- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Making lighter of 9/11

John Hall is a Washington lawyer whose office is a few steps from the White House. His acquaintance is a State Department diplomat, currently posted on the Horn of Africa.

“I am also a New Yorker,” he says, “which is why this caught my attention,” referring to a “September 11” commemorative lighter, stamped made in China, and sold throughout the Middle East and Africa, among other continents. The diplomat picked up one of the butane lighters and shipped it home.

Upon examining the high-quality silver lighter, Mr. Hall was furious.

The lower corner depicts the face of Osama bin Laden in relief. Above his turban is an etched airplane, about to crash into the twin World Trade Towers in New York. One of the towers has a giant hole in its side.

“When you flip open the lighter, the hole in the tower glows red,” says the lawyer. “Someone went to great effort to produce this lighter. Now, everybody who lights up a cigarette can celebrate the plane flying into the towers.

“Why is China,” he asks, “manufacturing lighters for sale in … countries that celebrate the destruction caused by bin Laden on 9/11?”

Keystone Kops?

Did it ever occur to anybody who will be in charge during the next terrorist attack on U.S. soil, which Uncle Sam says is inevitable?

For the time being, consider yourself in charge.

Before passing the $29.4 billion homeland security bill this week — which Democrats complain is not enough for the nation’s first-responders, borders, ports and airports — Democratic Rep. Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey questioned the “chain of command” and allocation of responsibility when a terrorist attack is imminent or ongoing.

“There is chaos and dysfunction in this area,” Mr. Andrews pointed out. “Because everyone is in charge of an ongoing attack, no one is in charge of defending against an ongoing attack.”

The congressman says the Select Committee on Homeland Security, on which he sits, the Armed Services Committee, and other relevant congressional panels need to think about “who would be in charge in America this morning if, God forbid, our president received word that a terrorist attack was happening right now — who reports to whom, who is in charge of whom, and who is responsible for what.”

Lady lectures

They’ve sat together on the bench for almost nine years, the longest period of togetherness since James Monroe occupied the White House.

Now, Washington is abuzz over when Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will retire, if ever. Perhaps only one will step down. Others anticipate a joint retirement announcement. Nobody knows.

What we do know is the Library of Congress has just concluded a conference on women, history and law. Justice O’Connor, the first female justice in the court’s history, addressed participants, as did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s second female justice.

It was revealed at the conference that Justice O’Connor, 73, is donating all of her professional and personal papers to the library, which signaled more proof that she’s about to retire.

But then it was disclosed that Justice Ginsburg, 70, is similarly donating her written volumes to the library for historians and scholars to peruse in future generations. The last we heard, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native — an appointee of President Clinton — isn’t ready for knitting in the Hamptons.

What was confirmed at the women’s conference is that men still rule the world. Participants needed to look no further than the height of the lectern — few of which, the ladies pointed out, suit their frames.

Just ask the diminutive Justice Ginsburg, seen only when standing atop a suitcase-size platform.

NOAA no Noah

The quote of a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration official in last Sunday’s Washington Times — “We are NOAA and we are building an ark” — caught the eye of Jay Allen of Sterling, Va.

“This got me to thinking,” he says, “were our rains of the last few weeks of biblical proportions, could we have built an ark? I am afraid in this day of ubiquitous government, there are more obstacles to overcome then even the Almighty could manage.”

Without further ado, Mr. Allen’s “10 reasons NOAA couldn’t build the ark.”

10. It’s already been raining for 40 days and nights.

9. It would take three years for an environmental impact study before funding was approved.

8. Democrats would be concerned about adding to the deficit.

7. The Endangered Species Act won’t allow certain species to be removed from their habitat.

6. Organized unions

5. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) — need we say more?

4. The Environmental Protection Agency wouldn’t let you dump the “stuff” at the bottom of the ark.

3. The French would insist on a U.N. Security Council resolution.

2. Homeland Security would want everybody scanned before boarding.

1. God said, “Build Me an ark” — the ACLU would be all over that.

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

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