- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

Gunsmoke and Sam

It's bad enough that an incumbent Republican congressman has to face an incumbent Republican congressman in a redrawn congressional district. It's worse when guns start firing and fists begin flying.

The Republican primary in Georgia pits Rep. Bob Barr against Rep. John Linder, both decent men with strong Capitol Hill credentials. Then Mr. Barr made headlines last week after the antique gun he was holding accidentally discharged during one of his campaign events.

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Nobody was injured, thankfully, but the damage was done. Take the Barr campaign event over the weekend, for example, when somebody in a "Yosemite Sam" costume wore the name tag: "Bob Barr's Official Gun Safety Trainer."

Not amused was Derek Barr, the congressman's son, who took a swing at Yosemite, striking his masked jaw (check out the videotape at the Internet site politicalvine.com).

Now, the Republican Mr. Barr is accusing the Republican Mr. Linder of dirty politics.

"We didn't have anything to do with that guy [Yosemite] going out there, we had nothing to do with it being videotaped, we had nothing to do with it being posted on the Internet," Mr. Linder's campaign manager, Bo Harmon, told Inside the Beltway yesterday.

He wouldn't deny, however, that Mr. Linder is "laughing" about the whole matter.

Taliban tirade

We've been intrigued by the exchange of letters between a journalist in North Carolina and senior editors of National Public Radio in Washington about the definition and correct usage of "conservative."

"I am writing to demand an apology from NPR for using the word 'conservative' to describe the Taliban," Doug Morgan, a journalist who holds an English degree, wrote to NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin. "The news reader ended the story by comparing the current number of [Afghani girl school] enrollees to that during the reign of the 'conservative Taliban.'"

Mr. Dvorkin replied: "My own sense is that the use of the term in this case is entirely non-political and bears no resemblance to the political description you espouse. Indeed, Webster's dictionary gives nine definitions" of conservative.

He listed the various definitions, pointing out that the second "tending to preserve established traditions or institutions and to resist or oppose any changes in these" was the meaning employed in the newscast.

"With respect, Mr. Morgan, I don't believe that your political beliefs were impugned in any way," Mr. Dvorkin added.

Mr. Morgan said he doubted "anyone hearing the story in question looked to their dictionaries to find out what nuance the word meant to convey" and questioned why NPR's editors simply didn't drop the word from the story.

Bruce Drake, the NPR's vice president for news, informed Mr. Morgan that the newscast in question was based on an Associated Press story, dated Aug. 6, that carried the phrase "conservative Taliban."

The same story, Mr. Drake added, was printed in the San Jose Mercury News, the Miami Herald, the Florida Sun-Sentinel and a number of other newspapers.

"Frankly," Mr. Morgan responded, "those news outlets do not really matter to me because my taxes do not support them. On the other hand, my taxes do support NPR, the same NPR that consistently refers to the Senate as 'the Senate,' while referring to the House as 'the Republican-dominated House.'"

In conclusion, given the common American usage of "conservative" and "liberal," Mr. Morgan opined the Taliban in Afghanistan "more strongly resembled latter-day American liberalism in that it sought ever-increasing government control of the day-to-day lives of Afghanis."

Who needs Acela?

There were more travel headaches for Washington train commuters yesterday after Amtrak, for the second time in a week, canceled all high-speed Acela Express trains when additional cracks were found in shock absorbers.

Not to worry. The train of the future in Washington and elsewhere doesn't require shock absorbers, let alone tracks.

Maglev transportation short for magnetic levitation moved closer to reality in the United States this week when Old Dominion University in Norfolk successfully completed its first propulsion tests over an elevated guideway, a feat not previously accomplished in this country.

"The vehicle levitated, moved forward about 200 feet, stopped and moved in reverse several times at a rate of about 4 miles per hour," says ODU's Jennifer Mullen, although the ultimate goal is for far higher speeds.

"It's a tuning process," says Tony Morris, president of American Maglev Technology, the company partnering with ODU and Lockheed Martin, among others, on the $14 million project, to be dedicated for travel around campus on Sept. 30.

A proposed solution to the nation's transportation woes, the maglev system uses specially designed trainlike cars that glide on an electromagnetic cushion atop an elevated guideway. They move at high speeds, produce no air pollution or noise pollution, and the system can be built on existing rights-of-way.

"It will serve as a demonstration project to make a case for a future project connecting the Hampton Roads region with Washington, D.C.," Miss Mullen says.

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