Steve Otto Columns
Otto: Special interests hung us over 'fiscal cliff'
Day after day, we watched congressional leaders meet in rooms closed to the people they allegedly represent. Night after night, the same characters, cut-out figures who seemed to be from another century, would face the cameras with their all-knowing smirks. It was as if the public was an irritant, slowing down the process that only they were somehow capable of understanding. For all we knew they were sitting in darkened rooms watching "Wheel of Fortune'' and "Jeopardy'' before returning to the public glare with loosened ties and an announcement that progress was being made. It was all so much garbage. Looking back at the New Year's Eve results you can see the ''progress,'' mostly measured in pork. I don't mean pork like we crave in these parts, especially with a mojo sauce and served with black beans, onions and rice.I mean pork as in $222 million for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to get returned excise taxes on rum products, or maybe the $70 million going to NASCAR to recover costs for race track repairs. There is $430 million in the pot for Hollywood producers to expense on productions up to $15 million. How about $59 million for algae growers working on something called "cellulosic biofuel?' No wonder it took them over the top of that cliff to decide to just sign something and leave town, following my old German teacher's warning of "Morgen, morgen, nur nicht heute, sagen alle faulen Leute,'' or "Tomorrow, tomorrow, not today, that's what all the lazy people say.'' My guess is the political misery index should peak out in March when the next big federal cliff comes calling at almost the same time the Florida Legislature is in full swing doing its part to once again bring reasonable government to its knees. One potential piece of legislation that might actually do some good would be a bill to ban texting while driving. I was reading an opinion piece by AAA CEO John Tomlin in association's "Going Places'' magazine. He pointed out that every day more than 1,200 people are injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers. I'm convinced most are in Hillsborough County. Several readers responded to my suggestion that we just eliminate our dysfunctional government and create a monarchy, maybe with Kim Kardashian as queen. Benjamin Delaney commented: "Why elect our own royalty when all we have to do is ask the Brits to reinstate us a colony? I will take their taxation without representation over our taxation without representation.'' Joan Shalleck liked the idea and said I would be the perfect court jester-in-chief, I assume replacing Joe Biden. Finally, in a story out of Orlando demonstrating America's culinary growth, a Subway manager told a customer that Subway doesn't have ketchup when the customer asked for a Philly cheese steak sandwich. The owner said "he's never put ketchup on a sandwich.'' The owner then allegedly shoved a chair aside and challenged the customer to a fight. The customer left the Subway, and the manager lost his job. But good taste was salvaged.