Petty Obstructionists 

Petty Obstructionists

Republican leaders Thomas DeLay and Dick Armey, the House of Representatives duo who opined in the wake of September 11th that it would not be "in the American spirit" to confer emergency benefits on those Americans deprived of their jobs by the terrorist attacks, are now doing all they can to sidetrack airport security.

Never mind that a bill to federalize airport-security forces passed the Senate with the absolute bipartisan unanimity of a 100-to-1 vote. Never mind that Americans are now united in their revulsion at the makeshift pseudo-security heretofore provided at the nation's air terminals by poorly trained minimum-wage workers.

Never mind, for that matter, the obvious and overriding need for public safety, which would be provided by a security element federalized in the mode of the armed services and trained according to the same strict standards.

DeLay and Armey are now attempting to invoke party discipline and parliamentary protocol in order to hold up passage of the much-needed enabling legislation. The reason? A fear that a federalized security force would lend itself to unionization. Armey even has the gall to suggest that the airport-security bill's proponents are practicing "politics" to keep at bay an alternative measure that would continue to rely on private security firms.

It is to the discredit of President Bush that he continues to support the measure favored by Armey and DeLay -- just as his recently improved stature was undercut by his collaboration with them in new pork-barrel proposals and tax-cut bills benefiting the rich.

Senator John McCain, now so often the spokesman for responsible congressional Republicans, said it best Sunday when he termed the GOP leaders' opposition to the airport-security measure "indefensible."

So it is. Would that our commander-in-chief saw things as clearly!

Changing the Play

Based on their preseason performance, the Memphis Grizzlies may be a better team than the unit that struggled to win one-fourth of its games in Vancouver. New faces like Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Brevin Knight, and Jason Williams give fresh hope to the team that will take the floor on opening night Thursday against the Detroit Pistons.

By the same token, Memphis may also find that The Pyramid is a better arena than many people want to admit. We'll put the over-and-under on the number of games the Grizzlies will win at a franchise-best 30 and the over-and-under on average attendance this season at 15,000 (fans in seats, not tickets sold). At least eight games -- Iverson, Shaq, Jordan, Robinson, etc. -- should fill all 20,000 seats.

That would make for some nice paydays all around. Nothing like the pot of gold envisioned by Grizzlies owners and their friends last spring, but probably enough to make ends meet in the new and troubling world in which we live.

It was reported in last Sunday's New York Times that car rentals in the U.S. are down 35 percent in the wake of September 11th. Rental-car surcharges, of course, are one financing component of the proposed new $250 million arena, along with hotel taxes, state aid, and user fees. It is obvious to anyone but the vested interests that none of those sources is going to measure up to projections in the near future -- and possibly longer. The Grizzlies are now slated to play in The Pyramid for three years.

And it could be longer than that.

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