- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Out of context
Robert Altman chose the wrong period of American history to blast his own country.
The "Gosford Park" director recently told the Times of London: "When I see an American flag flying, it's a joke." He then added: "This present government in America I just find disgusting, the idea that George Bushcould run a baseball team successfully he can't even speak! I just find him an embarrassment."
So embarrassing, Mr. Altman vowed: "I'd be very happy to stay here [in England]. … There's nothing in America that I would miss at all."
That was all nationally syndicated radio host Oliver North needed to hear. The retired Marine encouraged his nearly 3 million listeners to call the New York office of "the traitor" and tell him "to stay in England."
"From Sharon Stone to the Baldwin Brothers and now Robert Altman Ollie and this show are simply sick of these Hollywood elites threatening to leave America because they disagree with this administration. So we called Altman on it," the show's executive producer, Griff Jenkins, tells this column.
Mr. Altman's response?
"I am a proud American, and a proud New Yorker who has lived in that great city for 30 years," he says in a statement. "I grew up in Kansas City and I served this country during wartime. I truly regret that any of my comments have been taken out of context."

The Luntz List
With the season of awards shows upon us, we asked Republican pollster and MSNBC focus group guru Frank Luntz to name the year's best political communicators.
"In this town, creating a list like this is the surest way to make enemies," Mr. Luntz told us. Nevertheless, here's how some of Washington's political elite have scored in the pollster's dial groups and listening sessions across the country.
Among Democrats, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut has returned to the top spot as the party's best message-meister.
"The way he presents himself, it is virtually impossible to tell whether he is a Republican or Democrat and that's what voters like," says Mr. Luntz. The one word people most often use to describe him: "reasonable."
Mr. Luntz also singles out Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as a very strong communicator, but with a caveat. "Up through the fall, Daschle was incredible," he says. "His soft-spoken demeanor and laid-back approach won over virtually everyone. But his more partisan tones in the past two months are hurting him among swing voters."
Among Republicans, President Bush ranks first ("the dials go through the roof"), and several in his administration, most notably Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, "are home runs almost every time they speak."
In fact, Mr. Luntz refers to them as the "Sonny and Cher" of the administration.
"Cheney is so calm and so earnest in his words and delivery that it's impossible not to like him or agree with him, while Rumsfeld is the wisecracking, in-your-face [smart aleck] that makes you want to listen," he says.
Two congressional Republicans are also communication standouts: Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma. "People simply agree with what they say and how they say it," says Mr. Luntz.
But the Luntz award for the single best communicator of 2002 goes to former Education Secretary William J. Bennett.
"His message of pride, patriotism, faith and moral conviction is exactly what Americans want to hear right now. Several people almost broke their dials registering their approval."

Seeds of health?
The Hemp Industry Association's Food and Oil Committee has released a position paper on the Drug Enforcement Administration's new rule banning "edible" hemp products (not all industrial hemp products as we reported earlier).
Issued Oct. 9, the DEA order gives manufacturers, distributors, retaliers and consumers until Feb. 6 to "dispose" of hemp products containing "any THC," or tetrahydrocannabinol, and forbid their sale or consumption in the meantime.
However, says the HIA, the DEA did not specify a detection protocol to define "any THC," and "responsible hemp companies who ship the majority of hemp seed and oil to the U.S. market do not detect any THC in their hemp seed and oil" using Canadian government measurement standards.
"Thus," the HIA says, "hemp food vendors and retailers have continued selling hemp foods since October 9th, and will continue to do so after February 6th."
The HIA suspects the DEA will ultimately "arbitrarily" institute a "more sensitive" THC detection protocol than the Canadian requirement, so it has filed suit in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to invalidate the DEA's "interpretive rule."
Finally, the HIA insists that hemp seed has a well-balanced protein content, a substantial amount of Vitamin E and the highest content of essential fatty acids (EFAs) of any oil in nature "good fats" that, like vitamins, the body does not produce and that one must consume. For EFAs, doctors traditionally have recommended flax or fish oils.

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