On scooters, jihadists, La Down, Canada and other Mickey Mouse

Posted: Nov 10, 2005 12:05 AM

A November cluster of comments on items in a leafy pile of news. . .

- $2.19 gasoline. Weren't you the one - and wasn't it your correspondent - who moaned when gas was $3.19 that we never would see it below $3 again?

- The sudden riots by primarily Muslim immigrants in France, with sympathetic flare-ups in Belgium and Germany, may derive from economics and discrimination. And Muslim clerics in Old Europe, appalled by the growth of democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, may have dispatched word to young jihadists.

- Yet how the riots must discomfit the aloof France, which insistently stayed out of the war to reduce the Saddamites in Iraq so as not to invite retribution upon France itself. Now the fire may have come to France, too, in the latest manifestation of al-Qaida's Way.

- The indictments of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief-of-staff Scooter Libby set the mind to recalling the last famous Scooter. Ah, yes: Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto, the Yankees' fabulous midcentury shortstop. A younger version of your correspondent found a beagle puppy at a pound named Orphans of the Storm and named him Scooter after his favorite player on his favorite team.

- It seems the latter-day Scooter (Libby) is the author of "The Apprentice: A Novel," termed "sex-laden" by the good people at The Washington Post. These days Libby's book is so hot - albeit likely for reasons beyond sex - that eBay is offering it for a cool $2,400.

- A Congress that can pass a gun shield law - i.e., a statute protecting the nation's gun manufacturers from liability for the use of their products - surely ought to be able to pass a shield law protecting from prosecution reporters who refuse to divulge confidential sources. Any fair and just federal press shield law would have to deny blanket protection in cases directly affecting national security.

- Speaking of national security, Tokyo's governor, Shintaro Ishihara, showed up at Georgetown's Center for Strategic Studies the other day, and let China have it. He had, among others, these observations: (1) "Wars are wars of attrition of lives. China holds no value at all for human life and can start a war without any concerns. We are now in a state of tension far more dangerous than during the Cold War period when the United States and the former Soviet Union were at odds." And (2) "If tensions mount between the United States and China, the two sides could pull the trigger on each other. Then, the more the fire expands, the United States, which has a civil society that highly values human life, would not be able to win."

- The Washington Post's media writer, Howard Kurtz, in a profile of New York Times' Maureen Dowd, notes, "She insists she is not a liberal columnist, has no overarching ideology and chronicles the political wars as a Shakespearean drama." Uh-huh. After the fashion of Molly Ivins.

- From the cancer front, two items of good news for women: First, a new drug - Herceptin - is showing astounding success against an aggressive form of early breast cancer. Second, Merck and GlaxoSmith-Kline are developing their own brands of a vaccine that protects against cervical cancer.

- With Katrina recovery and continuing costs from the War on Terror, some suggest the budget should be cut perhaps less than 5 percent - with holding down the soaring federal deficit an added incentive. But many, even on the Republican side, object. Given the following percentages, they shouldn't.

- In the five-year period 2001-2005, the nation experienced an inflation rate of 12 percent. In the same period, federal spending in these selected areas grew at far higher percentages: transportation (24 percent), income security programs (39), health care (42), housing and commerce (86) and education (99).

- Canada, a country often put forward as an exemplar in pacifism, drug policy and health care, now is emitting the scent of scandal at the highest levels of government. This, from The New York Times: "A federal (Canadian) inquiry found . . . that the governing Liberal Party had benefited from 'an elaborate kickback scheme' that laundered at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money that landed in party coffers in the late 1990s. . . . It (blamed) former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his chief of staff."

- Oh, and there's this about the enlightened interests of the rich and famous. When Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall ventured across the Pond to the U.S. earlier this month, they capped a stop in San Francisco with a look at the musical revue "Beach Blanket Babylon." The revue draws its inspiration from the collected works of Frankie Avalon of American Bandstand fame and (among other late-1950s masterworks) "Bobby Socks to Stockings" and Annette Funicello - she of the original Mouseketeers on television's "Mickey Mouse Club."