- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Speed readers

Christmas always reminds me of one of my favorite all-time congressional quotes, compliments of a former senator and congressman, William L. Armstrong, Colorado Republican, in 1988:

“The federal government is currently operating on a budget passed in the dead of night just before Christmas. It comprised three massive documents, ran to a staggering 3,296 pages, weighed in at a hefty 43 pounds, and had a price tag of $650 billion. Congress had about three hours to look at it before voting on it.”

Say what?

Let’s drop by the National Archives, which just released for public hearing 240 additional hours of tape recordings from the Nixon presidency.

In the latest batch — actually 304 compact discs — are approximately 3,000 conversations recorded at the White House from July 1972 through October 1972. This is the 10th so-called “opening” of Nixon White House tapes since 1980.

Before the latest tapes could be released, we’re told, officials sworn to secrecy had to edit out 21 minutes for national security reasons. In addition, seven minutes were restricted for invasion of privacy (good thing President Clinton didn’t tape-record his presidency), and 14 hours of tape wound up on the Archives floor merely because it was unintelligible.

Sheep sounds

We turn to Alan Caruba, founder of the National Anxiety Center, for his annual review of the most dubious news stories of the year — in 2003 debunking food police, dry toilets and bovine flatulence.

“This year has not lacked for some of the stupidest ideas put forth by various groups claiming that it’s for our own good,” notes Mr. Caruba.

Item: In January, columnist and failed California gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington initiated “Project Detroit” to get people to stop driving sport utility vehicles and other vehicles. She claimed that buying gas-operated vehicles helped support terrorism.

Item: In September, the First International Dry Toilet Conference was held in Finland in order to avoid an “environmental disaster.” Its objective is to eliminate flush toilets. (“If you prefer a run to the outhouse instead of your bathroom,” said Mr. Caruba, “you may have to race Al Gore because he thinks this is a great idea.”)

Item: In June, a New Zealand legislator proposed a tax on the flatulence released by that nation’s cattle and sheep. It would raise $4.9 million to fund research into ways of minimizing the effect it was claimed to have on the Earth’s climate.

Item: In June, the U.S. surgeon general told a congressional committee that he would support a total ban on all tobacco products. (“Someone should tell him about the failed social experiment called ‘Prohibition’ or the billions of dollars of illegal drugs smuggled into the U.S. every year,” said Mr. Caruba.)

Item: In November, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group that in the past has opposed both Chinese and Mexican food, said nutrition labeling on packaged food was too confusing for consumers to understand, essentially saying they are too stupid to do the math. Its spokesman said, “We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheese [and] meat.”

Item: In May, a lawyer sued Kraft Foods, seeking to ban Oreo cookies. Nationwide, the food police have declared a holy war claiming that the most prolific weapons of mass destruction are a cheeseburger and a soda. They’re saying that personal responsibility no longer should be considered the best way for Americans to watch their weight.

Item: In December, New Jersey held its first bear hunt in decades after it was determined that up to 3,000 bears are roaming the most densely populated state in the Union. On the first day of the hunt, more than 100 were bagged. Animal rights advocates were very upset. Meanwhile, an estimated 170,000 deer still roam the state.

“There was no end to the unscientific claims and outrageous lawsuits intended to impose endless restrictions on everything anybody anywhere in the world might possibly enjoy, from smoking to eating to driving,” concludes Mr. Caruba, whose center was founded in 1990 to debunk “scare campaigns” that are designed to influence public opinion and policy.

Merry Christmas

“At Christmas play and make good cheer,

“For Christmas comes but once a year.”

Thomas Tusser, “A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry,” 1557

• John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com


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