Beltway Beat: Baby Osamas

Posted: Jun 12, 2002 12:00 AM
In his new Wyndham Hall Press book, "Osama Bin Laden: A Psychological and Political Portrait," author Anthony J. Dennis calls bin Laden "the model of the new, twenty-first century political figure." "He holds no public office. He communicates his decrees over the Internet. He instructs his followers by cell or satellite phone. And he lives in a small room in an underground bunker. And yet he commands more influence and exerts more military muscle than some governments," the author says. And as with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, he points out, people today in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other traditional Muslim countries now name their newborn children "Osama" after him. "Bin Laden wants Muslims to perceive him as a modern-day Saladin the Great, who led the Muslims to victory over the Christian Crusaders during the Middle Ages," says Dennis, author of the 1996 book "The Rise of the Islamic Empire and the Threat to the West." "However, this dream of Muslim greatness founded upon the myth of military superiority is a fatal delusion in the nuclear age," he adds. "The Muslim world will only be great when it finally decides to put down the sword, not when it takes it up." Still, the nuclear age can cut two ways, the author is quick to warn. "We cannot assume that any aspect of American or Western society is safe from annihilation as long as the transnational Muslim fundamentalist movement still rages somewhere on the globe," he says. "Washington, D.C., and other large Western cities are obviously attractive targets for terrorists and will continue to be so until terrorism is expunged from the story of human progress and development." NO GUARANTEES You've already read where President Bush has appointed the equivalent of a "marriage czar" to strengthen relationships between husband and wife. Now, the Southern Baptist Convention, the second-largest religious body in the United States, is endorsing the advancement of a Federal Marriage Amendment through Congress. The convention says tying the knot is "the foundation of our society," and "the benefits of marriage between one man and one woman (are) enormous, both for the individuals involved and the children that result from the union." Still, the Census Bureau reports that nearly half of all first marriages today end in divorce. LET IT RING Poll after poll shows telemarketers, after politicians and tax collectors, are the people Americans love to hate. And no wonder. Everybody has a tale to tell about getting up from the dinner table to answer an unsolicited telephone call. So the Federal Trade Commission late last week went to the trouble and expense of reserving a 1,000-seat ballroom in a Washington hotel to hold three days of public hearings over proposed changes to the Teleservices Sales Rule. Surprisingly, few people showed up. While there was no official count on the first day, observers said there were fewer than 200 people in the room, and FTC officials outnumbered the general public (as opposed to industry representatives and so-called consumer advocates) by at least 10 to 1. Indeed, during the public comment session the first day, only three unaffiliated individuals stood up to speak. The issue that the FTC thought would garner so much public interest is the commission's proposal to create a national "Do-Not-Call Registry." In theory, the registry would allow John Q. Public to reduce the number of unwanted telemarketing calls he receives. Telemarketers - even those whom the public might enjoy hearing from - who dial a number on the do-not-call registry would be subject to a fine of $11,000 per call. Additionally, telemarketers would be required to purchase the list from the FTC. Opponents of the registry argue it could put the brakes on the $660 billion telemarketing industry and perhaps derail charitable organizations that rely on phone calls to raise money. Among the topics discussed at the hearings: whether to allow consumers to "opt in" to calls from specific telemarketers; whether to allow businesses to register their phone numbers on the national registry; whether do-not-call provisions should apply to for-profit telemarketers acting on behalf of charities; and whether the rule should exempt religious and political organizations. LOCATION IS EVERYTHING Pity the owner of the ExxonMobil service station in the heart of Capitol Hill who watched helplessly as the entire debate over free markets, capitalism, the environment and proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge pulled up to his pumps. Activists from the American Land Rights Association, Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union and FreeRepublic arrived in American-made, gas-guzzling, U.S.-flag-draped sport utility vehicles to fuel up on the highest octane that Exxon had to offer. Counterprotesters arrived from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Greenpeace but were hardly any match for the former crowd, which included two activists costumed as the Exxon Tiger and Saddam Hussein. The odd-looking pair climbed out of one SUV and began chanting, "We Love SUVs" and "Nader needs a job." The Saddam impersonator carried with him a sign reading, "I hate America and I love Greenpeace," as protesters - or was it the counterprotesters? - enthusiastically cheered. DRAWING ON WAR Older readers may recall the name Arthur Szyk, one of this country's most influential World War II artists who, through his cartoons and caricatures, advocated the defeat of Nazi Germany and its allies while calling attention to the mass murder of European Jews. In an age of few photographs and no 24-hour news channels, Szyk's illustrations filled the pages of the nation's leading newspapers and magazines, including Time, Collier's, Esquire, the New York Post and the Chicago Sun. At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington next Wednesday, June 19, a panel of experts will seek to determine what impact Szyk's editorial cartoons had on American public opinion in those days and what role they played in creating awareness of the persecution of Jews. Suffice it to say that editorial cartoons, like pictures, speak a thousand words. PORKY PAIRS Not since the 1991 dastardly duo of Hawaiian Democratic Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka have two senators from one state scored zero in the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste's Congressional Ratings. The Hawaiians' 10-year reign comes to an end as Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota earn goose eggs in CAGW's 2001 congressional ratings. "For the first session of the 107th Congress, the terrible twosome voted against eliminating the marriage penalty, creating a Social Security lockbox and eliminating sugar subsidies. The pair could not even stomach eliminating $2 million for Birmingham, Alabama's Vulcan Statue monument," observes the nonpartisan CAGW. "In addition, the porky pair managed to give themselves a raise by voting against (Wisconsin Democratic) Sen. Russ Feingold's motion to eliminate the fiscal 2002 congressional cost-of-living adjustment." According to the Tax Foundation, in fiscal 2000, for every dollar North Dakotans poured into the federal treasury, they received $1.86 back. Only New Mexicans received a better return. In contrast, Connecticut received 62 cents for every dollar paid in taxes.