Friday, August 4, 2006

The Lightning Round:
Dictators, Inebriators, The Songs Behind Alternators

Nothing keeps the press pressing like the good 'ol rumor and scandal machine. We'll play along to be good sports, but we must admit this: after four days of drenching rain over the weekend here in Tucson and another soggy mess today, we're too busy building an ark to float the boat of the endless news cycle. Closed lips sink ships.

CASTRO'S GASTRO. Is he dead or alive? Or just spouting propaganda by proxy? His inner circle says he's fine, but The Lightning Round asks this: why doesn't Fiedel Castro just show his ugly, bedridden, post-intestinal surgery mug and shut down the speculation shop?

One harkens back to the Evil Empire days of the former Soviet Union, when western authorities often counted the number of days since high-ranking Russian commies were seen in public. We also remember Soviet president Konstantin Chernenko, who was near death when he was dragged from his hospital bed to a ballot box for elections in 1985.

Castro claims stress brought it all on. We're hearin' you there. Holding to hard-line red dogma is getting tougher by the day. Still, we think it's to the point where Castro's stomach can't even stomach himself anymore. Or maybe it's all those cigars over the years.

MAD MEL. Ask Mel Gibson's friends about his alcoholic anti-semitic arrest outburst, and you'll hear them rationalize it as the liquor talking.

From the L.A. Times:
"Is he an anti-Semite? Absolutely not," [Jodie] Foster said. "But it's no secret that he has always fought a terrible battle with alcoholism. I just wish I had been there, that I had been able to say, 'Don't do it. Don't take that drink.' "
Even with copious apologies by the accused, we're still not convinced. Intoxicating beverages tend to bring out the junk people hide in their intellectual attics. Mel has tried to get out from the shadow of his father, a Holocaust denier. Passion Of The Christ stirred the pot until it made so much money the bucks lapped any bigotry. And now booze brings the old suspicions back.

Yours truly is truly afraid of what potent potables could do to him, which is why in social situations he stops at two Mike's Hard Lemonades, and then chases that with copious straight Coca-Cola. I find alcohol makes me more poetic than combative, but I'm not putting that to the test... especially behind the wheel.

CAR-EOKE. More than two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research Center study admit belting out a few tunes behind the wheel.

The rest of us are glad for auto glass.

DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY. A national group is trying to put some weight behind Arizona's new law requiring the flag and Constitution be displayed in all public classrooms. They want the state's universities to require students take one U.S. history course in order to graduate.

Fair enough, but only if our lawmakers take one too. Call it remedial education. In all fairness, though, I remember only fragments of what I learned in my college American history course, the one that busted my rear end my Freshman year. I still have two full notebooks to remind me, ones that have come in handy on at least one of many excursions along the timeline.

Still, if it gives students a little more respect for the Constitutional rights, maybe it will be harder for future governments to take those rights away in the name of the War on Terror.

SPEAK YOUR MIND. When Katie Couric's rejiggered CBS Evening News debuts in September, it will include a regular opinion segment entitled "Free Speech," described as "a segment of opinion and commentary from a wide range of Americans."

From the CBS press release:
This original segment is intended to create a candid and robust dialogue among viewers about issues important to them, their families and the nation.
With rabblerouser radio, blogs, Fox News, The Daily Show and Mel Gibson, who suddenly decided we have a dearth of talking points?

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