Congress this week passed a resolution honoring two Americans for preventing what might otherwise might have been one of the most devastating modern-day terrorist acts ever committed on U.S. soil.
Tim Nelson was the first to pick up the phone and call the FBI on the morning of Aug. 15, 2001. Exactly one hour later, Hugh Sims phoned the FBI. Those pair of calls set into motion the only U.S. criminal prosecution, thus far, stemming from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 - that of French national Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty last month to six counts of conspiracy to commit terrorism.
"I came to the United States of America to be part . . . of a conspiracy to use (an) airplane as a weapon of mass destruction, a statement of fact to strike the White House, but this conspiracy was a different conspiracy than 9/11," Moussaoui testified.
Nelson and Sims were on the staff of the Minnesota flight school where Moussaoui, despite not having a pilot's license, shelled out $8,300 in cash to learn how to fly a 747 jumbo jet.
Wisconsin Rep. David R. Obey is the only Democratic member of the House to have served on the three major economic committees in Congress: the Budget Committee, the Joint Economic Committee (he was chairman for two terms), and the Appropriations Committee (he's the senior Democrat).
This week, as Congress was weighing the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, Obey all but trashed the department charged with preventing terrorism.
"(We) have an agency which is essentially incompetent and dysfunctional," he observed. "We are trying to protect the nation's security by working through an agency which is gargantuan, which is bureaucratic, to say the least, which is filled with inertia, and filled with people working at cross-purposes. Outside of that, it does a terrific job."
Here's a twist to the hot-button issue of illegal immigration (which really isn't "immigration" if it's illegal, but that's a story for another day).
The Web domain www.stopillegalimmigration.com is being auctioned off to the highest eBay bidder on July 4 to help raise money to fight the problem of illegal aliens, who number as many as 11 million in this country.
Adam Christing, a California small-business owner auctioning off the domain, says he will donate 20 percent of the money generated to Americans for Legal Immigration (ALI-PAC), which supports the right of people to legally enter the U.S.
William Gheen, the president of ALI-PAC, said, "We support those that obey our laws and legally immigrate to the U.S. While at the same time, 6,000 to 10,000 people walk right across the border every night illegally, and more must be done to address America's illegal-immigration crisis."
BUYING INTO BOYCOTT
Some Kentuckians are helping theater owner and Vietnam War veteran Ike Boutwell absorb the financial loss he is taking by refusing to show Jane Fonda's new movie, "Monster-in-Law."
Boutwell, who called Fonda a "traitor" for her support of North Vietnam in the war, will not show "Monster-in-Law" at either the Movie Palace in Elizabethtown, Ky., or the Showtime Cinemas in Radcliff, Ky. He acknowledged to a local TV station that this refusal likely would be "a good lick to the pocketbook."
But according to Louisville's WAVE-TV, an NBC affiliate, a supporter bought four tickets to another movie and then turned them in without using them as "a contribution to Movie Palace for their losses" for not showing "Monster-in-Law," which was the nation's top-grossing film last weekend.
Chris Shaw, the commonwealth's attorney in Hardin County, told WAVE that he "would encourage anyone else from Hardin County to do the same so that we can support what is a really brave action and one that could hit somebody in the pocketbook."
NEED VS. DESIRE
During recent debate on transportation issues, Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, got everybody's attention when explaining the difference between need and desire.
"It reminds me of the guy who went to the department store, and this beautiful, young, voluptuous saleslady came up to him and she said: 'Sir, what is your desire?'
"And he said, 'Well, my desire is to pick you up after work, go out to dinner and drink some champagne and make mad, passionate love to you, but I need a pair of socks.'
"We have to distinguish between desire and need, and I think it is a difficult thing to do," Inhofe concluded.
While controversy reached the boiling point surrounding Newsweek's now-retracted report that U.S. interrogators purportedly desecrated a copy of the Quran, the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington was hosting an audience of 300 for its "Islamophobia and Anti-Americanism: Causes and Remedies" conference.
Chief reason for the conference - attended by U.S. government officials, scholars and religious leaders alike - was to discuss the "twin phenomena" of growing anti-Muslim "bigotry" in the West and increasing anti-American sentiments in the Islamic world, which grew worse after Newsweek's accusations.
Yesterday, meanwhile, a campaign was started by the council to offer free Qurans to Americans "as an attempt to turn a negative incident into something more positive," says CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
"It is our belief that greater access to Islam's holy book will help foster a better appreciation and understanding of Islam by ordinary Americans," he says.
HOLLYWOOD ON HILL
If a certain congresswoman gets her way, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will no longer be able to pay a $100,000-plus taxpayer-funded salary to a one-time actress hired as the department's Hollywood liaison.
The House yesterday passed an amendment to the Homeland Security funding bill that would transfer the salary being paid to former actress Bobbie Faye Ferguson to those who arguably need it more: first-responders to terrorist acts.
Ferguson reportedly was hired at the GS-15 salary level last October. According to Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican and amendment sponsor, she is one of 43 public-affairs employees at DHS. The overall bill later passed the House on a 424-1 vote.
Instead of paying for the full-time liaison to the entertainment industry, the amendment would redirect the funds to first-responder state and local grants. As the congresswoman noted, $100,000 could purchase 716 escape hoods, 165 bulletproof vests or 40 hazardous-materials protective suits.
The DHS advertised for a Hollywood liaison in March 2004, with a top salary of $136,000, plus benefits.
Six congressmen, all former judges, are warning Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter that the sovereignty of the United States is being seriously undermined when U.S. courts permit "foreign sentiments to creep into rulings and opinions."
"As you know, there have been several controversial decisions from the Supreme Court where justices have cited foreign courts and sentiments in their opinions," the members wrote in recent days to Specter. "These irresponsible allowances erode our distinct political identity and the philosophical traditions upon which United States law is founded."
The congressmen, all Republicans, are Reps. Ted Poe, Louie Gohmert, John Carter and Ralph M. Hall, all of Texas; Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama; and John J. "Jimmy" Duncan Jr. of Tennessee.
"As former judges," they write, "we all took oaths to uphold the Constitution. If a judge cannot cite the Constitution, United States law or United States judicial precedent in order to justify a ruling or opinion, it is highly inappropriate to selectively cite foreign constitutions, foreign laws or foreign judicial precedents.
"By doing so, judges effectively disenfranchise the United States and begin to lose respect in the eyes of its people."