Some zany ideas this legislative season

For what it's worth

Posted: Friday, February 04, 2000

Now just a dad-gummed minute! What is this nonsense about women demanding private exercise clubs? Men have been fighting for 30 years to get women admitted to their private secret clubs and now women turn on them just like that? I am outraged. It is particularly galling the leader of this effort is the honorable president of the Alaska Senate, an individual who owes at least a modest portion of her political success to the indulgence of men.

The Legislature has barely begun its deliberations and we are already confronted with two issues guaranteed to incite voters, and this in a year when political types usually tread lightly. The strangest idea allegedly comes from a man who has announced he's leaving political life. But first things first.

One of the proponents of private exercise clubs is quoted as saying, ``I want to be free to stretch, run and bike in an area where I don't have to worry about being groped by intruding eyes.'' Groped by intruding eyes.

One of my inside Juneau contacts had this reaction to that statement. He said, ``One of the first things you learn as a male is that females who worry most about being groped, by ``intruding eyes'' or otherwise, are the ones least likely to draw that much attention.'' Clearly he is not nearly as sensitive regarding these issues as he should be. I report his remark only to give balance to the story. I do not necessarily agree with him.

During my visits to health clubs I don't recall using my groping eyes for anything much because they were always blinded by sweat. I was too concerned about staying on the exercise bike and out from under falling weight sets to surreptitiously ogle anybody else in the room. Hell, with the baggy sweat suits you can't tell who's who anyway.

Truth is, I do understand the concerns of the ladies. I vividly recall the first few times women were granted entry to some of the all guy places I used to frequent. Within hours of the doors being opened to the so-called ``fair-sex'' at one of my hangouts I suffered the humiliation of being visually groped. She was sitting across from me and I could almost feel those watery green eyes crawling on me. I feared it was my imagination and quietly asked on of my companions, ``Do you have the sensation you're being visually groped by intruding eyes?''

``Funny you should ask'', he whispered, ``I have been feeling a little visually violated. Like somebody was trying to read the label on my underwear.''

I am saddened by this proposal mostly because I had thought we were beyond this sort of thing. Yet here we are, right back to the world of stereotyping, I am offended that supporters of this proposal apparently believe all men are mindless, slavering knuckle-draggers incapable of controlling themselves. Do they really believe men are driven to ``visual groping'' by the sight of sweaty women, sans makeup, clad in baggy clothes, huffing and puffing over an exercise machine? If so, I am disappointed.

I'll support their right to have private exercise clubs, if they will agree to let men have private clubs where they can smoke cigars, chew, swear, scratch and grunt. And where the men can have pinup calendars of voluptuous babes clad in scanty sweat suits.

As for the surprising ``Wacky Plan,'' the proposal to buy off Alaskans with a one-time cash payment of $25,000, I am terribly disappointed that people I had considered rational thinkers to feel the idea deserves serious study. It may well be that I am totally wrong about this. I understand the immediate appeal to the citizenry.

This idea has already made the news down here in the outback and you can guess the reaction. The same people who headed north for the pipeline boom are already talking about heading north to sign up for their cash payments. If it were to appear this idea might actually come to pass, the Alaska Highway would be bumper to bumper with rusty pick up trucks from Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and the other subsistence areas of the west. Now, you know and I know the Legislature would add stringent residency qualifications but rest assured most of those heading north would be unaware of that fact.

There is a terrible cynicism here; a pandering to greed. I suspect Alaskans will react favorably to the idea at first but that the kind of thinking which created the Permanent Fund in the first place will prevail.

There has been a quiet yet profound change in the basic philosophy of the Alaska Legislature in the past two decades. Veteran members are able to remember the past as they plan for the future, but we have a cadre of elected officials who cannot see beyond their own backyard or more than two weeks into the future.

The Wacky Plan has instant appeal, but to me it is counter to the philosophy which lead to creation of the permanent fund. Imagine the earnings lost in five years if half the assets of the fund are gone. There may well be several solutions to the present budget crisis that would involve less Draconian changes to the fund: A modest income tax perhaps, or a flat rate permanent fund dividend. But greed may well blow rational thought out the window.

There is concern about Alaska's budget and there should be. In an effort to develop a ``fiscal plan,'' it is likely near-term budgets might be so severely reduced or restricted as to render some programs and services meaningless. Clearly new revenues have to be found, but I hope the Wacky Plan is not the answer.

A good fund raiser might be a series of pin-up posters to sell in men's clubs featuring perspiration-soaked women in sticky sweatsuits. And the same type calendars for exclusive women's clubs featuring some of us ``hunky and chunky'' guys in similar clothing.

Warren W. Wiley a former Juneau resident, political observer and radio personality, now lives in Montana. He can be reached by e-mail at wwiley@mcn.net.



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