LEFT TURN? Sports talk-show host Jim Rome calls the NASCAR racing circuit "Left Turn Only" for its mindless, dizzying spin in one-direction circles. Wonder what he'd call the conservative track that Republican presidential hopeful and Missouri U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft has been racing on all these years? According to the Monday, Dec. 7, New York Times, however, Ashcroft may have learned to nudge his career car in a direction other than right. The Times noted that in a recent Ashcroft speech to the Detroit Economic Club, the candidate-in-waiting told the assembled crowd that "the things that are dividing us are defining us" and that "we must never confuse politics and piety." This sounds a bit middle-of-the-road from the man who published a near-religious autobiography, Lessons from a Father to His Son, earlier this year. (Lesson 14? "When making decisions, God expects us to use mature reason and sound judgment, guided by Judeo-Christian values.") The Times account also collected predictable outrage from die-hard Christian conservatives like Gary Bauer and Paul Weyrich, but we're pleased that the senator is discovering that the only thing on the hard right or left of the presidential highway is the ditch. (RB)
TRUNK SPUNK: And you wonder why the Guardian Web site (www.guardian.co.uk) is a daily stop in our journalistic parade? The Tuesday, Dec. 8, "Diary" section related a story that put elephants in a whole new perspective. The paper reports that a Thai man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempting to have sex with an elephant weighing 5 tons. Kim Lee Chong's excuse? He said that the elephant reminded him of his long-dead wife and told the court that "I recognized her immediately by the naughty glint in her eye." That's quite a memory. (RB)
WE LIKE 'EM: The annual fundraising dinner of the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition (PRO-VOTE) is usually part schmoozefest, part political rally and mostly a support-group dinner meeting. This year, the event, held at the St. Louis Airport Hilton last Saturday, also yielded a couple of news tidbits -- the good kind. One award recipient, Jeanette Mott Oxford, of the Reform Organization of Welfare, not only practiced what she preaches -- by sharing the microphone with a ROWEL member living in poverty -- but also announced that she would run for a state-representative seat in two years. She's certainly got our vote. Another award recipient, state Rep. Tim Harlan (D-Columbia), who campaigned relentlessly, though unsuccessfully, this past legislative session to provide more health-insurance coverage for employees of small businesses, told us later that he is more hopeful for passage of his bill in the coming year. Seems the savvy legislator has managed to convince some of the well-heeled opponents in the health-insurance industry to join forces with him as a way of avoiding the three-word nightmare that scares the bejesus out of them: universal health care. He's also got our vote. (SA)
Contributors: Safir Ahmed, Richard Byrne, Thomas Crone
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