The Range

Baghdad or Bust

After canceling a get-together with Republican lawmakers, Gov. Janet Napolitano headed off for a tour of the Middle East, meeting with members of Arizona's National Guard in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

"This has been a remarkable experience," Napolitano press-released. "I have always been proud of Arizona troops. Having seen it firsthand, I am even more grateful for the work they do and the sacrifice they are making for us."

Napolitano disappointed some anti-war Democrats by not calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Speaking of supporting the troops: Arizona Congressman Harry Mitchell used the Democratic weekly radio address to blast the Bush administration for the shoddy care of veterans following an exposé in The Washington Post that revealed some vets were placed in a rundown, rat-infested branch of Walter Reed hospital.

Elsewhere in the War on Terror: You know that broad snooping authority we gave the FBI in the USA PATRIOT Act? Turns out they've been guilty of a bit of "serious misuse," according to a report from Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III released a statement saying the problems uncovered by the report were "unacceptable."

"We strive to exercise our authorities consistent with the privacy protections and civil liberties that we are sworn to uphold," Mueller said. "Anything less will not be tolerated. While we've already taken some steps to address these shortcomings, I am ordering additional corrective measures to be taken immediately."

Hat's Off!

Forget about choosing between the science museum or the arena--we've finally discovered the idea that could save Rio Nuevo! The Range got into work on Monday morning to find an intriguing pitch waiting on the desk: Tucson's Wild West Museum. Earl Wettstein, a local ad man who ran an agency here for more than three decades, wants to see a 10-story cowboy hat downtown on the east side of Interstate 10.

"The Big Hat will become the long-sought iconic image that Tucson wants and needs," Wettstein writes in his proposal. "The world's first 10,000,000 gallon hat."

Wettstein suggests that the Big Hat "could become our St. Louis Arch ... our Eiffel Tower ... our Roman Coliseum ... our Egyptian pyramids ... our Washington Monument. When people see a picture of it, they will think Tucson!"

The Big Hat would be home to a three-story Wild West museum that would include Old West memorabilia, interactive gunfights, stuntman performances, bronco riding and much more, for an estimated construction cost of $25.7 million.

Wettstein says he came up with the idea when city officials were considering the "Rainbow Bridge" over I-10. He realized the cowboy hat would be a better symbol for Tucson.

"What says Western, and what says cowboy, and what says Tucson?" he asks. "The Rainbow Bridge frankly always reminded me a of a big giant taco."

So far, Wettstein has gotten the cold shoulder from local leaders. None of them--not Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, not County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, not even the Arizona Daily Star editorial page's "Flowers and Thorns"--have been willing to embrace the idea.

Character Counts

As former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani dodged questions about why he doesn't talk to his kids anymore, Sen. John McCain told the media he hoped they didn't focus on people's personal lives, but instead tackled the big issues facing the country.

"I would like to see this campaign conducted on past record and ambition for the future," McCain told Associated Press reporters, who couldn't resist reminding readers that McCain remarried one month after his 1980 divorce.

Unfortunately, the big issues aren't what voters care about, according to an Associated Press poll that found that most people--55 percent--vote on their perception of a candidate's honesty and character. Responding to an open-ended question about what they want to see in a politician, only one out of three respondents said they cared most about policy positions--which could mean trouble for Republican Newt Gingrich, who last week admitted to having an affair with an aide at the same time he was attacking Bill Clinton for his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky.

Court Order

Wildcats all the way, baby! Sure, it's been a tough year--especially seeing the Oregon Ducks clobber the cats 69-50 in last week's Pac-10 tourney--but we're going to turn it around in the NCAA tourney. Just wait: Arizona will beat Purdue, Florida, Maryland, Notre Dame and Gonzaga on the way to a national championship against Eastern Kentucky. Watch it all begin when the Cats face the Boilermakers at 4:20 p.m. this Friday, March 16.

Flame On!

We just couldn't quit this week without mentioning that after getting drunk and watching a Jackass movie, 20-year-old Wisconsin resident Jared W. Anderson asked his buddy to soak his genitals in lighter fluid and set him on fire, according to The Associated Press.

Anderson was being treated for second-degree burns, while 43-year-old buddy Randall Peterson was facing charges of felony battery and first-degree reckless endangerment.