Ross Mackenzie

Things comforting and curious on the landscape during the past several weeks. . .

A panel of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has provided good news for the good guys in the War on Terror. It has found that military tribunals are just fine for terrorist combatants held abroad in time of war. They do not have rights of access to U.S. civilian courts.

Wrote Judge Raymond Randolph for the 2-1 majority: "Precedent in this court and the Supreme Court holds that the Constitution does not confer rights on aliens without property or presence within the United States." Makes sense. But will the Supremes, known to live in a world of increasingly bizarre contradiction, agree with the D.C. Circuit panel that enemy combatants have no rights under the U.S. Constitution?

Way-left radio network Air America, conceived three years ago as an antidote to phenomenally successful conservative talk radio, has escaped extinction in the nick of time. Investment mogul Stephen Green has ponied up to buy the network for a fire-sale price. With an audience never more than one-tenth that of Rush Limbaugh's alone, Air America will limp along - albeit without its top funnyman, Al Franken. He has decided to seek employment in the U.S. Senate, where the ever-so-serious solons daily outdo themselves providing fodder for Jay Leno and Saturday Night Live.

And speaking of radio, XM and Sirius have agreed to merge into a single satellite-radio company, the only one in the business - i.e., a monopoly. Meaning the two competitors will have high hurdles to clear in convincing regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission that consumers would benefit from a merged monopoly company charging unregulated monopoly prices. Yet maybe the media market is changing so rapidly that only a merged company has any chance to survive.

Apparently to demonstrate how sexually transmitted diseases are spread, a speaker visiting Montgomery County (Maryland) high-school sex-ed classes encouraged about 100 students to share the same piece of chewing gum. Parents, health officials, and students didn't think a whole lot of the exercise. Said one 15-year-old sophomore: "It was fine for me, because my best friend and me did it first. But it was kind of gross for everyone else." The speaker will have plenty of time to chew on the consequent disinvitation to follow-up appearances.

While on the subject of the young, there's this about their hearing. A company has developed a device that flashes red when an MP3 player, rock group, or chain saw is operating at decibel levels sufficient to cause hearing loss. Says the company's director: "We're so concerned about eating properly, exercising and getting physical checkups, and we're idiots about our ears." Roger that. Now maybe the next invention will be a device that shuts down a rock performance emitting no redeeming value at all.

Modern record for shortest (and sourest) oath of office: Hugo Chavez, at his swearing in following his re-election as Big Brother of Venezuela: "Fatherland, socialism or death - I take the oath."

No sooner had Connecticut's new governor, Jodi Rell, taken the oath of office than she proposed raising the state income tax by 10 percent - plus hiking bus fares and cigarette taxes, as well as phasing out a $500 property tax credit - and this when the state had just notched a $600-million surplus. She mentioned not a word of her intentions while on the campaign trail last fall. Sounds a lot like Tim Kaine, Virginia's governor, who did much the same thing a year ago. But there's a difference: Kaine is a Democrat, Rell a Republican.

Finally, this bulletin from the animal world: bald eagles and gray wolves have come back from the brink. The Bush administration is in the process of removing bald eagles from the endangered species list; they still will be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. From a low of about 417 nesting pairs across the continental U.S. in 1963, they have rebounded to more than 7,000 nesting pairs now. And gray wolves (1,240 in 1979, more than 5,200 now) have done so well in their protected status after reintroduction into six states that they are undergoing delisting in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Upper Michigan now - and probably will be delisted in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming by the end of the year. Tremendous lessons in wildlife protection.


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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