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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 14, 2010

SIGN OF THE TIMES

Welcome to the long hot summer of "recovery." Republicans are vexed that some states have spent $20 million in economic stimulus funds on roadside signs touting local Recovery Act improvement projects. The towering signs are emblazoned with the motto, "putting America to work" in neon red, and are built to last.

"The Obama administration's supposed dedication to transparency does not extend to the cost of these signs, but reports indicate tens of millions of dollars may have been spent. On what planet is this a good use of taxpayer money?" asks Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, who calls the signage "stimulus propaganda."

Other Republicans have joined in the hue and cry. Rep. Darrell Issa of California already has called for an investigation while Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois - which has spent $650,000 on signs - proposed that funding for promotional signage for stimulus projects be prohibited. It was defeated by a vote of 232-184, despite 11 Democrats siding with a unanimous Republican Conference eager for spending cuts.

"Look, I'm glad that Republicans have noticed the nearly 11,000 road projects that are under way this summer. We have encouraged states to let people know how their tax money is being spent. Some post signs, some don't," explains White house spokesman Robert Gibbs. "I believe that as a matter of spending, those signs account for about 3 cents out of every $100 that is spent on the recovery."

A STRONG BREW

They've thought about it for a few days. Now the National Tea Party Federation, among the largest coalition of "tea party" activists, collectively rejects the recent NAACP claim that the movement is racist.

"As an African-American, I expect the NAACP to condemn the violent crimes in our neighborhoods, the genocide of millions of unborn black babies, and the high dropout rate among our black youth," says Gilbert Wilkerson, a board member of the Richmond Tea Party.

"Instead, the NAACP steps over the weightier matters to condemn the tea party for unproven racial slurs and a few offensive posters about the president - which the tea party itself has condemned. Is this how the many black supporters of the NAACP want their money used?" Mr. Wilkerson asks.

"A false charge of racism is itself, racist," says David Webb, co-founder of New York's TeaParty365.

"Our group is comprised of at least 90 percent Hispanics/Latinos. We embrace anyone regardless of color, race, religion, gender or political affiliation, unlike the NAACP," notes Marion G. Santiago, co-chairwoman of the Laredo Tea Party Patriots in Texas.

Tea party sympathizer Andrew Breitbart, founder of BigHollywood.com, detects greater political damage.

"The NAACP - like the Democratic Party which it now exclusively serves - is in search of a desperate play to protect the party from November electoral losses," Mr. Breitbart insists. "People's eyes are now wide open to the complicity of the once-respected civil rights organization and once-respected Democratic Party."

THE CHELSEA STATS

July 31: Date of Chelsea Clinton's wedding to investment banker Mark Mezvinsky.

500: Number of guests expected.

50 acres: size of the Astor Estate in Rhinebeck, N.Y., site of the wedding.

Biggest quashed rumor: President Obama is not attending, according to the White House on Wednesday.

Some who are attending: Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Steven Speilberg, Ted Turner.

Most interesting observation so far: "I am going to try not to cry because this isn't about me, it's about her." (Former President Bill Clinton, on Chelsea and her wedding, during a CNN forum.)

NEVER SAY 'NYET'

Of interest, perhaps, to military strategists and the psy-ops crowd. The proverbial "brooding," moody Russians are less depressed and "distressed" than Americans, according to a psychological study released Wednesday by the University of Michigan.

"Among Westerners, focusing on one's negative feelings tends to impair well-being, but among Russians, that is not the case," says lead author Igor Grossmann, who is a Ukraine native. "Russians focus more on their negative feelings than Americans do, but they spontaneously distance themselves from their emotions to a greater extent than Americans, who tend to immerse themselves in their recalled experiences."

The research will be published in the August issue of "Psychological Science," an academic publication, and was conducted with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health.

THAT WAS QUICK

It was the horn heard 'round the world. "Vuvuzela" - the infamous, B-flat pitched, plastic noisemaker that damaged eardrums throughout the FIFA World Cup in recent days - has been placed into the English lexicon of the Global Language Monitor. The word was used 2,450 times in the New York Times alone, says Paul Payack, president of the Texas-based group that monitors the course of "Global English" and word popularity

The organization says "vuvuzela" has appeared more than 6 million times in press accounts in recent days.

But will the horn resonate with American political parties? The vuvuzela has yet to win fans among Democrats and Republicans, but just wait. The big 2012 presidential conventions are only in the planning stages.

POLL DU JOUR

  • c 65 percent of U.S. voters say that American society is generally "fair and decent."
  • c 24 percent say society is "unfair and discriminatory."
  • c 11 percent are not sure.
  • c 42 percent of voters say President Obama sees American society as fair and decent.
  • c 42 percent say Mr. Obama views society as unfair and discriminatory.
  • c 16 percent are not sure.

Source: A Rasmussen reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted July 8 and 9.

Hand-wringing, observations and huffy comments to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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