Gay Rights, MLK Day, School Choice, Iranian Quake — And More

*If the ACLU can come to the aid of Rush Limbaugh (regarding the secrecy of his medical records), then virtually any pairing — this side of Jon Gruden and Rich McKay — is possible. So why not gay groups wooing conservatives to their side of the same-sex marriage issue?

Indeed, gay rights strategists are now portraying a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as a step so radical that hard-core conservatives can’t help but oppose it. There’s even a radio and print campaign, which includes this market, with ads that say: “Be conservative with the Constitution. Don’t amend it.”

Conservative constitutional principles notwithstanding, wooing the “mad vow disease” crowd still seems a reach.

* Ralph Nader is politically “Unsafe at Any Speed” to the Democrats. Once again, the Corvair candidate is careening toward a presidential run — this time as an independent. But what’s left to prove? He has already shown that he can’t come close to winning a national election, but that he can help elect a Republican if it’s really, really close. Karl Rove is already writing the thank-you card.

*Too bad the most viable school-choice option isn’t for all students to simply go to the nearest school. Period. Among the elements chronically missing in most schools: a sense of community and local pride. There are a few exceptions. And it shows.

* A sure sign that your presidential campaign is a long-shot — this Tribune headline from a fortnight ago: “Kucinich Counts On Muslim Votes in Dark-Horse Presidential Race.”

*A great name for a health club would be “The Weight We Were.”

*Stories we’ll never see on pan-Arab satellite channels Al-Arabiya or Al-Jazeera: A comparison of Iranian earthquake aid — workers and materiel — provided by the U.S. and al-Qaida. Infidels, it would seem, are more helpful than martyrs in some endeavors.

*Parades, speeches, vigils and step competitions are synonymous with the celebration of MLK Day. But special kudos are due some 150 University of Tampa students who honored the memory of Dr. King by participating in UT’s fourth annual MLK Day of Service. The volunteers — in partnership with the Mayor’s Beautification Program — spent Monday, Jan. 19, replanting medians and landscaping parks as well as the MLK Community Center on North Rome Avenue.

*USF’s decade-long descent into basketball underachievement and spectator indifference hit a new low with that embarrassing, nationally televised 95-40 loss to Louisville. It would have been even worse had UL coach Rick Pittino not played everyone but the Cardinal mascot. With USF slated to join the basketball bullies of the Big East in 2005, you have to wonder what kind of unsettling message that debacle sent to league officials. They could hardly be faulted if they now fear the hoops counterpart of Temple football.

*It looks like Bern’s Steak House owner David Laxer will get city council approval to build a four-story, 86-room hotel — along with a wine shop, spa, restaurant and town homes — on South Howard Avenue. It’s directly across the street from the iconic Bern’s. Laxer helped his cause considerably by meeting with neighborhood groups before the site plans were filed. But promising never again to replicate Bern’s neo-breadbox architecture probably carried the day.

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