On the mind: stupid legislators, Bush apologists, Al Gore and home-loan investigation clarifications

The eejits in the State Legislature are at it again. They recently passed a bill that would make it illegal for you to burn a U.S. flag on somebody else's property without their permission--IF it was your intention to make them angry.

I assume the legislators know that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that flag burning is a form of free speech. It's not something that I, or most Americans, would ever do, but just because it's repugnant doesn't mean it should be illegal. Heck, there's even a chance that Dick Cheney's bitch, Antonin Scalia, would vote to uphold a person's right to burn a flag.

However, our state legislators--who face serious challenges in the areas of education, water, traffic, prisons and the environment (among other issues)--realize that it's an election year and want to show that they're on the right side of a dumb issue.

Imagine getting hauled into court on that and saying, "Yes, it was on somebody else's property, and yes, I burned the flag, but I'm not guilty, because I did it to incite sexual passion, NOT anger." Case dismissed.

· Not to be outdone in the Moron Sweepstakes by the upstarts from Arizona, the Kansas State Legislature passed a bill that would allow the children of illegal aliens to attend state colleges--for less money than it costs legal residents of the state.

I really wanted to get an explanation of this, but that would have required spending money to talk to somebody in Kansas.

· Can Sean Hannity and all of the other Bush apologists finally stop making the ridiculous claim that the war in Iraq is part of a war on terrorism? That's one of the dumbest and most indefensible statements that anybody has made this century. One has nothing to do with the other.

Going into Afghanistan was a legitimate step to take against international terrorism. Going into Iraq was a calculated misstep of epic proportions, and it was done for petty and selfish political (and maybe personal) reasons. Now, with these pictures of prisoner abuse coming out, it looks more like the United States is conducting a war of terrorism rather than a war on terrorism.

Another thing: How much do you bet that these pictures will make it a whole lot harder to convict Saddam Hussein if and when he ever comes to trial? Saddam's conviction was not a slam dunk to begin with, what with all the evidence that the U.S. backed his play for so long. It'd be interesting to see what the Vegas odds for his acquittal would be.

· Al Gore, who won the 2000 presidential general election by more than 500,000 votes, will be starting up his own 24-hour-a-day cable news channel. Gore says that the network will be aimed at the younger viewers in an attempt to get them to become politically active, but denies charges by many Republicans that it's going to be a "liberal" news outlet.

I really don't know what all the complaining is about. George W. Bush already has his own cable news channel. It's called Fox News.

· Finally, a clarification of something I wrote about a few weeks ago. On April 2, the Arizona Daily Star ran an article claiming that Jon Volpe, CEO of Nova Home Loans, had gotten in trouble with the Department of Housing and Urban Development over some arcane rule concerning the relationship between loan officers and Realtors. In a letter dated Jan. 8, 2004, HUD concluded its investigation of Volpe, and while he was found to have violated a rule, he was not fined and simply promised not to repeat the act in question.

HUD then investigated several realtors with whom Volpe had done business. In a letter dated March 5, 2004, HUD said that that investigation was concluded, and the realtors were contacted for settlement negotiations. Then, the investigation of the realtors was re-opened when it was learned that the initial investigation had been wrapped up before the realtors in question had even been contacted and given the opportunity to present their sides of the story.

The article in the Star made it appear that Volpe was still under investigation, and the mention in my column of my repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to get a straight answer out of anybody at HUD may have further muddied the waters.

Volpe is not under investigation; indeed, it's been almost six months since he concluded his business with HUD. Nevertheless, the rumor is still floating around, and it's hurting his business. He estimates that his company could stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.

Volpe's competitors in the cutthroat field of home loans may or may not be involved in keeping the rumors afloat, but they're certainly profiting from his travails. I guess that's just bidness, but it sure is ugly.

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