- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2001


A joke told around Washington concerns the discovery of a new pervasive element in the periodic table: governmentium (Gv).

The heaviest element known to science, governmentium consists of one neutron, 125 deputy neutrons, 75 supervisory neutrons, held together by a force called morons, and surrounded by vast quantities of peons.

Lucky 13

A sequel is in the works for the best-selling book, "Nine and Counting: The Women of the U.S. Senate."

After all, with the addition of Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Jean Carnahan of Missouri, Maria Cantwell of Washington and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, there are now 13 ladies in the Senate.

Probable name of the new volume: "Thirteen and Counting."

Word has it the women won't stop writing until they reach 100.

Lecture and whipping

We hate to miss Sen. Robert C. Byrd's "desultory ramblings," as he likes to call his entertaining, if not informative, lectures on the Senate floor.

The West Virginia Democrat actually hadn't planned to address his colleagues until hearing over his office intercom that freshman Sen. Bill Nelson was giving his "maiden speech, so I just stopped everything … to go up and listen to him."

Upon conclusion of the Florida Democrat's remarks, the 83-year-old Mr. Byrd stepped up to the lectern to congratulate his colleague, after which he commenced with his "ramblings."

First up: President George W. Bush's proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut. "That is $1,600 for every minute since Jesus Christ was born," he said.

He turned next to education, recalling the "little two-room schoolhouse up on Nubbins Ridge where I attended … in a coal-mining camp. The principal was a tough disciplinarian, the kind we need in our schools… .

"And if the teacher gave me a whipping which he didn't I was told that I would get another one when I got home. And I knew that was the case… . I don't think they will let them do that anymore. Too bad."

Mr. Byrd added "we can't pay enough money to a good teacher. And it is very disappointing to me when I see athletes draw down millions of dollars every year.

"Look at some of the anchors on the TV from the networks. They are drawing down $5 million, $6 million, $7 million, $8 million a year. They aren't worth it. They aren't worth it."

Not interested

About half of today's young adults pay no appreciable attention to news. They don't read a daily newspaper, nor closely follow the news on television.

A "prevalent explanation" is that they don't have a reading habit, says Thomas E. Patterson of Harvard's Joan Shorenstein Center on Press and Politics. But because most young adults watch everything on television except the news, the "primary reason" is they don't have an interest in politics.

Political interest and news exposure, he explains, are closely correlated.

Young people today under the age of 30 are particularly uninterested in politics because their childhood was very different than previous generations, says the researcher. The preceding generation, for instance, was "raised on Vietnam, civil rights, the Cold War and Watergate," while earlier generations every night at dinner had TV sets tuned to the ABC, CBS or NBC evening news.

Today's young adults, Mr. Patterson reminds us, have known only cable television.

American steal

Forget about the number of fugitives former President Bill Clinton pardoned in his final hour in office, it was his last-minute deal with the Chinese that has one Democrat waving his arms.

"CSC Steel Company in my district has filed for bankruptcy protection, laying off 500 people," says Rep. James A. Traficant of Ohio. "The reason is clear: Foreign steel is being illegally dumped into America at record levels.

"Now if that is not enough to polish your stainless, the Clinton administration [in December] allowed an $18 million loan guarantee to a Chinese steel company … yes to Chinese steel, no to American steel. Is it any wonder the American steel industry is going belly up?"

Catching her breath

Once the highest ranking woman in the House leadership, former Rep. Tillie Kidd Fowler of Florida will join the Washington law office of Holland & Knight next month.

In four terms in the House, the Republican had an impressive array of committee assignments: Armed Services Committee and its subcommittees on military installations and facilities, and military readiness; Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; chairwoman of its subcommittee on oversight, investigations and emergency management, and a member of its subcommittee on ground transportation.

"After more than 30 years in public service, I am looking forward to working in the private sector of law," she says.

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