We will defend our security wherever we are threatened and sometimes places we aren’t, as we did this summer when we struck at Osama bin Laden’s network of terror. Not that we hit anything or even knew for sure what we were bombing, and never mind that we pointlessly wiped out the only pharmeceutical plant in a country suffering a major famine. And America will continue to work for the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people. So even though there’s no democratic opposition in Iraq, I’m still ordering the CIA to throw almost $100 million of your money down another hole trying to support a coup.You know, sports records are made, and sooner or later, they are broken. But Mark McGwire’s a Republican, dammit, so the best suck-up I can manage here is Sammy Sosa, you are a hero in two countries tonight.I can’t believe nobody ever complains about the way I absorb public affection intended for others the way the Chupacabra sucks the life force out of a goat. It’s like an X-Files episode, but with better lighting. Geez, I’d introduce Mr. Hankey from South Park if I thought he’d get me an ovation.

We’re now at the end of a century when generation after generation of Americans answered the call to greatness, overcoming Depression, bringing down barriers to racial prejudice, winning two world wars and the “long twilight struggle” of the Cold War. And if Y2K hits, there’s a fair chance we might get to do it all over again.A hundred years from tonight, another American president or possibly a spokesperson for Microsoft will stand in this place to report on the State of the Union. He — or she — or it — will look back on a 21st century shaped by the decisions we make now.For years, animal-welfare activists and merchants in urban Asian markets across the US and Canada have been at loggerheads over the treatment of turtles, fish, frogs, and other live animals the markets sell for food.

To a visitor accustomed to neatly-packaged supermarket flesh, some of the markets’ wares are undeniably disturbing. Fish flop desperately in a thin layer of water. Skinned amphibians are stacked up like frog-shaped globs of pale pink jelly. But is it really cruelty?Market owners say efforts to change their traditions smack of racism; animal-welfare advocates say culture isn’t an excuse for cruelty. And local leaders take the politically expedient position of doing essentially nothing.After a string of legal and political victories for markets in San Francisco, where the war has raged hotter than anywhere else, one California legislator has introduced a bill which would, if passed, clearly define what constitutes animal cruelty in such markets. Although activists’ hopes have been buoyed by the Feb. 24 introduction of Assembly Bill 2479, the bill and the case against the markets still face some major hurdles — as does the vexed cause of protecting the market animals.