Eight is enough

John McCaslin
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Posted: Mar 31, 2004 12:00 AM

During a recent question-and-answer session with reporters in Chicago, first lady Laura Bush was asked: "Mrs. Bush, as you enter into this next political campaign, perhaps your husband's last. ..."

"It will be his last. I can tell you that," interrupted Mrs. Bush, who we might point out was promised by husband George W. Bush on the couple's wedding day that she would never have to give a political speech.

LOWER THE FLAG?

Soon, more American flags could fly at half-staff for the ordinary Joe.

House Republican Conference Secretary John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), says the current Federal Flag Code is "archaic" because it doesn't allow local officials to authorize the flying of flags at half-staff if a municipality seeks to honor a deceased current or former city official.

As it now flies, only the president and governors can order flags flown at half-staff to commemorate local heroes or dignitaries.

"This is an arcane and needless hurdle that needs to be corrected," says Doolittle.

TAX INCREASE, ANYONE?

A billiard table with a price tag of $2,295. An aquarium valued at $2,929. Premium satellite and cable TV packages billed at $4,843 (including pornographic-movie hookups). Fish costumes and a hand-stitched salmon tent threaded for $16,250.

Just a few recent items bureaucrats purchased with taxpayer-funded credit cards, says Washington Waste Watchers, citing General Accounting Office probes.

FAIR DECK

As far as the founder of Newt's Playing Cards is concerned, there's enough mudslinging in politics without dealing partisan jacks, queens and kings.

"In a world of negative attitudes, we feel there is a market for positive politics," explains James Esteph. "It seems you can find plenty of political playing cards that are negative."

So, what Esteph's Ohio company has done is create a deck of cards with 52 positive reasons to re-elect President Bush "without ripping apart other candidates." And before Democrats cry joker, Esteph's company also has produced Democrat Playing Cards (www.newtscards.com), all intended to encourage people to vote in the 2004 election.

GONE BATTY

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has joined with U.S. government and wildlife conservation organizations to address a newly discovered problem: bats hitting wind turbines. (No wonder a concerned Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy doesn't want windmills dotting the serene seascape of Cape Cod.)

The AWEA says those in the wind power-generating business have discovered that a significant number of bats have had fatal encounters with wind turbines in West Virginia, Tennessee, Minnesota and Wyoming.

"Bats play an important role as primary predators of night-flying insects, including many major agricultural pests, and they pollinate plants and disperse seeds," the association notes.

So, the AWEA is working with a coalition of scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wildlife biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and conservationists from Bats Conservation International to research ways to prevent future bat "fly-ins" with the turbines.

DOUBLY OPPRESSED

A Massachusetts congressman is echoing a call from singer-songwriter Jackson Browne to allow Cuban artists' entry to appear and perform in America.

Recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Browne had pointed out in a recent New York Times op-ed that U.S. visas are being denied to Cuban artists because their visits are deemed "detrimental to the interests" of the United States.

"Carlos Varela, the great Cuban singer-songwriter, applied for a visa to come to the United States to sing his powerful, amazing songs. He had concerts planned in Miami, New York and Los Angeles. Our government turned him down," noted Browne, who accused the Bush administration of also preventing Ibrahim Ferrerista and Manuel Galban from attending the Grammy awards ceremony in Los Angeles last month, even though both men won awards.

The most prominent paradox, he said, is that many of Varela's songs have been interpreted as "critical" of the communist government led by Fidel Castro.

Democratic Rep. James P. McGovern agrees with Browne, saying the accomplishments of Cuban artists are one way for Americans to hear in song "a reflection of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the Cuban people - a cultural communication that is frustrated by a U.S. policy which aspires itself to suffocate all such contact and communication."

100 Days to Go