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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

KING PIN

It's meant to put "a human face" on the visceral threat of extremists within the U.S., says Rep. Peter T. King. He has asked Melvin Bledsoe and Abdirizak Bihi — father and uncle, respectively, of young Muslim Americans recruited by Islamic radicals — to testify at a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday. The New York Republican and committee chairman has drawn promises of protest rallies and an outcry from critics who say he's demonizing Muslims or impinging on religious freedoms. Mr. King is also getting accolades.

"The hearing represents a sound strategy to address what most Americans understand — that there is a very real and growing threat to our national security and our way of life," says Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. "This hearing isn't about profiling. It's about protecting our homeland."

Mr. Sekulow encourages Mr. King to call — "and subpoena, if necessary" — enough witnesses to get to the truth of it all, noting that his group has already heard from "several thousand Americans who support the hearing."

ARGH-H-H-H

Avast, me hearties. Just so you know. The Massachusetts State Election Division has approved the Massachusetts Pirate Party as an official political designation. Yes, this means voters can register in as a "Pirate."

From the crow's nest point of view, the group frets about surveillance of private citizens, lack of government transparency and Internet freedom, noting, "Terrorists may attack the open society, but only governments can abolish it. The Pirate Party will prevent that from happening."

O'KEEFE-ONYMS

Undercover videographer James O'Keefe has released the entire two-hour version of his sizzling National Public Radio sting — not just the 11 minute version. See it here: www.theprojectveritas.com. Meanwhile, he got called plenty of things in the hefty news coverage of his operations. Among Mr. O'Keefe's new titles:

"Video sting artiste" (Slate), "conservative gadfly" (David Frum), "our old friend" (BigGovernment.com), "master of the video sting" (Politico), "political activist" (National Public Radio), "Republican filmmaker" (MSNBC), "conservative activist" (Los Angeles Times) and "investigative journalist and filmmaker" (Mr. O'Keefe's description of himself.)

THE BOOM BLAST

The huge population of aging Baby Boomers looms over America, in all of its financial and political complexities. The national conversation is veering away from rosy tales of "70 is the new 50" to uneasy discussions of what to do with them all. We're ready for straight talk: A new National Journal survey finds that 96 percent of Americans say "health and life issues" are an important priority for the health system; 78 percent crave open debates about public policies affecting end-of-life issues, while 71 percent say it's more important to "enhance the quality of life for seriously ill patients, even if it means a shorter life."

Fifty-five percent, however, say the health care system has the responsibility to treat the very sick and "spend whatever it takes to extend their lives." Half say they're prepared for such situations; 49 percent are not. Americans most trust their doctors with their concerns, followed by family and friends, clergy, insurance companies, social service agencies, the press, and in last place, "elected officials and political candidates."

Perceptions differ on health care reform: 23 percent say the new law allows a government panel "to make end-of-life decisions for people on Medicare"; 40 percent disagree; and 36 percent don't know. Crafting public policy to accommodate this welter of opinion will be challenging, says National Journal editorial director Ron Brownstein.

"While Americans state a clear preference for options that make the end of life better, not just longer, a majority still believes the health care system should spend whatever it takes to extend life, and they worry about the possibility of diminished treatment," he notes.

NUMBERS GAME

On the radar: Liberal blog Daily Kos and the Service Employees International Union have joined forces to conduct campaign polling in key states as the 2012 presidential race commences.

"Rather than sit around and have know-nothing pundits and politicians in D.C. tell us what the American people think, we prefer to ask them directly," declares the blog's founder Markos Moulitsas, who is asking his readers to text questions for upcoming surveys.

GET IN LINE

One desk at the Federal Trade Commission is a busy place indeed. The federal agency has released its current stats to reveal that it received 1,339,265 consumer complaints last year, costing victims more than $1.7 billion.

Needless to say, identity theft was the No. 1 complaint category, followed by debt collection, Internet services, sweepstakes and lotteries, shop-at-home and catalog sales, impostor scams, Internet auctions, foreign money and counterfeit-check scams, phone services and credit cards.

POLL DU JOUR

• 46 percent of all likely voters consider themselves politically conservative on taxes, government spending and business regulation.

• 74 percent of Republicans agree.

• 37 percent say they are conservative on social issues like abortion and public prayer.

• 9 percent of Republicans agree.

• 28 percent say they are liberal on social issues.

• 28 percent say they are conservative on both fiscal and social issues.

• 12 percent say they are liberal on both issues.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 and released Tuesday.

Home movies, 8-track tapes, ephemera to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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