John McCaslin
CHOOSING COMMANDERS Hoping to prevent another presidential election fiasco like the one we witnessed in Florida, a retired Marine-turned-U.S.-senator is leading the charge for reform. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has introduced legislation giving states incentive for adopting uniform absentee ballots not only for military personnel but overseas citizens. "In the 2000 election, officials in strategic areas of the country, including Florida, failed to count thousands of military absentee ballots," he says. Under Roberts' strategy, federal election officials will create a uniform military and overseas citizen ballot that is easily identifiable to state election officials. Grant funds would cover all expenses of implementing the new ballots on the state level. BIG MAC ATTACK Why is Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell warning of catastrophic consequences if mad-cow and foot-and-mouth diseases cross our fences? The cattle population of this country is rarely discussed, but in Campbell's state of Colorado alone there are 3.15 million head of cattle. Add to that the 12,000 beef producers in the state, and that explains his concern. WHO WON? Ironic as it is that the United States depends to a significant degree on importing oil from Iraq's Saddam Hussein, "we just seem to shrug our shoulders and say that is the way it is." So says Sen. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alas.), who observes that as recently as 1998, the U.S. imported 5.1 million barrels of oil per day. Today, our country imports 8.6 million barrels, our foreign oil dependence rising from about 39 percent to 59 percent in two years. "We fought a war in 1991. We lost 147 lives. We had 437 wounded, 23 taken prisoner. I don't want to even estimate the cost to the American taxpayer," says the senator. "That was a war over oil. Make no mistake about it. It was to ensure that Saddam Hussein did not invade Kuwait and go on into Saudi Arabia and control the world's supply of oil. We fought that war. We won that war. But what are we doing today? "We are importing 750,000 barrels of oil from Iraq, our good friend Saddam Hussein. Isn't that ironic?" RECALLING 007 Sir Sean Connery - a k a "Bond, James Bond" - is coming to Washington next week in celebration of National Tartan Day. At the U.S. Capitol's second annual Tartan Day ceremony, the American Scottish Foundation will present the famous actor with its Wallace Award, named after Scottish hero William Wallace, or "Braveheart." Connery is a high-profile supporter of the Scottish National Party and a staunch campaigner for an independent Scotland - so much so that in 1997, his knighthood was vetoed by the British government. But two years ago British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party had a change of heart, making Connery a knight. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott will preside over next week's ceremony on the West Terrace of the Capitol. Lott was chief sponsor of the 1998 National Tartan Day Resolution, which declared April 6 an annual day to celebrate American-Scottish contributions to the United States. Our Scottish-American sources expect Connery to be wearing his kilt while in Washington. He wore one for the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. Lott, who received the Wallace Award last year, also sported his kilt in fine tradition. Come to think of it, look for the naked kneecaps of Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), who was wearing a kilt during the Scottish Christmas Walk in Alexandria, Va., last year. BLAME GREENSPAN Politicians, like companies, know that a key component of Internet marketing is controlling multiple domain names, all of which point to a single candidate. "When people search for products and services on the Internet, or even in the Yellow Pages for that matter, they use generic terms or industry-specific key words or phrases, rather than a company or brand name," Mel Ebenstein, president of Internet-branding specialist Bright IDs, explains. For instance, type in "www.tissue.com" and you'll be connected to Procter & Gamble. Type in "www.peanutbutter.com" and you've reached Skippy. Politics is no different, although politicians and issues can change as frequently as the political winds. Under the current climate, ebenstein is offering these domain names for sale: BlameClinton.com BlameBush.com BlameGreenspan.com HillaryClinton2004.net PresidentBushSr.com STATE WAGES Compassionate conservatism is coming up for a test in the minimum-wage debate. Polls show nearly two-thirds of Americans believe state legislators - not Congress - should set the appropriate minimum wage for their individual states. Democrats, however, insist on a national standard, and a rise in the national minimum wage by $1.50 per hour. In fact, some of the same Democratic leaders who warned that states could not be trusted to reform welfare (they were wrong, it turns out) are opposed to trusting states on the wage issue. Still, support from President Bush could signal the first major change to the nation's 60-year-old minimum-wage law since the 1960s. "One of the things we have to make sure of is that the minimum wage doesn't price people out of a job," Bush said during his presidential campaign. "I would hope that they would consider giving states flexibility when it comes to the application of the minimum wage." Under such a plan, Congress would expressly grant states the authority to set minimum-wage rates within their borders that differ from the federal rate, so long as the current $5.15-an-hour minimum-wage floor is maintained. States would be empowered to set rates at any level above or below future federal rate increases. According to Labor Department data, there are nearly 200 U.S. counties with populations of at least 10,000 people experiencing annual unemployment rates that are more than twice the national average. "As the nation's economy slows down, those unemployment figures are certain to rise in those and other counties," David Thompson, of the Employment Policies Institute, tells this column.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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