First-class trio

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jun 28, 2005 12:00 AM

Michael Helfrich is president of Blueforce Development Corp., which develops distributed command-and-control applications for the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and first-responders.

And when he's not busy with that, he keeps a blog on the Internet.

"As I mentioned in the previous post, I am at the 4th Annual Government Symposium on Information Sharing and Homeland Security in New Orleans," read yesterday's posting. "Quite an apropos trip to be taking, given an opportunity to witness a rare moment on the outbound flight from Boston earlier this morning. . . .

"I noticed several GIs waiting to board the flight at Logan (International Airport)," he continues. "These folks were surrounded by family members in the departure lounge; hence, it was clear that these guys were headed into harm's way.

"Shortly after the doors were closed on the flight, I noticed a great deal of movement in the first-class cabin. Three men were standing up and collecting their belongings. They headed into coach class, where they offered the GIs their seats up front.

"It was a rare moment. These GIs were enlisted men, all clearly destined to be thrown into the thick of things. Yet, people who had probably paid handsomely for seats in 'first' were happily exchanging places. Save for the two characters sitting next to me, the entire coach cabin erupted in cheers."

WHY STOP NOW?

Jennifer Moire, media relations manager at C-SPAN, gives an unnamed viewer the credit for creating two Web sites for C-SPAN junkies - one for Democrats, the other Republicans - who want to continue political debate after the network's popular sounding board, "Washington Journal," goes off the air until another day.

The greeting at the Republican site (www.cspanrepublicans.com), which mirrors the Democratic version (www.cspandemocrats.com):

"Finally, a place for those right of center to communicate unique, diverse points of view with each other. Reflecting the politics of the day as observed through our only true window on Washington, C-SPAN.

"This Web site was born out of the aggravation of hearing opinions by guests and callers on the daily C-SPAN show 'Washington Journal,' but being denied the ability to engage anyone directly in continued debate after the segment or show was over."

EMPTY CHAMBERS

Nebraska state Sen. Ernie Chambers is being condemned by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms after he proposed that violators of a concealed-weapons measure up for consideration have their trigger fingers shot off.

Besides his foot in his mouth, committee Chairman Alan Gottlieb says, the lawmaker has inserted into otherwise serious debate what amounts to "the ravings of someone who has overdosed on self-aggrandizement."

COUNTRY AIR

One knows he's escaped the political suffocation of Washington when the topic of conversation centers on compatible astrological signs instead of how President Bush is going to get our troops out of Iraq.

It's feeling like August out there, which means Washingtonians are already heading west to escape the Beltway blues.

Photographers outnumbered familiar faces Saturday night at the Oasis Winery in Hume, Va., where DC Style magazine and California winemaker Robert Mondavi co-hosted a "Sunset at the Oasis" celebration of the Supreme Court's reversal of a long-standing law prohibiting wineries from shipping directly to out-of-state consumers.

The court's decision was no better demonstrated to several hundred partygoers, dressed in "wine country elegant" attire, when three UPS delivery men (they remained clad in their brown uniforms) suddenly appeared and handed Oasis owner Tareq Salahi, who was in the middle of his toast, several cases of Blue Rock wine shipped from California.

Salahi said the Supreme Court ruling is a "tremendous boon" to wineries nationwide, which "band together like family." Wine has been produced in Virginia for nearly 400 years, so the state and its winemakers took the lead in arguing for high-court intervention.

In addition to the free-flowing Oasis wine and champagne, the highlight of the evening was a stirring rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," played by Neil Schone, founder of Journey.

Meanwhile, that same evening at the Ragged Rock Ridge Regnery Family Farm in Madison, Va., American Spectator publishers Bob Tyrrell and Al Regnery hosted their magazine's first American Spectator Pig Roast and Bluegrass Festival.

"Spouses, friends, children, dogs, and any other hangers-on who need an afternoon in the country are welcome," read the invitation, which offered "swimming in the pond, fishing, walks in the woods, horseback riding, hayrides, square dancing and country air."

Regnery, as adept at farming as he is at publishing, led a hayride around the 50-acre property. (American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene chose to steer an ATV, with an unnamed reporter hanging on in the back for dear life.)

Among those feasting on the 75-pound pig: Judge Ray Randolph, of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

GOING CO-ED

Certainly, George Washington University is happy that CNN is staying on campus, despite the recent demise of "Crossfire."

