- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Shades of Dukakis
After their losses in the Nov. 5 elections, Democrats are sounding more hawkish about Iraq. War drums are beating most loudly among the field of Democratic presidential hopefuls for 2004.
Perhaps the Democrats will want to emulate their party's 1988 nominee, Michael S. Dukakis, who highlighted his own patriotic credentials by taking a famous tank ride. In which case, Inside the Beltway has discovered the perfect Christmas gift, one certainly not found on the shelf of the Democratic National Committee gift store.
The online auction site Allegro, the Polish equivalent of EBay, is selling a Russian T-55 tank at the incredible bargain price of $7,500.
The Polish-language text, according to our interpreter John Gay of Arlington, explains that this '60s-era tank has been little used and actually runs like new. The current owner claims a top speed of about 30 miles per hour and a range of up to 300 miles on a single fill-up. The tank comes complete with communications radios.
Still, as with all used tanks, there's a catch: The buyer must pay all shipping costs. The tank itself weighs 39.6 tons.
Pass the cognac
The recession seems to have hit everywhere but on Capitol Hill.
Despite the current economic downturn and impending war with Iraq, this Congress unlike congressional bodies of years past has allowed its own pay raise to take effect. And it's a far larger pay increase than first meets the eye.
It became big news in recent days when President Bush modestly trimmed the 2003 pay increase for most federal workers. But word of the president's federal pay slice overshadowed less-publicized word of Congress' pay raise.
Now it appears that more than a few thousand dollars and a handful of angry constituent calls could be at stake for the greedy lawmakers.
"The fiscal and political ripples from these pay hikes move not only into other branches of government, but onto the campaign trail as well," says National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) policy analyst Demian Brady.
Constituents, in fact, might want to remind their senators and representatives that the congressional bodies of years past cut their pay when the rest of the nation was suffering, as during the Great Depression. They were even more likely to freeze their salaries, as during World War II.
But not this Congress.
According to NTUF calculations, pay for Congress averaged just $81,803 (in 1988 dollars) from 1900 to 1988. A new law, adjusting congressional pay for inflation, took effect in 1989 and annual congressional salaries have since increased from $89,500 in 1989 to next year's whopping $154,700.
"The original justification for the 1989 law to 'keep up' with inflation has always rested on tenuous economic assumptions," says Mr. Brady. "In any event, federal lawmakers have entered the first decade of the new millennium with an inflation-adjusted salary that is close to a post-World War II high."
For the record, the Senate last December, and again last month, defeated amendments by Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, to block this year's and next year's congressional pay raises.
Trudging over history
The Foundation for the National Archives, the body charged with preserving this nation's history and democracy, has elected Tom Wheeler as president of its board of directors.
Mr. Wheeler is currently president and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, and previously served as president of the National Cable Television Association.
But as for his knowledge of history?
It turns out that in addition to his communications expertise, Mr. Wheeler is an authority on the Civil War. He's author of "Take Command! Leadership Lessons of the Civil War," which profiles nine leadership lessons and illustrates them with in-depth stories of battlefield decisions and their results.
In fact, Mr. Wheeler says his fascination with the Civil War dates to his childhood.
"My grandfather taught me to love history, and before I could drive, he had walked me around almost all of the major battlefields of the Eastern theater of the Civil War and made them come to life before my eyes," he says.
Islamic majority
"It will surprise many Americans that Islam is the world's and America's fastest-growing religion. It continues to grow at a rate faster than that of the world's population. If current trends continue it will have more adherents by the year 2023 than any other."
the Carnegie Corporation Report of the President, Vartan Gregorian

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