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BofA and bong hits: What's the connection? 

Welcome to the first post-inauguration edition of Ask Boomer With Attitude, live from Charlotte, N.C., where a quarter-inch of snow translates to 24 hours of TV newscasters scurrying and squealing like hamsters on crack. Lots of reader questions recently, so for once, none of the following are fake.

Dear BWA: Why don't you quit slamming Bank of America and realize that they're the backbone of our local economy? -- Numbers Guy

Dear Numbers: More like they're breaking the backbone of the local economy, don't you think? I assume you're referring to a CL blog item that chastised BofA for their wasteful Super Bowl shindig, in which we noted that, these days, if you look up "drunken sailor" in the dictionary, you'll see a Bank of America logo. Being a critical part of a community's economy demands more care and responsibility than BofA has shown -- anyone remember those layoffs? -- as well as goals that go beyond swallowing up competitors and using Super Bowl bashes as a "growth strategy." I say if Olympics star Michael Phelps can apologize for taking a harmless bong hit, BofA can say it's sorry it blew millions after getting a taxpayer bailout. I do give BofA credit, however, for not griping too loudly about President Obama's rules capping bailed-out companies' executive pay at $500K. The way some other wizards of high finance are whining -- such as the headhunter for financial workers who complained to The New York Times that "$500,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if there is no bonus" -- you'd think everything was OK in America, and that it wasn't their slimy, fantasy-based business practices that triggered the mess we're in. As Salon.com pointed out last week, there's one sure way for corporate execs "to keep rolling in the dough: Don't run your company into the ground so quickly that the only way to survive is to get on the dole."

Dear BWA: Your article about how bad Bush was ("The King of Bad Presidents," Jan. 13) made me sick. Why don't you f-ing liberals ever give Bush credit for keeping us safe since 9/11? -- Sick of Libs

Dear Sick: Because he doesn't deserve credit. The United States hasn't suffered another large-scale terrorist attack since 9/11, but it's doubtful Bush's policies had much to do with that. A number of foreign policy experts now feel al-Qaeda shot its wad with the 9/11 attacks, and that the only threats now come from homegrown copycat groups who are easier to track. Moreover, the Bush administration, in seven years, did absolutely nothing to adequately beef up security for U.S. ports and chemical plants. And don't forget that while you're taking off your shoes at the airport, your flight is being loaded with cargo that hasn't even been inspected. Why not? Bush thought it would cost too much. You call that "keeping us safe?" Now here's a question for you, sir: Why won't conservatives ever acknowledge the fact that Bush didn't exactly "keep us safe" when he ignored repeated warnings before 9/11 that an airborne terrorist attack was imminent?

Dear BWA: How can you idiots still push big government spending for losers when you see the way local housing funds were wasted? -- Free the Market

Dear Free: First of all, what "losers" are you talking about? Are you telling me you don't know anyone who's lost a job through no fault of his or her own? Secondly, you're right about the waste of money by community development groups -- it's a disgrace. It's a disgrace that they blew the money rather than build homes for poor people like they were supposed to, and it's an even bigger disgrace that city staff didn't supervise those groups' use of taxpayer money. Heads need to roll on both sides. That particular scandal, though, doesn't mean we don't have a critical need for new affordable housing in Charlotte. I salute Michael Marsicano, leader of the Foundation for the Carolinas, who recently convened a powwow of bigwigs to find ways to deal with the problem. Congratulations and thanks, also, to Taylor Batten, the new editor of The Charlotte Observer's editorial pages, for his vigorous advocacy for the homeless and housing issues. It's good to see those pages in the daily paper showing some passion for a change.

Dear BWA: What's up with governors appointing U.S. senators? How is that democracy? -- Josh Mounfrey

Dear Josh: The fiasco with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has a lot of people asking that question. It goes back to 1913, when the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave voters the right to elect senators (before then, senators were chosen by each state's legislature), also gave states the right to let their governors appoint someone to fill vacant Senate seats. You're right, it's not democratic at all, as many have pointed out recently. Sens. Russ Feingold and John McCain have now proposed another amendment that would require popular elections to fill empty Senate seats, but the states' legislatures can do the same thing more quickly -- which won't happen, needless to say, without pressure from voters. While they're at it, they should dump the Electoral College, too, so the United States, i.e., the "beacon of democracy," can elect its leader by popular vote like, say, every other democracy.

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