These observations about numerous items in the news...
The Catholic Church's confab of cardinals had the pope calling the priestly molestation of the young a sin and a crime. That's true. It also is true this deeply troubling matter is not about celibacy or pedophilia so much as it is about homosexuality. All the discussion in the world about whether dropping the celibacy stipulation is the way out or whether heteros can be pedophiles too, must not deflect the spotlight from this fundamental fact: If homosexuality were normal and not deviant behavior, the Catholic Church would not be facing its very full plate of problems.
Socialized medicine continues to implode. Government-run health systems in Germany and Scandinavia are showing strain. In Canada, federal and provincial governments pay $63 billion annually for a system providing free access to most doctors and hospitals. But numerous recent surveys have catalogued a vast array of systemic shortcomings - from underequipped hospitals and extensive regions without any doctors at all, to protracted delays, inferior treatment and death. Of Canada's 31-million population, more and more are longingly looking south to the free-enterprise system.
And in Britain, where the National Health Service is theoretically popular but practically the source of frequent public anger, Prime Minister Tony Blair has proposed raising spending on the NHS by 50 percent - to $154 billion. Blair and his Labour Party have long postponed this tax-increase day. Yet the likelihood is that after a lot of grumbling, Brits will stick with their "free" medicine, and will continue to pay more while receiving less.
For its part, Russia is de-socializing, not in medicine but in taxes. Vladimir Putin has instituted a 13 percent flat-rate income tax in place of a three-rate system as high as 35 percent. Under the first year (2001) of the revolutionary tax system, income tax revenues jumped by 47 percent, and nearly tripled what they were in 1999. Overall, tax collection was up by 50 percent, and expectations are that this year it will rise by even more. Russia's early flat-tax results are astounding, and the country boasts the lowest income-tax rate in Europe. Now if Putin can reduce the 12 pages of tax-reporting forms to a single postcard - as proposed here - he might be on to something.
In case you missed it in the blizzard of categorical statements that an effective hit-to-kill anti-missile system never could work: The Pentagon has announced four consecutive successful direct hits in anti-missile tests. Mark your calendar for at least a rudimentary anti-missile system to be in place, in Alaska, by the fall of 2004 - as candidate George Bush said it could be and, as President Bush has said, it would be.
Manhattan Federal District Judge George Daniels unloaded on real-estate developer Alfred Taubman, principal stockholder in the Sotheby's auction house, for restricting competition with rival Christie's. Judge Daniels fined Taubman, 78, $7.5 million and sent him to the federal pen for a year with these words: "The law does not countenance a robbery. Price-fixing is a crime whether it's committed in the grocery store or the halls of a great auction house. ... This was not a crime motivated by need but by arrogance and greed. ... There is a lack of contrition demonstrated. (Taubman) has continued a conspiracy of denial. He has neither acknowledged responsibility nor shown remorse."
The president continues to put Iraq on notice. In his April 17 speech at VMI, he resumed making the case, saying civilized nations must confront the Axis of Evil. There are of course many reasons. One is that Saddam is believed to hold Navy F-18 pilot Scott Speicher - shot down in the Gulf War Jan. 17, 1991. Another reason: Iraq recently moved surface-to-air missiles into southern and northern zones patrolled by American and British pilots. And let us not overlook what Saddam is doing in terrorist training, biochemical bomb development, threats against his neighbors and war against his own people.
Isn't peer pressure wonderful? Body piercing is not new, but now it's the rage. Teen-agers from all walks are piercing just about every protuberance and orifice because "everybody else is" and some of their parents are either acquiescing or encouraging it. Never mind bleeding, tissue trauma, infection, chipped teeth, receding gums, and the possibility of serious brain and nerve damage. Yuck. And never mind the stupidity - on the part of children and yea-saying parents.
The Saudis continue to dismay. Supposedly friends of right reason, they just can't seem to get right on Israel. The latest: The Saudi ambassador to Britain has written, for an Arab language newspaper, a poem entitled "The Martyrs" - a paean to Palestinian suicide bombers saying they had "died to honor my God's word" and (begin ital) inter alia terming the White House "filled with darkness." The ambassador was not returning calls to individuals seeking an explanation.
Suha Arafat, Yasser's wife, made headlines two weeks ago with her declaration of solidarity with suicide bombers and her accompanying remark that if she had a son, there would be "no greater honor" than to sacrifice him for the Palestinian cause. But: Palestinian suicide bombing has not been limited to men, and sweet Suha DOES have a daughter. It may be an inconvenient question, but - oh, never mind.
In the light of current hostilities, a reader recalls the observation by Israel's late Prime Minister Golda Meir, paraphrased here: "The day will come when I can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but I can never forgive them for making us kill their children." Given the deaths of children during the past 21 months of terror, as well as the approximately 50 children now crowded by Palestinian occupiers into the Grotto of the Nativity - the reputed site of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity - Mrs. Meir was citing a moral imperative that does not seem to burden the Palestinians.