Just bad luck

July 20, 2010 1:55:00 PM PDT
So what are the odds? That's the question we're asking today actually we've been asking it since our 11 p.m. news last night.

In Middletown, New Jersey, lightning hit a house and started a fire. As lookie-loos gathered across the street, lightning hit a tree, and several people were hurt, including a police officer. Tonight, one of those people, a 49-year-old man who was leaning against the tree, has died.

The odds against this happening? Staggeringly against.

But that's of little consolation to the family of the man who died, and the families of the people who are hurt. We'll have the latest, tonight at 11.

Two big votes happening today and tomorrow. The first is the Senate Judiciary Committee's vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan. The vote today was 13 to 6 in favor, with one Republican, Sen. Lindsay Graham joining Democrats. Ms. Kagan disarmed the committee, but as a matter of principle it seems (although exactly what principle seems a bit fuzzy), Republicans will not vote in favor of anything or anyone nominated or proposed by Pres. Obama. But she seems a shoo-in, so it becomes easy for dissenting Republicans to say they voted against Kagan, even though they know their vote is substantively meaningless.

Mazel tov to them for the cynical logic.

The other big vote happens tomorrow, where Congress is expected to give final approval to extending unemployment payments for Americans who have been out of work and whose unemployment benefits have expired.

What a strange maze of logic both sides are using to make their case. The first is from Republicans, many of whom don't seem to understand, at least not publicly the financial and emotion pain of being without a job and money.

The second is from Democrats, who in a stretch of reasoning, claim that unemployment benefits help stimulate the economy. Say what? Most people need these payments just to make ends meet like pay for food and housing. So I suppose in that case it helps the economy by not killing it, since having people starving and homeless doesn't help generate revenues.

But, c'mon, unemployment benefits as economic stimulator? It's twisted logic. Creating jobs is what will stimulate the economy.

We'll have the latest on the two votes, tonight at 11.

We're also following the complicated fallout from the Shirley Sherrod affair, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture official, an African American who, decades ago, apparently didn't do all she could have done to help save a white farmer's land.

She recounted her story personal, at times gut-wrenching at an NAACP event in March. Look at the tape, it's all over the Internet and judge for yourself. Was she being honest about the question of race, she claims the white farmer was trying to show her up or was she being discriminatory?

The White House apparently wasted little time reacting. Sherrod resigned.

No question, there is no room for discrimination in government, no matter the direction, white to black or black to white. But Ms. Sherrod was recalling something that happened a long time ago and, it seems to me, was talking about the inner angst she went through. Talking about it in a profoundly honest way, the kind of way that we want people to talk about race.

By forcing her resignation, are we forcing the lid on open discussions about race? There are many who believed that having an African American President would mean that we'd talk about race and racism in a more open way. Could it be that, in the quest to avoid being accused of racism in any way, the Obama Administration is going overboard in trying to sweep race under the carpet? I'm just sayin'.

Are we opening up discussions about race, or shutting them down? That's the bigger question about all this. Should she have been smarter, politically, and not talked about this? Looking back, I'm sure Ms. Sherrod might answer "yes" to that question. But watch the tape and see if you think she was being racist.

As I write this, CNN is airing an interview with the farmers, a husband and wife who were the focus of Sherrod's story who say their farm was saved by Sherrod.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

PS: I asked for your thoughts about the two kids who drowned in the Bronx River at a waterfall that is popular but dangerous and off-limits. One teenager jumped in to rescue another who couldn't swim. Neither made it. Thanks for your replies. Here are two:

From Irma D'Ecclesiis of White Plains, New York: "I feel sad for the (families) of those 2 youngsters who died, but they know that is not safe to get in the water. They (did it) anyway; they weren't little kids."

And Lee Storm from Madison, New Jersey, offers: "You asked, 'Why is the fence so easily breached?' I say it's probably that understanding of the signage is expected. Ah-- but we're talking about the indestructible, invincible kid or teen, aren't we? So they don't care about 'Keep Out' signs. It seems to me that pro-action is not a well-known thing; it's a reaction that will no doubt occur. Suddenly, someone will scream that the fence needs to be much higher and heavy-duty to keep people out. There will be those who don't understand why such a precaution wasn't taken earlier. It's that whole 20-20 hindsight thing again, and again, and again! But why, oh please tell me why, must someone always have to die before action is taken? That, Bill and friends, is the part that always undoes me, and yet I see no cure for reaction versus pro-action."

BILL RITTER

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