The Skinny

THE HAPPY NUMBSKULL'S NEWS HOLE ALMANAC: Last month -- January, for those of you still reeling from Y2K-related trauma (And golly, wasn't it all such a ghastly cannibalistic horror freakout, just like the news media said?) -- we began our new series detailing how local assignment editors fill their daily papers and TV news shows with pointless seasonal blather in lieu of real news.

They resort to dreck because real news-gathering requires actual reporting and expense, something the bean counter-dominated daily media corporations avoid as readily as fraidy-cat frat-house boys flee from chicks with dicks. Besides, apparently we the people don't really care about some difficult point of government -- unless it involves our pocketbooks or, better yet, explodes and kills people, or somehow involves a cute little puppy.

This week, of course, the gem show gets underway, with its endless feature possibilities relating to the hardness of stones, the color of stones, the people who steal stones, and the security personnel who protect the people who own the stones. This stuff should be written in stone, or put on a website, perhaps, thus freeing up oodles of space and air time for stories about cute little exploding puppies.

And speaking of animal cruelty, each and every February, the local news media are brimming with relatively rosy rodeo coverage.

Oh sure, there's the obligatory protest story, but we can also count on the brave clown profile, the time-worn, but prize-winning cowboy photos harking back to the good old days when real men drank whiskey so they could forget about the brutality and ugliness around them. (We're referring, of course, to the rodeo queens of yore; otherwise, life was pretty damn sweet, pardner.)

Why even bother to cover this stuff year after year? It's not sport in the sense that we know it today; and it's not even like we hear a bunch of guys standing around the water cooler on Monday mornings after the rodeo saying stuff like, "Hey, did you see the ass on that bull?"

And, puullease, will somebody tell the Sheriff's Department and those ancient Jaycee farts to cease and desist in their annual "tourist arrest" media event out on Interstate 10? Every year it's the same tired horse 'n' buggery, as predictable as the stupid bola ties worn by Tucson's TV news anchors and anchorettes during the annual Animal Torture Fest & Barbecue. Yee-ha.

February also means Valentine's Day to our deep-thinking assignments professionals. What will it be this year? The annual sexually transmitted disease Valentine's package; or, in the alternative, the heart-warming profile of Valentine's couples tying the knot? And, frankly, haven't even the most abysmally stupid Romeos among us figured out by now that the price and availability of flowers on Valentine's Day are factors subject to market forces?

Later in the month we can count on a wildflower story or three. Hint: either it's a good year or a bad year. We've never actually seen a story saying it's an only OK year.

But then again, it's hard to concentrate on the same-old-same-old about nosegays when the news media this month also begin cranking up the annual dope bust reports. Story after story about how much pot was seized where will begin to fill the airwaves and show up as little blurbs in the newspapers.

Is it just us, or do the local media's apparent eagerness to report an endless string of drug bust stories smack of the mindless Bolshevik bureaucrat's proclivity for churning out reams of empty statistics for the amusement of an insane I.V. Lenin bent on destroying an entire culture?

Right, it's just us.

This month we can also expect a Teacher of the Year profile, Oscar mania, shallow discussions of property tax valuations and water rates, a death or two at Tanque Verde Falls -- hey, UA kids, one of you will be checking out soon! -- early tax filing advice, basket Cat fever, and a dozen other predictable stories to numb the mind and lull us all into thinking we know what's going on around here.

Why do they call it "news"? Because Nothing Ever Warrants Silence, that's why.

BURNING BUSH: We've got our differences with Sen. John McCain (and we remain uneasy that so many of his political operatives are leftovers from once-convicted felon J. Fife Symington III's inner circle), but politics is always a case of "compared to what." And compared to dopey Texas Gov. George W. Bush, McCain is a titan. So we congratulate McCain on his big New Hampshire victory. He knocked W's dick in the dirt.

The win will surely give McCain some momentum, but New Hampshire is a state where retail politics can work. It'll take a different kind of strategy to win states like South Carolina and California. That strategy will involve lots of money -- and W has no shortage of that, even if he's little more than an empty suit.

In recent weeks, McCain has won us over -- especially when he opposed W.'s pandering $483 billion tax cut, which would primarily help those wealthy folks who have suffered so much throughout the '90s. McCain, perhaps understanding that the surplus will only materialize if Congress can abide by strict spending limits that lawmakers are already breaking, argues that the surplus -- if it even exists -- should instead largely be spent to pay down the national debt in order to ensure the future of Social Security and Medicare. What a crazy liberal scheme!

Bush is showing his true colors in New York, where ridiculously restrictive rules make it nearly impossible to land a spot on the ballot without the backing of the party machinery. With the establishment backing Bush, that means McCain won't appear on ballots in half of New York's congressional districts, unless he manages to overturn the rules in court. Bush says this fixed system is fair and spouts the party line that the rules are designed to keep frivolous candidates off the ballot. Given that McCain kicked Bush's ass in New Hampshire, you've got to wonder who the "frivolous candidate" really is. There's one word to describe Bush's strategy: chickenshit.

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