Washington, D.C. trial lawyer Jack Olender has issued his annual Top Ten Legal Predictions for 2004, which include his thoughts on dealing with prisoner Saddam Hussein, peace and stability in the world, and the outcome of the 2004 presidential election ("impossible to predict," he says).
Our favorite prediction is his last: "Celebrities will continue to ruin their lives by exposing themselves to criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits for apparent erratic, sensational or illegal behavior. Some of them need 24-7 legal advisors to monitor every activity. But they never learn. There will be plenty of legal business cleaning up the mess."
Just when he thinks he's heard the most outrageous Democratic conspiracy theory, Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay finds himself agog again.
"The Democrats' hateful, moronic comments are beyond the pale - and the Democrats know it - but they don't care, because they have nothing to offer the public debate but rage, resentment and quackery," reacts the Texas Republican, responding this time to Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean's suspicion that President Bush was warned ahead of time about Sept. 11.
"Reading this stuff," he says, "one wonders if the 2004 Democrat Party platform is tentatively titled, 'Dean Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'"
Among other conspiracies about which DeLay has expressed outrage:
- Sen. Ted Kennedy(D-Mass.) on Operation Iraqi Freedom: "This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. The whole thing was a fraud."
- Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) on Saddam Hussein's capture: "There's too much by happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing. I don't know that it was definitely planned on this weekend, but I know they've been in contact with people all along who knew basically where he was."
- Rep. Robert T. Matsui (D-Calif.) on U.S. troops sent to Iraq: "The war was to an extent to take attention from the economy."
NEVER TOO LATE
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is celebrating the capture of Saddam Hussein this week by inserting into the Congressional Record two previously published newspaper op-ed columns from The Washington Post that "received far too little attention."
The first opinion piece was penned by Richard Haass, formerly director of policy planning at the State Department who, as Frank reads it, believes the Iraqi war was motivated not by a fear of weapons of mass destruction or of the need to combat terrorism, but rather as a conscious policy choice in service of the Bush administration's view of the world.
"While I was disappointed that more attention had not been paid to this, I was not surprised to see ... a very thoughtful article by Lawrence J. Korb underlining exactly how significant Mr. Haass's article was," Frank continues.
Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan, wrote that he agreed with Haass that the ongoing war is directly contrary to earlier rationale given by President Bush and his top officials.
As for his questionable timing of inserting the pair of articles, Frank states: "The adage better late than never is relevant."
BUSH THE BULLY
These days, President Bush is blamed for just about everything - including a popular video game that stereotypes Haitians and Cubans.
"This despicable video game portrays Haitians as ugly criminals and lower forms of human life who must be obliterated once and for all," Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-Fla.) says of the Rockstar Inc. video game "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City."
"What makes this matter even more offensive is that by its immigration policies and pronouncements, the Bush administration fosters a view of Haitian asylum seekers as potential terrorists rather than bona fide refugees," the Democrat adds.
This columnist doesn't play video games, but according to the congressman, to win the game the player - an ex-convict - is hired to recover stolen drug money on the streets of Miami and in his pursuit faces police officers and gangsters from Cuba and Haiti. Armed with a machete, knife, gun and baseball bat, the game urges players to "kill the Haitians" and "kill the Cubans."
We picked a unique day Tuesday to view more than 230 daily newspaper front pages from more than 30 countries that are displayed over the Newseum's award-winning Web site: www.newseum.org.
"This exhibit supports the Newseum's mission of helping the public better understand the press by allowing people to see how different newspapers cover the same story," says Peter S. Prichard, president of the Washington, D.C. musuem. "If you take the time to really look at these front pages, you'll begin to comprehend the wide variety of editorial decisions that are made every day."
Except that Tuesday a clear majority of newspaper editors around the world appeared to be in agreement with President Bush's assessment of the captured Saddam Hussein, or so we gather from their identical headlines: "Good Riddance."
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"But most of all, I will truly miss the other half of the Kosher-Cajun Caucus and I hope someday to join him for bagels on the bayou." - Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) reacting to news that Sen. John B. Breaux (D-La.) will retire at the end of this congressional session.
Truth has a biological advantage, observes conservative black commentator Armstrong Williams.
"It doesn't need the artifice of man to survive," he says. "It lives and breathes freely on its own."
The well-known Washington pundit is referring to 78-year-old Essie Mae Washington-Williams, who confirmed this week one of the oldest rumors of Southern political folklore: She is the mixed-race daughter of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).
As we've all read, Williams' mother worked as a maid in the Thurmond family home - although Thurmond's family and his staff, until now, had denied it.
"Through my long working relationship with the senator, I know otherwise," Armstrong Williams writes. "There was a conversation that occurred at a 1996 Washington Urban League ceremony honoring myself and Sen. Strom Thurmond for the growing bonds between black and white Americans. Back stage, Sen. Thurmond leaned over and said, 'You know, I have deep roots in the black community ... deep roots.'
"His voice softened into a raspy whisper, 'You've heard the rumors.'
"'Are they just rumors, Senator?' I asked.
"'I've had a fulfilling life,' cackled Thurmond, winking salaciously."
Williams says the subject came up again while he and the senator were attending a South Carolina State football game in Orangeburg.
"He mentioned how he had arranged for Williams to attend S.C. State College while he was governor. 'When a man brings a child into the world, he should take care of that child,' said Thurmond, who then added: 'She'll never say anything and neither will you ... not while I'm alive.'"
Should Americans pay tribute to Johnny Appleseed?
Not if a lone congressman has his way.
Continuing his call for senators to reject the omnibus appropriations bill for 2004 and force congressional appropriators to cut thousands of pork-barrel projects, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) draws attention to this week's $450,000 earmark for the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center in Ashland County, Ohio.
Johnny Appleseed, born John Chapman in 1774, was by some definitions the equivalent of a modern-day drifter. He traversed the backcountry, often in his barefeet, clearing land and planting apple seeds - millions of apple seeds.
Flake, for one, doesn't believe an odd fellow like Appleseed should be revered, particularly at taxpayers' expense.
"If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then congressional appropriators won't need a check-up for quite a while," Flake notes.