UP FROM THE RABBIT HOLE, a hint of spring in the air, let's lose Brazil again for a while and trot out some off-hand observations, the formula courtesy of sports columnist Jimmy Cannon's occasional and classic "Nobody Asked Me, But ..." columns. Cannon died in 1973, but Joe Brancatelli has kept the formula alive, and I steal it here thinly disguised:
All's I'm Sayin' Is ...
--I don't know how I feel about about the pending passengers' bill of rights federal legislation. That would be a federal law to address recent fiascos when passengers on numerous airlines -- most prominently American on Dec. 29 and JetBlue on Feb. 14 -- were stranded on board planes for up to 10 hours, unable to get to a gate. The last time it came around, in 1999, after a similar Northwest Airlines fiasco during a blizzard, that proposed passengers' bill of rights collapsed under its own weight in Congress after too many interest-groups hopped on board, adding trivial provisions and afterthoughts and sounding like the squabbling Judean people's revolutionary groups bickering and equivocating over grievances against Rome in Monty Python's "The Life of Brian." The problem is fairly simple, it seems to me: The pilot should be able to decide, after, say, 4 hours, whether to go back to the gate and let people off. (It's actually more complicated, but we won't get into that right now). Anyway, someone recently posted this on Flyertalk.com: "I traded in some of my miles for a 'Get Out of the Plane Free' card."
-- GIULIANI TIME -- Check out the text of Rudy Giuliani's standard travel-contract rider for giving a speech, on Thesmokinggun.com (click on "archives" and the item is dated Feb. 15. ) Rudy gets $100,000 for a 45-minute talk, plus private jet transportation for up to five people. The plane "MUST BE a Gulfstream IV or bigger" [caps theirs]. Plus the mark, uh, client must supply a two-bedroom hotel suite "with a balcony and view if applicable," plus four additional single rooms for Rudy's squad. All meals and expenses for all of the Giuliani party are to be paid, and "one sedan and one large SUV," with drivers, must be available on call, all the time. Among other universities, Oklahoma State coughed up the dough, just in case you're wondering about why annual tuition costs what you used to pay for a nice three-bedroom house.
--'TEN HUT -- How do they get away with this stuff? Wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center say the brass has told them not to talk to the media after the Washington Post ran a hell of a story last week showing how some recovering vets, badly wounded in combat, are neglected and consigned to squalid quarters during long stays at the hospital. The follow-up on the brass's chicken s--- reaction is in Army Times, which has been doing an admirable job itself on both the war and the wounded vets, via a link on Huffingtonpost.com. The brass also told the recovering troops at the hospital that they have to be up at 6 each morning, with beds and lockers ready for daily inspection by 7 -- which, as Army Times points out, isn't something soldiers, marines or sailors usually have to endure after boot camp, let alone while recovering from major combat wounds. Gives new meaning, I say, to the term "brass balls."
[Note appended March 2: I was remiss above in not saying that the scandals at Walter Reed and other military recuperation centers for wounded vets were first exposed in a series of very hard-hitting articles by Mark Benjamin starting two years ago on Salon.com].
--I am happy to read that Vice President "Deferral" Dick Cheney heroically survived being a scant mile away from a terrorist bomb the other day outside a U.S. base in Kabul. "I heard a loud boom," Deferral Dick said afterwards, according to various breathless media accounts. Yeah, a loud boom -- that's what the 19 or more people who were actually KILLED in the explosion heard -- only louder. (That is also, now that I think of it, what the guy who Deferral Dick accidentally shot in the face while duck-hunting must have heard).
--I love those giddy headlines on the Drudge Report. There's one today, "Video: Insane Man Disrupts Live Newscast!" My question: How could they tell?
--The startling archaeological news on television purporting that Jesus Christ's earthly remains have been found in a tomb in Jerusalem inspired me to commemorate the event with verse that reactivated my Catholic school basic Latin (and reminded me of why the nuns found reason to smack me around so much). To wit:
Dominus vobiscum, pax!
You're saying WHO is in that box?
Yes, please pray for me to whomever is left in your pantheon.
--And finally, some friendly advice to the marketing people promoting Mississippi as a travel destination (from someone who knew Biloxi when a good hotel room cost $40 a night).
A Mississippi marketing agency is promoting a new campaign designed to "combat the negative stereotypes often associated with the state of Mississippi" and to focus on the "many positive attributes."
It seems some boosters in Mississippi seem to be overreacting a bit to snotty comments made by U.S. Rep. Charley Rangle, of New York, who was quoted as saying: "Who wants to live in Mississippi?"
The new "Mississippi, Believe It!" marketing campaign was devised by the Jackson, Mississippi-based Cirlot Agency, which has for some reason obtained a trademark for that phrase, and started a promotional drive to "dismantle negative Mississippi stereotypes." Rick Looser, who runs the agency, was quoted as saying he sent Rangle a tee-shirt from the online store at www.mississippibelieveit.com. The tee-shirt says, "Yes We Can Read. A Few of Us Can Even Write." To log onto the Web site, by the way, you must be able to spell Mississippi.
Now, I am not making the following up. The press release cites as famous Mississippi natives these people, and these people alone: Hartley Peavey, founder of Peavey Electronics, and Chief Philip Martin "of the Mississippi band of Choctaw Indians." Also Dr. Arthur Guyton, who wrote a classic physiology textbook -- in 1956 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Bathing in the accomplishments of its native son, the press release gushes, "Mississippi: When It Comes to Modern Medicine, We Wrote the Book." (Not sure if they've trademarked that slogan.)
Hartley Peavey, Chief Martin and the renowned author of a modern 1956 physiology classic aside, let me suggest just a few famous Mississippi natives whose names inexplicably are missing from the boasting:
William Faulkner, Elvis Presley, Leontyne Price, Tennessee Williams, Jimmy Buffett, Red Barber, Oprah Winfrey, Eudora Welty ... the list goes on.