Letter to America

John McCaslin
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Posted: Sep 01, 2005 12:00 AM

"I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to all our American friends and members who have been affected by the tragic events wrought by Hurricane Katrina," writes Benny Peiser, professor of science at Liverpool John Moores University in Britain. "Notwithstanding continuing rescue and support efforts, the calamity has triggered a rather opportunistic and cynical reaction by opponents of the current U.S. administration. In an eerie development . . . environmental campaigners, 'green' journalists and European officials are blaming (once again) the U.S. and its people for the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

"Instead of supporting the rescue efforts, demagogues are using the human tragedy in a futile attempt to score points (on the impact of so-called global warming). . . .

"Europeans in particular, who have been rescued and liberated from themselves by the U.S. no less than three times in the course of the 20th century, should feel ashamed for kicking a friend and ally when he is down.

"Let me (reassure) our American friends and colleagues that this pitiless mind-set of environmental activists is not representative for the vast majority of Europeans who are following the heartbreaking events with great concern and empathy. . . ."

(Editor's note: The Beltway Beat reached Peiser in Britain on Wednesday and obtained his permission to reprint this letter from CCNet, a scholarly e-mail network of about 2,000-plus subscribers where he serves as an editor.)

MARRED WEDDING

An unusual lawsuit was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Washington by a prominent Jewish political figure, Mark Siegel, and his family against Ridgewell's, a leading local caterer.

The lawsuit pertains to a wedding Siegel threw for his daughter on April 2 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. The lawsuit charges that in willful disregard of the agreed-to contract, Ridgewell's served shrimp, octopus and eel - "all of which are well-known to be non-kosher forbidden foods."

"As you can imagine, Ridgewell's action basically ruined the wedding for Siegel, his family, the groom's family and anyone else who was kosher and saw the food served," says one associate of Siegel, who notes that the wedding was officiated by Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg of Adas Israel of Washington.

Among those attending the wedding, we're told, were Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum, former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Sheldon Cohen and well-known Washington journalists Al Hunt, Judy Woodruff, Morton Kondracke and Eleanor Clift.

Siegel, who is credited with helping create the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, served in the Carter White House as liaison to the Jewish community. He is also past executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, fraud, battery and infliction of severe emotional distress. At the reception that evening, the lawsuit states Siegel's daughter, Rebecca, told Ridgewell's that it "had marred her wedding."

Ridgewell's president, Tom Keon, offered to deduct the charge for the sushi from the total catering cost, "but would make no other financial accommodation or apology," the papers state.

Keon, on the other hand, charged that Siegel was "vulgar" to his staff when he discovered that non-kosher food was being served.

IN BAD TASTE

Several weeks ago, Simone Rathle, who handles publicity for DC Coast, TenPenh and Ceiba restaurants in Washington, argued against calling a drink "the Hurricane" at the soon-to-open Acadiana restaurant at 901 New York Ave. NW.

Having grown up in New Orleans, she knew better.

"This gives me chills," she told The Beltway Beat on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Rathle and renowned chef Jeff Tunks went ahead with yesterday's sneak preview of the coastal Louisiana-style seafood house, serving members of the Washington press corps authentic Louisiana oyster po'boys, complete with New Orleans-baked Leidenheimer bread.

"These will be the last of the Louisiana oysters for a while," Tunks said, as he wrapped the steaming po'boys in pages of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (which has suspended publication owing to Hurricane Katrina). "Fortunately, we have a two- to three-month supply of the bread, which is essential for a genuine po'boy. You can't reproduce it."

POLITICS AND KATRINA

It was only a matter of time before President Bush was blamed for the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Waving its finger at the president is the American Progress Action Fund, a sister advocacy organization of the Center for American Progress, whose president and chief executive officer is John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Clinton, and its senior vice president Morton H. Halperin, former special assistant to Clinton.

In 2001, the organization recalls, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked a major hurricane strike on New Orleans as "among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country," directly behind a terrorist strike on New York City.

After initially criticizing Bush for "continuing his vacation" in the wake of the monster storm, the group issued a report titled, "How Not to Prepare for a Massive Hurricane, by President Bush."

Among other points, it charges that "two months ago, President Bush took an ax to budget funds that would have helped New Orleans prepare for such a disaster." It singled out the New Orleans branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, busy this week plugging ruptured levees, as "suffering" a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding this year, a 44 percent reduction from its 2001 levels.

MARTIN AND JOHN

Rekindling the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., blacks in America aren't being silent about the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court - albeit for this cause, the minority group's leaders are divided for a change.

Responding to attacks from left-wing blacks, the black leadership network Project 21 is defending its assertion that the beliefs of King are more in line with the record of Judge Roberts than with the agenda of those currently laying claim to the civil rights leader's legacy.

The debate began more than a week ago when Project 21 member Mychal Massie remarked: "John Roberts is the type of jurist who represents the beliefs of great Americans such as James Madison and Martin Luther King Jr."

At which point African-American Ministers In Action Chairman Tim McDonald charged that Massie sought to "pull the wool over the eyes" of the black community, while fellow member Roger Wilkins added: "John Roberts is no Martin Luther King Jr."

Massie says he does not apologize "nor shrink from my comments comparing the beliefs" of Judge Roberts and Mr. King.

"To suggest that I have in some way discredited Dr. King is simply the knee-jerk, apoplectic hysteria of those who find fault with anyone not espousing their leftist mantra of self-segregation and special rights," he says.

NOW THAT'S BIG

The person who penned the official White House pool report of President Bush's Air Force One flight to California this week was certainly impressed with the onboard breakfast: "Egg quiche and bacon, fresh fruit slices and the biggest cinnamon bun you ever saw, even bigger than the ones you can buy in the mall."

UFO SKEPTIC

"Just for kicks and giggles, why doesn't some enterprising journalist attempt to explain the simple fact that, in order for an intergalactic space traveler to arrive from a neighboring solar system, the closest of which is estimated to be 25 million light years away, it would take 25 million years traveling at the speed of light to reach us."

So writes J. Parker Chandler, one of several Beltway Beat readers to write about the upcoming National UFO Conference, whose master of ceremonies is former CNN news anchor Cheryll Jones.

"Even if light travel were possible, which would obviously require a complete transformation from solid matter to light, it would seem highly probable that steering one's course would be difficult at best, given that light bends and disperses when confronted by a solid mass such as an asteroid or planet. I imagine it would take one helluva brake system as well," he says.

"Even if Einstein's theory of relativity would prove true - that is, time stands still at light speed and thus, 25 million years wouldn't really pass - I'm still having a hard time buying into the possibility of a safe arrival. I just can't help but suspect the vehicle and its inhabitants wouldn't become broken into fragmented bits of prismatic dust.

"Maybe that's why alien creatures look so deformed and disfigured, eh?"