We figured a political column that concentrates heavily on exposing congressional shenanigans might not be the best place to point out that coyotes - the actual four-legged kind - are suddenly roaming the streets of Washington.
"Are you kidding? Is this a metaphor - coyotes in Washington?" writes reader Cara Lyons Lege of Frisco, Texas. "They 'establish their own areas,' 'build dens in exclusive Washington neighborhoods,' and best of all 'sometimes their carcasses get dragged off.' This is too easy!"
Given the rare occurrence of coyotes making headlines in Washington, Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, thought it a good time to warn about two-legged "coyotes" infiltrating his state.
"The Old West shootouts continue in Texas," says Poe, responding to a massive hail of bullets last week in Houston, the fourth-largest city in America, where "a blazing gun battle ensued between rival human smugglers - or 'coyotes,' as we call them - fighting over turf. The outlaws were fighting over the precious cargo of illegal aliens."
When the shooting stopped, 21 people were arrested.
The Houston Chronicle explains that illegal aliens are held by coyotes at drop houses "until relatives pay the ransom to set them loose in America." A coyote can charge $1,500 to $70,000 to smuggle a foreigner into the United States.
FILLING 'THE SLOT'
When he last navigated "the Slot" - as a young naval officer during World War II - the Japanese were firing from all sides.
Now, legendary Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee will again cruise the once-dangerous 600-mile passage, stretching northwest out of Papua New Guinea, although this time accompanied by his youngest son, Quinn, 23, and under far friendlier circumstances than his last deployment.
"I was reading a piece in Tin Can Sailors," the 84-year-old Bradlee tells The Beltway Beat, referring to the newspaper of the National Association of Destroyer Veterans. "And I saw this ad for a cruise that leaves Papua New Guinea and goes to Guadalcanal and up the so-called 'Slot.'"
The newspaperman last navigated the South Pacific waterway during the height of World War II, traveling past various islands "none of which have a great place in history, but they have great meaning to me," he says.
"I was an officer on a destroyer, exclusive to destroyers for 3-1/2 years," Bradlee recalls. "I was commissioned when I was 20 years old, and I was 21 when in Guadalcanal."
For this modern-day journey aboard a comfortable cruise ship, leaving port late next week, Bradlee's son will no doubt get a rare first-hand account of this country's long and bloody battle against the Japanese.
Beyond that important history lesson, "I thought it would be fun," says the editor, who will write about the experience for the New Yorker.
ACRU VS. ACLU
The Supreme Court decision upholding a federal law allowing the government to withhold federal funding from universities that deny military recruiters the same access given to all other job recruiters is being applauded by Bob Carleson, chairman and chief executive officer of the American Civil Rights Union.
The ACRU, we might point out, is new to Washington, but not the constitutional debate, having had its headquarters in San Diego until this month.
Carleson, who authored welfare-reform initiatives while serving under President Reagan, had filed an amicus brief siding with the government in the high-profile case, decided by a unanimous 8-0 vote.
"The complaining professors and academics who pushed the case, and the ACLU that had sued the government, need to understand that the decision is a victory for those who believe in freedom of expression and freedom of association," he says.
The ACRU, which calls itself a nonpartisan educational civil rights organization dedicated to protecting fundamental rights and liberties, was started in 1998 to counter the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACRU's policy board includes former Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III and former Judge Robert H. Bork.
IN TIME FOR EASTER
"We'll have egg on our face come November," warns Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, who draws his colleagues' attention to a $1.35 million pork project he discovered in the 2006 Agriculture Department appropriations bill - for the pasteurization of shell eggs in Michigan.
As one eloquent White House correspondent observed this week, when President Bush and his guest retired for lunch, "a few snowflakes began to fall on tender shoots pressing the emergence of spring in the Rose Garden."
Not to worry.
First lady Laura Bush, despite the current blast of cold weather, assures us that the annual White House Spring Garden Tour is just around the corner - to be held this year on two dates: from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 1 and from noon to 4 p.m. April 2.
The tours have been a yearly tradition since first lady Pat Nixon opened the garden gates to the public in 1972. "Visitors are invited to view the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children's Garden and South Lawn of the White House while military bands perform from a White House balcony," the White House says.
The gardens are open to everybody, but free tickets are required and will be distributed (one ticket per person on a first-come, first-served basis) by the National Park Service at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion, 15th and E streets, on both tour days starting at 8 a.m.
NOT SO COLD
"Lovely, lovely spring. It takes a cold heart indeed not to love the springtime." - Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, welcoming springtime to the nation's capital.
We've written numerous times that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is an avid angler. Now he's being asked to hang up his prized fishing pole and take up another hobby.
"Hiking, bird-watching, kayaking or tennis," Erin Edwards, of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, suggests to The Beltway Beat.
PETA has just sent a letter to Justice Scalia saying that "hundreds" of scientists have concluded that fish are smart animals that feel pain in the same way other animals do.
"Fish are intelligent, interesting individuals who lead complex lives," says Edwards, who quotes noted marine biologist Sylvia Earle as saying: "I wouldn't deliberately eat a grouper any more than I'd eat a cocker spaniel."
Speaking of which, says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk, "If Justice Scalia treated cats or dogs the way he treats fish, he would end up in court, but on the other side of the bench."