Random walk: On walls, tongue studs, 300 million, etc.

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Oct 26, 2006 12:00 AM
Random walk: On walls, tongue studs, 300 million, etc.

Samplings from a potpourri of topics currently in the news . . .

Ken Lay died before the appeal of his district court conviction could be heard, so a federal judge has thrown out the conviction on the grounds that Lay’s death before his appeals had run their course denied him the full exercise of his rights. This one just doesn’t go down well. It means Lay’s beneficiaries can continue to live the high life on the $43.5 million Lay evidently ripped off — stole might be a better word — from a multitude of innocents.

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The Soviets’ last Ultimate Commissar, Mikhail Gorbachev, still doesn’t get it. Urging the U.S. to “find a different solution,” he likens the fence the U.S. is building along the border with Mexico to China’s Great Wall. “You remember President Reagan standing in Berlin and saying, ‘This wall should be torn down’? Now the United States seems to be building almost the Wall of China between itself and this other nation with which it has been associated for many decades.” The chutzpah, the audacity: Gorbachev still doesn’t get the principal point: His predecessors built, and he presided over, a wall in Berlin to keep people in — to prevent them from fleeing the vast Soviet concentration camp.

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Comes now yet another report detailing the potential consequences of tongue studs. Among them: tetanus, receding gums, chipped teeth, heart infections, and brain abscesses. Why would anyone, even the dumbest adolescent, want to risk such problems from a piece of metal piercing the tongue, the mouth, or any orifice?

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Question: Did those distressed by the pederasty apparently practiced by a certain Republican congressman in re Senate pages, exhibit equal distress regarding the priapic predations of a certain Democratic president in re a White House intern?

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That certain president recently provided — in Iowa — a snapshot of the future. Consider this, by The Washington Post’s Dan Balz: “Former President Bill Clinton entered the Hy-Vee Hall here [in Des Moines] on Saturday night like an aging rock star, striding up a red carpet, wearing a big smile, his arms outstretched to touch the hands of Democratic admirers lined up along his walkway to the stage.” Clinton was there to rally Democrats on behalf of his wife. Come 2008, hers will be the third Clinton presidential campaign — and the third in which her husband will be a principal campaigner and drawing-card.

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Are the Republicans as good as a cooling corpse? Not necessarily. (1) Senator John McCain, on the blame Hillary Clinton has heaped on the Bush administration for North Korea’s nuclear test: “Every single time the Clinton administration warned the Koreans not to do something — not to kick out the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, not to remove the fuel rods from their reactor — they did it. And they were rewarded every single time by the Clinton administration with further talks.”

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And (2), Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays, responding to the demand by his Democratic challenger (who has brought Senator Ted Kennedy into the state to campaign) that House Speaker Dennis Hastert resign: At least “the speaker didn’t go over a bridge and leave a young person in the water and then hold a press conference the next day” — referring to what Kennedy did in 1969.

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Not only does America now boast 300 million people, such things as life-expectancy, median ages, and the effects of immigration have greatly changed. In 1915 — 139 years after the Declaration of Independence — the U.S. population reached 100 million. Babies born that year could expect to live until they were 55; individuals born abroad comprised 15 percent of the total.

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It took just 52 years (until 1967) to reach 200 million; life-expectancy was 71, and foreign-borns represented only 5 percent of the overall population. This month (just 39 years since 1967), with the nation’s population reaching 300 million, life-expectancy is 78 and 12 percent are foreign-born. Projecting from current birth and immigration rates, the U.S. will reach the 400-million mark 37 years up the road — in about 2043.

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And speaking of big numbers, this from the Internet may help with comprehension of 1 billion: (a) 1 billion seconds ago it was 1959; (b) 1 billion minutes ago Jesus was alive; (c) 1 billion hours ago our ancestors dwelled in the Stone Age; (d) 1 billion days ago Earth boasted no bipeds (or humans). And (e) the federal government is spending your taxpayer dollars at the rate of 1 billion every eight hours and 20 minutes.