John Leo
Ah, America, a never-ending carnival.

In Washington, D.C., police pounced on a l2-year-old girl and led her off in handcuffs for eating a french fry on the Metro. In California, the city of Glendale fought a nine-month legal battle to force a gas station owner to take down his display of American flags.

At a play in New York City, a sign in the lobby warned theatergoers to brace themselves for two shocks: the show "contains scenes of explicit violence and cigarette smoking." Murder and torture, maybe, but smoking? Have they no decency? How explicit was the smoking scene going to be? Critic Robert Brustein wrote, "What's next? Printed cautions about the non-organic candy at the refreshment counter?"

The french-fry felon, Ansche Hedgepeth, was caught in a weeklong crackdown by undercover Metro cops. After cuffing her, the police pulled the laces out of her tennis shoes, possibly to prevent her from hanging herself out of shame and guilt for what she had done. She was frisked, hauled down to a police station for two hours, interrogated, fingerprinted and booked. Like other food criminals (Jeffrey Dahmer, Hannibal Lecter), she seems to think that her crime wasn't very serious. But Metro police are more savvy. "We really do believe in zero tolerance," said the police chief. Apparently so.

In the flag case, Jordanian immigrant Kelly Khoury had been flying 20 American flags at his gas station. Glendale ordered him to take down 17 of them. Khoury fought back and won. A gracious winner, he voluntarily reduced his display of flags to 13 -- one for each original colony. "I don't want to rub it in the face of the city," he explained.

At Princeton University, the zany pro-infanticide Australian ethicist Peter Singer was in the news again, this time for sympathizing with people who approve of sex between humans and animals. The taboo on bestiality, he wrote in a book review, may have originated as part of the broader rejection of non-reproductive sex. But that rejection has nearly been swept away. Singer, the primary founder of animal liberation, thinks there is no important distinction bewteen humans and animals, so approval for human-animal sex has always been implied in his work. His review includes a detailed discussion of chickens that many readers will be eager to skip.

Memo to Princeton: When hiring a specialist in ethics, can't you do better than this?

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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