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Questions, no doubt, on minds of us all

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© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2001

Assorted questions and answers, as the world swims back into focus:

Q. Considering how cold it is outside, and considering that California is in an electric crisis, and that sooner or later somebody is going to try the same kind of thing here in Florida, is there any particular cliche about the superiority of the free market over the public sector that you would like to mention?

A. As a matter of fact, there is. "The government ought to run more like a business."

Q. If the Fed were a doctor, what would investors think that they heard it say when it lowered interest rates?

A. "You're fine. Why don't you go back to smoking cigarettes and eating fatty food?"

Q. How many commentators in 1992 called upon Bill Clinton to choose an "ideologically diverse" Cabinet with members who disagreed with him on key issues such as abortion?

A. To my knowledge, zero.

Q. What is the significance of the figure 70 percent in relation to John Ashcroft, the nominee to be our nation's next attorney general?

A. Hmm, let's see. That is the percentage of time that Ronnie White, an African-American judge in Missouri, voted to uphold the death penalty, which caused Ashcroft to brand White as "pro-criminal" and block his nomination to a federal judgeship.

Q. Given the way President Clinton is desperate to pressure Israel into a deal no matter what to help his legacy, would you surmise this might be a good time for Yasser Arafat to sell Clinton a used car, a water-softener for his house, magazine subscriptions, ginsu knives, a gym membership and whole life insurance?

A. Yes.

Q. On the sports front, is there a nifty German word for the emotion that fans of the University of Florida and Florida State University felt at watching each other lose their bowl games?

A. It so happens there is. The word is Schadenfreude, which literally means "damage-pleasure," the taking of joy in someone else's misfortune.

Q. Did you, as an alumnus of an out-of-state school with higher admission standards, but that went to no bowl game at all, also experience Schadenfreude at watching these losses, especially considering that FSU's star receiver was academically ineligible?

A. Yes.

Q. What thought did you have, then feel guilty about, at reading that German tourists won a $23-million Lotto jackpot?

A. Come on, you thought it too.

Q. Is it your layman's opinion of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while acknowledging that you are nothing more than a chip-eating, couch-dwelling weakling who never played the game at any level, that offensive coordinator Les Steckel is weirdly chicken about using his best weapons, and that head coach Tony Dungy has been too nice, and would never tolerate a defense as puny as his offense, so why does he think it is professional to tolerate it for his offense?

A. I do not have enough expertise or breath to make a statement like that.

Q. Okay, back to politics. Please name at least one answer that Gov. Jeb Bush is UNLIKELY to supply if he is called before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is investigating whether Floridians' voting rights were denied in the presidential election.

A. "Floridians' voting rights were denied in the presidential election."

Q. In conclusion, do you have any gross jokes about ice fishing in Minnesota from your colleague Jean Heller?

A. Sure. Guy sees his neighbor catching a pile of fish, so he tries to imitate him in every way -- size of hole, posture, everything. Still no fish. He goes over to ask the guy his secret. "Kpp rr mm mm," the guy mumbles. "Excuse me?" he says. "Pp rr mmm m," the guy says. "Excuse me?" he asks again. Exasperated, the guy spits something out into his hand and says: "Keep your worms warm."

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