The network's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, will be joined by a live GW studio audience in Washington when an expanded version of "On the Story" - launched in 2003 as a forum for the network's female correspondents to compare notes on the major stories they cover each week - moves to 7 p.m. Saturdays, starting July 9.

Now, CNN's Edie Emery tells us, the one-hour program will include male correspondents. The network is also promising "never-before-seen raw footage" from the front lines of the Iraq war and other global hot spots, to go along with reporters' diaries and questions from viewers and the studio audience at GW.

That said, the final episode of "The Capital Gang" aired this past Saturday night after an impressive 16-year run.

WATCHING GRASS GROW

While everybody else was relaxing in the countryside Saturday, Christopher Cooper of The Wall Street Journal was stuck with White House duty, which was anything but thrilling as we read in his subsequent White House pool report:

"Departed 9:30 for Patuxent (for President Bush's bike ride) with trucks and bikes. Sat at gate. Back at White House at 11:25. Never saw the man.

"Watched crew dig up dead tree in north lawn. Saw new tree sitting on stakebed truck."

INTERPRETING ASHCROFT

What left-leaning American wasn't critical of Attorney General John Ashcroft in the wake of Sept. 11? He was criticized for infringing on the civil liberties of U.S. citizens, terror suspects and prisoners of war alike.

But Ashcroft, we're now told, was not the first attorney general to face a national security crisis - and resulting criticism from within. Betty Winfield, a journalism professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia, says no fewer than 78 attorneys general have broadened the interpretation and enforcement of laws during domestic and foreign crises.

She developed four models of attorneys general during wartime and found that Ashcroft fit two of these descriptions.

"John Ashcroft exemplified the relationship between government power and civil liberties," Winfield said. "He either ignored criticism of his actions or labeled those who decried them as aiding terrorists, being unpatriotic and 'living in a dream world.'"

She says the four models of these attorneys general are: coordinator, extreme aggressor, extreme aggressor/fall guy and leveler.

The coordinator facilitates the president's wishes no matter how constitutionally questionable those actions may be, she says. They're forceful during crises but are not closely identified with overt infringement of civil liberties. Thomas Gregory, President Wilson's attorney general during World War I, fit this model.

Then there is the extreme aggressor, a person like Mitchell Palmer, Wilson's attorney general during the "Red Scare" years, who becomes more ambitious and publicly initiates aggressive actions.

The extreme aggressor/fall guy takes the heat publicly or in the courts, she says, becoming an administration's scapegoat: John Mitchell, President Nixon's attorney general, fits the bill.

The leveler, she says, attempts to temper the administration's drastic actions, quietly disagreeing with the president's aggressive actions and trying to urge a different course. Francis Biddle, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's attorney general during World War II, falls into this category.

A's for Ashcroft?

Winfield writes that his actions reflected aspects of both an extreme aggressor and a coordinator, at times trying to "manipulate the media by timing pronouncements to distract attention from administrative blunders."

BEYOND WAR

The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans has created the first national college scholarship program exclusively for veterans who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

The scholarship program was inspired by former U.S. Ambassador to Spain George Argyros and his wife, Julia. It was on a visit to the Rota Naval Air Station in Spain that the couple first met with wounded soldiers who shared their combat experiences, their unyielding patriotism and an eagerness to return to their unit - in spite of traumatic and serious injuries, the association says.

"You just can't help but be profoundly moved by devotion like that," said Argyros, who was inducted into the Horatio Alger Association in 1993. It provides scholarship assistance to young people who have demonstrated integrity and determination in overcoming adversity, academic potential and the personal aspiration to make a unique contribution to society.

PIGEON OVERSIGHT

Forget the pigeons and, for that matter, newlyweds.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer, Texas Republican, has introduced an amendment that would help the National Institute of Mental Health focus their funding on "serious" mental-health research.

His amendment proposes to "redirect millions of dollars from studies on how pigeons process visual concepts and how newlyweds are dealing with their first year of marriage," said Josh Noland, the congressman's press secretary.

"These may be worthwhile studies, but they do not address serious mental-health issues, which is the mission of NIMH," he told this columnist. "The pigeon study has gone on for 15 years and continues to get funding despite failing to provide any significant findings."