Thumbs up to ag conventions

January 14, 2013 

About 3,800 visitors will attend five agriculture conventions in the Tri-Cities in the first few weeks of the year.

The REAL Ag 2013 Convention & Trade Show kicked off the impressive lineup last week. The show, sponsored by the Pasco Chamber of Commerce and Les Schwab, ended Wednesday.

The two largest conventions should be the Washington Oregon Potato Conference 2013 from Jan. 29-31 and the 2013 Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual convention from Feb. 5-8, both at Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. Those two conventions alone should bring in about 3,200 visitors, according to the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau.

The ag convention delegates are expected to spend more than $1.7 million at hotels, restaurants, gas stations, retail shopping and on the venues.

If you'll pardon a corny ag pun -- that ain't hay.

Which reminds us, the Northwest Hay Expo is set for Jan. 16-17 at the Three Rivers Convention Center.

A bad influence

To the 110 motorists arrested during the holiday season by Tri-Cities law enforcement for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It's a drop from the previous year, the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign netted 131 arrests from Thanksgiving through New Year's. But 110 is still far too many to earn a thumbs up.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only about 1 percent of the people who admit to driving while impaired are arrested.

If that figure holds true in the Mid-Columbia -- and let's hope it doesn't -- then more than 13,000 drivers were under to influence of drugs or alcohol during the holiday season.

That's a sobering thought.

Are you serious?

To former American International Group CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg for suing the federal government for $25 billion on behalf of shareholders.

Greenberg claims that the $182 billion U.S. bailout of AIG in 2008 cost shareholders billions because of its "onerous terms."

Onerous is probably not too strong a term -- the government took about 80 percent of the company's equity and charged a 14.5 percent interest rate on the money it loaned to the Wall Street conglomerate.

But here are some other pertinent facts: AIG requested the bailout and its board agreed to the terms. The company's financial woes were caused by management's incompetence and greed. And without the bailout, AIG would have gone bankrupt, rendering any outstanding shares -- including Greenberg's -- worthless.

Fortunately, AIG's board of directors denied Greenberg's request for the company to join the lawsuit. But that doesn't make the legal action any less outrageous.

AIG paid back the loan, with about $22 billion in interest. Now, Greenberg wants taxpayers to give that back and pay $3 billion more for bailing him out.

If Wall Street's denizens have a reputation for greed and arrogance, at least they earned it.

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