What better spot for West Virginian Hiram Lewis IV, an Iraq war veteran and judge advocate general (JAG) officer, to announce his candidacy against Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd than from the base of the Robert C. Byrd statue in the state's Capitol rotunda?
"As an (Iraq) war vet, many of us are disappointed by Senator Byrd's stance on the Iraq war," Lewis said. "He called our service unconstitutional. His stance has encouraged the enemy and discouraged troop morale. You cannot say on one hand you support the troops and then say our service is unconstitutional. It is impossible to do both."
SOROS VS. BOLTON
Accuracy in Media has unmasked convicted inside-trader George Soros and political activists committed to world government as leading the opposition to President Bush's nomination of conservative John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Bolton's Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearings, which started Monday, are "the biggest battle over a nomination that we have seen in years," notes AIM Editor Cliff Kincaid. "But the Big Media have refused to identify the role of George Soros in orchestrating the opposition to Bolton."
Soros spent $23 million trying to defeat President Bush for re-election.
Kincaid has identified the pro-world government World Federalist Association (WFA) as the group running TV ads and a Web site against Bolton. But the WFA, Kincaid says, now calls itself "Citizens for Global Solutions," a more innocuous-sounding name, one might argue.
He's also discovered that two other groups fighting Bolton's nomination are linked to Soros, a billionaire currency speculator whose conviction for insider trading was recently upheld in France.
Former Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, the third-ranking official in the State Department and one of the few to hold the rank of career ambassador during his 31 years in the Foreign Service, is moving into private quarters along with two senior Bush administration officials and a four-star Army general.
Joining Grossman at the Cohen Group of strategic consultants are Adm. James Loy, deputy secretary of Homeland Security and former head of the Transportation Security Administration and commandant of the Coast Guard; Gen. Paul Kern, head of the Army Material Command, who was tapped by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to head the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse investigation; and Frank Miller, the senior White House official responsible for advising President Bush on defense policy.
The Cohen Group was formed in 2001 by former senator and defense secretary William S. Cohen.
We were curious about why Beth Solomon, associate director of the National Association of Manufacturers, was hosting a cocktail party at her M Street penthouse for Los Angeles visitor Mollie Gregory, author of "Women Who Run the Show: How a Brilliant and Creative New Generation of Women Stormed Hollywood."
In fact, Gregory revealed to The Beltway Beat that Solomon, who recently moved from California back to Washington, is co-author with her of the upcoming title "Dirty Business," true tales from a Hollywood talent agency.
Gregory took time out from the party to print us a portion of the manuscript. Our favorite excerpt is this real-life exchange between a Hollywood agent and client:
"What are you talking about?
"Uday and Qusay.
"Did you know them? Did they go to Beverly Hills High?
"Yes, they were friends with the Menendez brothers."
ALL THAT JAZZ
As PBS sees it: "Renowned crooner and bandleader Eric Felten is a rising star on the international jazz scene."
More reason for Jeffrey and Juleanna Weiss, the latter a former press secretary to Vice President Dick Cheney, to have a CD ("Eric Felten Meets the Dek-Tette," not his first such disc) release party for Felten at their Wyoming Avenue home Saturday evening.
If the modest bandleader weren't so much into Washington politics (a career journalist, he's widely recognized around the world as an announcer and host for the Voice of America), he says he might consider making music a full-time career.
"But this is jazz," he reminded us, albeit on second thought he recalled being one of only a few who showed up at Blues Alley in Georgetown several years ago to listen to a little-known pianist named Diana Krall, today's female superstar of jazz.
One of our favorite annual reports - comparing the number of days Americans work to pay taxes to the number of days they work to support themselves - reveals Tax Freedom Day this year falls on April 17.
The Tax Foundation calculation shows tax freedom this year falls two days later than in 2004.
"Despite all the tax cuts that the federal government has passed recently, Americans will still spend more on taxes than they spend on food, clothing and medical care combined," says foundation President Scott Hodge, explaining that as economic growth pushes people into higher tax brackets, tax collections grow faster than incomes.
