Nobody Asked

*If you know people who like to refer to themselves in the third person , you probably don’t like them.

*Whether it elicits laughs or induces winces, Doonesbury belongs on the editorial page. Now more than ever.

*I’ve never been able to disassociate my views on capital punishment from a quote that emanated from Great Britain’s debate on its abolition (for murder). Out of the House of Lords came these words of Lord Gardiner, the Lord Chancellor: “I think that human beings who are not infallible ought not to choose a form of punishment which is irreparable.”

*Periodically, the name of John Hinckley Jr. , President Ronald Reagan’s nearly successful assassin, is recycled into our consciousness. His therapist, we are told, says Hinckley is no longer a threat. Unfortunately for Hinckley — and unlike other would-be murderers — that will never be enough to secure his release from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington.

Hinckley is more symbol than patient or inmate. John Walker Lindh, for example, will be out and studying Arabic while Hinckley is a senior citizen at St. Elizabeth. He will remain a prisoner of an unwritten American law: “You can’t shoot a president and walk. Ever.” Whether it was politics, demons or Jodie Foster that prompted it. *Nothing should surprise us anymore regarding Michael Jackson . That, alas, includes parents still willing to sign off on a Jacko sleepover for their kids — part of the obscene price paid by a society whose obsessive appetite for celebrity can’t be sated.

*Should GDP keep ratcheting up, productivity maintain its ascent and unemployment slide south, next year’s presidential election may not be a referendum on “the economy, stupid” as it almost always is.

What it may be is what it should be in post 9/11 America . How do we best protect ourselves against perverted Islam, and what is the proper role of the U.S. vis a vis the rest of the civilized world, including Israel?

Rhetoric about “tax cuts for the rich,” exported jobs, the deficit, and even prescription drug benefits and Social Security will look like the emptiest of abstractions if life as we prefer it should end. Anyone think 9/11 was as bad as it can get?

*It’s understandable that lots of demonstrators — from Trafalgar Square to Main Street would vent against President Bush over Iraq. It’s less understandable — but hardly unexpected — that demonstrators would also protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas meeting. There have even been go-figure gatherings in support of Michael Jackson.

But here’s a scenario that has yet to unfold. Demonstrations so organized, so huge and so loud as to concentrate the attention of the entire world, including the Middle East, on this verity: the sheer cruelty and barbarity perpetuated by Muslim fanatics is beyond condemnation. But it’s not beyond elimination. They threaten civilization and must be eradicated like any other plague.

Surely the cause of death, despair and evil has adversaries willingly to speak out. Surely.

*So much was written regarding the 40th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination that it’s hard to say anything that isn’t redundant. But I’ll try. How unfortunate that Bill Clinton’s boyhood hero was Kennedy — not Harry Truman.

*I guess I just don’t get it, but I don’t see undocumented, immigrant students being asked to pay out-of-state tuition at Florida public universities as some injustice worthy of outrage and legislation. Why should we expect a student from, say, Thomasville, Georgia to pay out-of-state tuition at Florida State, but not the student from Bogota, Colombia or Montevideo, Uruguay?

In a Panglossian scenario, we would welcome and subsidize everyone in the world who wanted to come here. For a lot of obvious reasons, we can’t — and that includes providing additional incentives for illegal immigration.

* Peter Jennings was in town a fortnight ago, and in several disparate forums underscored that he is very much a pro’s pro. He qualifies as a media elite, but hardly acted the part. Much more than unflappable. Urbane but not pretentious. Witty but not sarcastic. Casual — but not patronizing. Informed — but not fulsomely so. Speaking — but not in lieu of listening.

His aplomb was no less manifest among café con leche-sipping Hispanics, with media representatives at a formal panel discussion or on the portable anchor set of World News Tonight. A lot of local media would have been well served to have taken notes.

*Tampa’s Pam Iorio , not unlike other major city mayors, has her share of frustrations. Anything to do with HARTline surely makes her short list. Getting the new art museum out of the ground is likely there too. Then there are LaBrake leftovers and security concerns. There’s fallout from a county commission that can still dysfunction with the best. Drug deals and code violations still occur. Not everyone agrees with her on condo towers in the Channel District.

And yet, an educated guess is that her short list is topped by the homeless. It’s one of those visceral issues — where the humanitarian and the pragmatic collide. Where doing the right thing for all but the homeless doesn’t feel very righteous.

While not a social engineer, the mayor, at her core, is a do-gooder. Especially on behalf of the disadvantaged and disaffected — whatever their story. The story of the homeless, however, is problematic. For one, it’s not a housing problem. It’s largely one of addiction and institutionalization.

But it’s also a litter, panhandle, public health, and, well, image problem. Image sounds so shallow — so, well, political — when juxtaposed to the “homeless.” But if you’re the mayor, the realization of downtown’s business and visitor potential is no superficial issue. Neither is the maintenance of a clean, odor-and-flasher-free library for tax-paying residents. Been to San Francisco lately?

*Two weeks ago Orlando broke ground for the Florida A&M University Law School. Good for Orlando, good for FAMU — but better for Tampa. As you’ll recall, Tampa was not “selected” for the FAMU project, which would have involved, among other giveaways, free riverfront land. Instead, Tampa SOLD the downtown parcel to Stetson University College of Law, which will have its impressive, new law school facility ready in the coming year.

*Finally. Elections chief Miriam Oliphant , Broward County’s icon to incompetence, has been removed from office by Gov. Jeb Bush. Apparently there actually is a limit to how much gross mismanagement is tolerable when the politics of race is involved. What was outrageous was that Broward voters were held hostage so long to Oliphant’s electoral bungling and cronyism.

*I hope Madstone Theaters in Old Hyde Park Village makes it. For bringing in movies and a theater ambience that are not aimed at 15-year-old boys and for helping to re-energize the Village. Having said that, I can’t help but remain skeptical that a destination for the “sophisticated” movie set will be a big winner. I wonder if that niche is viable enough. It will require regional patronage as well as support from the neighborhood.

Then again, I never expected to see Neiman Marcus in our town. Now if Crate ‘n Barrel opens in the Village

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