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Just a few thoughts on school soda, etc.

HIGH SCHOOL IS BAD ENOUGH. Let the students have a Coke if they want. Besides, why are soft-drink machines an issue for the state Cabinet? Didn't all the Republicans say they wanted to get the government off our backs? Do they think county school boards are incapable of deciding whether their kids can have a soda?

THERE IS NO POINT in making a public service announcement saying, "Don't leave your kids locked in a car in the Florida summer." The people doing it probably can't read anyway.

ST. PETE BEACH is considering buying parking "kiosks" from the same company that made St. Petersburg's ill-fated computerized parking pay stations. Reportedly, the beach community next will consider switching to 8-hour City Commission meetings filled with yammering.

A PIRATE SHIP will soon offer cruises from downtown St. Petersburg. No word on whether, in an attempt to upstage Tampa, the pirates will be played by drunken prominent business leaders throwing beads at passers-by and urging them to disrobe.

A STUPID LAWSUIT was filed against Pepsi over its joke in a TV commercial that if you saved enough contest points, you could win a Harrier fighter jet. A 24-year-old Seattle man sued, claiming he was entitled to the $23-million plane. No doubt critics of the legal system will use this as another example of justice run amok, but they will probably leave out the fact that the judge laughed it out of court.

LOVERS OF THE FREE MARKET should take satisfaction in the fact that for the first time in 10 years, the use of ATMs is down. Consumers seem to be getting fed up with those rip-off service charges. Now, isn't that a more satisfying revenge than passing some federal law?

IS THERE IRONY in the fact that England has dropped its longtime requirement for a 6-month quarantine for pets brought into that country, while we might ban people who have spent more than six months in England from donating blood?

GIVEN THE FLAP in St. Petersburg over switching to curbside mailboxes, here is a relevant news item that appeared July 27 in the Wall Street Journal:

The Postal Service reports that dog bites dropped 6 percent in fiscal 1998 from the previous year. According to the agency, 2,541 postal workers were bitten by dogs in the 12 months ended Sept. 15, 1998, or 167 fewer than the year before. Dog bites to postal employees peaked during the mid-1980s, when more than 7,000 letter carriers were attacked annually. The agency credits employee training and greater public awareness for the drop.

ELEVEN OUT OF 12 candidates for president cheerfully volunteer the information that they have never used cocaine. The 12th is George W. Bush, who refuses to answer. Good for him. It makes me more likely to vote for him. This is a stupid game of "gotcha" in which Democrats and rival Republicans are ganging up on him with the help of the media. If somebody has a problem today, that is our business; if they acted like a fool in college 35 years ago, who cares? Didn't the last year of Clinton-stuff teach us anything at all?

A FRIEND SWEARS it rains more often in Tampa than St. Petersburg. I added up the number of days in which any rain at all, even a trace, was reported by Times weather watchers for the first half of this year. Result: Tampa, 28 days; St. Petersburg, 18 days.

THE REV. HENRY J. LYONS, it turns out, was in the hot seat in 1991 in a bank-fraud investigation, and he said then he was really, really sorry and had asked God, his wife, the bank and the state to forgive him. Now seeking a shorter prison sentence, he and his lawyers say this time he is really, really sorry and has asked for forgiveness. Asked to explain why his 1999 apology sounds like 1991, Lyons responded: "I am truly, truly sorry for that and have asked my God and my wife for forgiveness."