Ross Mackenzie

Hurricanes, Swift Boats, Muqtada al-Sadr, oil prices soaring into the wild blue yonder: Much has gone down of late other than the headline-grabbers. Herewith a random walk through issues high, low, and ridiculous - with comment direct or implied. ...

There must be a reverse standing of sorts in achieving minority status once more: More Americans now buy retail goods and services with plastic than with checks or cash.

Finally, Washington seems likely to boast a monument to communist horror. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has secured a site at Maryland and Constitution Avenues, N.E., approved by the National Capitol Memorial Commission. Today, 26 million Americans hail from former communist countries, where an estimated 100 million lost their lives. Communism was the world's most massive terror. The D.C. memorial, scheduled for dedication next year, will be a 10-foot copy of the Goddess of Democracy made famous in 1989 by student demonstrators in (communist) Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Drugs and booze continue to make their corrosive way. A news story datelined New York reports that workplace drug-test positives for methamphetamine and its derivatives (for instance "meth" and "ice") surged 68 percent last year. "These increases ... are the largest of any drug or drug class for as long as we've been tracking the individual categories," said a director of the testing company.

In England and Russia - not to mention nearly every American college - the principal problem is booze. Russia, where alcoholism is rife, is moving to restrict beer ads and ban drinking in public. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair notes "a clear and growing problem in our town and city centers up and down the country on Friday and Saturday nights" - particularly among the young. Four years ago Blair's 16-year-old son was found after a night of drinking, vomiting and incoherent in a London street.

Some colleges are hammering fraternities for out-of-control drinking. Others, e.g., UNC Chapel Hill, are going after campus religious groups. UNC has derecognized the Alpha Iota Omega Christian fraternity - freezing its university account and denying it meeting space - because AIO (with its mission "to train Christian leaders ... by upholding the Bible's true standards of righteousness") wants its members to be Christian men.

And then, as always, there's sex. Two Toronto women, among the first same-sex couples to "marry" in Canada, now are seeking what may become Canada's first same-sex "divorce."

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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