Continued from page 1

By Washington standards, “dog days” are also what Webster defines as “a period of stagnation or inactivity.” In other words, Congress goes into late-summer recess, and the president retreats to the typical beach house, mountain cabin, or in the case of President Bush, dusty ranch.

We call this to your attention because of the question posed this week by a reader named Brian, who asks: “Why are there ‘dog days’ of summer, but no ‘cat days’? This is blatant discrimination.”

We checked with, Brian, and sure enough the site confirms that while “there are three constellations that represent dogs, there are no cats.”

But absent “cat days,” there is the term “cat nights,” representing several members of the cat family (foremost Leo, the lion) that ride high overhead and toward the south as darkness falls.

The site states: “Two centuries ago, some star atlases depicted a cat: Felis, the creation of an 18th-century Frenchman, Joseph Jerome Le Francais de Lalande (1732-1807). He explained his choice: ‘I am very fond of cats. I will let this figure scratch on the chart.’ ”

Otherwise, May 15 is “Hug Your Cat Day”; June 19 is “Garfield the Cat Day”; Oct. 16 is “National Feral Cat Day”; and December 15 is “Cat Herders Day.”

All about Ickes

We read more about the “stupendous spending” of the “first” Harold Ickes in the new book, “The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression,” by Amity Shlaes, the Bloomberg columnist and visiting senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

An interior secretary for 13 years, the first Mr. Ickes was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to head the newly created Public Works Administration “on the thesis that spending would fix the economy,” Miss Shlaes observes. She adds in a later chapter that Mr. Ickes and his spending agenda “had more authority than any politician.”

The rest, of course, is history, although the author highlights the series of “government missteps” that transformed an “economic downtown into a catastrophic Depression.”

Mr. Ickes, who died in 1952, was father to the “second” Harold Ickes, the former deputy White House chief of staff to President Clinton, who had chaired the former Arkansas governor’s 1992 presidential campaign.

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or