ON THE FLAG, THE ZONE, THE CODE, BAD VLAD, HANOI J

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jul 27, 2001 12:00 AM
Making the rounds of the bases... How about that strike zone? The other day it made front pages. Why? Because, well, Major League officials are complaining that fans aren't turning out because games are too long because pitchers throw too many pitches (200-plus per game) because umpires don't call enough strikes because their view of the strike zone is too small. So now the umpires are supposed to take the rap for the decline in baseball's popularity - not the outlandish owners, not the covetous union, not the bozo players paid like movie stars. One of these days, the public may call strike three on the (former) national pastime. President Bush has been in Europe talking about things economic. Maybe the luminaries found a way to stabilize the collapsing euro, whose slip-slide (36 percent against the dollar in six years) mocks the phrase "European economic community." And maybe they seriously considered Vladimir Putin's proposal to include Russia in NATO. Ronald Reagan offered to make Star Wars technology available to just about anyone. Why not bring Russia into NATO and militarily make it precisely the European nation first conjured by Peter the Great? What better way to enlist Russia in the community of sensible nations? Then again, it's hard to tell about anyone like Putin, or Boris Yeltsin before him, who didn't have the moxie to cart that stuffed carcass of Lenin out of the Red Square. Putin says Lenin will stay put until he sees "an overwhelming majority of people wanting to tackle the Lenin question." Few will believe Russia's leadership has grown beyond communism until Putin tosses Lenin on the ash-heap of history. Isn't it wonderful - the Democrats' thunderous silence in the matter of Congressman Gary Condit? Could the reason for that silence be that Condit represents the only Democrat-held district in California that Al Gore lost to George Bush - and the Dems fear that if Condit resigns, the GOP might win his seat in a special election, thereby augmenting the Republican House majority? And speaking of the House, recently it has 1) killed campaign finance reform and 2) for the fourth time in six years approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting "the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." Two good moves - and contrary to the wishes of collegial Senate brotherhood so vaunted by the establishment press. Regarding a flag amendment, the Senate stands as the clear obstructionist. The House repeatedly passes an anti-flag-desecration amendment, and the Senate ritualistically kills it. Never mind that the people obviously want the amendment - given that the House supports it and every state legislature (except Vermont's) has asked Congress to send it to the states for ratification. With his tax cut signed into law, President Bush now has the tax code in his sights. And what entity is riper for decapitation than the IRS? Mere mortals view the tax code as unconscionably confounding. It's also. The best solution? A flat tax, with few exemptions and deductions. How about a 20 percent tax on all income - with deductions for mortgage interest, education and health-care payments, and philanthropy, as well as an exemption for retirement income below $100,000? The latest story recounting the plight of the mentally ill in institutions and group homes prompted recollection of Florence Nightingale's insight that at the very least, hospitals should not be incubators of disease. In American Heritage, Richard Braunstein cites Jane Fonda as the single American whose life is "a mirror of the nation's past 40 years." She was, he writes, "a libertine in the mid-'60s, radical by decade's end, progressive in the '70s, entrepreneurial in the '80s, and corporate (ital) grande dame (end ital) in the '90s." Maybe all those things, and more. But one thing she never has been, or could call herself, is conservative, which is what Americans call themselves at about twice the rate they call themselves liberal. So Ms. Fonda mirrors perhaps only a leftist minority. And now, having scuttled husbands Roger Vadim, Tom Hayden and Ted Turner, she is rumored to be atoning in the arms of a Christian God.