Politicians should come with a warning sticker

One of the first things I learned in law school is that “it” is always someone else’s fault.

That’s a concept I vividly recall every time I have to restart my lawn mower after letting go of the handle. The automatic shut-off, you should note, has been incorporated into basic lawnmower design because someone was stupid enough to stick his or her hand beneath a running lawnmower—only to hit the subsequent lawsuit-lottery against the manufacturer, when lawyers convinced a jury of 12 unreasonable people that it wasn’t his or her fault a hand was turned into handburger.

This is but one of an endless list of degradations citizens must suffer in the name of protecting the lifestyles of selfish, stupid and irresponsible people whom many liberals like to call “victims.” This would, of course, explain the sticker on my wife’s hairdryer that emphatically states, “Do not use while bathing.”

It’s as Mark Twain once said, “The thing about common sense is that it isn’t very common.”

Witness the rush to judgment of state Controller Kathy Augustine. Augustine admitted to the state Ethics Commission that she should have known her employees were working on her re-election campaign while on state time, not that she did know. She was subsequently assessed a $15,000 fine by the commission after her admissions.

She was then officially impeached by the state Assembly. Voting 42-0, the Assembly sent three articles of impeachment to the Senate, which then conducted a trial costing some $200,000 of taxpayers’ money, only to slap her proverbial wrist with a public censure. Augustine will now return to finish out her last two years in office at some $80,000 a year.

Whatever your political affiliation, you must admit, the woman has huevos. She is no shrinking violet, and, if the testimony of her subordinates is true, she commutes on a broomstick. Regardless, Augustine is a strong-willed woman who plays hardball. Despite requests for her resignation from Gov. Kenny Guinn to Sen. John Ensign and everyone in between, she stuck it out.

She contended her actions failed to rise to the level that justified her removal from office. She wasn’t accused of any fiscal mismanagement insofar as her official duties were concerned, and apparently the Senate agreed.

The senators plodded on and embarrassed themselves in the process. Some 200,000-plus dollars down the tubes (not including the costs of the AG’s investigation), but Nevada political ethics have apparently been maintained.

This spectacle notwithstanding, the most disconcerting event was when Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio produced a legal opinion from the state Legislative Counsel Bureau that indicated there wasn’t a problem with elected officials having state workers fill out their campaign contribution reports for them—at taxpayers’ expense.

Of course, this is the same bureaucratic branch of lawyers who couldn’t make it in private practice that claimed it was constitutionally acceptable for salaried executive branch employees to also serve as elected officials in the Legislature.

The whole sordid display was a large surprise to the rest of us who actually passed Constitutional Law while in law school.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise when you consider the 2003 legal hallmark that is the Nevada Supreme Court. It directed the state Legislature to ignore a state constitutional amendment that called for a two-thirds majority to raise taxes.

The time has come to revisit term limits. Perhaps the time has come to review the qualifications required to serve in office.

In any case, the next time your lawnmower dies when you release the handle long enough to move a piece of gravel, think about who’s at fault for poor government. Is it the ethically challenged politicians or the public that doesn’t pay attention when the motor is running?