Monday, February 19, 2001

French perfume

If a North Dakota Democrat has his way, people will stop flocking to Disneyland and visit the world’s largest cow, Salem Sue, instead.

But for Sen. Byron L. Dorgan’s travel scheme to work, airline ticket prices will have to come down. Which is the point he’s trying to make.

“If you have a hankering to see the largest cow on a hill overlooking New Salem, N.D.,” the senator notes, “or to go to see Mickey Mouse at Disneyland in Los Angeles, you pay twice as much to go half as far to see the largest cow, or pay half as much to go twice as far to see Mickey Mouse.

“What kind of a nutty idea is that? Who on Earth comes up with these pricing schemes?”

Mr. Dorgan blames airline mergers, or deregulation, for the fact that 11 major U.S. air carriers now number seven. And further talks are in the wings between United and US Airways, American and TWA, and Delta and Continental.

Mr. Dorgan says it costs $1,687 to book a same-day flight from Washington, D.C., to Bismark, N.D., while the same walk-up fare to fly all the way to Paris is only $406.

Unlikely proposal

Democrats and Republicans alike are heaping praise on Rep. Joe Moakley, the Democratic dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation who is suffering from an incurable form of cancer.

“In short, the prognosis is not good,” Mr. Moakley, 74, told a hushed room of reporters the other day.

Late last week, a bill was called up in Congress to designate the U.S. Courthouse in Boston as the “John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse,” a tribute to the 16-term lawmaker’s commitment to fighting for justice.

Still, we always appreciated Mr. Moakley for his quick if not controversial wit.

Take the day not long ago when the congressman led a trade delegation of Boston businessmen to Fidel Castro’s communist island of Cuba.

When State Department officials suggested Mr. Moakley take Cuban dissidents along to his meetings with Mr. Castro’s regime, the congressman likened that to “bringing all your former girlfriends” to a marriage proposal.

Slick bedfellows

One day after Democratic congressman James A. Traficant Jr. of Ohio made history by addressing College Republicans at George Washington University, he carried his bipartisan spirit onto the House floor.

He blasted former President Clinton, wouldn’t you know, for everything from the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal to pardoning fugitive Marc Rich.

Still, the Democrat says two other pardons in the form of plea bargains continue to be overlooked as the Clinton legacy is written, namely John Huang and James Riady, “two crooks that illegally funneled cash to the Democratic National Committee.”

Said Mr. Traficant: “This was not only slick, this is sick.”

Mission to Ghana

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Woodrush is to be decommissioned next month, when the World War II-era vessel steams from its home port of Sitka, Alaska, for Baltimore. But she won’t be mothballed by any means.

Instead, the ship is being transferred to the navy of the Republic of Ghana, which knows a sturdy ship when it sees one.

The Woodrush, built in 1944 for less than $1 million, was one of the first ships to arrive on the scene of the 1975 wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior, serving as a recovery platform above the sunken hull.

Five years later, she was rescuing passengers and crew from the burning cruise ship Princendam off the coast of British Columbia, and saved another 130 passengers from the 248-foot cruise ship M/V Yorktown Clipper when it ran aground.

Last but not least in her myriad missions, the Woodrush in 1989 rushed to an oil spill in Prince William Sound. It was the Exxon Valdez, no less.

Bureaucratic blanket

Twenty-nine of our 50 state governments have adopted the Streamlined Sales Tax Project to simplify existing sales tax systems. And for good reason.

The Senate Budget Committee says the remainder of the nation’s tax systems are a “patchwork” of no less than 7,500 individual taxing jurisdictions, each with its own rules, paperwork and procedures.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have sales taxes of some kind.

Still divided

“That’s entirely a matter for the administration, and I wouldn’t in any way want to influence their guest list, other than to occasionally have me on it.”

David Trimble, first minister of Northern Ireland, asked during a visit to Washington on Friday whether Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams would be welcome at the Bush White House

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