinton/Gore years, and were rightly concerned with things like health care and the environment, and how the rest of the world perceived us . . . if you worry that we have shifted, lately, too much in favor of the rich and powerful . . . if you worry that Trent Lott and Tom DeLay might not be adequate ‘checks and balances’ on John Ashcroft and Clarence Thomas – then you just have to vote for the Democrat, whether he’s a slimeball or not. This is your chance to keep the right wing of the Republican Party from gaining control of all three branches of government.

Only if you agree with Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan that there’s no real difference between the parties should you take the ‘no-vote’ option.

(One issue on which even Nader and Buchanan would be hard-pressed to deny the difference is equal rights for gays and lesbians. How’s this for contrast? Fully 74.7% of Democrats in Congress rate a 100% perfect score on the latest Human Rights Campaign scorecard – versus 1.4% for Republicans. Meanwhile, 61% of Republicans rate ZERO . . . there is nothing they would grant gays and lesbians . . . which is actually worse than eight years ago, when ‘only’ 46% of the Republicans scored zero.)

Note to the playfully cynical: Yes, there really is a Dan Roberts, so far as I know, and no, I didn’t make up his question.


Just out from Harper Collins is Selling Out, by Mark Green, who narrowly lost the New York mayoral race last year to Mike Bloomberg. It is subtitled, How Big Corporate Money Buys Elections, Rams Through Legislation, and Betrays Our Democracy (and was originally to have been titled ‘Money Shouts.’) It is a quick, informative, important read.

The sad truth is that the recent hard-won campaign finance reform won’t fix things. Needed: a system that deeply subsidized campaigns with cheap TV and radio time – but only where the candidate agreed to spending ceilings. (If his opponent chose to forego the subsidy and blow the lid off those ceilings, the subsidy could even rise part way to make up some of the difference and deter this kind of behavior in the first place.)


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