On Isabel, Donna & Craig, Britney, Death, Dope, etc.

Posted: Oct 02, 2003 12:00 AM

Stepping carefully around the trees, limbs and power lines brought down by the wild mercurial Isabel...

It was a heck of a way to herald the autumnal equinox when night equals day, fall begins, birds head south, leaves get the message to start changing and rainfall increases.

If you followed Isabel's approach via the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio system - the most reliable weather prediction available, on which many commercial weather-readers build their reports - you may know that Igor (aka Sven) has lost his job to Donna and Craig. The last two are so nicknamed after National Weather Service employees who worked on the project to build computerized voices sounding less robotic than Igor/Sven's. Donna and Craig, vast improvements, consist of human voice fragments (phonemes) reassembled by computer to bring avid listeners the latest weather news.

As last week, 305 Americans had died in Iraqi combat since March; combine that with the 87 American combat deaths during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere, and total American combat deaths in the war against terror run to 392 - or thereabouts. Contrast that with the noncombat deaths wrought by Islamist terrorists against Americans during the past decade totaling 2,956 or thereabouts (nine from the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, 19 from the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, 12 from the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa, 17 from the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and 2,902 from Sept. 11). Thus, American combat deaths suffered so far equal just 12.65 percent of the Americans murdered by Islamists in the Terror War.

Regarding whether the United States has enough troops to fight the Terror War, or whether it is asking the military few to do ever more, consider this - from a June Associated Press report: "The Navy is throwing overboard a decades-old approach to rotating its ships and crews on sea duty." Instead of maintaining a schedule of six-month deployments, the Navy will extend deployments to perhaps nine months and correspondingly will compress the standard 18-month period between deployments. Longer deployments, of course, will mean longer separations for those in the Navy - while civilians contribute to the war almost not at all. The chief of Naval Operations says many Navy men and women will find the change difficult - "we don't promise them an easy time; there are going to be some hard times." How about raising the naval complement, to lighten the burden of those already shouldering the load?

Though the Senate is going the wrong way on cross-ownership, and probably will continue to do wrong by energy independence through refusing to sanction oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it may be doing something right regarding natural gas. The Senate may be moving toward endorsement this month of a pipeline carrying natural gas across Alaska to U.S. markets.

In terminally whacked-out California (1) Bill Clinton, campaigning for Gov. Gray Davis, says the effort to recall Davis is yet another tentacle (Clinton termed it a "power-grab") of the conspiracy his bride famously dubbed "vast" and "right-wing." (2) Among the 135 candidates on the California ballot, one says being "a high-school dropout" sets him apart from the field, and that if he were a tree he'd "probably be an alder. It's real pretty and when your time is up I could be used to smoke fish." (3) Says another, discussing his platform: "We feel we may not have any of the answers, but we can help you forget the questions."

And (4) California is among 39 states considering legislation banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving - such bans being good things. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 25 percent of traffic accidents involve some form of driver distraction - and "distraction" certainly defines handheld cell phone use behind the wheel.

In case you thought only Californians are smoking something, a federal survey has found that last year about 22 million Americans over 11 - not limited to Californians - were addicted to booze or dope. The numbers, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 14.9 million addicted to alcohol, 3.9 million addicted to illegal drugs, 4.2 million addicted to both. Regarding the biggest addictive substance, what else would one expect from a society that aggressively pushes the notion of alcohol as anesthesia, recreation and aphrodisiac?

It's difficult to know whether Britney Spears (now 21, of "Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," etc., fame) was high when she told W about Madonna (of "Like a Virgin," etc., fame), "People either love her or hate her. I don't want to be in between. I think that's boring" - and then went on to pucker up and steamily smooch Madonna at MTV's video music awards show.

Deer season approaches. The population is too large, in-grown, and broadly afflicted by chronic wasting disease - increasingly related by scientists to Mad Cow. And deer are seemingly everywhere. Is it not time to help deer and human alike by dramatically raising bag-limits nationwide - and perhaps distributing meat certified untainted (if the government can so certify it) to prisons and the homeless?

Quote of the Day: Edward Teller, instrumental in development of the hydrogen bomb, who died last month - in an October 2001, interview with Investor's Business Daily: "I believed (prior to our first detonation of a hydrogen bomb Nov. 1, 1952), and I believe now, that if the Russians had it first - and they came close to it - then you and I, if we were alive, would be talking Russian."