John McCaslin
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OILING SADDAM As the price of gasoline continues to climb, Sen. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alas.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, points to a "curious inconsistency" in this country's foreign policy toward Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein. "We are currently importing about 700,000 barrels (of oil) a day from Iraq," Murkowski notes, adding that it wasn't too distant in the past that the United States was engaged in a war with Iraq, during which 147 American lives were lost. "Yet today we enforce a no-fly zone over Iraq . . . putting American men and women in danger . . . so we can continue to get oil from one person who is an enemy," says the chairman. "I can simplify it. It seems as if we take his oil and put it in our airplanes and then fly missions over Iraq. He takes the money that he gets from us and develops a missile capability after paying his Republican Guards to keep him alive and aims his missiles at our ally, Israel. "What kind of foreign policy is that?" PROTECTING ITSELF The Environmental Protection Agency is having a tough time policing its own researchers. The EPA provides millions of dollars annually in grants for recipients to conduct research, demonstrate pollution-control techniques and perform other functions, yet "some grantees have spent all of their grant funds but completed only a portion of the work required under the grant agreement," the General Accounting Office has determined. In addition, says a new GAO study delivered to Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican and chairman of the Small Business Committee, "some grantees, particularly nonprofit organizations with inexperienced staff, may not have adequate controls in place to ensure that funds are spent as intended or allowed." The problems, the GAO says, include "spending funds for unallowable activities, such as lobbying." EPA grants to nonprofit entities alone have increased to about $250 million annually. While the EPA last summer established agencywide targets for performing on-site and off-site reviews of grant recipients, such oversight methods are "not likely to identify unallowable costs involving nonprofit grantees." HATCH ACT We had to laugh when an event organizer for the Federal Judges Association this week asked its guest speaker, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee: "Should we let everyone enjoy themselves a little longer, or would you like to begin your speech now?" HILL ACTRESS "Take a state. Well, take Texas, for example." -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, pretending at a news conference Tuesday to pull President Bush's home state of Texas out of the blue as one state that passed large tax cuts and is now faced with smaller than projected surpluses. I LEFT MY HEART... More than one Republican operative infiltrated House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt's $1.1 million fund-raiser at Washington's Warner Theater this week, and for good reason. It's not every day that Republicans, let alone Democrats, get to listen to legendary crooner Tony Bennett, Gephardt's featured entertainment, for free. "It was great to see Tony Bennett," one House Republican staffer acknowledged, "but it was even better to drink a Heineken on Dick Gephardt's tab." Trying to mix in with the staunch Democratic crowd were a top Republican House leadership aide, a leading Republican press secretary and several Republican advisers, including a former official with the National Republican Congressional Committee, and former aides to conservative Sen. Jesse Helms and his recently defeated North Carolina colleague, former Sen. Lauch Faircloth. The Republican staffer says when he asked the other Republicans he bumped into why they were attending the enemy's fund-raiser, he heard the identical refrain: "I was going to ask you the same thing." MILITARY LOSS "What is the Republican leadership going to do, take the military construction subcommittee away from me?" -- Rep. David L. Hobson, on agreeing to be the master of ceremonies at last night's second annual Republican Main Street Partnership dinner honoring the late Sen. John Chafee and other liberal Republicans. TRAVELING SHOW In the no-longer-being-a-congresswoman-means-losing-your-perks category, we watched this week as former Democratic Rep. Patricia Schroeder carried her own lectern across a parking lot and into the U.S. Capitol. Rather than retiring to her home state of Colorado, the outspoken Schroeder remains in Washington as president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers. THOUGHT CONTROL We'd written this week that Environmental Protection Agency employees were encouraged to attend one of four diversity-training sessions scheduled at EPA this month, presented by Nichols and Associates. Since then, we've been handed an article by Alan Charles Kors from the March 2000 issue of Reason magazine, titled "Thought Control 101." Here's an excerpt: "The desire to 'train' individuals on issues of race and diversity has spawned a new industry of moral re-education." One of the most celebrated facilitators at the moment is Edwin J. Nichols, of Nichols and Associates in Washington, D.C. "Nichols first came to the attention of critics of intrusive political correctness in 1990, when he led an infamous 'racial sensitivity' session at the University College of the University of Cincinnati. According to witnesses, his exercise culminated in the humiliation of a blond, blue-eyed, young female professor, whom he ridiculed as a 'perfect' member of 'the privileged white elite' who not only would win 'a beauty contest' but even 'wore her string of pearls.' The woman, according to these accounts, sat and sobbed. These contemporaneous revelations did not harm Nichols' career. "The Bureau of Labor Statistics at the Department of Labor paid him $15,000 for diversity training; the Environmental Protection Agency got him cheaply at $12,000. Business is booming. Nichols has brought awareness to the employees of six Cabinet departments, three branches of the armed services, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and the FBI; the Goddard Space Center, the Naval Air Warfare Center, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and NASA; the Office of Personnel Management, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Social Security Administration." COUNTING PAGES The House Wednesday finally approved the near $2 trillion spending package favored by President Bush, after an earlier vote was postponed by embarrassed Republican leaders, who misplaced two pages of the plan. Not widely reported during the early morning (2 a.m.) confusion as aides scrambled to find the two missing pages was this televised reassurance to parents by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.): "Was it the other body that lost the two pages that resulted in our not being here or who lost the pages? I do not mean the human pages, I mean the paper pages. I want to assure all parents that all pages are present and accounted for."
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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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