The Range

Deck the Halls of McKale Center

There's a certain silver-haired gent who delivers what all UA sports fans desire this special time of the year: a winning basketball season. And with the Cats' 67-62 win over Utah on Saturday, this legendary figure earned the 1,000th victory of his 47-year coaching career.

With apologies to Francis P. Church: Yes, Virginia, there is a Lute Olson--he exists as certainly as slam dunks and lay-ups and three-pointers exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Lute Olson! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no alley-oops then, no come-from-behind underdog wins, no Pac-10 championships to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in women's softball and golf. The eternal light with which college basketball fills the world would be extinguished.

No Lute Olson! Thank God he lives, and may he live forever. A thousand wins from now, Virginia--nay, 10 times 10.000 wins from now--he will continue to make glad the heart of UA fans.

Social Insecurity

Congressman Jim Kolbe announced he'd found a new Democratic co-sponsor of the Bipartisan Retirement Security Act: Democrat Allen Boyd of Florida. (His previous Democratic sponsor, U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm, was a victim of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's fiendishly clever redistricting scheme that delivered six new Republican seats in Texas.)

Kolbe's plan would allow workers to deposit a portion of their Social Security taxes into personal investment accounts while raising some payroll taxes to cover the resulting shortfall in funding for the program.

The White House also waded into the debate last week, with the Bush administration favoring privatization of a portion of the system. But rather than raising payroll taxes to cover transition costs, Bush wants to borrow a trillion bucks or more, further cementing his reputation as the most fiscally reckless president in the history of the United States.

In other Bush administration news: At the suggestion of Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts, Specialist Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a damn good question during a Kuwait Q&A session: "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?"

After the roar of applause died down, Rumsfeld replied: "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have."

Rumsfeld later blamed the lack of armored vehicles on production problems, prompting a Boston Globe report that Armor Holdings, the company that builds armored Humvees, is fully prepared to build more vehicles as soon as the Pentagon gives the go-ahead.

"We have always said, 'Tell us how much you want, and we'll build them,'" Armor Holdings spokesman Michael Fox told the Globe.

What do you bet their contract gets reassigned to Halliburton in the next six months?

In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week, U.S. Sen. John McCain said he had "no confidence" in Rumsfeld. McCain has long called for more troops to establish greater security in Iraq.

Holiday Cheer Abounds!

Perennial congressional candidate Joe Sweeney invited The Range to a graduation ceremony/holiday party/annual board meeting at the Alexander Hamilton Evening Law School and Union Western Seminary. This pair of unorthodox institutions, accredited by Sweeney's own Great Plains School and College Association, offer what Sweeney calls "a 21st century education at 1960s prices and effort."

While the law school had no graduates this semester, Sweeney did bestow an honorary juris doctorate in business and public administration on actor Paul Newman.

"He couldn't make it--he had a conflict--but we're going to send it to him," said Sweeney, who was upfront about his hope that Newman might reciprocate with a hefty endowment so he could hire as many as three staff members to "get this thing out there." Sounds like an excellent candidate for funding under the Bush administration's faith-based advanced learning programs to us!

Sweeney delivered a rambling commentary about illegal immigration--"I could hammer this all day," he said toward the end--before granting another honorary degree to Wayne Shifflett, the former head of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

"I appreciate Joe recognizing my work at the refuge," said Shifflett, whose 38-year career with the federal government recently came to end following some contretemps regarding an effort to save the Chiricahua leopard frog. Shifflett plans to soon leave for Africa on safari.

Later in the day, The Range watched the downtown holiday parade, led by grand marshal Johnny Gibson, the legendary muscle man of Sixth Avenue. We made a cameo in the procession when we stepped into the street to help push City Councilwoman Carol West to the sidelines after the Ward 2 quasi-Democrat's black Ford Fairlane stalled along Stone Avenue.

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