- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

Court jester

Number of the 193 “laughing episodes” during Supreme Court arguments last term that were caused by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: 77.

Number caused by Justice Clarence Thomas: 0.

— Harper’s Index, March 2006

North to South

We’d written earlier this week that Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican who is in a tough campaign to win the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, was getting some out-of-state fundraising help from cosmetic queens Georgette Mosbacher and Mallory and Elizabeth Factor at a pair of private events in New York City.

Now we’ve received another invitation to a Steele reception Monday evening hosted by, among other couples, presidential brother Marvin Bush and his actress wife, Margaret, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and his politically savvy wife, Cathy.

Special guests expected to be on hand at the Gillespies’ Alexandria home: Sens. John W. Warner and George Allen, Virginia Republicans.

Mr. Steele is the first black to serve in a Maryland statewide office.

Fan of Denny’s

We have to laugh at a comparison chart forwarded to Inside the Beltway by Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation in Washington, which seeks to explain some big numbers in layman’s terms.

It shows that if Americans were able to save the $265 billion in tax-compliance paperwork costs and spend the money elsewhere, it could pay for a “6-month supply of Denny’s Grand Slam breakfasts for every U.S. citizen.”

Or else, “one treadmill for every American — to help work off any Denny’s breakfasts.”

Richmond exercise

Hours before President Bush arrived in Pakistan last week during his tour of South Asia, a suicide attacker rammed a car packed with explosives into a vehicle carrying an American diplomat, killing the envoy and three others.

Indeed, U.S. officials posted in terror-plagued nations are at their most vulnerable while traversing streets and highways, often in motorcades that stick out like sore thumbs.

We now learn that in southern Virginia, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is giving drivers assigned to U.S. missions much-needed training in counterterrorism.

Most recently, 14 drivers from USAID missions stretching from Iraq to Cambodia attended driver training school near the small town of West Point, all of them “unsung heroes that transport daily USAID’s most valuable asset — personnel,” says Roger Rowe, a security specialist at USAID headquarters here in Washington.

In fact, Mr. Rowe reveals in the USAID publication FrontLines that the group of drivers one day resorted to the busy streets of downtown Richmond as an exercise ground for driving alternate routes when confronting a matrix of danger spots.

“Each day the instruction became more comprehensive and demanding to include crashing through a road block, checking the wiring under the hood for signs of tampering and learning how to maneuver with guns firing at the vehicle (blanks and paint guns are used for simulation),” said Mr. Rowe, who adds that by the end of the week each driver realized “how important it is to believe that they are in control of their destinies when they are behind the wheel.”

Peace-minded

Georgetown University is now the second largest producer of Peace Corps volunteers among all private colleges and universities in the country, trailing only Boston University.

At last count during 2005, 54 alumni of the Jesuit campus were serving in the Peace Corps.

“Georgetown students and alumni share a deep commitment to making a difference in their communities and in the world,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.

Green day

Be sure to wear green this Sunday for the annual Washington St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which begins marching at noon along Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th streets. (The grandstand and reviewing stand will be adjacent to the Ellipse.)

This year’s parade theme: “Good Sports in the Community.” No better grand marshal than the Irish lass Susan O’Malley, president of Washington Sports & Entertainment.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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