John McCaslin

A valued reader sends a note about photographs taken last week of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who were done in by the answers of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. and the tears of Martha Alito. Reader remarks on the uncanny resemblance of Sen. Dianne Feinstein to one of the sinners in Michelangelo's famous Sistine Chapel fresco "The Blessed and the Damned of the Last Judgment."

Writes Priscilla J. Felter, "I was struck by the group of photographs, and I instantly thought (of the Michelangelo fresco). It was the picture of Mrs. Feinstein that was particularly perfect - even to the bulging eyes of horror, consigned to the hell of irrelevance and impotence."

Hmmmm. Well, senators are wont to think of themselves as immortal, usually more blessed than damned. We report, you decide.


Washington book, film and theater critic Cynthia Grenier was browsing at Borders Books this week when her eyes caught sight of a new paperback "because of its very handsome Japanese print cover."

"I opened it and found myself looking at a quote of a review I had written," she says. "The book was 'The Apprentice' - its author one Lewis Libby, aka 'Scooter' Libby."

Grenier figures that with the national spotlight currently on Libby - Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, who was indicted in the CIA-leak probe - his publisher Thomas Dunne Books (an imprint of St. Martin's Press) decided the 2001 book merited a paperback edition.

Originally published by Graywolf in hardcover, "The Apprentice" is Libby's first novel. The story is set in provincial Japan of 1903.

Grenier's critical take on the book, when it was first released in 2001?

"I found it 'an extraordinarily visual book. Mr. Libby makes the reader experience every scene with an intense vividness ... lending a curiously dreamlike quality in which everything seems real, yet somehow magically strange, and one is never sure what may happen next. 'The Apprentice' proves to be a singular and satisfying novel," she tells us, quoting from her own previous review.


There's a controversy brewing in Washington that is just now beginning to percolate to the surface.

Grounds for concern are why the White House proudly features American-made wines at its official functions, but pointedly ignores serving American coffee (yes, Virginia, Americans produce coffee - Kona coffee, named after Hawaii's coffee belt along the Kona Coast, where one finds 150 coffee-producing farms.)

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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