Ross Mackenzie
President Bush is giving the weapons inspectors more time in Iraq; meanwhile, the North Koreans are ratcheting up the rhetoric on nukes. Here's a notion: well-advertised demonstration drops of American non-nukes near Baghdad and Pyongyang, as reminders to the kakistocrats in those two countries of what American power can do. Elsewhere.... The New York Times has conducted two polls it terms the most comprehensive ever done. The findings of the first: "The sexual abuse crisis that engulfed the Roman Catholic Church in the last 12 months has now spread to nearly every American diocese and involves more than 1,200 priests. ... The survey contains the names and histories of 1,205 accused priests. It counted 4,268 people who have claimed publicly or in lawsuits to have been abused by priests, though experts say there are surely many more that have remained silent. ... Every region (of the country) was affected, with 206 accused priests in the West, 246 in the South, 335 in the Midwest, and 434 in the Northeast. ... The crisis reached not only big cities like Boston and Los Angeles, but smaller ones like Louisville, Ky., with 27 priests accused, and St. Cloud, Minn., with nine." The findings of the second Times survey: Despite an encouraging decline in teenage use of cigarettes, alcohol and illegal drugs, "the number of children and adolescents who take a wide variety of psychiatric drugs more than doubled from 1987 to 1996. ... Stimulants like Ritalin, prescribed for attention deficit disorder, and antidepressants were the most commonly prescribed drugs. ... The investigators ... also found precipitous growth in the use of anti-psychotics, so-called mood stabilizers prescribed for mania or aggression, and other classes of potent psychoactive medications." And speaking of religion in the foregoing lamentable item about the Catholic priesthood, the ad campaign sponsored by numerous Jewish and Christian groups - featuring the line, "What would Jesus drive?" - prompts this rejoinder: What on Earth does opposing the manufacture and use of SUVs have to do with religion and religious mission? Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in Fredericksburg, Va., over the weekend that the federal courts - implicitly including the one on which he sits - have gone too far in concluding the framers of the Constitution sought to strip God from public life. Leftist judicial interpretation, he said, has given us rulings "contrary to our whole tradition" - indeed has given us a Constitution "that morphs while you look at it, like Plastic-Man." A secret wish: Given that Scalia probably never will be president, this president should name him chief justice if Chief Justice Rehnquist retires. They play political hardball in Israel. Well-timed allegations helped remove Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister several years ago, leading to the dismal Ehud Barak. The latest "October surprise" is the recent allegation of corruption against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who, until the allegation, was on a roll to a massive election victory later this month. They even pulled the plug on a television program on which he was defending himself. Sharon likely still will win, but without the anticipated lopsided majority. And the mean will continue to shape Israeli politics within, as the mean of another sort confront Israel without. Gasoline prices are not going up because of Saudi manipulation or fear of hostilities in Iraq. They are going up because of a six-week strike that has shut down Venezuela's oil industry. Venezuela is the fourth-largest provider of oil to the United States. The strike is not aimed at the United States, but at toppling the wacky Castroite, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's regnant goon. What's going on in Venezuela is yet another reason for the United States to move at light-speed - with presidential leadership - toward energy independence. Pacifists have won their way regarding the military's use of Vieques, the island off Puerto Rico used as a bombing range for 60 years; the last live-fire exercises on Vieques are under way. In the future, such exercises will be conducted on less advantageous mainland sites, principally in Florida. Now effectively forced off Vieques, will the Navy think seriously of also closing its principal Puerto Rican base - at Roosevelt Roads? Many states are facing the most gaping budget shortfalls in half a century. The affliction is just about nationwide. Only two states, Wyoming and New Mexico, are believed to have no deficits; some, principally in the Plains and the Rockies, face deficits smaller than $1 billion. California, with the biggest budget ($63 billion) has the biggest deficit - a staggering $35 billion. The Democratic governor there, Gray Davis, who hungers to be president, is proposing $8 billion in tax increases and $20 billion in spending cuts. And speaking of the Democrats, let's see: Tom Daschle is out, Al Gore is out, Joe Lieberman is now in, Dick Gephardt has been in seemingly forever, and Al Sharpton is in almost. They're all in addition to John Kerry and John Edwards already in - oh, and whatshisname the governor of Vermont. Where's the smart money? On Lieberman - running, if not with Al Gore for vice president, then with his friend John McCain.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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