"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 22 February 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run 02.22.01


Hit & Run XXII
Taking their cue from the Spot, but aware of the fact that real life, in all its Technicolor banality, is already all-too-well represented, Angelique and Cheryl have manufactured events of prurient interest, and will be milking them for all they're worth. Which is, apparently, $200.51.
Five years ago today in Suck.

Ever on the alert for bank robbers and other nonexistent threats to the security of Mayberry, Don Knotts's Barney Fife was a figure of fun made tragic by his pathological, career-destroying zeal to uncover menace where there was none. Playing Jack Webb to Sheriff Taylor's Harry Morgan in the reverse backwoods Dragnet that was The Andy Griffith Show, Knotts's exquisite creation Fife was the small-town lawman as bumbling fool, a neurotic lover of lethal weapons and police procedure in a crime-free, one-drunk town. This Monday, however, Barney Fife and the unduly Fife-like among present-day peace officers were vindicated when Sergeant William Ward, of the Henry County, Indiana, Sheriff's Department, identified and arrested two teenage fugitives suspected in the New Hampshire double-murder of popular Dartmouth College professors Half and Suzanne Zantop.

Ward, according to a Monday Boston Globe story called "Sergeant's motto: Be prepared," is well-known around the department water cooler as the over-eager deputy, the crime-news junkie who makes a few too many xeroxes of Wanted posters and APB's to pass around, the one wearying the keyboard in his tireless Internet manhunts. He's the guy lecturing his fellow officers about the crime reporting on CNN, the one listening in on CB radio chatter for news of criminals who might — just might — be "stumbling" (as The Globe had it in their front-page headline) directly into the net he's stretched wide over New Castle, Ind., pop. 25,000. His fellow officers may have raised eyebrows over Ward's diligence, but they're choking on their donuts now. The real life Barney Fife's efforts above and beyond the call paid off in the wee hours Monday, as Ward — ever-ready — and two Sheriff's Department skeptics sat in the Flying J truck stop nursing java.

When James J. Parker, 16, and Robert W. Tulloch, 17, skulked into the truck stop fresh from a cross-country ride with a South Carolina trucker who'd picked them up in New Jersey, they couldn't have suspected the kind of lawman they were about to encounter. Ward — recognizing the high school fugitives from Vermont in an a-ha! click born of many hours spent in preparation — sprang into action. The Leopold-and-Loebish pair, who've been described in The Globe by the citizens of the town they were fleeing as having "very good" vocabularies and being "weirdly annoying," were quickly arrested, the only incident being that they couldn't think of false names, birthdates, social security numbers, or hometowns. (Boy teenagers suspected of murdering beloved professors and taking it on the lam with a trucker, small-town cops nabbing them in the wide-open spaces as they zone-out on their alibis... has anyone alerted Gus Van Sant to this material?)

Considering how the police in New England have handled the case (staking out the youths' high school long after they'd fled the region) and how The Globe has covered the story (printing a front-page apology Wednesday for reporting that Half Zantop may have been involved in an extramarital affair that led to the murders), maybe they should all take a page or two from the Fife training manual. The Marten Transport Company, of Mondovi, Wisconsin, might want to take a peek as well. The company fired trucker James Hicks — another refugee from Mayberry — for picking up the hitchhiking teen suspects as he hauled a load of M&M's across the land. Now that Fife-ism is gospel with a certain segment of the population, law enforcement officers in New England might want to make a collective trek down to the video store for a few Andy Griffith Show tapes to study during those dreary overnight shifts. In this murderous New England winter, one that's seen computer-software engineers erupt in killing sprees and 11-year olds stab each other to death at cineplexes after showings of Valentine, you never know when another academic might take a half-zantop into a pool of his own blood.

