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Caution: lobbyists for penny at work
by Jake Highton
Aug 09, 2008 | 509 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Why does the government still mint pennies when each one costs 1.26 cents to make?

Lobbyists for the zinc industry and Coinstar. The penny is made of 97.5 percent zinc and Coinstar is a company that makes coin-counting machines converting coins to bills.

Probably half the waste in government could be eliminated by doing away with lobbyists. But, alas, it will never happen.

The First Amendment establishes the right to petition the government (although it is hard to see how the metallic content of a penny is redressing a legitimate grievance).


Character is a word seldom heard these days in the old-fashioned sense of decency, honor and concern for other people.

Socrates, as portrayed in Plato’s “Phaedo,” is minutes away from death yet he says: “Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius. Will you remember to pay the debt?”

That’s character.

Before drinking the hemlock, Socrates says: “I think that I had better repair to the bath first in order that the women may not have the trouble of washing my body after I am dead.”


Thoreau in “Walden” tells of borrowing an ax. Then writes: “I returned it sharper than I received it.”



The greatest irony of modern history may be this: America at the end of World War II imposed a constitution on Japan calling for perpetual peace yet has itself launched several unprovoked, unilateral wars.

Opinion vs. fact

The ombudsman, public grievance editor, of the New York Times recently discussed the issue of a columnist stepping over the line between opinion and writing inaccurately.

Opinion can be provocative, even outrageous to many readers. All columnists “stack the deck,” emphasizing the points that bolster their argument and knocking down those of the opposite view.

But facts are sacred in the newspaper business. I have written columns for four decades. Never once did I deliberately write something false. The factual errors in my columns have been rightly pointed out by readers, causing me great embarrassment and forcing me to make profuse apologies.

Life imitates art

I recently saw a painting, “Whistlejacket” by George Stubbs, a British animal artist. It is a 1762 portrait of a big, brown, powerful, prancing horse with the look of a champion.

I thought immediately of Big Brown, a big, brown, powerful champion. Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. But he lost the Belmont Stakes in an attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed 30 years ago.

Accounting for Big Brown’s loss, a friend notes that the realistic Stubbs painting did not reveal the slight crack in the colt’s left front hoof.

‘Leaves of Grass’

William Carlos Williams, Pulitzer-Prize winning poet, writes an introduction to a Modern Library edition of “Leaves of Grass” claiming that poems are made of words not ideas.

Nonsense. Whitman wrote the poem “To a Common Prostitute” with this line: “Not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you.” Surely that is an idea. It is a line pleading for understanding, tolerance and humanity.

Media trivia

A reporter from National Public Radio was recently interviewing a John McCain staffer about possible choices for vice president. The aide gave a good rundown of five or six possible choices, noting the strengths and weaknesses each would bring to the GOP ticket. Then the reporter closed brightly: “And which choice might be more enjoyable around the barbeque?”

Please! Broadcast already has far too much entertainment at the expense of news without the serious NPR also entertaining.


Blogger and columnist Arianna Huffington contends that she heard Sen. John McCain say he did not vote for President Bush in 2000. Not true, McCain says.

The question is not whether he voted for Bush. The question is why he would have voted for Bush. The Bush campaign in 2000 smeared McCain so frightfully that you would have thought that he was a Democrat.

Short takes

Gas is more than $4 a gallon, which should soon drive those terrible SUVs off the roads. It’s no consolation but gas costs twice as much in Europe. … It’s still a man’s world as any woman will tell you. Because of Title IX, girls in high school and women in college are participating in sports in record numbers. However, men dominate the coaching jobs, coaching 57 percent of women’s college sports teams.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.
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