On Amtrak, Screening, the Courts, Priests, etc.

Posted: Jun 28, 2002 12:00 AM
Taking a lope around the issues as the All-Star break approaches.... Amtrak, unprofitable in its 31-year life, has given itself two weeks to get its game together (it won't) or find yet another taxpayer infusion à la Argentina (it won't), or go toes-up (it likely will). And, however much one may be a fan of passenger rail service, toes-up for Amtrak wouldn't be all bad. At least through liquidation its profitable lines, notably in the Northeast, could be sold to someone who wouldn't run them as though they were Argentina or the state-run Peoples' Passenger Service in Irkutsk. Yet it probably doesn't help that your federal government is bringing all the benefits of a government operation to the task of protecting every American air passenger from terrorist attack. Congress has mandated that all the nation's 429 airports have federal screeners by Nov. 19 and that all luggage be scrutinized by bomb detection equipment by Dec. 31. The feds have deputized Boeing and Lockheed to come up with ways to get the job done, and in July the feds will begin hiring up to 20,000 screeners per month. So far, only one airport - Baltimore's - has a fully federalized screening force. Before we're through with this one, Amtrak may begin to look enticingly efficient. Mark on your memory list these two items: (1) The crazy Senate has refused, as it will refuse again, to make permanent the temporary tax cuts passed a year ago and scheduled to phase out in 10 years. Specifically, the Senate refused to make permanent the elimination of federal estate (or death) taxes. Just nine Democrats voted in favor - and none of the wackiest lefties. And (2) in his continuing effort to smooth every one of the world's rough edges, and incidentally to burnish his foreign-policy credentials in his coming campaign for the presidency, Al Sharpton will journey to the Asian subcontinent to urge Pakistan and India to cool it over Kashmir. Oh, and aren't you thrilled that beginning next month, many of them held together with baling wire and duct tape, Mexican trucks will have full and free access to the American highway system to deliver their cargoes (including drugs?) wherever they choose? Soon Senate battle will be joined over whether to confirm Federal District Judge Dennis Shedd's nomination to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. As an 11-year federal judge in South Carolina, Judge Shedd has amassed a distinguished record. But for 10 years before that, he was an aide to Sen. Strom Thurmond - and, well, you know what THAT means: He must be a loon. Judge Shedd has a lot of support, but a lot of opposition, too: The local NAACP chief discerns in the judge's rulings an "abiding hostility to civil rights cases (and) ... in gender and disability discrimination cases. His record is consistently dismal." This will be yet another skirmish in the battle royal to come over President Bush's first Supreme Court nominee. How much neutral reporting of this and other Court-related issues can one expect from the Associated Press? In a recent article about the friendship between Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, the AP described way-left and former ACLU board-member Justice Ginsburg as "liberal-leaning," but Justice Scalia as an "acid-tongued ultraconservative." The inquiring mind continues to wonder why Zimbabwe's top goon Robert Mugabe consistently escapes inclusion in groupings of the world's worst people. Just re-elected in rigged voting, Mugabe has stripped former Prime Minister Ian Smith (83) of his citizenship and his passport. Beast Mugabe also continues his war against whites, notably white farmers who made Zimbabwe one of southern Africa's breadbaskets. Harassed for years by Mugabe-inspired squatters, all white farmers have been ordered to depart their properties by Aug. 8 - their lands to be redistributed to the landless. Not surprisingly, Zimbabwe is applying around the world for food assistance. To keep things genderly equal, the National Weather Service's 24/7 radio forecasting system will add an automated female voice to the current solitary male robotic voice that sounds like "2001's" "Hal" with a lisp. Finally, someone in the food business may be getting it right - food as gasoline! Stop when you need more and gas up. Ron Shaich of Panera Bread - based in Richmond Heights, Mo., - says this about eating on the run: "The core of fast casual and specialty (food) chains is about having things that people crave ... and fueling desire. Fast-food chains are selling convenience - like self-service gas stations for the human body." Regarding those contending the issue facing the U.S. Catholic Church is NOT fundamentally a homosexual problem but something else (pedophilia, ephebophilia, pederasty, sexual abuse, gnosticism, the immanentization of the Eschaton, the occasional misdirected priest having some fun, homosexuality by another gussied-up name, etc.): (a) Without homosexuality, would the church be in crisis now? (b) The strength of the Catholic Church may allow it to survive this crisis, as no other American church could.