On plastic, booze, radio, the airlines, the reds, etc.

Posted: Sep 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Hurricanes, Swift Boats, Muqtada al-Sadr, oil prices soaring into the wild blue yonder: Much has gone down of late other than the headline-grabbers. Herewith a random walk through issues high, low, and ridiculous - with comment direct or implied. ...

There must be a reverse standing of sorts in achieving minority status once more: More Americans now buy retail goods and services with plastic than with checks or cash.

Finally, Washington seems likely to boast a monument to communist horror. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has secured a site at Maryland and Constitution Avenues, N.E., approved by the National Capitol Memorial Commission. Today, 26 million Americans hail from former communist countries, where an estimated 100 million lost their lives. Communism was the world's most massive terror. The D.C. memorial, scheduled for dedication next year, will be a 10-foot copy of the Goddess of Democracy made famous in 1989 by student demonstrators in (communist) Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Drugs and booze continue to make their corrosive way. A news story datelined New York reports that workplace drug-test positives for methamphetamine and its derivatives (for instance "meth" and "ice") surged 68 percent last year. "These increases ... are the largest of any drug or drug class for as long as we've been tracking the individual categories," said a director of the testing company.

In England and Russia - not to mention nearly every American college - the principal problem is booze. Russia, where alcoholism is rife, is moving to restrict beer ads and ban drinking in public. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair notes "a clear and growing problem in our town and city centers up and down the country on Friday and Saturday nights" - particularly among the young. Four years ago Blair's 16-year-old son was found after a night of drinking, vomiting and incoherent in a London street.

Some colleges are hammering fraternities for out-of-control drinking. Others, e.g., UNC Chapel Hill, are going after campus religious groups. UNC has derecognized the Alpha Iota Omega Christian fraternity - freezing its university account and denying it meeting space - because AIO (with its mission "to train Christian leaders ... by upholding the Bible's true standards of righteousness") wants its members to be Christian men.

And then, as always, there's sex. Two Toronto women, among the first same-sex couples to "marry" in Canada, now are seeking what may become Canada's first same-sex "divorce."

But a Tampa couple has topped them, as this from a wire-service report suggests: "A female-to-male transsexual is still legally female, making his marriage to a woman invalid, a state appeals court ruled Friday, because Florida law bans same-sex marriage. The ruling came in the case of Michael Kantaras, a female-to-male transsexual who divorced his wife in 2002 and is engaged in a bitter custody battle with her. Lawyers for Kantaras' former wife, Linda, had argued that Kantaras was not legally a man when they married in 1989, so the marriage was invalid."

Who ever saw such a radio ruckus as the one over Bob Edwards? NPR effectively fired the longtime morning host, inspiring long-winded news-side laments and groaning, how-can-they? editorials in some of the nation's loftiest newspapers. When XM Satellite Radio hired Edwards, The Washington Post went long (again) with a hagiographic piece on Page One - practically putting Edwards right up there with Mother Teresa.

If radio is to survive, satellite radio (XM and Sirius) may prove to be The Way. The National Association of (AM/FM) Broadcasters, deeply hostile, is fighting the entry of satellite at its every step through the regulatory maze. Accustomed to having its way against competing radio (the last major battle, when FM entered the field against AM, was in 1934), the NAB may yet prevail.

If USAir and Delta join United in declaring bankruptcy by the end of the month - as each has suggested it might - will all the king's horses and all the king's men be able to put the nation's commercial airline service together again?

Russia's Vladimir Putin - "Bad Vlad," as with Lenin - may be making a mess of things with jihadists, as Beslan too amply attests. But he is right at least in his response to the chorus of know-it-alls across the globe demanding he negotiate with his domestic terrorists - such as to a delegation of visiting Western academics and newsies: "Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House, engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace? You find it possible to set some limits in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers?"

Then there is the oh-so-sophisticated New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who each day distances herself farther from coherence. In a rare interview - with fashion mag W - she goes off on Messrs. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld: "I've awarded Rummy the Dr. Strangelove Award," she says, "though I find the whole atmosphere at this White House very Dr. Strangelove. And I don't think that's where you want to be." Strange.