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Spring Heat, American Style:

“Hot” is good, right? I mean, not worrying for a moment about the ozone layer or skin cancer or drought or the earth bursting into flames because Bush thinks the Kyoto Protocols are annoying… it’s good to be “hot,” right?

Like our friend, nuclear physicist Paris Hilton. She’s “hot”. The new fall TV shows have hot new faces, and most GM cars can now be gotten for a hot deal, uh, since GM is having trouble giving them away, even with Oprah’s help. We all want to be “hot,” right?

Maybe it depends on the source of the heat. Wednesday, May 18, was what one might call a “hot” news day. But it felt like things were a little too hot, with the U.S. taking heat from nearly every conceivable angle.

But let’s start with some good “hot” ness from last Wednesday. Los Angeles looked progressive and together for nearly 48 hours as it became clear that Antonio Villaraigosa would become the new Mayor of the city. You don’t need me to tell you it’s a modern, even futuristic event for Los Angeles to now have a Latino mayor. But it’s also an event when any major city elects a mayor that seems truly determined, committed, energetic, communicative and smart. And after two odious national elections, it was refreshing to be reminded that voting matters; voting still works.

So that was some good “hot” heat. But digging deeper into Wednesday’s newspapers, we felt the burn in other ways. George Galloway, a prominent British politician linked to illegal payments in the Iraq oil-for-food program told U.S. senators on a subcommittee that their investigation was “the mother of all smokescreens,” meant to divert attention away from what Galloway called “the real scandal:” U.S. policy in Iraq.

Galloway is only one of several named as having received discounted oil-buying options from Iraq, and then turning them for a profit. So far, he’s the only one who has stepped up to defend himself. Galloway’s comments were harsh. Or were they?

Galloway said that the committee’s chairman, Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman, was “a pro-war, neo-con hawk and the lickspittle of George W. Bush” and charged that Coleman was seeking revenge against anyone who did not support the invasion of Iraq. Other highlights: Galloway said the committee had nothing on him “except my name on a list of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad.” And this: “Most people think the real villains of the peace in Iraq are not Kofi Annan or Jacques Chirac but here in Washington and in the White House and in the Republican majority.”

Hot enough for you? How about another item in Wednesday’s news, in which it was revealed that U.S. troops forced Iraqi detainees to dig their own graves and then pretended to shoot them, a form of torture previously described to others. You know, the evil ones. On another page, there was more on the effort of conservative Republicans to end the filibuster, or as I like to call it, “democracy.” And then for dessert, documents showing that for two decades the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange covered up for priests who molested children, protecting them from prosecution and relocating them only to have them commit more crimes. (I think the word is crimes; don’t you think the word is “crimes?”)

Whew, if you can’t stand the heat get out of — well, what? Maybe we need to leave our often comfortably air-conditioned impression of America and get Zen with something as blunt and clearly understood as Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times. It’s not about getting depressed or outraged, although some of that will come. Sometimes, you just have to face the fact that it’s hot out there.

This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz

1) Star Wars broke the record for

(a) single-day ticket sales.

(b) rubber masks in one movie.

(c) 40 year-old nerds in a theater.

2) Bush vowed to slow the

progress of

(a) hip-hop/jazz fusions.

(b) stem cell research.

(c) all mankind.

3) A photo of Hussein in underpants

(a) deepens our respect for media.

(b) proves that we get vital data.

(c) honors all war dead.

(d) redefines “freedom”.

(e) means Jay Leno has won.

Answer Key

1) (a) “Trust the hype, Luke…”

2) (b) “But I’m working on (c)…”

3) (e) “Gotta a great show for you


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