The following memo, distributed this week by the Energy Department's acting assistant secretary for environmental management (EM) to fellow department officials, is titled "Tell Me What You Think of This Idea":
"Ladders are accidents waiting to happen. It's only a matter of time before we see another ladder accident. In order to make EM an accident-free work environment, I am considering banning ladders from EM. Here is my rationale:
- In just the last year, 10 people have fallen off ladders.
- A 3- to 4-foot fall can be fatal.
- There is no way to adequately control ladders, even after you lock them up, people still find a way to get to them.
- There are other more safer ways to elevate people (lifts, scaffolding, etc.), even if it takes a little more time.
- We need to get out in front of this issue; I will not accept another 10 falls.
"This is my proposal:
- Issue a EM policy that bans ladders from all EM sites, effective Dec. 1, 2004. This will give sites three months to plan and prepare to change their mode of operation.
- During this time, sites will be required to develop a ladder-control policy that requires some sort of senior management control over use of all ladders until they are no longer in use.
- Sites will be required to make a declaration that they are ladder-free.
- We would use the month of December to conduct a site walk through to verify this.
- Effective Jan. 1, 2005, EM will be declared a ladder-free work environment."
POLITICS AND 9/11
It's August, the dog days of summer, Congress is in its customary recess, so why are so many senators and congressmen convening on Capitol Hill?
It so happens that more than 80 congressional committees and subcommittees have convened to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and its aftermath - each of the panels discussing what measures should be taken to prevent further such atrocities.
Some, however, are quick to criticize the number of hearings on Capitol Hill, charging that too many cooks are in the kitchen. How can one fight a war on terrorism, they ask, when all the generals are busy testifying before Congress?
A former congressman provided an honest answer this week during testimony before a House homeland security hearing. Former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, Indiana Democrat, is now the vice chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, and he conceded to lawmakers:
"I will be quick to admit that it's a lot easier to say this from outside the body than it is from inside the body: But I think you are at a crunch point, and I think you are exactly right when you say that if another incident were to happen - and the Congress had done nothing to put its own house in order - I think the institution, and maybe some of you individually, would be criticized for not acting.
"In other words, I think there is a political risk here."
W MAKES 42
Burke's Peerage has just completed its research on Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry and found that he is definitely more "royal by blood" than any former U.S. president, including George Washington, who was related to 12 of the 25 British dukes and the late Queen Mother.
Kerry, it turns out, is related to all the royal houses of Europe. Although his father's family was originally Jewish, Roger Powell, the leading British genealogist, is on record as saying, "Senator Kerry's Jewish roots appear to have become almost extinguished in favor of his WASP ancestry."
(As we wrote previously, Mr. Kerry's grandfather, whose original name was Kohn and came from the former Czechoslovakia, gave up Judaism in favor of Roman Catholicism about 100 years ago.)
Finally, the researchers point out that although George W. Bush refers to himself as the 43rd president and to his father as the 41st president, "this is not correct. It is true that George W. Bush's is the 43rd presidency, but he is actually the 42nd person to have been president.
"This is because President Grover Cleveland uniquely served two nonconsecutive terms as president. Thus, there have been 43 presidencies but only 42 presidents."
"My mother was my Girl Scout leader, and George's mother was his Cub Scout leader. In fact, that's when some say her hair turned white."
- First lady Laura Bush, addressing a group of women this week
BUBBLES AND SMOKE
Let's head out West, to the Colorado Rockies, where the air is fresh and the water is pure, to where Democratic state Attorney General Ken Salazar and Republican brewmaster Pete Coors are battling it out for a U.S. Senate seat.
Albeit Coors, who recently outlasted former Rep. Bob Schaffer in the Republican primary, has - like much of the country - grown a bit weary of the ceaseless campaigning required by a candidate to serve on Capitol Hill.
Immediately after the primary, Coors embarked with Schaffer on a "unity" bus tour, at which time he acknowledged: "I'd rather be in a bathtub smoking cigars this morning."
Democrats, of course, were quick to draw the water and light the match.
"Pete, after November, you'll have all the time in the world to bathe and smoke cigars, my friend. All the time in the world," says Anne Lewis of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Salazar, she boasts, has been a strong advocate for rural residents on land, water and agricultural issues, not to mention a respected attorney general with significant support from the law-enforcement community.
"Pete Coors, on the other hand, still remains a mystery politically," she says. "The most significant thing he said in the primary was that he wants to reduce the drinking age from 21 to 18 . . . which would allow Coors Inc. to sell more beer."
Truth be told, Coors has taken strong stands on several fronts: opposing abortion and homosexual "marriage," desiring to create a cleaner environment and building a stronger national defense, the latter his most pressing position.
"You can count me as a vote to back our troops every time, to support them in word and deed," he says. "The number one job of our federal government as outlined in the Constitution is protecting our homeland and keeping us safe from enemies. Today, our nation confronts enemies like we have never seen."
As for being a mystery candidate, Coors offers: "In a Senate dominated by lawyers and professional politicians, I believe there is room for at least one new senator with real world experiences, bringing . . . new leadership to a Congress too often dominated by stale ideas and political gridlock."
The incivility of political discourse in American politics has reached unprecedented heights - or depths, according to the Global Language Monitor's August PQ (political-sensitivity quotient) Index.
Among the most repeated political words and phrases in the media this month: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's "girlie men" comment, Vice President Dick Cheney cursing on the Senate floor, President Bush and Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry being characterized as "liars," and Teresa Heinz Kerry's rude directive to a reporter.
The New York Times' categorization, in an editorial, of Bush's verbal gaffe during a recent bill-signing ceremony as a "Freudian slip" follows close behind. Stated the president: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
"Not since the Civil War era, when President Lincoln was frequently depicted by adversaries as a gangly, gaping baboon, has the discourse sunken to such a profane level," says Monitor President Paul J.J. Payack.
"Such is the decline in political discourse that future historians might actually wonder if the battle being fought was between the 'blue states' and the 'red states' rather than between the forces of terrorism and the West."
As the United States wages its war on terrorism, Uncle Sam has started a worldwide public-relations campaign touting America and its positive values - directed at Muslims.
U.S. embassies are distributing State Department-produced books, brochures, press kits and even posters in local languages to foreign audiences, combining eye-catching designs and text on everything from popular sports, such as basketball, to contemporary American literature and "Muslim Life in America."
The latter, portraying the freedom and opportunity enjoyed by Muslim Americans, has 350,000 copies in print in 20 languages. In Tanzania, for example, the National Muslim Council agreed to distribute 25,000 copies to Islamic schools, while more than 4,000 schools and mosques in Thailand have received copies.