Light the grill

Posted: Dec 30, 2003 12:00 AM

Timely "cow facts," presented as a public courtesy to the woman who asked a waitress at a Boxing Day party Friday if the hors d'oeuvres she was serving contained cow meat:

- Central nervous system tissue from the Washington-state dairy cow that tested positive for mad cow disease never entered the human food chain. It was for nonhuman food uses.

- The mad cow disease agent is not found in muscle meat that humans consume, such as steaks, roasts or ground beef.

- Central nervous system tissues, such as the spinal cord and brain, are carriers for the disease - again, not New York strips or T-bones.

- The Food and Drug Administration says it has "under control" all rendered product from the Washington cow.


We thought Christmas was over until the Republican Study Committee, chaired by North Carolina Rep. Sue Myrick, greeted us this morning with a quote from the all-but-forgotten Calvin Coolidge, who was president from 1923 to 1929: "Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."

As for Coolidge's bad rap, Myrick says he was the most Jeffersonian of all 20th century presidents. And Washington author Peter Hannaford recently told the annual gathering of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation that the 30th president's strong moral character and support of limited government were an inspiration to another great leader of our time.

"Shortly after he was inaugurated as the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan ordered a portrait of Calvin Coolidge hung in the Cabinet Room of the White House," Hannaford recalls. "The news of this startled the Washington press corps.

"Why, they wondered, would Reagan want to hang the picture of a man who had nothing to say and little to do when he occupied the White House? They reminded us that biographers described Coolidge as cold, aloof, unfeeling, materialistic, in the pocket of big business and, otherwise, a cipher."

But Hannaford, associated with Reagan for a number of years both in Washington and California, says Reagan knew differently. In fact, one dramatic action in Reagan's first year as president can be traced directly to an action that Coolidge took decades earlier.

"In August 1981, the air-traffic controllers' union called a strike. President Reagan said that, as public employees, they could not do that and any who weren't back on the job within 48 hours would be fired. Those who went back to work kept their jobs; those who didn't were fired," Hannaford says.

Reagan was inspired by the stand that Coolidge took as governor of Massachusetts in 1919, when Boston police went on strike. Coolidge brought out the state militia to keep public order against looting, fired the strikers and defended his actions by saying: "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time."


The betting is on Maryland lawyer Michael Anthony Peroutka to be the Constitution Party presidential candidate after that party's convention in June.

Peroutka, a married father of three, founded the Institute on the Constitution, which seeks to educate Americans about their history, heritage and form of government.

He says it was his passion for learning about and restoring constitutional government in his home state of Maryland that led him to the Constitution Party and its dedication to principle over politics. A Loyola College graduate, he currently serves as chairman of the Constitution Party of Maryland and on the executive committee of the national party.

Theme of his campaign: "God, Family, Republic."


The left-leaning People For the American Way says it is calling on Hollywood again to renew the fight against "Patriot Act II," saying the antiterrorism legislation gives greater powers to the U.S. government to act against citizens without the checks and balances of judicial and congressional oversight and review.

Leading the charge, says PFAW, will be actors/free-speech advocates who include Alec Baldwin, Tim Robbins, Chris Cooper, Nathan Lane, Ed Harris, Anthony LaPaglia and Gore Vidal, to name several familiar faces both on and off screen.

Meanwhile, the Washington-based PFAW, headed by Ralph G. Neas, says since President Bush took office three years ago, its list of members and supporters has doubled to 600,000, its budget has increased by 35 percent, and it has opened regional offices in Tallahassee, Fla., Houston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Miami.


"Christmas is over and business is business."

- Franklin Pierce Adams, 1881-1960, "For the Other 364 Days"


Thousands of U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan are wearing "unofficial issue" dog tags bearing a scriptural passage on one side - "I will be strong and courageous. I will not be terrified, or discouraged, for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go" - and the words "One Nation under God" on the other.

Four weeks ago, the Federalist, touted as the conservative journal of record, launched a national campaign to find sponsors for the "Shield of Strength" tags, which cost $1.10 apiece. Since then, more than 40,000 sponsors have responded and the tags were promptly shipped to the various U.S. military fronts.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. J. Clay writes to the journal from Iraq: "I cannot even begin to count how many soldiers are wearing them. It also has a spiritual camaraderie impact - for example, when you meet another ... military member and they have the shield on their ID tags ... it bonds you, even though you may not know them."

Army Ranger Capt. Russell Rippetoe, murdered at a military checkpoint by a suicide bomber, was the first casualty of Operation Iraqi Freedom to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. The Federalist quotes his father, retired Lt. Col. Joe Rippetoe (disabled after two tours of duty in Vietnam), as saying:

"All the men who served with my son wear the shield around their necks, as do many of the elite 75th rangers. The Shield of Strength is to remind them that when you need help, you look to the man upstairs."


