- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

Empowered American“Prodigality surely can hurt youAnd lead even dear friends to desert you,But a person who’s tastefulIs allowed to be wasteful,Said a man who was known for his virtue.”— F.R. Duplantier, regarding former Education Secretary William J. Bennett, who assures us his gambling days are over.Mush from AlaskaWhat a difference a week makes.Last week, Education Secretary Rod Paige was a guest of The Washington Times at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. This week, he’s embarked on a snow-sled trek across the Alaskan tundra to reach a one-room schoolhouse in the tiny village of Savoonga.”May seems to be ‘action-hero month’ in the Bush administration, after the president’s historic aircraft-carrier landing last week,” notes Dallas B. Lawrence, spokesman for Mr. Paige, who is on a four-day journey to Alaska to see firsthand the unique education needs of rural America.Mr. Lawrence tells this column that upon landing in below-freezing temperatures in Bethel, Alaska, Mr. Paige traveled by Black Hawk helicopter to tour a native Alaskan village and schoolhouse in Tuntutuliak.After the chopper flight, Mr. Paige flew to the remote Alaskan island of St. Lawrence, situated in the Bering Straits just 38 miles off the coast of Russia. Once on the island, Mr. Paige and Alaska Gov. Frank H. Murkowski climbed aboard snow sleds and mushed their way to the tiny schoolhouse.”One wonders what’s next — Don Evans sky diving?” quips Mr. Lawrence, referring to the commerce secretary who, as far as we know, is happy behind his desk in Washington this week.Ultra and extremeDemocratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe is behind a new campaign to stop President Bush from stacking the nation’s highest court with “extremist right-wing” judges.”Justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor have told friends they would like to step down this year,” Mr. McAuliffe warns party faithful. “If that happens, Bush will fill two out of the nine slots on the Supreme Court — enough to shape the court in the image he wants for decades. Supreme Court justices, like federal justices, are confirmed for life.”Mr. McAuliffe, handpicked by former President Clinton and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to lead the DNC, says Mr. Bush has already proven what kinds of justices he would nominate to the nation’s highest court, citing “ultraconservative, right-wing nominees like Priscilla Owen, Charles Pickering, and Miguel Estrada.”No McDonalds yetAnybody game for a romantic, candlelit dinner beneath a canopy of palm trees lining the Tigris river — skewers of grilled kebabs, kubba (minced meat with nuts, raisins and spices), masgouf (a special dish made from fish living in the Tigris), amber rice, and flat rounds of bread known as samoons served by waiters in traditional Iraqi clothing?The State Department isn’t recommending Americans flock to Iraq anytime soon, but if all goes well along the democratic path to Baghdad, it might not be too many years from now that tourism in the embattled nation begins to flourish.In fact, we’re learned that the U.S. Agency for International Development has just granted a $2.5 million initial award to the U.S. firm SkyLink Air and Logistic Support Inc. to provide technical expertise to manage three commercial airports in Iraq.At this stage, the award will help facilitate humanitarian operations and restore normal transportation services to Iraq. The reopening and effective management of the airports is considered a critical link in the U.S. government’s humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to the Iraqi people.Three international airports — Baghdad, Basra and Mosul — are covered under the terms of the contract. SkyLink says it will provide international staff to operate the airports, vehicles and equipment, and ensure that the airports operate in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organization standards.For our handful of readers who remain concerned about an American occupation of Iraq, the U.S. Agency for International Development says SkyLink will be working with Iraqi staff in preparation for turning over management of the airports.Sans France, 1927“Given the new revelations in today’s Times about recent French antics, you might be interested in H. L. Mencken’s comments,” writes Ray Stevens, former president of the Mencken Society.Our favorite of several enclosures, Mencken’s editorial in the American Mercury, April 1927: “One might plausibly argue, indeed, that the complete disappearance of France would produce no more perturbation in the world than the loss of an ear produces in a man. Brussels and Lucerne would quickly put in better cooks, and Copenhagen, I venture, could take care of the peep-show business without any need of an international loan.”

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