John McCaslin

Among hundreds of lobbying and public-interest groups that regularly deal with Congress is the American Land Rights Association, which provides this intriguing assessment of the 110th Congress:

"From where we sit, there are a few really good members of the House and Senate who are ready and willing to compete. However, the majority of Republicans appear to have their heads down and seem to be in shock over the results of the election one year ago. They have not adjusted to being in the minority in Congress."

Airdrops

Rep. Jeff Flake wished he would have had more time to hang his head low to read a "massive, 853-page" conference report before voting on it.

The Arizona Republican is critical of the Democratic leadership for giving congressmen only "one day to sift" through the monster labor-health & human services-veterans appropriations report.

"Many of us were critical of our own Republican leadership in years past for not waiting the required three days between filing a bill and voting on it, but this is worse than anything we pulled," Mr. Flake says.

Worse yet, the recent report contained 150 pages of earmarks, including $130,000 for a First Ladies Museum in Canton, Ohio. And then there were nine "airdropped" earmarks, including $1 million for the Thomas Daschle Center for Public Service and Representative Democracy, named for the former Democratic Senate majority leader from South Dakota who lost his bid for re-election in 2004.

326 open doors

Weaknesses in the operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency responsible for keeping dangerous people from entering 326 air, sea and land ports of entry, "increase the potential that terrorists and inadmissible travelers could enter the country."

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that while 200,000 aliens and other violators were turned away in 2006, the CBP itself estimates "several thousand" of the same ilk gained entry, partly because of failures to verify citizenship.

The GAO cites a lack of communication and control between CBP headquarters and its field offices.

None too creative

The grinch stole Christmas from the home-improvement chain Lowe's.

"In an effort to avoid the use of the term 'Christmas tree,' Lowe's is now calling them 'family trees,' " an alert from a pro-family group first revealed. "Lowe's evidently did not want to offend any non-Christians; therefore, they replaced 'Christmas tree' with 'family tree.' Of course, if Christians are offended, that is evidently OK."

Now, CNSNews.com is reporting that Lowe's has apologized: "That was a complete error," Lowe's spokeswoman Maureen Rich says. "Right now, we're extremely disappointed in this breakdown in our own creative process."

Tran Van Ba Way

This year's trio of recipients of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation's Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom join an elite group of past medal winners who have fought against tyranny, including Pope John Paul II, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and Elena Bonner.

The 2007 honorees, to be announced this evening at the Embassy of Hungary, are Janos Horvath of Hungary, the late Tran Van Ba of the former South Vietnam and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican. Hungarian Ambassador Ferenc Somogyi and Washington historian, author and Catholic University professor Lee Edwards, the foundation's chairman, will co-host the awards ceremony.

As a former senior speechwriter to President Reagan, Mr. Rohrabacher, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, played a pivotal role in the formulation of the anti-Soviet "Reagan Doctrine."

A senior member of the Hungarian parliament, Mr. Horvath fought in the Hungarian independence movement against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis during World War II, and challenged the communist-imposed dictatorship in Hungary in the late 1940s. He was a political leader in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and temporarily gained refuge in America.

Mr. Ba — whose father, Tran Van Van, was a respected member of the South Vietnamese parliament before being assassinated by the communists — was arrested in 1984 by the communist regime and executed on charges of treason. There is a street dedicated to him in Falls Church by the Washington-area Vietnamese community.


John McCaslin

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

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