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C. Fraser Smith: Herman Cain, WDS and green jobs

With apologies to a former colleague, here’s a little Friday smorgasbord:

How about that Herman Cain?

He sure was having fun. He went from joke to front runner to what the right-wing bloviators called a Clarence Thomas-style, high-tech lynching. Nothing’s an over-reach these days.

Suddenly haunted by sexual harassment allegations, Cain’s trying to remember whether one or two or both of his accusers got paid off to stop harassing him.

And this is just one category of accusation he faces. Did one of his TV commercials encourage people to think smoking was just fine?

One of his campaign people showed up in a Cain commercial deeply inhaling. Cigarettes cause cancer. Didn’t Cain know? Probably. He’s a cancer survivor. How could he countenance such a thing?

Is there an argument for such an atrocity? He wanted to look like a guy you’d have a beer with? He wanted his campaign to seem right out of everyday life? Is cancer just as American as motherhood and apple pie?

Before all this, he sang his own version of John Lennon’s peace anthem: Imagine there’s no pizza. (He’s a former pizza magnate.) He sounded good – for a pizza salesman. And, in a way, it was funny — because, like the smoking ad, it suggested somebody who couldn’t possibly be a serious candidate.

And yet he was a frontrunner. Really? Before the harassment allegations, he was tied with or leading Mitt Romney in the GOP primary polling.

Was anybody embarrassed? You may hate the long presidential primary campaigns, but they have at least one purpose — they provide time to find out who these candidates really are, time to find their baggage.

‘Do It Now Day’

Wednesday would have been William Donald Schaefer’s 90th birthday. Friends and former staffers — many of whom planned and executed the extravaganza that was his funeral — met at the Double T Diner in Catonsville.

And there was this:

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young identified a perfect way to celebrate the late former mayor’s birthday.

He was going to help plant bulbs, pick up trash and pull weeds at Mother’s Garden, the northeast Baltimore park dedicated to the memory of the late William Donald Schaefer’s mother, Tululu. It was all part of “Do It Now Day,” a community service blitz in Baltimore neighborhoods named for Schaefer’s most famous order.

The beat goes on.

Green, clean jobs

Last week’s Clean Energy Summit at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore was an eye-opener. The grand meeting hall was packed for the opening session last Friday. Senator Ben Cardin was there along with Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

But the real headliner was Dr. Dorothy Robyn, an undersecretary of defense for installations and environment.

What was she doing at what might have seemed like a small-bore, Maryland-centric effort to get people thinking about green and clean jobs?

Here’s the point. Secretary Robyn’s in charge of 300,000 buildings, 160,000 vehicles and a big energy consumption task. Reduce Demand/Increase Supply is a mantra, she said.

It ought to be a mantra of the world, of course. That was part of the point.

“Net Zero (consumption),” one of her PowerPoint messages urged, “is a force multiplier.” That’s military-speak for something that makes our armed forces stronger.

The task, she and others said, is to find new ways of conserving and, in the process, to create jobs. New technologies are needed. Money to finance new ideas is needed, such as using cash savings from products that reduce consumption to pay back loans taken to develop these products.

The summit drew an impressive array of innovators, companies hard at work looking for answers that will create new energy-saving, job-producing companies.

The summit was organized by Katherine Magruder, executive director of the Maryland Clean Energy Center. She and the companies attracted to her summit seemed at first to be way ahead of the curve.

Not so. More likely, we are perilously late in stimulating the kind of new technologies on display at this event.

C. Fraser Smith is senior news analyst at WYPR-FM. His column appears Fridays in The Daily Record. His email address is fsmith@wypr.org.