Beltway Beat: D.C. Comfort

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 17, 2002 12:00 AM
Many Washingtonians have put on a few pounds since Sept. 11. "A study of recent dining habits, particularly since September 11, shows that diners are ordering items traditionally considered 'comfort foods,' such as macaroni and cheese, a hamburger and fries, and a milkshake," reveals DC Coast and TenPenh restaurants' Simone Rathle, who hails from New Orleans. And because few of these "comfort foods" are listed on the menus of these two upscale Washington restaurants, Rathle has decided to bring one of her comforting childhood memories - a soda jerk - to the nation's capital. "Every child growing up in New Orleans knows the words 'nectar cream soda.' It is a quintessential summer drink and as refreshing as a gallon of water," she says. A staple of old-time soda fountains, she tells us that a genuine nectar cream soda is blended with red Nectar soda syrup and choices of club soda or seltzer with ice and cream, or better yet with ice cream. And don't forget the chocolate-covered cherry. PAPERWORK Up late Monday doing your income taxes? Join the crowd. The Office of Management and Budget reveals that Americans spent 1.5 billion more hours this past year complying with federal paperwork requirements than they did a decade ago. The average American household now dedicates 24 hours per year to federal paperwork. "The American people are spending more time than ever before dealing with federal red tape," Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator John D. Graham tells us. Roughly 80 percent of the overall burden is attributable to the 17,000-page federal tax code. Much of the remaining 20 percent of paper is shuffled to Americans by the Health and Human Services and Labor department and the Environmental Protection Agency. DRAFTING FODDER A former aide to President Reagan says while certain observers of the war on terrorism have called for instituting military conscription, a draft is unnecessary and would degrade the performance of the military. "Because the United States already has the most powerful and effective military on earth, it has no need for conscripts," says Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute. "In a war against terrorism, the United States needs highly trained, mobile forces. Masses of cannon fodder are of dubious value even in a typical conventional war today, given the killing potential of well-trained soldiers using the latest technology." A special assistant to President Reagan who worked on the Military Manpower Task Force, Bandow explains that a volunteer force is more disciplined and effective. "Think about it: Is a military healthier if it relies on those who desire to serve and succeed, or if it is forced to include those who desire to escape at any price?" he asks. KENTUCKY SAILORS We recently obtained a copy of resolution BR-2906, introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly by lawmaker Tom Burch, a Democrat, to establish a "Kentucky Navy" and "encourage the purchase of a submarine." And not to fight the war on terrorism. The resolution orders the submarine to "patrol the waters of the commonwealth and search and destroy all casino riverboats." It specifically calls for the formation of a Kentucky Navy and the purchase and armament of one "particularly effective submarine," to be named the USS Louisville 688 VLS Class submarine, to patrol the Ohio River and engage and destroy any casino riverboats that may be encountered. The resolution observes that over the past few years "the scourge" of the casino riverboat has been increasingly significant and "the siren song of payola issuing from the discordant calliopes of these gambling vessels has led thousands of Kentucky citizens to vast disappointment and woe." GOLD STANDARD In recognition of their outstanding service to the nation, President Reagan and former first lady Nancy Reagan will receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Mrs. Reagan will accept the honor May 16 before a distinguished Washington audience of Republicans and Democrats alike who will assemble fittingly enough for a dinner salute at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. "It is quite a tribute," says Frederick J. Ryan Jr., chairman of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation. "We are seeing a tremendous outpouring of affection and respect for President and Mrs. Reagan from the Washington community." Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. The first recipient was George Washington on March 25, 1776. Past recipients include Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, Robert F. Kennedy and Mother Teresa. Congress is bestowing the highest honor on the Reagans for having dedicated their lives to promoting national pride and bettering the quality of life throughout the world. Specifically, Congress cited President Reagan's leadership in bringing about an end to the Cold War. Mrs. Reagan's work in preventing alcohol and drug abuse was also recognized. We're told cellist Mstislav Rostropovich has rescheduled his international concert tour in order to provide the evening's entertainment. Hugh Sidey, who began penning his Time magazine column "The Presidency" in 1966 and covered the Reagan White House in-depth, will emcee. BON VOYAGE We had to laugh when Florida State Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas on Saturday offered a one-way Greyhound bus ticket from New York City to Montreal for actor and Democratic activist Alec Baldwin. The ticket is actually in Baldwin's name and was purchased by the state GOP for $70. Baldwin, who had promised to leave the country if George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, was the keynote speaker of the Florida Democratic Party convention on Saturday night. HOMETOWN WHODUNIT Robert Andrews - former Army Green Beret, CIA officer, congressional aide and corporate executive - is bolstering his status as one of the country's top mystery novelist. Putnam last month published his second whodunit, "A Murder of Promise," which follows his successful "A Murder of Honor." Both thrillers take place on the mean streets of Washington and feature decidedly politically incorrect detectives Frank Kearney and Jose Phelps. Andrews again shows his knowledge of Washington's landmarks, restaurants, bars, alleys and politically infused society. In fact, in "A Murder of Promise," the two detectives are chasing a serial killer who has murdered a legendary reporter. To find out who the reporter is, and who did him or her in, you'll have to buy the book.