Comments direct or implied on items in the news big and small. . .
President Bush and many others continue cogitating on how to deal with a whacked-out North Korean regime now in the business of developing and testing nuclear-capable missiles. The president is talking economic sanctions. Questions persist about whether our anti-missile system could intercept a North Korean missile headed for the United States. Here’s an idea: Tell North Korea that on such-and-such a day, at such-and-such time, we will destroy its missile-launch sites. And do it.
For the day’s staggering estimate, consider this: Nationwide, accidents caused by the Virginia white-tailed deer — about 200,000 in 1979 — have octupled, to about 1.6 million. Solution? Once again: Greatly expand the number of deer hunters can take (as opposed to the number they can keep), and require them to transport the overage to meat-processing plants for distribution to the poor.
What’s a “tween”? A child 9 to 14 years of age — about whom, as school begins, this from The Washington Post: “The average American tween lives in a world of electronic opulence, inside his or her own media bubble. According to a recent survey by (cable network) Nickelodeon, 77 percent of 9- to 14-year-olds have TVs in their bedrooms, with about half this group enjoying cable or satellite access. Some 59 percent have video-game systems, 49 percent have a DVD player and 22 percent have computers connected to the Internet.”
Over the summer the House of Representatives did at least two things right. It approved bills (1) granting the president a line-item veto and (2) exempting far more estates from federal death (or estate) taxes. Both measures now languish in the Senate, where they face death by Democratic strangulation.
According to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: “The death tax hurts just about everyone. Congress’ Joint Economic Committee estimates that the tax’s existence drains about $60 billion from our economy each year. In all, the JEC estimates the estate tax’s net effect on our economy has deprived the American economy of $847 billion in investment. Not surprisingly, over 90 percent of all manufacturing firms consider the death tax a threat to their existence. . . . (And) it produces only about 1 percent of total federal income. Since its repeal will stimulate the economy and thus revenues from other sources, it might not have any real consequence for our government’s fiscal status.”
Decennial Birthday watch: The Cessna 172 (the most popular general-aviation aircraft ever, with more than twice the production copies of the No. 2 Beechcraft Bonanza) and the Interstate Highway System (one of the top engineering marvels of the world, surpassing even the pyramids and the Great Wall of China) are celebrating their 50th birthdays. George Bush is 60, as is the bikini of eye-candy fame, immortalized — such as that may be — by Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
Finally, the logic of two news stories on the latest in anthropology. . .
Story One — “Discovery of Ancient Artifacts Rekindles Debate on ‘Hobbits.’”: “Scientists said yesterday that stone artifacts found with remains of ancient, tiny ‘Hobbit’-like people on a remote Indonesian island are similar to much older island artifacts, offering new support for the theory that the fossils represent a unique species of archaic human.”
Story Two – “Human Ancestors May Have Interbred with Chimpanzees”: “When the ancestors of human beings and the ancestors of chimpanzees parted ways 6.3 million years ago, it was probably a very long goodbye. Some of their descendants may even have gone back for a final tryst. That is the conclusion a group of scientists has reached, using a comparison of the genes of humans and their closest animal relatives to sketch a picture of human origins far more detailed than what fossil bones have revealed.”
The logical conclusion: J.R.R. Tolkien knew it, had it right, all along. Hobbits really and truly existed — the love children of chimp and man. Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam — even Hobbiton — were .