Out of the blue

Posted: Sep 11, 2002 12:00 AM
Sitting in the aisle seat of an airplane, Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) was surprised when a man seated two rows ahead of him passed back his business card. It indicated he was a company president. "I had never met the man, did not know him," says Dorgan. Turning the card over, the senator saw that the man had scribbled a note: "Dear Senator Dorgan - Good morning. I am president of a corporation. I work very hard and I am honest. I believe there are more like me than not." When he got back to his office, Dorgan wrote the man a letter, agreeing that American business is by and large run by honest stewards. But he conceded that the emergence of corporate scandals has tarnished "all" in American business. The senator promised the man that on behalf of "honest" business leaders like himself, he and other lawmakers would be "tough" with those who abuse their trust. "We have a responsibility to see to it that they do more than two years of hard tennis at a minimum-security institution somewhere," Dorgan said. OSAMA NUT CRUNCH "They want to kill you, they want to kill Jerry, they want to take your ice cream and cram it down your throat." -- Bill O'Reilly, of Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," trying to persuade a skeptical Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, why the United States should do everything in its power to eradicate suspected terrorists and their supporters. THE ECONOMY AGAIN The economy, not the threat of terrorism, will be the primary theme of Democratic congressional candidates in these final eight weeks before the 2002 fall elections. The Democratic National Committee will insist that the nation's political climate has undergone "substantial" changes this summer, banking on one poll showing that more than twice as many voters listed the economy, not homeland security, as their top issue. Of course, as with other issues, one can find polling to show the opposite to be true. LESS IS BETTER Homeland security is being debated in earnest on Capitol Hill, with Democrats and Republicans jockeying for their fair share of allotted time to assert themselves on the Senate and House floors. At one point during last week's debate, Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee asked that fellow Republican Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas "be given as much time" as he might consume. "Why don't I take up to 10 minutes?" Gramm replied. "Every time I have ever heard anybody say they will not use it, they talk more. But certainly everything I would want to say or should say or am competent to say I can say in 10 minutes." RENOUNCING CITIZENSHIP A newly introduced amendment is designed to attack a tax loophole that's allowed "scores" of U.S. corporations to move their headquarters - on paper only - to tax-haven countries to avoid paying their "fair share" of taxes. Several companies, we just learned on Capitol Hill, were awarded millions of dollars in federal contracts to provide homeland security. "These corporations have turned their back on their country in their country's hour of need," says Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who singled out: Ingersoll-Rand, founded in 1905 and headquartered in Woodcliff, N.J. Last December, three months after September 11, the company that produces everything from jackhammers and golf carts to security-control systems opened an office in Hamilton, Bermuda, to "avoid paying $40 million each year in U.S. taxes." Ironically, the corporation holds more than $40 million in government contracts, "virtually all of which are directly related to homeland defense or the military." -- Fruit of the Loom, headquartered for years in Bowling Green, Ky., moved "offshore" last year, taking with it "millions of dollars in contracts" from Uncle Sam. -- Cooper Industries, founded in 1833 in Mount Vernon, Ohio, makes tools and hardware needed to transmit natural gas. The company had revenues of $4 billion last year when it decided to move offshore. Reid said hundreds of other companies similarly "abandoned" America, including Accenture, APW, Carnival Corp., Enron, Everest Reinsurance, Foster Wheeler, Global Crossing, Gold Reserve, Halliburton, Harken Oil, Helen of Troy, and Leucadia Corp. MY THREE SONS Writing last week about the United States' looming war with the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, we observed that one Capitol Hill congressman moonlights. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C) is a colonel in the Army National Guard, assigned to the 218th Mechanized Infantry Brigade. "Most other members didn't know he was still active, so he got a lot of ribbing for it on the House floor," Wilson's communications director, Wesley M. Denton, now writes to us. "He still trains every month, and actually has his physical fitness tests this weekend. He's been running around the Capitol every night this week to get ready." One might say the military runs in the congressman's family. Wilson's oldest son, Alan, is a first lieutenant in the Army National Guard. His second son, Add (cq), is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and is now an ensign attending Uniform Services Medical School. And his third son, Julian, is a cadet of the Army ROTC at Clemson University. UNDERSTANDING ISLAM The first national initiative of its kind to counter anti-Muslim bigotry and educate the American public about Islam began in Washington on Monday (Sept. 9). The Council on American-Islamic Relations tells us its yearlong campaign will distribute books, videos and audiocassettes about Islam and Muslims to some 16,000 public libraries nationwide. Other library materials include copies of the Koran, children's books on Ramadan and books describing the experiences of African-Muslim slaves brought to America. To mark this week's September 11 anniversary, the Islamic council is sponsoring an interfaith candlelight vigil featuring a children's choir and poetry readings at the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool. DIFFERENT DAUGHTERS Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz's photograph is featured on the cover of State magazine, the in-house publication for State Department staff and retirees. Not pictured, thankfully, is the former secretary's unique tattoo, a subject of much gossip when Shultz was chief globetrotting statesman under President Reagan. There is a long and honorable tradition of tattoos in America, and the State Department is no exception. However, diplomats are traditionally discreet - no one more so than Secretary Shultz. His spokeswoman at the time, Phyllis Oakley, declined comment on her boss' body art, purportedly a Princeton University tiger tattooed upon which Shultz sits. In fact, when asked whether there was a tiger adorning the left buttock of Shultz, Oakley is credited with one of the most memorable lines ever uttered by a government flack: "I am not in a position to know," she replied, her comment making front-page news from Washington to Wenzhou. Still, Shultz had enough discretion to keep his tiger under wraps. Today, it's a far different world. Pictured standing next to Shultz during a recent ceremony renaming the home of the Foreign Service Institute the "George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center" are Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright. Also pictured is a new State Department foreign service officer, an otherwise attractive woman who looks to be in her late 20s or early 30s. Wrapped entirely around the woman's right arm, as clearly seen in the photograph, is a large blue tattoo. "It was impressive and inspiring to see so many former secretaries of State together," the woman is quoted as saying. "They care so much about the Foreign Service, and that means a great deal to us."