If last week's genome announcement contained more hype than hope, we wondered what the "humbling" news that humans and worms look pretty similar on the gene map would mean to those folks for whom all scientific evidence leads straight back to one place. More proof of the cosmic watchmaker's efficiency? Evidence of gap theory in all that residual genetic information? As it turns out, the new discovery is mostly a wash. "Don't believe this malarkey that the human has 99.5 percent in common with the ape," says Dr. Walt Brown, director of the Center for Scientific Creation. "You'd have to know all the genes of the human and the ape, and they don't have that; they only have the map." With a well-deserved nod to the Mitochondrial Eve, Dr. Brown concludes: "DNA is absolutely amazing. I wouldn't get hung up on how many genes there are." Continuing the sangfroidian theme, Dr. Kent Hovind of Creation Science Evangelism (whose site bears the counter-evolutionary URL "DrDino.com") notes, "This doesn't mean a dog and a banana have a common ancestor. The more they study the complexity of the gene code, the more they're going to say, 'Man, this thing had to be designed.'" Dr. Hovind takes the argument further, pointing out that "positive mutations" have not been found. This theme is echoed in a seminar by the Institute for Creation Research, in which several commentators with the title "Dr." lambaste the historical record's lack of "positive mutations" — a position we can only interpret as continuing the Academy's Oscar snub of X-Men. Finally, Dr. Carl Wieland of Answers In Genesis, a man whose Australian accent and no-nonsense demeanor alone were almost enough to return us to a state of pre-diluvian credulity, issues a high-minded warning not to be fooled by "simple-minded numbers games" about gene variety. As on so many talk-radio-fueled cross-country drives, we began to feel swayed by the barrage of unreturned sallies against the fortress of the Darwinists, and were wishing we'd paid closer attention to all that Richard Dawkins stuff. What finally lost us wasn't just an untimely reminder that at the other end of the field lies the belief that Noah fit all the animals onto his 300-cubit ark, or the theory all the "junk DNA" was inserted by the intelligent designer (possibly to test our faith, like the fossil records). It was Dr. Wieland's statement of a proposition anybody who has spent a few years working on the info-highway knows to be false: "Information comes out of intelligence."

The creation scientists were, as always, uniformly cordial and polite, but next time we want genome advice we're going straight to the experts.

For over 200 years, Whitey's been making token gestures to American Indians, but this year's epochal creation of a Best Native American Music Album Grammy award has to be one of the most pathetic efforts since Kafka scrawled The Wish To Be A Red Indian onto a laundry slip. The Grammys already have less street cred than McGruff, but Michael Greene, the great chief of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, informs CNN that this seemingly meaningless effort is actually heap big medicine: "I think we forget how important this is to these communities ... It'll be a real important moment for them." Pretty big talk from a man who now tries to laugh of the best Heavy Metal band award given to Jethro Tull in 1991 and suggests that 'N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" might be the record of the year (and who fails to note that representatives of "these communities" still gripe about how long it took to get this recognition from Greene and his ridiculous "Academy"). Still, we can only hope that this trend catches on, and not just so we can get our toes a-tappin' to the catchy rhythms of the Black Lodge Singers. As all Grammy categories are redistributed according to ethnic group, we can only imagine some stiff competition between Eminem and Kid Rock for Best Album by a White Guy From Michigan.

New York Times watchers, who monitor the Grey Lady's every belch and fart like CIA decoders scanning Saddam's breakfast menus for even the subtlest of clues, have a stunning new piece of evidence to ponder: a stunning new photo of Maureen Dowd on the NYT op-ed columnist page. Whether it's a so-over-you signal aimed at ex-beau Michael Douglas's increasingly inescapable ménage with Catherine Zeta Jones or a portent that Dowd will be giving up the scolding Sister Mary Elephant character she played so effectively to Bill Clinton's skirt chasing bad boy, we can report that this new picture is all woman. Perhaps feeling safer with her cotillion sensuality around Dubya than Slick Willie, the Washington wiseacre has let her hair down for a girly-girl New York Times cheesecake pose — slightly windblown hair, a sparkling smile and a dress that hints at Manhattan evenings to come, yet remains cubicle appropriate at all times. Is it a signal to the Bush administration that the Honeymoon is on? Or a hint of boom times for a columnist with a full plate of Texas beef to chew on? We like the contrast it gives to the homely bunkhouse feel of the Bush-Cheney White House. No doubt Barbara Bush warned her Georgie about big city media hussies like Maureen Dowd when she packed his lunch and put him on the train to Washington, but gosh, Ma, a fella can window shop, can't he?

See some negative mutations in today's Plastic discussion

courtesy of the Sucksters

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