On Bush, Vieques etc.

Posted: Apr 11, 2002 12:00 AM
A random walk among issues currently in the news.... If oil and gasoline prices are going up as a consequence of Middle Eastern wobbles - prices still largely controlled by the OPEC cartel and the Saudis - isn't it time the United States moved swiftly toward energy independence? European continentals tend to be adamantly anti-Israel, at least partly because of concerns about the inflow of Middle Eastern oil. They also (a) oppose any extension of the anti-terror war to Iraq, and - in combination with British leftists - (b) sneer at British Prime Minister Tony Blair's tight simpatico with President Bush (some are referring to a seemingly servile Blair as "America's poodle"). Messrs. Blair and Bush are supposed to confer this weekend at the Bush ranch - far from the European atmosphere of fretful hostility President Bush has his own snobby critics, in the press. It's supposed to be intimidating that he runs just about every day (he says: "I really like to run"). It's gauche, basic, common, down-home - or something - that his favorite snack food is Cheez Doodles. And it's oh-so-tiresome that his word of the hour is fabulous - as in the fabulous U.S. military, the fabulous job his wife is doing, this fabulous country, and fabulous Sen. Teddy Kennedy. Question: Don't you have a Cheez Doodle craving for fabulous Al Gore? Two of the nation's leading charities are taking hits because of their principled stands regarding homosexuality. (a) In November, the Salvation Army received a lot of incoming rhetorical fire from homosexual militants when it repealed a new policy to provide health benefits for domestic partners of its homosexual employees. And (b) by last month about 40 United Way affiliates (of about 1,400 nationwide) had halted direct community funding of the Boy Scouts to protest the Scouts' ban on homosexual leaders. Though the cutbacks have cost the Scouts several million dollars, the Scouts remain the seventh-largest recipient of United Way funds. And a Scout spokesman says the cutbacks will not deter the Scouts' "mission to help young people build lives of character." Before taking over as secretary of the U.S. Army in May, Thomas White was an Enron big boy. The press and the left are all over him for his telephone contacts with Enron execs in the six months following his appointment. More recently, there have been questions about the ride White and his wife took on a military plane to Aspen, where the two signed papers relating to the sale of their $6.5-million Aspen house. White denies any impropriety in either instance, but he has the Enron taint and alas he's toast. He should go. An alert reader currently running around with the "Happy Meal" set has sent in an item suggesting McDonald's now is dipping its toe into political philosophy. Last month, at a McDonald's in Jacksonville, Fla., her grandchild received a "Lefty" "Happy Meal," complete with a stereotypical donkey; the other options in the series evidently are "Libearty" with a bear and - with a stereotypical elephant - "Righty." In this political discourse, what's wrong with "Democrat" or "Republican" - or is the intent to abjure overt partisanship for ideology? The alert reader avers that, given the eatery was directly across from the Naval Air Station, "Lefty" found his way quickly into the trash. The next time you run into one of those wackos protesting Navy exercises on Vieques, ask him or her something along the lines of this: "Hey: Do you have a specific alternative to Vieques in mind? If you don't have such an alternative, is your fall-back alternative to drop all live-fire exercises before Navy and Marine troops go into battle to save, among other necks, yours?" It seems the just-passed campaign finance reform measure is, at face value, unconstitutional, notably in that it limits political expression in the form of cash. Instead, what better than a law mandating no contribution limits, yet requiring that all contributions totaling more than $100 be reported instantaneously - with full disclosure - to a stipulated Web site accessible by anyone, including (especially) the press? Congressional Gold Medals, the nation's highest civilian awards, cost about $30,000 a piece and are 90 percent gold. The Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, costs $70 tops and contains no gold. Many veterans are supporting a bill to mandate that the Medal of Honor contain 90 percent gold (raising its cost to about $2,300). But the Pentagon is resisting, a spokesman saying the medal "has its own intrinsic value based on the valor of those who receive it, not the monetary value of the medal. Increasing the gold content cannot increase the prestige of the Medal of Honor." Maybe not. So who would support reducing the gold content of Congressional Gold Medals, whose recipients have not risked their lives for their country? It may have been politically stupid - and stupid generally - of Dick Cheney to consult only with energy-industry types (and no environmental types) in formulating a national energy policy, but in what conceivable ways was it criminal? The senior analyst for Cuban issues at the Defense Intelligence Agency - Ana Belen Montes - has pleaded guilty in federal court to spying for Fidel Castro for 16 years. She reportedly is cooperating with authorities, but the damage has been done. And she may not wind up serving much time. Remember Maria Hsia? She was far less than a spy, but she did help launder Al Gore's Buddhist temple money, etc. She faced up to 25 years in prison for false statements about political contributions. Her ultimate penalty: In February, a Clinton-appointed federal judge fined her $5,300 and sentenced her to 90 days of home detention and three years of probation. Making the rounds of the Internet, this recommendation for preventing hijackings and for reinvigorating the airline industry: "Since men of the Muslim religion are not allowed to look at naked women, we should replace stewardesses with strippers. We would have no more hijackings, and the airline industry would have record sales."