Hostages in Maui

John McCaslin
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Posted: Oct 02, 2003 12:00 AM

A U.S. congressman is intrigued to be invited to an upcoming "Homeland Security Training Seminar," billed as an "intense three-day experiential training seminar ... for avoiding and surviving hostage detention."

After all, it's taking place at the Ritz-Carlton in Maui.

Federal and state officials are offered a federal per diem rate for the seminar, speakers for which include Bruce Jessen, who until last year was the Pentagon's senior Survival Evasion, Resistance and Escape psychologist, and now is on contract to the U.S. government in the war against terrorism.

Participants also will hear from Jim Mitchell, who spent 13 years with elite U.S. counter-terrorist units and also is contracted to Uncle Sam to fight terrorism, and David Dose, who provides hostage training to the Department of Homeland Security, State Department and the U.S. Senate.

Topics for the seminar, orchestrated by R.S. Consulting (firm President Randy Spivey managed all hostage survival training for the Pentagon until last year), include skills for "coping with isolation in a hostage environment."

Spouses who wish to tag along are being offered complimentary seats at the seminar. Don't forget your sunglasses.

YOU SAID IT

Ironically enough, California's embattled Gov. Gray Davis was among the Democratic "thinkers" asked by former Clinton Cabinet member Andrew Cuomo to contribute to his now-published book, "Crossroads: The Future of American Politics" (Random House).

Little did Davis, who writes six pages, know that his own future would now be in doubt.

"Believe me, I count myself as extremely fortunate to have squeaked by with a five-point victory," he wrote of his 2002 race. " ... voters seemed to agree on two things: that it's a governor's responsibility to mind the store while the president is preoccupied with terror, and that their own governor was not doing a very good job of it."

BILLABLE HOURS

You'd think they'd have the decency to wait for a voting irregularity to actually occur, but the California Democratic Party is seeking $100,000 in donations to help reduce last-minute voter confusion and for post-election legal counsel.

The party is urging concerned Democrats across the country to contribute to the fund in the days remaining before Tuesday's recall vote.

"The October 7 special election presents all kinds of potential problems," party Chairman Art Torres says. "I wish I could be optimistic and assume there won't be problems. But I have to be realistic. It is going to happen."

GOOD FOR GANDER

Ten years ago, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voted "no" when Congress passed a security-oath provision requiring members of Congress and administration officials to sign a statement agreeing not to willfully disclose classified information on penalty of censure and expulsion.

Now, as leader of the minority party, Pelosi sees a political opportunity and is "changing her tune on the importance of classified information," says National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds of New York.

Pelosi is calling for an independent counsel - above and beyond Justice Department investigators - to determine who's responsible for revealing that the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson works for the CIA.

Actually, President Bush could save everybody's time - Justice lawyers and any independent counsel - by getting to the bottom of the disclosure himself.

DISEASEWORLD

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is said to be banking on fears surrounding bioterrorism - anthrax to smallpox - and other emerging diseases like the SARS virus to attract tourists to Atlanta and its $63 million visitors center and interactive "laboratory" set to open in 2005.

MAX A MILLION

On Thursday (Oct. 2), Peter Max unveiled his design for a new poster to raise $1 million for the proposed Pentagon Memorial, honoring those who lost their lives in the September 11 attack on the U.S. military's headquarters. The poster, underwritten by a $25,000 donation from AT&T, goes on sale in mid-November. Apart from the regular limited-edition posters, personalized autographed posters will be sold for $150, and poster overpaints for $8,000 each.

FIESTA KILLJOYS

Tex-Mex restaurants are the latest to be raided by food police from the Ralph Nader-inspired Center for Science in the Public Interest.

So says the Center for Consumer Freedom, which reveals the CSPI is set to issue yet another "predictable diatribe" against foods it thinks Americans shouldn't enjoy.

"After deep-sixing deep-dish pizza and melting all the fun out of ice cream," says Richard Berman, executive director of the CCF, "CSPI is now targeting fast-casual Mexican food."

You mean the bean-and-cheese burritos we gringos grew up on?

"Once again, the killjoys at CSPI have made lemons out of lemonade," he says. "This ridiculous tirade against Mexican dining is a classic reminder that while most of us derive pleasure from food, CSPI exists only to whine about it."

Berman says the ultimate goal of CSPI is to win additional taxes, advertising restrictions and outright bans on foods that most Americans like to eat, from milk and meat to tamales and tacos.

YOU SNEEZE, YOU DIE

We had opportunity to chat Tuesday (Sept. 30) with William "Sid" Taylor, Washington's foremost authority on the economy, national debt, fiscal obligations, financial commitments and unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government.

Now that the Democratic presidential candidates have given thought again to a national health care system, we called on Taylor, who hangs his well-worn hat at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.

So, Sid, can we trust Uncle Sam to empty our bedpans?

"My first experience with government health care happened back in 1941," recalls Taylor. "As an infantry private at Fort Benning, Ga., I had periodic attacks of hay fever. I often sneezed unexpectedly. This can be a deadly ailment for an infantry private in a recon platoon doing night patrol going through a field loaded with goldenrod and enemy snipers. One sneeze and you're dead.

"Anyhow, the regimental doctor for our 4th Division suggested that on my next trip north I stop at the famed Walter Reed Hospital in Washington and get some allergy shots. This I did. I reported to the Walter Reed Medical Center and after waiting about an hour or more an Army captain nurse came out and ordered me to follow her.

"She took me into a main operating room and told me to take my clothes off and get up on the operating table. All I had on was a sheet," he says. "I thought this was a peculiar process for a simple allergy shot, but I thought that she must know what she was doing. After all, she was a captain. That was a lot of rank in those days.

"As I lay on the operating table, she left the room temporarily and I happened to see on the table next to me a medical file with my name on it. So being curious, I opened the file and looked at it. Then I almost jumped out of my sheet. They had the wrong William Taylor. They had me accidentally scheduled for an appendectomy.

"Realizing the magnitude of this medical malfunction, I jumped completely off the operating table, put on my clothes and headed for the door. The nurse came running back in the room waving a finger at me and threatening court-martial for even looking at my medical file.

"I fled the scene," says Taylor. "The message: Don't have a common name like John Smith or Henry Jones if you go to a government medical center."