The week (March 31st): Nobody asked me, but…

With a tip of the fedora to the late, great Jimmy Cannon…nobody asked me, but…

HOW CAN YOU not root for underdog George Mason University in college basketball's Final Four? And GMU is now benefiting from the Doug Flutie effect as t-shirt sales climb and prospective students focus on the school.

FOR THOSE WHO question the claim that the New York Times is the world's greatest daily newspaper, kindly peruse VOL. CLV. No. 53,535 (Friday, March 31, 2006). It's a marvelous read, filled with intriguing stories, provocative features, and food for continued thought.

The front page stories are particularly engaging. There is a column one story about 9/11 (with an intriguing comparison between the FBI and Al Queda); a report on attempts to battle trachoma, a blinding disease found in the Third World; the latest on the release of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll; an update on college admissions angst; a medical study on the power of prayer; a story on how blacks are bridging the digital divide; and a surreal photo of President Bush at the Chichen Itza ruins (can someone on the White House staff encourage W. to learn the Alexander Technique so he won't look so stiff and uncomfortable in his own body?)

The Gray Lady has had her tough times of late (Jayson Blair, the weapons of mass destruction episode, the recent Abu Ghraib victim misidentification), but she still is, as the Brits say, top class.

THE UPROAR OVER the Duke lacrosse party–with allegations of a brutal sexual assault–provides an ugly reminder that frat boy hijinks can quickly degenerate into acts of appalling insensitivity, if not criminality.

Lawyers for many of the players claim that the rape charges are false. Even if that proves to be true, it doesn't absolve those involved in the party of responsibility for their sordid actions. Duke University is right to have forfeited several games in response to the underlying boorish behavior of the players. Alpha male jock culture has become notorious for incidents of misogyny and violence against women (vide scandals at Nebraska, Colorado, St. John's). Let's hope that every athletic director in the country is employing this shameful situation as a "teaching moment" with coaches and student-athletes.

BRITISH IRANIAN COMIC Omid Djalili is a post-modern wonder, mixing physical comedy, impressions, song-and-dance and mordant humor about the Middle East, American attitudes about race, Islamic and Christian fundamentalism and Iranian disco dancing. Check his tight-rope act out on HBO if you can.

WHEN ACTRESS SHARON STONE, "star" of the recently released "Basic Instinct 2", paused during her publicity tour in Paris to attack the controversial French First Job Contract labor law–"I absolutely understand the reasons for the protests, because obviously the law is clearly inappropriate and lacking in integrity,"–was she looking to curry favor and join Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rourke in the pantheon of Gaul's most-admired American performers?

VICTOR HANSON DAVIS is right, I think, about the potential for backlash over the waving of Mexican flags in California and elsewhere by demonstrators protesting tough immigration proposals in Congress.

Hanson argues: "If many thousands of illegal aliens marched in their zeal, many more millions of Americans of all different races and backgrounds watched–and seethed. They were struck by the Orwellian incongruities–Mexican flags, chants of "Mexico, Mexico," and the spectacle of illegal alien residents lecturing citizen hosts on what was permissible in their own country."

DOES ANYONE ON the Web do a better job of aggregating political opinion than Real Clear Politics?

FILE UNDER "You don't say?" the report by the inspector general of the Homeland Security Department that "airports didn't have equipment critical to security and communications because the Transportation Security Administration mismanaged" a $1 billion contract with Unisys. Would anyone who has travelled through an American airport since TSA took over security be surprised?

And I am not making this stuff up….

Copyright © 2006 Jefferson Flanders
All rights reserved

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