Louder war drum

John McCaslin
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Posted: Oct 16, 2002 12:00 AM
In 1991, when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was labeled an evil dictator for invading neighbor Kuwait, 250 House Republicans and Democrats joined in support of a resolution granting then President Bush authority to attack Iraq. Last week, after the tireless persuasion of the current President Bush, it turns out a far greater number in Congress - 296 Republicans and Democrats - voted to support a similar resolution to attack Iraq. WOMEN LEADERS A record number of women governors could be in office after election next month, with 10 women having won their parties' nominations for governor, with one state - Hawaii - featuring a woman-versus-woman race to produce that state's first female chief executive. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, the number of women candidates this fall matches a previous record set in 1994. BUSH IS BACKWARDS President Bush has trouble getting people to listen to him because the Oval Office suffers from poor "feng shui," the ancient Chinese art of placement so that the environment is in harmony with nature. For starters, he needs to place an elephant next to his telephone - not a real one, but a figurine, preferably a green one, lying on its side so that it appears dead. Or so Sara Schroerlucke, an Internal Revenue Service official and a feng shui expert, informs the Federal Paper in a most intriguing interview. "The elephant who puts his ear to the ground hears for miles and miles," she explains to contributing writer A.B. Stoddard. So what other Oval Office redecorating should Bush undertake to improve his performance as president? "Unfortunately, for the nation's boss, and his predecessors, the president sits with his back to the window, robbing him of essential 'chi,' or energy, which diminishes support for administration policy," the story goes. Schroerlucke, who spent most of her 22-year federal career at the Pentagon before joining the IRS, recommends that Bush "reposition his desk with his back against the wall." Once properly seated, the president should then "surround himself with symbols of strength, compassion, motivation and wisdom." There are also "too many doors" in the Oval Office, she adds, providing multiple "escapes" for chi. As for Schroerlucke's credentials, she chairs the Washington chapter of the International Feng Shui Guild. Ironically, she used to work in the southwest portion of the Pentagon, which was rammed by terrorist hijackers on Sept. 11. Several of her friends were killed. For that reason, she hesitates to discuss the tragedy, but says many federal buildings have poor feng shui, particularly the Pentagon because of its five-sided design - five being the worst energy number and one representing misfortune. CELEBRITIES FOR HIRE Get a load of this upcoming conference sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America: "Hollywood and the Environment: Using Celebrity Spokespersons to Promote Your Cause." "Today's celebrities are getting involved in issues of the day - whether they are testifying before Congress, funding nonprofit initiatives, or appearing in ads," observes the PRSA's environmental section, sponsor of an Oct. 29 conference that will hear first-hand how Hollywood actors, directors, producers and writers are making a difference for myriad causes, environmental and otherwise, that they're passionate about. Speakers will include Ruben Aronin, executive director of the Earth Communications Office, a nonprofit group that "uses the power of Hollywood" to promote causes in more than 50 countries and 12 languages; actress Sharon Lawrence of ABC's "NYPD Blue," said to be "passionate" about the environment; actress Mimi Rogers of Fox's hit series "The X-Files," who made a public service announcement on "over consumption"; and actor Ed Begley Jr., who "walks the talk" on environmental issues. However, Hollywood's elite of late has taken to bashing President Bush on several fronts. Among them is actress Jessica Lange, who many say has crossed the line of decency. "I hate Bush," she spewed at a recent film festival in Spain. "I despise him and his entire administration." The actress added that she's "ashamed to come from the United States," where the atmosphere "is poisonous, intolerable for those of us who are not right-wing." She thanked the festival's organizers for "allowing me to get out" of the United States for at least a few days. Washington political observer Gary L. Jarmin, president of Jar-Mon Consultants, notes: "Every time we turn around it seems the 'Hollywood Democrats' are the first ones in line to bash President Bush for just about everything." TRY READING THIS The Department of Education is displaying a series of charts that one could argue undermines the federal agency's very raison d'etre. "Promoting its 'No Child Left Behind' agenda, the department's statistics page reveals some embarrassing truths about federal education spending," says Citizens Against Government Waste. One chart trumpets that from 1996 to 2003, federal education spending increased by 132 percent (compared with 48 percent during the same period for national defense). On the other hand, since 1996, 12th-grade science scores have declined. Worse, after $321 billion in federal education outlays since 1965, fourth-grade reading scores have remained flat - at 32 percent proficiency - for three decades. The Education Department was created in 1979. It has an annual budget of $55 billion. BARCELONA BAGGAGE Exactly 236 bureaucrats from the Department of Health and Human Services, at a whopping cost of $3.6 million, traveled to Barcelona in July to participate in a world AIDS conference. That "across the Atlantic" journey now has several dozen lawmakers, many members of the Republican Study Committee, up in arms. "The amount of financial support and the number of employees sent to attend to this single conference appears extremely excessive," says an Oct. 9 letter to HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. Saying the trip to Barcelona "begs scrutiny and oversight," the congressmen question whether the money might not have been better spent providing medicine to the hundreds of Americans with HIV who lack access to medical care. LACQUERED LOBSTER Yes, that's Signatures restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington where "The West Wing" cast member Mary-Louise Parker will be dining during tonight's (Oct. 16) episode. (If you envy the life of the actress, the episode was taped on Sept. 13 starting at 10 p.m. and ending at 4 a.m.) For the taping, restaurant executive chef Morou created several Signature dishes, like lobster and pearls and curry-crusted tuna, and while it would seem the 75 Washington television "extras" were able to enjoy a delicious dining experience, they unfortunately couldn't eat the food. The cuisine, you see, had to be coated with lacquer to hold up appearance for the six-hour taping. As for edible food, it so happens that on the same night the episode airs, Signatures will be hosting the United States Association of Former Members of Congress, who can eat all the lobster they want if it's paid for.