- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

Dirty bird
Jim Beers was very pleased to bag two ducks on the opening day of duck and pigeon hunting season in Virginia last week, and was somewhat surprised to find both birds banded.
Banding is not done locally, and banded birds aren't usually seen this time of year until they migrate from Canada. But being a dutiful hunter, Mr. Beers called the telephone number printed on the bands to report that the birds had been shot.
To say he didn't reach a bureaucratic bird tracker is an understatement.
Instead, a recorded message instructed him to call a 900 toll number reserved for pornographic outlets. It warned that he must be at least 18 years old, have permission from his parents, and added he would be billed $1.99 a minute.
"I called it and got some woman on the line who asked me what I wanted," Mr. Beers tells this column. "I told her I wanted to report a bird had been shot. She said, 'What?' And I told her I wanted to report a bird. She told me not to get smart with her and hung up."
Intrigued, we dialed the Interior Department to find out if some enterprising business person is counterfeiting the tags going to painstaking efforts to advertise his or her lusty profession. Or, could it be an embarrassing blooper on the part of the federal government.
"It's a mystery to me," said B.H. Powell at the U.S. Geological Service.
We did learn that the actual toll-free number to report banded birds has always been 800-327-BAND, nowhere close to the phone number on the birds bagged by Mr. Beers.
One government official offered this explanation: "Maybe the birds flew through Las Vegas."

Try reading this
The Department of Education is displaying a series of charts that one could argue undermines the federal agency's very raison d'etre.
"Promoting its 'No Child Left Behind' agenda, the department's statistics page reveals some embarrassing truths about federal education spending," says Citizens Against Government Waste.
One chart trumpets that from 1996 to 2003, federal education spending increased by 132 percent (compared with 48 percent during the same period for national defense). On the other hand, since 1996, 12th-grade science scores have declined.
Worse, after $321 billion in federal education outlays since 1965, fourth-grade reading scores have remained flat at 32 percent proficiency for three decades.
The Education Department was created in 1979. It has an annual budget of $55 billion.

'Beyond the pale'
The Jessica Lange fan club has certainly lost some members after the Hollywood actress' recent remarks ("I hate Bush. I despise him and his entire administration") were revisited in our most recent column on "celebrity spokespersons."
And apart from despising our president, the actress said she's "ashamed to come from the United States," and thanked the Spaniards for "allowing me to get out" for a few days.
"It isn't often that I get riled up enough to respond to the political commentary of someone else," writes C. Kelly Skrabak of Alexandria, a fan of the screen and stage. "After all, I respect everyone's right to express their views about our government."
But Ms. Skrabak wonders exactly what it is that Miss Lange hates about her president.
"That he is doing everything humanly possible to protect her and me from terrorists?" she asks. "That he is a leader with a strong moral compass? She may not agree with everything our president does and says, but to express such vile contempt and hate for our leaders (no matter what their political affiliation) is beyond the pale.
"I also find it incredible that she is 'ashamed' of the United States," says Ms. Skrabak, echoing the reaction of dozens of other readers. "Is this the same United States that gives her the opportunity, as a woman, to succeed at her chosen profession and express her views without fear of retribution (unlike some countries)? Is this the same United States that has given her the economic opportunity to make millions of dollars as an actress?
"While I was appalled to read Ms. Lange's statements, I am glad she shared them with me.Now I can make sure I avoid lining the wallet of someone who thinks the country where she became famous is poisonous."

Marriage model
For too long girls were taught to behave
Like a tramp or a sexual slave,
But now they have Erika,
The new Miss America,
To remind them that sex is to save.

F.R. Duplantier, getting creative after reading in this newspaper that Miss America 2003, Erika Harold, has won her battle with pageant officials over the right to talk about teen sexual chastity.

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