Puff ‘n’ Stuff

By Bob Harris

JOE CAMEL isn’t dead. He just moved to the back room. How badly do the tobacco companies want Congress to go ahead and pass the big settlement deal that kills a bunch of liability lawsuits? Badly enough to pay top dollar for it.

According to reports from the Federal Election Commission, the tobacco industry is now pouring money into both the Republican and Democratic parties at about five times the pace of the corresponding period four years ago. They’ve already kicked in about 2 million bucks, 80 percent of which is going to the GOP majority.

You can pretend that maybe all the tobacco money flooding the wallets of Congress won’t influence anybody’s vote. But if not, then why exactly are the tobacco guys suddenly pouring millions of dollars into the coffers?

After agreeing to fork over more than a third of a trillion dollars, they suddenly all feel some extra cash burning holes in their pockets?

An RJ Reynolds spokesperson told the AP that it wasn’t their fault–the politicians are to blame, suddenly pressuring the tobacco boys to fork over like never before. Oh, really?

Not to defend a politician–Johnnie Cochran might have trouble with that feat–but it’s not like the people in Congress are the ones whose empires depend on the liability deal.

Let’s watch and see if the extra cash lubricates the agreement’s slide through Congress. If it flies through unusually fast, then we know what’s up. In which case, maybe we should just elect the corporate logos themselves and eliminate the pretense of having silk-suited bagmen acting like national leaders.

You heard it here first: Joe Camel in ’98.

WELL, GOSH. Princess Diana, or ex­Princess Diana, or Lady Di, or whatever the heck you’re supposed to call her–“That Spencer Broad” probably isn’t it–has a new squeeze. Or at least that’s what almost every newspaper in the country has reported.

This is exactly the sort of information that has no place in our brains.

If you’ll excuse me, I don’t care what this Di person is supposed to be called. I doubt I could do much worse than whatever Charles mumbles under his breath when no one is in earshot. Which for him might be several hundred yards. (Rimshot.)

She’s British. I’m not, I’m not planning to be, and I don’t care for celebrity gossip in this country, much less the imported stuff.

I’ve got nothing against her as a person. Yay, she’s getting some, good for her. But she’s not a world leader and shouldn’t be mistaken for one; in fact, she’s not even remotely important and from all indications never will be. Di’s just a cute chick who was fortunate enough to stroll by just as Chuck had a swerve on to get hitched. That’s not even in dispute.

Sure, maybe one of her kids might be Mr. King guy someday, but last I remember they’re still not old enough to negotiate a jar of Clearasil, much less a disarmament treaty. And besides, doesn’t Britain have a prime minister and a House of Commons and a democracy and stuff? I’m pretty sure I saw it on TV once. The royals are figureheads, well-dressed national ornaments–think Siegfried and Roy without the cats and flash pots–and nothing more.

So what exactly is the point of the whole royal deal, anyway? Does anyone on Earth actually believe the Windsors–actually, Wettins (the family name of Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Queen Victoria’s consort), until they changed it during WWI so they wouldn’t sound quite so Prussian–are better or smarter or harder-working than your average schmoes? If not, then why does this nonsense continue?

The Brits can engage in whatever lunacy they please, but as an American, I still believe in an elected government and a system that at least supposedly rewards people more for hard work and creativity than for being born in a castle. I even seem to recall a whole war about this stuff a couple centuries ago.

But then, if today’s newspapers had reported the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party would have brought editorials for more law and order, and Lexington and Concord would have been back-paged to make room for the latest wig-powdering tips from King George’s courtiers.

Tonight on Channel 6 Action News: Our money reporter explains how to make taxation without representation work for your family’s budget, and in consumer news, our happy homemaker tells how to keep our redcoats bright. Film at 11.

From the Aug. 27-Sept. 3, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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