When is news not news? When it's a travesty!

Far too much has already been written about the Bill Clinton's sex life, and I don't intend to add to the ridiculous proliferation of specious speculation. If Bill has a priapic problem, it's his problem, and Hillary's, and Chelsea's, and that of his other intimate friends. It's not my problem, and it's not your problem. But that doesn't mean that you and I don't have problems.

If moral purity were a requirement for holding elective office in the United States, there would be anarchy. Personally, I'd prefer a President with a marital fidelity problem like Clinton, to one with fiscal fidelity problems, like Regan, who saddled the American people with three billion dollars in debt to finance projects (including a multi-million dollar HUD boondoggle) that enriched his friends and contributors, or Bush, who presided over the Savings and Loan Debacle (from which at least one of his sons demonstrably profited handsomely) that our children will still be paying for in 2030.

We do have real problems in the United States. Those problems do really involve the moral rectitude of our elected officials. Their willingness to forego their responsibility to their representative constituency in favor of unquestioning loyalty to the special interests that pay their bills and help them get elected makes our "democracy" an international laughing stock.

Their regular and obvious self-enrichment while in office and immediately upon leaving (over 50% of our Representatives and over 80% of our Senators belong to that top 10% of Americans who have a net worth of more than two million dollars), and their eagerness to vote in their own interest - the interest of the wealthiest 10% of Americans - has promoted the largest shift of capital (from the poor and middle class to the rich) in our history during the last twenty years.

We have severe race problems in this country. Our non-white citizens are severely under-represented in positions of influence and leadership, and wildly over-represented in our jails and at the lowest economic levels of society. We have sub-standard public schools which we are unwilling to spend time and money to improve. We have the largest prison population per-capita of any developed nation, and even surpass most nations which we condemn as third-world and politically repressive. We continue to stand alone as the only industrialized country that does not provide comprehensive health care for all its citizens - our politicians claim we "can't afford it," while at the same time proclaiming the US the "richest nation on earth."

We have a real problem with drugs, breaking up families; debilitating our citizens; creating a vast underworld economy which then subsidizes other criminal activities; criminalizing private behavior, much of which may in fact be relatively harmless. We have ongoing problems with pollution and with the toxification of our food and water supplies, with the poorly planned development of our land, and the raging exploitation of our common natural resources to profit a tiny minority.

So what have our newspapers devoted endless columns of supposedly serious discussion to lately? That's right, the burning issue of the day, far more important than any of these: Bill and Monica.

It's not just a question of Who Cares? The supposedly responsible and serious media are devoting columns and columns of limited editorial space, hours and hours of reporter time, to covering this non-story. Meanwhile, stories of real import, discussions of critical policy issues, are neglected.What happened to the public debate on health care? on tax reform? on campaign finance reform? on congressional ethics? on tobacco company practices? on the plight of family farms? "No room! No Room," cry the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, "we're saving all this space for Ken Starr and Monica Lewinski."

Newt Gingrich (accent on "rich") is constantly reminding us how poor the US is, how we can't afford public assistance programs or universal health care or adequate funding for schools. Yet, the American people have already spent more than three years' entire allocation for public funding for the arts (which our representative argue we can't afford) on this Lewis Carrollean excursion into the President's pants.

Bread and Circuses - enough food to keep them pacified and enough spectacle to keep them distracted - that was the Roman Emperor Nero's prescription for bamboozling the public. With the assistance of the tame, corporate-owned and controlled media in the US today, it is our government's tactic as well. As long as we are willing to be distracted and by such nonsense we will continue to get what we deserve.

The alternative is to respond actively to the media and to our representatives. Put the pressure on and keep it on. Insist on a high level of dialogue about the real issues that confront us, and refuse to listen to or talk about the idiot's blather that is being passed off as "news." Write letters to the editor, post the truth on the web, on supermarket bulletin boards, talk about it at public events, publicize your dissatisfaction with the nonsense being foisted off on us. Find and join with other like-minded individuals and work to keep government of the people, by the people and for the people from perishing from this earth.

But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. Am I? Why? What's yours?