Americans this year will work 70 days to afford their federal taxes and 37 more days to afford state and local taxes.
Other categories of spending measured in the report include housing and household operation (65 days), health and medical care (52 days), food (31 days), transportation (31 days), recreation (22 days), clothing and accessories (13 days), savings (2 days) and all other expenses (44 days).
Former NBC newsman Ken Bode and former Reader's Digest Executive Editor William Schulz will fill the newly created positions of ombudsmen for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
"On some days we receive praise for what we do, and on other days our audiences express concerns," says CPB President and Chief Executive Officer Kathleen Cox. "Congress has asked the (CPB) to both protect the production of public broadcasting from undue interference and to ensure that it represents high standards in accuracy, balance and objectivity."
WHAT WE READ
We see from the just-released 2004 list of best sellers that politics and prayer are two of the hottest subjects for Americans.
Washington celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley finished in the 14th spot overall with "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty." About 715,000 copies of the book have been sold since its release in September, despite President Bush's top lieutenants dismissing it as "garbage" and "fiction."
Washington malpractice lawyer Jack Olender assures The Beltway Beat that he was only playing an April Fools' Day prank when, while out of town at a conference, he dictated a memo over the phone to his secretary announcing to his staff that he was on his way to California to take over the Michael Jackson defense.
In the memo, he also said he was requesting volunteer lawyers and staff members to go out to California to assist him. "I promised that if the jury rendered a defense verdict or was deadlocked, we'd celebrate at Neverland," Olender says.
Two weeks ago, the Center for Responsible Lending touted a report claiming the payday-loan industry was targeting minorities. Reporters bit on the story.
Now a federal agency is contradicting those findings.
"Despite allegations to the contrary, we didn't find evidence that payday-advance stores tend to locate in minority neighborhoods," the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s Center for Financial Research said in a study released yesterday.
Payday-advance stores provide small, short-term loans. According to the FDIC, the number of these stores in ZIP codes where populations are predominantly black is roughly equal to overall population percentages.
"This is a case where the facts got in the way of a good story," says Steven Schlein, spokesman for the Community Financial Services Association of America, the payday-advance industry's trade group. "The fact of the matter is, we are open to helping everyone in the community."
Baseball has barely returned to the nation's capital and already Associated Press reporter Fred Frommer has compiled "The Washington Baseball Fan's Little Book of Wisdom," filled with fascinating trivia from the past to the new Washington Nationals.
Take photographers, who will line up to capture President Bush throwing out the first pitch at Thursday's home opener at RFK Stadium. Let's hope the president aims for the catcher.
"Throwing out the first ball at Washington's home opener was a long tradition among presidents, starting with William Howard Taft in 1910," Frommer writes. "President Franklin D. Roosevelt threw out eight season-openers, once missing his target so badly - or did he? - that he nailed a photographer."
And kids, don't try this yourself, but in 1908, Washington Senators catcher Charles "Gabby" Street actually caught a ball tossed from the top of the Washington Monument. The ball was sold at a World War I bonds auction for $40,000.
And how many people knew that Harmon Killebrew owes his Hall of Fame career to a politician? Killebrew was scouted by Sen. Herman Welker of Idaho, who urged Senators owner Clark Griffith to take a look at the 17-year-old player.
After Washington's Mickey Vernon hit a 10th-inning home run to win the opening-day game against the New York Yankees in 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower got so excited he started to make his way to the field to congratulate him.
"Secret Service agents intercepted the president," the author notes, "and instead brought Vernon to Eisenhower's box next to the Senators' dugout."
Finally, no collection of Washington anecdotes is complete without a tale of espionage. Yes, Washington was home to a baseball-playing spy in the 1930s.
"Moe Berg, the team's third-string catcher, traveled to Japan to play on an all-star team, but his real mission was to take espionage photos," Frommer reveals. "Berg was a brilliant ... linguist but just a .243 lifetime hitter, prompting this line: 'He can speak 12 languages but he can't hit in any of them.' "