As a result of another Washington funding dispute, Bruce Mahone, the Aerospace Industries Association's director of space policy, says the Space Environment Center may have to close its doors in the coming months.

Funding for the center was cut entirely by the Senate and reduced by the House, which could have a "devastating" impact on the U.S. airline industry, astronauts, the power distribution grid, and U.S. military exercises, Mahone writes.

If the center, jointly operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Air Force, closes, the director says, some or all of the following effects could be expected:

- Harmful radiation to airline passengers: Commercial airlines flying polar routes during intense solar flares are subject to radiation doses as injurious to humans as the low-level radiation from a nuclear blast - equivalent to 100 chest X-rays - which would lead to increased cancer rates among crew and passengers. Ditto for astronauts, except worse.

- Loss of power grids: The nation's power grid regularly operates at peak capacity. If faced with a voltage spike induced by a magnetic storm, nodes couldn't handle the surge and would fail.

- Military effects: Solar events and magnetic storms can interrupt or degrade navigational signals and communications and increase interference or false returns to sunward- and poleward-looking radars. Those tracking satellites and other objects risk losing their targets.


Will household appliances soon become too expensive for low-income Americans to afford?

Yes, says Ronald Sutherland, adjunct professor of law at George Mason University and senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Energy Markets. He says an Energy Department office that mandates minimum energy efficiency for appliances is recommending even stricter standards, claiming they will save consumers $150 billion through the year 2050.

But the professor, writing in a Cato Institute study, says Uncle Sam's estimate is flawed.

"The program will impose a net cost of at least $46.4 billion over the life of the program," he says, arguing the government study underestimates market-driven efficiency gains and relies on an unrealistic estimate of how much consumers value future energy savings.

The cost will fall disproportionately on low-income households, he says, which will be forced to spend less on basic necessities because the most affordable appliances will be taken off the market.

"Comparatively wealthy consumers purchase about the same appliances they would have purchased in the absence of energy efficiency standards," he notes. "When poor people must forgo the basic necessities to make long-term investments in energy cost savings, we should be cautious about proclaiming irrational behavior and imposing regulatory costs on that segment of society."


"I thought this was the line for Santa."

Or so Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends" co-host Steve Doocy informed Vice President Dick Cheney, after standing in a long line to have his picture taken with the latter at his annual Christmas party.


In a strange political twist, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Lieberman is touting an endorsement (of sorts) of his candidacy by President Bush.

"Consider this recent report," writes Craig Smith, campaign director and senior adviser to Lieberman, forwarding an Australian news clipping in which Bush told Australian Prime Minister John Howard that Joe Lieberman is the opponent he fears most.

The daily newspaper Down Under reported that Bush told Howard that Lieberman would be his most "formidable opponent" in the 2004 presidential election, assuming "he won the primaries."

Meanwhile, Inside the Beltway yesterday reviewed 22 of the latest presidential polls conducted by major polling companies of registered voters who are either Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents. In virtually every nationwide survey, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is the front-runner. (The only time Dean doesn't lead is when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is thrown into the equation, at which time she commands an overwhelming first-place standing.)

As for Lieberman, in all 22 polls, he finishes anywhere from a distant second to fourth place, depending on the company conducting the canvassing.


Here's a handy list of upcoming primaries and caucuses for Democratic readers:

Jan. 19: Iowa caucus
Jan. 27: New Hampshire primary
Feb. 3: Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, South Carolina and Oklahoma primaries; New Mexico and North Dakota caucuses
Feb. 7: Michigan primary; Washington caucus
Feb. 8: Maine caucus
Feb. 10: Tennessee and Virginia primaries
Feb. 14: D.C. caucus
Feb. 17: Wisconsin primary
Feb. 24: Utah primary; Idaho caucus
March 2: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont primaries and Minnesota caucus.


'Tis the season for New Year's resolutions, and as we usher in 2004, we thought we'd give readers the opportunity to tell politicians in Washington what you'd like to hear them resolve to accomplish in the coming year.

Perhaps there's a resolution you'd like President Bush to make. For example: "I resolve in 2004 to once and for all flush coward Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, from his hiding place."

Or maybe there's a resolution you'd like to hear from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, such as: "I resolve never again to trust Al Gore."

See how easy that was?

Put on your thinking caps and e-mail your, um, their New Year's resolutions to . Please include the name of the politician(s) and the suggested resolution(s), along with your name (initials will suffice) and hometown.

We will publish on New Year's Day as many resolutions as will fit in this space.


Any sensible person would
Avoid a mad cow if he could,
But I'm willing to take
A rare chance with a steak
'Cause there's nothing that tastes so good.
- F.R. Duplantier